Dec 30, 2014

The Gay Connection of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

I heard that Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) was a gay classic, the coming-out film of the pre-Stonewall Era, when gay men snipped "But ya are, Blanche!" at each other as gleefully as my generation said "Come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab!"

Legendary drag queen and dramatist Charles Busch, who recorded the DVD commentary, says that it's "one of those handful of movies you have to see to get your gay card."

Well, I got my gay card quite a few years ago, so I thought I'd better get around to seeing what all the fuss was about.

Previously I had seen Bette Davis only in All About Eve, Return from Witch Mountain, and Death on the Nile, and Joan Crawford in nothing (unless you count her portrayal by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest), so I was coming in fresh.

There are 3 parts.

1917: Baby Jane Hudson is a 10-year old Vaudeville star whose signature song is the maudlin "I Wrote a Letter to Daddy."  Her older sister Blanche is jealous.

1934: The young adult Jane Hudson is a flop in Hollywood, but Blanche has become a big star.  Jealous, Jane runs into Blanche with her car, crippling her.  The director cleverly avoids showing Blanche, and shows Jane only in one of Bette Davis's old movies.

1962: Jane (Davis) and Blanche (Crawford) have spent their lives in seclusion in a decaying Hollywood mansion, seeing only their housekeeper and business manager.

When Blanche's old movies are broadcast on television, gaining her a new generation of fans, Jane gets jealous again, and starts torturing her.  During a two-day period, she kills Blanche's pet bird, tries to feed her the bird and a rat, rips the phone out of the wall, ties her up, and...well, that's about it.

Blanche tries to signal to various people that she's in trouble, but Jane always intercepts the message.

Finally Jane has a complete breakdown, dragging Blanche to the beach and reverting to her child self.

Then comes the stunning reveal: Jane wasn't trying to kill Blanche the night of her accident.  Blanche was trying to kill Jane!

Ok, so that makes no sense at all.  But really, nothing about this movie makes much sense.  Like, shouldn't a wheelchair bound person get a room on the first floor?

And I still can't figure out the gay connection.

1. Buddy-bonding male friendships?  No.  There aren't any significant male characters, except in a humorous subplot about the middle-aged Jane trying to revive her child star career.  Victor Buono plays Edwin Flagg, a layabout she hires to help with the musical arrangements, who gamely asserts that her idea is genius, and even flirts with her in the interest of getting his paycheck.

2. Lesbian bonds, then?  No.  Blanche and Jane hate each other.

3. Same-sex desire of any sort, even hinted at?  Not a bit.

4. Critiques of hetero-romance?  Maybe a little.  No one is involved with anyone.  The next-door neighbors consist of a mother and daughter.  Blanche's courting of Edwin Flagg comes across as creepy and unhinged, like her incest-tinged relationship with her father.

5. Gay symbolism?  When Blanche laments, "If only I weren't in a wheelchair!" Jane replies acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"  Maybe the gay men of a certain age used to lament, "If only I weren't gay!", to which their witty friends replied acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"

6. Gay author or director?  No.

7. Beefcake?  A little, maybe.  Victor Buono looks like he might have a nice hairy chest, and during the beach scene,  some hunks in swimsuits stare aghast at Jane's breakdown.

I guess you had to be a gay man in the pre-Stonewall era to get it.

The 1991 remake was, apparently, even more over-the-top. Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave play Blanche and Jane.  Instead of a housekeeper, there is massage therapist Dominick  (Bruce A. Young), who is probably gay, and instead of a drunken musician, Jane flirts with aspiring filmmaker, drag queen, and pedophile Billy (John Glover, top photo).

See also: All About Eve

Dec 29, 2014

Junior Durkin and Henry Willson: Hollywood's First Gay Romance

When 15-year old New York boy Trent Durkin was contracted by Paramount Pictures, his name was changed to "Junior" to make him seem more wholesome and All-American. 

The ploy worked: Tom Sawyer (1930) was the #1 box office hit of 1930, in part because of the palpable buddy-bond between Tom (16-year old Jackie Coogan) and rascallion Huck Finn (15-year old Junior Durkin).  

