Lost Gay Cinema: Before The Boys In The Band There Was “Vapors” (1965) – Full Movie

 vapors

 

Vapors, a black & white 16mm short was released in 1965 and is one of the earliest commercially released films to deal explicitly with the lifestyles of gay men.

During the early 1960s, Andy Milligan, the films director became involved in the nascent off-off-Broadway theatre movement, mounting productions of plays by Lord Dunsany and Jean Genet at the Caffe Cino as well as directing productions at Cafe La Mama La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. During the same period, he operated and designed for a clothing boutique named Ad Lib and used his dressmaking skills to costume many theatrical productions.

The film,set in a gay bathhouse, (The Saint Marks Baths) portrays the emotionally awkward and unconsummated meeting between two strangers Both Thomas (Gerald Jacuzzo) and Mr. Jaffe (Robert Dahdah) are first-time visitors to the baths and feel a little uneasy, but they find comfort with each other A Greek chorus of catty queens wander in and out of the scenes, sometimes swishing, sometimes  dishing, and sometimes explaining the ropes to new arrivals.

The film transcends the gay aesthetic it represents and is really a meditation on loneliness–gay, straight, or whatever. While the room-tone echo on the recorded sound takes a little getting used to, it should not diminish the quality of the acting, which is quite moving in the case of the two leads. While the late Mr. Milligan was a unique filmmaker, Warhol always seemed to be his main-man artistically, and that’s clearer here than anywhere else in Milligan’s work. Milligan obviously knew what it meant to be lonely, to be afraid, and to reach out. This beautiful but raw film captures that as well as, for example, any Bergman film or Saul Bellow novel.

Its truly worth the watch for a glimpse into a world long forgotten and never known by many and truly missed by some.

 

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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2 Responses

  1. I went to the Saint Marks when I first came out. I never realized it was quite so old by then. It had 7 or 8 floors of sex and a pool in the basement. I don’t remember so much talking but I do remember it was fun.

    On a side note, my friend Steve was there one night and came out to find his car missing. He exited a wrong door and didn’t realize it was on the other side of the building. He called his dad in White Plains who drove into the city around 3am. Poor Steve came out to his dad that night. LOL Steve and his partner of 10 years got married in NY last month. He is still a good friend.

    • Jeffrey Smollan says:

      Thank you for sharing such an interesting story. The younger generation doesn’t realise what an intricate part the bath houses played in the lives of us older gay men. It wasn’t just sex, it was an opportunity to socialize with other gay men. And congratulations to Steve and his partner.

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