Sep 10, 2016

March 1985: The Brady Bunch Dad Plays a Swishy Queen

You have to be careful watching tv.  The producers, actors, and directors are not your friends; even when they are gay, they are often Uncle Toms.  So it's impossible to avoid frequent statements that assert that everyone on earth is heterosexual, that you do not exist:
"Well, Joe, you're getting to that age when you start to notice girls"
"All guys look at girls.  It's only natural."
"She's every man's fantasy."

If you are careful, you can usually avoid the more virulent statements that assert that you exist, but you are a swishy joke or a predatory monster.

I let my guard down one night in the summer of 1986.  Who would expect virulent homophobia on Murder, She Wrote?






I had no interest in the Sunday night old-person's series (1984-1996) about a small-town mystery writer (played by Angela Lansbury) who kept stumbling across -- and solving -- murders.

Usually the victim was a relative or friend -- "Oh, no, you invited Aunt Jessica to Thanksgiving!  That means one of us will die!"

But Alan was a fan, for some reason, and that Sunday evening, we watched an episode called  "Footnote to Murder" (10 March 1985).

Jessica goes to a mystery writer's convention full of petty jealousy, feuds, backstabbing, and vindictiveness, and of course someone ends up dead.  Unfortunately, her best friend is the prime suspect.

 Robert Reid, formerly the Brady Bunch dad, played swishy uber-stereotype Adrian Winslow, who is criticized for writing novels about "Greek boys mincing about."

"At least my books sell," he simpers.

Who's buying all of these mysteries about Greek boys mincing about?

Although an uber-swishy, lavender-laced, fruit-flavored 1950's stereotype who writes about swishy queens in in ancient Greece, he's also closeted.  "The young man I was dining with last night was a reporter," he explains.

So the word "gay" is never used.  Just a lot of condescending smirks and whispered innuendos.

At least he's not the murderer, just a swishy red herring.

At the time I didn't think anything of it -- virulent homophobia was commonplace on tv during the 1980s.

Then, in 1992, Robert Reed died.  Of colon cancer, but he turned out to be HIV positive, resulting in crazy media headlines like "Mike Brady Had AIDS"!

And his Brady Bunch costars revealed that Reed was, in fact, gay.  They all knew, back in the 1960s, but of course they couldn't say anything for fear that having "America's Favorite Dad" come out would destroy his career -- and their show.

So a gay man agrees to play this horrible 1950s stereotype?

He also hated The Brady Bunch, and actually refused to appear in some episodes that he thought were particularly stupid.

A paycheck is a paycheck.  You did what you had to do, in those days.

See also: Christopher Knight/Peter Brady, Barry Williams/Greg Brady; and Razzle Dazzle: 1970s Variety Shows.

The Incest Taboo

Scholars have written a lot of nonsense on the incest taboo, why most cultures forbid marriage or sexual relations between close relatives.

They say it's to avoid birth defects and other genetic abnormalities, but in fact such things are not apparent for several generations.

More likely it is a matter of exogamy: bringing a new person into the community brings new ideas, new fashions, new technology -- vital for cultural growth.

Plus the daily dynamics of sharing a household with someone while you're growing up makes them too familiar to be erotic.

In the U.S., marriage or sexual relations are forbidden between biological siblings, parents and children, and aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews.

First cousins (your uncle or aunt's child) are usually forbidden, and sometimes first cousins once removed (your parents' cousins) and second cousins (your cousins' children).

Most states also prohibit adopted parents, children, and siblings, even though genetics are not an issue.

The rules have gotten more strict during the last century.  In the Victorian Era, it was not uncommon to marry your uncle or your cousin.

Brothers

I don't know if erotic activity between brothers is more common than between brother and sister, but it certainly is less stigmatized.

A lot of guys characterize their same-sex activity as "play" or "fooling around," not real sex, especially in adolescence, so they have no qualms against doing things with their brother that they would never think of with their sister.

I never did anything with my own brother, but I've had two brothers cruise me at the same time.





Cousins

These sort of relationships are more common.  You rarely see your cousins, so they don't develop th familiarity that would preclude erotic relationships.

And they're often quite different from you physically, adding a little exoticism to the mix.

One of my first erotic experiences was seeing my Cousin Joe naked and (in retrospect) semi-aroused.  I was seven and a half, and he was a teenager.  I've also had erotic experiences with my Cousin George and Cousin Buster.



Fathers and Sons/Grandfathers and Grandsons

When young guys call you Daddy, they're referring to the social distance of your age difference, not imagining sex with their real father.

