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Performing Arts History & Criticism

L.A. Plays Itself/Boys in the Sand

A Queer Film Classic

by (author) Cindy Patton

series edited by Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hays

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2014
History & Criticism, Pornography, Gay Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2014
    List Price

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A Queer Film Classic on two groundbreaking gay films from the early 1970s, both of which exemplify the growing liberalization of social attitudes toward sex and homosexuality in post-Stonewall America. L.A. Plays Itself and Boys in the Sand were both gay art house porn films released within months of each other at a theatre in New York in 1972. L.A. Plays Itself, directed by Fred Halsted, is a dark treatise on violence and urban squalor featuring hustlers and vagrants that reveals the City of Angels' dark side; Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, meanwhile, is its sunny flipside, about a young man's sexual adventures at a gay beach resort community. Both films represent particular, polarizing moments in the early history of the gay movement.

Cindy Patton discusses the historical context of these films and their legal and social ramifications, as well as other films that were produced during this crucial period in cinematic history.

QUEER FILM CLASSICS is a critically acclaimed book series that launched in 2009, edited by Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays, covering some of the most important and influential films about and/or by LBTQ people made between 1950 and 2005, and written by leading LGBTQ film scholars and critics.

About the authors

Cindy Patton is a longtime activist and scholar who has written extensively about social and political dimensions of the AIDS epidemic. She is currently Professor of Sociology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. She lives in Vancouver.

Cindy Patton's profile page

Thomas Waugh is the award-winning author or co-author of numerous books, including five for Arsenal Pulp Press: Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed, Montreal Main: A Queer Film Classic (with Jason Garrison), Comin' At Ya! (with David L. Chapman) and Gay Art: A Historic Collection (with Felix Lance Falkon). His other books include Hard to Imagine, The Fruit Machine, and The Romance of Transgression. He teaches film studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where he lives. He has published widely on political discourses and sexual representation in film and video, on lesbian and gay film and video, and has more recently undertaken interdisciplinary research and teaching on AIDS. He is also the founder and former coordinator of the Minor Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality at Concordia.

In addition to the titles below, Thomas is also co-editor (with Matthew Hays) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Thomas Waugh's profile page

Matthew Hays is a Montreal-based critic, author, film festival programmer, and university instructor. He is the co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of Arsenal Pulp's Queer Film Classics series. He has been a film critic and reporter for the weekly Montreal Mirror since 1993. His first book, The View from Here: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers (Arsenal Pulp Press), was cited by Quill & Quire as one of the best books of 2007 and won a 2008 Lambda Literary Award. His articles have appeared in a broad range of publications, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Vice, The Walrus, The Advocate, The Toronto Star, The International Herald Tribune, Cineaste, Cineaction, Quill & Quire, This Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Canadian Screenwriter, and Xtra!. He teaches courses in journalism, communication studies and film studies at Concordia University, where he received his MA in communication studies in 2000. A two-time nominee for a National Magazine Award, Hays received the 2013 Concordia President's Award for Teaching Excellence. .
Matthew is also co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Matthew Hays' profile page

Editorial Reviews

When a leading writer on the cultural politics of AIDS asks us to take gay male porn films of the 1970s on their own terms as radical visual and political experiments and not simply nostalgic pre-AIDS, pre-condoms sexual representations, we need to pay attention, especially when that writer is Cindy Patton. Her original analyses are revelatory and counterintuitive, rewriting the history of both sex and film.
-Constance Penley, co-editor of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure

Constance Penley

Cindy Patton tells the story of 1970s gay pornography on its own terms, arguing that the tendency to look back on these works as an archive of condomless sex is to miss what is most interesting about them. Patton frames Boys in the Sand and L.A. Plays Itself as both aesthetic experiments and as communiques about changing sexual mores. She urges contemporary readers not to look back on the pre-AIDS era as a time when "sex was not risky" but rather as "that actual time when gay men defined for themselves what risk is and how it should be addressed." A riveting account of gay sexual culture in the 70s from one of our foremost experts in the history of sexuality. -Heather Love, author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

Heather Love

In an era when sexual imagery is a tap away by smartphone, Cindy Patton's book recaptures the turning point when Fred Halsted and Wakefield Poole ushered in a new form of gay erotic visibility. Influenced by gay liberation, while navigating through a tough social and legal context, Patton shows how these two iconic films paved the way for contemporary visions of how to be gay. -Barry D. Adam, University of Windsor

Barry D. Adam

Cindy Patton dives into the queer archive to celebrate the sexual culture of the pre-AIDS 1970s gay world. Through her excavation, we're reminded that the periodicals and porn of that era represent powerful ideas that have not been erased by the requirements of equality. -Chris Bartlett, Executive Director, William Way LGBT Community Center (Philadelphia)

Chris Bartlett

Imagine going back in time to gay New York or LA in the early 1970s when queers were really queer -- when sex involved a wider range of acts and roles, homosexuals understood that being an outlaw might also mean being free, cruising was exciting and risk more pleasurable? When porn was experimental, hot and just bizarre? We can't go back, but we get close when Cindy Patton, an expert guide to that period's sexual expression, offers a tour de force overview of the social, aesthetic, and erotic histories of the classics of gay porn films Boys in the Sand and L.A. Plays Itself. Patton does more than open our eyes to an important episode in gay film history, she revives a period alive to the inventiveness of sex and its representations, and she does so in an accessible, often witty and always insightful style that makes this a most enjoyable and fascinating read. - Christopher Castiglia, co-author of If Memory Serves: Gay Men, AIDS, and the Promise of the Queer Past

Christopher Castiglia

Other titles by Thomas Waugh

Other titles by Matthew Hays