Matt Baume On Edith Bunker & Gay Marriage [VIDEO]

In one of his best clips yet, Matt Baume takes us back to a night in television and gay history that happened 38 years ago today. He writes: “When did gay partners become a part of the family on TV? October 9, 1977. That’s the night CBS aired an All in the Family episode entitled “Cousin Liz,” which in just a half hour did three amazing things: it showed America that they could have queer family members. It depicted what may be TV’s first gay marriage. And oh yeah it may have changed the course of an election.”

  • Todd20036

    All in the Family was SO far ahead of its time on social issues, that there wasn’t another show as progressive as that one for decades.

    MASH had maybe one episode that dealt with gay people.

    3’s Company was pre-gay more than it was pro-gay

    Will and Grace was probably the next pro-gay network TV show.

    • There are a few others, though mostly short-lived and not nearly as popular. Hot L Baltimore. Love, Sidney (although after the pilot the Tony Randall’s sexuality was never even hinted at again much less mentioned). The Mary Tyler Moore show brought it up (interestingly enough the first choice for Murray was Charles Nelson Reilly who wasn’t available as he was on another show at the time) but just in the tag of an episode.

      There were a few other lbgt people in stories on dramatic series. Marcus Welby brought it up twice (the first time harshly negatively, the second time was mixed) and Medical Center had a trans patient (played by closeted Robert Reed). Other than that mostly gay people were crime victims and deeply ashamed (as on an episode of Starsky and Hutch when Starsky learns that one of his mentors who is recently murdered was gay). Or on Family when an old childhood friend of the son’s is arrested in a raid on a gay bar.

      Oh, and you forgot Soap. Billy Crystal’s Judy Dallas was mostly badly handled but you have to give Susan Harris (and Normal Lear and a few others) credit for bringing up the subject at all. Audience reactions were often negative (see Soap) but they kept doing it anyway. It was brave at the time but sometimes helpful (and occasionally not).

      • Todd20036

        Forgot about SOAP, but the shows you mentioned brought up the subject in the form of us being the butt of jokes.

        AitF was the first show to seriously broach the subject.

        • Yes. Leave it to Normal Lear to try to approach the subject maturely and try to move a hostile audience along. Also, the character of Edith while often shown as a “dingbat” was emotionally mature and compassionate even if she wasn’t always terribly intellectual. She was friends with a transvestite (who was murdered a few years after this episode). The subject of homosexuality had been touched on earlier when it was revealed that a friend of Mike’s and Gloria’s was gay. All kinds of taboo subjects were raised on this show, most notably rape which was rarely discussed on tv at all at the time (a tv movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery was something of a bombshell when it aired). That something so (unfortunately) common couldn’t be talked about at all gives younger people an idea about what those times were like.

          And you’re right, well into the 90s gay characters were nothing more than the butt of jokes (as we had been in the movies in the 30s before the Hayes Codes erased such characters altogether. At best gay characters were introduced, came out, and were never heard from again (as on Carter Country and other shows). Even so I sought out such shows and watched them surreptitiously (I had a tv in my room) because I was afraid of what my parents’ reaction might be (and that was a well-founded fear as I was raised in a fundamentalist church).

          • BuffaloDan

            I recall the episode of the gay friend that led Archie to find that a (truly woofy, IIRC!) jock friend of his was gay. IMBD ( tells me that was 1971 (1971!!! [I must have seen it in reruns, in case anyone’s asking! :)]). As progressive as many imagine that “Soap” or “Will & Grace” were, Mr. Lear was there years or _decades_ before them. Nice work, Sir. Thank you! …And concomitantly, how intriguing that that episode was re-broadcast before the Brigg’s Amendment vote. Hmmm! :). Must be those Californicating liberals again!

            Oh! Here’s a pic of “Steve”. (Damn, I had good taste, even as a young’un!)

          • TheManicMechanic

            The episode that dealt with Edith being (almost) raped bothered me a lot when I first saw it. How she dealt with it (by shoving a pan of burning cake in the rapist’s face) not only made me cheer so loudly, but I think I never heard the studio audience applaud and cheer so loud or long before or since. I can’t say if a television series broached that subject on such a personal and identifiable way (Edith was a primary character rather than a peripheral one, and hers was the most “innocent” and often identifiable for a lot of viewers) before that episode.

          • Gloria was raped in a different episode. But in some ways Edith’s (although she got away) was more disturbing. If it could happen to Edith it could happen to anybody and that was an important message because rape CAN happen to anybody. At the time rapes were almost never prosecuted. Women didn’t want the ordeal of a trial and unless you were a nun they would sometimes put your personal life on trial too (that’s not usually allowed now but it wasn’t unusual back then) and then there’s simply the matter of having strangers know such a personal thing that you’d rather keep private. As bad as things are in these cases now, it used to be worse. Normal Lear was very brave. I’m still kind of amazed that he not only got such things on the air but he did so with high ratings. (Ratings higher than almost any show gets these days.) There was clearly a desire from audiences to see more realistic situations and real human problems portrayed and for some reason it was sitcoms that did most of the heavy lifting for these topics.

