When I was a kid, going to camp was a nonstarter for me. I love nature, but if we’re talking about an extended stay, I have always preferred climate control and real furniture that doesn’t leave folding lawn chairs’ plastic webbing strip marks across — or picnic table bench splinters — in my ass.
Camping, no. Movies about camping, yes. The Long, Long Trailer? Yes. Ernest Goes to Camp? Not so much.
The best, most impactful, most entertaining movie about camping, and possibly the best lesbian film of all time, hands down, is The Parent Trap wins. And I’m not talking about the 1998 Lindsay Lohan remake. Love ya, Lindsay, but God, no.
I’m talking about 1961 original starring Hayley Mills… and Hayley Mills.
For those unfamiliar with TPT’s plot: in it, Hayley plays identical twins Sharon and Susan who were separated as infants following their parents’ divorce. One goes to the east coast to live with her mother on Boston’s Nob Hill; the other heads to the west coast to live with her father on a ranch. Thirteen summers later, the twins meet at camp, realize how much they have missed by being separated, and plot to reunite their parents. Hilarity ensues.
For me, the dizzying hedonism of the ‘60s-era British Invasion started with TPT, years before The Beatles wanted to hold my hand or the Rolling Stones got no satisfaction.
1961 was an especially significant year in my personal development. It was the first year of my being known as the kid whose parents got divorced. At that time, divorce was still somewhat uncommon, experienced by a mere 27 percent of couples. In my very rural school district, it was far, far rarer. I didn’t know any other kids whose parents were divorced.
Then comes Walt Disney’s cinematic sweetheart Hayley Mills with her irresistible British accent and devil-may-care attitude, blonde bob, and great legs. And divorced parents. It was obvious we had so much in common, Hayley and I. She validated me.
I would have been in first, possibly second, grade. Just learning cursive. As I sat in the State Theater in my little Ohio hometown, munching popcorn, I felt a distinct stirring watching Hayley up on that big screen. No, it wasn’t sexual, you weirdo. It can only be described as a recognition of sorts — a glimmer, a feeling of finding one’s tribe. It was the first personal evidence of the influence of nature over nurture when it comes to sexuality; I sat panting over Hayley in that theater, sitting between my sister and a school friend, but I am the only one of the three of us that turned out queer.
There are so many reasons TPT spoke to my dormant lesbian sensibilities, even at my tender age.
• Susan and Sharon get into a girl fight, rolling around on top of each other, revealing (gasp) their underpants. Apparently, Walt Disney was a dirty old man.
• As punishment for their fighting, the girls are banished to the cafeteria’s “Isolation Table”. They keep to themselves at this table, having no contact or interaction with others, focusing solely on each other. Sounds like the beginning of most lesbian relationships.
• As further punishment, the girls are banished to live in the oldest, most broken-down cabin in the camp. Undaunted, the girls whip the place into shape in no time and transform it into their own cozy little bungalow. So lesbian.
• Susan plays guitar on ‘Let’s Get Together,’ a silly little song that decades later would find its way on to my set list, much to the delight of my lesbian audience who, it turns out, adore Haley as much as I do.
• Confirmed real-life lesbian, Nancy Kulp (Miss Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies), plays a butchy, micro-managing camp counselor; there’s something about a woman wearing khaki. True Hayley-philes know there is always at least one gay character or actor in her movies. In Pollyanna, it was Agnes Moorehead. In The Moon-Spinners, it was Eli Wallach. In The Trouble with Angels, there was a conventful of us. If Hayley were making her movies today, U.S. Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert would accuse her of recruiting innocent children to the homosexual lifestyle.
In the end, the twins are successful at trapping their parents into reuniting— a happy ending. My mother remained divorced but soon found the love of her life and married him, supplying me with the best father a daughter could ever want — also, a happy ending.
And then one afternoon, 60 years after The Parent Trap was released, my perfect partner with the devil-may-care attitude, blonde bob and great legs requests out of the blue that we watch “that old camping movie with the twins.”
Yet another happy ending.