Jul 9, 2016

Our Date with the Teenage Beach Boy

In West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, hooking up was unheard of.  You dated -- you met someone, then planned a full evening of social activities five or so nights later.

Even when you were partnered.

One Friday night in the fall of 1992, Lane went to Shabbat services at Beth Chaim Chadashim, the gay synagogue, and returned gushing over a Cute Young Thing he met at the refreshment table.

Artan, 19 years old, a sophomore at Pepperdine University, still living with his parents.

West Hollywood culture was rather strict about age differentials: anything more than 5 years older or younger caused raised eyebrows and snide remarks.  I was 31 at the time, and Lane had just turned 36 -- Artan was 12 and 17 years younger!

"I know they'll make fun at me at temple and the Zone -- but he's so cute, I couldn't resist!'  He went on to describe a blond, tan beach boy, with broad shoulders and a hard chest.  Plus he was studying English.  He wanted to become a writer.  Plus he was a science fiction fan.  And Jewish.   Practically perfect in every way.

"Anyway, in 20 years we'll all be Daddies," Lane continued, planning ahead.  "Our date is Wednesday night.  And you're invited."

The rest of this story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Leonard and Larry

I moved to West Hollywood in 1985 in the midst of a Renaissance of gay comics.  Humor and not-so humorous strips were appearing in Frontiers and the Advocate, in the Gay Comics magazine, and in the annual Meatmen anthologies.  My favorites were:

Murphy's Manor, by Kurt Erichsen.
Jayson, by Jeffrey A. Krell
Poppers, by Jerry Mills
Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechtel
The single-panel Donelan cartoons.
And of course the erotic comics of Tom of Finland, Sean, and Cavello.

I wasn't a big fan of Howard Cruise's depressing Wendell, and even less of a fan of Tim Barela's Leonard and Larry.

Maybe I was just jealous of Tim Barela, who my boyfriend Lane had a crush on.  When Tim said "Jump," Lane said "How high?"  I was pretty sure that if Tim ever asked Lane to move in, the U-Haul would be packed and ready to go in five minutes.

But even without the real-life drama, I didn't like Leonard and Larry.

1. Leonard Goodman and Larry Evans are a middle-aged bear couple, one short and Jewish, the other tall and redhaired -- ok, that sounds a little like Lane and me.  Except they live in a house in a straight neighborhood somewhere in Los Angeles, they have mostly straight friends, Larry has kids from a previous heterosexual marriage, and so on and so on.  Way, way too assimilated!

Aside from an occasional depressing encounter with homophobia, they could be Hi and Lois, or Blondie and Dagwood.  What's interesting about that?









2. All of the characters look alike: white, with long faces, sharp noses, and prominent eyebrows. The men all have facial hair.

These are the plumbers, but the guy on the left could be Leonard's brother, and the guy on the right is Leonard's twin.









Ok, so Tim Barela likes a certain facial type, but everyone looks like a clone of the same person, like the Bizarro World in Superman comics.  It's hard to tell who the characters are, who's talking.  And how about a little ethnic diversity?

3. It wasn't funny.  Of course, a lot of gay comics weren't supposed to be funny -- Howard Cruise expected his stuff to elicit anguished wails, not belly-laughs..  But Tim Barela always claimed that he was drawing a humor strip, and there were indeed occasional wry observations on the annoyances of everyday life in the Straight World.  But wry is not the same thing as funny. 







By the way, when I was googling for Tim Barela, I found another one, a 16-year old gymnast from Bochum, Germany (10 in this photo).  The kid has a bright future ahead of him, as long as he doesn't decide to become a cartoonist.

The annoying story of me and Tim Barela is up on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Gay Comix




Jul 8, 2016

My Celebrity Boyfriend, The Director, and the Cute Young Thing

West Hollywood, March 1987

The Celebrity and I have been dating for over two months, and I still haven't met any of his friends!

Friends always want to meet a new boyfriend, to make sure he's good enough for you, to expand their social circles, and to increase their options for bedroom activity!

He's met all of my friends, and shared Alan and Raul. What's the holdup?

