Vampire Postmen

LONDON: A gentle warning. In case you’re thinking of posting a letter or visiting a post office in PADDINGTON, DON’T because someone in the Paddington GPO is after your blood. The other morning I posted off some packets of back numbers to readers, and to make sure no Hets came loose in transit, I stapled the envelopes down. The following morning, no sooner had I left the erotica of the Bakerloo line, and entered that hovel we call an office, when a horrible man from the GPO rang up to tell me that I’d almost caused an actual strike at the local sorting office. Almost, well, you can’t succeeed in fulfilling your greatest desires all the time.

One of their nice postmen, while trying to prize open the staples, in order to steal whatever was inside our packets, had cut his lily white hand, and stained what the GPO’s spokesman termed as our “embarrassing packet” with streams of blood, and they weren’t going to sort any more of our post until we came round and removed every single, solitary staple. I collected the packets from the assistant postmaster, who peculiarly, was dressed in a long black cloak, with which he was attempting to consider his two front teeth which protruded terribly, and must have been all of eight inches long. And stranger still, there wasn’t the merest speck of blood to be seen on the packet. Just three large teeth marks and a GLF badge where the staples should have been.

So, Paddington GPO, Fangs for the memory.

Standing In The Shadows

A few days ago the letter reproduced below, arrived at the Gay News Office.

Dear Sirs,

I picked up a copy of your newspaper — not knowing what it was — in a small bookshop the other day.

I was quite shocked at first when I read it, and rather embarrassed that I had bought it. I could never go back to that shop again.

But I must admit, I am a homosexual, and it was nice to find something written about it. I’ve never seen anything written about it before except in a ‘Home Doctor’ book. I didn’t understand most of the stuff in your magazine, though, and neither could a friend whom I showed it to. He suggested that you call it “Gay News” because “gay” is a euphemism for homosexual, if this is so, then it seems unfortunate because even homosexuals who do not have reputations to keep up and who have the knowledge of where the dirty bookshops are, and have the courage to took for homosexual books, would miss “Gay News” because they didn’t know what gay meant.

I am a schoolteacher…

Naive, unbelievable; I suppose it is to us here in London pontificating at a CHE or GLF meeting, writing film reviews for Gay News, or trolling in an Earls Court pub, but I have no reason to believe the letter isn’t genuine.

Let’s think for a moment of Kinsey’s very conservative figures, which would suggest that there are something in the region of two million male and female homosexuals in this country. If you take the total number of persons belonging to GLF, Sappho, CHE, Challenge, etc, or who frequent gay pubs, clubs, cottages or even Hampstead Heath, on a fairly regular basis, I would imagine you would get a figure of about 250,000, and this as loose as defining a practicing homosexual as someone who every few weeks or so has a quick fuck with someone he’s picked up in a cottage, before returning to the wife and kids.

Even in gay organisations like GLF, there are men and women who live two lives, that of a respectable heterosexual and a fairly free gay. The amount of times I’ve hear “I couldn’t buy one of those in case the old woman saw it,” when I’ve been selling the paper in the Boltons in Earls Court, is phenomenal.

Most gays who create for themselves some sort of lifestyle according to their sexual desires make their way to large cities like London, often still furtive, standing in dark corners of pubs or sitting in CHE or GLF meetings, stunned into agonised silence by bureaucratic procedures or academic’s jargon. Unless of course they happen to have those magical good looks, “David Cassidy type”, as one of our personal ads recently dictated, in which case much in demand and therefore full of confidence, our friend will fall into bed with a never ceasing, more and more unsatisfying “tall, slim, longhaired, passive, warm and generous”, always generous.

The majority of homosexuals are alive and well and living with their husbands/wives and children in a semi-detached Ford Cortina in Biggleswade, considering their fantasies and desires as what you watch in a dirty raincoat or receive in a plain sealed envelope, and I suspect “Gay News” quite often fits into that category. Let’s move 30 or 40 miles south to a bedsit in West Hampstead, and a round mirror on the wall above a gas fire, where a young man is looking at himself, bemoaning his unattractiveness, or fighting his conscience. Instant coffee or the Heath.

The politically based gay organisations with little exception, seem to nurture an elitist attitude — “We are gay, we’ve come out, we’re liberated.” In London at any rate CHE and GLF seem to be so concerned with vague terminology, and self congratulating themselves on their campaign for changes in the law relating the the age of consent, that they have completely lost touch with our friend in Leeds who knows or cares about as much about CHE as the likley discovery of gold dust in a sewage farm in Ruislip.

