This Week's Guest: Robert Patrick
Before Pride, before gay marriage, before disco, before most of what we recognize today as gay culture, there was Greenwich Village. It's the gay enclave that invented gay enclaves, a place where you went to reject mainstream after the mainstream had rejected you. My guest today is playwright Robert Patrick, who wandered into the Village as an unsuspecting young gay man in the 1960s. He was only supposed to be there for a day, but he wound up staying for years, witnessing -- and participating in -- one of the most important periods in American theater history.
A quick note: when I interviewed Robert, there was a cement mixer pouring a foundation right outside his window. There are some huffs and puffs in the audio, but I've removed the worst of it so I hope the occasional noise doesn't distract you from Robert's incredible story.
This Week's Recommendation: The Boys in the Band
The week that this podcast comes out is the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned marriage bans across the United States. (A topic that, BTW, I wrote a book about -- it's called Defining Marriage and you can pick it up on Amazon right now if you like moving stories of queer love.)
Legalizing marriage meant an end to one of the biggest, most visible ways in which queer people are oppressed. But there's more that we have in common than just our history of oppression. There's our friendship, or brotherhood, falling in love and falling into bed.
The energy that we once had to devote to hiding we can now devote making noise, being out, being proud, and being good to each other.
For my recommendations this week, set aside some time for The Boys in the Band. You can find the movie on YouTube, but you might enjoy reading the play on which it's based instead. It's a beautiful and heartbreaking story set in the late 60s about a group of men who assemble for a party. Over the course of the evening, we see how they use their own pain to inflict pain on others. In The Boys in the Band, we seek each other out for comfort and companionship, but we come so battered and abused by the world that we can't help battering and abusing each other.
I recommended this play and movie last year, in my episode with actor Ray Miller. And as I prepared to write this recommendation, I was thinking about how far we've come in just those twelve months -- how in only a year, it seems as though LGBTs have become even more warmly welcomed into the quilt of the country. Of course, in that time, we've also endured a horrible tragedy -- a reminder that even in our safest enclaves we're vulnerable to attack. But even in the aftermath of that tragedy, the outpouring of love and support has been nothing short of breathtaking.
There was a time not so long ago when all we knew was rejection and abuse. We were so used to it that it's the only way we knew to treat each other. Those times are over. But let's never let them be forgotten.