Take My Wife, Please

Stuart Perkin's wife left him for another woman. Four years later, he still wasn't over it -- despite three "really sexual" relationships that proved Sue hadn't dumped him over his lack of manhood (a typical though illogical fear). Finally the Denver filmmaker decided there was only one way to resolve his feelings: He made a movie based on his experience. To watch I Can't Believe I Married a Lesbian, which airs on KBDI/Channel 12 on Friday as part of PBS's new Independent Lens series, you'd think he was the only person it's ever happened to.

Perkin interviews friends and family members -- the sophomoric Mark, who kept him supplied with beer and cigarettes; gay Richard in San Francisco, a mutual friend of Perkin and his ex-wife, Sue; Sue's tearful mother and repressed father; Perkin's own parents (his mother, also teary, says Sue was the best thing that ever happened to their family); his great aunt, who remembers simply that "Sue favors ladies instead of gentlemen." Sue participates because she still feels guilty and figures the movie is "payback."

Poised and witty, Sue takes Perkin on a tour of the home she shares with Jerri, tolerating his comments that her bedroom is "just what every straight male wants to see" and his speculation that "a threesome with you, me and Jerri" might help him recover. Perkin is determined that Jerri appear in his movie "because I wanted everyone to finally have a chance to see the woman Susan left me for and be able to make their own judgments and comparisons between us." But Jerri wins the stubborn contest, appearing only in blurred photographs and as a voice off-camera.

By the end, Perkin concludes that "after all this footage and time, it's not that big a deal that I married a lesbian."

That didn't prevent him from releasing the film, however, titillating title and all. "I meant it to be sort of provocative," Perkin tells Westword. And though he thinks Sue's lesbianism makes his story unique, he says its theme of loss is universal. One of the film's more touching revelations is that Perkin simply missed her companionship -- and through making the movie, they re-established their friendship. "If she had left me for a man," Perkin says, "the only difference would be that we probably wouldn't still be friends."

But she didn't leave him for a man, and the film also happens to show how sensitive, talented and tight-butted he is (he drops his pants in one home video). The next-to-last scene shows Perkin sitting on his SUV, a bike strapped to the top, the mountains making for a rugged background as he says he can now put the experience behind him. By that point, the film looks suspiciously like one long personals ad -- which Perkin says wasn't intentional, though "maybe subconsciously" it was. "It was really contrived," he says of that particular scene. "I had done six takes out on my car, and the more I looked at it, the more fake it became." Later he made a "more honest" second ending, the one in which he says it's not that big a deal that he married a lesbian.

Why, then, did he include two shots of Sue eating bananas? Perkin laughs. "That's just a coincidence. Watching the film, I never realized she liked bananas so much. My intention was innocent."

Or just "subconscious" -- wishful thinking, perhaps.

Perkin doesn't have to worry about that now, though. He has a new girlfriend, and frankly, since he finished the movie a year ago, "it's kind of hard to have it air now on television, because I feel like it's done and past. And it's all coming up again."

Maybe he should have thought of that earlier.

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C.J. Janovy

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