The gay movement is too full of men with university backgrounds preaching revolutionary theory at great length, looking down on people who cottage or condemning Gay News as non-political. We have reached some people at least who had no previous means of expressing their gayness. I am not being self-congratulatory, I know this; they write and phone us often, but we, like every other gay group, paper, befriending service or whatever, are skating along the surface of a very large lake with very thick layers of ice, and while we’re bitching with each other rather like the ‘socialists’ and the ‘conservatives’ do in their little defunct institution, or just working on our own in small groups, or holding meetings to discuss whether GLF publications should go under the counter in the London CHE office. While we’re discussing Marx instead of the heartache and fear of thinking you’re different from absolutely everyone else, there’ll be an unlit gas ring hissing somewhere tonight.

Who’s Kidding Who?

“They called him Danny La Rue, because in drag he looks as long as a street,” whines the chatty little journalist in Film Review, published by the EMI Film and Theatre Corporation, who are also responsible for the distribution of Our Miss Fred, Danny La Rue’s entry into the mindless world of telly orientated cinema. The film is liberally sprinkled with an array of “dirty” jokes designed to make fifty-four year old disgusted Mr and Mrs Fred Nudge masochistically ‘Tch, tch’ in the rear stalls of the ABC Purley.

Technically well directed by Bob Kellet and beautifully photographed by Dick Bush, the film appears on the surface to be a mild piece of entertaining whimsy, with Danny as a small time actor, possibly this is the only element of realism in the film, who is conscripted into the army during World War Two and is sent to France to keep the lads happy and gay with his drag act. While in mid-performance his platoon is captured by the Germans who set him free, believing him to be a civilian woman. Shades of St Trinians follow as he falls in with a butcher than butch Lally Bowers leading a bunch of blue stocking schoolgirls to safety from cocks and Nazis. In the true tradition of hackneyed British comedy prose, he fancies the girls and has to be acutely embarrassed when believing him to be yet another unsullied virgin from next door, he gets asked to unzip that awkward clasp at the back of someone’s dress. Of course being a good green blooded English lad, even when he’s wearing his straight all-male clobber, he goes a bright shade of pink at the very mention of the word thingy, because underneath it all, he’s a yellow bellied, clean living heterosexual, who’s never got nearer to the sex act than a few good double entendres in the Rose and Crown on a Saturday night. In pursuit there’s also notoriously anti-gay actor/comedian, Alfred Marks (do you ever listen to “Does the Team Think?”) as a German general, who, guess what, fancies Fred or as he’s now calling himself, Frederica. So off they all go in a rickety old car trying to make their way to the Channel, with Fred continually murmuring, between innuendos: “When I get my trousers back on, they’re on for life.” But he’s putting up with it all for dear old England.

What is really disturbing about the film is the general suggestion that the character must hate wearing drag, because otherwise he’d be homosexual and undesirable, and most of the funny lines are based on this idea. Danny La Rue, whenever he’s interviewed by the Press on on TV, and that’s pretty often, goes to great pains to deny he’s a homosexual, and to suggest that it’s all a big laugh, a kind of novelty glamour act, and all the lads call him ‘Dan’. This is lapped up by the viewers who either believe it, or being British, delight in his hypocrisy, laugh heartily at his act, and shrink back in fear if they see a transvestite in the street. Those who believe him think he is aping the way homosexuals behave and that we all dress up in women’s clothes. Many gays adore him, for his luxurious attire, which is well displayed in the film, obviously made very much with the “gay market” in mind, and his public utterances give them ideal opportunity to gossip on the lines of — “Of course he lives with his mother. So and So saw him in the whats it club last week.”

What I call the real drag acts, people like Marc Fleming and Mrs Shufflewick, who you see in the pubs and clubs, make themselves look as grotesque as possible because they are sending up the whole idea of beautiful women and handsome men. Their jokes are blue and unashamedly homosexual, and by the end of their routine you are plunged into a drunken euphoria, knowing the whole damn beauty conscious world is just a farce. The radical drag queens in London GLF are attempting to express similar ideas, although in a very different way.

I’m not saying that they are not heterosexuals who like wearing drag, but like it or not drag is closely associated with homosexuality in the minds of the public.

Mr La Rue being as much in the limelight as he is, could try to be a bit more honest about his own sexuality and attempt to eradicate some of the misconceptions. Because you’re gay, you don’t necessarily like wearing women’s clothes, and you’re not necessarily a homosexual or a transvestite if you do.

