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Pit Stops on the Yellow Brick Road

Four decades of gay milestones in entertainment history

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OCT. 26, 1955 Rebel Without a Cause opens, establishing James Dean as a major postwar alternative movie star. Sal Mineo appears as his effeminate friend.

APRIL 14, 1968 Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, the groundbreaking depiction of gay men, opens Off Broadway.

JUNE 22, 1969 Judy Garland dies of an overdose. Days later, gay-bar habitués clash with the police in the Stonewall rebellion in Manhattan’s Green wich Village.

JAN. 11, 1973 An American Family, a cinema vérité series about the Loud family, begins airing on PBS. In the second episode, son Lance’s homosexuality is revealed to his family and the world.

JULY 25, 1975 The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line, in which both gay and straight dancers bare their souls, begins a nearly 15-year Broadway run.

SEPT. 13, 1977 Soap introduces America to Billy Crystal as the gay member of a hilariously troubled family.

JULY 29, 1978 The Village People strike a chord with their first hit, ”Macho Man.” Their follow-up, ”Y.M.C.A.,” hits the top five.

FEB. 15, 1980 Cruising, in which Al Pacino plays a cop exploring the underbelly of gay New York life, opens to gay protests.

SEPT. 18, 1981 ”No wire hangers!” bellows Faye Dunaway as gay icon Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. The film becomes a cult hit with gay moviegoers.

JAN. 18, 1982 Audiences accept the homoerotic overtones in PBS’ 11-part adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, which stars Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.

FEB. 12, 1982 In Making Love, Michael Ontkean leaves Kate Jackson for Harry Hamlin. Audiences stay away.

APRIL 29, 1983 The Hunger stars Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon as vampires sowing the seeds of lesbian chic.

JULY 26, 1985 Kiss of the Spider Woman opens; William Hurt wins an Oscar as an imprisoned gay window dresser.

OCT. 2, 1985 Rock Hudson dies of AIDS; soon after, Elizabeth Taylor becomes the epidemic’s first celebrity crusader.

NOV. 11, 1985 An Early Frost, the first TV movie about AIDS, is broadcast on NBC.

FEB. 26, 1988 Gay cult director John Waters and the 320-pound drag queen Divine hit the mainstream with Hairspray.

APRIL 7, 1990 A Cincinnati show of homoerotic photos by Robert Mapplethorpe fuels controversy over federal arts funding.

JUNE 2, 1992 k.d. lang comes out in the pages of the gay magazine The Advocate.

JAN. 10, 1994 Armistead Maupin’s gay-themed Tales of the City begins; despite high ratings, PBS declines to fund the sequel.

MARCH 21, 1994 Tom Hanks wins the Best Actor Academy Award for Philadelphia.

NOV. 11, 1994 The AIDS-related death of The Real World‘s Pedro Zamora brings the disease home to the MTV generation.

Paul Wontorek and Sean O’Heir