News - Archives
2001 - March
'Glamorous Gay Gathering Salutes QAFolk'
March 28, 2001
Film, music and television industry leaders converged for a star-studded evening on March 19 to honor the groundbreaking and controversial Showtime Series "Queer As Folk."
GSociety, the world's largest gay entertainment and media company, hosted the gala where it was announced that GSociety and Showtime were strategic partners and that the second season of the show had been approved.
Many of the cast members including Thea Gill, Michelle Clunie, Gale Harold, Hal Sparks, Randy Harrison and Peter Paige ascended the main staircase of the trendy Paramount Hotel in New York to accept the honors. The cast stopped the presentation with their cheers for Producers/Creators Ron Cowen and Dan Lipman who said this show was "a dream come true."
Paul Yates, CEO of GSociety, and Rod Martin, GSociety's Founder, also spoke. "We are proud to be Showtime's strategic partner and we are thrilled to be able to honor this show for its brave and realistic portrayal of gay life," said Martin.
In addition to showcasing the cast of "Queer As Folk," the evening featured many other celebrity guests. Former U.S. Sen. Alan K. Simpson (a member of the GSociety Board of Directors) who represented Wyoming for eighteen years and is widely known for his outspoken views on media ethics attended as well as Latin pop-star Marc Anthony, and Len Fogge, Showtime's executive vice president of Creative & Marketing.
The crowd got a sneak preview of several of the tracks off the soon to be released "Queer As Folk" soundtrack, and video screens at the event displayed flashing images of GayWired.com, LesbiaNation.com, DANCE1.net, GHighway.com and the other entertainment products offered by GSociety that target the gay and lesbian market.
"This is a special time in history that a gay company representing the gay market can bring together so many varied people," said Yates. "When marketers want to reach the gay and lesbian market, GSociety is the answer."
GSociety is an international network of entertainment companies whose reach and distribution channels make it the proven leader in the $340 billion gay and lesbian consumer markets. GSociety's family of companies' feature the popular Internet portals GayWired.com and LesbiaNation.com. The entertainment division includes DANCE1.net and DANCE1 video entertainment products. The travel division offers GHighway Pocket Guides, GHighway.com and QTMagazine.com as well as a full-service gay travel agency.
'Folk Stars Take Story to Campus'
by Maria Montoya
March 26th, 2001
Star power helped fill a lecture hall at American University on Thursday as cast members from Showtime's controversial drama Queer as Folk met their fans. A standing-room-only crowd of 250 students, professors and gay rights activists warmly greeted the actors, who are on a four-stop college tour.
The cast hoped to answer fans' questions while drumming up recognition for the show. The other stops were Boston University, University of California-Berkeley and Tulane University in New Orleans.
"Thirty years ago, you never would have seen anything like this," said Rodger Streitmatter, an American University professor who was moderator for the panel that included actors Hal Sparks, Michelle Clunie and Thea Gill.
"It goes to show that society is coming to grips with homosexuality," Streitmatter said.
While the show, which depicts the gay lifestyle among a group of friends in Pittsburgh, often dives into serious issues, many fans were content to ask lighthearted questions, such as what it's like for straight actors to kiss someone of the same sex. Some even asked the stars out on dates.
Campus organizers expected a backlash from conservative groups, but there were no signs of protest during the hour-long discussion, which focused on the racy nature of the show and the effect it has had.
Sparks, whose character, Michael Novotny, is still closeted, was the focus of much attention, but the two leather-clad actresses received praise from the audience for their positive portrayal of lesbian lovers.
"This is about making a connection with the fans and learning about their lives," said Sparks, who also shared details about his personal life, including how his very Southern relatives feel about his playing a gay character. "It's not just about selling the show, it's about making it more personalized."
Clunie and Gill told the crowd of mostly young white males that more than 50% of the show's viewers are straight women, not gay men as commonly believed.
The numbers weren't at all surprising to Sandy Delauter, 39, of College Park, Md., a straight female who has been addicted to the show since she first saw the British version a couple of years ago.