Whatever your sexuality, if it’s not in out, in out heterosexuality, you’re likely to have cheap jibes thrown at you by the telly dictators like Danny La Rue and “The Comedians”, who ultimately shape people’s attitudes.

Why can’t you be constructive, Danny, and use this wonderful opportunity you have to destroy the myths in peoples’ minds, to do something about the maniacal situation, whereby Larry Grayson is the TV personality of the year at our expense, ultimately at your expense.

Things That Go Thug In The Night

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. Directed by Peter Sasdy, with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
ALL COPPERS ARE… Directed by Sidney Hayers, with Martin Potter and Nicky Henson. A Peter Rogers Production.

Judging by some of their recent releases, “Death Line”, “Vampire Circus”, “Night Hair Child” etc, the Rank Organisation are attempting to cash in on the success of Hammer, and they have now secured the services of Messrs Lee and Cushing, which I am sure they consider to be a nadir of success in this who can make a movie on the lowest budget contest. And there’s no doubt that NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT, title no connection with the content, is low budget, so low budget in fact, so superficially directed, that it’s tame enough to have an AA certificate instead of the regulation X for horror. Not even Diana Dors, a former auburn and later blonde. Rank starlet, from the good old days of British Film making, resplendent in an ill fitting chestnut wig, can bring life to Brian Hayles’ script with its reams of meaningless dialogue, and a style that turns the film into an awful pastiche of the worst type of 1950s style, British B picture.

Relegated to second place publicity wise, in this double bill, but definitely the dominant partner quality wise, ALL COPPERS ARE… “also starring” would you believe, Sandra Dome and Queenie Watts, is a very very tongue-in-cheek, well photographed, (up the junction, Battersea) look at a few days in the life of a young copper, Martin Potter, and the local long-haired crook, natty dresser and spiv, Nicky Henson. There are some awful right wing jokes about homosexuals, demonstrators and other assorted trendies which had the audience cackling and writhing with delight, but what with Martin Potter and Nicky Henson chasing Julia Foster, who could really take any of it seriously?

Criticism Of Criticism Of Criticism

Phoenix Theatre,
Charing Cross Road,
London W1.

Dear Gay News,

I felt I just had to write and have a moan about your film critic, David Seligman.

A couple of times he has given bad reviews to quite good films. But his latest criticism of the Poseidon Adventure was completely unwarranted.

To start with, to compare this film with “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is ridiculous. “The Poseidon Adventure” is pure escapism, whereas “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was a mature study of life.

It’s like comparing “2001” with “Carry On Camping”. Both in their way good entertainment but vastly different.

I feel very sorry for Mr Seligman if he is unable to watch and enjoy a film just for its entertainment value and to stop worrying about the fact that nobody has Jewish schmaltzy neighbours anymore.

Also if Mister Seligman wishes to make references to other films (ie George Sanders) but is unable to give the title of these films, then he should leave well alone.

Martha and Fong

True, my comparisons are sometimes vague and uncertain, but if the audience had reacted positively to the “Poseidon Adventure”, I would have said so. When I saw it at the Carlton, Haymarket, people were continually fidgeting, yawning, or even walking out. In the long run I believe that if the ever emptying cinemas are going to survive, and be recognised as valid competition to the telly, films have either got to be entertaining in a vastly different, totally cinematic way, like good horror movies, or provide a completely alternative, something mind shattering, thought provoking, amazingly visual on a large screen, like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or a “Clockwork Orange”.


New Movies

MAN OF LA MANCHA (United Artists) could have been just another boring, routine eight songs, a dance and a love story musical, but it’s nor, for several reasons.

The story for one, again about man’s mistaken illusions, the subject the cinema seems to tackle best, and most often. This time an eccentric, ageing Spanish aristocrat, who believes he’s Don Quixote, a noble knight. Peter O’Toole, who I believe to be the most gifted actor now working in films, is amazing, made up to look about seventy, as he mounts charges against windmills, woos the innkeeper’s daughter, Sophia Loren, and inspires affection in his loyal Spanish (American accented) servant, played by James Coco. There are several other flaws as well, like badly dubbed singing voices, but well, it is a commercially made musical after all.

Particular praise should go to the soft, mellow colour in which the film was made, which heightens the atmosphere of the slowly ailing, illogical insanity of the main character, and, Arthur Hiller’s stagey, basic direction which helps O’Toole to mould yet another brilliant performance.

