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January 13, 1989 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT



Torch Song Trilogy

Continued from preceding page

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64

be going against his grain. He
wants what his parents had.
He wants that marriage. He
is thinking of it not so much
in religious terms, but rather
as ritual."
Jewish ritual no longer
plays a role in Fierstein's life
even though he grew up in a
very traditional Jewish home,
had a bar mitzvah, sang in a
professional boys' choir and
attended Talmud school every
day for three hours after
public school.
At what point did Fierstein
decide to reject Judaism?
"When I started becoming a
feminist! I had all these
girlfriends in school that had
to sit separately from the boys
and I didn't like it."
"The only thing that makes
sense to me about the Jewish
religion," he says, "is that you
never run into a Jew thinks
he knows exactly what the Bi-
ble says. Jews spend their
lives studying the Bible,
reading it, re-translating it,
re-reading it, and at least ad-
mitting they don't know if it
means anything at all.
Whereas in most other
religions they read an
English translation and they
think they know. Except that
you can't possibly admire a
religion as sexist and as
homophobic as the Jewish
religion."
Fierstein became more ani-
mated talking about his own
community in New York.
"The gay civil rights bill was
held back by the Chasidic

mmo

Harvey Fierstein stars as Arnold Beckoff in the new film, Torch Song

Trilogy.

community for so long that
the Catholic Church just laid
back and giggled at the
Chasids beating us into the
ground."
He continued on the
political front: "What the
Jews in this country still don't
realize is that there are five
times more gay people than
there are Jews. If people can
keep us from having our civil
rights then it's five times
easier to keep Jews from hav-
ing theirs."
Not only does Feirstein
pride himself on his honesty,

he plays no favorites when it
comes to handing out demer-
its. "We all know that the
worst homophobia comes
from the gay community.
There's no gay pride, only gay
shame. Either you are comfor-
table with who you are or you
are ashamed of it."

As a fitting coda, Fierstein
concludes, "I hope I have gay
pride but more importantly I
am comfortable. More impor-
tantly, I am normal, and I am
not ashamed of being nor-
mal."



Fierstein's Vision Met
In New 'Torch Song' Film

There is a parlor game often
played at parties where par-
ticipants are asked to choose
between two desirable items.
The catch is you can have one
only at the exclusion of the
other. Wealth or health?
Fame or fortune? These are
two popular examples. One
other dyad, however, crops up
frequently and invariably
causes the most difficulty —
love or respect.
Arnold Beckoff, the hero of
Torch Song Trilogy, wants
both. In course of this finely
wrought film based on the
original play, Harvey Fier-
stein (who plays Arnold and
wrote both the play and the
film script) earns the love and
respect of his fellow
characters and of his
audience.
This is no small task for
anyone to accomplish. But for
Arnold life is a bit more com-
plicated. He leads an openly
gay lifestyle and makes his
living as a female imper-

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 1989

.40.11WINOMMOMINSIONIewourrommsoimPir.--

sonator — "Virginia Hamn"
— who specializes in torch
songs. Not the kind of son a
typical Jewish mother
dreams of having! Therein
lies the crux of much of Ar-
nold's angst in this film,
which opens Jan. 20 at the
Maple Theater here.
In the opening sequence the
camera hovers over the roof-
tops of Brooklyn in 1952 and
zooms into an apartment.
Mrs. Beckoff is looking for her
young son and finally finds
him in her closet dressed in
her clothes with a sloppy
patch of red lipstick smeared
across his mischievous smile.
The rest of the film follows
Beckoff through nine years of
his life beginning with 1971
as he: acquires a confused
bisexual lover (Brian Kerwin)
who marries a woman; meets
and moves in with a hand-
some gay model (Matthew
Broderick) who is murdered
by homophobic punks; adopts
a 15-year-old boy and regains

Kerwin who has broken up
with his wife.
Anne Bancroft imbues Ar-
nold's prototypical Jewish
mother, Mrs. Beckoff, with
every Brooklyn-accented,
Yiddish-sprinkled and arm-
waving bit of assistance she
can to help flesh out
something that will exceed

For Arnold life is a
bit more
complicated. He
leads an openly
gay lifestyle and
makes his living as
a female
impersonator.

the caricature we all bring to
this role. But Fierstein has
complicated Bancroft's task
by painting Mrs. Beckoff in
the broad predictable strokes
that make her the queen of
putdowns and ironic sarcasm.
Beckoff: "I'm on my feet Dad-

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