Today's gay characters came out 30 years ago with Mart Crowley's groundbreaking film

By Gregg Kilday
December 26, 1997 at 05:00 AM EST

Almost three decades after it opened Off Broadway and then became a film, Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking homosexual drama, The Boys in the Band, plays on. From art films to mainstream movies, gay characters came out en masse in 1997, but for all their newfound freedom, they still strikingly resembled Crowley’s old stereotypes.


MICHAEL (Kenneth Nelson), the self-loathing host, alienated from his parents and deep in debt, who whines, ”There’s nothing quite as good as feeling sorry for yourself, is there?”

DONALD (Frederick Combs), the long-suffering best friend, who doesn’t seem to have a life of his own

EMORY (Cliff Gorman), the swishy drama queen

HAROLD (Leonard Frey), the self-deprecating realist who says: ”What I am is a 32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy”

HANK (Laurence Luckinbill), the tweedy teacher who can pass for straight

LARRY (Keith Prentice), the sexual adventurer who insists on having affairs on the side

COWBOY (Robert La Tourneaux), the dim but sweet hustler

BERNARD (Reuben Greene), the black bookstore clerk, dubbed by one character ”the African Queen”


GREG KINNEAR’S SIMON (As Good as It Gets), the self-pitying artist, alienated from his parents and broke, who whines, ”I’m feeling so damn sorry for myself that it’s difficult to breathe”

RUPERT EVERETT’S GEORGE (My Best Friend’s Wedding), the long-suffering best friend, who doesn’t seem to have a life of his own

JASON ALEXANDER’S BUZZ (Love! Valour! Compassion!), the swishy musical-comedy queen

ANTONY SHER’S JACK (Alive and Kicking), the self-deprecating therapist who asks his sick lover: ”If you were healthy, would you even sleep with someone slightly overweight?”

KEVIN KLINE’S HOWARD (In & Out), the tweedy teacher who’s been passing for straight

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.’S CHARLIE (One Night Stand), the sexual adventurer who encourages his best friend to have an affair on the side

DAVID ARQUETTE’S JOHN (johns), the dim but sweet hustler

THE LADY CHABLIS (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), the book’s black star who carries herself like a queen