          • TheManicMechanic

            This was a two-part episode, and despite the show being at first a comedy, Norman Lear interweaves this very serious plot into the framework of a sitcom, a keen and clever kind of subterfuge. Audiences often got a lot more than they were expecting, and this one was a shocker. The episode where Gloria was raped happened before this one. Powerful in its own right, it did touch upon how the victim was more often given the third degree, questioned even more intensely than the rapist. When viewed these days, given the number of “serious” dramas and real life-based programming, seeing such a horrible plot set within a comedy seems way out of place. But this was Norman Lear’s genius. It was this vehicle that brought groundbreaking ideas and stories into millions of living rooms when sitcoms were the most popular shows on TV. Much like Star Trek conquered a lot of social issues under the guise of science fiction, All In The Family did so as a comedy.

            This episode takes place on Edith’s 50th birthday, when everyone is expecting a party.

      • William

        Norman Lear led the charge in so many areas.

        • Can’t quite say he’s an unsung progressive hero, but I do feel sometimes he doesn’t get enough credit.

      • MarkOH

        OOPS! Should have ready more of the posts. I brought up “Soap” too. It’s the one show I really remember as a teen.

      • marshlc

        There was an episode of Police Story in the very early seventies. I can’t remember any details about it – it just sticks in my mind because my best friend asked the next day if I’d seen it. I reacted positively, and a couple days later he came out to me.

    • barrixines

      The Golden Girls was pretty pro-gay, not just in its actual gay episodes but in the whole concept that underlined it- that real families weren’t necessarily made up solely by those possessing legal or blood ties.

      • Paul_in_Dallas

        The Golden Girls’ housekeeper “Coco,” seen in the pilot episode, was ultimately written out of the series.

        • guest

          Be careful posting without knowing all of the facts.

          The GG housekeeper was not written out for any other reason that some
          lady who was thinking of spending her money as a producer, who became a
          producer too, to back it on the air asked a question on how a woman who
          would need 2, eventually 3 roommates would be able to afford a
          housekeeper. Fair question and he was removed. The story is in several
          books on the show, You still see some hints of how the character Blanche
          was to be a women of means.

          • Paul_in_Dallas

            I stand corrected. (I’m no GG aficionado.) Thank you for clarifying Coco’s (at the time) unexplained disappearance.

      • John30013

        I would also add Designing Women, which took on plenty of social issues, including LGBT ones.

      • guest

        The GG housekeeper was not written out for any other reason that some lady who was thinking of spending her money as a producer, who became a producer too, to back it on the air asked a question on how a woman who would need 2, eventually 3 roommates would be able to afford a housekeeper. Fair question and he was removed. The story is in several books on the show, You still see some hints of how the character Blanche was to be a women of means.

    • dcurlee

      So was Golden Girls and Desiging Women

      • JW Swift

        I vaguely remember a rant on Designing Women where a homophobic bigot got a serious dressing-down by Julia Sugarbaker. It was classic.

        • Bert_Bauer

          “Killing All the Right People.”. I think it was season 1 or 2.

      • neonzx
    • Mister Don

      I regard the reruns broadcast in Boston every afternoon before the early news during the 1980s as my daily dose of Humanity

    • barracks9

      Side thought on MASH: I was watching an episode recently and it occurred to me that Maj. Frank Burns was the original Tea Party asshole – achingly self-righteous, maliciously misinformed, overly confident in his own abilities and intelligence, wildly obsessed with forcing other people to follow policy and protocol despite his hypocritical ways.

      • Octavio

        I identified with Klinger. Seriously. I didn’t waltz around in the Army wearing a dress, but I sure could mince fastidiously as I tried to piss people off. Nothing. You hear about the military kicking out LGBT folks and how hard it has been for us. Odd as it may seem, there has always been a good number of LBGT folks serving in all branches of the military who haven’t been ousted for being gay. Why? I have no fucking idea.

        • ColdCountry

          Why? Perhaps because they were valued members of a team? I don’t know, but I’ve talked to a number of combat soldiers – mostly Vietnam – who all said about the same thing. “He does his job, he has my back, I don’t care.” Of course, I don’t remember homosexuality being demonized in the 60s the way it is now. In high school, we had a French teacher that everyone assumed was gay, but I never heard one negative remark about it.

          • Octavio

            It was common to be accepted if you didn’t make waves. Like today, straight people who weren’t complete assholes just didn’t want us rubbing their nose in our sexuality. Don’t misinterpret. I’m a vicious pro gay rights advocate, but I don’t insert myself into every situation just because I’m gay. I wait for others to trip up so I can jump on them. 🙂

          • ColdCountry

            I don’t really want anybody rubbing my nose in their sexuality, but I’m old, and old school, and think it’s a private sort of thing. However, equal rights is another matter, and that is something I’ve very vocal about. It does amaze me, however, that people can be so invested in someone elses private life to the degree that some of the RWNJ are.

          • Octavio

            Agreed. That is a bit scary. So much so that I am sometimes tempted to keep a loaded gun in the house. But that way madness lies. 🙂

          • Gigi

            I’ve never rubbed anyone’s nose in my sexuality, but I’ve been very honest about the fact that I have a boyfriend. I talked about him the way straight people talk about their significant others. Like it was normal. Because it was. Only one was I told to “keep your private life private.” It was at a job interview for a job that I didn’t really want. So I reached over, grabbed my resume (the paper was $) and walked out.

          • ColdCountry

            To me, that’s not rubbing anyone’s nose in anything, that’s being normal. Talking about vacation plans, holiday plans, having a picture of your loved one on your desk, bragging about their achievements – all normal. I think most straight people don’t realize how much they wear their sexuality on their sleeve for all the world to see because to them, it’s just normal. As it should be for anyone.