"It's tricky," the Celebrity says.  "I'm not out at the studio, of course. A lot of my friends are straight."

In West Hollywood in the 1980s, you don't have heterosexual friends.  If they're not screaming "Got AIDS yet?", they're simpering, condescending, heterosexist.  I assume he means coworkers and business acquaintances.

"Tell you what.  The Oscars are on the 30th.  Let's have a post-Oscar party.  I'll invite four or five of my friends, and you invite four or five of yours.  That way everybody can meet everybody."

I invite Alan, Raul, and Thanh, plus a couple of celebrities, Michael J. Fox and Tom Villard, who can't make it.   Alan and Thanh bring dates to make up the fourth and fifth.

Alan's date is Rye, aka the Porn Star, an acquaintance from his porn days: tall, dark tan, Mediterranean face, big chest, big bulge.  "The Entertainment," he whispers with a grin.

The Celebrity's guest list is:

1. Lee Montgomery, a 25-year old former Child Star with a lean, hairy chest.

2.Doug Barr, aka the Fall Guy, a clean-cut All-American type in his mid-30s. They come together,  so I assume they're a couple.

3. Another actor named Spencer, aka the Leading Man.

4. The Celebrity's ex-boyfriend, a Director named Joseph: in his 40s, slim, with a salt-and-pepper beard and thinning hair.

5. And his date, a Cute Young Thing named Scott, who isn't in the industry.

I wonder who we will be sharing tonight.

The full post, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jul 7, 2016

The Phantom and Son

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, all of the good comic strips appeared in the Times-Democrat, across the river in Davenport, Iowa.   Our Rock Island Argus featured a few lousy bargain-basement knockoffs -- Freckles instead of Archie, Winthrop instead of Peanuts -- and a lot of weird, incomprehensible dinosaur comics that were last popular when Mom and Dad were kids -- Prince Valiant, Out Our Way, Alley Oop.  
The weirdest, most incomprehensible of the lot was The Phantom, a muscular Tarzan who roams the jungle in a purple jumpsuit. wearing a ring, and has a wife and kids at home.

I found this ridiculous.

1. Hetero domesticity kills adventure.  That's why superheros are typically not interested.  Edgar Rice Burroughs had Tarzan marry Jane Porter because he didn't plan on any further adventures for the Lord of the Jungle; as a long-running series began, he had to think of more and more reasons to get Jane out of the picture.

2. A purple jumpsuit.  Lords of the Jungle always wear loincloths!  The only reason to put them in the jungle, where it's hot and humid,  is so you can draw hard muscles for your readers to ogle.

3.  Did I mention the effeminate ring?  Was the Phantom a drag queen?

The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936, two years before Superman. and continues to run today.  At its peak it appeared in over 500 newspapers worldwide.


Today's Phantom is Kit Walker, is the 21st in a line that extends back to Christopher Walker, a British soldier who was shipwrecked in the jungles of Bengal, India, in 1536.  He became a masked vigilante, complete with jumpsuit and ring, and when he was ready to retire, bequeathed them to his son, the new Phantom, and so on, and so on.  The superstitious natives thought he was the same person, an immortal god, and dubbed him "The Ghost Who Walks."


The Phantom lives with his wife (Helen), kids (Kit and Heloise), and various sidekicks in a skull-shaped cave, where he sits on a skull-shaped throne.  He fights poachers, pirates, insurgents, smugglers, evil witch doctors, cannibals, and various baddies in what is no longer Bengal, but Bengalla Island, off the coast of sub-Saharan Africa.



He also appeared in comic book form, under various imprints: Ace, Harvey, Charleton, and finally Gold Key, where his title ran for 72 issues.

I occasionally leafed through them at Schneider's Drug Store, but quickly go bored.  No same-sex rescues, no beefcake.  Geez, at least show us a bicep now and then!














He appeared in a serial in 1943, when the studios were running out of properties, starring Western star Tom Tyler (left), but otherwise his screen appearances have been few.

A big screen version in 1996 starring Billy Zane (top photo) had the superhero fighting big business in modern-day America.  tanked, along with the sci-fi cartoon, Phantom 2040, with Scott Valentine.    Not like...um, well Tarzan, for instance.

