Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 02 March 1998


Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Documentary Audience Award

Film Review by Jack Nichols
Based on a Randolfe Wicker Report


Out of the Past, a new documentary on the history of gays and lesbians in the U.S.A, enjoyed its New York premiere February 16 at the Director's Guild of America.

The film gives particular focus to the story of Kelli Peterson, described in Variety as "a bright teenager whose well-intentioned efforts to legitimize the gay and lesbian cause in her high school by establishing a caucus provoked a backlash in conservative Utah."

Out of the Past as a title seemed uncannily apt to this reviewer because friends' voices from my own past, including that of one of the documentary's foremost stars, Barbara Gittings (see GayToday archives, People, June 23, '97 ) called to explain that staff writer, Randolfe Wicker would be accompanying her (along with her lover, Kay Tobin Lahusen) to the premiere. She hoped, she said, that Wicker might review Out of the Past for GayToday.

Wicker, who was the first openly gay man to appear on radio and television (1962), said he was presently too caught up in cloning activism to write such a review. Instead, he offered, he'd provide GayToday with a telephone review, leaving it to this editor to arrange his thoughts. Fair enough, R.W.

Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen traveled from the Philadelphia area on the day of the premiere, meeting Wicker at his antique lighting store in Greenwich Village. The three pioneers went from there to the screening. Wicker reported on the movie thusly:

"Out of the Past is the most touching, brilliant gay and lesbian documentary ever made. It ties together both old and young generations of gay people showing the common thread of our historic human struggle.

"It tells an exciting and entertaining story without becoming preachy.

"This film has the unique advantage over all other gay documentaries made to date of having vibrant, professional, on-scene coverage of events in Utah as they actually unfold.

"The televised news clips of the politicians show them behaving like a bunch of outlandish clowns. The live coverage of all the heterosexual high school students storming out of the school and marching on the state capitol to protest the banning of all clubs and activities—because politicians couldn't figure out any other way to ban the straight and gay alliance meetings—captured the real excitement of the conflict.

"Kelli Peterson is an exceptionally articulate and likable lead character. Her personal life and relations with family and lover are tastefully handled.

"The final scene in the movie in which the older lesbian couple, Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen ride down Fifth Avenue at the head of New York's 1997 gay pride parade, with Kelli Peterson and her friend walking hand in hand behind, created an enormously touching emotional response in the audience.

"Kelli Peterson emerges in Out of the Past as a new star in the movement and Barbara Gittings is finally recognized as being the great national treasure and gay icon she's spent her life becoming."

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