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A Gay Everyman.

The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me

Written and performed by David Drake Film Next / Montrose Pictures

David Drake's highly successful one-man play, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, comprised of seven vignettes drawn from the artist's life, is now a movie starring Drake on stage. The story begins on Drake's sixth birthday, June 27, 1969, the first night of the Stonewall Riots in New York. We learn of his budding interest in theatre, which intensifies as he gets older, that his favorite play is West Side Story, and that he's already interested in the meaning of love. Fast forward to his sixteenth birthday in 1979, the age at which he has his first same-sex sexual feelings. It's the musical A Chorus Line that affirms for him the possibility of love between two boys. Soon he has his first relationship with a boy and comes out to his parents, who cannot accept his homosexuality, and so he moves to (where else?) New York City.

Another birthday, his twenty-second: Drake goes to see Larry Kramer's play, The Normal Heart, and his desire to see "a real live kiss between two real live men" is fulfilled. Remembering that night, he is dismayed at the treatment of people with AIDS and with the general state of gay affairs: the persistence of prejudice and discrimination. This gloom reminds him of the abuse and homophobia he experienced as a child, but also how, through those torments, he acquired fortitude and felicity. He recalls a time when a bully wrecked his science project and it was the music of the Village People that gave him strength. He escaped to see 42nd Street and developed a fascination with the theatre that was, at least at first, a means of escape and a refuge from the world's oppressions.

If Drake's initial response to oppression was to remain silent and passive (theatre and music), he later discovers how to take physical action in response to it--by going to the gym. There one "bulks up" to prove one's virility, and femininity is frowned upon. Posing and flexing and grunting are all ways of expressing a sense of power. "I gotta get wide, wide enough to knock the world down when they get too close," chants Drake with rhythmic intensity. "We've got to build ourselves up for a hands on war. Our bodies are our weapons for the day we bash the bashers back." And yet, one must be discreet and quiet in such a place, because "they're in here, too"--the heterosexuals. This fact perpetuates the silence and increases the circumspection that looms in the air, if one allows it to impinge on the underlying, often unconscious mission of the gym: to connect with another human being. Working out, after all, can become much like a sexual act, as Drake goes from cruising to consummation in his sweat-drenched, po unding determination.

A more somber scene focuses on the AIDS epidemic: a candlelight vigil devoted to those who have died. While acknowledging the progress that's been made--and the role that groups like ACT-UP played in the early and middle years--Drake also understands that we have a long way to go before we can speak of recovering from the catastrophe.

The movie concludes on New Year's Eve in the year 2020 (the original play looked back from 1999). Drake has been with his lover for some time and they're raising a child; they seem like an old married couple. Drake reflects back on the progress gay people have made--that two men or two women can live together unremarkably and raise a child and be regarded as the same as any other family. By now, sexual orientation is a routine part of the U.S. Census Report, with "results of which you'll see the Kinsey's ten percent was a naively low estimation." It's a world in which "you'll see people like Bill and me (like you and me) out together walking hand-in-hand down the streets of New York City" without fear of repercussions.

What Drake chose to share is probably very familiar to other gay men's experiences of growing up gay, coming out, and living as a gay man. He sums up with the observation that "Being a sissy boy was the root of my self-hatred. It was the ugliest thing in my closet." Drake shows us that life is tough but that there is light out there once you take the risk of stepping into it.
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Title Annotation:Review; The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me
Author:HEMRICK, STEPHEN
Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:743
Previous Article:In the Ghetto.
Next Article:The Only Thing.
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