Political Film Society - Newsletter #137 - July 1, 2002

July 1, 2002


When a gay person can no longer stand being trapped in a small town, the opportunities of big city gay life seem overwhelmingly tempting, and the gay migration to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco has changed the culture of such meccas irreversibly. But gays, in turn, have changed from closeted innocence to the many "types" required by the sexual entrepreneurship forced upon them in places where they cannot quickly establish roots. For at least three decades perhaps the most narcissistic niche for gays have been the "tribal" circuit parties of Southern California, announced in a bimonthly publication In and frequented by handsome and muscular studs who thrive on being desired by one another but otherwise appear to have no meaningful lives. The film Circuit, directed by Dirk Shafer, attempts not only to document the "gay superbowl" lifestyle, courtesy of Tad (played by Daniel Kucan), who claims to be filming a documentary within the film, but also to provide a plausible account of how a gay police officer, John (played by Jonathan Wade Drahos), left a small town in Illinois at the friendly suggestion of the police chief, only to be corrupted by the circuit culture. The film picks up tempo at a dance event attended by hundreds of gay men, many stripped to the waist showing centerfold musculature, and indeed similar scenes throughout the film will doubtless bring to the box office those attracted by pretty faces and masculine bodies (90 percent of whom are bottoms, according to one amusing line in the film). At the event Hector (played by Andre Khabbazi) spots John, who is standing alone to observe the throng, and identifies himself as a hustler. In due course the two bond, doubtless because Hector sees John as still unjaded by the circuit culture and therefore a "real person," while John needs Hector's mentorship in order to feel a part of the seductive culture.

In due course Hector initiates John into the rituals of the circuit culture, namely, nude swimming parties in the Hollywood Hills, steroids and intense gym workouts, cocaine and other drugs, and attendance at two Red Parties, a Blue Party, and the gala three-day White Party in Palm Springs usually attended by 25,000 gay men. (The annual Black Party was edited out for some reason.) On one occasion John and Hector make love in a hotel room in front of a john, so John picks up $500 as his first and only experience hustling; otherwise, he is a security guard at gay night spots and circuit parties. One day John's former girlfriend Nina (played by Kierstan Warren) from Illinois comes into town to do stand-up comedy at a gay night club; when John discovers that she has no place to stay, he offers his pad in the Hollywood Hills. But as he descends into the depths of circuit culture, she moves out, not only disgusted by his sordid narcissism but also in fear that she will eventually see him dead. Behind the scenes, Circuit provides an exposé of who is really behind the circuit culture-middle-aged men who rake in big bucks from overcharged admission fees, such as $75 admission to a single all-night dance event. Gino (played by William Katt), one fat cat in particular, takes out life insurance policies on his circuit pets, including Hector, whose cosmetic surgery he has financed, in order to profit from the inevitability of their death through a drug overdose. When Hector dies in that manner, John finally realizes that he has overdosed on circuit culture and shifts gears to get a real life. As a graphic description of how circuit culture operates, both at the top and bottom levels, the Political Film Society has nominated Circuit for an award as best film exposé of 2002. MH