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The Gay Ghost
by Robert Patrick
© January 2005, Robert Patrick
Since the “gay wave” hit the airwaves, many of my ghostwriting assignments (which have always been tinged with green from my envy of my clients’ huge salaries) have acquired a lavender overtone.

I haven’t been approached to ghost for any of the biggies like “Queer as Folk,” “Will & Grace,” or “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” but I’ve been asked to do the following several times each:

Assess Gay Backlash Potential

This consists principally of reading completed series scripts to determine if scathing, bigoted, stereotyping jokes about gays are going to get the producers in trouble with the gay community. Since without exception the jokes have referred to the same five qualities (promiscuity, hopelessness, effeminacy, anal damage, and/or a taste for show tunes), I have been able to use a form letter to respond to all such inquiries, thusly:

    “If your concern is whether the gay community will object to such references, the answer is, ’No,’ because (a) gay people are still so grateful to be mentioned publicly at all that they don’t mind very much what you imply about them, and (b) there is to my knowledge nothing remotely resembling a gay community in existence, and if there is and you have its e-address, please forward it at once, because I’d love to publicize my gay-themed plays to it.”
Evaluate Gay Plot Lines

I’ve also been given movies of the week to go over. With very few exceptions, these have been about either a straight person ruining the lives of his/her friends and family by coming out (treated as tragic), or a gay person ruining the life of his/her lover by going straight (treated as hopeful). The straights who go gay are always moving from a sympathetic and loving mate to a gay partner who is an artist, and younger than they. The gays who go straight are always moving from a substance-abusing mate to a partner who owns a small, socially responsible, somehow rustic business, like an organic food shop or a wetlands reclamation service, and whom they knew in high school. My usual suggestion to the writers of these has been:

    “For God’s sake, make the new lover someone they work with and see every day and have been sleeping with, like in real life.”
This bogs down into competing definitions of “real life,” and I seldom come out of it with anything more than my basic reading fee.

Insert Gay Interest

For some reason, the authors who hire me for this service are very shy about it, perhaps because they’re worried wondering why, out of a whole writing pool, the producer picked them to do it. My usual suggestion is simply to make one of the characters gay, with a mate or dates of his/her own gender. The usual response to this is:

    “But that brings up problems, and we don’t want the show to seem to be about being gay.”
When I farther suggest that they try the revolutionary ploy of not making it a problem, but rather just having a gay character or characters move through the story like any others, I am told:
    “But then there’s no reason for them to be gay!”
At this point, I quietly give up, and earn my pay by making some crime witness gay so that there can be an inquiry scene in a lurid leather bar or sex toy shop.

Purple-ize Pilots

I got so many calls about this last season that I thought of hiring ghost-ghosts to handle them. Everybody trying to peddle a pilot suddenly thought that adding a gay character would up their chances. This turned out to be awfully easy work, because the writers had such preconceived notions of what the character should be that I mostly just took dictation.

Basically, they all wanted Jack from “Will & Grace,” flaming in from next door to make cracks about the husband’s weight and body odor and the wife’s hair and drapes. He was then to make an exit speech about his plans for the evening, so phrased as to make him appear promiscuous, hopeless, effeminate, anally damaged, and addicted to show tunes.

Oh, but I think that brings us back to where we came in — or before we came out?

Robert Patrick
1837 N. Alexandria Ave., #211, Los Angeles CA 90027
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