Sunday, June 6, 2010
I just watched a movie called Saturday Night at the Baths. It was made in 1975. The central character is a straight man who takes a gig playing piano at the Continental Baths in New York. The story revolves around this guy, his girlfriend, and the manager of the bathhouse, with whom this couple become involved. There was some awful acting, some scary dialogue dubbing, and jarring music edits (which I think might be a preservation issue) but the script and editing were good, very tight and clear, and the actors who play the two main characters give really wonderful, natural and affecting performances. It was a much more complex, interesting film than I expected.
1975! It looked like my New York. I didn't move to New York until 1981, but I don't think the appearance of the city changed much in the 70s except to get dirtier and more run-down.
An extended section of the film is the actual floor show at the Baths, with wild modern dancing by boys in tighty-whiteys, a gorgeous performance by Jane Olivor (the cabaret singer who shot to stardom in the late 70s and then disappeared), drag queens impersonating Diana Ross, Carmen Miranda, and of course the immortal Miss Garland.
My grandmother turned me on to Jane Oliver when I was 15. Did the whole world know I was gay before I did? I love this so much.
Working on this high school diary project has me listening to and thinking about music I loved at that age. Steely Dan, Moody Blues, ELO, Led Zepellin, Joan Baez, Judy Garland.
I had these records on vinyl, and I sold all my vinyl on the street for $1 an album in front of J's and my 10th St. apartment when we moved to Nashville in 1998. I just downloaded Jane Olivor's version of Don McLean's "Vincent." It has as much power tonight as it did back then to tear my heart out like only a 15-year-old gay boy's heart can be torn out.