Jan 10, 2014

Fall 1986: My Latino Houseboy

During the fall of 1986, I was dating Raul from East L.A., a cook in a Filipino restaurant.  To this day, I am haunted by the memory of his chicken adobo, arroz caldo, and bibingka (a coconut-rice pudding).

Many days I would go to the restaurant, wait until his shift was over, and take him home with me.  We went to dinners and movies, to the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, dancing at the Rage, to church, to the gym.  I met his conservative Pentecostal parents.  I told my parents and my friend Viju about him.  I thought, "This may be the one!"

There were three problems:

1. My friends kept asking for an invitation into our bed.  "Come on, don't be stingy!  It's only polite to share the wealth!"

In West Hollywood in the 1980s, it was perfectly acceptable, even expected, for gay couples to occasionally bring in a third person.  And rejecting a close friend who expressed an interest was borderline rude.  But I always wanted monogamy.

My roommate Alan was more aggressive, openly trying to steal Raul away.  When flashing his smile and bulge didn't work, he arranged for us to star in a gay adult video, so he could have some scenes with Raul.

But that's not what caused our breakup.

2. Whenever we went: the bars, the Different Light Bookstore, even the Safeway Supermarket, guys would hit on Raul right in front of me.

He never understood how to Give Attitude, pretend not to see the men who are cruising you.  He would make eye contact, smile, joke, touch arms and shoulders as if he was interested, then say: "We were just playing around.  It didn't mean anything."

I stopped taking him to the bars.

But that's not what caused our breakup.

3. Although we had only been dating for two months, I wanted to bring Raul home to Rock Island for Christmas, to meet my friends and relatives and show him where I grew up. We could also visit Des Moines, so he could meet Thomas, the priest with three boyfriends, or maybe Chicago, the "city of big shoulders," to go sightseeing and hear the Gay Men's Chorus.

I planned out the whole trip.  Without telling Raul about it.

In mid December, 1986, we had dinner at the French Quarter, my favorite West Hollywood restaurant, and I gave him the two airplane tickets.

"To the Quad Cities, December 23rd to January 6th." he read, ominously slowly.  "You want me to stay with your padres for two whole weeks?  What if they don't like me?"

"I want them to meet you.  I met your parents."

"That was one dinner, two hours!"  His voice started to rise.  "I can't be all nice and smile, and pretend we're just friends, for two whole weeks!"

"I'm out to my parents, don't worry."

That didn't help.  "What we're going to do in Rock Island all that time? Look at the cornfields?"

Now I was starting to get angry.  "It's a major city. There's theater, live music, gay bars.  Besides, I grew up there. You should want to see where I grew up."

"You want to take me on a vacation, man, how about Cancun?  We lay on the beach, get some sun, look at the cute guys.  Or just talk to me before making a big decision!"

"I wanted to surprise you."

"Control me, you mean.  I'm your little Latino houseboy, got to do what you say.  Just like when we go to the Rage: 'Oh, don't talk to that guy.  Pay attention to me, me, me!'"

"That's not true, and you know it!"

After a few more things were said, Raul yelled "Don't call me anymore!" and stormed out of the restaurant.

 I ended up taking my friend Tom back to Rock Island for Christmas.

When I returned to L.A., my roommate Alan said that Raul stopped by with some things I left at his apartment.

And an envelop containing two plane tickets.  December 23rd, from LAX to Cancun.

Apparently he had been planning to surprise me.

The story of Raul continues here: My Celebrity Boyfriend.

Jan 9, 2014

Lange Wapper, the Phallic Giant of Antwerp

The Manneken Pis is not the only famous penis in Belgium.

Outside of Het Steen, the castle on the border of the central city of Antwerp, this statue shows two men of regular size looking up in awe at the crotch of the giant Lange Wapper.  One can imagine few more homoerotic spectacles.

Except when one realizes that the bulge was originally a giant penis that either terrorized or enchanted the townsfolk.  In the 17th century, the Jesuits objected, and had him castrated.  Eventually the statue was demolished, and this new, sanitized version was sculpted by Albert Poels in 1963.

