Saturday, February 25, 2017

Remembering the "Kate & Allie" Lesbian Episode ("Landlady")

I used to be a big fan of "Kate & Allie" back in the 80s. This was a sitcom starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin as two divorced women who decide to share a home and raise their children together.

I was revisiting the program on YouTube and discovered an episode that featured their lesbian landlady. Janet Franklin purchased their home and reminded the women that they were living in a single family occupancy. Because they're not a family, their rent was going to be doubled!

Unable to find another apartment that they could afford, Kate and Allie decided to pretend to be a lesbian couple in order for their rent to remain the same. Janet was so excited that she introduced our stars to her lover, Miriam Goodman! 

Soon enough, the two couples were doing everything together and were invited to a gay & lesbian dance. This was one step too many for the uptight Allie, who ran to her bedroom to hide! Janet overheard Kate and Allie talking about how they needed to pretend to be lesbians.

They rushed downstairs to salvage their new friendship (and their affordable rent!!):
Kate: Janet, please let us explain!

Janet: There's no explanation necessary. It's all perfect obvious. You lied about being gay in order to avoid a rent increase. 

Miriam: Oh! Oh no! Did you?

Allie: We couldn't help ourselves. We couldn't afford a new apartment and we can't afford the rent increase.

Miriam: Oh dear...

Janet: Miriam, please! 

Miriam: Janet... I'm sure the girls didn't mean anything...

Janet: Why are you taking their side? After the fools they made of us!

Kate: No, we didn't. 

Janet: I am so tired of people who feel they have the right to condescend to us just because we're different from them!

Kate: Wait a minute! You were ready to penalize us $648 a month just because we're different than you. 

Janet: This apartment is a one family dwelling! 

Kate: Sure! As long as you get to say what a family is. 

Janet: Everybody knows what a family is. 

Kate: I'm not so sure. A lot of people wouldn't consider a gay couple a family, but you do. And now... so do we!

Miriam: Oh Janet... 

Allie: A family is anybody who wants to share their lives together.

Kate: Right! Raise their kids together... Put up with each other's craziness... 

Allie: It's love that defines a family and it could be any kind of love. Your kind... Our kind... Theirs...

Kate: Who's to say whose kind of family is best? You above all people should know that...

*thoughtful pause*

Janet: We're going to be late...  *pause* Get your coats! We're going to be late!

Allie: Us? 

Janet: Who else am I talking to?

Allie: We're not gay!

Janet: I won't tell anybody if you won't! Besides, lots of our members bring straight friends. That is... if you want to be friends...

Kate: You bet we do. Except this time we're going to be real friends!
You can watch a condensed version of "Landlady" here.

Needless to say, Kate and Allie were able to keep their affordable rent and their brownstone. (Jon's Note: Keep in mind that their rent was $648!!! Granted, it was 1984. But it was also set in New York's Greenwich Village. Nowadays, you're lucky to find an efficiency here in Iowa City for that price!)

It's pretty common for television programs to have LGBT-inclusive story lines and characters in them these days, but not so much in the 1980s. Looking back, these stories usually featured regular characters being challenged by a former friend who has since come out as gay or had a sex change operation. So this particular story -- and the reminder that love is love and that families come in all sizes -- was extremely progressive for that time.

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