The Kiss in the Alley Debate

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Event: Kiss in the Alley Debate
Date(s): 1980s
Type: meta debate
Fandom: Starsky and Hutch
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In the early 1980s, there was a hot debate among Starsky and Hutch fans, one fueled by the technology of that new machine called the VCR. Fans argued at great length about whether the two cops kissed in the alley scene during the episode "The Fix" when Hutch comes down off the wall and falls into Starsky's arms.

The episode "The Fix" is full of angsty moments that lend themselves to smarm, hurt/comfort, and various slashy interpretations. One fan commented that it was "another bit that makes the internal organs wobble about." [1]

This debate, of course, wasn't about the kiss itself, but about the tensions between fans who felt it demonstrated the reality of a homosexual relationship between the characters and those who did not believe in the premise.

Some screenshots from the episode are here.

In 2002, there was another fandom controversy regarding kissing/not kissing footage, this time in the Beauty and the Beast fandom. See The Kiss That Does Not Exist.

An Early Songvid

The vid by Kendra and Diana, "Kiss You All Over" (song artist: Exile), includes the 7 frames from the episode "The Fix" that this debate is based on.

The Influence of the VCR

One early vid was built around seven frames from [the episode] "The Fix" from the hug in the alley in The Fix. These frames, when shown slowly and advanced one at at time, made it look like the guys were kissing. The frames were called the "Magnificent 7" and debate raged around it in letterzines and among fens at the time. [2]

A fan in 2006 thinks back to her newbie days:

There was a letterzine. It came out every month, and had the kind of discussions which later moved to mailing lists and are now had on LJ. It even had flamewars. There was the infamous one about the Kiss in the Alley: did they or didn't they, with drawn diagrams (nobody had VCRs). [3]

A Fan Remembers

I got out the box containing all the old l/z's — disinterred it, to be more precise/ from the mountain of boxes at present lurking in our spare bedroom—just to refresh my memory. And several hours later, I surfaced amazed. What a vast amount of subjects were covered—so many views aired (sometimes forcibly, sometimes acidly, sometimes even vitriolic), so many opinions, ideas, discussions, often on the mast trivial of subjects. Looking back, was The Kiss in the Alley (or lack of one) such a big deal? I suppose it was, at the time. And S/H, far from being the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, nowadays rarely shuts up. [4]

Some of the Debate

inside art from S and H #21 (May 1981), Paula Smith, a parody illustrating "Kiss in the Alley"!
  • A fan responded to another’s previous letter using camera angles to analyze whether Starsky & Hutch kissed/almost kissed in the alley scene:
    Thanks [to J L] for the effort, but the horse is dead, although the beating goes on. Everyone knows by now that edicts, even foot-noted edicts, are not infallible. We’ll consider the sources, form our own opinions as to which are better researched, and ignore those inflexible souls who are unable to live and let live. Stop frames can be fun, just as quotes taken out of context can be funny. They can also be used to hurt, as any newspaper proves, but in fandom I prefer to think the intent is to amuse, not force a personal belief on anybody. [5]

  • One fan writes she has studied the “kiss in the alley” in “The Fix” and that despite the fact she would like to see one, platonic or sexual, as an artist with much experience in rendering three-dimensional objects to two dimensions, the kiss just isn’t there:
    I hope that someone with earned expertise in the matter might lend an opinion and, with luck, defuse an argument that could readily degenerate into name-calling. There’s enough bullshit being composted in the letterzine without that, too. [She follows up in the next issue with a diagram.] [6]

