1970s editions of Gay News in a web-readable format
Author: Peter Holmes
Peter Holmes wrote extensively for Gay News in the 1970s. He has lived in Belfast, Berlin, London, NYC, Paris and, er, Swindon. He still campaigns for LGBT+ equality and also for European Union membership.
THE VALACHI PAPERS, starring Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland and the casting files of Cinecitta, Rome. Directed by Terence Young. Certificate ‘X’. Released by Cinema International.
You can tell by the glint in the eyes of people in Wardour Street that the time will come when Britain’s ailing movie industry will catch up with the latest craze in tinsel town — mafiamania.
Now that The Godfather has made a killing (metaphorical) it seems everyone from Burbank to Palermo is making offers that movie-stars can’t refuse, all in the cause of pictures about killing (real).
I can see the day when our own Sid James is cast as Lucky Luciano, Hattie Jacques as Vito Genovese, Kenneth Williams as Al Capone and Barbara Windsor is miscast as Little Caesar.
The awful monotony of Carry On following in the same smutty jokesteps as the last Carry On has now found its parallel.
After the Godfather, The Valachi Papers. After The Valachi Papers, The Godfather Part Two. The way they’re going on the movie production line it’s just as well fruit parfaits are bullet-proof.
When will this reign of terror end? Not, I’m sad to predict, until the public has shown that it won’t go on paying to see old gangster movies warmed over.
Just in case I haven’t made myself clear yet, I didn’t enjoy The Valachi Papers. I’d seen it all before — in The Godfather, newsreel footage of Vietnam, Roger Corman’s St Valentine’s Day Massacre, road accidents, biology experiments, footage of Nazi war atrocities and the like.
To get away with hideous screen violence, a director has to be good. He has to justify the character’s actions in terms of their emotional surroundings. Terence Young — for all that he directed Dr No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball — is not a good director. His Bond movies were the most yawn-worthy of the series.
The Story: Charles Bronson, posing as Joe Valachi, is jailed in a big Mafia-bust. His old boss Vito Genovese decides to give him the kiss of death. Bronson realises that death’s just waiting round the corner for him, so he sings. You mightn’t think Charles has the voice to go into the musical business but this is no Sound Of Music. The singing (a bit of criminal terminology I picked up from the movie) is done in open session of the United States Investigating Committee into the workings of the Mafia – with coast-to-coast television coverage to add to the drama. Bronson is the first person to say ‘Cosa Nostra’ in front of the Committee.
The Valachi Papers claims to be scouts-honour fact as told by Joe Valachi to the FBI, who were investigating the mafia to put the facts and the canaries in front of the Committee.
Most of the movie happens in flash-backs — at the best of times, a trying and facile technique that is used to cover up for lack of a cohesive story — as Valachi/Bronson gives us the dirt on how Cosa Nostra killing contracts are carried out. He did enough.
In these troubled times it’s reassuring that Bronson chooses to marry Jill Ireland this time round (last time they met, in The Mechanic, she was a whore and he was using her.) This time she gets a gold band and still gets used something rotten. Sometimes you just can’t win.
We get a recounting of a large number of murders, seen through Bronson’s eyes as the necessaries of everyday life (and death).
In fact it’s the ponderously told story of the amoral, everyday life of a mafia-killer.
I’ve seen too much blood around for the slow-killings to have any charm for me. Terence Young would have been as usefully employed trying to glorify the Moors murders or a fatal car accident.
Meanwhile back at the Carry Ons. Maybe the Carry On team needn’t find new riches in the family of life, crime and death. Maybe Tinsel Town has reached the Carry On level. Rock bottom.
It’s Wednesday about 5pm. The Gay News office is a tip. We’ve been mailing subscription copies most of the day. The phone rings.
It’s Variety. Not the show-biz trade paper, but the girl who answers the phone at Vaughan Films, with the collected movie works of Trevelyan (not the ex-censor), Anger and Warhol in cans piled up round her desk and her electric typewriter.
“Joe’s in town. Would you like to see him?” she asks.
“Would I? You must be joking. What time and where?”
“I’ll have to tell you the time tomorrow and it’ll be at the office.”
Next morning up and ready ridiculously early. We have to waste some time listening to Jimmy Young and sitting at home – if home is where my toothbursh is – waiting for Variety to call.
She does. At midday.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to get up, Peter, you can see Joe at one.”
London Transport Executive does its best to delay all 149 buses to Liverpool Street, and to keep all Central Line trains to Oxford Circus from running.
Despite LTE we get there on time. Just.
Variety looks after the Gay News carrier bag while we’re off to see the ‘superstar’ of the movies that puts fear into the hearts of the sensitive and politically ambitious of Enfield.
