Boring Stories About Myself: Young Holohan Questions His Sexuality


When I was a small child, around four years old, I was a big fan of the television show Soap, which was a sitcom-satire of soap operas. Soap featured the talents of Robert Guillame, the late great Richard Mulligan, the actors who would later play the dad on Blossom and Mona on Who's the Boss?, and, most importantly for the purposes of this story, Billy Crystal as Jodie Dallas.

Jodie was one of the first openly gay characters to regularly appear on an American sitcom, and his gayness was a source of many a cheap laugh. For example, on the pilot episode, when Jodie comes down for breakfast, his stepfather Burt (played ably by Richard Mulligan) says, "Why don't you get him some Froot Loops?" Laughter and applause.

As a four-year-old I didn't understand why certain otherwise unfunny things were funny just because they were said in relation to Jodie, but I figured that they had something to do with him being "gay." So I asked my mom what "gay" meant. Not wanting to embark on the task of explaining homosexuality to her four-year-old son, my mom punted and said, "Well, if you're gay it means you don't get married." An accurate, but by no means precise, explanation.

And so, I developed the understanding that not getting married somehow made you funny, and realizing the value of a good sense of humor even then, my path was chosen. Little did I know.

About a week later I was visiting my grandparents with my dad (who hadn't been privy to the Jodie conversation). At the time one of my aunts was planning her wedding, and there was much talk of weddings and marriage amongst the relatives gathered at my grandparents'. At one point one of my relatives said to me, "How about you, Matthew? When are you getting married?"

"Aw, I'm not getting married," I replied. "I'm gay."


I didn't know that Richard Mulligan died.... that just ruined my day.

That's such a cute story. It's tough for kids to get what "gay" is, since sexuality in general is a big unknown area that adults try to "shield" their children from so that they learn more about it at school and from TV than from parents. I never got that "Jack" on "Three's Company" was pretending to be gay so that Mr. Roper would let him room with the girls... I didn't even know that until Aaron told me a couple years ago.

shit. i didn't know that about three's company till just now.

way to ruin everyone's day matt. gflo *liked* richard mulligan. michele *liked* three's company that way. what's next? jack had a 'condition' that made him fall down a lot? wait ... that's actually really funny! heeheheeheheehehecondition!!hahahahaha.

those were ha's and hee's of despair.

jeez, sorry to bring everybody down. greg, let us remember with laughter the comedic stylings that richard left us. and michele and kristina, how could you not know that jack was pretending to be gay? that's like not knowing mr. belvedere was a robot.

but there is hope, for if there is one cure for despair, it's listening to allen play the theme from "soap" on the recorder. allen, i'll expect you to post a .wav by tomorrow morning.

duuude, i'm on it.

but i'll need a couple of days ... and they might have to be pan flutes

I didn't know you played the recorder!

Mr. Belveder was a robot???

of course he was a robot! how else could he have solved all those problems, AND baked all those pies, AND still have enough time left over to make disdainful, sarcastic comments about the shortcomings of the various Owenses? don't you remember that episode where he malfunctioned and thought he was napoleon? a human couldn't do all that. hell, even VICI couldn't have done all that.

Man, I was waaay too young in the 80's to pick up on the apparent complexities of the sitcoms. I did not know that Mr. Belvedere was a robot and thinking of it that way makes me feel even more didainful of the show than I ever did watching it (I thought it was boring). Another 80's thing I was too naive to get was that, although I watched it like every day, I didn't realize that the girl in "Flashdance" was an erotic dancer and I used to go around telling people that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Perhaps I still have a chance...

hey i've been meaning to ask you for some time so this is as good a place as any, what were the various black stereotypes and their 80s blackshow representations again?

sorry, 'you' refers to holohan

those would be:

(1) the picanniny: a small, helpless black child who is cared for by a rich old white man, typically represented as having been chased up a tree by an alligator. this shows up as "diff'rent strokes" and, to a lesser extent, "webster.

(2) zip coon: a boorish (i.e. loud voice, poor grammar, generally bad manners) black man who inexplicably finds himself in white high society with hi-larious culture-clashing results. this would be your "jeffersons."

(3) sambo: the lazy, carefree young black man who always gets himself into trouble. see "the fresh prince of bel air."

these came up in one of my classes at berkeley, and represent the views not necessarily of me, but of my GSI at the time. the stereotypes where characters that originally showed up after reconstruction and were later revived, some say, as sitcoms.

i should also add that i think the humor of "zip coon" was based on his feeble attempts to blend into white society, and his beliefs that he was doing so seamlessly. and this, i think, undermines the comparison to "the jeffersons." although the humorous premise of the show in a big was was "isn't it funny that these two black people from harlem are now living on the rich side of town?", the jeffersons were by no means trying to blend in to white society. one of the things the show repeatedly made clear was that george was proud of who he was, and didn't feel the need to change himself or his lifestyle to conform with anyone else's expectations.

also, the jeffersons weren't really all that "fish out of water" within the context of the show. their neighbors and best friends were an interracial couple. the only purely white element was bentley, the absent-minded neighbor who nobody was trying to emulate. so i think the "black people in white society" premise didn't go much farther than the premise level. a lot of the actual dialogue and plot lines surrounded the interactions between the characters as friends, neighbors, and family members, and race was secondary a lot of the time.

of course, there was plenty of racial humor, like when tom suggests that he and george takes the bus, and offers to let george "sit up front," or when george shows up carrying a watermelon concealed in a bowling ball bag because he didn't want "whitey" to see him walking down the street carrying a watermelon, but i propose that these reflected a general irreverence to political climate of the time rather than a marginalization of black people or racial issues.

keep in mind, also, that this is a really long rant, and that the jeffersons were a spin-off of "all in the family," a truly revolutionary sitcom that left no senstivie social issue un-satired.

and so, i think it's simplistic to say that the jeffersons were just a revival of zip coon, but if you're an overly sensitive ED40 GSI it's a fun thing to talk about at parties. kind of like comparing bush to hitler.

Mrs. Peackock was a man???

I want to say that I had a very big crush on VIKI when I was young. She could do everything that I would want her to do. I wonder if they have a older look a like at the gold club?

Paul, it's Monday morning. I didn't need to start my day with mental images of aging stripppers. You go to hell and you die.

Aging strippers are not that bad.. and wait she would be about my age right now so that would make her about 25??? I bet she would make a great stripper.

Damn it. Your blog spam is infinitely cooler than my blog spam.

At least yours is still better than Michele's. She doesn't even get links in hers.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on April 15, 2003 9:19 AM.

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