"You show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.'"
Description: Kenneth Nelson as Michael, a Catholic-raised gay uses a variation of the old “only good Indian is a dead Indian” adage to express how hard it is for a gay man to find happiness in a society that resents homosexuals in the motion picture The Boys in the Band(1970).
In the film, Michael, a debt-ridden preppy hosts a birthday party at his New York apartment for his now thirty-two year old friend, Harold (Leonard Frey). The party guests consist of: Harold (Leonard Frey), a self-avowed Jewish fairy; Donald (Frederick Combs), a neurotic gay friend ("a real card carrying cunt") whose homosexuality has put him into therapy; Emory (Cliff Gorman), a flamboyant queen ("a god damn little pansy" "A butterfly in heat"') ; Bernard (Reuben Greene), a gay black bookstore clerk; Hank (Laurence Luckinbill), a gay teacher separated from his wife; and Larry (Keith Prentiss), his boyfriend, a fashion photographer.
Before Harold arrives, Michael recieves an unexpected visit from Alan McCarthy (Peter White), his former Georgetown University roommate (whom Michael called "Straight, Square City...and so God Damn pulled together he wouldn't show any emotions if he was in a plane crash"). Michael hadn't told Alan he was gay, so the visit was a bit awkward. Alan had dropped in because he wanted to talk to Michael about a personal problem (he had left his wife, among other issues).
As Michael and his gay buddies prepare for Harold's arrival, Alan's reacts unpleasantly to Emory (Cliff Gorman). Alan says "How' you like to blow me," and Emory counters with "What's the matter, your wife got lockjaw." Furious, Alan calls Emory a "Faggot" and gives Emory a bloody face. Just then a buzzer sounds and Harold, the birthday boy arrives at the door. Michael chastises Harold for being stoned and late. Unperturbed, Harold cooly enters the room and says::
"What I am Michael is a 32 year-old, ugly, pock marked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while to pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I get up the nerve to show my face to the world, it's nobody's god damned business but my own. And how are you this evening?"
As the party progresses, the guests get drunker and nasty words and accusations are bantied about, including Michael's taunting his friend Alan, with implications that he is a a Closet Queen. Harold intervenes and warns Michael to stop where he is going with his taunts. Michael warns Harold to mind his own business, at which time, Harold says:
Are you now? You warning me? Me? I'm Harold. I'm the one person you don't warn, Michael, because you and I are a match. And we tread very softly with each other, because we both play each other's game too well. I know this game, you're playing. I know it very well, and I play it very well. You play it very well too, but you know what? I'm the only one who's better at it than you are. I can beat you at it, so don't push me. I'm warning you."
Michael fails to heed Harold's words and continues to insult Alan, who then leaves the party. At this time Harold lays the hard truth on Michael - a truth that devastates him:
“You are a sad and pathetic man, Michael. You are a homosexual and you don’t want to be, but there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all your prayers to your God. Not all the analysis your money can buy in the years you have left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life. If you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with fervor with which you annihilate. But you will always be homosexual as well, Michael. Always, Until the day you die.”
As the party comes to an end, Harold leaves with Cowboy Tex (Robert La Tourneaux), a handsome blond gigolo hired for the party by Emory as a present for Harold. Soon after, Michael collapses, crying in the arms of his friend Donald, the last one to go. Regaining his composure, Michael asks, "Who was it who said, 'You show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.'" Donald hadn't a clue.
Grabbing a coat, an emotionally exhausted Michael leaves his apartment to attend a church ceremony. Before he goes, he turns to Donald, and says, "As my father said to me as he died in my arms, "I don't understand any of it. I never did."
Note: Earlier in the film, Michael said, "Who was it always used to say.' You show me Oscar Wilde in a cowboy suit and hat, and I'll show you a gay caballero.'"
The Boys in the Band was the forerunner for such gay films as, An Early Frost (1985), Torch Song Trilogy (1988), and Angels in America (2004).