I'm holding out for the modern strips, written by Tony DePaul and drawn by Paul Ryan and Terry Beatty.  They often send in the Phantom's kids to do the adventuring.








Lee Falk imagined him as a cherubic preteen, but the modern Kit is drawn as a muscular blond teenager who has no qualms about appearing in a loincloth.

 And none of the comics I've checked show him expressing heterosexual interest (the girl he's wrestling with is his sister).








Maybe we'll finally get some gay subtexts.

See also: Alley Oop; Prince Valiant.

The Gay Connection of Paper Towels. Seriously.

Paper towels are just there.  They do the job.  They're about as exciting as toast.

During the 1970s, two advertisers tried to make paper towels more exciting.  Bounty got feisty comedienne Nancy Walker to promote the "quicker picker upper."  And Georgia-Pacific countered with Brawny, sold by a Castro clone in a lumberjack outfit, open at the top so you could see his manly chest hair.

So he chops down the trees to make the paper towels?  Does that make sense?








Regardless, Brawny soon became a favorite of housewives and gay kids looking for beefcake in their paper towel purchase.

Lots of gay men say that they got their first glimpse of gay culture from the Brawny guy.  Seriously.

During the 1980s, he got a haircut and changed his shirt.






In 2004 he was replaced by a more muscular Bush-era hunk with a severe black haircut.
















The Brawny Guy hasn't been used in tv commercials or print ads.  He doesn't even have a name.  But he still gets a 70% product recognition score (70% of people polled associate his face with paper towels), and some cosplay.

And a surprising gay connection.


In Search of Australian Aboriginal Men

Brisbane, Australia, July 2002

In 1986, I followed an Australian cowboy to his home on Kangaroo Island, with only the briefest of layovers in Sidney before going on to visit Alan in Japan.

This summer, same problem: my conference is in Brisbane, and I don't have the time or money to spend more than two days in Sydney.

Still, a week in Australia!  A chance to meet Aboriginal men!

Of course, there's nothing wrong with Anglo-Australians (80% of the population), or Chinese or Indian-Australians (8%) of the population).  But I can meet Anglo and Asian guys at home, or in Europe.  When will I be able to meet an Aboriginal Australian again?

Their culture is at least 40,000 years old: they began their migration to the continent during the Middle Paleolithic Era.

Most of the tribes practice so-called "ritualized homosexuality," in which the older men initiate the young men into the community through oral sex.

Initiate, right.

There are 27 language families, with over 100 languages in daily use, as distinct as English and Navajo.

The Wagiman word for "penis" is lagiriny, "tail."

The Ngarluma word for "erection" is jurdu, a cognate of jurdurn, "mountain peak."

Now that I've got to see!

Aboriginal Australians have a distinctive look, with dark-skin, frizzy hair, and broad noses. I couldn't find any nude photos on online bulletin boards (the precursor of blogs), but I imagine they have rather impressive mountain peaks..




The full story, with nude photos and sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.





The Boys of Lassie 3: Skip Burton


Of all of Lassie's boys, Skip (later Robert) Burton was the oldest, and had the fewest gay subtexts.  But at least his adult roles featured substantial nudity, and his package was checked out in the shower in Linda Lovelace for President.

After Timmy (Jon Provost) immigrated to Australia, the remarkably long-lived collie spent most of the 1960s (1964-70) working with Forest Ranger Corey Stewart (Robert Bray).  The wilderness setting was perfect for new color tv sets, and Lassie got to interact with many different characters, instead of just Timmy and his chums.



After a year by herself (1970-71), Lassie moved back to the boy-rescues, moving onto the ranch run by Keith Holden (Larry Pennell) and his 14-year old son Ron (Skip Burton).  She stayed on for 3 years, and finally hung up her collar for good in 1974.











Afterwards Skip (renamed Robert Burton) did not become typecast as a kewpie doll; in fact, immediately after Lassie, he starred in the softcore porn Linda Lovelace for President (1975). Since he was married to 1970s scream queen Karen Black, he also starred with her in Trilogy of Terror (1974).