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (Laurie Marsh Group). Scripted by Gordon Honeycombe from his novel, this rather charming little British film about a couple who meet in wintry Jersey, fall in love, and who then are prematurely separated by the man’s death which the girl cannot, and refuses to believe, imagining the man still to be with her, makes for two intriguing contrasts, romantic and macabre. Susan Hampshire and Michael Petrovich act simply and beautifully and Fred Burnley’s direction succeeds admirably in capturing the two widely opposing elements of romanticism and the macabre, through the spectacular use he makes of the sight and sounds of the sea and scenery. I must praise the exquisite colour photography (Eastman Colour) which ensures the film works so well visually.

Another film which I found to be absorbing, sensitive and made with great dedication, which has generally been poorly reviewed, and underpublicised by its distributors.

WHEN THE LEGENDS DIE (Fox Rank Distributors). Stuart Miller’s debut as a director (he previously worked as William Whyler’s assistant) uses the American rodeo scene — the modern filmic symbol for the death of the traditional American life-style, to illustrate very poignantly how a young Indian from the reserve (Frederic Forest) another debut, is almost destroyed by the conflict between the rodeo life-style and the modern colour fridge syndrome, and finally rejects them both. The conflict is perpetuated by Richard Widmark as an alcoholic ex-rodeo star who cannot believe his way of life is dying, and has dreams of building the young Indian into a big star.

The film has romantic gestures to both the old Indian and white ways of life, loves its characters and I think shows the relationship between the American white man and the Indian, far more realistically than Arthur Penn’s terrible Little Big Man. It’s a pity this new distribution company didn’t publicise When The Legends Die a little more.

because compared to Penn’s film, it’s so sensitive, realistic and worthwhile.

SNOOPY COME HOME (Fox Rank). The second feature length cartoon, based on Charles Schulz’s well-loved comic strip is witty, inventive, thoughtful in places and visually entertaining.

JEREMIAH JOHNSON (Columbia-Warner). Well, you can’t say they don’t make those good clean All-American outdoor adventures any more, because Sydney (they don’t shoot directors) Pollack has come up with one, and what a bore it is too. Robert Redford, over-exposed to the cold, and these days to the film camera too, is set loose in a frozen Northern Carolina of the early eighteen hundreds, where he comes across just about every bearded, cliché ridden bear-trapping character you can imagine. He marries an Indian girl, adopts a wayward little boy/and naturally his happy little family is massacred by a tribe of marauding Indians, who Redford then kills off single handed, of course.

This film should have stopped after the beautiful opening shots of the snow-covered scenery, and had a good think.

Propaganda Or Truth

PRECINCT 45 (U.S. title — The New Centurions). Director: Richard Fleisher. Stars: George C. Scott, Stacey Keach, Colour, Panavision. Distributor: Columbia Warner. Cert AA.

Precinct 45 is the finest and most objective movie about the Police that I have ever seen. It takes a short period in the lives of several cops in a poor, very tough precinct in Los Angeles, and through closely picturing their actions, experiences and reactions, both on and off duty, begins to build in our minds a composite picture of what kind of a man a cop is. What is it that makes him paranoically root out some innocent boy who’s got a couple of joints in his pocket, or risk his life chasing after some nutcase with a shot gun.

Scott as superb as ever, plays the old cop, the cynical, dedicated respected one who goes around punching Rachman type landlords on the nose. But this is not a sentimental, pro-police film, and there are scenes where we see cops at their fascistic, taunting worst, trapping gays in the park at night or illogically smashing up a car because they’ve got a bit of venom to work off. We are also given ideas, with a vengeance, of what it is like to be the wife of a cop, who’s just been shot, or at any time for that matter.

I liked the film very much, because it was entertaining, disturbing through its truthfulness, and above all it helped me to understand what makes a cop tick. After all it’s too easy isn’t it, to cry out “Pig”, or “He’s just a cop because he’s repressed”.

Our highly erratic censor, Mr Murphy has given the film an AA certificate. It contains some very violent, disturbing scenes, which I think warrant an X. They were really so convincingly done that I could feel my stomach drop, and I’ve seen more movie violence than you’ve seen episodes of ‘Crossroads’.

A really fine movie, topical and valid today in our stretched at the seams urban environment. The goodie Richard Fleisher has never quite managed before. Recommended.

