Aisle Of Wit

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What IS Love?

Let’s get one thing established:  I’m not gay.  In fact, I was raised at a time and in a culture that ridiculed and demonized it.  The only other kid in my neighborhood who required a poiice escort to keep bullies away from him was a shy, quiet waif of a boy who was open about his sexuality and didn’t seem to live a day without being taunted or assaulted, much as I often was for being fat and smart.   I never participated, but I also never stood up for him.  So this is something that’s always sat on my psyche as a regret and character flaw, since I have far more in common with his childhood experience than many others I knew better.

The next significant person in my life who came out was one of my college roommates, who actually came out publicly after we both had moved to California.  I’ve honestly never met anyone who was as passionate and opinionated on television and culture as I am before or since, so we were both too close and intellectually intertwined for me to care.  I always have loved my roommates.  When I got my first new car, a Chrysler convertible that oozed 80s chic, I often played designated driver for him and his partying friends as they’d frequent some of West Hollywood’s more flamboyant bars.  Truth be told, I was selfishly motivated–one of his drinking buddies was a stunning woman who worked as an assistant to a top producer that I was fascinated with both for business and carnal connection desires.  She had no interest in me whatsoever–in fact, she admitted she felt safer going out with men who she knew in advance weren’t going to sexually harass her; besides, she had her sights on someone who actually could afford her.  (Side note:  she eventually married a noted Hollywood producer, had a volatile marriage that ended poorly and she got a best-selling book and a TV series out of it.).

What I did get to experience from hanging out in this world was seeing how happy and carefree men–and women–were as they interacted with each other, and how when we’d talk they had far better handles on my struggles for intimacy and expression that the overwhelming majority of my straight friends were.  Occasionally, a man would attempt to flirt with me, usually when they were on their seventh or eighth drink.  It was a lot more attention than I was getting from women at the time,  And yes, a couple of these flirts were physically attractive to an objective observer.  I considered the option on the table, and yet again I chose not to act upon it.  No disrespect; as Seinfeld and Costanza later joshed “not that there’s anything wrong with that”.  Just not for me.

Working in entertainment has introduced me to many, many more LGTBQI+ people over the years, and when laws allowed them to do so many of them cemented their long-term relationships with marriage ceremonies.  A female co-worker of mine married her long-time girlfriend shortly after my second wedding, and I was privelaged enough to be invited.  It was the first “lesbian” wedding I had attended.  They both looked stunning, and, more importantly, the depth of their mutual love was eminently apparent and inspiring, and my boss later remarked “sorry, I thought your wedding was the sweetest I had ever been to, but you just got one-upped by them”.  Even then, I wholeheartedly agreed.

So when the chance to contribute to a documentary on the power and representation–both good and bad–of LGTBQI+ folk on television of that was one of Apple TV+’s first original projects, I jumped at the chance.  I was asked to fact-check and give notes on the rough cuts of the five episodes that eventually made up the brilliant work VISIBLE: OUT ON TELEVISION, which chronicled five decades of representation on scripted series and news coverage of such groundbreaking events as the first use of the word “homosexual”on TV–which occurred during the Army-McCarthy hearings.  It told the duplicitous path of depicting more openness, such as via Lance Loud in the PBS documentary AN AMERICAN FAMILY and the award-winning TV movie THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (commissioned, notably, by Barry Diller when he was a young, closeted ABC programming executive), simultaneous with Paul Lynde being cast a henpecked dad in a traditional family sitcom and Billy Crystal reflecting that his gay character on SOAP had more love secnes with women than he did men.   Later episodes focused on the likes of Billy Porter and Laverne Cox, whose courageous performances have been honored as both powerful actors and champions of inclusion.

I realized as I worked with these amazing producers how many of these stories I already knew–in some cases, with more detail than they did–and in hindsight how universally appealing they are.  And personally relevant to me.   It was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.  And, like so many of its subjects did in their lives,  I had to conceal my involvement in something I loved .  Since the majority of those who allowed me the chance to contribute have moved on, myself included, I can at least now say I helped.  Appropriately, in Pride Month.  I was–and am–damn proud of being able to have had a small role in this series.

Last night was Pride Night at Dodger Stadium, where rainbow-pattern jerseys were given away and quite a number of gay couples and groups attended.  The life of Glenn Burke, a member of the Dodgers’ 1977 National League Championshp Series who was baseball’s first openly gay player–and, sadly, one of the most public victims of AIDS in the 90s–was celebrated.  I actually initially wound up in a line with quite a number of people who as it turned out had special tickets that entitled them to that shirt and other goodies.  I jokingly asked one particularly friendly guy decked out in Dodger gear adorned with Pride buttons if he had the choice between front-row seats for a Dodger World Series game or a Lady Gaga concert, which would he choose?  Without hesitation, he said “The World Series.  I was a Dodger fan long before I fell in love with Gaga and I’ll love them long after she’s no longer popular”.

Then it hit me.

No matter what gender we may respectively choose to physically love, emotional love is far more crucial to human experience.  And while he chooses the Dodgers and men and I choose the Mets and women, we’re both most in love with baseball.  And that, to me IS love.  And I’m proud to have had that revelation.

Until next time…