HBO debuted their latest television film this past Sunday, an adaptation of the 1985 off-Broadway play The Normal Heart. Directed by American Horror Story and Glee show-runner Ryan Murphy, the play is based on Gay activist Larry Kramer’s experience’s during the early years of the AIDS crisis, along with his creation of and expulsion from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
The film, as well as the play, is direct, emotional and confrontational. More so than entertainment, both are a call to arms to help and support those affected by the AIDS virus while damning the ignorance of those in office who did little or nothing to help with the disease when it simply known as “the Gay disease.” Moved by the story, we listed a few locations used in the film, which gives us a glimpse into Gay culture during the early 1980’s.
1. Fire Island Pines
In the Summer of 1981, Mark Ruffalo’s character Ned Weeks (based on Larry Kramer) heads to Fire Island Pines in Long Island for the birthday of one his friends. When he arrives, we are introduced to a community of young and older men, of different ethnicity and backgrounds. Known as “The Pines,” it features the most expensive real estate on Fire Island and along with its neighbor Cherry Grove, make up the gay community on the southern coast of Long Island. Known as “Chelsea with Sand,” it first became a gay hot-spot in the 1960s due to former model John B. Whyte, who owned 80 percent of the Pines properties until 2000.
Fire Island remains a major gay destination today, hosting events throughout the year. Major ones include the Fire Island Dance Festival and The Invasion of The Pines, a celebration of drag queen culture.
2. The New York Times Building
On his return trip to NYC, Ned Weeks sees an article in The New York Times about a rare cancer that has already infected a few dozen gay men. After meeting with Julia Robert’s character Dr. Emma Brookner (based on real life doctor Linda Laubenstein), he goes to the Times Building, where he meets reporter Felix Turner, played by Matt Bomer, an openly gay actor.
The building where Weeks first meets Turner is not the large, gray building that “The Grey Lady” now occupies. The former residence of the celebrated newspaper was located on 229 West 43rd Street. Built in three stages from 1912 and 1937, the NYT held residence in the building designed by Mortimer J. Fox until 2004 where it sold the building and moved to its current residence. The Building was sold repeatedly until 2013, when it became occupied by Yahoo!
For those that haven’t gotten the connection yet, The New York Times is how Times Square got its name.
3. Brassiere Ruhlmann
Ned asks for the aid of his straight brother Ben Weeks to work pro bono for his cause. Ben is supportive but hesitant to help his brother, due to his confusion over his brother’s lifestyle. Ned gets him to call for a cabinet meeting with the other partners of his firm, to see if they will be the first major lawfirm to support a gay cause. The two brothers begin their conversation in Ben’s office and end it in the French restaurant Brasserie Ruhlmann. The restaurant, located on 45 Rockefeller Plaza is known for its Art Deco interior design made by French designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann.
4. Man’s Country
During their first dinner together, Felix reveals to Ned that the two have met before. Their first interaction was inside of a gay men’s bath house located on 28 West 15th Street. The bath house, Man’s Country, closed down in 1983 due to the AIDS crisis. Before the epidemic, it was a place where gay men would meet and have sexual intercourse. While the NYC location closed down, there is still a Man’s Country location in Chicago. Not much information on the bath house is available, except for this 70’s commercial, which Murphy re-makes, but with much more explicit content.