For Madison actor Richard Ganoung, time flies. "Oh my god, I can't believe it was more than 20 years ago!" he says of the first release of Parting Glances, the crucial 1986 film about gay New Yorkers beset by AIDS. Ganoung starred in Parting Glances with John Bolger and Kathy Kinney, the Stevens Point native famous for playing the brash Mimi on The Drew Carey Show -- along with an up-and-coming young actor by the name of Steve Buscemi.
Monday evening, Ganoung will join Bolger and Kinney at New York's Lincoln Center for the East Coast premiere of the newly restored Parting Glances. The screening follows one on Oct. 18 in the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, where Ganoung spoke.
Parting Glances is first queer-themed film to be restored by the Outfest Legacy Project of LGBT Preservation. "Many of the landmark LGBT films produced over the last 30 years are already in danger of fading away, their original exhibition prints in tatters," notes the web site of the project, a collaboration of the UCLA Film & Television Archive and Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
"The critics and the film community have dubbed it the best AIDS film to date," says Ganoung of Parting Glances, which was written and directed by Bill Sherwood. Sherwood died of AIDS in 1990, at age 37.
Indeed, Parting Glances is the finest gay-themed film I've ever seen, period, a deceptively low-key work that, with its meandering story line and quietly devastating revelations, recalls the ensemble comedy-dramas of Eric Rohmer. "It's an excellent first film," wrote Isthmus critic Michael Wilmington in 1986. "Surprising, poignant, deeply disturbing."
In Parting Glances, aspiring writer Michael (Ganoung) says farewell to his boyfriend (Bolger), an attractive but dull bureaucrat whose work with the United Nations is taking him overseas. Meanwhile, Michael cares for his ex-boyfriend Nick (Buscemi), a rock star who is dying of AIDS.
Although Buscemi won't be at the Lincoln Center event on Monday, he did join Ganoung for the restored Parting Glances' premiere in Los Angeles last July.
"I told him, 'I wanted to thank you for your support behind this movie,'" recalls Ganoung. "He said, 'I love this movie. Nick has always been my favorite character.'"
Originally from Lake Geneva, Ganoung has made a name for himself here in regional theater. Last spring he starred as Atticus Finch in CTM Madison Family Theatre's production of To Kill a Mockingbird, and in December he will appear in Madison Repertory Theatre's The Diary of Anne Frank.
He first came to Madison in 1976, for college, and in 1981 he decamped for New York, where he studied at Circle in the Square Theatre School. He had just finished his training there when he heard of an audition for what turned out to be Parting Glances.
"I did the scene, and it was pretty awful," says Ganoung of the tryout. "I was not very good. This guy in the back of the room said, 'Could you do it again and try not acting so much?' I said, 'Who's the asshole?'"
The asshole, it turned out, was writer-director Sherwood, though Ganoung didn't learn that till later. He left the audition and was surprised, after a time, to learn he had gotten the part. "When I met Bill later," says Ganoung, "he said, 'You got flustered and walked out, and you became Michael at that moment.'"
In Parting Glances, Sherwood prized honest, nuanced performances from Ganoung and the others. What's indelible about the characters is the warmth of their friendships and the breadth of their interests -- in art, music, writing, politics. They are gay people, yes, but gay people pursuing ordinary lives.
Indeed, notes Ganoung, for some viewers in 1986, that very ordinariness was an affront. "I remember the first time the film was screened in New York," he says. "This woman stood up, very upset, and said, 'What's upsetting about this movie was that you made it look so normal.'"
"It," of course, was homosexuality, which the woman couldn't even name. "She said, 'I have a brother who's...you know,'" laughs Ganoung. "She couldn't bring herself to say 'gay.'"
In addition to his roles here, Ganoung is pursuing work in Hollywood and New York. He is optimistic. "I do want something else on my tombstone other than 'The Guy from Parting Glances,'" he notes, wryly.
"But," he adds, "that's enough."