Seminal stories: riots in front of the Stonewall Inn in the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969, quickly became an emblem of the modern-day pride movement. So why weren't they on the front page of The Advocate?
Let's be honest. In the world of magazine publishing, a good-looking man almost always trumps a riot. Still, the choice to picture a young, naked Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy on the cover of The Advocate's September 1969 issue and run the Stonewall stone·wall
v. stone·walled, stone·wall·ing, stone·walls
a. uprising on page 3 seems a bit misguided. At least initially.
While it's impossible to dispute the importance of the Greenwich Village riots, Midnight Cowboy was, in its own way, seditious se·di·tious
1. Of, relating to, or having the nature of sedition.
2. Given to or guilty of engaging in or promoting sedition. See Synonyms at insubordinate. . It was one of the first commercial films to deal with homosexuality and remains the only X-rated film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture The Academy Award for Best Motion Picture is one of the Academy Awards, awards given to people working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which are voted on by others within the industry. . (In 1971 the film industry's ratings board changed it to R.)
Adapted from a 1965 novel by James Leo Herlihy James Leo Herlihy (27 February 1927 – 21 October 1993) was an American novelist and playwright.
Born to a working class family in Detroit, Michigan, he is best known for his works Midnight Cowboy and Blue Denim. , Midnight Cowboy is a story about the relationship between a dim-witted adj. 1. mentally retarded; relatively slow in mental function.
Adj. 1. dim-witted - lacking mental capacity and subtlety
simple-minded, simple hustler named Joe Buck (Voight) and Ratso, a gimpy gimp 1
A narrow flat braid or rounded cord of fabric used for trimming. Also called guimpe, guipure.
[Perhaps from French guimpe; see guimpe. con man played by Dustin Hoffman, set in a rampantly depraved New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City
City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S. . Critical acclaim for the film varied from gushing to horrified hor·ri·fy
tr.v. hor·ri·fied, hor·ri·fy·ing, hor·ri·fies
1. To cause to feel horror. See Synonyms at dismay.
2. To cause unpleasant surprise to; shock. . The Advocate's Jay Ross called it "an excellent picture" and said Jon Voight "explodes with more facets than a geodesic dome." Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "Midnight Cowboy is so rough and vivid that it's almost unbearable." Variety deemed it a "sordid saga."
When Playboy magazine asked John Wayne in 1971 which films he found perverted, he didn't hesitate. 'Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?... As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I'm awfully happy there's a thing called sex. It's an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn't be in pictures. Healthy, lusty lust·y
adj. lust·i·er, lust·i·est
1. Full of vigor or vitality; robust.
2. Powerful; strong: a lusty cry.
4. Merry; joyous. sex is wonderful."
The two friends in Midnight Cowboy are never actually characterized as gay. And Wayne's opinion is ironic, considering Joe Buck identifies so strongly with the Duke's masculinity. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, Ratso criticizes Joe's cowboy persona:
"That great big dumb cowboy crap of yours don't appeal to nobody except every jockey on 42nd Street. That's faggot stuff!"
Joe, stuttering stuttering or stammering, speech disorder marked by hesitation and inability to enunciate consonants without spasmodic repetition. Known technically as dysphemia, it has sometimes been attributed to an underlying personality disorder. with shame, replies: "John Wayne! You wanna tell me he's a fag?"
Disapproval from a conservative screen actor probably didn't come as surprise, but Wayne wasn't alone in finding fault with the film. "It was not viewed kindly in, as it were, gay society," director John Schlesinger told Interview magazine. "it was viewed as somewhat antigay, which I'd never intended.... I think if you look at it with a sort of gay sensibility and want everything to be positive about gay life, it could be interpreted as antigay."
With Midnight Cowboy, Schlesinger pushed the boundaries of American cinema and expanded filmgoers' idea of love to include homosexuality. But he knew his limits. In an interview with Premiere after the directors death, Dustin Hoffman remembered how Schlesinger encouraged his actors' input.
"[One day] we went to Schlesinger and said, "We've got it. John, we've got to have a scene where they're in bed together.' And Schlesinger just paled. Schlesinger was gay and made no bones about it, didn't hide it when a lot of people did, and he said, 'Oh, God no, we can't do that. We're not going to have anyone coming to see this as it is."'
The Advocate saw it, recognized its significance, and gave Midnight Cowboys good-looking man the play he deserved.