Gays are always fashionably late, and I am no exception, as
I pay tribute to that cult classic The
Gay Deceivers long after Gay Pride month as come and gone. Released in
1969, this daring-for-its time comedy starred boyish Kevin Coughlin as Danny a
preppy 22 year-old with a steady girlfriend (Brooke Bundy) and handsome Larry
Casey as Elliot a ladies man and lifeguard who get drafted. To avoid being sent
the friends pretend to be lovers who desperately want to serve their
country.Their ruse works and they are
denied entry but knowing the army officer (Jack Starrett) at the draft board
will be watching, the duo shack up in a one bedroom apartment in a swinging gay
complex and try to convince their landlord Malcolm (Michael Greer), his partner
(Sebastian Brook), and the resident stud (Christopher Riordan) that they are homosexuals
while keeping Danny’s family and Elliot’s paramours in the dark.But things get thorny especially when Elliot,
at the landlord’s costume party, takes a woman to bed not realizing it’s a guy
in drag.A frustrated drunken Elliot then
starts a fight in a gay bar, which is witnessed by Danny and his unsuspecting
girlfriend leading to further complications and a surprise ending.
Viewing the film nowadays, The Gay Deceivers (produced by Joe Solomon and directed by Bruce
Kessler) is a bit dated with stereotypical gay characters and plays like an
elongated episode of Love, American Style.But in its time this was very daring and trail
blazing.Director Bruce Kessler takes a
sincere approach and knows his audience even giving them glimpses of blonde
Larry Casey’s fine naked behind.With
the hubbub today about gay marriage, it is quite surprising that for a movie
made in the late Sixties Greer and Brook‘s relationship is treated respectfully
and not poked fun at.They come off as
the typical wacky married next-door-neighbors found on any TV sitcom at the
time.Even the gay bar scene is toned
down and not played over-the-top.The
actors all do a surprisingly good job but Greer’s flamboyant queen act becomes
tiresome after about five minutes.
Actor Christopher Riordan who plays Duane was a busy dancing
actor throughout the Sixties. A single father, he took job after job to earn a
living to support his son.Extremely
handsome with an All-American look and persona, Riordan appeared in practically
every beach and Elvis movie from 1964 through 1967 while juggling bit roles in
big budget studio productions and TV shows.The widely varied films he worked on during this period include Viva Las Vegas, My Fair Lady, Get Yourself a
College Girl, A Swingin’ Summer, The Girls on the Beach, Von Ryan’s Express,
Ski Party, The Loved One, Tickle Me, The Glory Guys, How to Stuff a Wild
Bikini, Village of the Giants, Made in Paris, The Glass Bottom Boat, Hot Rods
to Hell, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Clambake, and Camelot.His dancing prowess
got him noticed especially when Fred Astaire hand picked him to dance with
Barrie Chase on TV’s The Hollywood Palace.This led Christopher to being also being hired as assistant
choreographer on a number of movies.However, as was the way back then, he rarely received screen credit
though he finally got on-screen recognition for Fireball 500.
By the late Sixties, Riordan had outlasted a number of the dancing
beach boys and directors began casting him in bigger roles due to his talent
and professionalism.The Gay Deceivers in 1969 was the first
followed by Beyond the Valley of the
Dolls and The Curious Female. Christopher
is still working today.Most recently,
he made guest appearances on the TV comedies House of Carters and Ugly
Betty and performs his cabaret act at AIDS benefits in the Los Angeles area.
Christopher Riordan in the swingin' 70s
How did you get cast in The
Bruce Kessler originally had me in mind for Larry Casey's
part. In those days, I was very buff. I
shocked everyone when I opted for the part of Duane.
Why did you choose the smaller supporting role over the
Even after my agent described the part of the lifeguard, I
thought it was boring; and that was before even being able to read any of the
'sides'. I had spent so many years in a bathing suit, in all those AIP beach
party movies that I just didn't see any fulfillment in playing that part. I
also knew that there were many actors in consideration for it. That is, until
it became known what the movie was about. Indeed, a lot of actors shied away
from this script.
