Introductory Remarks for Stephen Tropiano, author of Prime Time Closet
June 23, 2002, Book Reception, 200 Baroda Drive, Los Angeles, CA
© David Bohnett, June, 2002. Not to be reproduced without permission
I first met Stephen and Steve a few months ago, when Stephen's parents were visiting Los Angeles along with their neighbor Webb Pierce. Webb is the father of my close friend Ed Pierce, and everyone came over here for dinner to celebrate the parents' visit to Los Angeles.
When I learned that Stephen was the author of the book 'TV Towns', I was pretty impressed, And then when Stephen told us he had just finished a comprehensive study of homosexuality on television from the 1950's to the present, his book titled 'Prime Time Closet' I thought 'Gee - this new book is an important work for our community', and I offered to host a reception to celebrate the book's publication.
Prime Time Closet is important because it is a record of how we, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people, have been portrayed, and how those portrayals have changed over time.
I want to read two passages from Steve's book that I find interesting and enlightening. From Chapter Four, 'Homosexuality and Comedy', page 188, Steve writes:
"(In a) 1977 episode of (the) Norman Lear sitcom, 'Maude', (titled) The Gay Bar, liberal Maude's (Beatrice Arthur) ultraconservative neighbor, Dr. Arthur Harmon, is upset a gay bar has opened in Tuckahoe. Arthur (Conrad Bain) thinks homosexuality is sick and that impressionable youth must be protected. He intends to form an organization called "Fathers Against Gay Society" (which, as Maude points out, forms the acronym F.A.G.S.) and launch a campaign to close down the bar because it violates several city ordinances. Maude thinks Arthur's views on gays, like Tuckahoe's ordinances regarding morality, are archaic. Although he's more educated than Archie Bunker, Arthur's opinions about homosexuals and homosexuality are also rooted in ignorance, as revealed in his discussion with Maude's young grandson, Phillip (Kraig Metzlinger):
Arthur: The first fact is gay people are sick. They have sort of a disease.
Phillip: Is it a contagious disease? Is that why you want to close the bar?
Arthur: No, it's not contagious really. You see, gay people shouldn't be out at a bar having a good time. They should be home, alone, being ashamed that they are gay. Trying to get cured.
Phillip: What's the cure for being gay?
Arthur: Bowling...These gay guys have to start doing something manly. That's what brings them around.
Phillip: I thought you didn't want them around.
Arthur: Phillip, I seem to be having trouble getting you to understand the dangers of this gay bar. What's wrong? I always used to be able to communicate with you.
Phillip: Oh, it's not your fault Dr. Harmon. It's just this year in school I'm taking a course in logic."
Now, fast forward almost 25 years, to 2001, and Stephen writes (p. 151); "...Queer as Folk became Showtime's highest rated dramatic series. By the end of its first season in June of 2001, the average rating was double Showtime's overall prime time average. ... The series' broad appeal isn't surprising. Male nudity and the occasional graphic sex scene aside, Queer As Folk is essentially a gay soap opera about the relationship problems ... among a group of twenty-somethings. While the American version certainly warrants some comparison with the British series, it is, in all fairness, like comparing apples and oranges [and here Stephen dryly comments] (the fruit analogy is purely intentional)."
These passages are from just two of the over 300 episodes with LGBT references covered by Steve in his book. It's an honor for Tom and I to co-host this party along with Stephen's partner, Steve Ginsberg, and I thank you all for coming.
Now, just a bit about Steve Tropiano (from the book jacket) - he is the author of the book 'TV Towns', as I mentioned, and is a film / TV critic for popmatters.com, a popular culture web site. Steve is the director of the Ithaca College Communications program in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses in film and television history and theory.
And, it's important to note, that a portion of Steve's proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.