Next door is almost as crowded, but this time it’s people not film cans that are piling up round the walls. There are Christine, the lady who fixes almost anything, and the rest of the small distribution company’s directors and staff, all buzzing with excitement at the thought of The Big Opening, (Trash, February 8, London Pavilion). And leaning against the doorpost there’s a young man who looks as though he’s trying to merge with the furniture and the posters with his face on.
He’s got the face of Joe Dalessandro, but it’s difficult to recognise him in a tidy blue suit with creases in the trousers any banker would be proud of, let alone with his clothes on.
Christine says: “This is Peter Holmes of Gay News and he’d like to have a few words with you.”
We shake hands and say hello/hullo/hallo and retire to the inner sanctum — the office of Andy Warhol’s European agent, Jimmy Vaughan.
Joe seems frankly surprised that Europe’s leading gay fortnightly wants to talk to him. He takes out a Marlboro and lights it. He says he’s hungry, loud enough for the massed company directors and their right-hand men and women to hear.
On every surface of the room there’s a picture of Joe, some in colour, some in plain old black-and-white.
Gay News: How much do you identify with the characters you play in the movies? After all, you’re always called Joe on the screen.
Joe: Well, I’ve got Joe tatooed on my arm, and I didn’t find out how to blank it out with make-up until just recently.
GN: You’ve been a screen stud, a gay and you’ve even fixed heroin on screen. How much of it is the real you?
Joe: None of it. They’re just characters in movies. At home I’m just a quiet family sort of man. I’ve got my mother living in the city, and I visit her regularly. And I’ve got a wife at home and a child. And my wife cooks me delicious meals and I stay at home and watch television a lot. I don’t know any junkies. I don’t know any gays. I’m just a very straight sort of person.
GN: Despite that you’ve become something of a gay hero.
Joe: I don’t know why.
GN: Well, Joe was pansexual in Flesh and Lonesome Cowboys was overtly gay.
Joe: Well, I’m glad I’ve become a hero for somebody.
GN: Back at reality in the Warhol movies, there’s a scene in Trash where you fix heroin…
Joe: ‘Fix’? Is that what you call it?
GN: You fix heroin, you shoot it up into your arm in full view of the screen. That scene made the boyfriend I saw it with faint.
Joe: Did you see it here in London?
GN: Yes, at a screening for the trade, to coin a phrase. Anyway, what did you shoot up, or fix, or whatever? Was it water or something?
Joe: I didn’t shoot anything into my arm.
GN: You mean it’s all done with the tricks of the cinema business?
Joe: Yes, I never put a needle into me.
GN: You say you lead a very straight life. Does that mean you’re anti-drug and anti-gay?
Joe: What do you mean by ‘anti’?
GN: Do you personally, discriminate against drug-users or gays you meet?
Joe: I can’t really because I don’t come into any contact with anyone who falls into these categories, because I spend most of my life at home when I’m not working. I believe that people should be able to do whatever they like, in ones or twos or threes or whatever outside my home. But once they’re inside they have to do what I say.
I wouldn’t discriminate against gays — if I knew any – but then, I wouldn’t sleep with a gay guy either.
Actually, I’m very anti-drug. I don’t use any and I don’t allow any to be used in my home.
GN: I think Trash is probably the most convincing condemnation of drug-use I’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous their banning it for two years in this country. If it was given a U-certificate, that’s the unrestricted viewing certificate, and shown in schools, it would kill the smack trade stone dead in just ten years, probably.
(Jimmy Vaughan, Andy Warhol’s European agent walks into his office to the refrigerator that holds the hospitality wine.)
Joe: Do you have some kind of hamburger joint in England?
JV: We’ll be giving you some meat in half-an-hour. We’ll go out for a steak.
Joe: 15 minutes.
JV: 15 minutes.
Joe: I’m sorry but I really am hungry.
JV: And when Joe gets hungry he gets annoyed. Isn’t that right Joe?
JV: Don’t mind me, I’m just popping through.
GN: You’ve been with the Warhold factory for five years now …
GN: Ever since The Loves of Ondine. Can you see a time when you’ll quit the factory to join the more conventional movie-making industry?
Joe: Not really. After all, the movies we make have changed a lot. Paul Morrisey has changed things and the movies are very different now.
GN: Yes, but Savages has just opened in London with Ultra Violet in it. She was one of the factory’s first superstars, and Play It Again Sam had Viva in a very small and rather bad part.
Joe: Viva was great in Cisco Pike. Did you ever get to see that?
GN: No. What I meant was that these two have broken away from the factory, seemingly to get into the straight movies, if you can call Savages straight. Would you do that, now that you’ve become a ‘superstar’?
Joe: I wouldn’t say I was a superstar.
GN: It’s the Warhol name for the stars of the factory’s movies. Would you make movies for other directors and other set-ups?