Also, I had always
considered myself to be a 'character actor.' I didn't enjoy playing the
'handsome leading man.' For one thing, I never considered myself that handsome.
Now, when I look at old pictures, or films, I say to myself, ‘Oh, that kid was
pretty good looking.’ Now, I understand why they were always trying to put me
into that 'boring' category.
What was Bruce Kessler’s reaction?
He was shocked and I don't think he was going for it. So I
went home, did some shopping, and returned to his office the next day or
so.Bruce took one look at me, and
seemed astonished at the transformation. He then said, ‘If you really want it,
then that part [of Duane] is yours.’My
thinking was, and I was right; that this role would be a stand out—Duane and
Malcolm would be the parts that one remembers.
Do you think the producer and director treated the material
Joe Solomon was a real character—typical producer. I'm sure
he was exploiting the whole idea. Bruce Kessler, on the other hand, took all of
this very seriously and really wanted to do a good film. He ended up as one of
my favorite directors.
Why did Bruce Kessler impress you so?
Because it was how well Bruce, the crew, etc. were treating
me. They seemed to respect the years of experience that I brought to the table.
I recall Bruce applauding when I made my entrance. It was my first shot. I told
him, ‘I have an idea....’ He said, ‘Good, do it. Don't tell me, I'll go along.’
Obviously, I brought a lot more to the part than what was written on the page. But
I also wanted to be very careful [with my performance], as I knew, one day, my
son would see this movie.Bruce was so
thrilled at my delivery that he called my agent and told her, ‘I'm giving
Christopher single card billing along with the leads.’ She was excited at that,
and frankly, so was I.
Did Kevin Coughlin or Larry Casey show any reservations
about taking the lead roles?
Kevin was a really lovely guy. He too, took it all very
seriously, and wanted to do a good film. I'll never understand why Larry took
the part. He was truly spooked the
I'm sure Larry Casey is/was a very nice man. I know he was a
husband and a father, and that he had been a regular on The Rat Patrol.In his
defense, as I mentioned, I thought his part was very dull and I don't think he
had the charisma, or the understanding, to pull it off.Throughout the entire shoot he seemed to be
drowning. I felt that nothing he did actually connected. I know that Kevin was
always trying to work on their scenes together, but Casey never picked up the subtle hints. I hate to say it, but I don't
think I ever worked with an actor that I got less from, than Larry Casey. A
life-size photo might have been more affective. It was painful, during the
party scene. So much more could have been done with that.
What do you recall about Michael Greer who played the one of
This was the second of three films I did with Michael who was
openly gay. He loved what I was doing with my role, and stole my adlib of
"Miss Thing" for his act—and, ever after, I think. We were encouraged
to add things if we thought they might work.However, Michael tended to 'take over' the directing of some scenes especially
the party scene moving people around and giving them bits of business.In regards to Casey, I recall him rolling his
eyes and muttering, ‘Where did they
find this guy?’ He even said to me, ‘You poor thing—you have to act like you're
attracted to him.’ Michael was very direct.
I don't think he and Bruce Kessler ended up on the best of
terms. Michael was definitely trying to make his mark and he did offend some
people. Not me though, until about five years later, during one of his live
performances.He introduced every one of
his actor friends in the audience except me. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, he’s saving
me for last.’ He wasn’t. I just shrugged his slight off.
Do you recall the reaction of the fans when the movie was
released? It was a box office hit.
Indeed, I was at the premiere. Somewhere, I have a shot of
the huge line, going all around the block, lining up to see this film. My
entrance got a huge hand, with much shouting and foot stomping. I think it let
the audience know it was all OK to laugh at all of this. I was then only
offered the same kind of roles for ages. In fact, Dominick Dunne and I had a
bit of a fight over my turning down a part of a hustler in his movie, Play It as It Lays.
They brought the movie back every summer for a few years.
Then, it seemed to disappear. It was
ages before it became available on video.By the way, I was also told that the rental prints (16mm) often came
back with my entrance, and my billing, missing—sort of 'early days of Rewind',
no?It got so that they had to run the
film when it was returned. If those scenes were excised, the customer was told
to either return the missing footage, or pay.