Nigel WThis corking episode of the London Weekend Television series Gay Life celebrates the opening of Heaven nightclub by exploring what the capital’s scene has to offer gay men of all persuasions. George Melly, gay in his younger years we’re told, is wowed by the new disco mecca: “People can do whatever they want, or at least make arrangements to do it later”. But tensions between emerging factions – the “camp” drag show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern versus “masc” Earl’s Court leather scene – dominate the programme. “I think it’s really pathetic” smirks soon-to-be pop star and genderqueer trailblazer Marilyn, in response to the leather queens’ desperation to be accepted as “real men”.
Though much progress has been made, such unhelpfully polarising struggles with identity and sexuality still pervade the gay scene. To its credit the programme does acknowledge that lesbians were barely catered for by the swathe of new venues opening – one explanation being they were generally earning less than their gay male counterparts. Produced by LWT’s Minorities Unit, Gay Life was the UK’s first dedicated LGBT TV series. Broadcast to the London region late on Sunday nights, the series ran from February to March 1980, with a second series following in the summer of 1981.