And several soap operas.

In the 1980s, he went to work on Wall Street.

See also: The Boys of Lassie 1: Jon Provost

Jul 5, 2016

Uncle Sam Wants You: the Gay Connection of America's National Symbol

I'm not very patriotic.  I hate all of those companies that try to sell you lawn mowers or shoes with red white and blue logos and yells of "Freedom!" and "Liberty!"

Wilkes-Barre has a Freedom Farm, Freedom Toyota, Freedom Plumbing, and a Freedom Express Delivery Service.

Plus Liberty Bank, Liberty Cleaners, Liberty Truck Stop, Liberty Pizza, and Liberty Travel.

And what about those commercials?  "I'm glad to be an Amur-ican, where at least I know I'm free."

Or "Freedom! Faith! and Family!" used to sell chicken.

Except I'm too nauseated by the maudlin, heterosexist drivel to be hungry.

But I rather like Uncle Sam.

The symbol of the U.S. was originally a real person, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied rations for troops overseas during the War of 1812, and stamped them with U.S., for United States.  When asked what U.S. meant, he joked "Uncle Sam."

The name caught on, and appeared in a satire of the War of 1812, The Adventures of Uncle Sam in Search of His Lost Honor (1816).  

Uncle Sam was depicted in art several times during the 19th century, but his standard image -- a stern, elderly gentleman with a top hat, a blue coat, and red-and-white striped pants, pointing a finger at "you!" -- first appeared on the cover of Leslie's Magazine in 1916.

I like the forceful dominance of I want YOU!!!  It's like an S&M scene.  I want to say "Yes, sir!  Anything you want, sir!  Shall I tell you my safe word, sir?"

That image is probably as familiar to Americans as Santa Claus, and has been used extensively for military recruitment, and just about everything else.  I Want You to fight inflation, vote for Hoover, end the drug war, stop bullying, get out and exercise, learn to read, curb illegal immigration, and find a cure for AIDS.





Uncle Sam became a superhero during the 1940s.  In National Comics, he's the ghost of a soldier killed in the Revolutionary War, who appears to fight Nazis along with his teen sidekick Buddy.  He returned to DC comics thirty years later, this time as a spirit conjured up by the Founding Fathers to fight un-patriotic activity.





A number of ads and illustrations have Uncle Sam ripping off his shirt to reveal a bodybuilder's physique.  Here he's flexing on the cover of The Economist, with red-white-and-blue tassles attached to his nipples.












And don't forget the real-life musclemen in Uncle Sam costumes, like Blake Jenner (Glee, top photo) and Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, left)

Anybody into Daddies?

The Quest for the Shirtless Superman

When I was a kid, I read Harvey Comics, the Disney ducks, the Gold Key jungle comics, and occasionally an Archie -- but not DC: Superman, Batman, and their ilk.

Who could follow the never-ending story arcs, spread across multiple issues and multiple titles, with references to event that happened ages ago that everyone was supposed to know about?

Besides, the big-city settings were dull -- give me a jungle any day -- and who cared about battling bad guys?  Find a lost civilization or seek out buried treasure, something mildly entertaining instead of the constant zap! pow!

But the biggest problem -- the musclemen were never naked!  Tarzan, Korak, Brothers of the Spear wore skimpy loincloths, so there were massive chests, 6-pack abs, and bulging biceps to ogle in nearly every panel.  The DC superheroes were never shown out of their stupid costumes.

Logically, I can understand why -- strip Superman out of his suit, and no one will know who he is   You'd never know that this is a picture of Superman (actually Kal, from an alternate reality where Krypton explodes in the Middle Ages rather than 1930s, so the super-baby refugee grows up to be a blacksmith rather than mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.  Got all that?)

But still, there's no reason why there couldn't be at least a few shirtless scenes.

Nope.  I just spent 2 hours on the Grand Comics Database, looking at the covers of  866 issues of Action Comics (1938-2016), 423 issues of Superman (1939-1986), 333 issues of the second incarnation of Superman (1987-2006) and the third 92011-2016), plus all 230 issues of The Adventures of Superman (1987-2006) ), The Justice League of America, Batman/Superman, Superman/Batman, and Supermen from Britain, France, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Finland, over 2500 covers in all.

