Sunday, 3 November 2013

Good music and a hand job at the same time







From his short essay about New York's Gay scene (on the website of the Chelsea Pines gay guest house):
When I came to New York City in 1956, I was 17 and being gay was as fun and sexy as it is now but it was also scary and probably more dangerous than we cared to admit. My bar of choice was Lenny’s Hideaway, long gone on W. 10th St. It was a firetrap and down a very steep flight of stairs but we felt safe from the stares and taunts of the enemy.

We took the police raids in stride. It was the price you paid for being gay. I never would have predicted that the drag queens at the Stonewall some 13 years later would start a revolution that won’t stop until marriage is legal in every single state and maybe not then.As a playwright, I have always enjoyed the relative security of working in a field where gay men and women are sometimes the norm and seldom the exception. But I do remember the critics reviling my first piece, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, for its candid depiction of sexually active gay men. It made them very nervous and they resorted to calling me names like decadent, depraved, and immoral - the kind of mud-slinging that is no longer allowed in the august pages of the Grey Lady, aka the New York Times.

I tried to write about what it was like in those pre-Stonewall days in my play Some Men. This could have been a lot of men speaking about the 60′s, including me!

I loved standing room at the Old Metropolitan Opera. You got good music and a hand job at the same time. Of course, you had to know when it was appropriate. I remember once during the second act of Tosca hearing this really loud voice somewhere behind me: “I told you, mister, not during ‘Vissi d’arte.’" The whole audience heard it. Even Maria Callas stopped singing.

There’s still no telling how deeply the catastrophe of AIDS shaped us but we came together as a community in response to it in a way that was unforeseen and has left a lasting impression on us.

I remember Lenny’s and the Old Met with an older man’s affection, I still shudder at the spectre of AIDS and I look forward to full marriage equality in my lifetime.

I sometimes daydream about which period of history I wish I had lived in. But when I think about the changes in our community, I’m very glad I was born in 1938.
Terrence McNally has been quite rightly lauded for the sheer range and depth of his theatrical work over the years. From farce (our favourite The Ritz) to controversial Christian-baiting drama (Corpus Christie), from thought-provoking themes such as AIDS (Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Andre's Mother) and race (Ragtime) to the complexities of stardom (Master Class) and relationships, gay (Love, Valour, Compassion!) and straight (Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune), and of course fabulous glittering musicals (Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink, The Full Monty), he has tackled them all.

He has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In bringing out-gay themes to the Broadway stage, Mr McNally has always challenged the mainstream.

From the LA Stage Times:
He has an idea of what the “next big hurdle” will be: “audiences accepting a gay actor playing the lead in an action movie or playing a very romantic gay Romeo.” He says that “homophobia still exists, but in my lifetime, it’s gone from furtively darting down dark alleys to go to a gay bar and being very much in the closet to something very different. “

He is married to Thomas Kirdahy, and he says half of their friends have kids. “I’ll be 75 this year. There’s been quite a change within my lifetime. The old days hopefully are behind us, but homophobia is still going to be in our society. We probably need a gay president or two.” He says, “If my plays have been part of helping the movement, that’s great.”
To mark his 75th birthday, the Starlight Theatre Company in Los Angeles held a four-day celebration of his life and work in September 2013.

Terrence McNally (born 3rd November 1938)

2 comments:

  1. What a great post! How embarrassing to be the one to get the great Maria Callas to stop singing, but a entertaining story none the less. I do love me some opera. And that's why I always wear my gloves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think opera gloves are essential wear at all times, in particular if you are going to have a hand-job in the midst of La Divina's Vissi d'Arte. Jx

      Delete

Please leave a message - I value your comments!