        • I’ve been told the same by plenty of folks. I have a relative in the military now and when DADT ended his reaction was “everyone knew who was gay anyway and no one cared.” Mostly I think there were COs who just didn’t want to be bothered with the paperwork. So long as it wasn’t causing a problem they had bigger headaches.

          • Gigi

            But we were told if we got rid of DADT that there’d be a mass exodus and no one else would enlist. Ever.

          • Even Fox and the right wing radio hosts have been silent about gays serving in the military. There’s no story to tell.

        • popebuck1

          Because when there’s an actual war on, they need warm bodies and aren’t going to quibble. The big anti-gay purges in the military have all been in peacetime.

        • Ginger Snap

          I had a close friend who was in the Air Force and he was quite the fem queen. I remember asking him how he didn’t get booted out and his reply will be with me forever ” The Air Force wants your brain not your brawn and I’m 4 solders smart.” He says he was secretary for many high ranking military officials and couldn’t talk much more about what he did. My dear Pauline Pain lost to the plague served our country for 20 years. Died in a veterans hospital from AIDS complications where they would not let anyone but family see him. His family never came they hated him so he died alone. I still remember him crying on the phone with me every night till he passed.

          • Octavio

            My old boyfriend, The Rev. T. Bob, has been “married” to the same lithesome and fey gentleman with the most astonishing naturally long lush eyelashes for more than 20 years. Mr. Eyelashes has been a navy recruiter for 25 years and has no plans on retiring soon. He’s told me basically what your friend told you. And they LOVE him where he works. He hasn’t moved up too much in rank, but he’s happy.

          • Gigi

            Most people don’t give a fuck. Besides, who’s more fun than us?

          • Gigi

            So sad. 😞

      • Oscarlating Wildely

        MASH had an episode on a gay soldier who gets bashed but wants to return to the same unit. It was broadcast in 1974. (see 8:37) The episode deals with difference and judgment as a theme.

      • Todd20036

        My take exactly. Who thought Burns would become the face of the republican party?

        A few decades ago, he’d have been laughed right out of it. Heck, even as recently as the 1990’s, he’d have been considered extreme.

        W changed that.

      • bill weber

        There are people with “liberal” politics who have all those attributes.

        • barracks9

          True. However those of a liberal bent seldom get the camera/sound bite time that the Tea Party “patriots” get.

      • That never occurred to me, but yes that is exactly right. It’s also true that such people always existed inside the right, they just were usually not put in front of a microphone by the party until recently.

      • popebuck1

        In the movie, as played by Robert Duvall, Burns is even more explicitly a Bible thumper.

    • MarkOH

      Don’t forget about “Soap” and Billy Crystal’s character

    • XTstorm

      The Streets of San Francisco had an episode with a gay cop that was pretty well handled. Cop was coming out of a gay bar when he witnesses a murder and testifying would mean he’d have to explain he was coming out of a gay bar. If I recall, at the end, he and his straight police partner stay together as a team so even a happy ending.

    • CanuckDon

      There was an episode on Phyllis entitled “Out Of The Closet” that had to be one of the most positive statements on gays at the time. Aired in 1975….absolutely fabulous!

      • bill weber

        Those were her in-laws actually (dead Lars’ parents).

        • Yes, which was weird because there was a running gag on MTM about Lars’ Swedish accent (he was never seen on the show). They were never much for continuity in the 70s (Rhoda had a sister named Debbie on MTM who was never mentioned on the spin-off).

    • Adam Schmidt

      The original script for MASH had Klinger as a gay character. The studio wasn’t prepared to go that far and backed down so that he was just a crossdresser trying to get out of the army.

  • Sam_Handwich

    great show and great insight from Matt

    i never saw this episode….. Archie running off with the sugar tongs is priceless

  • BobSF_94117

    The young whippersnappers won’t believe this but America was a long way towards accepting gay people in the 70s. Had the GOP been brave enough to update its policies instead of taking the easy way out and relying on division and hatred to govern for the next several decades, history would have been entirely different.

    • Todd20036

      Would have helped if we were more out of the closet collectively, too.

      The silver lining of the AIDS crisis was that it forced us to do just that.

      • It was too dangerous. People lost their jobs when they were outed back then. I can’t blame people for choosing to stay employed over making a statement. I’m glad some people were able to come out but not everyone could.

        • Octavio

          I know some people did lose their jobs by being out of the closet, but not everyone. I publicly “came out” when I was 16. And as early as 1968 I openly admitted I was gay, an evil homosexual, and the Army didn’t seem to care. They drafted me anyway basically patting me on the head, refusing to listen to me. It was like that for 30 months until I was discharged. As for most of my friends and other LGBT folks, their employers and coworkers knew they were gay although everyone was in the closet. More often than not, when confessing your big secret to a straight friend or coworker ended up with them saying, “We know. We’ve known all along.” The GBT folks most at risk were teachers and those who had a need to work for their church as a pastor, priest or youth leader. Also, we dealt with discrimination in the work place by owning our own businesses or working in a field where being gay was OK: theatre, hair dressers, designers, florists, bartenders, waiters, interior decorators and — believe it or not — doctors.

          What hasn’t changed since the 70s is that we’re just as likely to have the shit beat out of us and/or killed just because were out and proud. The streets are not safe, regardless of how safe people might feel.

        • Gigi

          When I came out in my family disowned me. That was in ’85. Told me never to come home again. “What will the neighbours say!” They actually said that. I didn’t see them again for 13 years. I was 18 and alone in the world. It was a very dark time for me. I spiraled out of control for several years. And then I met him. The love of my life. He was (still is) wonderful, but he had a big mess to deal with. Somehow we made it.

