Love it or hate it. Mart Crowley’s play “The Boys in the Band” opened in New York on April 14, 1968, at the off-Broadway Theater Four and ran for 1002 performances before being adapted to a successful motion picture. This was at a time when gay characters were seldom seen in commercial media except as crude stereotypes. (Although some would argue later in history that is indeed what Crowley’s play presented.)
In the early 1990s a revival production by San Francisco’s Theater Rhino company, some became fearful of the character’s images and some LGBT advocates denounced it as Uncle Tomism because they were worried about the LGBT organization’s attempts to assimilate the community into straight society and were willingly ignoring what a groundbreaking piece of LGBT history the play was for the 1968.
The Boys in the Band is among the first major American motion pictures to revolve around gay characters and is often cited as a milestone in the history of LGBT cinema.
The plot is a simple one: The film is set in an Upper East Side apartment in New York City in the late 1960s. Michael, a Roman Catholic and recovering alcoholic, is preparing to host a birthday party for his friend Harold. Another of his friends, Donald, a self-described underachiever who has moved from the city, arrives and helps Michael prepare. Alan, Michael’s (presumably straight) old college roommate from Georgetown, calls with an urgent need to see Michael. Michael reluctantly agrees and invites him to come over.
Michael, who believes Alan is a closeted homosexual, begins a telephone game in which the objective is for each guest to call the one person whom he truly believes he has loved. With each call, past scars and present anxieties are revealed. Bernard reluctantly attempts to call the son of his mother’s employer, with whom he’d had a sexual encounter as a teenager, while Emory calls a dentist on whom he’d had a crush while in high school; both Bernard and Emory immediately regret having made the phone calls. Hank and Larry attempt to call one another (via two separate phone lines in Michael’s apartment). Michael’s plan to “out” Alan with the game appears to backfire when Alan calls his wife, not the male college friend Justin Stewart whom Michael had presumed to be Alan’s lover. As the party ends and the guests depart, Michael collapses into Donald’s arms, sobbing. When he pulls himself together, it appears his life will remain very much the same.
While the movie adaptation originally received less than stellar and even sometimes hostile reviews compared to its widely acclaimed play counterpart because of the paradigm shift that happened with the Stonewall riots. Today it is seen as a classic of gay cinema. Both the play and the movie were groundbreaking. Despite the cries of stereotyping. No one had ever seen gay people portrayed so boldly. In The Boys in the Band, the characters dealt with homophobia whether it was internalized or came from the “straight world”. The Stonewall riots pushed gays to fight back against homophobia and not to be complacent. While the play opened in 1968, one year before the Stonewall Riots, by the time the movie adaptation was released in 1970, the gay liberation movement had moved past complacency and wanted more than what The Boys in the Band had to offer.
Bill Weber from Slant Magazine wrote, “The party-goers are caught in the tragedy of the pre-liberation closet, a more crippling and unforgiving one than the closets that remain.”
The Boys in the Band showed how we, as gay men, queers, fairies, faggots, and homosexuals were not alone, and while compelling and at times brutally grim, it is a view into the night of the per-Stonewall gay soul.
The Boys in the Band is an essential gay drama and an essential piece of our history that every LGBT+ person should experience.
Watch the FULL 1970 movie below.
*Copyright Disclaimer Under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education, and research.
The historical and absurdly quotable (Oh Mary don’t ask.) 1968 Mart Crowley play The Boys in the Band will be prancing back into our lives starring ther cast of the Broadway revival on NETFLIX on September 30.
Based on the Tony Award-winning play that changed a generation, The Boys in the Band follows a group of nine gay men who gather for a birthday party in 1968 New York City – only to find the drinks and laughs interrupted when a visitor from the host’s past turns the evening upside down.
Starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, and Tuc Watkins. Produced by Ryan Murphy. Directed by Joe Mantello. Based on the groundbreaking work of Mart Crowley.
Tripp states that Lincoln’s relationships with women were either invented by biographers (his love of Ann Rutledge) or were desolate botches (his courtship of Mary Owens and his marriage to Mary Todd). Tripp is not the first to argue that Lincoln was secretly gay — earlier writers have parsed his friendship with Joshua Speed, the young store owner he lived with after moving to Springfield, Ill.
