Magazine article Out

In Defense of Jerry Lewis

Magazine article Out

In Defense of Jerry Lewis

Article excerpt

Forget hair whorls, genomes, amniotic - fluid, older brothers, domineering mothers, or disco. I can reveal with absolute certainty the cause of my homosexuality in just two words. Jerry. Lewis.

As a kid in the 1970s, I watched reruns of his movies-especially the ones from the early '50s with his on-screen boyfriend Dean Martin- with a level of breathless excitement that nothing else came close to until I discovered buggery in the 1980s.

Films like Money From Home (1953), where he pins Martin to the bed wearing a pair of polka-dot shorts campier than Christmas in West Hollywood, and Sailor Beware (1952), where he is pricked by several burly Navy medics wielding ever-bigger needles until he squirts liquid in all directions and faints, made me the man I am today.

In February, after a lifetime of being ignored by a cross-armed Academy Awards committee that never gave him so much as a nomination when he was making movies, Lewis finally got an Oscar. But not for his charming films with Dean Martin or his solo classics such as The Disorderly Orderly- in which, memorably, he happily Hoovers with the appliance plugged up his own ass- but for his fund-raising for muscular dystrophy. It's a charity Oscar in every sense. Lewis is 83 and has been unwell for some time.

The Hollywood gays, though, are Not Happy. They have a Hoover up their ass about Lewis. Some tried to block his Oscar because this ill old man, born in 1926, almost used the word "faggot" last year after hosting a 12-hour telethon. In effect, the gays are running down the street screaming "??-0-s/"

Likewise, because he isn't gay himself and because his nerdy, sissy persona has been deemed "exploitative," Lewis has been almost completely spurned by queer studies, when really he should have his own department.

Certainly, though, his films should be set texts. But it was in his anarchic, early-'50s TV shows with Martin that the 20-something Lewis was at his queerest and giddiest. Their heads were so close together in those tiny '50s cathoderay tubes- gazing into each other's eyes, rubbing noses, occasionally stealing kisses or licking each other's neck to shrieks of scandalized pleasure from the authence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And they were adored for it- literally chased down the street by crowds of screaming women and not a few men. …

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