Lance Loud Was Gay On Reality TV Way Before Most People Wanted To See Gays On Reality TV

Forty years ago, producer Craig Gilbert and filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond brought cameras into the Santa Barbara home of the Loud family. They filmed Pat and Bill Loud and their five children—Lance, Delilah, Grant, Kevin and Michele—for seven months. Then, on January 11, 1973, An American Family hit American TV screens and caused a bit of a ruckus. (see the above video for a groovy 1970s-outfits-intensive interview with the kids on The Dick Cavett Show)

Over the course of the 12 weeks An American Family aired, Pat and Bill Loud separated and began their divorce. Even more controversially, their son Lance came bursting out of the closet with a brash confidence that more than lived up to his surname. It was the first example of what would eventually come to be known as reality television and audiences got simultaneously hooked and freaked out. In 2002, TV Guide called the series one of the 50 Greatest Shows Of All Time.

Now, almost ten years after the death of Lance Loud, the filmmakers have edited a new two-hour feature-length special of the show’s most memorable moments, An American Family: Anniversary Edition. It premieres this coming Thursday, July 7 on PBS stations. Check local listings and see what it was like when the idea of homosexuals simply existing in public without apology was considered shocking. Seriously, this fearless guy made history. Set your DVR now.

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  • David Ehrenstein

    Lance was a great guy. We all miss him terribly.

  • Eminent Victorian

    It’s amazing to me to think that this clip is from the 1970s, yet Lance is dressed like it’s the 80s already!

  • declanto

    Lance is the most conventionally dressed of the brothers. It’s the “layered look” of the late mid-70’s. Grant is the most progressive dresser.

  • Cam

    What an incredibly brave guy. Compare him and his bravery…coming out on national TV in the 70’s with many people in gay groups today who still want to apologize for the very fact that we exist and telling gays to be quiet and just accept what we get from our “Friends” in office.

    They should watch this and be ashamed of themselves.

  • Improbable

    Having grown up with Lance, it’s a little hard to call him brave…Lance was Lance and no TV show, no publicity, nothing was about to change him. He loved attention, he was smart, he was hyperactive and he was ultimately a charming man. Not everyone is or can be like that.

  • lizcivious

    My parents watched An American Family when it was first aired. I was too young and naive to know much about gay people and just thought Lance was cute and fun (Grant was the one I thought was hottest). I was bored with most of the grown-up stuff, so the parental separation completely went over my head. So, now, as a grown-up myself, I was thrilled to have DVR’d the entire 12 hours when my local PBS aired the series back in April. A lot of the grown-up stuff was still a bit boring, but it was fun watching with new eyes, so to speak. Lance and Grant still looked cute to me, and it was interesting to see how ahead of his time Lance was. Also had fun seeing the old Chelsea Hotel in its heyday (even pre-Sid Vicious/Nancy Spungeon murder!) and the Warhol stars like Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis. (I had no idea who they were originally and didn’t even realize they were drag queens!) It’s also something to see how cool Pat and Bill Loud were with Lance, accepting and encouraging his ambitions and style. I mean, this was 40 years ago! I wish Lance was still alive today. Upon seeing recent pictures of the surviving family members, it’s heartening to see that they all look good and seem to be content in life. Pat and Bill are back together, and Bill, even in his rather decrepit state (I think he’s pushing 90), looks like he’s still kind of rakish with an eye for the ladies. By all means, watch the show, even if it is in condensed form.

  • Bryan

    I would have loved to have known Lance.

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