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I saw this TV movie years ago during its initial broadcast. I distinctly remember watching for it after a commercial preview: pix of Lee and company shirtless, commentary about how "this young man's life...". I knew the storyline had something to do with male-on-male sex - and I knew I was gay.
This film goes about as far as one could go in those days in order to depict a "gay lifestyle" - in particular, that of a "young gay male lifestyle".
The kicker is that the whole gay theme has/had to be sandwiched in a "confused"-gay-for-pay envelope.
The rest in-between is all about coming out of the closet, coming to terms with your gay identity and moving forward.
"Alexander" starts off where "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway" left off: Dawn ("Brady Bunch" Eve Plumb as - if you can believe it - a runaway teen forced into prostitution), just getting her life straightened, is accosted by a former john; Alexander, her boyfriend, (also a runaway), tries to intervene/protect and in the process gets a knife-wound and a trip to the hospital. During Alexander's subsequent comatose healing period, viewers learn of his background... Get ready kids - cuz it's all GAY.
Alex, it turns out, is a "sensitive artistic type" from Oklahoma: he plans to paint and draw for a living. However, this did not go well with his father, who berates him for being an artist, then orders him off the farm for good. Mom relays her sympathies to Alex but also proclaims she can't change Dad's mind. (Read: homophobic, overbearing dad and understanding but equally-homophobic mom.) Thus, off Alex goes to the hills of (West) Hollywood to seek his fortune.
So much for the dream sequence. When Alexander regains consciousness (after much nurturing from Dawn), he orders Dawn to go back where she came from (somewhere in AZ) and stay on the straight and narrow until he can send for her. And off Dawn goes - reluctantly.
Alex, fully-recovered, re-enters the world and experiences a rude-awakening: age and lack of education work against him - his former boss will not re-hire him, any potential new employers refuse to hire minors.
That leaves Alex with only one option... Thus begins Alex's entry into the world of Hollywood homosexuality.
At first, there is confusion as the movie tries to set up Alex as a straight hustler. He is immediately befriended by another male hustler (same guy who gave Michael Ontkean his phone number in "Making Love"). The duo at first bed ladies for pay - but, as anyone can tell you, women - especially well-to-do women - do not hire call-boys!
Eventually, however, Alex discovers that his roommate is also doing well-to-do men. Roommate one morning emerges shirtless from bedroom, yelling but confessing that its yet another way to make money.
From that point on, the movie presents a flurry of gay experiences: the reluctance of coming-out, the romance with a hot-jock, gay discos/parties (one particularly memorable scene filmed inside WeHo's old Studio One - replete with lots of shirtless guys on the dance floor), drugs, even getting dumped.
This movie almost seems as if it was a project staffed by what was then some of Hollywood's "gay mafia".
Earl Holliman plays a gay counselor at the community center, interesting in the fact that Earl never married.
There is also Alan Feinstein as a popular - and closeted - pro-football player. Is/was Feinstein gay? Don't know - but how many male actors of that time were willing to be filmed on a beach in a skimpy speedo alongside a cutoff-clad shirtless young hunk? (Feinstein is hot btw.)
The production team definitely knows its territory: the gays Alex meets are "networked" - as demonstrated when Holliman's character socializes at a party thrown by Feinstein, recognizing many a familiarize face in the process. At the Back Lot cabaret (behind Studio One disco - hence its name), legendary lesbian performer Frances Faye - in all her glorious raspy-voiced ugliness - calls out to Alex in a song. In the same scene, a presumed lipstick lesbian confidante of the gay football player challenges him to a physical showdown of sorts. "We are family", indeed.
And there are countless homo-erotic moments featuring longing eyes, pregnant pauses, familiar "gayisms" (i.e., "We've all been there...") - along with pecs, abs and glutes.
At the end, the movie abruptly switches gears at the end - as does Alex
ditching the gay plot angle in favor of an affirmation of
heterosexual identity (just barely, though).
All in all, however, it provides fairly accurate portraits of gay life just prior to the Holocaust.
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