"QAF" -That's a wrap. (April 2005)

everybody’s a critic.(c) BK
"QAF" -- That's a wrap, from planetout.com [April 5, 2005]

(перевод на русский moveforever.diary.ru/p184694465.htm)

"QAF" -That's a wrap.

by Charles Kaiser

April 5, 2005

Nothing like it ever happened before on television, and if the anti-obscenity zealots on the FCC get their way, nothing like it will ever happen again.
"Queer as Folk" has offered the rawest view ever of a certain swath of young urban gay life: an 83-episode extravaganza that began with a 29-year-old man running his tongue farther down the backside of a 17-year-old boy than any tongue had ever traveled on American television. Then came the fucking, the meth, underage hustling, wild lesbian lovemaking, occasional gay-bashing and a foul-mouthed waitress (Sharon Gless), who introduced herself by urging her customers to eat at least "some of your protein off your plate."
Late last month it all came to an end forever, as the final scene of the Showtime series was filmed at eight o'clock on a chilly Toronto morning. That night, after everyone had gone home for a nap, there was an intimate cast dinner for 20 in a private dining room in one of Toronto's many underground malls, followed by a wild dancing-wrap party for two hundred the next night at Ultra, a Toronto discotheque. Although the fifth season won't air until May 22, the 83rd and final episode of the revolutionary series is now safely in the can, and cast members are already starting their lives over in Los Angeles, New York or British Columbia.
Five years ago, I was the first reporter on the set. The piece I wrote for New York magazine dubbed the program "The Queerest Show on Earth" (the moniker stuck), and the article told of the nervousness among its producers over whether Showtime would replicate all of the edginess of the British original created by Russell T. Davies. (In the end, the network never flinched.) Almost all the actors were press virgins then -- most of them little-known thespians who had never given an interview in their lives. After I wrote my story, I bonded with several of them, especially Michelle Clunie, who played one of the bombshell lesbians, and her splendid boyfriend, the actor Stewart Bick. So when Michelle invited me back for the final wrap, how could I resist?
I was eager to be part of the long good-bye to a show that did more than any other to bring gay life into the American living room. While big-city critics sometimes panned it, it did more to demystify gay men and lesbians in small towns across America than anything that came before it. And it produced a constant stream of fan letters from gay teenagers, many of whom reported that only after forcing their parents to watch it were they able to come out to them.
It also branded Showtime as something other than an HBO also-ran and paved the way for "The L Word," which was green-lighted during "QAF's" first season.
In the era of Bush and DeLay, the question is whether pay cable will ever again do anything with this much gay sex -- and this much honesty about gay sex.
At the moment, having just flown in from my New York City home, I was more interested in a good meal and some companionship. Friday night I dined with Michelle and her fellow "lesbian," Thea Gill, at Dimmi, a cozy Italian restaurant. Then I dragged them to Church Street, the main gay drag they had mostly avoided during their five years in Toronto, where the show was shot, though it was set in Pittsburgh. Fans mobbed them everywhere, especially at Woody's, the grand-daddy of Toronto gay bars. The two actresses -- who have done almost everything two girls can do together with their clothes off, in front of a movie camera -- were in the throes of separation anxiety.
Although they only play lesbians on television (Thea has been married for 12 years to Brian Richmond, the noted Canadian dramaturge and stage director), they developed an emotional intimacy that sometimes mimicked a romantic relationship. "I've been saying good-bye for the last two weeks," Thea told me over a glass of red wine. "It was difficult doing the last love scene with Michelle -- holding Michelle for the last time; I felt it was the most real we'd ever been. I'm going to miss 'Lindsay' [Thea's character]; part of me is kind of dying with her. Michelle and I are lifelong friends now. Gale [Harold] has been like a bit of a guardian angel for me, a brother to all of us really. They're all my best buddies -- all in different ways."
For everyone involved, from crew to cast, the show was more than a glamorous job: It became a mission. Michelle will "miss the family; I'll miss going there and feeling so ridiculously safe on that set -- as comfortable as we feel in our living room. Dan [Lipman] and Ron [Cowen] [the executive producers and principal writers] are not your typical producers. They're sweethearts, and I think vicariously they had children through 'Queer as Folk.'"
The next night, at the cast dinner, Michelle, Thea and I darted into a side room next door -- and the two of them spontaneously broke out in an amazing a capella duette of "Me and Bobby McGee." That was my favorite moment of the whole weekend -- when I was their audience of one.
The boys were equally impressive. Randy Harrison, the blond "Justin" whom Michelle calls "wise beyond his years," was just 22 and right out of college when I first met him -- and he used my first piece about the show in New York magazine to come out publicly. Peter Paige -- "Emmett" -- was the only other openly gay cast member among the original cast members, although Gale Harold -- "Brian" -- is the most gay-friendly straight man I have ever met.
