45 Years of Stirring the Pot
BY Neal Broverman and Michelle Garcia
August 21 2012 4:00 AM ET
February 5, 1985: At a time when gay people were mostly invisible on the small screen, “Gays on the Tube” explored the little representation that had taken place. The cover story pointed a finger at American icons like Jack Benny and Lucille Ball for featuring lisping, stereotypical queens, but acknowledged that things began changing in the 1970s, especially with the introduction of Billy Crystal’s gay character on Soap. And a new format was emerging that seemed more amenable to queer stories: the TV movie. Referencing That Certain Summer, Consenting Adult, and Sidney Shorr: A Girl’s Best Friend, writer Richard Laermer made the case that things were changing, albeit slowly. As evidence of the sluggish progress, when NBC turned Sidney Shorr into the sitcom Love, Sidney, the title character, played by Tony Randall was suddenly straight. When asked was about the change in the character’s sexual orientation, the hapless network publicists talked in circles.
“There was no actual reference to his homosexuality except on the pilot. But we had established him as a gay character,” said one press agent. And another: “It really wasn’t about a homosexual character. It was about an unusual family where a single man lived with a woman.”
March 10, 1992: “Vanity Fairies” explored the gay male presence at publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue, and how these men influenced the larger culture. With a Bush in the White House and AIDS at its deadly peak, it was no small feat for people like Vogue creative director André Leon Talley and Vanity Fair editor Kevin Sessums to tell their stories to The Advocate (Marc Jacobs, then an out designer at Perry Ellis, made an appearance in the piece as well). Quoted throughout the piece was legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour (who in 2012 is a major marriage equality advocate).
“My features editor is gay, my art director is gay, and most of the fashion designers I work with are gay,” Wintour said at the time. “My business — as far as the men in it go — is a gay business.” Out of 100 men who work in fashion, Wintour estimated that “90 or 92 are homosexual.”
January 26, 1993: Speaking to political activists including the Human Rights Campaign’s Tim McFeeley, The Advocate predicted a gay-friendly future with the new Clinton administration. There was hope that Bill Clinton and Al Gore would help end the ban on gays in the military and pass a national LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination law. But while the story was sober and straightforward, the cover image as not. Thanks to the art of Photoshop, the two most powerful men in the world were turned into glistening, muscled gay clones who would fit in perfectly on Fire Island. The now-legendary cover shocked many at the time, but we think Bill and Al likely got a good laugh out of it.