There are other phallic symbols in Het Steen.  Over the entrance there's a bas relief of Semini, an ancient god of fertility.  His gigantic penis was also removed by the Jesuits.

Back to Lange Wapper: he was originally a water god, but by the 17th century he had become a trickster who could change his size and sex to pull pranks on people, especially drunks stumbling home from the tavern late at night.  He would also terrorize children like the boogie man of North America.

Transformed into a hero, today  he has his own selection of children's stories, and he appears as a supporting character in the popular comic book series Suske and Wiske (Suzie and Spike in Britain, Bob and Bobette in France, Willy and Wanda in the U.S.)

Lange Wapper Student Clubs all over Flanders, like this one in Leuven, hold  nude homoerotic initiation ceremonies in his honor.

The Flemish group Katastroof satirizes political and social issues, including homophobia ("I'm a Hetero-Man").  Their song "Lange Wapper" is about his return, but now he's fighting hatred (and he seems to have evolved into a penis):

He is big, terrifically large
And long and narrow, and very strong
Go and feel the hate from the churches and mosques.
It is time for a change
Lange Wapper is back

For even more penises, check out Prague, with more statues of naked men than any other city in the world, or the Museum of the Penis in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Six Degrees of Separation: Lucas Cruikshank to John Cena

1. You remember Lucas Cruikshank: he tore up the internet with his webseries Fred, about an oddball teenager, which spun off into three movies and two Nickelodoen tv series -- Fred (2008-2010) and Marvin Marvin (2012-2013). Cruikshank announced that he was gay -- after his tenure on Nickelodeon ended.

2. The Fred movies and tv series starred Jake Weary (left) as Kevin, first a bully, then a grudging ally who seemed to actually like Fred, adding another layer of gay subtext.

Jake Weary got his start playing Luke Snyder on the soap As the World Turns (2005).  

3. When Jake left As the World Turns, the character of Luke Snyder was taken over by Van Hansis (2005-2010).  In the spring of 2006, Luke comes out as gay.

His wealthy father rejects him, but they reconcile when his mother goes into a coma; he is the victim of an attempted murder (not a hate crime) and paralyzed for awhile; his boyfriend is kidnapped and blinded; he falls in love with the doctor who is working to restore his sight.

Standard soap opera stuff.

4. Luke's boyfriend, Noah (2007-2010), was played by Jake Silbermann, whose major credits have been on stage: Dracula, The Assembled Parties, and 3C (2012).  

The latter is a revision of the classic sitcom Three's Company:  Brad (Jake), the John Ritter character, must pretend to be gay so the conservative landlord will allow him to share an apartment with two girls.  The twist: he really is gay, and in love with his neighbor Teddy (Eddie Cahill).

5. Eddie Cahill's first screen appearance was on Sex in the City (2000) as a bisexual guy who dates Carrie. Since then he has starred in Glory Days, Miracle, Lords of Dogtown, and CSI. He is a big hockey fan, and wrote a NHL celebrity blog for three seasons.

6. One of the celebrities he interviewed was wrestler John Cena, who is a gay ally.  When Darren Young came out as the first openly gay WWE wrestler, he said: "Darren's a great guy..,congratulations to him for actually, finally doing it."

John Cena appeared in the Fred movies as Fred's fantasy Dad.  So we're back to Lucas Cruikshank.

Bill and I Find a Little Bit O'Heaven

When I was a kid, one of my birthday presents was always an excursion for me and two or three friends to anywhere we wanted in the Quad-Cities.  My birthday was in November, so most of the fun places were closed, except for Putnam Museum, where you could see real mummies and an Aztec calendar stone, or the Davenport House.

But then I got the bright idea of postponing the excursion to May: then my friends and I could go to Mother Goose Land, Longview Park, or the Niabi Zoo.  Or, the spring of sixth grade, A Little Bit O' Heaven.

B. J. Palmer, son of the founder of chiropractic medicine, traveled the world collecting Chinese, Indian, and European art.  Now it was on display in a contemplative garden on the grounds of Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The commercials promised: "Mystical idols from the forbidden East.  Treasures of Greece and Rome!  Dangers around every curve!"

I imagined a forbidden temple out of Johnny Quest, with statues of Greek gods and naked natives brandishing spears.  