Jerry Higgins, 38, of Silver Spring, Md., said that despite controversy, Queer as Folk is doing an effective job of making more people care about gay people and their lives.
"I only wish more people would give the show a chance," Higgins said. "It's really moving."
'Queer as [White] Folk or 'Queer Ass Folk'
The Blackstripe Articles
by J. Bernard Jones
March 21, 2001
QUEER AS FOLK, Showtime’s new series focusing on the lives and loves of a group of gays and lesbians living in the US industrial rust belt, addresses a question that has intrigued real pornographers of X-rated skin flicks for the last few decades: can soft porn actually be marketed in the mainstream marketplace? The answer in as far as “Queer as Folk” is concerned is a definite not quite.
QUEER AS FOLK (also known as QAF in much the same way as Star Trek: The Next Generation is referred to as “TNG” among its faithful) began it’s journey to American cable as a British TV series of the same name and theme. With it’s “graphic” depictions of sex, drugs, and a centerpiece story of a 28 year old man involved in a tempestuous relationship with a 15 year old adolescent, QAF became a smash hit in merry old England. Meanwhile in the U.S. cable network HBO already had established a reputation for edgy fare with it’s controversial series like “Oz”, “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” and a multitude of awards to show for their efforts. Rival Showtime wanted to cash in on HBO’s caché and embarked upon an ambitious campaign called “No Limits,” which in essence was a move to directly challenge it’s competitor with fare like it’s satire of network TV “Beggars and Choosers,” the first long-running Latino series “Resurrection Blvd.,” and a TV version of the African-American movie “Soul Food.” Where HBO focused on controversial subject matter, Showtime began to carve a niche representing underrepresented groups on network and other cable channels. And QUEER AS FOLK was right up Showtime’s alley....so to speak.
Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the somewhat expanded Americanized version of QUEER AS FOLK features a virtual cookie cutter cardboard cast of gay blow up doll clichés as it’s main characters: there’s Ted (played by Scott Lowell), who watches porn in the office all day long while nursing a not-so-very-secret crush on gay-boy-next-door Michael (Hal Sparks), a closeted store manager by day, party animal by night. Emmet (Peter Paige) is the show’s designated queen without a country (or a storyline). And faintly echoing the British show’s main storyline, irresponsible & unrepentant sex fiend Brian (Gale Howard) is relentlessly pursued by the here 17 year old Justin (Randy Harrison), who is not just coming out of the closet, he’s busting down the doors! Rounding out this gaggle of characters are the lesbian couple of butch, ball-busting Melanie (Michelle Clunie) and her lipsticky earthy lover Lindsay (Thea Gill), who have a child via sperm donor Brian; Dr. David Cameron (Chris Potter), facing a gay mid-life crisis and a possible relationship with Michael; and in one of the most bizarre performances of her illustrious career, multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sharon Gless (formerly of Cagney & Lacey) as Michael’s over-supportive PFLAG mother Debbie Novotony, a cross between fashion dragon Mimi from the Drew Carey Show and a plus-sized Powder Puff Girl.
QUEER AS FOLK has been widely and enthusiastically embraced by gays & lesbians and many others, making it Showtime’s highest rated series and seriously challenging HBO’s near legendary Oz in terms of total veiwership. Both series are basically glorified soap operas, but where Oz is penetrating, QAF is principally concerned with penetration. It’s popularity is due no doubt to the generally reliable loyalty of gays to products and companies which are supportive of “the community,” but also the combination of it’s taboo subject matter and it’s often graphic presentation provides a level of curiosity common among gays, hets and ’tweens alike. It would be fair to say the notion of finally-we-have-a-show-of-own trumps the show’s multitudinous flaws.
While the stories of QAF may have a ring of truth to them (such as Ted’s crush on Michael), the actual writing is clumsier than Gerald Ford putting on a condom! It’s As The World Turns meets Designing Women on ecstasy: see the boys drive through the city with ‘faggot’ spray painted on their jeep! See Brian’s flat ass humping an anonymous extra! See the boys fencing with oversized dildos! See Brian’s flat ass having sex with a group of anonymous extras! See one of the boys get drugged by a one night stand! See Brian have sex every 2.2 minutes! In fact the sex is so rampant on QAF that it’s actually distracting from the stories being told and lacks any dramatic impact most of the time.
