Thursday, September 2, 2010
Many years ago I went to see the film version of the rock opera Tommy.
The movie was horrible. it would have been horrible even without its most offensive scene.
After Tommy's uncle (or whoever he was) sings about "fiddling" with the boy -- in other words, molesting him -- the actor playing the part picks up a copy of Gay News [or a similar gay paper -- it's been a few years] and begins reading it. Tommy's father, played by the imposing Oliver Reed, walks in and sets fire to the newspaper, wearing a look that could kill.
So there you have it in CinemaScope and technicolor: Gay man equals child molester.
Author Robert Hofler makes no mention of this scene in his book Party Animals, which is ironic considering the subject of the book is producer Allan Carr, who helped promote and market Tommy with a world premiere party in a New York subway station [where it belonged]. More ironic is that the openly and flamboyantly gay Carr tried to bring a gay aesthetic to his projects as well as a homoerotic ambiance to his parties [and orgies]. NOTE: Other projects Carr worked on in one capacity or another were Grease with John Travolta, Can't Stop the Music, the Village People singing group, the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles [suave, borderline swishy-if-straight star Gene Barry was afraid to share an elevator with the chorus boys because he thought he might catch AIDS], and a famously disastrous Oscar telecast.
Interestingly Hofler does make note of the sad but not uncommon phenomenon that the stereotypically gay Carr was also full of extreme self-hatred, stemming in part from his body image and hard-to-hide effeminacy. Carr was someone who decided he would make the gay thing work for him without ever fully embracing his sexuality [except, of course, during sex, often with men for hire]. Hofler writes how Carr would often go out of his way to do just about anything and everything for the heterosexual men with whom he worked, but rarely did the same for his gay male friends and acquaintances. "Allan had a way of treating fellow homosexuals like mere employees and straight male friends like the brothers he never had," writes Hofler.
Which, of course, is why Carr probably wouldn't have given a shit about that scene in Tommy.
Hofler's book is quite interesting, even if the star of the book himself may not interest you all that much. Some of the negative attitudes expressed about Carr by people may have had to do with their homophobia but just as often with his glittering, often tacky, lack of substance. I never met Carr but I've met people like him. They can be fun -- until they think you've somehow crossed them, or their extreme self-hatred beneath the callow, "fabulous" exterior begins to come out through the cracks and then explodes.
Not a bad book of a certain time and place in Hollywood and New York, with a back drop of emerging gay rights and gay consciousness, as well as the terrible rise of AIDS.
And Hofler made me laugh out loud with the line: "In time matching John Travolta with a mate of the opposite sex turned into a cottage industry."