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If You’re Ashamed of ‘Trouser Bar’, Resign From Sir John Gielgud’s Charitable Trust

Helping hands. The cast of 'Trouser Bar'. Photograph: Courtesy of David McGillavry.

As the Trouser Bar fiasco intensifies, you have to ask why people ashamed of Sir John Gielgud’s sexuality are in charge of his legacy?

NB. As of 22 February 2016, the Trust has since claimed, after initially failing to get anywhere with their initial claim of copyright, that Trouser Bar was not written by Sir John Gielgud. As of 2 March 2016, David McGillivray is now releasing Trouser Bar with all associations to Sir Gielgud’s contested authorship removed. For the full official statement, please visit Trouser Bar’s official Facebook page

The article below’s association with Trouser Bar and Sir Gielgud was written at a time that this was considered to be the case.

Helping hands. The cast of 'Trouser Bar'. Photograph: Courtesy of David McGillavry.

Helping hands. The cast of ‘Trouser Bar’. Photograph: Courtesy of David McGillivray.

Trouser Bar is a script written by Sir John Gielgud with the express wish to have been made by Peter de Rome, infamous erotic film maker and often to referred to as “the grandfather of gay porn”. It was uncovered by established screenwriter and cinema historian David McGillivray, who also pieced together Fragments: The Incomplete Films of Peter de Rome (which I had the privilege to watch and review during the 2012 London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival as it was known then) and has recently released a documentary on the influential figurehead of smut, Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn.

The short erotic fantasy, penned by Sir Gielgud, involves a group of gay men who go to a clothes shop, but end up having a big ol’ gay orgy, much to the delight of passers by.

The problem is, despite the film having already been fully filmed and been through post-production, despite not knowing the existence of the script until McGillivray’s production of it and his own proactive outreach to them, the Charitable Trust looking after the lat Sir Gielgud’s estate are doing everything in their power to stop it ever being seen. They have claimed copyright over it and have deemed it “inappropriate”. Now, McGillivray has released an understandably couched statement on the evening on Monday 22 February 2016 on the official Trouser Bar Facebook page stating:

“The latest claim against me by the Trust’s lawyer is beyond belief. I am prohibited from “circulating” [the claim]. Suffice it to say that the lawyer is attempting an entirely new approach to suppress Trouser Bar. It has nothing to do with copyright or “inappropriate” material.”

I won’t get into the legal nitty gritty behind Trouser Bar’s attempted censorship. I’ll leave that to writers who are much more eloquent and informed than me: I thoroughly recommend reading David Hudson’s comprehensive run down of the saga over on Gay Star News. But instead I want to ask the question; why are the Trust so ashamed of Sir Gielgud’s sexuality?

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Raw cut. Behind the scenes of ‘Trouser Bar’. Photograph: Courtesy of David McGillivray.

It is not news that Sir Gielgud was gay. He was prosecuted and fined for “homosexual offenses” in 1953, and there are published letters evidencing his secretive gay lifestyle. He’s not just celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest stage and screen actors, but someone who triumphed over prejudice to indomitable success. Because of this, Sir Gielgud is such an icon and inspiration to so many of the LGBT community because he never let persecution get in the way of his extraordinary talent, even overcoming his own fear of homophobia, achieving what was considered impossible back then: being out, famous, and still working. Support from his peers and his adoring public saw him go on to survive the scandal relatively unscathed, enduring the avant-garde movement (which nearly killed off Laurence Olivier’s career, as charted in the wonderful Orson’s Shadow) to continue to be on the stage and even start a career in film, winning him the ultimate state-side hat-trick: an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony.

So what’s the Trust’s beef with Trouser Bar? If it’s public knowledge of over six decades that Sir Gielgud was gay, why is the discovery of a soft-core script penned by him so sensational? The only thing that I can think of is that the Trust are made up of people who are still shocked and ashamed by homosexuality. Unfortunately, I can’t call them “homophobes” as I really have no evidence that members of the Turst harbour an irrational fear and/or hatred of gay people. But their actions reek of a deep-seated shame and embarrassment about the very person they’re supposed to be celebrating.

There’s completely no modern logic to the Trust’s continued attempts to suppress Trouser Bar. We’re living in an age where we’re re-evaluating, re-appreciating, and being honest about one of the UK’s other great LGBT heroes: Alan Turing. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed him in The Imitation Game, and plays like Lovesong of the Electric Bear and upcoming To Kill A Machine embrace Turing’s sexuality and sex life: albeit possibly not so racily (although, there was a scene with full frontal male nudity that touched on violent sexual desires in Lovesong of the Electric Bear). Therefore, the Trust’s actions are not just irrational, but reprehensible as it sends a message that acknowledgement of homosexual sex is still something we’re supposed to be hush-hush and shocked about. This is the persecution that Sir Gielgud rose above. This will not stand.

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Window shoppers. Julian Clary (centre) and fellow onlookers in ‘Trouser Bar’. Photograph: Courtesy of David McGillivray.

Such shameless and desperate attempts to banish Trouser Bar into oblivion is not only a mind-boggling draconian attempt at censoring in an age where we are supposed to be past all this, but it’s also an indignant two-fingers to Sir Gielgud himself. Sir Gielgud lived in fear of persecution, but managed to find ways to express himself around fellow kindred-spirits, such as de Rome, and even ride out scandal that could have, and in many cases at that time had for others, destroyed his career and life. Denying Sir Gielgud’s own expression of his sexuality posthumously is a grave insult to his legacy, meaning the entire Trust have deemed themselves completely unfit for purpose for “protecting” Sir Gielgud’s brand.

The problem is, the Trust’s constant desperate flailing is proving to be the best publicity for Trouser Bar. Better known as the “Barbra Streisand Effect”, more people know about Trouser Bar now than they would have if it was released without fuss. Trouser Bar is already being deemed a “cult” film despite not being released, and may never even be released. High profile figures such as Barry Cryer, Julian Clary, and Nigel Havers (much to the dismay of the Daily Mail) make cameos in Trouser Bar, and even phenomenal writer Neil Gaiman is on the side of McGillivray and is astonished at the Trust’s position.

Please, if you value Sir John Gielgud as an acting legend, institution, and LGBT hero, but you can’t cope with Trouser Bar, resign immediately from the Charitable Trust’s board until you can learn to be comfortable with the fact that Sir John Gielgud liked cock and was not shy about it (and neither should he have been).

For the latest updates on Trouser Bar, visit the film’s official Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @trouserbar.

David McGillivray’s documentary Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn is available to buy from