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Actor Richard Ganoung reflects on Parting Glances and ponders the possibility of a female presidency
Actor Richard Ganoung reflects on Parting Glances and ponders the possibility of a female presidency
Actor Richard Ganoung reflects on Parting Glances and ponders the possibility of a female presidency by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

When asked to list their favorite Gay-themed films, many Gay men in the upper age bracket would probably include Parting Glances. The film, centering on a group of friends living in Manhattan during the mid-80s, was released twenty years ago when AIDS was just being whispered. Two decades later, it continues to draw audiences with its simple, yet endearing, day-in-the-life close-up of a Gay couple (played by Richard Ganoung and John Bolger) and the people that surround them. Parting Glances has been fully restored, thanks to the Outfest Legacy Project, and was shown this week to audiences at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. In attendance at the screening was Ganoung, who since starring in the film has found steady work in his home state of Wisconsin doing regional theater.

Seattle Gay News recently printed a dated interview with Ganoung, but since the outspoken thespian was in town for the festival it seemed a perfect opportunity to catch up with him. Visit www.richardganoung.com for filmography and latest news on the actor, who also appeared in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. Besides Ganoung, Parting Glances features indie standout Steve Buscemi and Kathy Kinney (The Drew Carey Show).

From a hotel room in downtown Seattle, here's what Richard Ganoung revealed to the Seattle Gay News this week.

Albert Rodriguez: What specifically caught your eye from the restored version of Parting Glances that varied from the original cut?

Richard Ganoung: Well, it was deteriorating. The color wasn't as sharp and the sound wasn't as good because when Bill (Sherwood) shot it, it was shot on 16mm and then blown up. Over the years it just deteriorated. What I noticed the most was the color and crispness to it, also the sound was really quite good this time around.

Rodriguez: Twenty years later, we can really appreciate a film that helped shed light on AIDS.

Ganoung: When I was first cast in the role, I literally was this nerdy little kid from the Midwest. I was and still am from Wisconsin, and I had been in New York for probably two and a half years. I had gone to Circle in the Square theater school and got Parting Glances right after school. I was still relatively new to New York City and had no idea of what the AIDS epidemic was like.

Rodriguez: It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we've certainly lost many women to the disease. But I don't remember going into a grocery store and having proceeds from a box of mac and cheese benefiting AIDS patients or awareness. Those of us who've lost friends to AIDS look back with sadness, but I still get very upset by the lack of overall support.

Ganoung: I do too. I was very militant when I first came out as a Gay man back when I was in college. I'm not a quiet person when it comes to politics and I offend a lot of people. And I'm harsh sometimes because I think you kind of have to be, especially back then too. I was just yelling and screaming all the time that nothing was going on because, and please take this the right way, it was killing all the right people. It's like our generation literally lost a generation.

Rodriguez: Compared to breast cancer patients, who I'm sensitive to and don't want to make feel less important, AIDS didn't have chemotherapy or early detection tests. Our friends never got a second chance, and they're not ever coming back.

Ganoung: And no one wanted to touch them or go near them in the early stages. Remember having to go visit friends and having to put on gowns, masks and gloves? I wouldn't do that. I would go visit my friends and say, "Screw this! I don't care!", meaning I don't believe I'm going to get it because I'm not wearing a mask, gloves, or a gown. Gays were treated as pariahs, even within the Gay community by other Gay folks, because no one knew anything. They knew nothing.

Rodriguez: You mentioned being vocal on politics, are you leaning on anyone specific to win the presidency next year?

Ganoung: (slight laugh) Oh my god, I don't know! I always have to vote my heart and soul, so I support the liberal underdogs. Years ago, it was Jessie Jackson and (Jerry) Brown, the political candidates who have absolutely no chance in winning. Of course, (Dennis) Kucinich has a lot of brilliant ideas but there's no way in hell he's going to become president. You really have to almost select who's not as bad. I haven't come to completely support Hilary (Clinton), although it's become inevitable. It's Barack (Obama) and (John) Edwards, and I don't think they have a chance at this point. But even looking at the debates, I'm so proud to be a Democrat. It's Americana that's up there, we have Black, we have Hispanic, we have White. The only candidate we don't have is Asian. I guess, all in all, I will have to throw my support behind Hilary. I think it's going to be Hilary and Giuliani. How about you, what do you think?

Rodriguez: I strongly support Hilary Clinton. She's the candidate I connect with the most. I think the Clinton name can help restore America's soiled reputation in many parts of the world.

Ganoung: I do too. When I was in Los Angeles, I had dinner with Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls). He's really smart, and smart is attractive to me. He is also a Hilary supporter and he said, "Richard, I think what she's doing and saying right now is doing and saying what she needs to in order to get her elected". She and Bill (Clinton) were in the White House for eight years, and she was raked over the coals. But she's smart, and like I said smart is attractive. He (Bill Clinton) would be a great Secretary of State.

Rodriguez: Do you keep in contact with any of the Parting Glances co-stars?

Ganoung: We did all get together this summer, John (Bolger), who played my lover in the film, Kathy (Kinney), Steve (Buscemi) and I. It was the first time the four of us had been together in a very long time. We're going to try and reunite again in New York. October 29 at Lincoln Center, we're having another screening of Parting Glances. The film is coming home, if you will. The film has not played in New York for a very long time.

Rodriguez: Besides Parting Glances, what are some of your favorite Gay-themed films?

Ganoung: Of course, I love Desert Hearts. And My Beautiful Launderette, which actually came out the same time we did. The older I'm getting, I'm looking back at a lot of black and white films. This is thanks to Bill Condon, who opened my eyes to a lot of Gay themes that were running in movies even made in the 60s that I didn't know like Bell Book and Candle. It's about witches, but Bill Condon said, "Go back and look at it, it's about Gay people". More contemporary, it took me many years to see Longtime Companion and Philadelphia just because of the emotional content. Of course, I have to put a plug in for Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.

Rodriguez: Are there any actors, male or female, whose films you must see when they're released?

Ganoung: Anything that Ian McKellen ever does, because he goes from theater to film effortlessly. He is a brilliant stage actor. Kevin Spacey, another brilliant actor who is the artistic director of the old Vick in London that is committed to doing classic theater. The actors that I really respect are people who usually have their training in the theater. It gives you a respect of your instrument, your voice and your physical-ness, in a way that film doesn't.

Rodriguez: It's great to have you in Seattle to unveil the restored edition of Parting Glances, you being one of the originals that brought it to us the first time.

Ganoung: Thank you for that. And, that made me think of something. Dan Haughey, who was the casting director and also played the man in the suit of armor, was a dear friend of Bill Sherwood. When I called to tell him I was coming to Seattle he said, "Richard, make sure that you tell the people of Seattle how important they were in the early stages of Parting Glances". Right after Bill made the film, he came here to Seattle. It was one of the early places he came, for the film festival, and he said that everyone in Seattle greeted him with open arms. They were gracious, and he said their commentary on the film was very intelligent at a time when, this is 1987, Queer film was not greeted with such open arms. But the Seattle film community, he said, was wonderful. Dan told me to please make sure and tell the people of Seattle how important they were to Bill Sherwood.

Rodriguez: Consider the message delivered. And enjoy the rest of your stay in Seattle.


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