Fascinating analysis, Liam, and one that I think would have resonated particularly with gay men living in NYC in the early 90s.
Jeter’s casting was especially meaningful, given he had become something of a local icon after his critical success in 1989’s Grand Hotel on Broadway.
We thought of him as one of us. He was seen about the City quite a bit, he wasn’t shy about appearing in public with his gay partner, and while he may not have been HIV positive yet (I don’t know), he was prominently involved in HIV/AIDS charity fundraising.
So, when his Homeless Cabaret Singer suffered, many of us NYC queers saw the potential of our own destruction in his.
It was deeply personal and profoundly frightening.
Remember, in 1991, we didn’t yet have the benefit of hindsight. We were years away from hope. For all we knew, each of us would become Homeless Cabaret Singer before long.
In that respect, when I watched the film, I experienced it as a howl of protest fueled by despair.
I could not separate Jeter from his character. I think many would have felt the same.