From The Archives

‘The Worst Possible Nightmare’: Collecting the Voice’s Coverage of William Friedkin’s “Cruising”


Even as it went into production on the streets of the Village, in the summer of 1979, William Friedkin’s Cruising — about a psychopath chopping up men he picked up in leather bars — was fostering outrage in the gay community. Voice columnist Arthur Bell urged readers to mobilize against the production: “The film promises to be the most oppressive, ugly, bigoted look at homosexuality ever presented on the screen, the worst possible nightmare of the most uptight straight and a validation of Anita Bryant’s hate campaign.”

In this dive into the archives, Richard Goldstein writes about the massive protests in the Village; John Rechy questions the wisdom of attempting to censor a film based solely on the script and what has been seen on location; the “Ad Hoc Coalition Against Cruising” takes out a full-page ad in the paper calling for peaceful protest; and Dorothy J. Samuels, then executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, surveys the First Amendment landscape. Finally, Andrew Sarris reviews the finished film, advertised in the same issue with a full-page image of the star — a reliably intense Al Pacino.