Joe: Sure I would, but that doesn’t mean I’d stop working for Warhol. I enjoy working there too much to leave it.
GN: Why did you start working for the Warhol factory?
Joe: You see I like money and I wanted to be an actor in the movies and no studio would give someone of my age a part unless he’d already done a couple of features.
GN: How old were you when you started, then?
GN: At that age, I suppose you can’t get a part unless your father is a big-name star.
Joe: Who are you thinking of?
GN: Peter Fonda, for one.
Joe: Do you know how old Peter Fonda is?
GN: He’s starting to look about 40 or 50. But he was in a lot of features before he made the big-time, albeit low-budget jobs.
Joe: Yes, but he was 28 or 29 when he started those.
GN: Are you only loyal to the Warhol movie factory because it keeps you in regular employment?
Joe: I suppose so, yes. I don’t live and breathe it, and I’m not politically committed to it. To me they’re just movies with parts in them to be played.
GN: Which is your favourite of the movies you’ve been in?
Joe: I don’t know that I have a favourite. I liked them all. They’re all movies.
Joe: I never say what people should do and what they shouldn’t do, and I don’t think anybody else should. Britain’s no worse than other countries.
GN: It’s more repressive than most, and not just in censorship. The laws against gays make male gay sex legal only between consenting adults over 21 in private, as long as neither is a member of the armed forces or the merchant navy.
Joe: What you’ve got is a law that gives gays the freedom they haven’t got in the States, and then takes it away again at the same time.
GN: Sure, that’s why we run a contact ad section. You see gay contact ads got International Times busted a few years back. The law hasn’t changed since.
Joe: But contact ads aren’t important enough to get busted on.
GN: The contact ad thing is just an example of the discriminatory laws against gays in this country. You know the reason the Bailey documentary got banned was because of the movie clips in it, most of them with you in them? People complained because the clips showed gays and you said fuck four or five times.
GN: Well there are about four copies coming in here every fortnight. You know Kenneth Anger is working here? Have you seen Anger’s movies?
GN: Oh. You should. He more or less invented the quote underground unquote movie years ago with some of the earliest gay movies made that were really good movies. Now he’s getting more involved in the work of Aleister Crowley.
(By this time it’s lunchtime and Joe heads off for the steakery. One of the directors is asked to follow with cash for the meal, as he’s tied up talking to the art man about the deadline for posters for Trash’s opening.
Then other members of the staff talk about the people they forgot to invite and talk to Joe on his 24-hour trip to London.)
Staff: Did we invite that guy who does the arts on Friday for the Standard? What’s his name? And how about Ray Connolly? Did we invite him? Damn.
Conversation with Joe. Starring Joe Dallasandro. With Peter Holmes, Jimmy Vaughan and staff, the Evening News. Introducing Variety. Cert ‘U’.
SAVAGES.The Players: Louis Stadlen, Thayer David, Susie Blakeley, Kathleen Widdoes, Ultra Violet. Written: George Trow, Michael O’Donoghue. Photographed: Walter Lassally. Directed: James Ivory. Certificate ‘AA’
One of the saddest facts of living in these civilised times is that a few people are supposed to bundle off to the cinema and then write what they think of what they saw for others to read. But once you’ve sat down at your typewriter and written that Savages is as close to being a masterpiece of a movie as you’re in danger of seeing in the next 12 months — and that’s a long time — you’ve said all that’s worth saying, bar telling the story.
It’s by retelling the story you can usually pad out a review once you’ve run out of words because the movie defies words – there are a lot more knocking words than there are words of praise.
And that being said/written, let me add that there’s nothing anyone can say about Savages that is going to make sense unless you go and see the movie. Ignore what people say, see it. Make up your own mind.
Savages, quite simply has very little story. Or, to put it another way, it is a simple little story which still has an amazing complexity.
It charts the rise and fall of civilisation through a series of chapters (I think there are five, but the number doesn’t matter).
We start with a black-and-white anthropological documentary about The Mud People — as the chapter heading tells us.
The action is explained and interspersed with captions written in a send-up anthropology jargon – after all, co-scripter O’Donoghue is a staffer on America’s National Lampoon, the satirical magazine.
The Mud People are getting ready for a bit of ritual human sacrifice, but they’re quite bowled over by the appearance of a croquet ball from the clear sky over their unspecified territory in an unspecified continent at an unspecified time.
The tribe sets off to find where the perfect sphere – hitherto unknown as a shape in the forest, we’re told — came from. And they end up at a very stylish old house belonging to an unspecified period in the development of the civilisation of an unspecified nation – it looks like America, and it was shot in upstate New York.
They enter the house, find the remnants of the last ‘civilised’ occupation — cupboards of clothes, records and so on. They dress up and assume the attitudes of the people whose clothes they’re wearing – capitalist, eligible young man, limping idealist, remote artist and such like.