7 of them show a shirtless Superman.  

That's 0.26%

Nothing at all for the first 25 years.  Then, in 1963, Superman agrees to fight his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor on a planet with a red sun, where his superpowers don't work.  He takes his shirt off to get pummeled.













In 1964, on another red-sun planet, a caveman steals Superman's clothes (he has a beard so we know it isn't really Supe).

Why the lack of beefcake?  I suspect it has something to do with the writers, who were typically girl-chasing heteros who had no interest in drawing the male form.  Or else they thought that the audience consisted entirely of 15 year old hetero boys who had no interest in seeing the male form.










No shirtless covers for 36 years, until, in 2000, Superman appears in a wilderness setting, his shirt half torn off, fighting monsters, with Wonder Woman behind him wielding an axe.  The title "Immortal Beloved" seems to be reflecting the Edgar Rice Burroughs story "The Eternal Lover," about a warrior from 100,000 years ago who falls in love with a 20th century woman who is a reincarnation of his ex-girlfriend.












Then 13 years passed with nothing.

In 2013, "the “Psi-War” epic begins! Psi-War erupts as Hector Hammond tries to take control of H.I.V.E. from its queen, but there are other forces in play as well, as a new Psycho Pirate emerges, and Superman is caught in the middle, unable to protect those closest to him."

The 3-D cover shows a brutal, scary Bizarro or Borg Superman, but at least he has his shirt off.  Note the "real" superman captured in the background.


Justice League 40 (2015) is about the Darkseid War!  The Justice League comes face to face with "the two most powerful and dangerous entities in existence!"  More dangerous than the Sun-Eater that ravages entire galaxies, from a 1967 Superman continuity?

But the cover shows Superman, Batman and company as strippers in a homage to the movie Magic Mike.














Earth One is a series of graphic novels set on an Earth that didn't participate in the mega-retconning "Crisis on Infinite Earths" of the 1980s, and thus is not limited by the continuity restraints of the new DC.  Volume 3 (2015) depicts Superman's battle with General Zod and romance with someone named Lisa.













Superman 42 (2015) has Superman fighting an information-skimming mega-crime syndicate called HORDR.  Also, Lois finds out his true identity, and he loses his powers yet again.

But a variant cover shows Supe drawn like a character from the Nickelodeon cartoon Teen Titans Go!, in his underwear, trying to pick out a costume to wear.

H's a cartoon, but he's still shirtless, so it counts.

3 covers from 1938 to 2012, and then 4 from 2013 to 2015.  Maybe things are looking up for DC Comics beefcake fans.

Check out the Shirtless Superheroes blog for lots more shirtless pictures of Supe and company.





Jul 4, 2016

The Bed-Switching Freshman at the Chocolate Moose

I was saddened to learn that the Chocolate Moose, a landmark ice cream place on Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington, is going to be demolished to make way for a generic office building.  The distinctiveness of local culture vanishes for faceless uniformity, yet again.

The Chocolate Moose was a quirky little building shaped like a chocolate chalet.  You went to the  window to order soft-serve ice cream, floats, shakes, hot dogs, sloppy joes, that sort of thing.  No indoor dining, but there were a couple of picnic tables.

It was only a block from the apartment Viju and I shared during my second year in graduate school at Indiana University.

It was open until 2:00 am, so we often dropped by after cruising at Bullwinkle's, especially if we struck out (if we were successful, we took our hookups to Bob's Burgers instead).





The rest of the story is too risque for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood.

Going to Bed with the Boy Next Door

Rock Island, November 1968.

 A Thursday, two days after my eighth birthday.  Mom isn't feeling well, so she's in bed already.  Dad made macaroni and cheese for dinner.  My brother and I are in our pajamas, watching The Flying Nun and reading books.

Suddenly Mom calls Dad into the bedroom.  He returns a few moments later.  "Boys, get your coats and shoes on.  You're going on a sleepover."

