BOYS FOR RENT – THE LATE 1990S RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE TO GAY HOLLYWOOD
Written by Michael R. Barnard, filmmaker.
Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood
The past is coming back to haunt several people in Hollywood. The last years of the previous century—the late 1990s—are being relived by victims, abusers, and those who were merely in the environment of that time. Those were days when teenage boys wandered the streets of Hollywood willing to, or coerced into, trading sex for stardom or survival or both.
New lawsuits filed recently allege traumatic sexual abuse of minor boys at Hollywood sex parties of that era, trauma that has led to suicidal despair for victims. Those named in the lawsuits include powerful Hollywood directors and executives, most famous of whom is Bryan Singer, director of “The Usual Suspects” and several X-Men movies, including the current “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” (Those accusations are dissolving in a sea of lies and contradictions by the accuser; see “Judge Scolds Hollywood Sex Accuser for Lying in Court.”)
Hollywood is, of course, a state of mind more than a literal neighborhood. (Hollywood fought a losing battle to become a city separate from Los Angeles during that same era.)
In the late 1990s, the streets—particularly Santa Monica Boulevard—were filled with boys, many under 18, seeking older men for money and maybe stardom. There were two distinct territories: the Hollywood end of the boulevard, essentially La Brea Avenue to Vine Street, for boys hanging out on street corners trying to turn tricks in order to pay for food and shelter, and the West Hollywood end of the boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Robertson Boulevard.
Cross over La Brea Avenue into West Hollywood (West Hollywood became a separate city back in 1984), and the boys were slightly different—a little less desperate and a little more driven. These often were hustlers who had that certain “something” that drives someone to try to become a star. Boy’s Town, as it is known by anyone who spent any time near the intersection of San Vicente Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, was closer to being the “dream factory” that is often ascribed to Hollywood.
In Boy’s Town, some minors were as driven by dreams of stardom as they were by the need to survive. Eager and attractive boys hanging out around Boy’s Town could easily find themselves whisked away to fancy parties in the Hollywood Hills, rubbing elbows with Hollywood luminaries such as David Geffen, Garth Ancier, Bryan Singer, Marc Collins-Rector, and other star makers.
It was around this time that Michael Ovitz, famous for his meteoric rise with CAA and equally famous crash-and-burn with Disney, blamed his fall in part on this culture he infamously called “the gay mafia” running Hollywood. These were powerful people.
Collins-Rector was a notorious sexual abuser. Boys who wanted to become stars accused him and others who ran the promising new Digital Entertainment Network, an early attempt to create star-studded entertainment programming on the Internet, of abuse. DEN was one of those Internet rising star companies that disintegrated when the “dot-com bubble” burst at the turn of the century.
Boys had stories about Collins-Rector, claiming he told them they had to sleep with him if they ever wanted to have a career in Hollywood. He was accused of drugging some, who would awaken the next morning naked in Collins-Rector’s bed.
His high-profile appetite for sexually using minors led to lawsuits for millions of dollars. Losing the suits, Collins-Rector and others from DEN fled the country. Other star makers who were in the same era and environment as Collins-Rector faced similar accusations back at the turn of the century and even now in 2014.
Meanwhile, in the late 1990s, the Hollywood end of Santa Monica Boulevard was littered with boys who were not likely targets for powerful star makers. These boys, standing on street corners and sitting on bus benches hoping to attract the attention of older men, were often trying to survive, to find a way to buy food and find a safe place to sleep.
These boys ended up on the streets for different reasons. Many had such low self-esteem that they figured being paid for sex was a sign of value as a human being. Other boys fled their homes or were tossed from their homes because they were gay and their parents—usually the father—despised gays.
These boys, on the streets even when shivering on cold nights or drenched in rain—after all, the late 1990s was a time before hooking up online became the standard, back when we found sex the old-fashioned way: on street corners—would climb into the cars of strangers, hoping to earn some cash from a sexual encounter. These boys never knew how safe or unsafe any car, any driver might be.
These were the boys who were not invited to the parties of the rich and powerful in the Hollywood Hills, who did not have the sparkle of a possible star or of a sexual conquest worth bragging about the next day.
These were boys who were thrown away by people important to them and used by people unknown to them.
Boys, especially gay boys, have always been thrown away, of course, and still are.
In 2007, James “came out” to his father. That father then handwrote a letter and mailed it to James. In it, the father told his son, “Don’t expect further communications with me. No communications at all. I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house.” He added, “If you choose not to attend my funeral, my friends and family will understand” and closed by saying, “Goodbye, Dad.”
More dramatic was the father, a school board member, who reacted to the publicity in 2010 about the rise in gay teen suicides. He posted on Facebook, “Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide.” He enjoys the fact “they” give each other AIDS and die. With grammar that destroys the illusion of a school board member, this father also destroys the illusion of family by going on to say, “I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.”
A movie focusing on the dramatic tales of these boys and of a father who threw one out is going into production.
Filmmaker Michael R. Barnard’s indie feature film screenplay “EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE—The Story of a Father and Son” follows a man who made wrong choices like these when he found out his son is gay. It is set in 1998 in the environment of boys on the streets of Hollywood struggling to survive, the environment that is still fresh in the minds of victims and abusers and passersby. The story, fiction but based on facts, follows the life-and-death consequences of this father’s bad actions.
This man, his name is John, comes to realize his error and fights hard to correct it when he discovers his son may have been killed by a serial killer. The movie is a thrilling reality-based tale of a man who must change himself in order to save his son’s life.
Written by Barnard and to be directed by him, the movie seeks production partners and financing from Hollywood as a full-length feature film for theatrical release.