Friday, June 22, 2012

Not Wild About Harry


Harry Hamlin means business at the Mother Lode

I wrote a post in 2005 about why "Brokeback Mountain" mattered, in which I referenced the traumatic impact of seeing Kate Jackson get booed on "The Tonight Show" when I was a kid back in 1982. She was on the show to promote "Making Love" -- directed by the great Arthur Hiller and co-starring Michael Ontkean and Harry Hamlin -- Hollywood's first attempt at a big-budget movie dealing with gay issues. I was deeply scarred by the ugly incident, yet 30 years later, part of me has always wondered if I imagined the whole thing, I've looked for it on YouTube over the years and even went to the Museum of Radio and Television to see if they could locate a copy, but to no avail. So imagine my surprise last night when Kevin in the (703) posted the URL to the clip in the comments on my post about Entertaiment Weekly's story about "the new art of coming out in Hollywood."


  Michael Kuzak gets a little lovin' from Sheriff Harry S. Truman on the down low

It's fascinating how your mind remembers things:

A) David Brenner was the guest host that night, yet I vividly remember Johnny Carson coming to Kate's aid; and

B) Being older and with thicker skin now, I would have to say it's not nearly as bad as I recall -- the booing in my memory went on for what felt like hours -- yet it still made me sick all over again, thinking of that isolated 14-year-old boy watching the television that night and getting this reaction to his shameful secret. If it seems like almost nothing now, that's just proof that it's the little things that impact people so much, especially children. Things are not perfect for gay kids today by any means. But I'm so glad something this blatant would likely never happen again.

FYI: They talk about everything but he movie until the 7:55 mark!



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24 comments:

Marsh Hanson said...

I blame Kate slightly though. Her grimace during "It deals with . . . homosexuality!" Set up for boos. Poor thing, she was. First, declining the lead in Kramer Vs. Kramer and then making the "homosexuality" movie. You can see it in her face -- "My career is over."

Nick said...

Didn't know about this, guess that's a good thing. Forgot how bad things were.

Matthew said...

It's really almost nothing to see it now but it's sweet that it affected you. I agree, I think Kate sort of set it up to be booed by saying, "It deals with—homosexuality!" and then sort of gave the audience like a, "Well, what do you say to that?" moment. But also it's so tense bc he's tense, too, and you really get a sense of just how important that movie was and how risky.

Todd said...

She's cool as shit but yeah, she kind of set it up strangely. I agree, the whole thing is so TENSE. At least David Brenner didn't make some douchey, homophobic joke like Jay Leno would.

And Michael Ontkean is adorable!

swine said...

It sounded like one boo & Brenner shot the boo-er down quick, albeit w/a stupid & unfunny line. Kate's reaction was disturbing & idiotic.

Ur reaction to this as a gay 14 year old is understandable & sad. If Brenner was a better comedian, he woulda cut the boo-er down harsher & funnier & u wouldn't have this as such a crappy memory. Blame Brenner for being a shitty comedian.

Sean said...

Brenner did a great job killing the heckler, calling him out as a guy from Utah who sucks wood. Ha! Even then, people knew the homophobes were the ones who had the most to hide.

swine said...

Brenner's line was sorta clever, but clearly not effective in shooting down the boo-er. Otherwise poor 14 year old Kenny wouldn't have felt so crummy bout it to remember 30 years later.

Still think Brenner wss sucky. But Leno or Seinfeld would've handled it worse. Johnny would've ignored it totally. Dave would've ignored it & maybe snickered. Joan Rivers woulda worked it.

ScottyTheP said...

omg. i remember this and i had the same reaction. this movie was HUGE to me in my youth.

Hank said...

Love this posting, Kenneth. I saw Harry Hamlin at the Hollywood VW car repair shop after this movie came out and I thanked him for doing it. He was so uncomfortable I thought he was going to climb the grease pole.

Brian said...

i remember going to the theater in the middle of the deep South for an afternoon screening in the hopes that I wouldn't be spotted - - and also curious if there'd be anyone else in the there that I could see like me - alone, in the shadows of a midday matinee, trying to see something about myself up there amongst the flickering images on the screen. thanks for the memory and helping me understand where I was then and where I am today. happy pride.

Roy said...