Cool!  They said I could start going on sleepovers when I turned eight, but I didn't think it would be so soon after. But why does Kenny get to go?   He's only six!   

"Who with?"  I ask.

"Mike from next door."

Mike?  But we aren't friends -- he's a year younger than me, in the second grade.  We only played together once last summer, when he talked me into running through a sprinkler with my clothes on, and got me in trouble.  

But -- a sleepover, like the big kids have!  "I'll go pack some clothes and toys."

"No, there's no time.  I'll bring you some clothes tomorrow.  Just put your coats and shoes on right over your pajamas.  And you can pick out one toy apiece to bring.  But hurry up."

Kenny and I run down the stairs to our basement room to get our shoes on, and then look for toys to bring.  My teddy bear (named Ted E. Bear) seems like an obvious choice, but I don't want to act like a little baby in front of Mike, so I choose a Tarzan action figure instead.

When we climb up the stairs again, Mike's Dad, Mr. Maartin, is standing in the living room.  "Ready to go, cowpokes?" he asks with a broad smile.

The full post is on Tales of West Hollywood.

The DC Comics Jungle

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, DC Comics were not known for their beefcake -- Batman, Superman, and their superhero coworkers were fully clothed all the time.  You had to go to Gold Key to get your quota of loincloth-clad jungle hunks.  But suddenly in the 1970s DC got on the bandwagon, and a dozen jungle, prehistoric, far-future, and sword-and-sorcery musclemen appeared all at once.














A precursor, Congo Bill, who wore a Jungle Jim style pith helmet, appeared in various DC Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, until he was transformed into a giant gorilla in 1959.  He got his own 7-issue series in 1954-55.  His sidekick was the loincloth clad Janu the Jungle Boy, a pint-sized Bomba who spoke in "Him no friend" patois. Here he worries about the competition.






B'wana Beast appeared in two issues of DC Showcase in 1967.  He drank a special magic elixer in a cave on Mount Kilimanjaro that allowed him to talk to animals, including his gorilla sidekick. A special magic helmet allowed him to control them.















DC took over the Tarzan title from Gold Key in 1972, and printed adaptions of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories: Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, Tarzan the Untamed, Tarzan and the Lion Man and Tarzan and the Castaways.  It lasted until 1977.

Korak, Son of Tarzan also migrated from Gold Key from 1972 to 1976.










The anthology series Weird Worlds  adapted some other Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including the John Carter of Mars series (shown here with the Conan-style woman supine at his feet),  plus the far-future sword-and-sorcery hero Ironwolf.   It lasted for 10 issues (1972-1974).

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, inhabited a post-Planet of the Apes world of sentient animals from 1972 to 1978.













Tor, a warrior from "The World of a Million Years Ago!", with his monkey companion Chee-Chee, bounced around several comics companies after his debut in 1953.  DC had him for 6 issues beginning in 1975.  Those are sentient apes fighting him.

















Claw the Unconquered, a Conan the Barbarian clone all the way down to the woman lying supine at his feet, also began in 1975, and lasted for 12 issues from 1975 to 1978.  His deformed hand, a "claw," wasn't caused by an accident or birth defect: his father was punished for consorting with demons.












Another sword-and-sorcery hero, The Warlord (seen here in cosplay), debuted in an anthology series called 1st Issue Special in 1975 before going on to a successful run in his own title (1976-1988).  He was an American pilot who accidentally flew into a hole at the North Pole and ended up in Pellucidar...um, I mean Skartaris, where he rescued the scantily clad Princess Deja Thoris...um, I mean Princess Tara.

Kong the Untamed, a blond prettyboy caveman (top photo), ran for 5 issues in 1975.













Two backup sword and sorcery hero in The Warlord eventually spun off into their own titles: Arak Son of Thunder, left (who changed from Conan clone to Mohawk Indian) from 1981 to 1985, and Arion, Lord of Atlantis,  from 1982 to 1985.

Pop quiz: how many of the 14 Lords of the Jungle have a "k" sound in their names?

Answer: 7.  I guess something about "k" spells "jungle."

See also: The Comic Book Jungle; Kamandi