Huckleberry Finn followed (1931).

Then Hell's House (1932),  in which a boy (Junior) is framed for bootlegging and sent to juvenile hall, where he falls in love with the younger Shorty (Junior Coughlan).  

And Man Hunt (1933), in which a junior detective (Junior) and his boyfriend (Arthur Vinton) solve a murder.

Before World War II, boys were expected to become interested in girls at the end of adolescence, not at the beginning, leaving adolescent actors free to star in amazingly overt "two boys in love" or "boy in love with older man" movies.

But Junior wasn't just acting.  In 1933, the 18-year old met 22-year old Henry Willson at a gay bar on Sunset Strip.  Willson had just arrived from Pennsylvania, and was writing for movie magazines.  The two became lovers, and when Willson became a talent agent for the Joyce and Pollimer Agency, he hired Junior.

Or maybe he hired Junior before they became lovers.  Accounts vary.

Willson got Junior to leave Paramount for some meatier roles, such as Ready for Love (1934) and Little Men (1934), and suggested that he go back to Trent: a tough, masculine, single-syllable name.  He appeared in Chasing Yesterday (1935) as Trent.

On May 4, 1935, Junior was killed in an automobile accident near a ranch owned by his friend Jackie Coogan's family in San Diego.  He was 19 years old.  Jackie's father and three other people died in the accident as well.  Jackie survived to become a major box office draw, and near the end of his career, Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.

Henry Willson went on to become an important talent agent, creating the beefcake fad of the 1950s by signing on innumerable hunks and changing their names to something tough, masculine, and single-syllable: Rock, Doug, Chad, Nick, Van.  Most were gay or gay-friendly, and many knew their way around a casting couch.

Nathaniel Choate: Gay African-American Sculptor of 1960s New York

When I was living in New York, I had a friend who lived near the  Klitgord Center,  at the corner of Jay and Tilly Street in Brooklyn, the heart of the New York City College of Technology.  Every day he, and thousands of other people, walked past its gigantic 2-story mural memorializing some of the joys of college: Art, Drama, Music, Recreation, Health, and Recreation.

"Health" was a muscular man on the parallel bars, naked or wearing a skimpy jockstrap.

The Klitgord Center was demolished in 2013.

Recently I investigated the mural, and tried to find out something about the artists.

Sculptor Nathaniel Choate (1899-1965) was one of the few African-American men to graduate from Harvard in the 1920s.  Afterwards he studied in France, and traveled extensively in Morocco and Sudan, perhaps looking for the "good place" that drew dozens of gay men to North Africa.  He returned to the U.S. in the 1930s, and taught in Pennsylvania and New York.  He never married.

His subjects were usually muscular African men, such as "Alligator Bender" at Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Tile artist Francis Von Tury (1901-1992) was born in Hungary, had a studio in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and was a leading proponent of ceramics as both an art form and an industrial tool.  He never married, either.

Most of his work is stylized, but there are some interesting male figures, like this fisherman on a blue tile.

I don't know if the two men were friends, or lovers, before they began their collaboration.

See also: Myrtle Beach.

Dec 27, 2014

Fall 2006: My Two Closeted Boyfriends

In 2005, after 20 years in gay neighborhoods, I moved to the Straight World of Dayton, Ohio. There were some gay people around, of course, but they adopted an aggressively heterosexual public life.

They appeared at events alone or in groups, never in pairs.
They dropped pronouns when answering the question "What did you do this weekend?"
They had no gay friends, just hookups and romantic partners.
Whom they never discussed with their heterosexual friends.
Who obeyed an unspoken rule to pretend not to know.

In June 2006, I began going out with Paul (not his real name), who I met in a chatroom. He was in his 20s, a recent graduate of Ohio Dominican University who was doing some sort of lower-level office drone work while trying to become a writer.  He had four of the characteristics I find attractive: short, husky (actually tending to fat),  religious (devout Catholic), and gifted beneath the belt (not the fifth -- he was a pale blond).  

