That fact has been largely forgotten in the 25 years since he died — still closeted! — of complications from AIDS. By the end (hell, decades before it), he had become a caricature, but the image of the facelifted, lisping Vegas showboy has obscured his humanity.
So its especially impressive that a bunch of straight guys — director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Richard LaGravanese, and actors Matt Damon and Michael Douglas — have done do an astonishing job of capturing the truth of gay men in the pre-AIDS, barely-post-Stonewall decade of the 1970s with Behind the Candelabra, the HBO biopic debuting Sunday at 9. They could have soft-pedaled the sex; they could have idealized and mystified the era; they could have taken any number of “safer” routes. Instead, they told a story with such a savvy understanding of gay culture, you might think you’re watching a documentary.