PRINT November 2000


IN THE END, JOHN WOJTOWICZ’S STORY WAS TOO GOOD TO RECOUNT JUST ONCE. Its first telling came in 1975, via the Sidney Lumet-directed movie Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino as Wojtowicz, the gay bank robber whose heist “should have taken ten minutes,” in the immortal words of the Warner Brother’s advertisement, but “four hours later, the bank was like a circus sideshow. Eight hours later, it was the hottest thing on TV. Twelve hours later, it was history.” (“And it’s all true,” concluded the ad, breathlessly.) The film depicts Wojtowicz’s 1972 attempt to rob a New York City bank to pay for his lover's sex-change operation, and as such could be read as offering a vivid parable of what Guy Debord must have meant by life in the society of the spectacle (and accounts in part for the film’s cult status). Wojtowicz and his accomplice, Sal, were media superstars not for fifteen minutes, but

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