          My mother met my man for the first time in 2009, one month after he and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. Coming out for some of us can mean losing everything. I don’t regret coming out when I did, but I do wonder how different my life might have been had I waited a few years.

          • David Walker

            For what it’s worth, I wonder how different your life might have been had your family been more understanding. I think, from reading your posts, that you turned out just fine. Sometimes you have to go through hell to understand just how good things can be.

          • Gigi

            Thanks for your kind words David. All in all things turned out okay. I’ve got a pretty good life. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • The Milkman

      My soon-to-be-husband and I were talking about this a while back, and wondering what would have happened had the AIDS bloodbath not happened. On the one hand, AIDS caused us all to come out, either because of diagnosis and illness, or because the need to fight became stronger than the desire to hide. On the other hand, the 70s showed enormous progress in gay and lesbian visibility and acceptance before the health crisis. I wonder where American society would be on the issue had AIDS not terrified everyone so. If you think back to Germany in the Weimar period, there was tremendous progress before national socialism, after which the lid was clamped shut for decades and people were marginalized at best and tortured mercilessly at worst. Our emergence from the shadows has been and continues to be a fascinating thing to witness.

      • Gigi

        AIDS (the “gay cancer” as it was known back then) and the anti-gay Christian conservative reaction to it took away much of the progress that we’d made in the 70s. They did such a good job of using the epidemic to demonize and vilify us that it took decades to recover.

        • JustDucky

          “They did such a good job of using the epidemic to demonize and vilify us…”

          On the nose.

          That is where they excel, isn’t it? Demonizing others and leveraging that hate into power seems to be the one thing they do very, very well.

      • Judas Peckerwood

        I believe that the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the emergence of the Internet were the two main factors that spurred the quantum leap in queer equality.

        • popebuck1

          Both led to expanded visibility – AIDS brought huge numbers of LGBTs out of the closet (even if only from dire necessity), and the internet has made us visible in even the most isolated and backward rural areas. Harvey Milk was right – when we’re visible, we win.

    • Gustav2

      The Religious Right did not have the stranglehold on the Republicans in the 1970’s as it does now, the vast majority of Evangelicals and a lot of Baptists did not vote. It was too worldly. There were Democrats from the South who were much worse than Republicans. The newly registered Southern Fried Religious Republicans changed the Party completely in the 1980’s.

      • Octavio

        Very, very true. Thanks.

      • popebuck1

        Thanks loads, Reagan.

        • John30013

          But keep in mind that the “Southern Strategy”, as it became known, was invented by Richard Nixon. Reagan brought it to fruition (and the fact that it’s still operant shows that the Republicans know how to play the long game), but its genesis was at least 10 years earlier.

          • popebuck1

            Nixon brought the Southern racists onboard, but it was Reagan who sealed the deal with the Evangelicals. Billy Graham was about as Christian as Nixon ever got, and he was pretty tame by current religious right standards.

          • LoyalCatholic

            Who brought the liberal racists and the racial cesspool we see from the Black Left in the Democratic Party ?

          • John30013

            I’m sure you have a theory about that, and I’m sure it’s just as clear and well-reasoned as your other comments on this thread have been. So by all means, please educate us ignorant, hypocritical, liberals.

          • John30013

            I agree that Nixon’s complicity in the Southern Strategy had little to do with his personal faith–it was all about political expediency.

          • LoyalCatholic

            Oh, the dreaded ‘Southern Strategy.’ Coming from the party of segregation, slavery, Jim Crow, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton.

            Let he among you who is without sin………..

          • John30013

            It’s not “throwing stones”; the Southern Strategy is a documented fact. Gustav’s post admits that the Democratic party’s history on this issue is problematic as well, so I’m hard pressed to understand your point (assuming you have one and you’re not here simply to troll).

          • emjayay

            Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Look it up. Notice that among white voters, the Solid (Democrat) South became the Solid (Republican) South. This is not that complicated, and in every high school US History book. Besides Wikipedia.

    • CanuckDon

      For certain, it was shows like All In The Family and Maude and the ’70s in general that helped pave the way for my acceptance in my early teens. Disco also helped expose this culture of fun-loving, dancing gay men. Thankfully there wasn’t any hesitation on my part to go where the happy people go!

      • In many cities in the late cities the gay discos had a problem with straight people starting to go there because the music was good, the crowd non-judgmental (perhaps they were straight but in a mixed-race relationship) and the drinks cheap. (I’m still appalled at what they charge straight people for cocktails. Yikes!) But that was a problem if you weren’t out at work and might run into a coworker who might or might not let it slip. They might not fire you but you also might not get that promotion. It was a fear, founded or not, and discussed in the local press at least in DFW and Houston at the time.

  • oikos

    I remember watching this (I was 12) and thinking about it (knowing I liked boys and had recently become sexually active) wondering if I could ever tell anyone. Maude was another show that tackled being gay and my family always watched both shows.. We’ve come a long way.

    • medaka

      I remember this episode too, and remember feeling exactly the same way.

      • b


    • David Walker

      And it can never be said enough that both of the shows you mention AND “The Jeffersons” and other groundbreaking series were created by Norman Lear. He has had an incredible impact by using the bully pulpit of TV. I don’t know who wrote this episode, but it has Lear’s understanding all over it. And from the gasp to the laughs to the applause to Edith’s incredible observation to Archie (“He’s God. You’re not.”) is pretty much the way the US has gone. I wish the public’s change had taken only 22 minutes, but 38 years isn’t bad.

