Winter a-Go-Go’s Roger – A Gay in the Snow?
With Winter a-Go-Go opening this week 53 years ago in 1965, I want to pay tribute to actor/screenwriter Bob Kanter who inadvertently or not created the arguably first gay character in the 1960s teenage beach movie genre and cast himself in the part. A personal favorite though most critics consider it one of the lesser beach party movies. Unlike and Wild Wild Winter, which incorporated beach scenes into their plots, Winter a-Go-Go heads straight for the slopes and remains there the entire time though there is an obligatory bikini scene. Jeff () inherits a ski resort and with a pack of friends (including love interest Beverly Adams, Duke Hobbie, Julie Parrish, Nancy Czar, and Linda Rogers) heads off to turn the lodge into a success but trouble ensues when the mortgage holder hires two goons to wreck havoc so he can foreclose. Of all the beach-party films this was this is the closest to being camp with its scantily-clad dancing Winter a-Go-Go girls, to James Stacy as lothario Danny singing “Hip Square Dance” in his pajamas, to musical performances by the Nooney Rickett Four and Joni Lyman, to the bitchy barbs thrown out by Kanter’s Roger.
It is Roger who makes the movie especially interesting and an undiscovered camp classic as he descends on the ski resort accompanied by his best gal pal the snobbish selfish socialite Janine (Jill Donohue) and her cute timid friend Dori (Judy Parker). Though both babes are hot there is absolutely no evidence of any current or past romance with either gal. During the course of the film Janine sets her sights on Danny and Jeff, without a trace of jealousy from Roger, but winds up reuniting with tough guy Burt (Anthony Hayes). Dori makes goo-goo eyes at Frankie (Tom Nardini) throughout the film. Poor Roger has no romantic contact with anyone. The closest he gets is when running to Jeff and Danny for protection from the bullying Burt. Otherwise, he just sits there drinking his cokes making amusingly catty comments about the proceedings. He is like Paul Lynde in The Hollywood Squares sitting center stage cracking jokes at the others expense. He shows no sexual attraction to either Janine or Dori and barely looks at the other scantily clad snow bunnies who double as cocktail waitresses and dancers. These gals barely give him a glance and Roger could care less. You just know if he is going to hit the sheets oops slopes with anyone, he would choose Danny or Jeff to winter a-go-go.
Regarding his thoughts if Bob Kanter’s character was a homosexual, William Wellman, Jr. opined in my Hollywood Surf and Beach Movie book, “I don’t know what Bob Kanter’s sexual preference was in real life. He authored the screenplay and wanted to act so he wrote the part of Roger for himself. The character made no sense and I guess it does sort of come off like the gay best friend.”
There is not much to biographical info on Bob Kanter and I have no idea what his sexual orientation was. As an actor, he seemed to be the go-to guy for war movies beginning with small roles in Two and Two Make Six (1962) starring George Chakiris and (1962) starring Steve McQueen and Robert Wagner. He graduated to a major supporting role in WWII adventure (1964) starring Keir Dullea. On TV he guested on a few TV series again most of the war kind such as 12 o’Clock High and Combat! His first screenplay was for the forgotten film Mike and the Mermaid (1964) about a little boy who tries to convince his parents that he befriend a real life mermaid. He was directed by Richard Benedict who also directed Winter a-Go-Go. Perhaps they had a directing/writing partnership? Kanter’s last acting credit was in 1965 on the TV’s Convoy–you guessed it another WWII series. He then disappears from the Hollywood scene. Per IMDB he died on August 2, 1993 in Dade City, Florida.
So for something a bit different, check out Winter a-Go-Go the next time it turns up on some obscure cable TV channel. It is worth the look.