The dialogue is achingly trite and clichéd, made even deadlier by the absolutely atrocious acting of the principle cast. It’s not Method Acting but rather I’m-Making-A-Statement-by-Playing-This-Role Acting. The main relationships, while structured plausibly, wind up coming across like a queer Three Stooges, with the fourth Stooge on the screen. It is a sad commentary that the best acted and most interesting characters are the lesbian couple (with main character Brian actually fading into a supporting role) and the mother of the 17 year old, none of whom have more than 5 minutes of screentime per episode so far.
Most of those flaws of a first season show could be forgiven if it weren’t for QAF’s other three intertwined sins. First is it’s most obvious: the lack of color. QAF’s cast is lily white in a metropolitan and integrated city; not only is this as absurd as NBC’s regular roster of urban sitcoms in which there are no Black, Latino or Asian characters, but the only time so far that a person of color has been featured on QAF he turned out to be a non-English speaking Asian prostitute played as a joke! Now that’s insensitivity! Second, all of the characters are roughly from the same economic background or have similar financial means. One of the unique aspects of the British version of QUEER AS FOLK was it’s working class setting, which had various characters deal with working class issues; the American version is a veritable Gap-meets-Ralph-Lauren-Polo ad. Finally and most unforgivable of all from a purely critical standpoint is QUEER AS FOLK’s setting: Pittsburgh.
When the show was first being retooled for American audiences, producers claimed that Pittsburgh was chosen to reflect the British version’s sensibilities. Now after some criticism about the real Pittsburgh versus the show’s version of the city, they are claiming now that the city in QAF is a “mythical Pittsburgh.” Whatever. The fact is that had the show been set in Miami, New York’s SoHo, or most appropriately San Francisco’s Castro District, it’s setup could be bought instantly; there are enough plastic and polyurethane white queers who don’t ever interact with people of color or those from different economic strata in those cities to make QAF ring very true. But with its Pittsburgh setting, even a mythical one, all of the way-out-in-the-open, madcap shenanigans have such an air of unreality and are so far removed from the vast majority of WHITE gays and lesbians that QUEER AS FOLK is rendered a virtual gay cartoon.
QUEER AS FOLK is here to stay. With it’s high ratings, Showtime has already renewed the series and is promoting it heavily in the gay media, including one of the snazziest, even most dazzling websites on the Internet (not even television’s most stellar drama, The West Wing, comes close). Gays are flocking to the show with abandon, and from the comments I’ve seen and heard, it’s often to grab hold of any scrappings that they can relate to, especially if they are gays and bisexuals of color, who are as invisible on the show as they are within the “queer rainbow.” Of course, that’s about the only aspect of gay life that QUEER AS FOLK completely and accurately reflects.
Since Showtime's Queer as Folk debuted, Peter Paige — who plays endearingly queeny Emmett Honeycutt on the spicy gay sudser — certainly has weathered his share of controversy.
Remember when his straight castmate, Hal Sparks, inserted foot-in-mouth (and earned a TV Guide Jeer) by comparing kissing men to kissing dogs on NBC's Tonight Show? "That quote is taken out of context," Paige tells TV Guide Online. Besides, he quips, "Hal's never kissed me. He spends most of his time kissing [his on-screen boyfriend] Chris Potter, who's equally uptight about it."
All joshing aside, having to defend Sparks's gaffe clearly has taken its toll on Paige's patience. Laments the actor: "People want to pit Hal and I against each other because I'm the most outspoken and openly gay member of the cast, and he's the most outspoken and avowedly heterosexual. I find that tiresome — Hal's work is what needs to speak for itself. If only gay actors can play gay characters, we're in for a dangerous ride. The converse of that theory is that only straight people can play straight, and as an actor who's played straight roles before and intends to again, I just don't buy that."
