Friday, July 10, 2009

Waaaay 'Too Close for Comfort'


Rape kitsch: Fans of "Too Close for Comfort" are haunted by the memory of Monroe being raped for laughs

Just came across an interview Matt Siegel did with Jim J. Bullock over on Queerty (via Towleroad). While it's great stuff (who didn't grow up perversely fascinated with Monroe Ficus on "Too Close for Comfort"?), the buried lede (to me, anyway) is the passing reference to "that episode when Monroe was tied-up and raped (yes, raped) by two heavyset biker chicks in their van in a mall parking lot." HUH? Not to be confused with the time he was "romantically interested in a transvestite who he believes is a biological female," or when "an elderly woman, played by Selma Diamond, takes his virginity." HUH? HUH?



Apparently I wasn't as big a fan of this show as I thought I was -- I have no recollection of any of this. (In all honestly, I was so smitten -- in a gay-boy kind of way -- with the Rush sisters that I don't really remember any of the plots.) While the second and third storylines described are seen in syndication and are available on DVD, the rape one seemed to have vanished from all records, and led many who had seen it to begin to question their own horrified memories.

A filmmaker named Ethan Duff says he was having a beer at a party when the memory of the twisted episode came flooding back to him. Then another guy there, Fred Berman, said he remembered it too and began to query some of the other revelers to figure out if they had both imagined the whole freakish thing. After much research, they discovered that the episode did indeed exist -- titled "For Every Man, There's Two Women" -- but apparently aired just once, on July 20, 1985, and all footage of it is now unavailable to the public.

"Monroe, those two women abducted you, didn't they? They blindfolded you and forced you to go with them, didn't they? And then they...they...they..." "They sure did." (laugh track)

Empowered by what they had dug up, Duff wrote, produced and directed -- with Berman starring -- the hauntingly compelling "Was Monroe Raped?," most likely the best gift or "support group" there ever could be for victims of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from a females-on-gay-male rape sitcom episode set to an uproarious laugh track. (How nice it must have been for people to finally hear: No, you DIDN'T imagine this!!!) Click HERE to watch it. And be sure to click on the News icon to read reactions to the film from Bullock, plus Lydia Cornell (who played Sara Rush), who herself almost doesn't seem to "believe" it had ever happened. (Retrospace and The Retroist have some great stuff on the episode, too.)

Footnote: Long before any of this would have happened, I remember when Edith Bunker was nearly raped on "All in the Family" like it was yesterday. I was 10 in 1977 watching it with my mom in our living room in Madison Heights, Michigan, and at one point -- realizing this was one of those "special episodes" they used to have back then -- she said to me, "Do you know what rape is?" and I said, "No." (I watched nothing but "adult" television back then and probably didn't get half of it, but still loved every minute of it.) I remember her saying it was "when someone forces you to have sex against your will." (I understood then.) The oddest part about that conversation though, as I don't know how it even came to this, was that at some point my mom, perhaps putting herself in Edith's shoes and being terrified (I read Norman Lear tried to get Bonnie Franklin's character on "One Day at a Time" to take on the storyline, but she refused because it was too upsetting) said that if someone ever broke into our house and tried to rape her, all she would want is for us four kids to be placed in "another room" while he did it. A protective mother bear kind of thought she just sort of let slip out, something that's stayed with me for 32 years.


A year or two later we were watching "One Life to Live" (in our new home in Mesa, Arizona) and everyone on the show was talking about Judith Light's character, Karen, being a "prostitute." I remember asking my mom what that was and she said, "Do you know what a hooker is?" "Yes," I said, blushing. "It's the same thing." I think that marked the last time I asked my mom a potentially embarrassing question, and the official beginning of my becoming a know-it-all teenager! ...

10 comments:

twilight news said...

very nice post. thanks for sharing.

Angel Love said...

I saw the Monroe rape episode when it aired. I was 13 years old. There went my innocence.

Unknown said...

Woah! That's crazy! Thanks for sharing this!

Unknown said...

I do recall the Monroe episode, though I don't think I fully got the picture back then.
You dig up some good stuff!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing that episode. I understood the part about rape but I never had a clue that Monroe was gay. Denial can be a powerful thing in a young gay boy's life.

Frank Anthony Polito said...

Fred Berman (the actor in "A Very Special Episode") is an old pal of mine... Just wanted to brag. I, too, remembered the Monroe rape episode after Fred jogged my memory. I, too, must have blocked it out.

Kim Clarke said...

I'm one of the "Old friends" from back in the day - (Frank and Fred) and I have to say when Fred posted the link to this, I couldn't for the life of me remember this episode, and I, too, was a HUGE fan of Too Close for Comfort. Who can forget all those University sweatshirts Ted Knight used to wear? I must have completely blocked this one out, but thanks for the blog and the blast from the past!

Bob said...

I remember watching this episode in syndication. I don't think it was on TVLand, but it definitely was on during daytime TV hours (11-3) on one of the broadcast channels.
I KNOW I didn't see it first run, since I would have only been 2 at the time.

Bill Frug said...

I was a Too Close for Comfort fan and don't remember this one at all, and now feel cheated. Thanks for the supporting evidence though.

I do remember very clearly a Diff'rent Strokes (the ABC season, after Dixie Carter left) in which Conrad Bain is peeping on Kimberly as she showers (Dana Plato was mostly off the show at this point, I think her character was home from school in this one). His not-Dixie Carter wife found out (I remeber her shocked gasp of "Phillip!" and possibly taking her ring off) and threatened to leave him if he didn't get help, which I guess he did. This one also has been suppressed, I remember it being brought up on the old jumpedtheshark website but that's about it.

Calling Shennanigans said...

OMG, I just cried reading what your Mom said, having been in the house you grew up in in Madison Heights, I could imagine that scenario too clearly.

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