Westport’s Own Boys In The Band

When Doug Tirola grew up in Westport, an early video store — The Video Station — sat behind Carvel.  Pickings were slim, so he rented just about everything.

Including “The Boys in the Band.”

The groundbreaking 1970 film — like its predecessor, a 1968 Broadway play, it brought gay characters and situations to a mainstream audience — may not have been completely understood by young Doug.

But he loved it.  Over the years he saw it several more times.  The friendships and relationships between the men stayed with him; the writing was funny, intelligent and memorable.

Fast forward (ho ho) to today.  Doug and fellow Staples graduate Susan Bedusa head up a New York company — 4th Row Films — producing documentaries and TV series.

A few years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, they met Crayton Robey.  He was pitching something to be included with the 40th anniversary DVD release of “Boys in the Band.”

Susan knew very little about “Boys in the Band.”  However, she understood the challenges and struggles involved in making a movie.  Crayton’s passion for the project sold her.

The next day, Susan and Doug called Crayton.  They said they’d help him get the movie made — but as its own film, not a DVD extra.  The result — “Making The Boys” — opened in New York last Friday.

Tomorrow Wednesday (March 16, 7:30 p.m.), there’s a special showing at Stamford’s Avon Theatre.

Though gay issues — same-sex marriage, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” California’s Prop 8 — are all over the news, Doug and Susan were not trying to seize the political moment.  They saw an important movie to be made, and they made it.

In between its 1968 stage debut and its 1970 release as a film, the world underwent seismic change.  Smack in the middle, in 1969, came the Stonewall riots — the 1st roar of the gay rights revolution.

Some of the same people who praised the play picketed the movie.  They said it reinforced stereotypes of gay men.

“Making the Boys” meets that controversy head on.  It’s rich with interviews with gay culture icons like Larry Kramer, Terence McNally and Tony Kushner.  (Edward Albee is also interviewed.  He hated the film from the start.)

The film also explores the impact — a few years later — of AIDS.  Several “Boys in the Band” cast members succumbed to the disease.

It could sound like “Making the Boys” has a niche audience.  But the producers don’t think so.

Besides gays and lesbians, and Broadway and film buffs, Doug and Susan say they’ve made a film for anyone interested in American history.

“The surprise of our film is how much it’s about the struggle to get out there and pursue a dream,” Susan says.

More than 4 decades ago Mart Crowley — a kid from Mississippi, with no connections to anyone in the entertainment business — wrote a play that still commands attention.

Crowley himself — along with Doug, Susan and Crayton — will be in Stamford for Wednesday’s showing.  Afterward they’ll host a Q-and-A with audience members.

“The love that dare not speak its name” will be spoken about, loud and clear.

(Tickets for Wednesday’s “Making the Boys” showing and  post-film discussion are $10 general admission, $8 for seniors and students.  To purchase tickets, call 203-661-0321.  For more information, click here.)

6 responses to “Westport’s Own Boys In The Band

  1. Didn’t see any movies in 1970. Just ordered “The Boys in the Band” from Netflix. Thanks for the tip.

  2. This is going to sound strange but I often quote a line from “The Boys in the Band” to my family, mostly around the dinner table, after someone has put an unusually large amount of food in their mouth…which is “King of the Pig People”. I don’t mean to belittle the scene or the movie and I do it with admiration. I clearly remember the inflection the character used and it just stuck with me. I did see the movie in the 70s but not the year it was released. I don’t remember controversy connected to it, but thought it was great and courageous and I admired the acting and writing.

  3. We saw the play in NY in 1968, and knew we had turned a corner, albeit a small one, in our perspective about relationships.

  4. This is the second film in two months that we would have loved to been able to premier in our Town.

    Good luck on Wednesday night; can’t wait to watch the film.


  5. Mal Musicante

    We also saw the play in NY in ’68. Thought it was way ahead of it’s time—and loved it.