Lincoln’s story becomes interesting when Tripp looks at 1831, when Lincoln was 22, and moved to New Salem, an Illinois frontier town, where he met Billy Greene. Greene coached Lincoln in grammar and shared a narrow bed with him. ”When one turned over the other had to do likewise,” Greene told Herndon. Bed-sharing was common enough in raw settlements, but Greene also had vivid memories of Lincoln’s physique: ”His thighs were as perfect as a human being could be.”
Six years later, Lincoln moved to Springfield, where he met Joshua Speed, who became a close friend; John G. Nicolay and John Hay, two early biographers, called him ”the only — as he was certainly the last — intimate friend that Lincoln ever had.”
April 14, 1904 – British actor John Gielgud is born in London. Perhaps the greatest actor to grace a stage in the English-speaking world, Gielgud never came out publicly. Privately he gave large sums of money to gay rights organizations like Stonewall.
April 14th, 1912 – The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight. At 11:40 pm ship’s time. Titanic sideswiped an iceberg and the glancing collision caused Titanic‘s hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea. By 2:20 AM, she broke apart and foundered, taking over one thousand three hundred people still aboard to their deaths. Just under two hours after the Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors.
You can watch Hugh Brewster, author of ‘RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage’ talks about the untold gay stories of the Titanic’s fatal maiden voyage by CLICKING HERE.
April 14, 1968 – Mart Crowley’s play, “The Boys in the Band” opens on Broadway in New York. Considered to be a groundbreaking work in American theater, the first truly “honest” portrayal of the lives of contemporary homosexuals. It opened in New York on April 14, 1968, at the off-Broadway Theater Four and ran for 1002 performances before being adapted to a successful motion picture. At a time when gay characters were seldom seen in commercial media except as crude stereotypes, although later in history some in the LGBT community would say that is indeed what Crowley’s play presented
The setup is pure theatrics. A melange of gay men assemble in the apartment of catholically damaged Michael for the birthday celebration of Harold a self-proclaimed “32-year-old ugly pockmarked Jew fairy.” These boys were the last ones chosen for P. E., and the first to survive by wits. Tribal unity has the ironic element of verbal onslaughts as Crowley glories in a subculture’s artful engagement with its own dialect.
Then came the backlash to the backlash in the early 1990’s with a revival production by San Francisco’s Theater Rhino company when fearful of the characters images some LGBT advocates denounced it as Uncle Tomism because they were worried about the LGBT organizations attempts to assimilate the community into straight society ignoring what a groundbreaking piece of LGBT history the play was for the 1960′.
April 14, 1983 – In the same year that Great Britain reports its first 17 cases of AIDS the only UK gay magazine, Gay News, stops publication.
April 14, 1985 – The first Gay Erotic Film Awards is held in Los Angeles.
April 15, 1843 – American writer Henry James is born in New York City. His biographer Leon Edel has endorsed a series of articles written by Richard Hall detailing the extent of James love for his brother the Harvard philosopher William James. Of Henry’s writing, Maugham summed it up
best: “I don’t think Henry James knew how ordinary people behave. His characters have neither bowels nor sexual organs. (In his books) people do not go away, they depart, they do not go home but repair to their domiciles.”
April 15, 1894 – Singer Bessie Smith is born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In “Foolish
Man Blues” Smith sang: “There’s two things got me puzzled, there’s two things I
don’t understand; That’s a mannish-actin’ woman, and a skippin, twistin’ woman-actin’ man.” Strange words for a woman whose best friend was male impersonator Gladys Fergusson and who had been introduced to the world of ‘women-lovin’ women’ by blues singer Ma Rainey.
Along with three other young men, he was anonymously accused of sodomy, which in Florence was a criminal offense, even though in most cases the authorities looked the other way and the general culture attached little social stigma to homosexuality.
The accusation specifically charged him with a homosexual interaction with one Jacopo Saltarelli, a notorious prostitute. The charges were brought in April, and for a time Leonardo and the other defendants were under the watchful eye of Florence’s “Officers of the Night“–a kind of renaissance vice squad.
However, the charges were dismissed in June, due to a lack of witnesses and evidence. It is probable that the Medici family brought had something to do with this outcome, as another of the defendants was Lionardo de Tornabuoni, and Lorenzo de Medici’s mother had been a Tornabuoni.
