I was just old enough to recall scenes very much like the one Crowley portrayed, where a group of homosexual men, who perhaps knew each other far too well, would gather and try to be wittier than the others in Oscar Wilde-like quips, mostly dishing the others for their past and present digressions. The goal was to out-do one another in outrageous put-downs, while also satirizing oneself. I was young enough to find it somewhat entertaining, and clever enough to spout a couple of zingers each evening. What I hated, however, was the exaggeration of these events, the adoption of feminine names and personalities, and the closeted and claustrophobic self-hatred that often emanated from the group.
itself, of being in the know, sharing in a kind of private language which the society as a whole would find difficult to comprehend. And if, in their put-downs, it might superficially sound as if the entire gathering hated each other, it was really a reassertion of love, the way a stereotypical Jewish family might endlessly kvetch to one another for their behaviors. Love and family were at the heart of such events. In fact, only someone like Woody Allen can match Crowley’s loving cruelty of one’s own kind.
speaking out to that society with voices that could be comprehended and help make change. In a strange sense the very opening up of society that made The Boys in the Band so successful soon made Crowley’s then-courageous play seem like a sad relic, an ancient ritual that demonstrated the isolation and tragedy of gay life.
These very types, of course, allow the film to open up also discussions of other feelings of outsiderness due to ignorance, anti-Semitism, racism, and patriarchal male notions of masculinity, while Michael’s alcoholism gives rise to his bad behavior which spins the work into the nightmare world it becomes when he insists that they all play a telephone game (this was a time of old-fashioned phones) in which they must call someone from the past whom they first loved. Actually, given the facts of my first love, which I recount in My Year 2005, the former high school football captain who later killed himself, I wish I might have played such a game, letting him know, what he had perhaps known better than I, that he was not alone, and that he had been loved from afar. And I later discovered that I was not the only one in my school who secretly loved him—if you can describe teenage attraction as love.
At the same time, the world Crowley portrays, in its exaggerated honesty, is hilarious through its never-ending barbs of self-honesty and familiar love. They dance, they sing, they bitch, they kiss and make-up, and, ultimately, they leap into one another’s arms in tears of pain. Yet together they get through each night. It’s certainly a more entertaining world than the quiet evenings Alan is doomed to play out with his wife in his so very proper life. We really don’t care about a winner like Alan; we only care about the loving losers of this work.