Unsubstantial Celebratory Doc Not Much of a Pleasure Cruise


A low-budget talking-headster about man-on-man action in the years between Stonewall and AIDS, Gay Sex in the 70s is lightly entertaining, but—not unlike the cheap action it chronicles—leaves one wanting something much more substantial. The story is told through interviews with a handful of New Yorkers who experienced the decade, divided into chapters on the various venues for anonymous trysts: bathhouses, discos, the rickety piers, and even the cabins of empty trucks parked on West Side lots. Practically all of New York City, says one fellow, “was a constant cruising opportunity.” A few factoids stand out: memories of a pushcart man who sold KY, coffee, and tissues outside the fuck trucks; reports that even VD clinic waiting rooms became cruising areas; a television ad for Man’s Country bathhouse that promises, “Visit us once and you’ll come again and again.” But overall this earnest product falls in line with the celebratory doc fare often found at gay film festivals: sub-TV production values, middling archival footage, and a hesitancy to separate history from nostalgia in the course of enshrining the first-person record.