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Artful dodgers.

The '60s flick The Gay Deceivers showed inductees mincing to avoid a war---and had "pansies" in an uproar

The queen mother of all straights-feigning-gay flicks just might be 1969's The Gay Deceivers, the tale of two young men (Lawrence Casey and Kevin Coughlin) who avoid the Vietnam draft by letting the Army and even their families think they're beaus. They move into a gay apartment complex, complete with a pink bedroom, a swishy, limp-wristed landlord (Michael dreer), and the most flagrant gay stereotypes this side of Fairyland.

Though it may have been among the first movies that didn't present homosexuals as villains, few cheered. Gays even protested the film outside a San Francisco theater, a fairly historic event that the showbiz trade paper Variety detailed under the florid headline PANSIES PICKET OPENING OF GAY FILM IN FRISCO. The report--actually an evenhanded account--said one of the protesters advised that "the producers of such rot [should] take note that this film is not only an insult to the proud and `manly' gay persons of this community but to the millions of homosexuals who conceal their identity to fight bravely and die proudly for their country which rejects them." Many critics concurred, calling Deceivers "witless" and a "travesty." It's no small irony that the film's release coincided with the Stonewall riots in June that year,

One of the few critics who didn't dis Deceivers was the Los Angeles Times's Kevin Thomas, who found the film "hilarious" and "shrewdly written." Today, Thomas, although he hasn't seen the film in 30 years, admits that he "may have given it too much credit" and "been carried away by the novelty."

At the time many reviewers did praise Greer's portrayal of the film's most stereotypical character, Malcolm, the nelly landlord. His swishes and turns were such a hit that after Deceivers' first week in release the film's distributor switched ad campaigns and billed him as the star. Greer, who lives in Los Angeles, went on to play another queer--actually named Queenie--in Fortune and Men's Eyes and had a small role in the Bette Midler vehicle The Rose. But the film's real star, Casey, was less fortunate; he later complained that though the movie had made money and he was married with children, he had trouble finding work due to his having appeared in "a homosexual picture."

As for the lisp-ridden Deceivers itself, it can be found through a few mail-order catalogs and on the rare video shelf.

Kinser is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Kinser, Jeremy
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Oct 12, 1999
Words:419
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