Father-son erotic activity is much less common, and more stigmatized, than brother-brother, probably because the parental dynamic is so different.  Nurturing and protecting you is not erotic.  Why would you be attracted to someone who changed your diapers when you were a baby?

I've never  had any erotic thoughts about my own father, or head about it in real life, although I thought long and hard about my Grandpa Prater.

Alan hooked up with a father and son at the same time, but they never actually interacted with each other.



Uncles and Nephews

 Like cousins, you don't see them often, and they're grownup while you're a kid, so they have all of the muscles, hair, and bulges you associate with the erotic.

Growing up, I had erotic thoughts about several of my uncles, especially Uncle Edd and Uncle Paul.  I've never had erotic thoughts about my nephew, who is now in his 20s, but there's still time.  Life is very long.

Sep 9, 2016

The Beefcake Art of Annibale Carracci

Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) was a painter of the Italian Baroque period who specialized in mythological and allegorical subjects, obviously preferring the male form to the female.  He painted big, beefy, muscular nudes influenced by Raphael and Michelangelo.

Genio de la Gloria (1588-89), or "The Spirit of Glory," is a brightly-shining nude angel with a rather small penis getting ready to pass out laurels.










Bacchus (1590), the Greek god of wine, drunkenness, and general licentiousness, is usually portrayed as an elderly roue, but Carracci makes him a chubby adolescent.

















The Choice of Hercules (1596) shows a naked, very handsome demigod trying to choose between two fully clothed women, representing Virtue (left) and Vice (right).  There are more naked men on Virtue's side.














Diana and Endymion (1597) is part of a gigantic fresco called The Loves of the Gods, now in the Farnese Gallery in Rome.  Endymion is semi-nude and surrounded by four nude men, while Diana, who put him to sleep so she have him all to herself, is minimized.






The same fresco contains Perseus and Phineas.  A naked Perseus is using Medusa's head to turn a lot of naked men to stone.














And Polyphemus Furioso (Polyphemus Insane).  I'll bet you've never seen the Cyclops who Odysseus outwits so buffed before.

Although his penis is still a bit inadequate.








Sep 8, 2016

Just Shoot Me: Buddy Bonding and Snark

Beginning with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, many, many sitcom have featured a gung-ho female journalist paired with a stick-in-the-mud male boss.  Usually a romance develops.  But not in Just Shoot Me (1997-2003). 

 Its premise: aging playboy Jack Gallo (George Segal) runs a women's magazine, Blush, which offers frothy fashion and sex tips.  His daughter Maya (Laura San Giocomo) arrives, all but waving a "Women's Lib" sign, ready to fight the objectification of women and write hard-hitting articles about human trafficking and date rape.

She is shocked to discover that everyone at Blush is extraordinarily horny.  Sexual desires, exploits, adventures, and come-ons occupy all of their free time, which is all of the workday.

Photographer Elliot DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni) sleeps with every female model, no exceptions.

Wise-cracking secretary Davis Finch (David Spade) makes crude come-ons to every women in sight, no exceptions.

Fashion editor and former supermodel Nina Van Horn (Wendie Malick) sleeps with every man she sees, no exceptions.

There are episodes about the clash between hard-hitting journalism and froth, but mostly the series is about relationships.  Maya bickers with her Dad, clashes with his new wife, and gets boyfriends, eventually Elliot.

Nina competes with other supermodels, falls in love with the wrong man, pretends to be things that she's not, and gets her comeuppance.

Davis pursues a father-son relationship with Jack, pursues a relationship with his real father, and has the insecurities beneath the snark revealed.

They all become close friends.

There was some gay interest:

Nina Van Horn was an outrageous, boozy, profane type, the sort gay men like to emulate in their drag queen personae.

Everyone is shocked to discover that Davis is an extra-extra large (he didn't know himself, assuming that the guys in porn movies were about average, and he was just a little bigger than them).


Enrico Colantoni,  hairy and rather muscular, took off his shirt often (he even posed semi-nude for Playgirl).

Gay people were referenced on occasion, the usual "mistaken for gay" and "pretending to be gay to enjoy the tremendous advantages gay people have" episodes.

Only two actual LGBT persons: the high school buddy who had a sex change; and a female model has a crush on Maya.

Typical for how the 1990s handled gay "issues," as a problem for the heterosexuals to solve.

You'd think they could do better, and have an actual gay character in a recurring role.  But it came on just before or just after Will and Grace, and network execs probably figured that viewers couldn't stand two programs with gay characters on the same night.

