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50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 review - no better place in the world to be gay? | reviews, news & interviews

50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 review - no better place in the world to be gay?

50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 review - no better place in the world to be gay?

Sparkly snapshot of Britain 50 years after homosexuality was decriminalised

Rupert Everett, no fan of marriage in whatever form

It’s half a century since homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales, so who better to cast his gaze over the lie of the land than stately homo Rupert Everett? The accomplished actor (and even finer diarist) started as he meant to go on in 50 Shades of Gay by disappearing down a manhole in Manchester. His mission? To relive the heady days of “cottaging” – sex in public conveniences – with a former copper whose job it was to catch men at it. And not a single mention of dear, departed George Michael.

Cruising was a dangerous pursuit that could lead to exposure and ruin. Nevertheless some old queens – including designer Nicky Haslam (pictured below) and other habitués of the Coleherne Arms (now The Pembroke) in Earl’s Court – decried its passing and the wholesale exodus into the virtual world of Grindr. Young Rupert had a friend who lived right next door to the pub. Now that was a true convenience.

50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 Some may wear pink-tinted spectacles – wax nostalgic about a sense of real community, recall a time when being gay was something rare and strange – but Rupert proved a clear-eyed guide. His mother, only half joking, once told him: “I’ll kill you if you’re queer.” No fan of marriage in whatever form (gay weddings became legal in 2013) he made that shameless self-publicist Paul Burrell squirm when he asked on the eve of his second marriage: “Was civil partnership not enough?” The former royal butler – flashing the cufflinks that Princess Diana had made for him – clearly didn’t take his wedding vows too seriously when he married his first partner, a woman he met in the Queen’s bedroom. His new husband should be worried. Burrell wants to have his cock and eat it.

So how far does mainstream acceptance of homosexuality stretch? Hollyoaks, the teen soap, may feature storylines of polymorphous perversity, but Jamaican rappers still bang on about “batty boys”. Jai’Rouge, a gay Jamaican, ensures his own lyrics that celebrate his sexuality make his critics choke. DJ Fat Tony, a survivor of crystal meth addiction, worries that young men under queer peer pressure still feel the need to get pumped up on steroids and do as many drugs (and men) as they can. Fortunately that’s not everybody’s idea of Heaven. 

Lord Browne, who resigned from BP after being outed by the Mail on Sunday, said that today two thirds of graduates who are out at university go back into the closet when they enter the City. However, he was heartened by the response of the general public to his predicament. 

50 Shades of Gay, Channel 4 This was by no means an odyssey into negativity. There was a hilarious sequence in which Rupert met Steve, a hunky gay carpenter in Southend, and tried to shock his colleagues by asking them if they know Steve was “bent”. Time and again the message seemed to be “live and let live” – unless you’re an old buffoon called Bernard Ingham (left), Maggie Thatcher’s former henchman, offended that Hebden Bridge in his own beloved Yorkshire is known as the “lesbian capital of Britain”. 

Twin mums and happy children, a transsexual teashop owner and his/her wife, all attested to the mill town being “the best of modern Britain”. Indeed Rupert concluded – although coming out can still be a painful process, and there’s no getting away from the fact that queers will always be in a minority – there is no better place in the world to be gay. 

As the Book of Genesis in Polari (old gay slang) puts it: “And Gloria cackled, Let there be sparkle: and there was sparkle.”

Young Rupert had a friend who lived right next door to the Coleherne Arms. Now that was a true convenience

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