      • canoebum

        Norman Lear has been a favorite target of the Right Wingers for decades. I could be wrong, but I think he was blacklisted during the (previous) McCarthy era.

      • Bert_Bauer

        What Lear did best was humanize people to dispel stereotypes. Even with his long-held prejudices, Archie Bunker was a very complex, human character and not a conservative caricature (though we have plenty of those in real life today). Norman Lear is an unqualified genius.

        • popebuck1

          And as Carroll O’Connor always used to point out, in the end it was always Archie who made the adjustment. He really did evolve.

    • Joseph Miceli

      My parents hated both shows. I think they both hit a little too close to home.

    • Brian in Valdosta

      I also remember this episode. I was 11 yrs old. But I don’t remember processing the lesbian storyline. All I remember is Edith being sappy with Archie and him getting uncomfortable with it, and then I remember him being mean to Edith’s cousin’s partner. Funny, isn’t it? I knew that I was attracted to men back at that age, but I somehow didn’t process the same-sex storyline because it was about two women rather than about two men.

      At least, I assume that’s why I didn’t process it.

  • Bluto

    & don’t forget Edith’s drag queen friend Beverly either. She was a saintly dingbat with a heart of gold.

    • Gerry Fisher

      THAT’S the gay episode I remember. Not proud to admit this but, to a closeted teenage boy, a drag queen was more threatening and closer to home.

  • LeftyNYC

    Great analysis from Matt Baume. Jean Stapleton’s Edith was the moral center of that show, and she never failed to break my heart. One question: Matt mentions Jughead. Did he mean Meathead?

    • That struck me as odd as well.

      • Lakeviewbob

        Me too. I have an editor mentality.

        • David Walker

          Know what you mean, which is why I mentioned Matt’s comment.

    • dcurlee

      I think he was referring to the comics The Archie’s ….it had Archie, Jughead, Veronica and I think the other character was Betty

      • LeftyNYC

        Ha! How’d I miss that? Thanks.

    • greenmanTN

      He’s making a play on the characters being named Archie and Veronica, like in the Archie comics. Jughead was another comic book character.

      • Lakeviewbob

        Disagree. He meant meathead.

        • greenmanTN
          • Lakeviewbob

            Yikes. Didn’t mean to offend.

          • greenmanTN

            I really was just kidding. I do think he was referring to Archie comics, but it’s not a big deal and doesn’t change the meaning of the piece, that All In The Family was a seminal, progressive show that introduced new ways of looking at LGBT people to a mainstream audience.

        • David Walker

          In the comments on YouTube he admits to it being a failed joke on Archie and Veronica.

    • Robincho


  • Bert_Bauer

    All in the Family was such an amazing, groundbreaking show and this is a really good demonstration of this. A lot of the episodes are still very fresh today.

    • CanuckDon

      I still watch it regularly and recently saw the one where Mike and Archie are chatting about making churches pay tax. Forty years later, we’re still wondering.

  • greenmanTN

    I watched AITF growing up but don’t remember seeing this episode. Baume does a great job of demonstrating how ground-breaking and powerful the show could be. I grew up in semi-rural Tennessee and luckily my parents weren’t religious nuts or blatantly racist, though they did carry some racist baggage from their upbringing. As I’ve told people many times before, I think I got my political and social ideology more from Norman Lear that I ever did from my parents!

    I’m also proud to say that my mother, then in her late 70s, registered to vote for the first time in many years so she could vote for Barack Obama, something she decided to do on her own, not at my urging. (Having 2 gay sons probably had something to do with it though.) sometimes old dogs do learn new tricks, if they’re open to new information.

    • Because we have erased so much of popular culture from the 30s, 40s and 50s it’s easy to ignore just how racist the entire culture was. I’ve never seen Amos & Andy. Most people reading this have probably never heard of it, but it was a popular show in the 50s and only canceled by CBS because of protests. Minstrel shows were popular and part of famous movies (like Holiday Inn…a scene almost always deleted when it’s shown now). “Coon songs” of the most vile racist garbage (I was shocked when I discovered this rep in a Music History class) were simply part of the standard sheet music collection along with classical piano pieces and genteel parlor songs in the 1890s-1910s. So it’s not surprising that even non-religious and non-southern people were at least a little bit racist. It’s more surprising when they were not.

      • greenmanTN

        One of the few times I can remember my father mentioning race was when two of my rather redneck cousins were saying that some black people were black and some were “N-words.” My father interrupted and said, no, there are good individuals and bad individuals and they shouldn’t use that word, though to the day he died he was more likely to use the term “colored” rather than black or African American. But he was born in the 1920s south, so that was actually a progressive attitude given the place and time in which he was raised.

        • For his generation “colored” was not a bad word. (It’s in the name of the NAACP, after all.) There were other words used as pejoratives and that was not one of them. My mom was similar. She actually fought to hire African Americans and wasn’t allowed to until the Civil Rights act. (She shocked people in a meeting soon after when asked where they were going to find qualified minority candidates with the file she’d been keeping for some time of people who would have hired if they’d let her.)