Since gay men in the Straight World would rarely agree to being seen in public in pairs, Paul and I mostly had Chinese food and watched DVD movies in my apartment (I never saw his apartment, because he wasn't out to his straight roommate.) 

When we wanted to do something public, we drove into Columbus, for dinner at La Fogata, or a gay-themed movie, or the theater.

In gay neighborhoods, you dated one guy at a time.  You became romantic partners on the second date; from that point onward, it was taboo to date or hook up with anyone else (except for "sharing" the boyfriends of one's friends and roommates).  But in the Straight World, it was acceptable, even expected, to date several guys at once.

I think the reason was the aggressively heterosexual public life.  Your boyfriend could not give you all of his attention; he couldn't take you to office parties, or to family functions, or even to street fairs.  So you needed several boyfriends to be assured of a date on Saturday night.

(That must be why the Episcopal priest who I met in Omaha had three boyfriends.)

So I kept on cruising and dating, and met another guy in another chatroom: Charlie (again, not his real name), a high school football coach and physical education teacher.  He was in his 20s, extremely muscular, with nice biceps and a thick, hairy chest.

Unfortuantely, he also had 4 of the my Top 10 Turn-Offs:  taller than me; a sports nut; an outdoor nut; and an affinity for drinking beer.  

But in the Straight World, there are so few gay men to choose from that if he likes you and he's not completely repulsive, he's worth a shot.

Like Paul, Charlie led an aggressively heterosexual public life.  His roommate was straight and "wouldn't understand."  He even had a "beard," a female friend who agreed to go with him to games and events, to help hide his gayness.

There was one nice thing about being closeted: Charlie never asked me to go to any football game.  We went hiking, deep in the wilderness of John Bryan State Park, where no one would notice us.  We went jogging at RiversEdge park in Dayton, early in the morning when no one would notice us. We drove into Columbus to go cruising at the Exile.  

Things were going great -- I had two regular boyfriends, Paul and Charlie, one artistic, one athletic.  Of course, they insisted that our relationship be strictly secret, described in only the vaguest terms to gay people, and never mentioned at all to heterosexuals.  But it was easy to adapt to the new rules.

See if you can guess which statement I would say to heterosexuals, and which to gay people:

"Saturday night, one of my boyfriends took me to dinner at La Fogata"
"Saturday night, I had dinner at La Fogata."'

"The guy I'm dating swears by bicep exhaustion sets."
"A friend of mine swears by bicep exhaustion sets."

"My date and I went cruising at the Exile in Columbus."
"I went to Columbus."

Besides, I could continue cruising, in search of a third, fourth, or fifth boyfriend -- maybe, eventually, one for each night of the week!

In December, shortly after my birthday, Paul came down with a cold, so I decided to play the role of the thoughtful boyfriend and surprise him with some chicken soup.  I never got his address, so I had to call him for it.

"Sure, come on over," he said in a stuffed-up voice.  "But my roommate's here, so play it cool.  Say you're my cousin or something."

I drove out to his apartment in a rather nice complex in Huber Heights, a northern suburb in Ohio, and dialed the security code.  The door immediately buzzed open -- I was expected.

I walked to the second floor and knocked.

By now you've probably guessed what happened next:  

Charlie answered!

I was dating roommates!  

Paul and Charlie had been living together for over a year, but each thought other was straight and stayed strictly closeted.  Neither had any idea that the other knew me, or any gay people.  They had different interests, so their paths never crossed.

You may think that, when the smoke cleared, the three of us settled down into a cozy romantic triad.  In fact, they were extremely embarrassed over the year of closeting.  Charlie broke up with me on the spot (not because I had another boyfriend -- because someone else "knew").  He soon moved out.   

Paul and I continued to date.  But, when he was advertising for a new roommate, I insisted that he tell all prospects that he was gay.

Fan Art 5: Gay Crossover Romances between Jake, Danny, and Ron

Usually fan artists prefer to stay within the universe of a single tv program, envisioning their hero in a romantic or sexual bond with one of his antagonists.  For instance, teen ghost Danny Phantom (Nickelodeon, 2004-2007) is approached by the bully Dash in the locker room, while their team mates look on in shock.

