Friday, August 30, 2019

we need to talk about skippy

"Why can't you just be normal!?"

Five years before I actually came out, I wrote two gay fan letters.  
One was to "Norm" from the first season of The Real World.  I must have been around 12 at the time and I near lost my mind seeing a chic queer person with a dog and a burgeoning career in Art on MTV.  I loved him.  I still do.  I love how he was aloof and kind and clearly got lots of dick and I love that he was an activist and he appreciated gay rollerskating nights at Limelight set to CeCe Peniston songs.  Dreamboat.  So, using my Star Wars VHS collection as a desk, I wrote him a thank you letter in my bedroom after mom had gone to bed.  He never replied.  

The second gay fan letter I wrote was written with many different colored markers.  I remember writing it in class after the Rodney King riots - the teacher was talking about football or something so I took it upon myself to be productive.  This time my letter was for Taj Johnson from Parker Lewis Can't Lose.  I loved him because he looked like a tall skinny vampire who would be mean to me - thirteen years old and already my type was already set in stone!  He never replied.

About 200 years later, I was at an opening party that TJ also attended and I just stared at him the whole time like I was watching television until he left.

As with all my significant life experiences, there's a gay horror movie about this.

Trick or Treat (1986) is a movie where Skippy from Family Ties gets bullied at school for being queer so all his attention goes to obsessively stanning a hair metal glam-rocker named Sammi Curr.   

Skippy isn't an instagram hot kinda gay like Love Simon - he's a normal, struggles with his body type and can't quite figure out what to do with his hair kinda gay (you and me both, sis').   

He lives in a converted attic with his single mom where he spends his time writing in his diary and listening to music and making mixtapes and finding new places to hide his sex toys.

Dream life. 

Basically, I was Skippy from Trick or Treat, only I didn't have the steady stream of residuals to put towards leather gear or his revolving door of stories about Justine Bateman.

Well, faster than you can say Freddy's Revenge, Rockstar Sammi Curr dies and he comes back from the dead to haunt his #1 fan.  Thus prompting a romance for the ages!  

Let me tell you, if that guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose mysteriously died and came back to my momma's house to haunt me and started killing all the people who were mean to me in high school, you wouldn't see me complaining about it!  But Skippy's a square.  I probably would have made fun of him too.  

Like Brainscan and Christine, Trick or Treat comes from a genealogy of films where outcast high school kids unleash vengeance upon their peers who mistreated them via demon avatars only to wind up compromising everything that made them special in the end by rebuking their avatar in order to kiss girls and participate in pyramid schemes on facebook to support dead-eyed children they never should have had in the first place.
All these years, I had been operating under the assumption that Skippy from Family Ties was a gay, but the most cursory youtube search of his more recent stand-up "comedy" sets has proved he's not gay.  He's not even gay-adjacent.  Good to know.  Still, there's something unmistakably queer about this film, so I dug a little deeper.  
Behind all the hairspray and eye makeup, I couldn't help but notice a spring in Sammi Curr's step -  a wink and tone in his overall performance that could only come from a fellow home of sexual.  So, like Tom Cruise and prenatal vitamins, I did the research. 

Skippy isn't gay, but Sammi Curr was.  He was played by musical theatre performer Tony Fields who started his career as a backup dancer for Debbie Reynolds before starring in the not-good-but-nonetheless-high profile Chorus Line movie.  A Queen for the ages.

Trick or Treat proves that horror is a great catch-all for marginalized communities.  While adored by the straight horror die-hards because of a Ozzy Osborne cameo and its soundtrack (the same soundtrack that now makes distributing this movie on blu-ray nearly impossible because of rights and clearances), this movie is also super gay.  Skippy's character is clearly a surrogate for gay teens, perpetually outsiders, even in their own homes - bullied and left to hero-worship - specifically a hero in which he can see himself reflected.  Representation matters.

Who knows how many more iconic roles Tony could have created if he hadn't, like so many gorgeous and successful artists of the '80s, passed away from HIV related illness in 1995. 
RIP, legend.  Your work lives on.

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