Recently we subscribed to Dekkoo, an online gay streaming service.
While it doesn’t have the big name movies or television shows, what it does offer is an insight to the up and coming filmmakers with the web at their disposal. Most of the content is already free online elsewhere, but finding it curated in one place is handy.
The internet has given us an explosion of artists, including those from the GBLTI community, telling the stories they want to tell, as it’s so much easier for their audience to find them than it was, say, five years ago. And this is what’s fascinating as you see the evolution of queer storytelling through this service.
One low budget feature from the 1970s on the site is Saturday Night at the Baths.
This is a film produced by Steve Ostrow who ran the Continental Baths in New York a long time ago. Yes, this is the venue that introduced Bette Midler and Barry Manilow to an appreciative gay and straight audience.
I’ve met Steve. He retired here in Sydney. I’ve interviewed him for community radio about the bathhouse, and it’s a novelty to see him younger and kissing some cute men. It’s the story of a straight man hired to play piano at the venue, while being introduced to gay culture. While we were showing homosexuality on television during the same period, and introducing it in the 1930s in Dad and Dave films, America was putting it out there in independent cinema. And while the straight sex scene shows us more detail than the homo one, the story itself is a call for acceptance of all queers, effeminate or butch. It’s also a great snapshot of New York at that time.
Let’s fast forward to 2014.
The Last Straight Man is an indie feature written and directed by Mark Bessenger. I could say it’s an updated Brokeback with a married man and a gay man meeting for shenanigans once a year in the same hotel room. Or it’s a queer version of all those charming 1960s romantic comedies that we remember from stage and screen. Whichever way you look at it, the writing is sublime.
We explore a painful, yet wonderful loving relationship through heartbreak, longing and an honest depiction of first time gay sex. Everything is here, and as we watched it, we could imagine it beautifully realised for the stage. When compared to Saturday Night at the Baths we sigh relief that our stories are now by us, for us.
Of course there’s a lot more to this history.
There was bold pulp fiction in the past, and many present day queer authors writing in many genres. And there’s enough gay web series to keep you occupied for hours. On that note, make sure you check out Two Naked Gay Guys and the Paragon School for Girls. Both are on YouTube.
All this reminds me of when my mum read my first novel of unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife. Her response was that I should write a story about a teenager coming out with a homophobic policeman for a father. I laughed, thinking that we are so lucky to be past that stage in telling our tales.