      • William

        My great Grandmother had a lawn jockey in her front yard. Sometime in the early 70s one of the relatives put it out back. Us kids used to sneak out and look at it. The adults did not like when we asked questions about why it was banished to the backyard.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    All in the Family broke so many taboos (for the times) and was fearless in getting in people’s faces. Be it anti-semitism, racism and homophobia, the show was brutal (by today’s sanitized standards) in it’s use of language. Sadly, such a show, with such blatantly honest characters, could not be made today. Too many wilting flowers of oversensitive emotions would never allow it. Today, it would have to be on HBO……and that reality speaks volumes as to how amazing a show it was. Honourable mentions to Maude, Sanford & Son and the The Jeffersons, all of whom also pushed barriers in the 70’s.

    • Bj Lincoln

      I graduated high school in ’77. These shows were the staple of nightly TV. Because there were no recording devises, one had to be in their seat and absorb every word as it happened. I think many people knew they were witnessing history and often conversations got started because of these shows. You are correct about the how shows like this would not make it except as cable network ‘originals’.
      PS. You forgot M.A.S.H.. That show also addressed it’s share of racism and homophobia.

  • Former Governor Ronald Reagan of California (he was not yet elected President but a candidate for it in 1978) did more to ensure that the Briggs Initiative went down to defeat than anyone else. Reagan issued an informal letter of opposition to the initiative, answered reporters’ questions about the initiative by saying he was against, and, a week before the election, wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner opposing it which tipped the scales. Reagan was appalled by this intrusion into people’s private lives. He was also the main voice of the Republican right then. This goes to show how far right and socially regressive the Republican Party has become. and why Nancy Reagan said “Ronnie would not recognize the Republican Party of today. PLEASE NOTE I AM NOT A REAGAN SUPPORTER OR FAN, NO NEED TO SHOOT THE MESSENGER LOL.

    • Octavio

      Thanks for pointing this out. Although, in the end I, too, regard Reagan a total piece of shit. 🙂

      • LOL me too but I think Ron Reagan junior is very hot and very much a Democrat.

        • Chuck in NYC

          He was hilarious on Bill Maher’s show week before last. At a couple of points, especially in the overtime segment, I thought he was going to make S.C. Cupp’s head explode.

        • Octavio

          He’s a good guy. Not my type, but a good guy. 🙂

          • I remember a week or so ago there was a conversation here about LGBT preferring younger guys in general and I said that some of us (including me) like older men. Ron Reagan Jr. is 57 years old and exactly the type of guy and age that totally turns me on bit time. I am not sure I would like him younger than 50 thought. Look at this recent photo of him. This is just the right kind of maturity I find handsome.

          • Octavio

            You’re absolutely right. In a few years you’ll be eyeing a well-mainted 1967 Buick Electra. They’re big and very comfy. Ask the man who owns one. 🙂

          • What a great car! I used to drive my mother’s Electra when I was in high school (circa 1996-70) frequently stoned out of my mind…my younger brother totaled it while high (on pot of all things!) and took out a newly landscaped front lawn

          • Octavio

            I’d throw El Squeeze under the bus for a cherry 1965 Buick Wildcat convertible, powered by a 455 cc engine with two four-barrel carbs, yellow with black/white interior and air conditioning..

    • Gay Fordham Prep Grad

      Even one of the daughters commented that when it came to gay people, in private her parents were very accepting because of their time in Hollywood, and had early on explained it *all* to her. Sadly, he just could not pull it together when it really counted due to political expediency.

      • Nancy had a lot of gay friends from her Hollywood days and did nothing for them when she could have. What a hateful bitch.

    • stevenj

      Former President Gerald Ford and then President Jimmy Carter also both urged California voters to defeat the Brigg’s initiative.

      • Yes, but Carter waiting until AFTER Reagan to come out against it. Carter at the time was afraid of being photographed with an out gay person, and most Democrats were afraid of being associated with gay rights. Of course this was an era in which most southern Democrats were DINOs who now support crazy TeaParty nutters.

        • Robincho

          He had spoken, and was almost gone, when someone reminded him, and he returned to the mic to deliver this as a little postscript.
          It was disgraceful. Still, I think we all need to slacken up on Jimmeh.
          After all, he had to grow up with that disgusting Miz Lillian…

          • This was just the times. What’s interesting is that Reagan wasn’t always pandering to the religious right. He made that choice soon after the Briggs Initiative and the parties diverged sharply on a number of issues. The 1976 GOP platform called for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment! This wasn’t always what the Republican party was. It was an intentional choice on the part of the leadership (esp Reagan) which is why I have no patience with excuses made now. Everything fucked up in the 2016 presidential field is a result of decisions made decades ago. Democrats had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards gay rights but they were draggable. The religious right has dragged the GOP in the opposite direction AND the “moderates” and billionaire factions of the party sat back and let them do it.

    • CanuckDon

      Isn’t that fascinating! All within that time span of Anita Bryant and her crusade, you have a major Republican going against their wishes.

    • popebuck1

      Reagan came of age in Hollywood, where everyone was privately easygoing about all the gayness going on around them. Remember, this was the community that protected Rock Hudson’s secret all those years. It was only after casting his lot with the (f***ing) religious right that Reagan turned his back on the gays – including rejecting family friend Rock Hudson’s dying request to get treatment in Paris. He sold his soul to Jerry Falwell and became the monster we remember.

  • Baltimatt
  • Cuberly

    It’s also worth noting the writing, particularly for the time, the challenge of writing for these characters on this topic. Giving it humanity without a pandering tone. Wow, talk about a challenge.

    Makes total sense to give the delicate and challenging job to Edith. Who doesn’t root for Edith? Still my favorite character.

