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William E. Jones: Halsted Plays Himself

William E. Jones: Halsted Plays Himself

USA 2011, 216 pp. with numerous b/w + color photographs, hardbound,  25.95
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MIT Press - Semiotext(e)
Fred Halsted's »L.A. Plays Itself« (1972) was gay porn's first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering »new information for me«. Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished L.A. that harbored a long-gone gay lifestyle at a volatile point in time and a now-extinct Hollywood underground. Although his cultural notoriety at one point equaled that of Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith, Halsted's star waned in the 1980s with the emergence of a more commercial gay-porn industry. After the death from AIDS of his long-time partner, lover, spouse (and tormentor) Joey Yale in 1986, Halsted committed suicide in 1989. The author documents his quest to capture the elusive public and private personas of Halsted to zero in on an identity riddled with contradictions.
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