A more serious enemy, Vlad Plasmius, threatens to destroy both Danny and the world, but here they have acknowledged their mutual attraction.

But sometimes there are no appropriate antagonists or buddies to be found, so fan artists must resort to crossovers, pairs of characters from different series. Here two characters from Disney channel animated series, teen spy Ron Stoppable (Kim Possible (2002-2007) and Chinese-American dragon-in-training Jake Long (2005-2007) share an intimate moment.

Ron and Jake stand close together in gym trunks, Ron's hand on Jake's thigh.

For some reason, I was unable to find any Danny-Jake pairings.  Danny and Jake are both serious, morose characters, so maybe they aren't compatible.  They need Ron Stoppable's goofiness and good humor.

You might expect a lot of trios, but there aren't many, and they never portray the act itself. Here Ron and Jake are aggressively cruising Danny Phantom, who is rather perplexed at the attention.

A Japanese-infused Ron and Danny wonder if classmate Jake Long wears boxers or briefs.  They are highly stylized, but Ron is wearing a "Save the molerats" t-shirt, referencing his pet mole rat, and Danny's t-shirt has a ghost on it.

(All pictures borrowed from the original artists on

See also: Gay Fan Art #4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Dec 26, 2014

A Dwarf Goes into a Gay Bar

It's not the beginning of a dirty joke. It's the beginning of the worst date in West Hollywood history.

I have always been attracted to guys who are short, the shorter the better.  Under 5'8" is good, under 5'4" is great.

Dwarf/Little Person (defined as under 4'10") -- whoa, here's my number!

But only about 30,000 people in the U.S. are Dwarfs/Little People (according to activist Danny Woodburn, either term is correct).  That means about 1,000 adult gay men.  And since people with atypical bodies often have fewer hangups about their partners' gender, maybe another 3,000 who are bisexual, or straight but "bent around the edges."

4,000 in a country with a population of 300,000,000 The odds against of meeting one are astronomical!

In Los Angeles, the odds increase a bit: due to wide-ranging discrimination, many LP are drawn to show business.  So I occasionally saw a LP at a Hollywood event, or on the street in Century City.  But never in a gay context.

Except one night in the spring of 1992, when my partner Lane and I were at the Faultline on Melrose.

It was always packed with bears, bikers, leathermen, and their Cute Young Thing admirers, but never before or after had I seen Ryan (not his real name) -- about 4'0", shirtless, muscular, with a broad oval face and a quick smile.  He was a little drunk, and heavily cruising a Cute Young Thing (who was trying hard to ignore him).

I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass!  Lane and I had an open relationship, so he agreed to be my wingman.  We sidled up to the spot next to Ryan, and Lane asked, "How's the filming going?"

In West Hollywood, any hint that you worked in show business immediately netted you some fans.  But Ryan glanced over with cool, crisp Attitude, and redoubled his efforts to land the Cute Young Thing.

"Um...filming is going great," I said.  "Next week we're having a wrap-up party on the yacht."

"Are you bringing the Maserati?"

"No, that's still down in my place in Cabo."

 Of course, I didn't have a yacht, a Maserati, or a place in Cabo, but cruising is all about the illusion.  But Ryan remained unimpressed.

Lane and I exchanged panicked glances.  None of my good material was working!  Think, think, think...what did West Hollywood guys like more than showbiz contacts and bank accounts?  

"But you know, I really miss my modeling days." (This was true; I did do some modeling)

"Yeah, I loved your spread in Inches. Didn't you win the Spectacular Pecs award?"

"No, I got runner-up."

An appearance in a beefcake magazine.  Who could resist checking that out?

But Ryan was gazing wistfully as the Cute Young Thing wafted off to cruise a leatherman.  He drained his beer and started walking away.

What did West Hollywood guys like more than showbiz contacts, bank accounts, and pecs?

I walked over, stood directly in front of Ryan, blocking his way, and said "Hi."