    • ColdCountry

      Edith was a gem! Whenever she started with, “But Archie…,” you know something really good was coming.

      • Cuberly

        Very true. I tend to recall more Edith moments than I do Archie moments.

    • One of TV’s best characters. Edith could always be counted on to do what was right in spite of the bigotry that surrounded her. The episode in which her friend is murdered (when discovered to be cross-dressing) is one of the most moving of the series. It leads Edith to a crisis of faith and many interesting conversations with other characters including Mike. The writing on that show was always great. It was more like a 2-act short play than a sitcom in most episodes. It was highly controversial at the time but also hugely popular (#1 for several seasons).

      • David Walker

        But imagine someone other than Jean Stapleton playing her. It’s true of many characters, that they wouldn’t be the same if played by another actor, but Jean was so dead-on as Edith that I seriously doubt Edith would have become “the person” she became if not for Stapleton.

        • Which is why she was nominated 9 times for Emmys for that role and won three times (in a heavily contested category that included Mary Tyler Moore, Loretta Swit and others).

          She’s one of many actors who made a character that could easily have been simplistic or even annoying into a beloved “family member” we welcomed into our homes every week. Maybe Edith reminded us all of someone we knew and loved?

      • Cuberly

        I just perused some clips online, man does that bring back memories. Even just the small bits I saw, wow, the writing. And Stapleton being a veteran of the stage, have to have the acting chops to pull this off and she did BIG time.

        • Stage actors (David Hyde Pierce and Christine Baranski, for example) seem to do very well in that “before a live audience” format.

  • billbear1961

    Edith Bunker was a REAL Christian–the exact opposite of the poisonous Christer degenerates.

  • Baltimatt

    “You’re really her next of kin.”

  • AC

    If you notice, the set used for the lesbians living room is the same set used for the living room of the The Jeffersons.

  • Natty Enquirer

    What a great actor Jean Stapleton was, even in a weekly grind-it-out TV role.

    • David Walker

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I worked with her once, pre-Family, and she was dead serious about her acting and was a wonderfully funny person between takes and during breaks. I was glad when she landed the series and she (Jean) was pretty much why I watched the series.

      • Circ09

        A good friend of mine worked with her in the 90s and said Stapleton was the true definition of a compassionate Christian. That she always worked to find the good in everyone. After hearing that I always thought there was probably a lot of Stapleton in Edith.

    • KnownDonorDad

      And they way she played off of Carroll O’Connor, too – look at how much both of them convey with a series of changing facial expressions.

  • Mark McGovern

    I do not remember this one at all. Great clip and narrative.

  • Gene

    I have said it before and I will repeat it now.
    We are all of us…in the end, Normal Leers Children
    and I am THANKFUL for it.

  • Puckfair52

    Wonderful it went to all the right places way back when

  • The Sentinel

    Norman Lear is a bona fide genius.

    • Skokieguy

      Do you remember Beverly, the cross-dressing passenger in Archie’s cab? Lear was a genius in so many ways. You can watch All in the Family today and it still seems current and relevant. I meet Archies (and Ediths) all the time. Archie Bunker’s chair is deservedly in the Smithsonian.

      • Bj Lincoln

        Sadly, we are still fighting the same issues. That’s why they seem current and relevant. I am so glad our kids and grandkids are watching them in re-runs and netflix.

      • The Sentinel

        Who could forget Beverly LaSalle?!

        • bdsmjack

          JoAnne Worley?

          • The Sentinel

            Oddly enough I sat near Jo Anne Worley in a NYC restaurant just last month. SHE HASN’T AGED A DAY!

          • bdsmjack

            OMG. Please tell me she was wearing a feather boa. Did you get her autograph?

          • William

            I told my parents that I wanted to be her when I grew up. Should have been the first clue.

          • barracks9

            Ah, JoAnne! One of my spirit animals, along with Eve Arden, Kaye Ballard, and Jennifer Coolidge. Wow – that pretty neatly sums me up. Huh.

      • jmax

        Right next to Edith’s.

        • Skokieguy

          Thank you so much for posting this. I didn’t remember that and totally did not mean to dis Edith.

          • jmax

            No problem. I was at the Museum of American History in July and just happened to still have the photo on my phone : )

    • Robincho

      I wish that every single queer
      Could have a friend like Norman Lear

  • Bj Lincoln

    Norman Lear was a hero. I grew up watching his shows and I believe they had a big influence on my inclusive and liberal thinking.

    • Bert_Bauer

      Same here. I got exposed to people and issues that I never would have otherwise as a kid in the suburban Midwest in the 70s.

    • David Walker

      Hubs and I had a friend with a somewhat dysfunctional family. From time to time, the friend’s mother would look up to the ceiling and yell, “Norman Lear! You’re missing this!”

  • Robincho

    Mattyboy (despite the fact that Rob Reiner played Meathead, not Jughead), you still DA BAUME! This puts the human capstone on the awesomely gigantic pyramid of facts & and
    statistics that have informed your magnum opus on gay marriage. Still, damn you for leaving the window open… now a piece of soot has blown in and gotten in my eye… 😉

    • thevofl

      His joke was about the character names Archie and Veronica. It took me a few second to catch on, as I thought about Meathead, too.

  • Igby

    “Filmed before a live studio audience.”
    When did laugh tracks come back? I hate laugh tracks.

