Lost boys

DALLAS - THE 1980s night-time soap juggernaut - is back on TV, and despite an absence of some twenty years (the show ended in 1991) surprisingly little has changed.

Neither has the tired media reportage, with "glamour and back-stabbing" the favourite clichés being trotted out by hacks who probably never watched the show (Although it was before my time, I did. The commercial-free blessing of the DVD box-set has allowed me to catch up on all 14 seasons).

Dack Rambo
What those tired hacks don't mention are the many young, male cast members who died from AIDS: beautiful Dack Rambo, who played Jack Ewing (whose twin brother Dirk Rambo also died young in a car accident; real life tragedy worthy of the show itself), or Tom Fuccello, who played Senator Dave Culver, and, perhaps most tragically of all, Timothy Patrick Murphy, who died aged just 29.

Robert La Tourneaux
Recently, I watched The Boys In The Band. I'm ashamed to say it was only my second time, having stumbled on this brilliant cornerstone of gay cinema through Crayton Robey's excellent (and award-winning) documentary Making The Boys (which I caught at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival last year). On this viewing I watched it with my BFF, Oura, and he loved it. Oura was born in 1986, the same year Boys cast member Robert La Tourneaux died of AIDS.

La Tourneaux wasn't the only Boys In The Band cast member to succumb to AIDS. Most of the cast, and some of the crew, had been wiped out by the virus by the early 1990s, something Robey's documentary shows to devastating effect in a stunning montage (at the 1.19 mark in the film). La Tourneaux's tragic story is perhaps the most affecting; an incredibly beautiful boy discovered by writer Mart Crowley on Fire Island, he played the hot escort in both the play and the film. But his association with the "queer" film destroyed his career. Addicted to drugs, he spent time in jail, begged his old cast-mates for money, and prostituted himself, before finally dying of AIDS. "He was enraged that he had AIDS - enraged - because he had so much more to do in his life," Boys executive producer Dominick Dunne says in Robey's documentary. And we see old footage of La Tourneaux on a talk show in 1980, still looking beautiful, talking about his fall from grace; it's heartbreaking.

Michael Sundin
Irving Allen Lee
All these brilliant, gifted, gay men wiped out long before their time, like fallen soldiers in war. So many of the boys in Paris Is Burning died young from AIDS. Fame's Gene Anthony Ray. The less well known names: Irving Allen Lee. Robert Reed. Michael Sundin. Kenny Greene. Jerry Smith. Kuwasi Balagoon. And Kenny Everett and Rock Hudson and Robert Mapplethorpe and Marlon Riggs... And so many more.

So next time you watch your favourite soap, or baseball game, or take a picture, just try to remember our fallen soldiers. They didn't stand a chance back then. Robert La Tourneax was "enraged" at his life being cut short by the virus. We should all feel enraged that he's not here now.

Remember our soldiers. Remember our lost boys.

2 comments:

John G said...

So sad; & because there are now treatments that work well, people don't want to remember the pain & despair of those times when nothing worked & you just died horribly, & often as a pariah. It's understandable, but dismissive of that suffering & history.

Kuwasi Balagoon sounds worth a biopic! I confess I'd never heard of him...

Zee Jai said...

People don't want to, of course, but they must!

I found this fairly jaw-dropping list of "prominent" people who've died of AIDS, on which I found Kuwasi Balagoon's name.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_HIV-positive_people

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