Thursday, September 01, 2005

How Old Is That In Film Years? 

My e-mail alert from AfterEllen today is a look back at the indie film Go Fish. I loved this movie when it came out. The Girl says she hated it. I didn't know her then, so I'll have to take her word for it.

But I was dismayed that the article comes under the heading "Back in the Day." It's a monthly column "that takes a look back at key moments in the history of lesbians and bisexual women in entertainment." Yikes. Back in the day. My next thought was "I suppose that makes Desert Hearts a classic film."

Sure enough, on page two of this two page piece, is the reference: "The '80s ushered in such classics as Personal Best and Desert Hearts and many lesbians could finally see something of themselves on screen." Double Yikes.

I remember watching Personal Best in stealth mode, in case someone might put the pieces together. It was my senior year in high school, or maybe the summer after graduation (1982). I think I may have watched it with my then-boyfriend. Mmm, Mariel Hemingway and lots of athletic women. It was secret heaven.

By 1985 and the debut of Desert Hearts, how times had changed. Two of my Bryn Mawr friends (one of whom is now married to soxfan and attended my wedding this summer, the other with whom I eventually had a brief fling and is now married to a man - whatever) and I trekked up to NYC for opening weekend. I don't recall how we travelled, but we probably took the train up from Philly. I do remember walking around and not being sure we were in the right area, when we came around a corner and saw a line of women around the block. Yep, this must be the place. I also recall we smuggled in a bottle of Stoli in the sleeve of my Levi's jacket that I carried, and once in the theater we mixed it in with our purchased Cokes to about a 50-50 mix. Coming out in the 80s generally involved large quantities of alcohol. Glad that's behind me.

The sight of Kay slamming her hot rod into reverse and speeding backwards down the highway in order to flirt with the newly arrived soon-to-be-divorcee? Took away our collective breaths. Later scenes stunned us into very pleasant silence. We couldn't believe we were able to see this on the big screen at a mainstream theater.

A few months later I saw it again with a friend from the summer job in Princeton. It was playing at an art house in Doylestown, PA. She was just starting to come out (I was the first person she told. She later had a brief fling with my then-girlfriend. Haven't seen her for years, but my sister had dinner with her recently. I did get together the ex-girlfriend and her current partner just after I started law school, though. Bygones were bygones, we're all grownups now, and I think she's still an occasional reader of this blog - Hi! Post a comment if you're reading this!), and since it was playing in the area it seemed like a good idea. There were maybe a dozen people, mostly straight indie film fans. But it was fun, and still a great movie.

Kate Clinton referred to Desert Hearts in her act at that time. She mentioned the part where Kay's younger, jealous brother offers Vivian some gum, but she changed Vivian's response:

Walter: Chicklet?
Vivian: No thanks, I like my women full grown.

Then there was the snarky fellow guest at the divorce ranch, who would later dazzle us all as Lt. Tasha Yar. Who out there didn't cry when Lt. Yar died, and rejoice whenever Denise Crosby returned in a guest appearance on ST: The Next Generation?

I guess the point of this long and rambling entry is that I felt old this morning, having such clear memories of "classic movies" from "back in the day." But I forgive you, AfterEllen. Bygones are bygones. Whatever.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:31 AM