He was exactly 2 feet shorter than me, so he was looking directly at my crotch.  His eyes widened.

Penises trump pecs, bank accounts, and shobiz contacts. I got his number.

Next: we go on the Worst Date in West Hollywood History

Fall 2005: The Secret Life of Rod the Pharmacist

When I was living in the gay neighborhoods of West Hollywood and Wilton Manors, you never dated more than one guy at a time.  If you went on a second date, you were a couple, and "abandoned all others" until you broke up.  ("Sharing" the boyfriends of your friends didn't count.)

But when I moved to Dayton in 2005, I found that juggling several boyfriends was perfectly acceptable, even expected.

Among straight men, it was a badge of honor to date several women at once.  Those who were most adept at it became folk heroes, like Don Juan, Casanova, or Fonzie of Happy Days.

Still, I was surprised by the guy upstairs.

It was a garden apartment, opening directly onto a patio and then the parking lot.  The stairway to the second floor apartment was right next to my kitchen window, so I could see and hear everyone coming and going.

Not to worry, the landlord said.  The guy who lives there is very quiet, no loud music or wild parties.

He was right.  No loud music or wild parties. An occasional door slamming, the muffled sound of a vacuum cleaner, a voice on the telephone.

And something else.

I usually went to bed at 10:00 pm in order to get up at 6:00.  But on the nights I couldn't sleep, or woke up to go to the bathroom, I heard a rhythmic creak-creak-creak.



It took me awhile to realize what I was hearing.

The guy upstairs was entertaining visitors.  For two hours or more, several times a week.

Most mornings, as I sat in the kitchen eating my cereal, I saw his visitors leave.

Girls.  Two, three, four different girls.

Who was this  guy, with his Don Juan-Casanova-Fonzie ability to date many women at once, and the stamina for hours of creak-creak-creak almost every night?

In my imagination, he became a Superman, endowed with every characteristic I find attractive: short, muscular, dark-skinned, religious, and gifted beneath the belt.

And maybe he was straight but curved around the edges, open to same-sex experiences on his nights off from creak-creak-creak with girls!

But I never saw him leave the apartment.

One day in December I was filling a prescription, and when the pharmacist checked my i.d., he exclaimed "Hey, we're neighbors.  I live in the apartment upstairs! Rod Perkins."

Very disappointing: a mild-mannered pharmacist, tall, blond, rather pale, and not particularly muscular (this isn't him).

Apparently our paths never crossed because he worked the 3:00 pm - midnight shift.  No doubt he then met one of his numerous girlfriends, had a late dinner date, and then returned to his apartment.

But if he had a nondescript physique, how did he get so many girls to agree to a creak-creak-creak?

And more importantly, were some of them guys?

In gay neighborhoods, you couldn't get dates based on wit, charm, humor, or knowledge of old movies.  That might keep the guy interested, but in order for him to agree to see you in the first place, you needed a face, biceps, or a basket, preferably all three.  Some guys who didn't have baskets of their own improvised by shoving some socks down there.

Rod didn't have a face or physique.  He must be gifted beneath the belt!

In order to find out, I went back to the pharmacy and gave him a guest pass to the Better Bodies Fitness Center, as a "thank you."

"I used to work as a personal trainer, down in Florida" I told him.  "We can really get you toned up."

The next Wednesday afternoon, Rod came to the gym, and we tried basic weight training and then showered down.

Nope. Not particularly impressive.  And he never glanced at a guy.

I was no longer interested in seeing Rod's bedroom, but I was curious: how did he convince so many women to see it?

Could it be that heterosexuals were not into the physical, but focused solely on wit, charm, and strength of character?

Certainly not -- back in high school, the heterosexual girls I knew all wanted jocks. Without exception. But if no jocks were available, they might settle for a guy with a car.

So I checked Rod's assigned parking space.  Sure enough: a late-model red Jaguar that must have cost a fortune.

Apparently heterosexual men don't shove socks down there.  They compensate for their unimpressive baskets with a killer phallic car.

See also: A Dwarf Goes into a Bar; and My Personal Trainer.

