Here’s probably some of the most unusual footage that you’ve ever seen: a gay pool party in 1945 at a private home outside St. Louis, Missouri. There’s more where that came from, and it’s being crafted into a film.
The footage was found by St. Louis filmmaker Geoff Story at an estate sale, and Story is making a documentary from it, St. Louis Public Radio reports:
As a gay man, Story is fascinated by the brittle, flickering scenes that include a uniformed World War II soldier kissing another man.
“There was such a beauty in that moment,” Story said. “I kind of couldn’t believe I was seeing it.”
Story stumbled upon the films in the mid-1990s, a half century after the pool party, at an estate sale. It was at the Lindell Boulevard home of the now-deceased Buddy Walton, widely known as St. Louis’ “hairdresser to the stars.”
From Eleanore Roosevelt to Ethel Merman, whenever celebrities and dignitaries came to town, they all went to Walton’s salon at The Chase, said Walton’s niece Susie Seagraves.
“Queens and presidents wives and movie stars — he was always around fancy places and fancy things,” Seagraves said. “He had a beautiful life.”
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Story says that Walton and his partner Sam Micatto were known for their pool parties, but the footage is a gift and an insight into a time when such gatherings were clandestine:
The haunting images are confirmation that gay men did live and love at a time when no one dared to even speak of same-sex attraction. Story is amazed that the men allowed a camera to capture home movies in this sacred space.
“I just knew that it was gold, it was something special,” Story said.
Story thinks his documentary could make it big: It’s caught the interest of Hollywood executive Brian Graden, who in 1995, backed a film that launched the TV show, “South Park.” The project has “huge potential,” Graden said.
We look forward to seeing much more of the footage.
The St. Louis Public Library also spoke with Richard Eaton, who grew up in St. Louis at that time but doesn’t appear in the films. He spoke to them about what it was like back then.