Last night, my beloved Martin and I enjoyed a post-Valentine’s Day dinner and movie night with our besties, Joe and Scott. After dining on melt-in-your-mouth filet mignons, roasted fingerling potatoes, oven-roasted asparagus, delicious spiral-sliced zucchini and the most mouth-watering, fresh-from-the-oven rosemary sourdough bread ever (Joe and Scott are gourmet cooks – I love them and am intimidated by them at the same time, LOL!), we enjoyed the 1980 gay cult classic, “Can’t Stop the Music,” featuring the Village People. It is a cinematic time capsule and unintentionally shows just how far America’s LGBT community has come since its release:
I remember seeing this film in a theater in Columbus, Ohio in 1980 (on one of the three days it probably survived in theaters!) I can remember sitting in the dark, a reasonably-out-for-the-time 22 year old “gay” and smiling at all the inside jokes in the movie that I was sure only “the gays” would understand, things like –
A male performer (in gold lame hot pants, no less!) twirling two fire batons, the actor credited as “James the Flame” at the end of the movie. James’ one big line in the movie? “James is my name, flaming’s my game.”
Then there is the goodbye scene between actors Paul Sand and Valerie Perinne, where Perrine’s character leads on/flirts with ex-lover Sand through an extended goodbye that is a string of song titles, the passage ending with Olivia Newton John’s “I Honestly Love You.” So clever…
When complimented on her outfit, character Sydney Channing, owner of THE leading modeling agency in NYC, calls out the designer layers of her apparel as “…Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci” – a clear reference to the lyrics from “He’s The Greatest Dancer” by legendary disco group, Sister Sledge.
And finally, there are the Village People themselves. The G.I. The Construction Worker. The Leatherman. The Cowboy. The Indian. The Police Officer. Iconic gay male stereotypes. I remember thinking they were kinda’ “hot” in 1980. Last night? They looked like bad sitcom caricatures of gay men. I mean, Glenn the Leatherman’s big line in the movie? “Leathermen aren’t supposed to cry.”
We all laughed and guffawed as we watched. The acting is wooden. The plot is stupid. And – speaking of stupid? Did ANYONE in 1980 actually think those six poof-tahs in the Village People could possibly be straight?
Listen, I am SO happy that the Village People “blazed the way” (another flaming reference) on the way to LGBT equality. But last night, sitting watching that movie with my legally-wed husband and our best friends that have been partnered for like a zillion years, well, I was reminded how far gays and lesbians have come in my lifetime. And while The G.I. has probably been replaced by The UPS Man, and The Construction Worker has probably been replaced with The Heart Doctor, I acknowledge and thank those men and women who were brave enough in 1980 to make that movie. While we still have a ways to go, we have indeed come a long, L-O-N-G way.