    • In this case (and on many shows) the laugh tracks are from the studio audience (I Love Lucy, for example). That’s true on All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and shows up through Big Bang Theory. Where I hate them is on single camera shows where it’s just added (MASH, for example).

      • popebuck1

        MASH fought against the laugh track almost from the very beginning. Early on, they did get one concession: there wasn’t a laugh track for any scene in the operating room. In later seasons as they got more and more serious, they were finally able to jettison the laugh track altogether.

        • The network insisted on it. That was the practice at the time and it’s especially annoying on shows filed on a set that aren’t really all that funny. (The Brady Bunch, for example)

          • Bill S

            Even as a child, I found the use of a laugh track in cartoons annoying. “Um, I know there’s no studio audience, who are you trying to fool? I’m eight, not stupid!”

  • bdsmjack

    The ‘laughs’ and ‘gasps’ from the ‘audience’ on these sit-com’s were canned –edited in, after the episode was videotaped. It was called a Laugh Track. I always found them annoying, and still have a hard time watching tv comedies because of them.

    • Not entirely.The audience is live and the reactions and applause are enhanced, and they used live audiences to guide their enhancement decisions.

      • bdsmjack

        The ‘enhancements’ always sound over exaggerated and annoyingly faked.

    • The Norman Lear shows were always very clearly said to be filmed/taped before a live audience. I’m not sure how much they were sweetened. Shows like Bewitched and (obviously) The Flinstones used an entirely created laugh track.

  • Queequeg

    We forget how great and groundbreaking All in the Family was. I appreciate this reminder from Matt.

  • You’re always an intelligent guy Mr Baume, but don’t you think you have been fooled by the producers’ “sweetened” audience reactions? A significant amount of the reaction sounds are edited (“sweetened”) in post production to pace the emotional adjustments of the characters.

    Otherwise very interesting. Now for reactions of other readers to suggest earlier instances. Theater and film may furnish them.

    • popebuck1

      Actually, Norman Lear has always maintained that for All in the Family, they never made any adjustments to the audience reactions. They didn’t have to.

      • LAguy323

        Yes, I also know that to be true. Not just for All in the Family, but for each of Tandem Productions’ shows.

  • Derrick Johns

    There was also another important episode from a late 1970s tv show called “The White Shadow” when a teenage basketball player was thought to be Gay. It dealt with the oppression and cruelty that happens to high school aged Gay people.

    • LAguy323

      I remember that episode.

  • Davidusca

    Love you Matt!

  • Michael Senesac

    If only more republicans were married to Edith.

  • Todd Allis

    Yeah, that clip made me cry a little. 🙂
    I watched that show a lot back in the day but must have missed that episode.

  • sw42

    Matt Baume for president. Or Matt Baume over for coffee and dessert. He seems delightful and warm.

  • KnownDonorDad

    If you haven’t watched the episode in full, I urge you to do so – it’s a rare mix of humor and poignance, comedy and message. Just search “All in the Family” and “Cousin Liz.”

  • LAguy323

    A lot of my fellow gays don’t realize that Rob Reiner, who played Meathead on All in the Family, is one of the founders of AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights) which funded the lawsuits in pursuit of marriage equality. Reiner also provided much of the seed money.

  • Happy Dance

    Beverly LaSalle was my favorite!

  • charliebkk

    Coincidentally, I was watching some old AITF episodes last night. My Thai mate arrived home from work and I encouraged him to watch for awhile. He was completely baffled, of course, but I tried to explain to him how groundbreaking this show was, over 40 years ago. He was mystified by the Sammy Davis Jr. episode, especially, and it is very hard to explain to a young man from an entirely different culture what it was like growing up in the US in the 50’s-70’s when so many barriers were being broken. BUT, I often wonder if this show would make it onto the commercial airwaves today.

  • TheManicMechanic

    I remember this episode from the day it aired. This show broke so much ground in its day, and there has never been a show quite like it since. I bawled my eyes out when Edith died, I think the first time I ever had such a reaction to a TV show. I loved All In The Family and even more these days.

    • popebuck1

      God, that episode was devastating. It was so much worse because her death happened offscreen – you just saw Archie and little Stephanie getting through their day, and you gradually realize what happened.

      • TheManicMechanic

        Archie holds it together until he walks into the empty bedroom and finds the lone slipper under the bed. Then we all lost it.

    • Dan Robinson

      I never watched that episode. I couldn’t. Just couldn’t. Never have. What a show that was. They brought up so many social issues and put them into context with real people.

  • pdquick

    Meathead, not Jughead.

    • Bill S

      Matt’s making a joke about the characters being named Archie and Veronica. 🙂

  • David Milley

    Okay … now I’m weeping like a baby. To see this episode of this show finally put into context …

  • perversatile

    Norman Lear Loved Divine
    ‘Beverly LaSalle’ appeared in 3 episodes of All in the family.
    (go to 6:00 and skip the clumsy exposition)

  • TexPlant

    It still amazes me to see old footage regarding segregation and it being illegal for interracial marriages. The laws considered homosexuality a crime and the medical community considered it a mental illness. We are so fortunate to see things change and strides in equality achieved. I can’t help but feel profoundly sad for all the LGBT people who lived and died years ago under much more oppressive times.

  • leastyebejudged

    This episode won an Emmy.

  • Terry

    I love this! I like how he looks at LGBTs in Retro TV. I’m glad for those who look and find these episodes

    I think an Episode of Dear John was shown–it was a bout a married man who finds out he’s gay and later has a crush on Judd Hirsch’s character it was called Stand By Your Man