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An era of liberation chronicled in 'Gay Sex'

November 18, 2005|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

With his brisk yet comprehensive "Gay Sex in the '70s," documentarian Joseph Lovett backs up his assertion that the decade bracketed by the 1969 Stonewall riots, marking the beginning of gay liberation, and the emergence of AIDS in 1981 was "the most libertine period the Western world has known since the Roman Empire."

This outbreak of openly rampant sex between gay men was arguably a reaction in direct proportion to centuries of severe repression that preceded it. Lawrence Mass, a physician and activist who was one of the earliest reporters on the AIDS epidemic, is scarcely exaggerating when he states flatly that pre-Stonewall "gays were more isolated than any other minority in history."

Amid the atmosphere of the antiwar movement and the hippie era of free love, gay men sought out each other in the streets, bars, baths, on derelict piers, truck loading docks, in parks and discos of Manhattan and the popular Fire Island resort -- just as they did in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Gay porn flourished, yet '70s survivor Rodger McFarlane amusingly observes that porn couldn't compete with real life, for "life was a pornographic movie."

McFarlane is among a group of interviewees that includes photographer Tom Bianchi, writer Larry Kramer, artist Barton Benes, and English professor and writer Arnie Kantrowitz, all well known in the arts and in gay activism.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday November 22, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
"Gay Sex in the '70s" -- The information box accompanying the review of "Gay Sex in the '70s" in Friday's Calendar section omitted the name of Michael Sean Kaminsky as one of the film's producers.

They acknowledge that drugs and sexually transmitted diseases were taking their toll before the outbreak of AIDS, and while they wish they had known earlier about precautions that could have prevented the spread of HIV among either themselves or their friends, they don't regret their hedonism and the pleasure and sense of freedom it brought them.

Their incisive comments blend with a wealth of archival footage, including fleeting sequences from gay porn flicks, to evoke a rich sense of the dawning of gay liberation.


'Gay Sex in the '70s'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Brief hard-core sex, blunt sexual language, nudity, adult themes

A Frameline presentation. Produced and directed by Joseph Lovett. Camera and sound Joseph Lovett, Michael Sean Kaminsky. Editor Jason Szabo. Music Art Labriola. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.

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