The next main step – the third chapter -is the dinner party when the attitudes are played for all they’re worth. Suddenly a croquet ball appears from nowhere and passes the table unseen. But the people know that some force has passed among them — shades of the Exterminating Angel and 2001.
From then on the civilisation they’ve reached is in decline.
A girl who consistently wears men’s clothes does a number to a song called Steppin On The Spaniel (a song about treading household pets into the ground). People dive into the swimming pool and the eligible young man does an underwater grave robbing job, stealing coins and jewellery. Ultra Violet, described in the beautiful title sequence as a decadent, seduces the maid in the back of a massive car that’s parked in the grounds. This lesbian-fuck scene is typical of the movie in that every time you think you know your bearings, director James Ivory throws in something else to confuse things just a bit.
Confusion reigns at the end, crusty aristocrats, cigar-smoking capitalists, sensitive girls and idealists are involved in a game of croquet that turns into agame of cheat, the hostess keeps moving the pole – a scene reminiscent of the first time I tripped on LSD (when it was legal of course) and cheated gloriously at cards.
The rise-and-fall of civilisation is one huge subject for a movie to tackle, and James Ivory, whose idea the scripters worked from, has used the motif of the croquet ball to link the sequences. That might sound like a clumsy image, but in the context it isn’t, honest.
As I’ve said/written, it’s a huge subject, and it’s a movie I had to see twice before I could take it all in. And it’s still running.
The Curzon ought to sell season-tickets. I’ve got to see it another two or three times to really absorb the subtleties of the script – in a desperate attempt to regain civilisation the hostess relies on ritual and uses an etiquette-form question to get the conversation going again (“Do you know,” she asks, “the precise meaning and derivation of the phrase bric-a-brac?”).
The subtleties are also included in Walter Lassally’s best cinematography since Tom Jones, the soft focus, the muted and delicate colours.
At once. Savages is funny, mind-blowing, intelligent, good-to-look-at and so good it confounds criticism. There’s only one thing to do – go and see for yourself.
I’ve never seen a pantomime like Le Grand Magic Circus – and I’ve never seen a circus like it either. In fact, to say that Robinson Crusoe, which the Grand Magic Circus is staging at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, until January 20 is unique is no overstatement.
In short, you don’t get to see many pantomimes that don’t have women dressed up as men trying to look like women as the principals or men dressed up as women trying to look like men dressed as women in support roles. Le Grand Magic Circus has none of the overblown panto about it.
Instead of a yesterday’s pop idol clutching onto a hand-mike, Robinson Crusoe gives us the mime that gave panto its name. Forget yer usual R.C. story, this one has Crusoe hanging around in a hammock watching the telly while Friday pulls massive cardboard vegetables out of the ground.
So it’s not a pantomime in today’s accepted-and-debased sense. It’s real theatre. And it’s no ordinary circus, either. The only animals used are a few birds (a chicken and a goose inter alia) who make noisy and unexpected entrances from various parts of the auditorium. Otherwise the zebras, very obviously human underneath it all.
Le Grand Magic Circus started life as a street-theatre group in the Paris troubles of May 1968. Robinson Crusoe has grown out of that. It works on two levels, it’s fun and it’s a piece of propaganda about the telly-watching landlord Crusoe, who’s not sure he wants to be rescued while life’s so soft on his island.
This is one band of actors who can get me to pay to see it a second time, and get me to forget all my reservations and participate. Robinson Crusoe is quite easily the most interesting thing on London’s stage. But the Circus leaves town on January 20. Get in quick and see the show. It may be a long time before you get another chance.
PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Jerry Lacy. Certificate AA. Released by Paramount Pictures.
It’s not good for any movie star to be likened to another, so it’s invidious to say that Woody Allen is the new Groucho Marx, or even Buster Keaton. But whether it’s fair to call him that or not, that’s exactly what he is.
Just as Peter Sellers showed promise of being a comic talent some years ago, before his ability was squandered in the search for a few dollars more to buy another mini, Woody Allen now looks set firmly on course for being the best comedy actor we’ve had for years. And to cap it all he writes most of his own material.
Until recently (in fact until Bananas) he never put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned.
So it’s with some regret that I have to admit that I didn’t exactly die laughing at Woody clowning his way through Play It Again, Sam, Herbert Ross’ movie from Woody’s screenplay based on his own stage play.
Perhaps it’s because this movie is based on a stage play that it doesn’t work as well as Bananas or Take The Money and Run. Or perhaps it’s because it’s directed by someone other than Woody Allen himself — he directed the others and has just finished Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex etc.
Whatever the reason, this movie just doesn’t hang together as well as most of Woody Allen’s humour.
