Victor Garber on his costar (and gay icon) Olympia Dukakis

When I was a young man, fresh out of college in the late 1980s, my life revolved around politics – because that was my job – and alcohol, because that’s what all the young helpers were at Capitol Hill on their off hours, so there was little time left for anything else.

When he was running for president in 1988, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis made a stop at Capitol Hill, and I vividly remember meeting him and being a little surprised at his small size. . Later that day, at one of the waterholes on the Hill, a friend of mine told me that a first cousin of Dukakis, Olympia, was an Oscar winner for Dreamer.

I hadn’t heard of either the movie or the actress, but I remember being impressed that Governor Dukakis had an Oscar-winning cousin, which in my mind made up for his short stature. Years later, I saw the movie and kept thinking about Olympia’s cousin, the failed presidential candidate.

And because I was obsessed with maintaining my masculinity in the late 80s, I was never going to watch an all-girl movie like Steel magnolia trees who obviously, then openly, had a huge gay audience.

We wrote in 2012 about the all-noir reboot and validated the original film as a gay touchstone by writing, “In the decades since the quote has been biting dialogue such as’ You know what they’re saying : if you don’t have anything nice to say to anyone, come sit next to me! [the film] has become a sort of national gay pastime, and it is frequently looped in video bars. “

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, after moving to New York, that I had the opportunity to meet the film’s director, Herbert Ross, and I think he was less than impressed with me. when I haven’t. know nothing about Steel magnolia trees. He suddenly told me something to the effect that the cast of the film was the best ensemble of women in the history of cinema. I think he was right. I let go of my masculinity and made it a point to watch the movie, and she was there again, Olympia Dukakis, with all these fabulous women.

Growing up, I understood how much Dukakis was an ally of the LGBTQ + community. In an interview she gave to The Guardian in 2012, she was asked about her side concert as a gay icon. “I appreciate that my work is seen and understood and that it is relevant to people. And I am fortunate to have friends of all sexual tendencies, some of which are totally inexplicable to me. So everything is fine. Last year I was Grand Marshal at the San Francisco Gay Parade, and that was good too. You can walk around in a car and say hello to people – that’s about it. My arm got so tired from the restlessness that my brother had to hold it up for me.

Well, she held up well for us most of her life, until the end. Over the past couple of years, I have watched every rendition of the iconic gay series Tales of the city, based on the novels by Armistead Maupin, where Dukakis played Anna Madrigal, a transgender woman, and thus became one of the first actresses to portray a trans character on American television when the original Tales premiered on PBS in January 1994.

In the years that followed, when the series continued on Showtime, and more recently on Netflix, it was suggested that a trans actress should take on the role of Madrigal instead of Dukakis. And that was quickly put to rest by Netflix series executive producer Alan Poul, who said Vanity Fair, “Olympia is clearly bought and paid her debt” because of her “very bold” decision to play a trans character in the 1990s.

The fourth installment of the series was one of the last projects Dukakis worked on before he died last weekend at the age of 89. And in the Netflix series, which won the GLAAD award for the limited series. Outstanding last July, Dukakis was associated with pseudo-love interest / friend / other book enthusiast Sam Garland, played wonderfully by actor Victor Garber. The tandem of Madrigal and Garland was quite eclectic and eccentric, to say the least. If you’ve seen the show you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it here.

I caught up with Garber to discuss the life and work of his former teammate and told him how much I loved the chemistry between his character and Dukakis’ Madrigal.

“Yes, they were quite a pair,” Garber recalls. “My first reaction to the news of her passing was of course sadness, but she had a lifetime and she certainly made the most of it. I think for all of us she has always been a renegade and has progressed in her own way. She was determined to do what she wanted to do and as a result she had a great career.

I asked Garber what he would remember the most from his work with Dukakis. “Well, I’ve always admired her so it was just a pleasure to be able to work alongside her on all of our scenes. Due to her age she was understood to some extent, but she never failed to really impress me. When she finally got on set and hit the stage, she really got there, and her determination left an indelible impression.

“It was like looking at a purple flower. She took her time and honestly she was fascinating yet at the same time it was infuriating, ”Garber said with a laugh.

Garber said Dukakis was the queen on set, and everyone was in deference to her. “And it was the right thing for her to do since she gained her status.”

For Garber, Dukakis’ talents and contributions are what we will miss the most. “We should just be grateful that we have had her for as long as we have, and I am personally grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to work with her. And his formidable work will continue to live on so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy all of his formidable performances. She was one of a kind.

John casey is the editor in general for The lawyer.


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Larry Struck

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