As my boyfriend Brad and I talked it over, the Little Bits O' Heaven became bigger and bigger.  Acres of statues.  40-foot tall slabs of muscle. Flexing bodybuilders.  Natives who were completely naked!  Rows of penises that you could see and touch!

It was settled!  We were going to A Little Bit O'Heaven!

I invited Brad and two other friends who liked muscles: Joel, a cute curly-haired soccer player, and Greg, the boy vampire who gave me my first kiss.  My brother wanted to come, to do research for his own birthday excursion in June, and of course Dad drove us and paid the admission fee.

It started out ok: we walked through an ornate gate into a tropical greenhouse with macaws and parrots, and a 40-foot waterfall splashing through a miniature town.  Then a 10-foot tall statue of the Buddha, some totem poles, and a pond full of live alligators!

That was cool, but we were anxious to get to the acres of muscles and penises.

Next came a courtyard where you walked along a winding path, past statues.  A fat Buddha.  A naked lady.

Another turn, another naked lady.

"Where are the men?" Brad asked.

"They're coming up, probably saving the best for last."

Another turn, another fat Buddha.  And another naked lady.

"You said there would be Greek gods," Greg protested.

"Naked," Joel added.

"Um...maybe they're in storage," I said.  My stomach was starting to hurt.  "Dad, where are the men?"

Another turn, another naked lady.

"It's art," he said with a shrug.  "That means women."  

"Gross!" Brad exclaimed.  "Who wants to see that?"

I was hot with disappointment, outrage over the false advertising -- and embarrassment.  I promised my friends muscles!  "Dad -- let's get out of here!  Can we go to the Putnam Museum instead?"  

"No way, Skeezix!  This is your birthday trip, and it cost me a fortune."  He always called me Skeezix when I failed to demonstrate heterosexual interest.  "Now quit whining and enjoy it!"

My friends never forgave me for subjecting them to the Little Bit O'Heterosexual Heaven.

Although getting ice cream on the way home helped.

Jan 8, 2014

12 More Disney Channel Teen Hunks

The Disney Channel may be slacking off on the gay subtexts in its teencoms, but it is still scouring the countryside for beefcake.

 Even Jessie, the Disney Channel's Worst Show, has an unending parade of cute guys,  both teen and adult, as the nanny/actress (Debby Ryan) crushes on, gets crushed on by, and generally hangs out with guest stars hired primarily because they know their way around a gym (in addition to her steady beau Tony, played by model Chris Galya).

In just 2 1/2 seasons (not including anyone who appeared on my list of 12 Unexpected Disney Channel Teen Hunks):

1. Garrett Backstrom (from Lab Rats, left) as Vincent, Emma's boyfriend who is interested in Jessie.

2. John DeLuca of Teen Beach Movie as the boyfriend of famous actress Shaylee.  Jessie gets a job as Shaylee's stunt double, and guess who starts hitting on her?

3. Gay-positive Australian actor Lachlan Buchanan as Jordan, a famous actor staying at the Buchanan house.  Emma and Jessie fight over him.

4. Joey Richter (left) as Officer Petey, who takes an acting class with Jessie, thus making Tony jealous.

5. Ben Bledsoe as Brody, who competes with Tony for Jessie's affection.

6. Garrett Clayton (left) as Earl, Jessie's blind date after she and Tony break up.

7. Austin Moon (the ever-popular Ross Lynch), guest starring from Austin & Allie.

8.. Jack Griffo, the gay-vague supervillain in training on The Thundermans, as Brett Summers, who starts dating Emma, and...well, you know what happens next.

9. Spencer Boldman (of Lab Rats, left) as Ted, Jessie's ex-boyfriend who wants to get back together.

10. Jackson Odell as Gale.  I  don't know what his connection with Jessie is.

11. Matthew Timmons (Debby Ryan's costar on The Suite Life on Deck) as Jessie's agent.

12. Tom Cruise lookalike Tom Parker (left) will play River Stevens on the upcoming Valentine's Day episode.

Stephen Lang: Avatar Villain Plays Gay

Who says you can't be hot over 60?  Stephen Lang is 62, and more buffed now than ever before.  And more than willing to show off his ripped physique.

