Nov 7, 2015

Rocket to the Moon: Adventure Boys in Love


Gay boys of earlier generations could find an escape from the incessant interrogation of "What girl do you like" in fiction -- the fast-paced adventure series starring teenage boys.

Unlike the Hardy Boys series, the British Boys' Annuals, or the books in the Green Library, the adventure boy series offered little cover beefcake, but they made up for it with lush verbal descriptions: the teenagersare extraordinarily handsome,  immensely muscular, strong, sturdy, erect, lithe, well-formed, and “well-knit.”

In Jack Winters’ Gridiron Chums (1919),  we read that “Big Bob stretched out his massive arms. . . as though to call the attention of his companion to his splendid physique.”

 In The Radio Boys at the Mexican Border (1922), the hero has “long legs, flat hips, trim waist, deep chest and broad shoulders and a flat back. . .altogether, he was a striking figure.”




Girls are entirely absent, but almost every Adventure Boy forms an intimate, passionate bond with a same-sex chum, and almost every Adventure Boy novel ends with the two planning to stay together forever, a homoromantic version of the fade-out kiss.


In Roy Rockwood’s Great Marvel series, teenagers Mark Sampson and Jack Darrow explore the North Pole, the South Pole, and various planets,  but when they return to ordinary time, they do not abandon each other in search of girlfriends. The books conclude with either a coyly described intimacy or an assurance that their bond is permanent.

For example, when they return from the Earth's Core laden with diamonds, they decide to invest their wealth in college educations. What will become of them after college, Mark wonders.  “We’ll take a trip!” Jack exclaims. The two clasp hands, and the narrator hastily retreats.

In the last book of the series, they are middle aged professors, and still living together.  They have taken an interest in two of their male students, who embark on the adventure, while the adults sit by the fire and reminisce.





In first Don Sturdy novel (1925), fifteen-year old Don is searching for his missing parents, when he encounters a boy, Teddy, being held captive by some brigands.  He mounts a daring rescue.  Since they are both missing one or more parents, it is only logical that they join forces.  But even after Teddy’s father is found, they stay together. Even after Don’s parents are found, they stay together.

They move to Hillville, New York, where they attend high school together and live with or near Don’s “bachelor uncles.”  Every so often they embark on a new adventure involving pirates in the Sargasso Sea, giants in Pantagonia, headhunters in Borneo, gorillas in Africa, or renegade Aztecs in Mexico, and afterwards they always return to lives of happy domesticity. They never discuss the possibility of one day parting.  Their homoromance is permanent.


In The Secret of Skeleton Island (1949), the teenage Ken Holt, son of a famous journalist escapes from kidnappers and stumbles into the office of a small-town newspaper, where he meets the editor’s son, the massively muscular Sandy.  The next day, they are both re-captured by the kidnappers.  Although he became involved in the adventure only by accident, Sandy does not scram the moment he gets his hands untied; he sticks by Ken through many close-calls and run-ins with the bad guys, rescuing him and being rescued by him, right through the final cliffhanger.  In the last chapter, Ken’s father arrives to explain the mystery and write it up for his newspaper.

Then, instead of saying goodbye with a promise to visit, Sandy asks that Ken come live with him forever.  Ken is so overcome with emotion that he can barely assent. Most novels end with the promise of a permanent relationship, but here it is two boys, not a boy and a girl, who will live happily ever after.





Nov 6, 2015

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Watched "Dynasty"

After spending so many years looking for "a good place," when I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I didn't want any contamination from the straight world. I read Frontiers and The Advocate instead of the L.A. Times.  I didn't go to a movie unless it had gay characters.  And tv was the enemy, alien propaganda like the pamphlets dropped over enemy villages in wartime.

So in the fall of 1984 I watched 7 hours of tv regularly: Alice, Charles in Charge, The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, It's Your Move, Kate and Allie, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Newhart, and Who's the Boss.  To be fair, that was my dreary year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.

And in the fall of 1986, I watched 3: The Golden Girls, Head of the Class, Mama's Family, Married with Children, and Dynasty.

I couldn't help Dynasty (1981-89).  On Wednesday nights, every tv in West Hollywood tuned in.  Bars had Dynasty Night.  On Halloween, guys dressed up as Joan Collins.

