Pictured: Sonny & Cher's costumes
Due to its success with visitors, the Hollywood Museum has recently announced that its popular Reel to Reel: Portrayals and Perceptions of Gays in Hollywood exhibit has been extended through September 28. Launched in June to coincide with Pride month, the eclectic exhibit includes photos, costumes, props, memorabilia, and iconic imagery as it explores how the gay community has been portrayed in Hollywood from early caricatures to more modern, nuanced approaches.
"We wanted to show how film lags behind television when it comes to representation of gay characters," says Bob Pranga, the curator of the exhibit, who known to many as Dr. Christmas for his Christmas decorations in the Los Angeles area. "TV also has a lot more diversity. Our TV displays cross a lot of racial lines; whereas film is pretty white."
Pranga said he had only two weeks, a very short timeframe, to organize the exhibit, instead of the typical six months. The museum now plans to make a gay-themed exhibit part of its annual summer lineup.
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Highlights include current items from HBO's 2014 adaptation of The Normal Heart to the items from 1972's The Corner Bar, the first television series to feature a recurring gay character, Peter Panama. "People always think it's Billy Crystal in Soap," says Pranga, "But it was actually Vincent Schiavelli in Corner Bar."
Pranga's proud to have scored the first tuxedo costumes from Days of Our Lives’ gay wedding (the first in television history), along with a pink coffin from True Blood designed by set decorator Ron Franco to look like a Chanel handbag, Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s on-set chairs from the film’s production along with his Oscar for best screenplay, and a cocktail dress belonging to LGBT and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor. Although Pranga couldn't get his hands on the shirts worn by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (they are on loan to another museum), the exhibit does include highlights from Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain, and Modern Family. "Everyone we reached out to was very generous."
As for Pranga's favorites? "I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic," Pranga admits. "I am sentimental over objects from [films] Big Eden and Edge of Seventeen; things that jog a childhood memory."
The Hollywood Museum, which claims to have the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world, is housed in the old Max Factor building near Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Although this exhibit is dedicated to gay, many of the exhibits—such as the current one focused on The Emmys—contain important items and memorabilia that reverberate with the LGBT community. As Pranga explains: "It's always pretty gay around here."
The famous sign at Barney's Beanery, a bar and eatery in West Hollywood
(Top 40 Gay Films / Norman Bucley)