Before Logo, before Here TV—heck before Bravo became the reality-TV network for gay men and single women— there was the Gay Cable Network, founded in 1982 by Louis Maletta, who died of liver cancer on November 2 at age 74.
Maletta, a New York native, started what would become the Gay Cable Network (GCN) as Men & Film, a weekly porn-clip show on Manhattan public-access channel 35 (home to equally explicit Robin Byrd Show). As the AIDS epidemic began to cut a swath across the gay community, Maletta took the show beyond its X-rated roots to cover a variety of LGBT subject matter. It was sent out, via videotape, to more than 20 public-access stations nationwide. As the Times reports, “Mr. Maletta’s enterprise was considered the first to produce weekly news, entertainment, political commentary, cultural and health-related programs.”
Maletta shuttered GCN when he retired in 2001, but the current-affairs show Gay USA, which got its start on GCN, is still in production. And, in 2009, New York University acquired more than 6,000 tapes of GCN broadcasts from Maletta.
“He was this tremendous character, generally wearing spandex, a black leather jacket, the Gay Network T-shirt and a cowboy hat,” Gay USA co-host Andy Humm tells the Times about the late media pioneer. “Not unusual in New York, but try going to a Hardee’s in Mississippi on the way to a convention. I didn’t think we were going to get out alive.”
So the next time you turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race, raise a glass to Lou Maletta.