Movie – In 1972 John Wojtowicz held up a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn in order, he said, to get money to pay for his wife Eddie’s sex change operation. Through the course of the day he argued with the police, ordered a pizza and tipped several thousand dollars for it, drew so much attention that local news switched from Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign to cover the story, and eventually got what he wanted – almost $250,000 and Eddie on a plane to Denmark. Unfortunately you’d have to pay actual money to stream Dog Day Afternoon, the Oscar-winning Al Pacino movie about this iconic moment in gay history, but you can watch The Dog, the documentary about the real John Wojtowicz, on Hoopla.
As documentaries do, The Dog takes this unconventional but ultimately optimistic Robin Hood love story and complicates it. John only rarely refers to Liz Eden (neé Eddie) as “she,” which is increasingly uncomfortable the better we get to know her, and Liz describes how John threatened to kill her when she left him. John himself admits to being a controlling, alpha-male chauvinist. And yet you can see how he had a string of wives, legal and common-law, male and female. He’s charismatic and compelling, even at his most pathetic: out of prison, living with his mother, his only source of income posing for photos wearing a shirt that reads “I Robbed This Bank.” He adores his mother and dotes on his disabled younger brother. You don’t want to like the guy, but you almost can’t help it.
This is a great documentary about a fascinating person – not a good person by any means, but a fascinating one – who somehow managed to upstage the entire New York City gay community in being flashy and outrageous.
[Content warnings for frank and explicit discussions of sexuality, period-typical slurs and transphobia, and plenty of working-class-Brooklyn-typical foul language]