Forgotten 1967 Documentary About A Black Gay Hustler Is Hilarious And Heartbreaking

Portrait_of_Jason_Medium_Shot_Sitting-465On the night of December 2, 1966, filmmaker Shirley Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City to make a film.

There, for 12 straight hours they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang, donned costumes and reminisced about good times and bad behavior as a gay hustler, sometime houseboy and aspiring cabaret performer.

The result is a mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable, charming and tortured man, who is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Ingmar Bergman called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.”

When it first screened in a sneak preview, the audience included Tennessee Williams, Robert Frank, Thomas Hoving, Amos Vogel, Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol, Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Rip Torn, Geraldine Page and Terry Southern. But for decades, Shirley Clarke’s powerful and transgressive Portrait of Jason was unavailable and its original elements were thought to be lost.

It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray via Milestone Films.

Below, preview a clip and find the trailer from this largely forgotten piece of queer history:

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h/t: Dangerous Minds