Page 318 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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300      Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999

            marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Bloody
            Sunday, March 7, 1965, a watershed moment so important to gay rights that
            I mentioned it on the opening page of Some Dance to Remember.
               In this particular battle in the culture war, however, the main difference
            was that while Bloody Sunday made the American public a bit more liberal,
            the Chicago Police Riot turned Americans so conservative that in reaction
            they elected Richard Nixon as the next president beginning January 20,
            1969, six months before Stonewall.
               Increasing the degree of difficulty in gay liberation, the uptight Richard
            Nixon regency (1969-1974) book-ended the 1970s which ended with the
            advent of the vile Ronald Reagan regency (1981-1989). From Nixon and
            Stonewall (1969) to Reagan and AIDS (1981), that first decade of modern
            gay lib, found its only brief relief in Jimmy Carter’s timid presidency (1977-
            1981) which emboldened fundamentalist Florida Orange Juice queen, pop
            singer Anita Bryant, to use her Christian celebrity to light the fuse nation-
            wide on the homophobic culture war against gay human rights in her “Save
            the Children Campaign” (1977).
               Fleeing the Chicago cops with crowds of fellow demonstrators, includ-
            ing Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden, we retreated from the violence
            downtown in the Chicago Loop to Lincoln Park where I remember my
            excitement seeing film director, Haskell Wexler, catching in his camera the
            bullhorn blasts and running fury of the excited crowds of college students,
            psychedelic hippies, and activist Yippies. As a university professor teaching
            film, I respected Wexler for his lensing of gay playwright Edward Albee’s
            1966 play-into-film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which he won the
            Academy Award for best cinematography; and for his shooting of In the Heat
            of the Night (1967 Oscar winner Best Picture) in which he invented a revo-
            lutionary lighting scheme that finally allowed Hollywood studios to color-
            balance African-American skin tones properly so that movies about blacks
            no longer needed to be shot, as said back then, only in black and white.
               In Lincoln Park, Chicagoan Wexler, acting on his premonition that there
            would be trouble at the Convention, dumped his tripod and used a shoulder-
            mounted camera that allowed him, his crew, and his actors to move virtually
            unnoticed through the surging crowd who all became his cast of thousands.
            He wanted precisely such eyewitness realism for the climax of his film, Medium
            Cool (1969) which contains the famous reality-check line yelled by one of his
            crew screaming in the midst of the ricocheting riot about the violence: “Look
            out, Haskell. It’s real!” After Stonewall, Wexler’s roving eyewitness cinema
            verite style quickly became the gonzo gay style for the first Gay Pride parades
            shot on Super-8 film, years before video cameras arrived in late 1981.

              ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-14-2017
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