You've seen him in a muscle shirt as the evil Colonel Quaritch in Avatar (2009) and Commander Taylor in Terra Nova (2011).  

You've seen him in a barbarian costume as the villainous Khalar Zym in Conan the Barbarian (2011).  You've probably seen him at the gym.

But you may not know that he has over 100 screen credits, a diverse resume that includes Happy in Death of a Salesman, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.

And lots of gay-themed work.

His first major homoerotic subtext and beefcake-heavy movie was Band of the Hand (1986). He plays a mentor to five buffed juvenile delinquents.

In Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989), the film version of the Hubert Selby novel, he plays Harry Black, a homophobic union leader who discovers that he is gay, and attracted to the drag queen next door.

Story of a Bad Boy (1999) is about a closeted gay high schooler, Pauly (Jeremy Hollingsworth), who is torn between the track team, the school band, and the student teacher who is directing the school play (Christian Camargo).  Lang plays his baffled dad.

Save Me (2007) stars Chad Allen as a gay teenager who is sent to an exploitive "ex-gay" halfway house run by a homophobic married couple (Lang, Judith Light).

Lang also an accomplished stage performer, with credits including The Speed of Darkness.

Heterosexual in real life, he's a gay ally.

Jan 7, 2014

Tommy Knight: The First Gay Kid on Children's TV, Almost

I have taken down this post.

Dillon Casey's Gay Day

Dillon Casey's main claim to fame for gay fans is his steamy love scene with John Barrowman on the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood (2011), probably the first gay kiss on any science fiction tv series.

He hasn't played any other gay characters, although his web series, Living in LA with Dillon Casey, has an episode entitled Gay Day, in which he (in the underwear) and his roommate Jamie Spilchuk discuss the part.

And he's done a lot of other work of gay interest.

MVP (Most Valuable Player), a 2008 Canadian program about ice hockey.  It didn't last long, but it did get him a giant photo in his underwear in Times Square.

The beefcake-heavy Victor (2008), about Canadian swimming champ Victor Davis (Mark Lutz).

Being Erica (2009-2011), a comedy about a woman who can relive the past. There were several gay and bi characters. Dillon plays one of Erica's boyfriends, who takes off his shirt a lot.

Skins (2011), the American remake of the British teen drama with gay characters and nudity.  He plays a heterosexual who takes off his shirt a lot.

Nikita (2011-2013), a spy thriller with gay characters.  He plays a heterosexual who takes off his shirt a lot.

Jessie: The Disney Channel's Worst Show

I've reviewed a lot of Disney Channel programs, and there are usually ample gay subtexts, whether accidentally or by design.  But I've found nothing on Dog with a Blog, and Jessie (2011-)  is so bad, it's offensive.

The premise: country girl Jessie (Debby Ryan) moves to Manhattan to become an actress, and ends up a nanny to a wealthy couple with a biological daughter and three adopted kids: the diva Emma (13-year old Peyton List), the teen operator Luke (12-year old Cameron Boyce, left), cringeworthy black stereotype Zuri (9-year old Skai Jackson), and cringeworthy Indian stereotype Ravi (12-year old Karan Brar).

While negotiating their problems and her acting career, Jessie falls for guys, notably doorman Tony (Chris Galya), and is the object of crushes, notably from...Luke, who harasses her with sleazy come-ons.

The other kids, meanwhile, date and fall in love.  Emma gets a boyfriend. Ravi and Luke compete over girls. Even little Zuri gets a boyfriend (but at least they wait until the actress is 11).

I hate it when a tv series or movie depicts horny preteens.  It seems to be saying "Yes, heterosexual desire is innate, universal, rooted in biology, present from birth -- gayness is something that happens to you later in life, an addition, an event."

And I hate it when there are no gay subtexts to counterbalance the oppressive heterosexism.  Maybe Luke, who has a slightly gender-atypical interest in dance, and in one episode competes with Emma over a guy (Jack Griffo of The Thundermans).  Maybe his sleazy come-ons are a cover.

But that's all.  And it's not much.

