Forget Fire Island in the ’70s! The real hot spot was Missouri in the ’40s.
Back in the mid-’90s, St. Louis filmmaker Geoff Story purchased two old film canisters at an estate sale held at the home of the late Buddy Walton, St. Louis’ “hairdresser to the stars,” St. Louis Public Radio reports. The films turned out to be home movies of a wild gay pool party shot in 1945.
According to surviving relatives of the attendees, Walton and his partner, Sam Micatto, were known for hosting frequent poolside shindigs in the tiny town of Hillsboro, despite the fact that homosexuality was illegal.
“These men are still in their 20s in the sun, swimming, like they always will,” Story says. “There’s a real sweet pain, and when you watch it, there’s a happiness but you can’t believe it’s so long ago and you can’t touch it—it’s gone.”
The home movies also show a uniformed World War II soldier kissing another man. “There was such a beauty in that moment,” adds the gay filmmaker. “I kind of couldn’t believe I was seeing it.”
It wasn’t until last year that Story finally had the films digitized. Joined by Beth Prusaczyk, he is now incorporating the rare footage into a documentary feature, Gay Home Movie, about gay life in the ’40s and ’50s.
Story and Prusaczyk are currently interviewing the families and friends of the men seen in the films, but so far they have not located any living party guests.
The doc has already attracted the interest of out Hollywood executive Brian Graden, former head of programming at Logo. “What are the chances someone would go to an estate sale and pick up these canisters of old footage?” Graden says. “It’s almost like these men are trying to talk to us from beyond the grave.”