Nelly Power: When Coming Out Isn't a Choice

These men — both real and fictional — who could never 'pass' might be considered the pioneers of gay visibility.

BY Christopher Harrity

November 05 2013 6:00 AM ET


Emory: The Nelliest Boy in the Band

Mart Crowley's 1968 play The Boys in the Band introduced Broadway to the inner sanctum of a set of gay male friends in the late '60s. As they celebrate the birthday of their friend Harold, the escalating amounts of tension, bitter humor, and alcohol lead to a brutal but revealing evening. The film of the play was released in 1970, and one of the characters set free from the Broadway stage and now in selected theaters across the nation was Emory, the queenliest of the group. Cliff Gorman's portrayal of Emory is heartbreaking, irritating, and very funny.

Emory is tremendously quotable ("Oh, Mary, it takes a fairy to make something pretty."and "Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?"), and his lines became tropes for the contemporary gay set. Emory is the classic example of nelliness as armor. His constant joking and self-deprecating humor are revealed for what they are as the film progresses. It's fitting that Emory is the character who so infuriates the one straight male in the group that he gets punched in the face. Violence is usually saved for the biggest sissy.

Emory appears in the opening title sequence (see below) as he closes his antique shop and scoops up his white poodle to stroll down Fifth Avenue collecting stares from onlookers.


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