But I Like It

OOH YOU ARE AWFUL (British Lion) “Dick Emery … At the bottom of it all” proclaim the posters with a big illustration of Dick in drag, and there’s a character in the film called Reggie, played by Ronald Fraser, who it is vaguely suggested, goes around buggering girls, and then has their bottoms tattooed by a rather camp tattoist. It could have all been some awful sexual On the Buses, but in fact the brilliant Dick Emery playing about seven parts, at least three of them in drag, John Warren and John Singer’s subtle and sarcastic screenplay and Cliff Owen’s imaginative direction, create a very amusing, absorbing film, which is centred around Emery, a small time con man, being pursued by the Mafia, which is sent up deliciously: very welcome after The Godfather. British Rail and the Royal Family are also treated to some pointed satirical jibes, in this very much above average British comedy.

Ooh! You Are Awful

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE : Director Ronald Neame. Stars : Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowell, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters. Distributor : Fox Rank.

Old time lavish adventures are fine on lavish budgets, but when you try and make ’em for under a million pounds, things begin to become unstuck – like Shelley Winters’ dress – I mean !! Seriously, you must be joking, there wasn’t even time to set the atmosphere of decadence, aboard an Atlantic cruise ship, badly most of the time, mocked up inside a studio. The publicity handouts suggest this is one of those movies where all our realistic, familiar Jones and Jonettes from next door, are plunged into a real life situation, like a ship turning over in an earthquake which takes place at exactly midnight on New Year’s Eve. Have you ever been trapped in the middle of the lake in a leaking boat with the Vicar ?

Anyway, its all been done before. George Sanders made a movie like this, I wish I could remember its name, in the early sixties. It had an identical plot except the direction of the suspense was excellent, and the characters weren’t all shallow, fine upstanding citizens.

As those of you who read these columns regularly know, I am a great champion of entertaining, exciting cinema, but you can’t make effective big films on little budgets, nor can you fob off the discerning cinema goer, the only people who haven’t succumbed to the telly, whoever they may be, with cheap novel crap about people crawling upside down through an upturned ship with courage, valour and a stiff upper grip, or however Americans handle a situation like this. Incidentally I was very disappointed not to catch even one glimpsette of the Stars and Stripes or a plastic gold replica of the Statuette of Liberteria.

We don’t live next door to schmaltzy, elderly Jewish couples anymore – we live in the world of THE FRENCH CONNECTION Mr Hackman. Go and see The Poseidon Adventure if you can’t ignore the advertising, and then pause, think and compare it to Sunday Bloody Sunday, and see what makes me loathe and love and sometimes despair about the Cinema, as it alternates between firing ones mind with explosive brilliance and alienating its lovers. Its life really.

Christmas – Fantasy Or Fiction

I was going to make this a very heavy anti-Christmas article, decrying the brash commercialism, the intensified loneliness it brings to so many, especially gays, and the ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’ situation of taking the boyfriend home for Christmas, or facing the family alone – “What do you get up to in London then?” “When are you going to get married?” Or could it be Birds Eye Frozen Turkey warmed up on the bedsit gas ring, or a big anti-climax. Christmas is the time when for some reason expectations rise in a silvery, glittery, fairy-tale fantasy, filling the mind with false hopes which can never be fulfilled, hence the big Boxing Day depression.

Really, I suppose, I rather enjoy Christmas. I’m very selfish. I love excesses of rich food and good wine, receiving exquisitely wrapped gifts, and watching a surfeit of movies on the telly; all the bourgeois trappings in fact. I don’t even find Boxing Day an anti-climax, because the movies are usually better than on Christmas Day.

Momentarily back in my Woolworths plastic gold comfy bum easy chairette, pretending to be a kind of male Gloria Swanson, my ideal fantasy Christmas would begin on Christmas Eve, with a long, slow, luxurious dinner in the company of my fantasy ideal boyfriend, who is a 21 year old, unpretentious, but intelligent Cockney lad of medium build, with brown hair, blue eyes and slightly tanned skin. In fact he’s so elusive that every time he comes to see me he arrives through the wall floating under a purple plastic halo, decorated with green tinsel, surrounded by a soft white mist. Long, soft, beautiful sex, accompanied by Judy Garland records from the four silver speakers, one attached to each of the four posts on the chintz curtained four poster bed. Christmas morning is spent opening presents of antiques and camp, coloured glasses, in front of a roaring tinsel-clad open fire. At lunchtime friends arrive. Another meal: this time a traditional gargantuan dinner followed by hours of horror films in my basement cinema.

To all of you reading this I hope Christmas will bring you a little bit of happiness; and remember it’s better to sit smiling and wanking over some delicious fantasy in front of the telly than weeping in a corner. And that’s really all the consolation I can offer you, without being patronising, but don’t forget the Boltons and the Biograph re-open on Boxing Day.