The Documentary Film, The Sons of Tennessee Williams, at the Art Theatre of Long Beach
2011-03-08 · By Editor
The Sons of Tennessee Williams is a documentary about the gay men of New Orleans who created a vast and fantastic culture of “drag balls” starting in the late 1950s. These men worked with the traditions of Mardi Gras to bring gay culture into public settings in the early 1960s.
They staged a flamboyant, costumed revolution without politics or violence and won freedoms during a time, just as now, when laws and people fought against them.
By 1969, there were four gay Mardi Gras krewes, legally chartered by the state of Louisiana and they succeeded in bringing down the “Jim Crow” laws that targeted gay people for offenses such as public assembly, same-sex dancing and cross-dressing.
THIS IS AN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS STORY.
One interviewee notes that it used to be that “Mardi Gras was the only time by law in New Orleans you could cross-dress. Any other time you were subject to arrest.” By the late 1960s, tickets to the drag balls hosted by these legally chartered krewes were a must-have item. The this film by director Tim Wolff considers the 1950s “crime against nature” crackdown, a time when police shut down clubs, published the names of those they found inside and cultivated a gay-bashing spirit that culminated in at least one murder for which the accused was acquitted.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a group of middle-age and senior men strutting around in a swirl of sequins, feathers, rhinestones and duct tape. Interweaving archival footage with contemporary interviews — in the great tradition of films such as The Queen, Paris is Burning and The Cockettes — The Sons of Tennessee Williams charts the evolution of drag and politics in the gay Mardi Gras krewe scene.
Seven years before the first rock was thrown at Stonewall, the gay krewes began throwing lavish balls as a send up of their straight society counterparts and have since become a powerful force in city politics.
These men are the embodiment of the archetypal “southern bachelor gentleman”, complete with the cast-iron fortitude. Their story will reveal the pathos of the early persecutions and arrests to the uncommon freedoms in the decades that followed. We will hear of AIDS emptying Krewe rosters in the 1980s and eventually, the experiences during and after Katrina. They have more than a few stories to tell.
New Orleans was the first place in America where gay and straight people came together to publicly recognize gay culture.
A film by Tim Wolff.
Showtime: 9:00PM Tickets: $11.00 $10.00 in advance Call: 562.438.5435
Art Theatre of Long Beach is located at 2025 East 4th St. Long Beach, CA 90804
Artful Thinking Organization is a Long Beach, California based 501(c)(3) non profit that engages in artful activities related to educating the public about HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer as well as providing prevention program information on these two very important health issues through community based events.