Shortly after I officially came out and met the person that was probably my soul mate, I was introduced to a great many things. One of them was LGBTQ cinema and no I am not just talking about porn. I had never known there were movies that dealt with people that felt the same things I did. The small town I grew up in, I wasn’t even truly aware if there were others like me, in retrospect there were probably far more than I will ever know. My first love had what seemed an extensive library of LGBTQ films, though they did skew more towards gay male perspectives.
Today’s LGBTQ kids may have not even heard of many of them. Oh sure, you cant turn on the television without seeing the Birdcage still. VH1 still shows the Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and you cant go a full year without seeing Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. But these are mainstream because just as many heterosexuals find them entertaining. Much like the Kevin Kline travesty “In & Out.” Most of these have one big thing in common, they do not show LGBTQ life in reality but as we are seen by heterosexual people. Sadly, most of the movies from that boundless library he had were filmed with straight men and many were a little campy, none the less they are still in our history. And there are a few that are my favorite, so bear with me as I give you a list some of them.
The first film that we watched together was It’s My Party (1996), a movie that dealt with the very raw subject of living with AIDS. This film hit me hard because it was based on the true-life party of Harry Stein, an accomplished architect and designer. His real-life partner, Randall Klieser, directed the film and the party that was the topic of the movie took place in 1992. It hosted some big names, as well as some up and coming names, like Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, and Margret Cho. Nick Stark is the main character of the movie and decides to host a two-day party where he invites him friends and family over to celebrate his life and them being apart of it, at the end of the party Nick would take his life. Nick had contracted a disease that would leave him in a vegetative and memory lapsed state hooked to a machine to keep him alive. He had watched many of his friends die from the same disease and did not want to endure. The movie is about the struggle of a couple whose relationship died due to the disease and was reconnected because of it, as well.
Next would be the movie Jeffrey (1995), which stars Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimi, and Patrick Stewart. Steven Weber Plays Jeffrey who is a gay man who loves sex at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He had been used to night after night of men and sex until he noticed the trend of his “tricks” asking for proof of his HIV status. This spirals him into disarray as he decides he is going to swear off sex. He then meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss) who is attracted to Jeffrey, but Steve has a secret. It’s a movie about a guy who is afraid of falling in love with someone who has AIDS and watching them die only to be left alone. It was a movie that challenged my perceptions and allowed me to grow. Sure that is giving this movie a lot of credit, but the cameos in it are hilarious and the story is on point about loving someone for who they are and not what they may have.
Love! Valour! Compassion!(1997) Okay, this started out in 1995 as a play, but its tour on Broadway allowed it to become a movie in 1997. In it you will find Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and John Glover among others. The movie takes place over three summer holidays in a lakeside house in upstate New York. The main character is going through a gay midlife crisis about his creativity and worth and surrounds himself with his friends that are directly tied to his artistic career. The course of the three holidays leads the group run the gamut of topics like infidelity, soul searching, AIDS, life and death. This leads to skinny dipping and flirting with the grand finale being a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake in drag.
Torch Song Trilogy(1988) Another movie that was adapted from a play, written by Harvey Fierstein. This movie included Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and a young Matthew Broderick as the star line up. The play spanned four hours, but New Line cinema insisted that it be edited to a two hour running period. The play was written about a female impersonator named Charles Pierce, who was a noted Betty Davie impersonator. Harvey created the lead role, Bertha Venation, aka Arnold Beckoff, for him to portray. The story starts in 1971 where Arnold meets his first love Ed while being dragged to a bar after a night’s show. After meeting Ed, who is still battling accepting being gay, leaves Arnold for a female named Laurel. Two years later in 1973, Arnold meets the love of his life Alan, played by Matthew Broderick. Ed has married Laurel and invited Arnold and Alan to the country for a weekend visit. This proves to be awkward but reinforces the commitment between them. They move in together, plan to adopt a gay child, and get an apartment. On the eve of their first night in their new place, Alan is killed by a group of gay bashers, This leads Arnold into a spiral that climaxes when Arnold’s mother comes for a visit. For me, it is one of the few that shows the struggles of being LGBTQ in a world that still doesn’t fully accept us as we are.
There are others, more modern films that also fall into my favorites list, but these listed are from the library of what I devoured when I met Shawn. These are ones that have had huge impacts on me, in various ways. They will remain a part of my history and are ones I always recommend to people who have never seen them, the same way Shawn did for me. If you haven’t seen them, please check them out. Let me know if you enjoy them.