DaVinci never married or showed any (recorded) interest in women; indeed, he wrote in his notebooks that male-female intercourse disgusted him. His anatomical drawings naturally include the sexual organs of both genders, but those of the male exhibit much more extensive attention. Finally, Leonardo surrounded himself with beautiful young male assistants, such as Salai and Melzi.
April 17, 1863 – C.V. Cavafy is born in Alexandria, Egypt. During his lifetime Cavafy was considered the poet of Alexandria. Today he is primarily identified with Lawrence Durrell’s
characterization of him in the Alexandria Quartet.
April 17, 1897 – Thornton Wilder is born in Madison Wisconsin. Best known as the writer of “Our Town”, Wilder suffered “writer’s block” finishing the last act of the play. His close friend, writer Samuel M. Steward helped him through it all as only gone good buddy can help another. *wink wink – nudge nudge*
April 18, 382, BC – Phillip of Macedonia is born. Philip II was the military genius who defeated the combined armies of Athens and Thebes, conquering all of Greece. Along the way he availed himself of the 800 young eunuchs that had been brought with the army for his pleasure.
April 19, 1967 – The Student Homophile League of Columbia Universitybecomes the first gay group to obtain a campus charter.
The SHL had twelve members who fought with university administrators for a year before the group was officially recognized. Stephen Donaldson, a bisexual identified LGBT rights activist is commemorated by a plaque in the queer lounge that bears his name in one of Columbia’s residence halls for spearheading the creation of the group.
When the charter was ultimately granted in April 1967 it earned media attention with the New York Times printing a story on the front page, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported that some students believed that the creation of the group was an April Fool’s Day joke.
The group is still in existence to this day and is now called the Columbia Queer Alliance April 19, 1982 – The Gay Officers Action League, Inc. (GOAL) is founded by NYPD Sergeant Charles Cochrane and retired Detective Sam Ciccone establishing the first official police fraternal society in the world to represent LGBT people within the criminal justice system.
Cochrane, a 14 year veteran of the NYPD, created shock waves by testifying before a NYC Council hearing in favor of a gay rights bill. Following the testimony of a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Vice President, who denounced the bill and declared, “I didn’t know of any homosexual police officers.”, Cochrane stunned all present as well as NYC as a whole by his testimony: “I am very proud of being a New York City Police Officer, and I am equally proud of being gay.”
In 1987, at the persistent urging of GOAL, the NYPD began a concerted effort to actively enlist qualified gay candidates. In 2002, GOAL was admitted into COPS, The Committee of Police Societies, an organization consisting of all recognized NYPD religious, ethnic fraternal organizations.
Since its inception, GOAL has evolved not only as a fraternal organization, but also as an
activist organization that represents the interests of its LGBT members in all agencies and branches within the criminal justice system.
April 20, 1492 – Renaissance writer and dramatist Pietro Aretino is born in Tuscany. The first well-known writer of his era his works are bawdy and pornographic, at least by the standards of the 15th century. Aretino was a pioneer of the dirty book. His book The School of Whoredomis the dialogue between Nanna and her 14-year-old daughter, Pippa, on the tricks of the trade, (remember this is the 1400’s) it is highly sophisticated, while not only being a satire but also a sex manual.
Aretino is said to have died of a stroke laughing at a dirty joke.
“So we’ve gone from Boys in the Band to Stonewall through forty years of the gay rights movement and forty years of an anti-gay backlash funded by the religious right and twenty years of an ex-gay ‘movement’ that promised ‘freedom from homosexuality’ only to arrive right back where we started: Alan Chambers is a sad and pathetic man. He’s a homosexual and he doesn’t want to be. But there’s nothing he can do to change it. Not all the prayers to his God could change it. Still, Alan Chambers knows a heterosexual life. Because he wants it desperately enough. But Alan Chambers is still a homosexual and he always will be. Always.” – Dan Savage, writing for in his Slog Blog.
And while we’re on the subject of Alan “Self Loathing Closet Case” Chambers lets never forget that he has the blood of many lesbian and gay suicide victims on his hands from the lies and twisted therapies that he put them through because of his self loathing.
So not only is “Chambers is a sad and pathetic man.” as Dan so nicely puts it using The Boys in the Band to prove his point.