Must-See Gay Cinema: The Ritz
Hiding out from the mafia can be an awful drag, as a straight businessman from Cleveland discovers when he seeks refuge in a gay New York bathhouse.
Welcome to The Ritz, a 1976 classic comedy written by Terrence McNally and starring the amazing Rita Moreno as a talentless entertainer with dreams of stardom.
When Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston) discovers that his mob-connected brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) is trying to kill him, he hops in a cab and asks to be taken to the last place the homicidal maniac would look for him. The cab driver drops him off at a bathhouse, which Proclo mistakes for a health club.
It’s here the unknowing Midwesterner finds himself being lusted after by a relentless chubby chaser, mingling with towel-clad go-go boys and half-naked studs looking for action, and being trailed by a bizarrely-voiced but hunky detective (played a blond Treat Williams).
If that weren't bad enough, he’s also doggedly pursued by the club’s “entertainment,” an obnoxious Puerto Rican performer who thinks Proclo’s a famous producer who’s going to give her the break she needs. (He thinks she’s a man in drag.)
Filled with bizarre characters and featuring the talents of Kaye Ballard, future Academy Award-winner (for Amadeus) F. Murray Abraham, and Cheers’ John Ratzenberger, The Ritz gives us a hilarious look at a bygone era in gay history—a time before AIDS—as well as an amazing musical number by Moreno.
Check in for a night at The Ritz and add this classic to your gay movie collection.