a helpful diagram from S and H #19, made by a fan to prove her point; another fan ferociously takes her to task for it, and other matters
  • And finally, to illustrate how heated this debate was -- a fan writes at great length about the diagram drawn by another fan, scolds her for various perceived infractions, and responds to the first fan's accusation that she said something in the letterzine that was intended to be in confidence:
    First — would you mind sticking to the point? Your artwork, your taste in erotica, your current writing and putative repression have nothing to do with the case. The issue at hand — the only issue at hand — is the degree to which a conviction that the aired series does not support the S/H premise would be likely to influence a viewer's perception of the alley scene in "The Fix." Now. unless a number of our mutual friends are mendacious or possibly pixilated, you've said quite publicly, at cons and other gatherings, that the series contains no evidence for S/H. You've said it again, quite publicly, on p. 13 of S&H 19. Quote: "There is no proof" Change? None. If you had not made such statements, quite publicly, I would not of course have referred to your correspondence, which is the documented source to which I have direct access. Please note that I did not cite any letter in detail or quote from it, indicating only the general drift. Under the circumstances, that's no more invasion of privacy than is your allusion to my political activities. Which, incidentally, I have never discussed publicly, quite or in any other degree. What's sauce for one goose, sweets, is sauce for the other. If you have trouble remembering that, make yourself a sign and tack it up over your desk. Second—manifestly, frame 3 of your schematic does not represent a kiss. To the best of my knowledge, no one has argued that it does. The frame that does show the kiss is substantially different. And since I don't draw, I'm going to describe it. Starsky is on the left, Hutch is on the right- Neither man is in profile. (Profile here meaning the view of Lincoln found on a penny. Don't tell me next month it can mean anything from full-face to the back of the subject's hairdo. Even the neo-Rosemary Rogers should know better than that.) Alors. Starsky's head is turned about 30° to his own right, so that, were his whole face visible, we would have something just less than a three-quarters view. Something very like [J C's] Hutch on the cover of S&H 19, if you want a pictorial reference. The portion of his face that we do see would be below and to the right (Starsky's right, viewer's left) of a line drawn from the left corner of his mouth to his right temple, at a point just beyond his right eye. We don't see the rest of his face because it's obscured by Hutch's hand. What does this mean? It means that Hutch is indeed closer to the camera. Point of agreement. It also means that Hutch's head is at a position intermediate between your frames 3 and 4. Point of disagreement. Now, Hutch's head is turned a few degrees to his own right. Not as much as Starsky's, maybe 10°. What does this mean? It means that Starsky's and Hutch's faces are turned toward each other. And their lips are touching. Just. What does all the above mean? It means that your frames 1-4 are not an accurate representation of what's on that film. And what does that mean? There are a couple of possibilities. I'm not going to speculate. You tell us. [7]

  • A fan writes and expresses her impatience with this and other matters:
    I’m sick to death of the ‘is it or is it not a kiss’ brouhaha. I’ve seen the tape, too, and, I’ve formed my own opinion but have no intention of flinging it into the arena. I don’t give a good-goddamn about anyone else’s opinions, for or against. That does not mean that I’m going to say to the readership at large: ‘Drop the subject because I’m sick of it.’ If you pays yer money, folks, and sends in yer letter, yer gets it published. That is no guarantee that anyone is going to read your letter… There are some people whose letters consistently give me a swift pain, but you don’t hear me saying, ‘Stop writing to the letterzine, you’re making me sick,’ do you? Nope… I suffer in silence. Gag. [8]

  • Another fan is equally fed-up:
    I am sick of dreading the arrival of the Letterzine… because I am sick of wondering who will be sniping at whom. I am sick of heroin and kisses and S/H vs S&H volleys and snide remarks and willful misunderstandings and all the crap we’ve forcing on each other for months now. If this Letterzine dies out after #25, it’s our own damned fault. [9]

  • In 1989, a fan explains to another:
    A quick peek inside the old can, okay? In FIX, just before the tag, there is a hug in the alley. It is a beauty of a hug, and there was a school of fandom who saw a kiss right in there with it. Me, I didn't. Unless smooching an earlobe can be thus construed. Our Noble Editor had it right when she told you you had missed nothing. [10]


  1. ^ from a fan in Between Friends #3 (1984)
  2. ^ source: at SHarecon 2000, Flamingo put together a vid show of the history of Starsky & Hutch vidding. This is an excerpt from the booklet accompanying the songtape she later made available to fans.
  3. ^ we were newbies..., by Solo posted June 16th, 2006, accessed March 6, 2012
  4. ^ from Frienz #1
  5. ^ from S and H #16 (December 1980)
  6. ^ from S and H #18 (January 1981)
  7. ^ rough words from half of a set of fans who were, at the time, collaborating on a very well-known Starsky & Hutch novel, from S and H #20
  8. ^ from S and H #18 (January 1981)
  9. ^ from S and H #22 (June 1981)
  10. ^ from Frienz #3