Gay Fan Art 4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Fan artists enjoy depicting their favorite cartoon characters involved in same-sex romances or explicit sexual situations.

But there's a problem with many of the more popular characters.  Regardless of how much you may envision them as adults, Bart Simpson and Nelson the Bully are still children, and depicting them having a romantic encounter would look rather silly.  And, if you depict them in an erotic situation, you're facing a 10-year prison sentence in the U.S.

Better to age them into teenagers into adults.

Ben Tennyson (Ben 10), who found a device that allows him to shapeshift into aliens, has appeared in four tv series (2005-2014) and several movies. But he never shapeshifted into this super-bodybuilder before fan artists discovered him.

T. J. Detweiler of the Disney Channel's Recess (2000-2003) was the leader of a band of 3rd grade buddies.  Here he's grown up and beefed up so much that he's unrecognizeable except for the signature red hat.  I don't know why he's tied to a tree in his underwear.

Sometimes fan artists choose rather obscure subjects.  The Backyardigans (2003-2006), for preschoolers on CBS, featured a group of toddler anthropomorphic animals: a penguin, a hippopotamus, a kangaroo, and so on.  This is Tyrone, the red-headed moose, turned into a buffed, morose human teenager.

Timmy Turner of Fairly Oddparents (2001-2014) is "an average kid," ten years old and drawn in a stylized, nondescript fashion.  But here a grown up, buffed up version towels himself off after a shower.

 More after the break.

Chasing the Boy with the Guitar

One of my earliest memories:

It's a warm night in the springtime.  We're  living on Randolph Street in Garrett, Indiana, so I must be about four years old.  My bedroom window looks out on the alley and then the back yard of the house in the next block, where there's a little grey-stone patio.

It's late, long after bedtime, but I'm still awake.  I go to the window.  Across the alley, some teenagers are sitting in green-striped lawn chairs on the patio, in kind of a circle, listening to a boy play the guitar and sing.

Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter.
Girls as sharp as her are something rare.

He is facing my direction.  Maybe he is singing to me!

I know I'm not anybody's daughter, but he said "lovely."  That means he loves me!

I push against the wire screen.  It must be broken -- it comes off easily.  I push myself out of the window, and land on the hard, warm grass.  The teenage boy keeps singing, looking in my direction. 

Our house on Randolph Street

Walkin' about, even in a crowd, well
You'll pick her out, makes a bloke feel so proud

He's seen me walking around!

I walk across the back yard.  My new boyfriend is cute!   He is wearing a pale orange shirt and short pants, and sandals.

Don't let on, don't say she's broke my heart
I'd go down on my knees but it's no good to pine

Next comes the alley, all gravel, hard and sharp against my bare feet.  But I'm willing to endure it to let him know that it's ok, I won't break his heart again. .

Then suddenly the music stops.  The teenagers are all staring at me.  I hear murmuring "Look, it's a kid!" "Where'd he come from?"  "Is he lost?"

They are interrogating me, accusing me.  Scared, embarrassed, I start to cry.

Herman's Hermits
 A teenage girl wearing sandals crosses the alley and sweeps me into her arms.  My boyfriend follows her. I get a glimpse of his smooth tanned chest, smell his Aqua Velva cologne.  They take me around to the front of the house, knock on the door, and deliver me to my parents, who yell a lot.

The screen in the window is fixed the next day.

I don't remember ever seeing my "boyfriend" again.

I've always thought of  "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" as a gay song, though I can't really find any gay subtexts in it, and Herman's Hermits is my least favorite boy band.

See also: The Book of Cute Boys.

Dec 25, 2014

Michael Forest: Playing a God of Masculine Beauty

The September 22nd, 1967 episode of Star Trek had the cryptic title "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Even when I grew up and studied English literature, the title was still cryptic.  It comes from "Adonais," an elegy written by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley for his dead friend, John Keats.

He took the name from Adonis, the ancient Greek god of masculine beauty.

So audiences were supposed to expect a god of masculine beauty?

