Sign of the Times III

Queer Street

C4's new Commissioning Editor, Jacquie Lawrence, has rubbed the duster over bland gay television and left the surface quite shiny and very reflective. After years of C4 programmes trying to be be all things to all queers, Lawrence has narrowed the focus down and plays out a suitable mix of condemn and condone.

Among the three-week season is Queerspotting, Paul Burston's scrutiny of exclusively gay TV. Obviously unhappy with what's been on offer (no argument there), Burston asks whether there's a need for ghetto programming and enlists the expert opinion of some friends (Suzanne Moore, Julian Clary, James Attitude Collard) to quip at the question and 'pioneers' Michael Gay Life Attwell, Howard Schuman, Anna Agony Raeburn and Neil Gaytime TV Crombie, (who's still trying to exculpate himself) to recur the accusations of 'banal, plain boring' TV. Burston rightly concludes that gay TV 'is like the last guest at the party... still waving its pink balloons'. It was a playful half-hour but unfortunately didn't offer new perceptions. And slapped wrists for completely ignoring lesbians under the queer umbrella.

The Straight Guide To Queer featured The Divine David, aided by Cherry Smyth (Mk IV: Sigourney Weaver phase), Mark Simpson and John Lyttle, who argued the toss of being locked into the 'Aryan ideal' gay image, 'quality ghettos', fluidity, labelling, 'queering the mainstream' and a world of new possibilities, which include 'liberating ourselves from being gay', offering simplistic solutions for homophobia and suggesting that a new definition for 'gay' should be sought. Once again, lezzies were shoved onto the fringes, and it made me extremely worried for those who identify as a Kinsey 6 but fence-straddlers will love it.

Village Voices focused on the 'new Jerusalem' a.k.a Manchester's gay ghetto on Canal Street. Expressions of dissent (those of Toby Manning) made more sense than the Mancunians who bleeted about confidence, security, urban regeneration and worthy community initiatives. Oh ra-ra! Let's hear it for the 'provincial town with grand aspirations', a place where lesbians and older gays are frustrated and marginalised, where the original concept of 'creating safe space' has been forgotten in the pursuit of the pink profit margin, and where the primary concerns are about which labels you wear, which brand you drink and if you can dance. A sadly wasted opportunity, and that's not just the programme...

Invasion of the Big-Haired Lesbians was much a more fruitful enterprise. Caz Gorham jetted off to California's blue rinse capital, Palm Springs, to carouse with 20000 lesbians in 'a cross between Sodom & Gomorrah and Butlins' - the Dinah Shore Golf Classic. Sod the tennis circuit and bugger Olivia Cruises: golf is takin' over. The gathered Muffia dipped for ducks, tasted wine, spent heavily (av. $1200), and generally promoted hedonistic lesbianism. Bikini-clad dykes sauntered, pouted and soaked up the sun, along with a few celebrity dykes, in this showcase of superfluous but apparently shallow sapphos.
More superficial behaviour with A Star Is Porn, a peek under the sheets of the Amory Peart production, Butt Buddies. From the auditions (malapropos questioning and waggling dicks in semi-darkened basements) to the introductions (via Twister and 'squeeze-ball tag') and the read-through for Skunk, Mr Shaky Shaft and Horse, onto the filming ('The excitement! He gets a blow job, I get toes!') and beyond (cleaning ugly spots from the sofa), it provided an affable and at times jocular, view of the supposedly seedy twilight world of soft gay porn. The porn has something less than alacrity, there's a few surprises and two nasty buggers (you choose) but well worth perusing.

©Megan Radclyffe Publ. Millivres 1997

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