William E. Jones

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Cruising the Movies : A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV
By Boyd McDonald


Introduction by William E. Jones

Ronnie Reagan’s bizarre legs are sufficient reason to watch John Loves Mary (1949), a picture so ordinaire it needs this bizarre touch. When the faces in this historic still from the Museum of Modern Art are cropped, Reagan could pass for a butch lez from the Women’s Army Corps who is about to put the old make on a fluff (Patricia Neal).
—from Cruising the Movies

Cruising the Movies was Boyd McDonald’s “sexual guide” to televised cinema, originally published by the Gay Presses of New York in 1985. The capstone of McDonald’s prolific turn as a freelance film columnist for the magazine Christopher Street, Cruising the Movies collects the author’s movie reviews of 1983–1985. This new, expanded edition also includes previously uncollected articles and a new introduction by William E. Jones.
Eschewing new theatrical releases for the “oldies” once common as cheap programing on independent television stations, and more interested in starlets and supporting players than leading actors, McDonald casts an acerbic, queer eye on the greats and not-so-greats of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Writing against the bleak backdrop of Reagan-era America, McDonald never ceases to find subversive, arousing delights in the comically chaste aesthetics imposed by the censorious Motion Picture Production Code of 1930–1968.

Better known as the editor of the Straight to Hell paperback series—a compendia of real-life sexual stories that is part pornography, part ethnography—McDonald in his film writing reveals both his studious and sardonic sides. Many of the texts in Cruising the Movies were inspired by McDonald’s attentive inspection of the now-shuttered MoMA Film Stills Archive, and his columns gloriously capture a bygone era in film fandom. Gay and subcultural, yet never reducible to a zany cult concern or mere camp, McDonald’s “reviews” capture a lost art of queer cinephilia, recording a furtive obsession that once animated gay urban life. With lancing wit, Cruising celebrates gay subculture’s profound embrace of mass culture, seeing film for what it is—a screen that reflects our fantasies, desires, and dreams.

About the Author
Boyd McDonald (1925–1993) was a writer for Time and IBM, a journalist, and founder and editor of Straight to Hell, a celebrated fanzine that bore a variety of subtitles, including “The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts” or “The New York Review of Cocksucking.”

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William E. Jones
Halsted Plays Himself

Fred Halsted’s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) was gay porn’s first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering “new information for me.” Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished Los Angeles, a city at once rural and sleazy.

Although his cultural notoriety at one point equaled that of Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith, Halsted’s star waned in the 1980s with the emergence of a more commercial gay-porn industry. After the death from AIDS of his long-time partner, lover, spouse (and tormentor) Joey Yale in 1986, Halsted committed suicide in 1989.

In Halsted Plays Himself, acclaimed artist and filmmaker William E. Jones documents his quest to capture the elusive public and private personas of Halsted–to zero in on an identity riddled with contradictions. Jones assembles a narrative of a long-gone gay lifestyle and an extinct Hollywood underground, when independent films were still possible, and the boundary between experimental and pornographic was not yet established. The book also depicts what sexual liberation looked like at a volatile point in time–and what it looked like when it collapsed.

William E. Jones is an artist and filmmaker who teaches film history at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He has made two feature length experimental films, Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997), several short videos, including The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998), the feature length documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004), and many video installations. His films and videos were the subject of retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, in 2005, and at Anthology Film Archives, New York, in 2010. He has worked in the adult video industry under the name Hudson Wilcox.

“[A] fascinating glimpse of a bygone gay culture whose aesthetic was far less polished, more earthy, and more dangerous than our current one, defined as it is by dollars and digital media.”
Sam Biederman, Bookforum

“As a project born out of the author’s sincere admiration for his subject, Halsted Plays Himself amounts to a very passionate, if not sentimental, account. Jones not only attempts to symbolically revive Halsted in this elegy, but continuously constructs imaginary scenarios which could have resulted in him still being alive, better understood, or more accepted.”
Aliina Astrova, Kaleidoscope (blog)

“[A] rich and rewarding excavation of a blazing moment in the early 1970s…[A] valuable installment in a recent, resurgent interest in queer documents from that flourishing social period, positioning Halsted’s artistic legacy within a teeming moment of gay visibility.”
Bradford Nordeen, Art in America

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William E. Jones
Selections from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

Selections from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton telescopes 350 years, the period from the 1620s to the 1970s. It is what artist William E. Jones imagined Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy would have looked like had it appeared in the pages of Drummer magazine. In preparing the book, Jones condensed Burton’s vast 450,000-word masterpiece of 17th Century English literature to a small fraction of its length, and paired the excerpts with vintage images of leather men at work and play. Robert Burton was fascinated by the variations of human sexuality, albeit more as an observer than as a participant. He wrote about sex in covert Latin passages that are newly translated in Jones’s book. Selections from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton is a delightfully perverse condensation of Burton’s speculations on the sexual proclivities that subsequent generations of gay men put into exuberant practice.

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William E. Jones
Tearoom

Tearoom is a companion piece to Jones’s video of the same name. A work of appropriation, the video Tearoom is a police surveillance film – presented virtually unaltered – of men having sex in a public rest room in Mansfield, Ohio during a three week period in the summer of 1962. This film, used as evidence in court, led to the conviction of over 30 men on charges of sodomy, which at that time carried a minimum sentence of one year in the state penitentiary.

In the book Tearoom, William E. Jones presents the results of research on these cases and on the production of the surveillance film. The book includes a number of historical texts, as well as two new essays by Jones. Tearoom is extensively illustrated with more than 100 film stills, most of them in color. These stills show men from all walks of life who met for furtive sex under the central square of Mansfield, and who went to jail as the result of a law enforcement sting. Tearoom provides a unique view of the clandestine sexual life of a small Midwestern city at the beginning of the 1960s.

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