I can't figure out what the problem is.  The producer, Pamela Eells O'Connell, has credits including not only the subtext-heavy Suite Life of Zack and Cody but Ellen, with its explicitly lesbian character.

Debby Ryan, who plays the focus character, is a devout conservative Christian.  Maybe her influence is keeping the heterosexism high in order to keep the gay subtexts out.

See also: Cameron Boyce.

Jan 6, 2014

Was Norman Rockwell Gay?

Most of my relatives are allergic to reading.  You never see a book in their houses.  My parents owned none.  My Grandma Davis had a few, but they were about art (she originally planned to become an artist), and no ancient Greek or Renaissance art with naked men -- she liked American regionalism, artists like Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, N.C. Wyeth, and Grandma Moses.

She especially liked illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), whose covers of The Saturday Evening Post and Boys Life depicted a stylized, ultra-conservative small-town America where men hung out at the barber shop, biddies gossipped across white picket fences, teen boys and girls shared sodas, and everyone cheered at Veterans' Day parades.

The world was so intensely heterosexist, so absolutely certain that every boy longed for girls and every girl longed for boys, that even as a kid I found it disturbing.  

And the characters -- not realistic so much as grotesque.  No handsome faces or muscular physiques to be found anywhere, just hideous caricatures of what human beings looked like.  Rockwell seemed repulsed by the human body, and wanted viewers to share in his revulsion.

Except for soldiers, sailors, and teenage boys.  They were occasionally depicted as attractive, with tight chests and gleaming muscles.

Soldiers, sailors, and teenage boys?  Does that suggest that Rockwell was...um...

In American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, Deborah Solomon suggests that he was gay.  He had strong same-sex friendships throughout his life, and marriages "of convenience."  He nurtured his male models, often becoming their life-long friends.

But then...where's the homoeroticism in his art?  The muscular physiques, the buddy-bonding?  Rockwell depicted an infinite number of male-female bonds, but barely any boys together or men together.  The only significant male pairs are young boys and adult authority figures: fathers, doctors, teachers.

It seems more likely that Rockwell was attracted to the "innocence" of youth, its freedom from icky things like sex.

Solomon finds homoeroticism in "The Runaway," where a cop brings a young boy to a diner before returning him to his parents.

I don't.  Try J.C. Leyendecker, for real homoerotic illustrations.

The New Boyz: Shirtless Instagram Pics and a Gay Tweet

You have to be very careful in reviewing rap artists.  Homophobia is ubiquitous. For every gay-positive rapper, like Romeo, you find a dozen who bellow against gays with the raw hate of a fundamentalist preacher.

This photo of rapper Legacy, formerly part of the New Boyz,  offered enough beefcake to warrant further investigation.  But I proceeded with caution.

New Boyz consisted of Ben J (Earl Benjamin) and Legacy (Dominic Thomas), two California teens from the same high school who were originally antagonists, but bonded through their love of music.  They began performing as the Swagger Boys in 2008, then as the New Boyz.

Theire single "You're a Jerk," released in the summer of 2009, popularized the "jerkin'" style of dance and reached #24 on U.S. charts (#4 on rap charts).

They released two albums, Skinny Jeans and a Mic (2009) and Too Cool to Care (2011) before breaking up to pursue solo careers.

Their lyrics are extremely heterosexist -- every other word is "girl! girl! girl!"  Or, more likely "hoe!"  They're extremely sexist, too,

But I didn't notice any homophobia, except maybe in an exchange in "Cashmere," where they compete over a girl:

Legacy: I was wonderin' if you could be my first date here
Ben J: Excuse my friend, he's kinda new to meeting girls cause he's used to men.
Legacy: Used to men!
Ben J: Girl, this dude is stupid huh?
Legacy: Yo, I ain't gay.
Ben J: Man, why don't you tell the truth for once?
Legacy: She want me.
Ben J: You don't even got a mustache yet.

Even that seems very mild.

Two more things you should know about the New Boyz:

1. Legacy is fond of shirtless instagram pics, some considerably more explicit than the top photo.

2. Ben J apparently came out in a tweet:

I am admitting to being gay, can't be fake with y'all no more.  Take it or leave it. Thanks for all the support though!!