Basically, his usual maladroit everyman figure is surrounded by disasters, as usual — but this time they’re romantic disasters mostly.
True, there are moments when the usual brilliant visual humour shows through, but, generally speaking, those good patches stick out. And that’s a bad sign for any movie. If the good bits are conspicuous, then the rest can’t be up to scratch.
I love Woody Allen. He is me. He is a human disaster area. He is the victim of gadgets and 20th Century technological hardware. His hairdryer causes havoc in his medicine cupboard as he hurries to meet a girl.
The story is this: Woody is a movie-critic on a rather esoteric movie-mag. His wife walks out because he’s more hung-up about celluloid than sex. So he has to go out hunting for a new mate. He’s helped in this by Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) and his best friend’s wife (Diane Keaton).
The Bogart figure is the product of Woody’s movie-mad imagination. Bogie follows him on his dates and tells him what to do, for Woody is, as ever, completely flustered when faced with the realities of a situation.
Every date fixed for him by his best friends (and that wife of his) turns out to be a shambles, because Woody just can’t pull the birds any more. Not even a roaring nymphomaniac — a crazy cameo played by Viva (from the Warhol factory).
Meanwhile as rebuff after rebuff erodes our hero’s self-confidence. Woody discovers the only woman he feels comfortable with is his best friend’s wife. They have sex.
She tells her husband their marriage is on the rocks and he goes off on yet another of his business trips. Realising that she should be with her husband she rushes off to join him at the airport.
Meanwhile Woody turns up at the airport, but he won’t keep her from her husband because that’s not the way it happened in Casablanca — and sure enough, there’s Bogie at his elbow, mighty proud of him, and that’s the way he’s learned to treat dames.
Romantic comedies aren’t exactly my elegant glass of Babycham. But this one’s different. It has to be with Woody Allen involved. Who else could give the woman he loves a plastic skunk for her birthday or say as she walks out of his life that that’s the scene he’s been wanting to play all his life – or, at least, since he first saw Casablanca.
Trouble is the movie’s produced by Arthur (Planet of the Apes) Jacobs and much of his influence seems to have spread throughout the movie. The intercutting of real Bogart footage is overly heavy and unnecessary. But Woody wins out in the end. There’s a scene where he’s elated and walks
along a bridge patting the backs of the boys fishing. One of course, falls off the parapet. Woody, of course, notices nothing.
It’s fun, but it’s not the best of Woody Allen. All the same it’s better than no Woody Allen. And that’s enough to get me into the cinema – even at 10.30 a.m.
LONDON: It wasn’t exactly her cup of Earl Grey, but the old lady in the front of the orchestra played her harp happily and smiled at Peter Straker as he performed his Private Parts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Staging a concert starring a largely-unknown singer, such as Peter, is something of a risk. Staging it as a public performance of the singer’s latest album is probably more of a risk, especially when Private Parts is a work that’s adult enough to make radio producers’ rising eyebrows make up for their receding hairlines.
But taking risks is the job of a pop promotor, so we shall have no more of the commercial considerations of this concert.
Suffice it to say that An Evening With Peter Straker was a remarkable success. The success was remarkable not because we had any doubt about Peter’s ability as a singer – he’d shown his talents in Hair and on several records. The success was remarkable because he managed to put over to an auditorium of people one of the most personal pop works I’ve heard for a few years.
For the first half of the concert – the first side of the record really – he was coming down from the high of tension that he’d been building up for the last two months, worrying about the concert. It ended with the most surprising piece of the whole evening. Peter put over his feelings about the death of his father, in the song As You Were Dying, as powerfully in public as on record. Perhaps the feeling of personal involvement by the audience was greater at the concert. For Peter, an actor as well as a singer, turned the empty laughter at the end of the song into a macabre, mocking laughter echoing down its emptiness.
It had never struck me until then just how horrifying and bizarre that song is, telling of his father’s suicide by hanging.
By this point he’d gained confidence and the rest of the concert reflected this. Peter seemed to be enjoying it as much as the audience by then.
He was confident, but not over-confident, which, I feel is the general feeling behind the second half of the work, apart from a Bad Night — the song which attempts to convey his fear during a bad trip.
By the time we got to What More Is There To Say? the last song in the cycle, Peter Straker had arrived, and was irradiating the sort of feeling you get when you watch the established solo performer.
Considering that Peter’s only made three records as well as being in the London cast of Hair, and of the disastrous Mother Earth musical you can’t really classify him as a big-name singer. I’ll rephrase that: you couldn’t – until the Queen Elizabeth Hall concert on December 1.
He’d got up early in the morning and walked around Holland Park singing every number in the Private Parts cycle.
His next singing engagements will probably be on the continent. “People in this country just aren’t into this sort of music,” he told me after the concert was over.
