All around the crayola-bright disco, hair and makeup personnel spritz buff male torsos with fake sweat. The make-believe scene is a same-sex dance mecca called Babylon. So many men, so little time to dust them with glitter. On another set nearby, a wardrobe mistress gives what she calls ”a sock-and-jock adjustment” to an actor playing a waiter at a trendy gay eatery. Translation: She’s enhancing the endowment in this guy’s jeans by stuffing them with a hank of hosiery. His crotch now looks like the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album.
And that’s just the ribbed-for-your-pleasure tip of the randy goings-on currently being filmed for Queer as Folk, a new Showtime series debuting in December. Well, sort of new. It’s the Americanization of a taboo-busting British series about a group of gay twentysomethings. First aired in 1999, the original Queer as Folk raised immediate hackles over its depictions of rampant promiscuity, drug use, and flirtations with minors (a 29-year-old lothario beds a 15-year-old lad). The show became a surprise hit. Now executives at Showtime, clearly covetous of the awards, ratings, and publicity HBO has earned with edgy fare like Sex and the City and The Sopranos — mention either series on the Queer set and some eyes shoot daggers at you — are betting $22 million that they can work similar wonders by retooling Folk into a 22-episode-per-season, hour-long attention getter. They’re determined not to airbrush out gritty details, so brace yourself for flying bodily fluids, tongues going places no American TV tongue has gone before, and gobs of sloppy man-to-man and gal-to-gal kissing.
”A lot of gay characters have been presented as either clowns or eunuchs,” says coproducer Dan Lipman, who with his personal and professional partner of 25 years, Ron Cowen, helped produce the 1985 AIDS drama An Early Frost for NBC and created the prime-time soaper Sisters. ”Our main character, Brian, is a guy who f—s anything that moves. He does not pay a price for it. He does not get AIDS, and he has no conscience about it. I think that’s absolutely revolutionary.” It also raises the question, What the heck is Will doing moving back in with Grace?