See also: Suddenly, Susan

Sep 6, 2016

Hugh O'Brian and the Gay 1950s

Hugh O'Brian, who died yesterday, was one of the few beefcake actors of the 1950s not discovered by gaydar-proficient talent agent Henry Willson -- although he was rumored to be gay.  He just wanted to be discovered for his talent, not for his biceps and bulge. A high school athlete and former Marine, he began acting in 1948, and appeared in a steady stream of B-actioners, mostly cowboy and war flicks, through the 1950s.

In 1955 Huge got his big break, playing legendary Wild West marshall and sharpshooter Wyatt Earp, who participated in the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral (1881), along with his brothers and his close friend Doc Holliday.

 A 1931 biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall, omitted the gambling, prostitution, and shady business deals,  transforming him into a heroic character who brought "law and order" to the Old West. Movie versions of his life appeared in 1934, 1939, 1946, and 1957.

The tv series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-61) whitewashed the character even farther, but didn't skip on the gay subtexts.  Earp isn't married, and falls in love no more than once per season.

He lives in a masculine-coded world of brawlers and gunfighters, renegade Indians and gun-shy dudes.  He has many friends, Doc Holliday, Deputy Hal Norton, Bat Masterson, Marsh Murdock, and his brothers, but never settles down to any long-term relationship.







After Wyatt Earp, the typecast Hugh performed as any number of heterosexual cowboys, detectives, and do-gooders. but he managed to draw in a gay subtext occasion.

In Love Has Many Faces (1965), he plays a male prostitute (coded as a "beach boy") out for revenge against his former pimp who has gone "straight" (Cliff Robertson).






In Africa: Texas Style (1967), cowboy Jim Sinclair (Hugh) and his Indian sidekick John Henry (Tom Nardini) go to Africa, where they buddy-bond and encounter scalawags.  They don't get girlfriends, but they do adopt a young native boy, Sampson (John Malinda). (It was adapted into a tv series starring Chuck Connors.)

Huge reprised the Wyatt Earp character several times, most recently in Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994).

He married for the first time in 2006, at the age of 81, but according to close friend Debbie Reynolds, he was straight.  He just wasn't ready to settle down yet.

If he was straight, why were all of his friends gay?  Well, she says, there simply weren't a lot of straight beefcake actors in 1950s Hollywood, so you had to be gay-friendly if you wanted friends.

Green Acres: Gay Siblings on 1960s TV

One of the hayseed comedies of the 1960s, Green Acres (1965-71) was nearly as bereft of beefcake and bonding as Petticoat JunctionIt was a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a big city lawyer, Oliver Douglas (Eddie Arnold, center), who had a naively romantic view of rural life --  and so moved with his Hungarian heiress wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) to Hooterville.

Little did he know!  Although it was set in the same town as Petticoat Junction, with some of the same characters, Green Acres was played for surreal, absurdist humor.  Most of the townspeople were manipulative and greedy, but even those who were well-meaning looked askance at the pretensions of this blustering city feller and his pleasant but incompetent wife.

Little beefcake or bonding.  Oliver took his shirt off in one episode (not this photo), but he was too grandfatherly to be a fantasy boyfriend.

There was a long list of male characters: Mr. Drucker, who ran the general store; Mr. Haney, the local con artist entrepreneur; Hank Kimball, county agricultural agent; Eb, the lanky farm hand.  But none of them were particularly attractive; they were played as goofballs, not as heartthrobs. And there was nary a tender glance between them.

It's even hard to find a gay connection in their other roles.  The male actors were mostly from rural areas, and married to women for fifty years.  Tom Lester (Eb) is a Baptist minister, which leads me to conclude (perhaps unfairly) that he is homophobic.  Eva Gabor dated Merv Griffith, who was gay.


But all of that pales before a unique queer image: the Monroe Brothers, incompetent carpenters who were forever working on Oliver's house, consisted of Alf (Sid Melton) and Ralph (Mary Grace Canfield).  A woman with a man's name, who wears men's clothing and takes on a stereotypically male occupation: Ralph was coded as lesbian in spite of her long-term courtship of Hank Kimball.

Born in 1924, Mary Grace Canfield is an accomplished comic actress with roles as diverse as Mrs. Grundy in a tv adaption of Archie Comics, Gladys Kravitz's sister Harriet on Bewitched, and Goody Cloyse in Young Goodman Brown.  She has never married.

Alf, who never expressed any heterosexual interest, was played by Sid Melton.  The diminuitive, wise-cracking actor married only briefly, in the 1940s, and his huge number of tv and movie credits include several gay-subtext vehicles, such as Knock on Any Door (1949), about attorney Andrew Morton (Humphrey Bogart) in love with dashing young Nick Romano (John Derek).  He also played Sophia's dearly departed husband Sal on The Golden Girls.

L

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