I came across it this weekend while digging through a box of
VHS tapes that I still have. So I decided to watch it again. And after
reading this column you should set aside 45 minutes, get a snack, and
watch it too. I’ve linked to a gay blog called Dym Sum with the entire
special on streaming video, made digital from grainy black-and-white.

first aired on Tuesday, March 7, 1967, at 10 p.m. I
was 2 years old then, so I didn’t catch it. In fact, it would be
another 10 years or so before I ever even knew there was such a thing
as a homosexual. My dad talked about “fruits” from time to time, but it
never made much sense; I assumed that it had something to do with
ladylike men who wanted to kiss my father against his will. Then they
ate pineapple. Something like that. It was the most exotic fruit I could
think of in first grade.

I watched it for the first time about
five years ago, the second time this past weekend, just before Animal
Planet’s Puppy Bowl. My first time, I remember being
shocked that network television — at a time when there were only three
major networks — could have aired something so creepy and gross all the
way back in 1967. Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes (who
I’m sure thinks it’s all pretty embarrassing now) hosted the special,
all about the “problem” of homosexuality, and over 45 minutes he
detailed how it was growing and spreading like a cancer across the

This weekend, for my second visit to The
I took notes. And when I was done my pad of paper
was a laundry list of every horrible thing you’ve ever heard about the
gays: smothering mothers, mental illness, animalistic sexual
gratification, society’s repulsion, promiscuity, recruitment, etc.

quotes, some from Wallace, some from clergy and other “experts” on the
“They frequent their own bars ... where they can act out…”
average homosexual isn’t capable of love.”
“Homosexuality is, in
fact, a mental illness.”
“The church has a great deal of sympathy for
those who are handicapped in this way.”
“[Being a homosexual]
automatically rules out that [the man in question] will remain happy.”

men (no mention of lesbians is ever made) who aren’t on camera as
representatives of fledgling gay rights groups at the time, like the
Mattachine Society, are interviewed in shadow or behind plants, and say
things like, “I know I’m sick inside ... immature.” And then comes the
segment on a 1955 homosexual witch hunt in Boise, Idaho, one that
apparently turned the whole town upside down with fear and paranoia, with a close-up of an op-ed piece in the Boise newspaper titled
“Crush the Monster.”

Tags: television