I am not quite sure how to word this post, but I’ll give it a try anyhow: It’s about my dealings with gay males from high school days to the present. At this point, I’m not sure of my conclusions, or even if there is one. I guess, ultimately, I am dealing with an alternate form of behavior that, while viewed by many as being on the fringes, is becoming more acceptable as time goes on. While I am not among their number, I have occasionally been influenced by them.
In high school, the drum major of our marching band at Chanel High School was Ernie Horvath. A brilliant dancer, he went on to Broadway, changing his name to Lawrence Horvath. One day, he came in and showed me what he called his “fag shoes.” At the age of sixteen, I didn’t know what he was talking about. I understand he succumbed to AIDS.
At Dartmouth College, I remember one gay couple that was being demonstrative about their affections. They were chased across the campus by a bunch of fraternity types. I didn’t join the chase and don’t know how it ended.
UCLA film school brought me into an environment which was much more varied. One of my fellow grad students in the film department was John Dorr, a brilliant film scholar with whom I enjoyed conversing. At the time, I was somewhat dismissive of silent films, except for the great comedians, but John convinced me that they were great in a different way and were worth a second look. In the end, I agreed with him.
During the school strike after the Kent State shootings in 1968, we were putting together a schedule of “relevant” film screenings. John’s contribution was that we should show The Revolt of Mamie Stover. I still crack up when recalling that one with some of my old film friends.
Around this time, I went into group therapy. Among the participants were male and female gays. What I was there for was the feeling that my medical history made me feel isolated, like a Martian. I still looked like a teenager at the age of twenty-five and wondered whether any woman, ever, could take me seriously. What I found out was that, far from being a Martian, I was very much an Earthling. This was an important lesson for me: Irrespective of sexual leanings, isolation and fear of rejection were more universal than I suspected.
I dropped out of the film program in 1972 and went into computer programing. In the meantime, John Dorr went on to have a brilliant career, founding EZ Films and exploring the potential of video as an art medium. At this point we were not in touch, but I was greatly saddened to hear of his death from AIDS in 1993.
My one negative gay encounter was with my landlord Tony F. For many years, I was against gay marriage because I did not want to see Tony married to one of his typical rough-trade ex-con boyfriends and be subjected to their bullying and panhandling. He was actually considering turning our apartment building into a halfway house. But then he died—of AIDS and multiple other causes, mostly relating to negligence—about three years ago.
As I thought, there really is no conclusion. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s indifferent. Just like the rest of life.