Too Gay for Television? Charles Nelson Reilly vs NBC

With 99 appearances on The Tonight Show, nearly two thousand game show episodes, and starring roles from Broadway to sitcoms to cartoons … for decades, Charles Nelson Reilly WAS television. But it almost never happened: At Charles’ first TV audition, an NBC executive took one look at him and said, “they don’t let queers on television.” So, how did Charles Nelson Reilly go from being too gay for broadcast to dominating the airwaves? This is the story of an iconic gay actor who went from selling his blood to make ends meet to being the most in-demand actor on television, thanks to a little help from Burt Reynolds, Broadway, and a haunted house.

6 thoughts on “Too Gay for Television? Charles Nelson Reilly vs NBC

  1. I don’t recall that we spent much time discussing the flaming Reilly’s gender identity. We simply enjoyed him. Even my Holy Ghost baptized Mother, bless her Republican heart. I think we pretty well understand what has gone wrong in America; when we have people upset that a person of color appears in a make-believe movie because they don’t think, mermaids could have been black??? Mermaids, like God, are the creation of human imagination. Most of us, even children, are aware that this is fantasy in both parts.

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    1. Hello Cagjr. I agree. The thing is I don’t think anyone acting as nervously over the top totally what the stereotypically thought of as gay portrayed in the negative would have been seen as wrong then. In fact, before him and his portrayal gays were all portrayed as villains and other extremely sick people. Reilly was acting as he was feeling but it was a feeling of how gay people were during his time, so he was accepted. To be very clear he is who he is and there is nothing wrong with him or his way of being, but it is not how all gay people are. But it was thought at the time he was how all gay men were. Mostly people were laughing at him, not with him. Yes it was a time of transition, and he did a lot to make that transition happen. But for every Paul Lynde and Reilly there were Riddick type gays not getting acknowledged and gay kids that were like them left with no representation they could identify with. I know that I as a kid in the 1970s I hated that image and it was used to harm me then. As an adult decades later I enjoyed and laughed watching the clips of shows with him on them. Hugs

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  2. I know you are going to dismiss my poor grammar and misplaced punctuation, and I appreciate that. Thanx.

    Not that I would do better if we had an “edit” button.

    Liked by 1 person

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