I didn't see the attraction. It was a Dallas clone, except set in Denver, and unscrupulous oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was an East Coast elitist rather than good ol' boy J.R. Ewing, so there were more sexual intrigues than shady business deals, but it was still a soap opera.

I could see the attraction for drag queens.  Blake's trophy wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) had big hair, fabulous outfits, and lots of temper tantrums. But what did gay men who weren't looking for fashion tips see in the succession of bikini-clad ladies lounging by poolside: Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Sams, Heather Locklear, Diahann Caroll.



There were a few hunky men, who sometimes stripped down for bed, but rarely lounged around the pool.  Sometimes they appeared in speedos on Battle of the Network Stars.

John James (above) played Jeff Colby, who courts Blake and Alexis' daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin).  The two eventually spun off into their own soap, The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield (left) played Miles Colby, Jeff's cousin, who also courts Fallon.  A little triangulation between them, but not enough for a subtext.






There was a gay character, sort of: Blake and Alexis' son Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman), one of those tortured, self-hating 1970s gays who claim that they like men, sort of, while sleeping with every woman in sight and trying desperately to change "back" into heterosexual. Every time he kissed a girl, I groaned.

But then, seeing any gay person on tv in the 1980s, even a conflicted one who likes girls, felt like a victory.

Dan Byrd: Nearly Gay

For someone who is not yet 30 years old, Dan Byrd has an enormous number of acting credits, including more gay, mistaken-for-gay, and nearly-gay roles than any actor in Hollywood.

Born in 1985, the Georgia boy arrived in Hollywood in at the age of 14, and was soon guest starring on tv, in Er, Camp Nowhere, State of Grace, Touched by an Angel, and The Nightmare Room.  

In his first starring big-screen role,. A Cinderella Story (2004), he played gay-vague best buddy of Cinderella Hillary Duff

Then, in Salem's Lot (2004), he reprised the homoerotic-subtext role that Lance Kerwin originated  in 1977.  Rob Lowe played his boyfriend.



 By 2005, the 20-year old had developed a pleasantly muscular physique, and, surprisingly for someone who often played victims or comic-relief sidekicks, he was not averse to showing it off with semi-nude shower or swimsuit scenes.

In Mortuary (2005), Dan played boyfriend of a girl who has a gay best buddy.

In The Hills Have Eyes (2006), a remake of the Wes Craven classic, Dan played a gay-vague teenager who is waylaid while traveling through Appalachia by a family of mutants.


In Easy A (2010), an adaption of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, he played a gay student who  pretends to be straight to avoid harassment, but ends up with a boyfriend -- older, and black, which has to be a first in American cinema.

 Suburgatory (2012): An undercover cop who infilitrates the school to check for steroid use, but is assumed gay due to his interest in muscles (which, as we know, Suburgatory specializes in).




On Cougar Town (2009-2013), Dan plays Travis Cox, the college-aged son of Jules (Courtney Cox), heterosexual, but often assumed gay, and fond of "fake coming out" to people.

Why is Dan so good at playing nearly-gay roles?  Maybe it's his deadpan wit, or his unimposing hotness.  Or maybe he's just lucky.

Nov 5, 2015

Pasolini's Arabian Nights: Homophobia and Nudity

Between 1971 and 1974, Italian filmmaker Piers Paolo Pasolini produced and directed three adaptions of famous Medieval stories.  The Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle Mille et una Notte) was the last, and the most ambitious, with filming locations in Yemen, Iran, and Nepal.  I saw it at an Italian Film Festival in college during the famous summer of 1981, and again a few days ago.

If you've seen the other two (The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales), this one will be familiar; most of the same actors, especially Pasolini's lover Ninetto Davoli (left) and his protege Franco Merli, whom he discovered working at a gas station in Sicily.

Some of the same annoying bits as in the previous movies: dozens of people sitting around singing for no reason; lengthy closeups of random people with bad teeth grinning idiotically at the camera; stories that merge into other stories, so you're never sure what you're watching.

Pasolini eschews the more familiar stories, like Aladdin and Ali Baba, to concentrate on Nur Ed Din (Franco Merli, left) who loses his favorite slave Zumurrud (Ines Pelligrini), and wanders around, crying and having erotic adventures while searching for her.

