Saturday matinee – The Ritz

The Ritz was a comedy made in 1976, long before gay rights had hit the mainstream.

On his deathbed Carmine Vespucci’s father tells him to “get Proclo” (his sister’s husband).   When he understands that a ” hit” has been put out on him,  Gaetano tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can’t find him.   He arrives at the Ritz, a gay bathhouse… something he doesn’t realise at first.  There he is pursued amorously by “chubby chaser” Claude and by entertainer Googie Gomez who believes him to be a broadway producer. His guides through the Ritz are gatekeeper Abe, habitue Chris, and bellhop/go-go-boys Tiger and Duff.   Detective Michael Brick and his employer Carmine do locate Gateano at the Ritz, as does his wife Vivian.

Jack Weston, Jerry Stiller, Kaye Ballard, Treat Williams, F. Murray Abraham, Paul B. Price and others in the cast are great.  But it’s Rita Moreno (playing a bad  bathhouse singer who wants to make it into the big time) who steals the show, hands down.  The film is filled with one-liners and hysterical situations, making fun of stereotypes all across the board.  Some of them wouldn’t work today, this was made pre-AIDS, after all.

It was nominated for three Golden Globes, and other awards.

I first saw it at women’s night at a gay bathhouse in San Francisco in 1979.  Very appropriate!   We fell off the seats laughing.



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