That thing I didn’t do in Toronto

Visiting Toronto always feels like I’m watching a home movie about my life. Toronto was the first city I lived in on my own after I left home. It’s been nearly 30 years since I moved to Vancouver, but whenever I’m back I’ll see a building or walk down a street and will be whisked back to my twenties.

I was in Toronto last week visiting family. I had been in the city for less the twelve hours, scourging for a cup of coffee when I saw was a photocopied poster for a screening of Boys in the Sand at the Cineforum and boom, there I was back in 1988.


I remembered seeing those posters all the time when I lived downtown. There were usually a group of them stapled to a telephone pole. They were all over town. And even though I loved cinema as much, if not more, than I do now, I never went to a screening.

The poster for Boys in the Sand immediately caught my eye. I recently saw Seed Money, a documentary about Chuck Holmes and Falcon Studios, the major producer of gay porn in the seventies and eighties. The film made me realize just how much porn influenced gay male culture. We didn’t see ourselves on TV or in movies back then, and when we did, we were usually portrayed as  lisping fags there for comic relief or to be murdered.

Boys in the Sand is one of those films I’ve heard all about but have never seen. It’s referenced constantly in gay plays and novels from seventies as the ultimate in gaydom. It’s the antithesis of The Boys in the Band; whereas as that  film was about self-loathing homosexuals, Boys in the Sand was a sex-positive celebration of gay scene on Fire Island.

I made a point of taking a picture of the poster in case I had time to see the film while I was in the city. I showed the photo to the friend I was crashing with to see if he was interested in seeing it with me.

“Is Reg Hart still screening movies in his living room?” my friend asked. “I thought he was dead.”

“No,” I told him. “This is at Cineforum.”

“Yeah. Cineforum is Reg Hart’s living room.”


This put a new spin on things. Now I had to see the film if for no other reason than to experience Reg Hart and his underground film series.

I Googled Cineforum. Only a handful of pictures came up. What I could see looked kind of cramped but charming in an underground cinema kind of way. My biggest concern was claustrophobia. The weather in Toronto had been going back and forth between really hot and raining. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stand watching a movie in a living room for nearly two hours. Not to mention the fact it was $20 for the screening and I was burning through money as it was.

Still, there was this part of me that really wanted to experience this firsthand. I thought back to the eighties and all those posters for screenings of John Waters and advante garde movies. Reg Hart and his Cineforum was the only way you could see a subsersvive and banned movies; it wasn’t like you could just go online and find a bootleg copy. And here he was, thirty years later, screening Boys in the Sand, the first mainstream gay porn. This could be my last chance to see it for a long time and I didn’t want to pass it up.

As fate would would have it, I ended up going for dinner with my nieces the night of the screening. I told them about the film and where it was being screened and they were intrigued. I kept looking at the time on my phone, but we were having such a wonderful evening I didn’t want to cut it short. Not to mention, I had a couple of drinks in me and wasn’t sure I had a 90 minute porn in me.

I’m still kicking for myself for not getting to the movie. I looked to see if I can find a copy of the movie online but have come up empty. I did get to see a documentary about Allan Carr at the Inside Out festival, and while it was no Boys in the Sand, it scratched an itch.

About garpinbc

Author of the forthcoming "Same Love" published by Lorimer, as well as the memoir "Foodsluts at Doll & Penny's Cafe", and the YA short, "Haters Gotta Hate".
This entry was posted in Memoir, Movies, Queer Culture, The Eighties, The Seventies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to That thing I didn’t do in Toronto

  1. Clark says:

    Wow. I’ve never heard of this film before yet you say it was famous back in the day. (Of course where I was living there wasn’t much porn of any type around back then.)
    Check for a used DVD on eBay or somewhere like that. You never know. If you find one you can have a screening in your own living room. Hah!

  2. Reg Hartt says:

    Artist Cecil Taylor said to my friends Bill Smith and Chloe Onari (who ran the JAZZ AND BLUES CENTER), “The key to success in the arts is to find someplace small where we can present our ideas on a regular basis WITHOUT interference. Do that and the whole world comes to our door.” A lot of people have come to The CineForum. Most of them like the experience. It has been my small space. When Covid passes drop by. I encourage artists to find their small spaces. Generally those closest value least what we do.

  3. reghartt says:

    Reg Hartt has had an amazing impact given the size of the venue and the esoteric nature of the programming. He’s had an incredible impact on the city. No one else is doing it. No one else has ever done it.”–Rob Salem. Cecil Taylor: “The key to success in the arts is to find a small place in your own city where you can present your work without interference. Do that and the world comes to your door.” Seeing BOYS IN THE SAND (or, indeed, any movie in the safety of our home is not and never can be as electric as experiencing it with absolute strangers. I encourage artists to use small spaces. When Covid passes drop by.

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