Inside that story is another, about Aziz (Ninetto Davoli), who depends on his girlfriend for advice on how to win The Girl of His Dreams.  It ends badly.

And a few others.  They're somewhat convoluted, but from what I can figure out:
A man tries to save a woman from a demon, but ends up being turned into an ape.
A man tries to save a boy from a prophecy, but ends up killing him.


It's all rather confusing and very, very heterosexist.  In spite of the frequent assertions that it's perfectly ordinary to prefer men to women, the only same-sex relationship is just hinted at, and ends in tragedy.  Otherwise there are about a dozen men and women in love with each other.

The last scene is rather annoyingly homophobic.  Zumurrud, disguised as a man, has become the king of a city-state.  When Nur Ed Din arrives, the King summon him and orders him to strip and prepare for a sexual act.  Nur Ed Din refuses and protests -- he doesn't swing that way -- but the King says that he must submit or die.  Then "he" reveals "himself" as Zumurrud. It's ok, Nur Ed Din won't have to do anything icky after all, and the boy and girl hug and kiss for a heterosexist conclusion.

That being said, this is by far the most boy-crazy of the trilogy.  There isn't as much female nudity, but every male character spends most of his screen time with his clothes off.  There are closeups of gigantic penises every five seconds. If you want to see Ninetto Davoli in a state of arousal, this is your chance.

I suggest watching with the sound or subtitles turned off, so you can skip the heterosexism and blatant homophobia of the gay director.

Nov 4, 2015

The Golden Girls in West Hollywood

Since I don't drink, bars don't have much of an attraction.  But in the late 1980s, when I lived in West Hollywood,  Saturday night meant picking up tangerine chicken to eat while watching Throb, Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, then heading out to Mugi, the Gold Coast, or the Faultline.

The Golden Girls theme song "Thank You for Being a Friend" still brings back memories of those Saturday nights of lights and music, checking out the musclemen, searching for Mr. Right (or Mr. Right Now), and schmoozing with friends.

It featured four senior citizens who live together in an affluent small-town Miami: former Southern Belle Blanche (Rue McClanihan), dimwitted Rose (Betty White), sensible Dorothy (Bea Arthur), and sarcastic Sophia (Estelle Getty).


The Girls were all played by gay-friendly actresses; Bea Arthur often spoke out against homophobia, and Betty White is a tireless supporter of gay marriage.  But the show itself was less tolerant:
1. Blanche is shocked to discover that her brother is "a homo."
2. Blanche cannot restrain her disgust at a feminine caterer.
3. A female visitor develops a crush on Rose, who has no idea what lesbians are.  When she finds out, she is shocked.

There was little beefcake.  Though the Girls were sexually voracious -- jokes mostly involved sex -- the men they slept with were older, and fully clothed.


Occasionally there was a hot guest star for the gay teens, such as as Mario Lopez (later photo) as one of Dorothy's students, Scott Jacoby as Dorothy's son, or Billy Jacoby (below) as Blanche's grandson.


Why, then, was it a gay favorite?

The recurring scene where the Girls sit around their kitchen table, eating cheesecake and schmoozing.

The men in their lives came and went, but their same-sex friendship was eternal.

Like the subtext songs of the 1980s, an image of connection, of the families you build for yourself.

Nov 3, 2015

Johnny Weissmuller: A Second Rate Tarzan

I have a confession to make: I never liked Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan.  I prefer Buster Crabbe, Herman Brix, or Mike Henry.

I know, I know, he invented the Tarzan mythos.  There were Tarzans on screen before, not to mention comic strips, a radio program, and the original novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but nothing matched the popularity of the MGM Tarzan series:

1. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
2. Tarzan and His Mate (1934)
3. Tarzan Escapes (1936)
4. Tarzan Finds a Son! (1938)
5. Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)
6. Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)

And the RCA series:
1. Tarzan Triumphs (1943)
2. Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943)
3. Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)
4. Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)
5. Tarzan and the Huntress (1947)
6. Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)

 The yell, the vine-swinging, the "me Tarzan" patois -- all invented by or for Weissmuller.

The problem is, they were entirely heterosexist, all about Tarzan and Jane's primal jungle romance.   They were Adam and Eve in a pristine heterosexual paradise, threatened only by the savages and unscrupulous Europeans who carried Jane off, kicking and screaming, in every single episode -- that girl was totally unable to take care of herself.  When Jane wasn't around, Tarzan found a nubile female substitute.

