Rip Torn, Sally Kirkland, and the Sexual Revolution on Stage and Film


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March 13, 1969, Vol. XIV, No. 22

by Howard Smith

“IF ART REFLECTS LIFE, then it should reflect every aspect of life,” explains Milton Moses Ginsberg about his new feature motion picture, “Coming Apart.” Starring Rip Torn and Sally Kirkland, and written and directed by Ginsberg, the film brings nudity and sex to the screen as another facet of life No apologies necessary in this show-it-like-it-is era.

Rip Torn plays a psychiatrist who takes an assumed name, rents a pad away from home and pregnant wife, and hides a movie camera to record his therapeutic sexual activities — self-analysis with replay possibilities.

Appearing in the nude through much of the movie, Torn seduces a dozen or so beauties before the film reaches its climax. The spirit of the orgy scene was entered into by cameraman, crew, and director — they all undressed, leaving uptight value judgments impossible on both sides of the camera.

Sally Kirkland, who shuttled between the filming of “Futz” on the West Coast and “Coming Apart” on the East Coast, shocked Mr. Pigsticker (Tom O’Horgan) himself when she told him, “You know, I go down on Rip in this picture.” Sally claims O’Horgan’s chagrin is due to the fact that “he didn’t think of first.”

Just finished last week, the movie was shot in a one-room 15-by-17-foot Kips Bay Plaza apartment that was rented by Ginsberg, who intends to live in it now that the film is in the can. His three-year lease provides not only a room with a view, but a room with a built-in past.

THE EFFECT OF the sexual revolution on the arts, particularly theatre, is rapidly accelerating. A little over a year ago, a girl was completely nude all through an off-off-Broadway play and it was a first in the theatre. Now the stage is littered with discarded clothes, even on once-staid Broadway. A new Swedish movie, “I Am Curious (Yellow),” clearly depicts sex acts of all kinds.

In order to keep its place in the (un) clothes line, off-off and off-Broadway will have to do something more titillating than just take it off. Actual sex is the next inevitable phase and it will begin with “Che!” at the Free Store Theatre, 14 Cooper Square. The play by Lennox Raphael will have real live intercourse.

The action takes place in the office of the President of the United States. “Che Guevara is brought to the U.S. after his capture in Bolivia. He is interrogated by the President in his secret office, assisted by an angel agent from space, Mr. Mayfang. The Sister of Mercey is poised smiling over Che’s body and the two screw.”

Director Ed Wode and the cast decided that the intercourse would take place for real only when the performers “feel like it.” So they will be doing it and faking it alternately, and for some reason known only to their inhibitions faking the oral relations consistently, starting with previews March 12 and after the opening, March 19.

If this is the new trend, then an actor will now have problems he didn’t have before, at least on stage. He will have to be potent, in addition to being talented. And since a lot of actors are homosexual, it could limit the parts they play. Unless they are very talented.

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