May 27, 2018

Beefcake in the Home of Happiness

In The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its sequel-of-sorts, Shock Treatment, Brad and Janet are from Denton, a "typical American city."  But which Denton?

Fans claim Denton, Ohio, because Janet is shown with a copy of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, but there is no Denton in Ohio (the exterior shots were all filmed in England).

Richard O'Brien probably had no particular city in mind when he wrote the RHPS script, but he scouted out location for Shock Treatment in Denton, Texas before the 1979-80 Screen Actors Guild strike forced him to move the entire film onto a sound stage.

Denton, Texas residents are proud of their association with RHPS (and other films with a Denton connection, such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Benji).  It's been playing almost continuously since 1975, and scholars at the University of North Texas write papers on it.

There's not much else to do in Denton, population 113,000, snuggled in the no man's land between Dallas and Fort Worth, so everybody goes there for gay life,leaving one gay bar, a monthy gay night at the Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio, and a Denton Pride planning organization.  There are two colleges with drama and musical performances, and high schools with sports teams.

Lots of high schools.  Denton is surrounded by tiny, ritzy suburbs, like Double Oak ("The Best Little City in Texas!)

Flower Mound.  Imagine spending your entire adult life telling people "I'm from Flower Mound, Texas."

Lantana, "an upscale census-designated place and master-planned community originally developed by Republic Property Group."

Quite a town slogan.

Lewisville, which has one of the largest Burmese communities in Texas, although this wrestler isn't.

And Rhome.

See also: Why Do Gay Men Like the Rocky Horror Picture Show.; Shock Treatment

More Riverdale Beefcake

The second season of Riverdale has a convoluted plotline about a serial killer named the Black Hood, a sort of Zodiac stalking the town's "sinners," who has a special bond with Betty Cooper.

Plus a drug named Jingle Jangle, which, like all drugs on tv, is the brainchild of a single archvillain, the mysterious Sugarman.

Plus there are increasing tensions with the Southside, which is full of drugs and crime, but not because of economic deprivation (in Riverdale the two social classes are upper-middle and rich).  Because of the machinations of two gangs, the rowdy Southside Serpents and the uber-evil Ghoulies.

Kevin Keller's plot arc involves going cruising at night in the park, in spite of the dangers.  Why doesn't he just go on Grindr?  "Because the guys there aren't real," he explains. 

But, like Season 1, the cast is full of beefcake actors who aren't shy about hanging out shirtless.

1. Jordon Connor as a baby-faced Southside Serpent with the unlikely name of Sweet Pea (the Popeye character was actually Swee Pea).

2. Model Tommy Martinez as Malachi, leader or at least spokesman of the Ghoulies.

3. Graham Phillips as Nick St. Clair, one of Veronica's New York buddies -- they used to go clubbing.  Wait, she's 16.  Where were all these clubs she was getting into?

Anyway, he comes for an extended visit,  gets a suite at the Five Seasons, and uses a date rape drug to incapacitate Cheryl Blossom after she's been throwing herself at him all night.  Couldn't he just ask?

4. Mark Brandon, who has been a very busy character actor since the 1980s (his first credited role is on Mama's Family in 1983), and wrote a book on Winning Auditions.   He looks very much like the Mark Brandon who posed nude in Advocate Men in 1990.

5. Drew Ray Tanner as Fangs Fogarty, a member of the Southside Serpents (he appears as a bully in the Little Archie series).

6. Moses Thiessen (left) as Ben, Miss Grundy's newest jailbait conquest.  They make out during a piano lesson, and then the Black Hood kills her. 

7. Spanish actor Stephan Miers as Andre, the Lodges' personal assistant.

8. Hart Denton as Chic, Alice Cooper's long-lost son, who breezes into town with blackmail on his mind (Betty Cooper's mother is not named in the comics.)

See also: Riverdale: Archie's Pals and Gals.

May 26, 2018

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

 If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) was advertised as a hilarious comedy about a group of Ugly Americans on a whirlwind tour of Europe, but I found it heartbreaking.  In fact, I was hesitant about revisiting it after forty years, for fear that it would bring back the intense feelings of longing and loss that had me almost in  tears as a kid.

When you find something heartbreaking that the rest of the world thinks is hilarious, there must be a subtext somewhere.

There was beefcake.  Lots of it.  Ian McShane, the Swinging Sixties Bachelor who herds the tourists around Europe, displays his body frequently as he falls for and loses prim librarian Suzanne Pleshette.

Luke Halpin, formerly a teenage hunk on Flipper (1964-67), wanders around Europe as a hippie in painted-on jeans as he falls for and loses apathetic teen Hilary Thompson.

Even the hunky Sandy Baron, fresh from his odd-couple sitcom Hey, Landlord (1966-67), displays a toned hairy chest as he rips his shirt off and dives into a Venetian canal to avoid a marriage-crazy relative.  (Incidentally, Sandy Baron would become famous thirty years later on Seinfeld, as the doddering oldster Jack Klompus).

But beefcake doesn't make for poignancy.

Sandy Baron's character doesn't seem to be interested in girls, but otherwise I find no significant gay content.  No male bonding, no same-sex rescues.

So why was it heartbreaking?

Maybe it was the metaphor of escape. Dozens of Boomer movies and tv programs were about people trapped in a dangerous alien world -- Gilligan's Island, My Favorite Martian, Danger Island,  H.R. Pufnstuf, Lost in Space.  They are desperate to get home, to return to their conventional lives, to their jobs and houses and husbands and wives and stark heterosexist conformity.  But If It's Tuesday has it backwards -- the alien world is a Paradise, an escape from their conventional lives to a world of light and color and infinite possibility.

At the end of the movie they all reject the romantic partners they've fallen in love with and go home -- you can't stay in Oz forever -- as the theme song says, "Can't wait to tell the folks back home."  But for a nine-year old in a dull factory town, it was heartbreaking to know -- or to suspect -- that Oz existed, that there was a good place out there somewhere.


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