He may be wrong, for the crowd at the QEH demanded an encore. And by the time he’d finished Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley’s work (Private Parts is written by them) there was nothing left for him to sing. So he had to go back to Who Killed Cock Robin. Then he had to come back again, and again, and again.
Even though the horns in the orchestra didn’t seem as interested in Richard Hartley’s directions as the lady harpist, who carried on regardless when one of her strings broke, it might just be that people in this country are willing to accept Private Parts as an important pop work, which owes much to the French chanson style, and also the Great British Public might just accept Peter Straker as an important figure on the pop scene and not just a left-over from Hair.
Peter may not sing reggae or soul but it wouldn’t hurt the GBP to give Peter’s Private Parts two listens – it’s even better the second time round.
Less than two years ago Richard Scanes was a public health inspector with a reputation for pulling the girls. Now he’s Tricky Dicky, the gay dee-jay who’s given up the pretence of living a straight life, but puts all his energy every night of the week into getting gays to come out and into their home surroundings.
Tricky Dicky has a discotheque booking every night of the week in places well out of the usual gay areas. And that’s one of his aims, he told Gay News. He started at The Father Red Cap in Camberwell, now he has discos at The Kings Arms in Liverpool Street and the Arabian in Bethnal Green as well as monthly discos in Southend and the occasional shuffle up the Thames.
He told GN: “Usually a gay stays anonymous in his home area and only takes off his protective overcoat when he gets to Earls Court and the gay ghettoes, as they have beer called in Gay News.
“What’s happening now is that people are opening gay bars and gay discos in their areas and it’s possible for the gay to come out in the East End, and we’ve got to learn to do that.
“The places I work at are in the middle of nowhere, but then all the big discotheques are in the West End. Now DJs are taking discotheques to the people. I offer people a show of the same standard as they’ll get in a West End club but in the area they live in.
“And in the places I work gay people have the liberty they should have. You go to the Catacombs and try dancing together there. All these big names won’t let boys dance together, perhaps they are being leant on, but all that they have is something like a parade.
“At my discos the gay boys and gay girls can dance together and no-one is going to say a word. This time last year you wouldn’t have seen gay people dancing together.”
Now Tricky Dicky is playing sounds for gay girls and men to dance to every night of the week, thanks to his break at the Father Redcap.
He says: “About 18 months ago I had heard that the governor of the Father Redcap was gay and I phoned him and said ‘I am gay, I am a DJ’ and he gave me the chance to get started.
“Now it’s up to three nights a week disco there and one night of stage show, when I play records and do impressions. I might put on a wig or something like that, but I wouldn’t wear full drag. At present I’m formulating my act for Leader of the Pack.
“The Redcap would like me to do more evenings a week, but I want to get discos going in other areas, so I won’t increase the number of nights I spend there.”
He says he tries to make his evening’s work more entertaining than just someone putting on a record after another. He plans the evening’s show. But that’s not the only thing he plans. He says: “Gay discos can get bigger and better, and that’s what we’re working on now. In fact, we are something like six or eight years behind straight discotheques. There always have been gay places in the West End, but one day there’ll be strings of gay discotheques all over London and in the bigger provincial towns.
“Maybe it won’t be Tricky Dicky who’ll be running them, but, at least, I’ll have done something towards making them possible. I’m in this business to make money. I wouldn’t pretend otherwise, but my main aim is to entertain my fellow gays, and to play my favourite sort of music – soul music, which has a very strong following among gays.”
We spoke to him one Thursday night. The night before he’d done The Arabian in Bethnal Green. “Last night,” he said cheerfully, “I made £1.50. No-one can say I’m making a fortune at that rate. The Southend trips I’ve run have made a small profit. The Brighton trip made a small loss. And the riverboat shuffle – well, I thought I was going to be running the thing at a loss until the night when all the people turned up. By the Wednesday before I’d only sold about 60 tickets. It looked like being a disaster.”
But the prospect of a financial disaster doesn’t stop Tricky Dicky ploughing the money he makes back into equipment and other stunts. He insists that gay mobile discos must be the same high quality as you’d get in a major West End club and that gays must have a parallel of every event that the straight world organises for itself. If there are straight New Year’s parties, he says, there should be gay New Year’s parties. That’s why he’ll be featuring all the Christmassy tracks by soul singers later next month.
Of the 170 gays at his last disco at South-end, only 50 came with Tricky Dicky from London.
For the 32-year-old DJ that’s a success because “it’s something like treble the number we had at the one before, the first one. And it means that 120 gays from all round Southend got a chance to go to a gay disco, and they don’t get that chance very often.”
