Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Vincent Hanley: Sex, Lies and Videotapes : the story of an Irish gay icon


Irish filmmaker Bill Hughes’s poignant and very personal documentary on his DJ friend the late Vincent Hanley will probably move you to tears.  Especially if you are a gay man of a certain age.  Or Irish. Or both.  

Hanley was a celebrity DJ and TV presenter in the 1970s & 1980s in a very homophobic Catholic Ireland when homosexuality was still illegal.  (In fact, it was one of the last European countries to decriminalize as late as 1993) . He, therefore, led a very closeted life as fear of being outed would not only expose him to being prosecuted and ostracized by society but would definitely lead him to be fired by RTE the national broadcaster.

Hughes paints a picture of his friend’s huge professional success and being recognized as a national celebrity, who would discreetly seek out the company of men in Dublin’s underground gay club. 

He shared a house with Charles Self another gay man who was brutally murdered in their home one night.  The case, still unsolved, received an immense amount of publicity but the Garda (police) used the situation to focus on having a gay witch hunt indiscriminatingly outing men, rather than catch the killer. That alone spoke volumes of how victimized the Irish LGBTQ community was at the time.

Hanley left Ireland to join the very successful Capital Radio Station in London where he shared the same agent with fellow DJ Kenny Everett.  Years later, Everett also a closeted gay man, would also die of AIDS in his prime.

After two years in London Hanley made tracks to NY where founded Green Apple Productions with Conor McAnally.They produced MT-USA (Music Television USA), a three-hour-long music video show modeled on the new American cable channel, MTV. MT-USA was a huge success and was broadcast on RTÉ in Ireland on Sunday afternoons.  

It was 1985 at the height of the AIDS crisis and Hughes, then working with Hanley, said it was obvious he was ill.  At that time Hanley was not only going to great lengths to keep his sexuality private, on a trip back to Ireland, he even went on Gay Byrne’s Late Show on TV and specifically denied he had AIDS.  As a celebrity, he suffered more than most from an invasive tabloid press that was so focused on demonizing AIDS as a  gay plague.  Thus when he died in 1987 aged 33 years as the first Irish celebrity to succumb to AIDS the newspapers didn’t hold back on casting him as a promiscuous gay man responsible for his own death.

Hughes portrays his friend who, despite the fear of exposure, was so very charismatic and enjoyed life to the full.  He did fall in and out of love spontaneously as a couple of his ex-boyfriends commented, but then most of us did at the time. We however never got named by Sunday Tribune as an Irish gay icon like Hanley who was placed top of their list in 2020.

Vincent Hanley: Sex, Lies & Videotapes  can be viewed on https://www.rte.ie/player 

which you access internationally via VPN

Posted by queerguru  at  12:55


Genres:  documentary

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