More recently, loyal QAF fans bristled at Paige's latest storyline, wherein out-and-proud Emmett suddenly joined the so-called "ex-gay" movement. In fact, Sunday's installment found him so bent on switching teams that he bedded — egads! — a woman. But by episode's end, he had jarringly unrepressed himself and turned back into the old Emmett, who regularly dons sleeveless turtlenecks and vamps about like a male version of Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall. Has the show sacrificed character continuity for the sake of yet another splashy, attention-grasping plot device?
"I understand why people are having trouble with this," Paige admits. "Of all the guys, Emmett's been the most well-adjusted in terms of his sexuality — up to this point. But in some ways, he's pretty naive and gullible." Laughing, he points out: "Historically, there are examples of Emmett losing himself in something that somebody else presents to him. Like in the pilot, he meets this Japanese hooker who doesn't speak a word of English, and he really convinces himself he's in love!"
Even so, the actor expresses serious concern about the ex-gay movement, which he calls "an evil cult." Asserts Paige: "It's terrifying. I think they prey on peoples' unhappiness and insecurities. What they do is [arrive at] a faulty conclusion that you need to be straight [to live a happy life]."
While on hiatus before QAF begins taping its second season, Paige is looking for decidedly "un-Emmett-like" roles to play. For one, he'll spend the month of May starring in Secret Agents at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Renberg Theater. Previews the actor: "It's a play about the relationship of a brother and sister and their mutual obsession with James Bond and all things secret agenty."
'QAFolk Exceeds Hope'
The Boston Globe
by Jim Sullivan
March 20, 2001
"I think we were prepared for a little more heat than we got," says Peter Paige, of the explicit gay-themed Showtime series "Queer as Folk."
What happened? "One, I think it's a sign that people are realizing gay people aren't the devil anymore. It's a reflection of what's going on in society, where more and more people know gay people, even in small towns across America. And, two, when they actually watched the show, [they found] it wasn't just about the sex; it was about humanity and relationships between friends that are universal."
Paige, who plays Emmett Honeycutt, joins cast members Michelle Clunie, Thea Gill, and Scott Lowell at Paige's alma mater, Boston University, tonight [March 20] at 7 for a clips-and-chat gig at Morse Auditorium, the first of four national show-and-tells.
In Sunday's episode (repeated tonight [Wednesday]), we found Emmett trying to make good on a promise he'd made God: If he did not have HIV, he would not make love to another man. So now the joyous Emmett is making himself miserable. He tries sex with a lesbian, but it doesn't go well.
"What a surprise," says Paige, who is gay and out. "To find when people act counter to who they really are, it's not an overwhelmingly positive experience. The scene where they try to make love is funny, and awful and heartbreaking."
Working on "Queer as Folk" requires nudity. "It's not my favorite thing," says Paige, "but it's part of these people's lives, everybody's lives."
The show, he notes, has exceeded Showtime's viewership expectations. "A large part of our audience are straight women, who are involved with the characters and turned on by the show. There's a long history of men being enthralled by the idea of two women being together, and women haven't had access to that. They're finding it surprisingly exciting."
by Patrick Antoch
March 2001 issue
How I dress the characters of TV's gayest show:
INTERGENERATIONAL SEX and privacy socks were all part of the Queer As Folk challenge.
Crew arrives at the Toronto set at a ridiculously early hour, four hours of sleep after a ridiculously late night. Stephen, the make-up artist, applies make-up Û often over the entire body. Michael the hair stylist does hair, including a clipped chest and butt. Marie, the wardrobe key, sets out the day's clothes, which might include a genital wrap or two, depending on the scene.
The US press always compares Queer As Folk to Will And Grace. Yeah - so far, the similarities must be glaringly obvious.
Then I too begin my day as the show's costume designer, couturier to disco trash, harbinger of style to non-receptive lesbians. It's given me an inside view of the production of the US remake of the groundbreaking British show. And it's certainly been a different experience from my first costume-designing gig on a children's show called Animorphs (four spunky kids save the planet from alien invasion with a cuddly blue half man/half horse).
