Bright Lights Film Journal

A Gay Pride Parade Goes Down SCARLET STREET: Remembering Richard Valley 1949-2007

Just got back from the Gay Pride parade on 5th Avenue, had my annual sob of joy and solidarity, and remembered I never did publish this eulogy for dearly departed Scarlet Street (the magazine of classic mystery and horror) editor, Richard Valley, back when I first started writing for BLAD in 2007. So here it is, and Mr. Richard, wherever you are, I’m sure you’re tearing the joint up, gushing over Karloff and snubbing Bela Lugosi like always! We haven’t forgotten and we won’t forget.

The founder and editor-in-chief of SCARLET STREET, the Magazine of Mystery and Horror, died a few years ago… and for anyone who may not have known it, SCARLET STREET (named after the 1949 Fritz Lang film) was/is a glossy, intelligently-written journal on classic genre movies (with a focus on mystery and horror) that–unbeknownst to me when I started writing for them in 1998–had a decidedly gay-friendly bent.

I started writing for SS at the suggestion of one of its main writers, Ken Hanke, whom I met on AOL’s classic horror film boards, he kind of lured me away over to the SS boards, and to my shock I soon realized there was an east coast/west coast style rivalry going on, I had to kind of pick a side and I didn’t even know who was playing. No mention of queerness, though, so when I first saw the actual magazine I was kind of shocked! What were all these pictures of well-oiled manly men doing in here? Was I unknowingly writing for a gay classic horror cinema magazine? Was there even such a thing?

But I soon thought it through and realized any initial discomfort on my part was more a realization of the shoe being on the other foot… why shouldn’t beefcake images be as important in a magazine as the cheesecake? Both were represented pretty well on Valley’s beat: Scarlet Street was/is, is beyond any agenda in itself. As Richard once wrote in response to allegations of a gay agenda:

“Scarlet Street isn’t a gay magazine, but it isn’t a straight magazine, either. It’s a magazine for all genre lovers who are mature enough and smart enough to consider a different perspective on some old favorites.”

So I picked my side. I became very proud to be writing for Scarlet Street for both the uniformly high writing quality and those very reasons that initially were so shocking — the daring way the magazine walked freely across the gay and straight lines, refusing to conform to either camp’s dictates. It helped me open my eyes to just how mainstream media disrespects and tramples everything outside its immediate target demographic. Richard’s tolerance on the other hand was wide enough to include not only both perspectives, but also my still not-quite honed style of “slackademic” writing as well, publishing my lengthy diatribes on the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (“give it to me from an environmental angle,” Richard told me) trilogy, the FLY films–including remakes (nominated for the 2003 Rondos!), THE BLOB films, and heavy meditations on THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, and TORMENTED!

As the bulk of SS was devoted to interviews of aging genre stars and straightforward reviews-synopses of classic films, my analytic ramblings stuck out from the rest of the issue like a severed but still-twitching thumb, but Richard didn’t care; he liked them. That was what he was all about, giving new writers and new approaches ample room next to stalwarts like Forrest Ackerman, and letting old B-list horror actors know they were still loved. In the process, he helped horror fans realize that they could let their freak flag fly.

So thank you, Richard, for your bravery and fortitude and vision. The last few years have seen progress and setbacks and there’s still a long way to go. SCARLET STREET suffered its share of slings and arrows from some of the writers and publishers in the “straight” classic horror world (who shall be nameless), but it also earned a lot of admiration and affection for never wavering from its open-minded stance. If a magazine with a subject matter as innocuous as classic mystery and horror can inspire such resentment and respect, it must be doing something right. We miss you, Richard… and we’ll all be seeing you soon, at that giant monster rally in the sky! Mwahahahaha! (crash of thunder).