Sticks and Stones follows a squabbling gay couple who throw a party at their Fire Island beach house. The guests are a mix of hippies, divas and clowns who sing, chatter and hook up. The half improvised film had a limited release and was quickly forgotten. The acting is amateurish, the sound is muffled and the pace is slack. But the film captures rare footage of Fire Island culture circa 1969. The LGBT+ community had begun settling on the Island in the 1930’s. By the late 60’s the neighborhoods of Cherry Grove and the Pines were thriving meccas. Sticks and Stones understands that this party atmosphere can mean heaven for some and a hangover for others.
Want to learn more? Then read my spoiler filled recap.
Act One: Introductions
Scene One: July 4th, 1969. A Beach House on Fire Island.
(PETER and BUDDY are nude in bed. BUDDY tries to snuggle.)
PETER (Uptight): Quit it. I’m sick of your affairs and we’ve got a party to prepare for.
BUDDY (Laid back): Let’s not fight all day.
PETER: Stop drinking!
BUDDY: No. (Drinks.)
Scene Two: Roadside
JIMMY (A Sassy Blonde): I’ve got a flat tire and we’re gonna miss the ferry.
FLOWER CHILD: Can’t that trick of yours help us?
JIMMY: He left me last night. I ended up jerking off to some Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers film.
(They slowly change the tire while telling jokes.)
FLOWER CHILD: This is taking forever. How many more jokes do we need to improvise?
JIMMY: Don’t worry. The director will edit this down. He’s not going to use all of the footage. (And yet…)
Scene Three: The Rest of the Guests
FRIENDLY BEAR: You just came out. Join our party and we’ll introduce you to some gays.
MOPEY TEEN: I don’t wanna. I’d rather spend this whole film whining.
LEATHER DADDY: You look tasty. Like my leather pants?
GURU: There’s me and the rest of the world. And who is the rest of the world? People looking for love are only looking for themselves. I think LSD is probably one of the greatest drugs.
QUIET GUY: Uh-huh.
(GURU and QUIET GUY have sex.)
GURU: You have very sharp tan lines.
BI LADY: Stop fishing. You never catch anything and I want to go to the party.
LESBIAN WITH A HAT: But gay men are boring.
Act Two: The Party
Scene Four: Fire Island Board Walk
MOPEY TEEN: I’m booored! This movie has too many characters.
LEATHER DADDY: Only three are important. How about I give you a tour of Fire Island? We’ll start with the Meat Rack.
JIMMY (Sassy Blonde): I’ll save you from this old queen. What does he want you to do, piss on him or something?
LEATHER DADDY: Your roots are showing.
JIMMY: Darling, your hair is plaid.
Scene Five: Beach House
MUSICIAN: (Sings) “Let it always be summer. / Life’s a Holiday. / This film hasn’t very much plot. / But sometimes that’s okay.”
GUESTS: Does the director want us to talk about anything in particular? No? All right. Peas-and-carrots-peas-and-carrots.
PETER: Ever since Buddy’s play flopped he’s been taking it out on me.
BUDDY: Stop sharing my backstory! (Drinks.) Hey musician. You’re cute!
PETER: Hi Mopey Teen. You look sad.
MOPEY TEEN: You too. I can’t get used to this place. Everyone’s trying so hard to be relaxed that they’re uptight. I hope I understand gay culture once I’m your age.
Act Three: Conflict
Scene Six: Living Room
JIMMY (Sassy Blonde): (Sings) “Let it always be summer. / The heat makes things expand. / There’s more nudity in this film / than you’ll see in The Boys in the Band.”
PETER: This party’s gotten boring. Send the guests home.
BUDDY: I’ll do a strip tease. That’ll wake things up. (Strips naked. Gyrates on JIMMY.)
BI LADY: I want attention too! Where my bi guys at? (Strips naked. Gyrates on a BIKER with a Prince Albert.)
PETER: I hate you all. (Leaves.)
Scene Seven: Bedroom
JIMMY (Sassy Blonde): Oh Peter stop sulking. If I improvise more jokes will you give me a smile?
PETER: Go perform your comic relief minstrel show for those other queens and LEAVE ME ALONE!
JIMMY: … That really hurts.
PETER: I’m sorry. It’s just… this is the part where the movie gets real. Let me tell you a triggery story about the time I rescued a stray dog. The neighbors told me to get rid of it. So I strangled it with a rope. I loved that dog.
JIMMY: What the hell? Is this movie going where I think it is? Let’s go people. This party is over.
GUESTS: But there was no resolution to any of our story arcs!
JIMMY: Nobody cares. Move!
Scene Eight: After the Party
(The guests have left. PETER plays with a CURTAIN ROPE.)
CURTAIN ROPE: Uh-oh.
PETER: You’re a mess. (Throws food at BUDDY)
BUDDY: You’re a bore. (Throws a drink at PETER)
PETER: Make love to me like you do to the others.
PETER: Is there any love left for me?
(PETER wrestles BUDDY to the ground. Tries to kiss him. They fight. Then cry. Camera pans across the messy house.)
CURTAIN ROPE: Whew. They totally made us think Peter was going to strangle Buddy with me.
IMDB dismisses Sticks and Stones as a “low-budget version of The Boys in the Band.” Something Weird Video released it with a collection of vintage porn. But neither classification feels right. Peter’s as depressed as the host in Boys, and there are sex scenes, but the bulk of the film is spent with the happy party guests. There’s a sense of liberation that captures the fleeting moment between the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS epidemic. Sticks and Stones is no classic but I found it worth my time. For more reviews of LGBT+ media click here.
Up next: Love wins in one of the first happy gay movies, 1974’s A Very Natural Thing.