For example, at pre-production meetings for Queer As Folk, we confer over scripyed lines like, "Get on your knees, pussyboy" - does it really captures Emmett's pique at Bill for lying to him? - and character names like usemyhole27.
The character Ted, an accountant who's not quite at home in the gay world, gets picked up by a muscle stud at the 24-hour convenience store and they do it in the parking lot. The transportation department is told to get a van with a big enough sunroof to see Ted's face when his knees are behind his ears.
Set design also has special concerns. In a role reversal, Brian, the sexually aggressive character (based on the character Stuart from the British series), is seduced in his ultra chic executive office by an employee. "We'll need to replace Brian's glass desktop with plexi so it can stand the weight of them fucking on it," the set designer points out. Which takes us to the dilemma of casting: Does the fellow playing the employee have a butt we're gonna want to see through plexi?
All this is distracting enough, but my responsibility is the clothes. I'm often asked if it's harder to dress gay characters as opposed to straight ones. Well, only because it takes longer for gay men to decide what to wear.
At the New York premiere I was interviewed by actor Harvey Fierstein. "You've dressed New York, you've dressed LA. How do you dress Pittsburgh?" he asked me, referring to the setting of the show. Well, the truth is, most gay men I know dress like they're ready to hop a Concorde to New York or LA, regardless of the city they live in.
Though it's true gay men are usually the only ones who have the nerve to wear what's walking the catwalk at the moment, it's not like every gay man on the show should be a GQ model. And not all lesbians wear lumberjack shirts.
In real life there are gay men with no taste, and lesbians who dress fabulously. It's no easier to be an authority on gay style than it is to be an authority on straight style. There's a spectrum of looks and the critics sitting at home watching the series can be unforgiving with fashion mistakes.
Lucky for me, most of the principal actors are basically the same size as I am. I can try things on before bringing them to actors for a fitting. A little bigger for Brian the well-built sexual predator, a little shorter for Michael, the adorable best friend, and a little tighter for Justin, the hot little twink.
In the last six months I've dressed myself up as every style of go-go boy, leather stud, and backroom tramp. My Polaroid collection is extensive.
Although it's a gay show, I will succeed only if I make the actors look contemporary and realistic, not just gay. So I get my influence from all over, on the street, in gay magazines. Of course, the more flamboyant characters are the most fun.
Take Emmett, for example. Based on the queeny Alexander from the British show, he's obviously the most splashy character - the out and proud friend we have or wish we were. His style is a complete rip-off of my best friend Ron, from my party days in the late '80s. The look says fashion at any price, even if it means wearing much too little waiting in line to get into a club in February. Ron came from Vancouver for the crew screening of the first episode. He hated to admit it but he saw a bit of himself there.
My best opportunity to imitate reality is in the scenes that require background players: parties, bars and street scenes. Every television show or movie depiction of gay life I've seen so far always overdoes it by showing one of each - a sampling of gay society that has bears, drag queens, leather daddies, lipstick lesbians and bull dykes mingling together lovingly. Does Hollywood do it so no one feels left out, or is it because the mix is so rich they get greedy and try to stuff it all into one scene? Sure, crowds mix, but even in a minority group, friendship is based on more than a common sexuality. The argument I've always made is that if we were to shoot a scene at the Catholic women's league, should we put in a women bleeding from her palms just to cover all the bases?
But back to the fun stuff. I've never received an award, but I can't imagine too many Emmy Award-winning costume designers have had to fit an actor with an assortment of cockrings or tried to attach a 12-inch dildo onto a completely naked body. My only press claim to fame thus far suggests that I do have the required experience: a National Enquirer article crediting me as the boy who had to wrap Christian Bale's privates in a sock every day for a week for the chainsaw scene in American Psycho. I'm flattered that the actor who plays Michael, Queer As Folk's homeless romantic, has taken to calling his own privacy sock "Mr Bale."
We're trying to make real TV. But the only thing we can try to keep straight
are our faces. And that's hard when a work day starts with 33 dildoes for a
fight sequence. If you have half as much fun watching it as we do making it,
we've done our job.