Tricky Dicky is trying to find new places to hold gay discos. He’d like to have a place in North London. At present, he’s south of the river at Camberwell and in East London. Being at two places in the East End pleases Dick no end. “There must be just as many gays per square mile in the East End as there are in Earls Court. And I’m an East Ender born and bred. Only about five years ago there were about four or five pubs you could single out as being gay. But they’ve changed now, I don’t know why, so someone has got to give the East End gays a social life.”
For someone who is working almost full-time for gays – apart from weddings on Saturday afternoons – Tricky Dicky is fairly recently come-out. He says: “When I was a public health inspector, until 18 months ago, I pretended to be straight, because there weren’t any other gay public health inspectors. At least, there weren’t as far as I could see.
“I really started to come out when I was 25, when I broke off my engagement. No-one could understand why. I was only three months off being married before I realised which path to take.
“When I told my mates I was gay most of them said ‘You’re kidding’. But then I had been going up to the Ilford Palais with them pulling the birds and trying to lay them in the back of cars. They couldn’t believe I was gay because I seemed so normal to them.
“One thing I’ve noticed about the way people behave through my discos is people coming up and saying ‘You’re camp up on stage,’ but they never thought that when I was pretending to be straight. I think it shows that a lot of people’s everyday behaviour can be interpreted as ‘camp’ if others want to see it that way.
“If we are going to have parallels between gay entertainment and straight entertainment, it means we have to have equality in the quality of the entertainment on offer, as well as equality in social life.
“If that’s what gay equality means then I’m doing what these GLF and CHE people are supposed to be working for. There are enough people worrying about the politics of equality, so I’m just giving the people equality in my way. I’ve never been very keen on GLF, but then I’ve only seen it from the outside.
“All I saw was the intense political side, which is what you see from the outside. But then, most people can only see it from the outside until they get into it. And if the outside appearances put them off they’re never going to get into the inside to see it from that way round.”
We suggested there was more toleration of gays in the East End then in the middle class areas of West London. As an East Ender, Tricky Dicky knew the answer: “The East End boy learns a lot more about sex from experience than from education. And in the East End brothers very often have to sleep together, so they get used to the idea of sleeping with boys. And as any healthy boy is going to start masturbating when he reaches puberty, sex between brothers is looked on as something very normal, and no-one thinks it’s odd or gay or at all out of the ordinary.
“I think gays find greater acceptance from the older people in the East End, but less tolerance from the younger people.”
With the US elections only a few weeks back, Tricky Dicky was at pains to explain that his name is nothing to do with Richard Millhouse Nixon. “It was a nickname a girl in my office gave me,” he says. “I was having a bit of a thing with her, nothing sexual, mind. And it was long before Nixon became president.”
In many ways Duel is like a 20th Century version of Alfred Hitchcock. More modern than the master but just as exciting. As the master of suspense/thrillers Hitchcock has always focussed his attention on one thing in particular. The weakest point of his subject’s survival pattern. Often it’s an object that becomes an obsession which finally destroys the person.
Hitchcock is ageing and his movies are not as gripping as they were. His style has changed little since he ran up the first British talkie a few years back. His old-fashioned approach to settings is most typified by his frequent use of quite obviously painted back-drops instead of a location.
So it is good that Universal’s television output – which hams British screens with rubbish much of the time – has given Steven Spielberg a chance to get into making feature movies.
Spielberg is 25 (or he was in September) and Duel was never meant to be shown in cinemas. It was made as a television movie. Spielberg starts work on his first scheduled feature (starring Goldie Hawn) from his own story in January.
Like most directors from television (Arthur Penn, Don Siegel et al) Spielberg uses the locations he chooses for all they’re worth, and once again like most telly-directors, he makes Duel as a sparing and taut piece of moviemaking.
Duel is the story of a salesman who finds his freeway lane blocked by a juggernaut petrol tanker, he overtakes it and, from there on out, it’s a battle between the man (Dennis Weaver) and the tanker. When he stops off at a petrol station he starts again to find the tanker – which also stopped for fuel – coming up behind him at an amazing speed. As soon as it overtakes him it slows to a crawl.
The battle is between the salesman and the tanker, for we never see its driver clearly. It takes place on a wide fast road, and the service stations and cafeterias along it. In short it’s man versus the motorcar with a vengeance.
It is probably the best thriller I’ve seen since Psycho, but then I don’t usually go to thrillers. For the first half-hour I was thinking Duel’s television techniques couldn’t hold my attention. Then gradually I got so involved I couldn’t leave the cinema even to go to the lavatory.
As this is touring with Asylum, my advice is go’n’see’em. They’ll have you on the edge of your seat, it’s the best double-bill for years.
If anyone wanted to know why West Germans have been denied the sight of It Is Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse But The Situation In Which He Lives, a couple of showings the movie got at the London’s National Film showed that it’s probably for the good of gays in Germany and also for the majority of the TV audience, which is, presumably, heterosexual.