There were no gay subtexts, except maybe between Tarzan and his adopted son, Boy (Johnny Sheffield). Tarzan had no male friends, and whenever Boy tried to make a male friend, Tarzan roughly jerked him

 And, come on -- look at him!  In the 1960s, the go-to guy for Tarzan on film was the spectacularly muscular Mike Henry.
Or you could see Gordon Scott, whose impossibly super-sized chest cast its own shadow.
















After that, it was quite a shock to turn on Tarzan Theater  and see this rather paunchy specimen, with ridiculous hair and yet another woman tied up by his side.





Dick York: Bewitching Beefcake

I imagine that most gay male and heterosexual female Baby  Boomers have been desperate to see Dick York with his shirt off ever since their diaper days, when they saw him eye-bulge as Darren Stephens, mortal married to the witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) on the gay-symbolism-heavy "my secret" sitcom Bewitched (1964-69)  

Good luck.  As a stick-in-the-mud advertising executive in the Mad Men sixties, Darren usually wore a business suit, slept in pajamas, and was never shown in the shower or at the beach.  Dick was suffering from a debilitating back injury that prohibited most stunts and action scenes; finally the writers had to find reasons to keep Darren in bed for entire episodes.

Prior to Bewitched, Dick starred in various Westerns, thrillers, and dramas.  I haven't seen any of them except for Inherit the Wind (1960), but they probably didn't include significant beefcake.

But you can find everything on youtube.  A  compilation clip called Dick York: the Sexiest Man Alive seems to be displaying clips from Dick's very early work, playing high schoolers in "educational films" such as "How Popular Are You?" (1951).  They were used in classrooms for promoting conformity and compulsory heterosexuality.


In Bewitched, Darren was the "straight" man, in more ways than  one.  Not only the eye-bulging, slow-burning spectator to the mayhem, but aggressively heterosexual, faithful to Samantha but tempted by slithery witches, wood nymphs, sirens, and human women every five seconds.

But the compiler finds some gay-subtext images.  Dick and another boy check out each other's equipment in the shower (top photo), and he demonstrates that he is popular by walking off arm in arm with the school hunk.






There are also a few pics, very small, of an older Dick York at poolside, courtesy of Democratic Underground.  Not a bad physique.  Too bad Darren didn't get zapped out of his clothes from time to time.

Nov 1, 2015

Uncle Tom Award #2: So You Think You Can Dance

So You Think You Can Dance (2005-) is a dance-competition series that is too heterosexist for words: men and women paired together to replicate the myth of universal heterosexual desire and the erasure of gay people from the world, over and over, week after week.  Sometimes gay men, like Travis Wall, or men who look gay, participate in the brainwashing, whereupon homophobic host Nigel Lithgoe tries his best to turn them straight, saying things like "Isn't that a hot woman you're dancing with?  Aren't you lucky to be dancing with such a beautiful woman?"


Once they had two men, Mitchell Kiber and Misha Belfer performing -- for the shock value, introduced by the song "It's a Man's World":
It's a man's world,
But you're nothing -- nothing at all -- without a woman.

When the male couple performed, Mr. Homophobe told them point blank that they shouldn't be dancing together, that they should "dance" with women: "Who knows, you might like it!"

Very easy to see what he really meant: "Don't be gay, try sex with women.  Who knows, you might like it!"

Utterly disgusting.  And it's not only still on the air, it's popular!

In 2008, Nico Archambault won in the Canadian version, and became the resident choreographer in 2009-2010.  He has also performed in The American Music Awards, Starmania, and several music videos, and starred in two movies: Nureyev (2009), about the life of gay Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev, and Sur le rythme (2011), about a female aspiring dancer who falls in love (he plays the romantic lead).

Nico is heterosexual, but growing up, he was often "accused" of being gay due to his interest in dance, so he suffered severe trauma.

How traumatic to be accused of something so horrible!





He has designed an anti-bullying t-shirt line called "Stand Up, Rise Above."

Rise above the taunts of the bullies who "accuse" you of being gay?

Hey, Nico, did you know there are kids in the world who are actually gay?

See also: It's a Man's World.


L

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