Revisiting a Queer Cultural Landmark in Making the Boys


When Mart Crowley’s landmark The Boys in the Band opened Off-Broadway to sellout crowds of gays, starved for representations of their lives, in January 1968, Stonewall was 17 months away. Yet by the time William Friedkin’s film adaptation, which included all nine original troupe members, was released less than a year after the legendary homosexual intifada, Crowley’s work now seemed outrageously retrograde to many newly politicized homos, who abhorred its pink-face minstrelsy of sobs, self-loathing, and desperate pleading for tolerance. Crayton Robey’s documentary on this queer cultural touchstone admirably presents both sides of the divide, soliciting the memories of various éminences grises, most tartly from Edward Albee, who recalls, “I found it a highly skillful play—that I despised.” Robey’s assiduous research also unearths some amazing archival material, including a 1980 public-access-TV interview with Robert La Tourneaux, who played the dumb hustler in Boys and was the first of its five cast members to die of AIDS. But after so skillfully assembling the eloquent reflections of elder statesmen, boomer playwrights (like Tony Kushner) and cultural critics (like the Voice’s Michael Musto), and Crowley himself, Robey’s choice to rely on reality-TV twerps like Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano for lavender-life insight is baffling. Was Justin Bond not available?