They got one: 37 year old Michael Forest as Apollo, an alien who was mistaken for a god by the ancient Greeks, and who still expects worship.  It takes a femme fatale scientist to subdue him.

The heterosexist plotline didn't detract from the image of Michael Forest as Apollo, clad in a toga, with a laurel leaf, his bare chest, shoulders, and arms visible, one of the iconic beefcake shots of the Boomer generation.

Although never a beefcake star of the Henry Willson stable, Michael managed to display his bare chest several times during the 1950s, in guest-spots in Westerns (as an Indian) and swinging-bachelor dramas, and in horror-sci fi movies like Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), 

He fell somewhat short of the superlative physique necessary to cash in on the 1960s bodybuilder craze; his only peplum was Atlas (1961), directed by Roger Corman.

But he worked steadily through the 1960s, with guest spots across the tv dial, and starring roles in movies.

One of his most important was Deathwatch (1966), based on the Jean Genet play about two prison inmates, Maurice (Paul Mazursky) and Lefranc (Leonard Nimoy) competing for the affections the hot, muscular Green-Eyes (Forest).

That's right, Leonard Nimoy playing a gay character, a year before he became Spock.

(This actually wasn't his first; he played a hustler in Jean Genet's The Balcony in 1963)..

After Star Trek, Michael continued to take off his shirt a lot, playing Achilles (1972), a motorcycle thug (1972), a spaghetti Western Man with No Name (1972), and Agamemnon (1973).  Plus theater and lots of voice-over work (look for him in the 2008 documentary Adventures in Voice Acting).

In 2013, he reprised the character of Apollo on the web series Star Trek Continues (2013).

Apparently heterosexual in real life, he has retired to Walla Walla, Washington.

Dec 24, 2014

Prison Beefcake

Researching prisons has some advantages over researching Chaucer and Cervantes.

Your interview subjects are quite an eyeful.

Try putting this picture on a powerpoint presentation for Chaucer class.

There's even beefcake art, friezes, murals, and paintings produced by or for the inmates.

The most famous is a statue of two naked guys called "Elmira: Builder of Men," installed outside Elmira Reformatory in New York in 1951.

Here sculptor Ernfred Anderson poses with one of his inmate models.

Unfortunately, the finished statue got the fig-leaf treatment.

Ernfred Anderson, by the way, was born in Sweden but moved to America in 1931, where he taught at Elmira College and ran an art gallery with his partner Lars Hoftrup.  Since neither he nor Hoftrup have wives listed in their bios, I assume they were a gay couple.

Dec 23, 2014

The Bible Boy in the Locker Room

When I was in eighth grade at Washington Junior High, Dan and I were "together," but we also got hung up on other boys.

My big crushes of the year were:
Paul Getty Jr., the kidnapped heir to the Getty fortune.
Barry Williams, Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch
Teen idol David Cassidy

And Micah (not his real name), from my geology, English, and gym class.

He was short and compact, with a round stern face, severely short hair, and the tantalizing hint of muscle beneath his white button-down shirt and black pants.

Unfortunately, I never saw anything more -- for some reason he got permission to sit in the bleachers doing homework during gym.

One day he was standing at the door to the cafeteria, passing out tracts that said "Are You Ready for Eternity?"  I walked over, held out my hand, and said, "Hey, Micah, I'm a Christian, too.  Church of the Nazarene."

"Nazarene...." he repeated, staring as if I had said "Church of Satan."  Then he shoved a tract into my hand and rushed away.

A few inquiries revealed that Micah belonged to the Bible Missionary Church, which broke away from the Nazarene Church in 1955 because we were too liberal!  We permitted Bible translations other than the King James, not to mention such Satanic pastimes as tv, radio, newpapers, and sports where boys ran around in revealing uniforms.  Thus, we were more dangerous than the openly-evil Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Too dangerous to talk to, even in an attempt at soul winning!

How could I get close to a boy who thought I was the devil?  Especially when he always chose another Bible Missionary kid for school assignments, sat with other Bible Missionary kids at lunch, and didn't belong to any clubs or teams?

