My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sexplosion by Robert Hofler was about the taboos that were broken, on stage, screen, and the page, in the 5 year span from 1968 to 1973. Those were my teenage years, and many of the films, plays, and books that Hofler profiles in Sexplosion were ones that had a profound impact on my development as a writer and philosopher. In particular, the films: Clockwork Orange, Trash, and Performance.
1968 was such a turbulent year. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy happened that year. There were riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Lyndon Johnson would not seek another term, and they ended up nominating Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who lost to Nixon.
At the Summer Olympics two Black Athletes raised their fists in protest, after winning the gold and bronze medals, as the Star Spangled Banner played.
The Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and as it passed over the hitherto unseen dark side, astronaut Lovell announced to the world, “Houston, please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”
On “Star Trek” in an episode entitled “Plato’s Stepchildren,” Enterprise Captain James Kirk, a white man played by William Shatner, was telekinetically forced to kiss Nichelle Nichols’ character, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, a black woman.
North Korea captured the Navy ship the Pueblo, and in Viet Nam the Tet Offensive began.
In music, Rock was really getting big, and the Woodstock festival was in 1968.
In the Art World, Valarie Solanas shot Andy Warhol on June 3, 1968. Talk about harsh critics!
As if that weren’t enough, my brother Kevin was born that year, on January 5th, 1968.
Sexplosion explores these turbulent years, with a focus, as I have stated previously, on the taboos that were broken in films, plays, books, and films. Robert Hofler zeroes in on the gay aspects, a little more than I’d like–NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT! After all, that was a big part of what was going on. The Stonewall Riots began on Jun 28, 1969 and continued until Jul 1, 1969. What happened was, with the news of the death of Judy Garland on June 22, 1969, the Gay community held an extended wake at the Gay bars in Greenwich Village, but it was illegal for homosexuals to drink alcohol, so the police started raiding the bars. These police raids were routine. It was illegal to be Gay in public back then. This was par for the course back then, but when one brave lesbian broke away and bolted, rather than be thrown in the paddy wagon, the sympathetic crowd cheered and began pelting the police with bricks, rocks, and debris. Things escalated, leading to a stand off. Surrender, Dorothy!
My beef with Hofler is that he over dramatizes the Gay stuff. Yes, I said it. Hofler is a Drama Queen! For instance, he puts Lance Loud up on a pedestal, and while he no doubt was brave and set an example for a lot of Gay youth by appearing in the reality program, An American Family, Hofler kind of places him as the cherry on the cake of all that happened. He makes the point that Lance Loud and Edie Sedgewick are the only Warhol superstars that had films made about them. But what about Valerie Solanas, who wrote the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and shot Andy Warhol on June 3rd, 1968? They made a movie in 1996 about her called I Shot Andy Warhol, starring Lili Taylor as Valerie.
Other than those minor quibbles I really enjoyed Sexplosion. I finished it in only 2 days, and was riveted the whole time, except of course those times I mentioned when I was rolling my eyes. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there about Women in Love, based on the book by D.H. Lawrence, directed by Ken Russell, a film called The Devils, based on a book by Aldous Huxley and directed by Ken Russell, and another film, called The Damned, about decadent Nazis, directed by Luchino Visconti. Gore Vidal made the best seller lists with his novel, Myra Breckenridge, but the film, starring Raquel Welch and Mae West, was a flop. Barbarella, Candy, Midnight Cowboy, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Deep Throat, and Last Tango in Paris are dished about. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth and Couples by John Updike are some of the books that came out in this time period. In the theater, there was Oh, Calcutta!, Hair, and Boys in the Band. To bring this review full circle, after meandering somewhere over the rainbow, the title of The Boys in the Band was taken from something James Mason said to Judy Garland in A Star is Born:
“You’re playing for yourself and the boys in the band.”