When Making Love came out, I was a freshman in college in Ohio- I desperately wanted to see it (ah, the days when if you didn't see it in the theater, you'd NEVER get to see it!), but was afraid of who might see me there- so I took a pad and pen and pretended that I was there to review it.
I wish I still had the notes I took during it!

Theaterdog said...

Kenneth, excellent writing.
I remember every moment of the buildup and premiere of that film...I was in college, a bit older than you,
But for some reason, I had blocked out the boo on the talk show, which I saw...and yes, it seemed to have gone on for hours.
Least we forget those moments, they happen again, so thank you for bring it up so well.
tim

Anonymous said...

Just saw this last night on Cable in MD! I've personally always enjoyed this movie!

Mike said...

I was in the firs year of college when Making Love came out. I saw it again years later and think it's still miles better than most of the coming out films made in the succeeding three decades.

I even had the paperback novelisation at one time.

Anonymous said...

Before this it was never discussed. Never. So when it was, I didn't even hear the boos. I was so excited to know that I wasn't alone.

Anonymous said...

I know how you felt. The thing on TV that scarred me in my childhood was "Ode to Billy Joe".

Gay kids don't have it great yet by any means, but I'm glad they're coming up now, and not when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

But it got better, right?

Anonymous said...

I recall a clip where Joan River was hosting the Tonight Show in the 80's and Harvey Fierstein was a guest. He made a passing mention of his lover and the entire crowd booed!! IT was a lot more severe and prolonged than this and really shocked me as an 18 year old. Joan was great though and told everyone to shut up and grow up.I have been a huge fan of hers ever since.

Sam said...

This is such an amazing post. I clearly remember seeing this movie at the theater. I was 21, going to college in the deep south, and scared to death that somebody would see me. The movie shocked me. For one thing, I had never seen men kiss like that before. At the end of the movie, when I saw Michael Ontkean and his handsome new boyfriend living together, it was the first time I had any idea that two men could actually make a life together. It had never occurred to me before. It's incredible how far we've come.

Ederek said...

I was a freshman in college when this came out, and saw it with another burgeoning gay friend. My clueless Dad (or so I thought) actually drove us. At 18 years old, this movie gave me hope... I liked knowing I was gay.

Tom Cardellino in the (415) said...

Great thanks for posting this, Kenneth! "Making Love" was a really comforting and encouraging movie to see at the time, because I had just caught wind of these stories about "The Gay Cancer" that was mysterious, incurable and deadly. Living in Philadelphia, attending law school and having close friends in New York City, the scantly reported but anecdotally repeated onset of the HTLV-3 (then called) Epidemic partially scared me back into the closet from which I had emerged during my senior year in college (at a remarkable social toll then, too!) To see well-acted authentic seeming characters portrayed with such respect was a memory almost as vivid and motivational as first seeing "Longtime Companion" years later into the Epidemic. Thanks for reminding me of the point when I realized that the closet wouldn't protect me from contracting HIV, only increase my riskiness and self-shame.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this
i too recall this movie
i was 17 in 82 - somehow i recall seeing this on tv - hbo? is that right -
i was home and had to stay up late
i recall it being thrilling - - as others have said - it showed gay men - when you hardly ever saw them in the media - it was very big for me - plus these guys were hot as hell and getting busy - I recall it as very postive for its time - i also recall billy crystal in soap - as another early character who was gay - and how that loomed large for me - same period -

Charlie said...

I hadn't seen this clip before. For the times this was handled with remarkable sensitivity, IMO. I very much remember seeing the movie in the theatre. When the two guys kissed the movie audience gasped and booed much more than this.

When Brokeback Mountain was released this was a signal for the late night comedians to make months of Brokeback jokes. This was a outstanding movie which deserved a best picture award (again, IMO). But the comedians had turned it into a big joke such that the academy wouldn't consider giving it the title. This episode has convinced me that Leno and Letterman are both well past their expiration dates for thier shows.

Anonymous said...

I saw this in a theatre in Jackson, Ms. I went with a large group of gay friends. Inside the theatre it was almost ludicrously obvious that the straight members of the audience were on the right side of the room and gay people were on the left. All through the movie, shocks and gasps came from one side and cheers from the other simultaneously. It was chilling and empowering at the same time.

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