I used to gaze at Micah in the cafeteria, as he joined hands with the other Bible missionary kids to pray, ate his peanut-butter sandwich, pudding cup, and apple, and then opened his black King James Bible to round out the lunch hour with a Bible study.

They joined hands....

One day I walked up and asked if I could join the Bible study. One of the girls giggled and scooted over so I could pull up a chair next to her -- on the other side of the table from Micah!

It was a step in the right direction, anyway.

But by the next day, word of my Nazarene heresy had gotten around, so when I tried to join the Bible Missionary table, they scooted together. "No room!  No room!"

Maybe if I pretended to be just as strict as Micah?

The Big Event of the fall of 1973 was the Comet Kohoutek, rapidly approaching the Earth.  It was to be the Comet of the Century, visible for weeks even in the daytime (it actually turned out to be a gigantic dud.)

Tabloids and quick-print paperbacks were yelling that Kohoutek would bring global earthquakes and floods that would destroy civilization.

Our Nazarene preacher kept mum, no doubt recalling the debacle over his prediction that the 1969 Moon Landing would herald the Second Coming.  But many fundamentalist preachers, including Dan's, went wild, proclaiming that this is it!  The Rapture, the Tribulation, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the White Throne Judgement!.

So we got some pamphlets and started passing them out at the door to the cafeteria.

When Micah came by, I called: "Hey, the Rapture is coming.  We just have 40 days left!"

"No man knows the day or the hour of the Lord's return," he said coolly.  "Anyone who claims he knows is a false prophet."  He rushed on.

Ok, then, fighting against a common enemy?

Dan and I were already angry over the announcement that we would be spending a week of geology class learning The Devil's Old Lie, Evil-Lution!  Maybe even being tempted to believe that the world was millions of years old, instead of 6,000, like God's Word said.

One day I went up to Micah after gym class and told him about the upcoming brainwashing.

"I know -- I saw it in the schedule.  But everything we learn at public school is a lie, so how is this different?"

"It's much more serious.  Believing in evolution is the source of every other heresy.  Atheism!  Rock music!  Shopping on Sunday!"  I gestured at Dan.  "Some of us are getting together to plan a protest, maybe a sit-in like the college students do to protest Vietnam. I thought maybe God put a burden on your heart to help out with this important work."

He looked dubious.  "It won't be at your house, will it?"

"No, at Dan's.  He's a Pentecostal."

Apparently Pentecostals were different enough to be acceptable.  "There won't be any girls there? Or tv?"

"Oh, no, no temptations of any sort."

So on Saturday we met at Dan's house.  We didn't want to work in the living room, where adults might overhear and forbid our protest, so the six of us crammed into his bedroom.  Micah had to sit on the bed between Dan and me.

Our thighs were touching the whole time!

We strategized and drew up posters and practiced anti-evolution songs and ate snacks, like we didn't come from two sides of a cosmic gulf.  Micah even laughed at one of my jokes.

We held hands for the closing prayer.

My hand may have "accidentally" fallen onto his lap.  I may have felt something there.  I don't remember clearly.  But I remember the warmth and pressure of Micah's hand in mine, more clearly than many later nights of passion.

After the protest, Dan and I got a 3-day suspension, and Micah got detention.  Cautioned by his parents to not "be unequally yoked with unbelievers," he went back to ignoring me.

Except for one incident in ninth grade:

After gym class, I was just finishing up my shower, on the way to grab a towel from the athletic trainer, when Micah appeared out of nowhere.  He just stood there, staring as if he'd never seen a penis before.

"Um...aren't you excused from gym class?" I asked, too surprised and embarrassed to move.

"I need...I use the bathroom," he stammered.

"It's back there."  I regained my composure and covered myself.

When high school started, all of the Bible Missionary kids were gone.  I heard that they were all being home-schooled to avoid the temptations of Rocky High.

I never saw Micah again.  I don't know if he's gay or not.  Probably not.

That moment of holding hands was enough.

See also: Dan and I Fight Evolution; Sleeping with Baptist Boys