Randy was grateful for the experience: "Under no other circumstance besides this bizarre job would I have had a chance to learn from such extraordinarily artistic and intelligent people," he said.
But after he demanded (and got) a final hug from Sharon Gless, he was ready to move on: "If you sign a five-year contract, no matter how idyllic the situation, after a few years it's going to feel like a prison ... and it's difficult to feel like a puppet whose literal body is used to make other people a lot more money than you, while the negative repercussions of 'your body as product' continue to invade your privacy, your home and mildly corrode your life."
Randy hopes to find sanity, improbably enough, in New York City, where he has just moved into in a new apartment with his boyfriend -- the journalist Simon Dumenco.
Gale Harold, who played Justin's lover, Brian, also felt relieved: "It's good to be done. But it's a little bittersweet to be leaving Canada -- and its more benevolent socialist vibrations."
Scott Lowell, who played "Ted," found the last weeks especially trying -- he spent "night after night ending each night weeping" as he said good-bye to different members of the crew. Dean Armstrong, whose character, "Blake," almost killed Ted in the first season with a drug overdose, was particularly upset at Scott's real-life disappearance: "I was talking with Scott on the phone and he was packing up -- and my heart sank into my stomach," Armstrong said.
Lowell comes out of the show with two big additions to his life: his girlfriend, Claire Sakaki, a Toronto theater producer whom he met on a blind date set up by Peter Paige, and a new house he bought last summer in the Hollywood Hills. As for the public impact of his character, Lowell finds himself getting hit on almost equally by men and women in the street: "I think everyone just wants to take me to the nearest psychiatrist."
The youngest actor on the show is 20-year-old Harris Allan, who played an HIV-positive hustler named Hunter, adopted by "Michael" (Hal Sparks) and "Ben" (Robert Gant). The fan mail that made him the happiest included a note he got from a gay boy who said the show enabled him to come out to his parents, and compliments from former hustlers who found his performance utterly convincing. When he started the show at 17, some of his high school classmates were uncomfortable with the show's explicit content, "but they came around for sure." He is the only cast member who has moved back into his parents' house, with his older brother, in downtown Vancouver. (His mother is also his manager.)
Co-producer Ron Cowen is proud the show lasted for 83 episodes -- longer than "The Sopranos" or even "Sex in the City." "I think we've said everything we wanted to say, about HIV and AIDS; the crystal meth addictions; discrimination; a political climate that's becoming far more conservative and oppressive; gay parenthood; the conflict in the community between the assimilationists and those who want to continue a queer lifestyle, whom Brian represents. I think there's a huge conflict between those two elements right now."
Dan Lipman, Ron's partner in life -- and work -- agreed: "I think we've kept the edge, we've kept the sexuality up; we've kept the tone very much in tact -- the characters are very edgy. The one amazing thing about the experience is that Showtime, through two regimes, has never censored a story or censored a character; they've given us carte blanche for five years. That is a remarkable thing."
After the cast dinner, six of us piled into a Cadillac Brougham stretch, (the chauffeur identified it as a 1994 model, but Gale and I were sure it was from '85, judging from the taillights) and headed for Ted's Collision on College -- "a real bar bar," as Michelle put it. Fortunately, Toronto bars close at 2 a.m., which gave us all just enough time to recover in time for the next night's final, final wrap.
The following evening I met Michelle at her apartment. There were packing boxes everywhere, but there were also 12 ice cubes and one bottle of Chivas Regal. When Thea joined us at 8 p.m. so we could go to the final gathering together, Michelle insisted on dressing her all over again -- to make sure she looked as sexy as possible for her farewells. She draped Thea in a wine-colored Gucci knockoff top (with a large hole exposing her navel) and a necklace with a butterfly made of Swarovski crystals. Michelle gave Thea both of them. "I said keep them -- or the next time I'll see you we'll trade necklaces."
Then it was off to five more hours of dancing and drinking with 200 members of the cast and crew and their significant others. As the DJ cranked up "Sympathy for the Devil," Michelle and Thea began to jitterbug. Everyone crowded around to get a final photo of the golden couple. Until "QAF," Thea had always been slightly afraid of expressing herself through her body. But tonight that feeling was finally gone for good. "I actually learned to fucking dance at that party!" Thea said. "I've never had that sensation before. I feel like my body has freed up!"
The show itself had liberated a whole segment of American life, and the world of television will never be quite the same again.

Charles Kaiser is the author of "The Gay Metropolis" and "1968 in America." He is completing a book about a French family who fought in the Resistance in Paris during World War II.

pictures from the article

@темы: 2005

2011-09-18 в 11:52 

Спасибо за интересную статью. Тут много информации, которую раньше не встречала.

2011-09-18 в 15:50 

everybody’s a critic.(c) BK


Randy Harrison. Interviews.