There are quite a few Germans and if they believed that gays lived a form of Rake’s Progress (or should it be The Three-penny Opera?) as it was portrayed in this movie they might do everything they could to make sure that Amendment 175 of the constitution of West Germany, which makes homosexual acts legal among legal consenting adult males, and all that stuff.
The NFT showed the movie on two successive nights, and on both nights they got a full house (it’s probably the first time the NFT’s commissionaire has ever seen a queue) and although Volker Eschge, the assistant director wasn’t allowed to finish his piece which tended to go on and on, by shouts of boredom from the audience, no-one who missed Herr Eschge’s summation of the director Rosa von Praunheim – who’s male, by the way – missed much.
On the second night, either the audience was more tolerant or Herr Eschge had severely curtailed his speech on the relevance of Marxism to a sexual revolution.
The important bit he said was that the movie was shot as a simulated documentary about 1967 and planned as far back as the first stirrings of the USA Gay Liberation Movement – the riots in the Greenwich Village Stonewall. Which put the movie into perspective. Even if no-one was admitting it, it was made as a piece of pro-gay propaganda made to show how society forced the homosexual into a degrading life-style.
As Derek Malcolm said in the post-movie discussion after its second showing: “It shows that Rosa von Praunheim knows nothing about the gay scene.”
Whether Mr Malcolm, who writes about movies for The Guardian, knows all that much about the gay scene is immaterial, largely because he found the movie’s fundamental flaw. Every scene looked like a cheap back-of-the-lot Hollywood Western set. Cheap fittings with any little bits of effort put into it so hard they stuck out a mile.
It’s true that this sort of garish gay scene did exist before Amendment 175 was passed. At a time when German gays were totally disorganised. So the movie preaches that they should join their local groups and become militant gays, equating sexual and social revolution with a political revolution.
It’s true that you can’t have the former without the latter, but the unprocessed propaganda that the movie came out with was more likely to get the millions of German gays retreating into their closets with their Bullworkers, iron crosses and elevator shoes, as well as turning the majority of society against gays.
It Is Not The Homosexual… followed one Daniel on the broad path through the bar scene, the rent scene, and, after freaking out of leather, and into drag to being talked at by six well-meaning nude gentlemen who were doing all they could to cover their naughty parts.
The plan of the movie is probably – it’s not so obvious as to be able to say that this is what it’s about definitely – the degradation of Daniel through his contact with the Berlin gay world. Unfortunately the only English language print was made for showing in the USA, so we had a lot of references to ‘faggots’, ‘leather-freaks’ etc. And that sort of categorising doesn’t do anyone any good.
During this scene there was a mysterious large bottle of Coca-Cola being passed from one end of the group to another.
So, basically, It Is Not The Homosexual… is about another time, another place and none of it is helped by the fact that it’s made with all the expertise of a ten-year-old psychopath turned loose with a Super-8 camera and a roll of Kodachrome II.
Herr von Praunheim won’t let the movie be shown unless there’s a discussion after it. So George Melly tried to get people discussing the movie one at a time on the first night the movie was shown.
Come the second night and Mr Melly (of The Observer) had been replaced – according to plan – by Mr Malcolm, Roger Baker of CHE by Bernard Greaves of CHE and Denis Lemon of Gay News by your faithful reporter.
Regrettably the movie is to be shown at last on German TV in January. Pity really, as the direction and the acting are both so wooden as to make Crossroads look like a masterpiece of movie-making.
I’ve spent a few years as a provincial paper movie critic and, as such, I’ve had sex education flix up to here (he indicated his rat-low brow.)
In fact I’ve seen so many sex education movies that the Pearl and Dean breaks became cinematic delights before I moved from country pleasures to the lemming-race of the Northern Line.
All this by way of introduction to what was for me an amazing little movie that opens at the Electric Cinema Club, Portobello Road, this weekend (November 5) for a week.
It’s amazing because it’s not crammed with:
a) as much nudity as possible using sex-ed as the excuse for a pale blue movie
b) well-meaning Scandinavians discussing orgasms over their coffee and cakes with schlagsahne, evidently psychiatrists of some sort.
Cobra-One – called that because it’s Cobra Films’ first effort – is a realistic piece of sex-education that, as one would expect, concentrates on a heterosexual couple. But it does not put down gays, just as it doesn’t suggest that such a position may be just right for a certain couple. But then it doesn’t advise gay sex.
Cobra-One, otherwise known as etcetcetc, does not set out to teach sex but relationships. As such it’s a success, except the home-movie-ishness about it made me feel that the entire cast and crew were stoned on something all the time.
Viewed as a stoned movie it’s great. But as sex education it’s no great shakes.