Monday, January 9, 2012
Where The Boys Were
Making the Boys: The Story Behind The Boys in the Band is a documentary that is so much more than its title suggests.
I bought the dvd on a recent trip to the gay "general store," Rainbows and Triangles, in Chelsea (8th Ave. between 18th/19th Streets, NYC) and it blew my mind! It starts in the Swingin' '60s, when being gay was not swingin' at all. Still considered a mental illness, police harrassment against open congregations of gay people was not only legal, but routine.
It was the sweltering June night Judy Garland died that brought about The Stonewall Riots. The queens weren't suffering it again that night, honeys! Enough was enough was enough was enough! And so Gay Pride Day was born and, too, the Gay Liberation movement as we now know it.
Making the Boys is nothing short of amazing. Great archival footage of pre-Lib gay life of the 1960's and beyond, accompanied by talking heads the likes of Michael Musto, Paul Rudnick, ex-Mayor Koch, Dominick Dunne, Terrence McNally, Tony Kushner, Robert Wagner, Cheyanne Jackson, film's director William Friedkin and creator/playwrite Mart Crowley.
A fascinating look into the past, through a glass darkly, as well as a study of the genesis of The Boys in the Band, from play to film, the documentary opened my eyes to what a great friend Natalie Wood was to the gay community, and how the Polish-American princess was so essential in getting her dear friend, Crowley's, play off the ground.
Crowley was a Hollywood screenwriter whose credits included a serious re-write of the pilot for Bette Davis' proposed, Aaron Spelling-produced sitcom, The Designer, which was, maybe, a tad too gay and AbFabish before its time. It was not picked up and never aired.
Edward Albee appears (with a static-cling cowlick somebody should have attended to) to say that yes, The Boys in the Band owes a structural debt to his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , but he doesn't mind and thinks that's hunky-dory, praising Crowley.
Laurence Luckinbill (Lucie Arnaz's long-time hubby) and Peter White are the two still-living members of the original cast to comment herein on the play and film, sadly. Many members have passed from AIDS. Straight Cliff Gorman, who, oddly, played the biggest queen, Emory, in the original film and play, died from other causes.
Truly ironic, there was an immediately post-Stonewall reaction to The Boys in the Band, when activists felt the characters in the groundbreaking play were gay Stepin Fetchits, and not p.c.
I can't recommend this documentary highly enough. Please, whoever you are, do not take your rights for granted, especially in today's climate. And see this film! (Available at http://www.amazon.com/Making-Boys-Edward-Albee/dp/B00551QQHK/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1326161845&sr=1-1 Just cut & paste into your browser.)
From 1960, written by Neil Sedaka and voiced by Connie Francis: