Aug 9, 2014

Aladdin: the Musical is More Homoerotic than the Movie

Aladdin, the Chinese boy who finds a magic lamp, does not appear in the original Arabic stories of The Thousand and One Nights.  He was apparently invented for the French translation (1704-1717), which added the same heteronormative plotline as fairytales of the era: Aladdin wins the hand of a princess.

Modern adaptions of the story tend to emphasize the heterosexist angle, centering the plot on a rich girl-poor boy romance.

The worst offender is Disney's Aladdin (1992), which crams hetero-romance down your throat, and tops it off by giving the Genie (Robin Williams) a few homophobic gay-stereotype characters to riff on.

But at least it has inspired a lot of live-action Aladdins with pecs popping out of their sleveless vests.  They wander around in Disneyland and Disney World; they appear in pantomimines and on Broadway (such as Adam Jacobs, left), and in high schools, community colleges, and little theaters all over the world (such as Dom Domenich, top photo).

There's even a children's version, with Aladdin, singing and dancing with funny animals.

But the 2011 musical version of Aladdin has something that the movie never did: friends.

When the Genie is played by a human-sized person, his bond with Aladdin has more homoerotic potential:

Our bond will last like Mutt and Boomer's
OMG the guys are BFFs!
Say ain't it great to know that somebody's got your back!

Plus Aladdin has a gang of buddies who appear at various points in the plot:

Good pals, blood brothers,
Me and three others
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim

They don't form the pairs necessary for a gay subtext, but they at least form a masculine counterpoint to the excessive girl-craziness that mars this fairy tale.

And they're just as shirtless as Aladdin himself (left: Andrew Keenan-Bolger, the first Omar).

Aug 8, 2014

Sumo Wrestling for the 21st Century: Bodybuilders and Gay Contexts

Sumo wrestling gets a bad rap in the West.  It's stereotyped as a ridiculous sport involving exceptionally fat men.

Originally the wrestlers were fat.  They had to be, in the era before scientific strength training, to physically push their opponents out of the circle representing the human world.

It was not only a sport, it was a Shinto ritual that symbolized humanity's triumph over an invasion of evil spirits.

Some purists still insist on heft, but nowadays muscles will do just as well.

Check out Jovann Rushing, who won a gold medal at the USA Sumo Open in 2010, and is also a competitive bodybuilder.

 There are over 600 professional sumo wrestlers in Japan, divided into six divisions, with the top, the yokozuna, becoming superstars.

There are 6 Grand Sumo Tournaments every year, plus dozens of smaller tournaments, exhibitions, and competitions.

You don't have to be Japanese.  The Sumo Academy has admitted members from all over the world, though China, Mongolia, and Korea dominate.  Osunaarashi (left) is from Egypt.

The sport has also become popular elsewhere.  In the United States, sumo wrestling is offered as a sport in dozens of high schools and colleges.  There are exhibitions in Japanese festivals, sports festivals, and even film festivals, as well as the U.S Sumo Open, held every year since 2001.

In 2014, it will be held on September 20th in the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach.

Other than the fun of seeing muscular men pulling their opponent's miwashi (ceremonial belt) so tight that the buttocks and bulge are visible, is there a gay connection to sumo?

Maybe -- lower-level sumotori live in dormitories during their training regiment, and spend a lot of time hugging each other. Sounds like it's tailor-made for homoerotic hijinks.

Mark Munford: Fight Club with Buddy Bonding

Mark Munford has been in five movies.  Two involve him taking his shirt off, getting into fights, and bonding with other boys.

1. He plays one of a trio of bullying brothers in Ironsides (2009), who gets his comeuppance when he decides to start terrorizing the sons of a boxer.  One of whom is gay-vague.

2. You Have the Right to Remain Violent (2010) is like Fight Club for kids, except they are forced into fighting to entertain the sadistic adults of their small town.  Mark plays Zack, a juvenile delinquent who moves to town hoping for a fresh start, but instead finds more violence.  And buddy-bonding.

My Hometown (2011) is a comedy about a long-in-the-tooth permanent high schooler (Ryan Merriman) who is offered a chance to graduate if he makes a movie about his small town. He accepts, and with two buds (Mark, Casey Margolis) sets out to get girls and expose the town's foibles.  But then he runs across a bomb plot.  Haven't seen it, but it looks like a standard horny-teenager movie.

In My Mind (2014), which hasn't yet been released, appears to be about three children who are terrorized by a psycho-slasher, then grow up and find that he's taking over their minds.  Or something like that.  The trailer looks promising.

By the way, most of these movies come from Jo-Mar Productions.  He's the Mar, so a producer as well as an actor.

But is he gay?

The only personal information on his facebook page is: Chicken Parmesan rules the world.

On twitter, he follows the Boston Celtics, Justin Bieber, and about 300 women.

I'm going to guess: heterosexual.

Aug 7, 2014

Top 10 Public Penises of Bratislava

During my summer in Levoča, Slovakia, Doc and I didn't spend much time in Bratislava.  It didn't have much of a gay life, and Vienna, one of the greatest cities in the world, was only an hour away.

But as one of the seats of the Hapsburgs, Bratislava has a lot to offer to the beefcake aficionado.  Here are the top 10 public penises.

1. St. Martin shares his coat with a beggar, in a corner of St. Martin's Cathedral.  You've never seen such a buffed beggar before.

2. A beefy Titan by Josef Paukert holding up Police Headquarters (notice that his penis is completely visible).

3. A naked sandstone discus thrower on a house on Stefanikova street.

4. The weird, gaunt male statues on the grounds of Devin Castle.

5. A beefy, naked Hercules at the Academy of Fine Arts.

More after the break.

6.  The memorial to fallen Soviet soldiers.

7. A naked guy breaking out of a wall on Danube Street.

8. St. Florian in Rusovice, again with his penis covered but fully visible.

9. The dancing ganymedes on the Ganymede Fountain.

10. The memorial to the mothers and wives of Slovak soldiers features this naked sword-carrier with a cape.

Aug 6, 2014

Summer 1980: Are You the Boy or the Girl?

In the summer of 1980, during my sophomore year at Augustana, my boyfriend Fred landed a pulpit in Gretna, Nebraska, a tiny town about 20 miles south of Omaha.  So, being bright-eyed and naive, I moved with him.

I hated every minute of it.
1. Fred was completely closeted, so I had to be introduced as his "cousin."
2. He expected me to do all of the housework.
3. Gretna, Nebraska had an annual "Watermelon Feed."  I never go to any event called a "feed."  Do they line you up at a trough like pigs?
4. I had a job as an Assistant District Circulation Manager for the Omaha World Herald. A glorified paperboy.
5. I had a car, but I wasn't allowed to go to into Omaha to the gay bars, or even to go to the gym without Fred's permission.
6. Fred dated women, "for appearances."
7. I'm pretty sure that Fred was also tricking with the teenage boy downstairs.

Naturally, I got depressed.  Super-depressed.  Sitting-around-all-day-in-a-bathrobe depressed.

"You need psychiatric help," Fred told me one evening when he returned to see that I had spent the entire day in front of the tv.  "Every gay person should be in counseling anyway, to work through the guilt and shame."

"I don't have any guilt and shame.  I'm homesick."

 "Yes, you do.  You're just suppressing it.  Don't worry, I'll find you a therapist."

Easier said than done.  Although the American Psychiatric Association removed "homosexuality" from its list of psychoses in 1973, some therapists hadn't gotten the word, and others were just homophobic.  But the Gay Hotline of Omaha had some referrals, and in July 1980 I began seeing Dr. Corey.  I couldn't afford individual sessions, so he suggested group therapy.

Bad idea!  There were four other members in the group, two men and two women, and they spent the entire three sessions that I attended peppering me with inane questions:

"Were you gay before you met Fred?"
"How do you know you're gay, if you've never tried it with a woman?"
"Did some traumatic event turn you gay?"
"When you see a cute girl, do you think she's ugly?"
"Where do you find women's clothes in your size?"
"When are you going to have a sex change operation?"

And those were the polite questions.

Dr. Corey had a rule: you can't hit anyone in session.  If you feel like you're going to lose your temper, get up and leave the room.

A tall, muscular guy named Stan, about my age, got up and left the room a lot.  After almost every question.  We could hear him stomping around in the waiting room, saying "Goddam!  Goddam!  Goddam!"

When they asked "Do you have to be drunk or high to be able to have sex with a man?", I answered "No, I like it, so I want to be sober."

That got Stan so upset that he had to stomp around outside the building, in the parking lot.  When he returned, he had obviously been crying.

"I don't have anything against anybody," he stammered, "But when you...act, act like that, like a...woman, with your legs in the air...and then you say you like it!  You're sick!  You have a disease!"

"What makes you think I'm the one with his legs in the air?"

He stomped out of the room again.

During my third session, someone asked: "Are you the boy or the girl in your relationship with Fred?

Of course, the proper response is "We're both boys," but I was too stupid for that.  I thought of how Fred was the money-maker, how he expected me to stay home, put all of my career aspirations on hold, and spend my days doing housework and watching soap operas.  Gender-polarized female.  So I said "The girl, I guess."

Three of the four group members ran out of the room to avoid hitting me.

Which didn't make me feel better.

I never went back to group.  I thought of a better solution.

On Sunday, July 20th, I waited for Fred to go to church.  I packed while he was gone, got into my car, and drove cross country 24 hours to Los Angeles.  You can read about my trip here.

Perfect Strangers: Gay Couple Turns Straight

For many years, tv has disguised gay couples as heterosexuals with some other reason for being together -- they work in the same office, or share an apartment, or are brothers.  So censors, skittish network executives, and shrieking homophobic audiences remain clueless, but if you're "in the know," the gay subtext is obvious.

Bronson Pinchot was well known for playing Tom Cruise's buddy in Risky Business (1983) and several swishy gay guys when he was cast in the gay-vague buddy sitcom Perfect Strangers (1986-1993).  He played Balki Bartokomous, an exuberant free-spirit from the faux-Greek country of Mypos, who descends upon his distant cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) in Chicago.

It's supposed to be a brief visit, but the two end up falling in love, and Balki stays on.  He gets a job in the department store where Larry works, and decides to become an American citizen.  Eventually Larry becomes a photojournalist, and Balki a cartoonist.

I watched sometimes during the first and second seasons, when Perfect Strangers led into Head of the Class and Night Court, and the plotlines involved Larry negotiating his relationship with Balki: how do you handle being in love with someone who doesn't understand the details of modern American life, like how to open a checking account or go to the supermarket?

And Balki negotiating his relationship out with Larry: he's cute but so shy and reserved.  How can I draw him out of his shell?

Apparently the network had a problem: the guys were too obviously a gay couple.  So during the second season plotlines increasingly involved dating girls, culminating in steady girlfriends Jennifer and Mary Anne (Melanie Wilson, Rebeca Arthur).

Or maybe it was a screen.  Could they be sitting farther apart on that couch?

I remember the exact episode when I stopped watching: during the third season, February 3rd, 1988: Balki serves a Myposian dish, "bibi babkas," to Larry and their girlfriends.

"This is the end.  The show is doomed."

It actually continued through eight seasons, with the pair becoming more and more obviously heterosexual every day.  Larry eventually married Jennifer, and Balki married Mary Anne, although they continued to live together.

And they still couldn't keep their hands off each other.  Even off stage.

In the series finale, on August 6, 1993, both became fathers.  The heterosexist mandate was triumphant.  Sort of.

Bronson Pinchot, who apparently had a respectable physique, has since retired from acting.  Now he renovates Victorian houses in small-town Harford, Pennsylvania.

Mark Linn-Baker continues to act.  His tweets mostly involve his workout routine.

Aug 5, 2014

Spring 2004: The Surprise in Comic Book Guy's Bedroom

I like lost souls: shy, uncertain, newly-out.  I like to draw them out of their shell, show them the sights and sounds of the gay community, find the jewel in the rough.

Of course, sometimes it backfires, like with the Ugly Guy Makeover.  And Comic Book Guy.

I met him through a mutual friend in April 2004, a couple of weeks after the Worst Date in Florida History.  He did not look like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons -- he was in his 30s, a little taller than me, with an athletic build, a hairy chest, wavy red hair, and a beard that for some reason got shaved off between our first and second dates.

Definitely a lost soul -- cute, but with passions guaranteed to turn off the horniest Cute Young Thing at the Manor.

1. Family.  Comic Book Guy was an an actual Florida native -- he had parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, and a 100-year old grandmother, all within a 20-mile drive.  In fact, 50% of his conversation involved an upcoming birthday party, graduation, recital, play, or something for some relative.

2. The other 50% of his conversation involved comic books: sizes, shapes, fine vs. near fine, the penciling styles of obscure artists, plot inconsistencies, anachronisms, crossovers.

 I read a few comic book titles -- some Ducks, an occasional Archie -- but I hadn't paid attention to the Marvel and DC multiverses for years.  It was...complex.  Infinite Earths, the Death of Batman, the rebirth of the Silver Surfer, The Avengers, the Justice League, crossovers, head was spinning.

 Naturally, I accepted his invitation to the premiere of The Punisher, although I had never heard of the character.

Date #1:  The Punisher, then Chinese take out and back to his apartment in Oakland Park.

Comic Book Guy showed me his collection of comic books and memorabilia, including the letter he received from Stan Lee of Marvel as a teenager, when he complained about a storyline with the Hulk being nearly raped by two flamboyant gay stereotypes.  The notoriously homophobic Lee laughed it off.

We sat on the couch and listened to music -- yes, they were torch songs -- and kissed and groped.

Then abruptly, Comic Book Guy stood.  "Well, it's late.  Thanks for a nice evening.  G'night."  He practically pushed me out the door.

I gaped in surprise.  In Florida, you always engaged in physical intimacies on the first date. Occasionally a guy might want to "take it slow," but that required an apology, an explanation, and no kissing and groping. 

So I chalked Comic Book Guy down as "not interested."  But he called me the next day and asked me out again.

"Maybe his lover is out of town," my housemate Barney told me.  "He's waiting for him to get back, so you can 'share.'"

"No -- he wouldn't be kissing and groping me if he was waiting for a lover to come back."

"Maybe he didn't clean his bedroom," Yuri suggested.

"Well-- maybe.  But the rest of his house was spotless."

Date #2:  Indian food, followed by dancing at the Manor, then back to his apartment for more torch songs.  More kissing and groping.  I started undressing Comic Book Guy on the couch, but he moved my hand away. "Well, it's late.  Thanks for a nice evening.  G'night."

Wait -- you definitely always had physical intimacies on the second date.  I couldn't even think of an excuse not to.

"All I can think of," Barney said, "Is that he's a pre-op transsexual who doesn't want you to know that he's still got a vagina." (The term transgender was not yet common.)

"Hmm -- wouldn't you discuss that before the first date?"

"You should, of course.  But sometimes people don't."

Date #3:  Looking at cute guys at the beach, followed by a visit to a comic book store, an antique shop to find a gift for his brother's birthday, and dinner at the Greek Islands Taverna.

"I met a transsexual guy the other day," I told Comic Book Guy.  "Born female.  He was taking hormones to lower his voice, but he still had his female sex organs.  Very nice guy, very hot."

"I don't get transsexuals," he said.  "I mean, it's ok if that's your thing, but I'm a man who's into men."

Ok, not transgender.  Then why was he keeping me out of his bedroom?

Back to his apartment to watch The X-Men on DVD.  More kissing and groping!

It was time to push the issue.

"I'm too tired to drive all the way home," I said.  "I'd better spend the night."

Comic Book Guy looked doubtful.  "Well...I can set you up on the couch."

"Come on -- this is our third date.  You definitely, always, absolutely get into the bedroom by the third date.  Isn't it about time?"

"Well--ok.  Let's go."

He took me into his bedroom.  It was spotless.  But the air conditioner was booming at full force.  It must have been 50 degrees.

"I like it cold to sleep," he explained.  Then he turned on a cd player full of torch songs.

"Cold and noisy?" I asked.

"I can't sleep without music playing."

"Great -- always a good idea to get depressed before you drift off to sleep."

Then he turned off all of the lights.  With his room heavily curtained, it was black.  I could see nothing at all.

I hate utter darkness!  It makes me think that I'm blind!

"Um..couldn't we have a night light? What if I need to go to the bathroom?"

"Oh, no, I can't sleep unless the room is completely dark!"

"This is definitely not going to work!", I thought.

I could hear him taking off his clothes in the darkness.  Then he was taking off my clothes.  I hugged him -- more for warmth than for affection -- and we fell onto the bed.  He drew a thin sheet over us.

"Would you please turn down the air conditioner?  I'm freezing!"

"No -- I can't sleep with it hot."

"Then turn off the music!  It's depressing!"

"No -- I can't sleep without it."

"Well, can you at least turn on a light so I can see you?"

"No -- I like the dark."

I might as well make the best of it.  Sighing, I pulled down his shorts and reached for..

Something tiny.  Microscopic.  The smallest I have ever seen -- or rather, felt.

That was our last date.

I feel bad: Comic Book Guy probably thinks I dropped him because his size was inadequate.

No, it was because of his cold, dark, noisy room.

But wait a minute -- he never called me back.

Maybe my size was inadequate for him!

Night Court

In West Hollywood, tv was suspect, heterosexist propaganda beamed in from outside.  We didn't watch much; in 1987-1988, maybe Married..with Children, Kate & Allie, Throb, and on Friday nights, if we didn't have plans, Night Court (1984-1992),  an ensemble workplace sitcom set in a Night Court (where minor criminal cases are tried immediately after arrest).

 It was the lowest of the low in the court system, staffed by people who were too weird or incompetent to get better assignments, which led to some strange-bedfellows type of buddy-bonding.

1. Young prankster judge, Harry Stone (former magician Harry Anderson).

2. Stick-in-the-mud prosecuting attorney Dan Fielding (John Larroquette), a sexist horndog who made innapropriate comments to every woman in the court.  He was also the villain, when one was needed.

3. Idealistic, naive defense attorney Christine Sullivan (Markie Post), who became Harry's love interest but eventually married undercover cop Tony (Ray Abruzzo).

4. Gender-atypical court reporter Mac Robinson (Charles Robinson, left), who was married to naive Vietnamese immigrant Quon Le (Denice Kumagai).

5. Head bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll, top photo), a hulking man-child.

6. The no-nonsense second bailiff, played by Selma Diamond, Florence Halop, and Marsha Warfield.

Half the fun was the crazy line-up of defendants: rock stars, mental patients, prostitutes, defecting Soviets, a Polynesian princess, cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, and on one Halloween, the Spirit of Death.

There were many appearances by famous guest stars like Lou Ferrigno, John Astin (as Harry's crazy father), Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Russian-immigrant comedian Yakov Smirnoff, and crooner Mel Torme.

LGBT people appeared twice:  in a standard "my old buddy had a sex change" episode; and in a "gay panic" episode, with homophobic Dan traumatized by being trapped in an elevator with a gay man (Jack Riley), who thinks he's gay, too!

About what you'd expect in the 1980s.

See also: Head of the Class; Growing Pains.

Aug 4, 2014

King Tut's Tomb Was Discovered by Two Gay Men

Everybody has heard about Howard Carter (1874-1939), the Egyptologist who was excavating in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1922, when he discovered a tomb that had somehow escaped three thousand years of grave robbers.  It belonged to Tuntakhamun or King Tut, who died in 1321 BC, at age 18 (you can see a reconstructed head and torso, nipples and all, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London).

He became a celebrity during the 20th century, portrayed in popular culture by everyone from Victor Buono (on Batman) to Steve Martin (on Saturday Night Live), with Howard Carter himself almost forgotten.

But Carter didn't just stumble onto a tomb.  He was a competent Egyptologist with four gay connections.

 1. He never married.

That was not, in itself, unusual during the early years of the 20th century.  Medical science of the era taught that sexual activity was extremely hazardous, sometimes fatal, and should be avoided whenever possible, so many men avoided it altogether.

2. He studied Arabic so he could communicate more readily with Arab men.

3. When he realized that he had discovered something big, he wired George Herbert, Earl of Carnavon (1866-1923), who bankrolled the expedition, to share in the opening of the tomb with him.

Herbert was an avid Egyptologist (he died of an infected mosquito bite during an expedition).

And wealthy (his home is now used to film Downton Abbey). 
And gay.  He was married, but his wife, Almina, learned to tolerate his affairs, expecially in the field.

4. Rumor has it that Carter and Herbert were lovers.  It's impossible to know for sure after 100 years, but both seemed to prefer Arab men, keying into the fetishization of the Orient common in the era.  So maybe not.

See also: Ancient Egyptian Beefcake.

Aug 3, 2014

Breaker, Breaker: Truckers. Kung Fu, and Men Who Hug

When I was in high school, there were two major fads going on.

1. Martial arts.  Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973), the song "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974), the tv series Kung Fu (1972-75).

2. Truckers.  The song "Convoy" (1976), CB radios, trucker lingo ("10-4, good buddy."), Smoky and the Bandits (1977), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85, although they actually drove a race car).

Inevitably they were combined in Breaker, Breaker (1977), starring 37-year old martial artist Chuck Norris, who played Bruce Lee's opponent in Way of the Dragon (1972), and would go on to a successful career as a man-mountain.

He plays J.D. Dawes, a trucker/martial arts expert who lets his younger brother Billy (Michael Augenstein) take over one of his loads.  J.D. warns Billy to stay away from Texas City, where a speed trap allows the police to haul truckers to a corrupt trucker-hating judge.  But the Billy is fooled by a CB radio broadcast from a evil police officer pretending to be a trucker in trouble.  He goes to Texas City and vanishes.

J.D. goes off in search of his brother, meets The Girl, gets into fights, and is thrown in jail.  He reunites with Billy, who has been brutalized and probably raped by the evil cops.  Both are sentenced to die (for speeding and fighting, respectively).

But fortunately, The Girl gets on her CB radio and notifies the other truckers, who rush to the rescue and tear the town apart.  That's Trucker Justice.

I loved this movie when I first saw it, during my junior year in high school.  I don't anymore.  It's very, very bad.  But it has lots of gay subtexts.

1. The object of the man-mountain's rescue is a man, not a woman.
2. J.D. and Billy have an effusively physical relationship.
3. Billy doesn't express any interest in women.
4. There are lots of shirtless scenes.

But don't tell Chuck Norris: today he's a vocal homophobe and all-around right-wing nutjob.

I haven't been able to find out much about Michael Augenstein, who was apparently cast because he looked like a younger, prettier version of Chuck Norris -- his only other movie role is a walk-on in Macbeth (1981).  

On stage, he starred in A Christmas Carol, Hairspray, and The Weir in Colorado Springs.

According to his Facebook page, he likes Bill Maher, Ram Dass, Democrats, and Move, and Chuck Norris is not on his "friend" list.  I'm going to guess a gay ally.

See also: Sidekicks: Gay Kid Meets His Crush.

Sidekicks: Gay Kid Meets His Crush

One day in the early 1990s, Jim McIngvale, "Mattress Mack," flamboyant owner of the Gallery Furniture chain in Houston, was talking to his BFF, man-mountain Chuck Norris, who sometimes appeared on his late-night commercials and helped him deliver his catch phrase "save you money!"

"Chuckie," Mattress Mack said, "We need to do something about the problem of bullying of LGBT youth in Texas. How about a movie about a bullied gay kid who learns karate?"

"Karate Kid?  It already came out.  And there's a fad of ninja kids right now..."

"Yes, but this one will be different.  The kid will be more obviously gay.  In fact, he's gonna have a crush on you, with homoerotic fantasies and everything."

"Sounds great!  Whatever I can do to help the gay community!  Let's get my brother Aaron to direct, hire some gay and gay-friendly actors, and get to work!"

Actually, this probably wasn't the conversation that got the two ultra-conservative, flamboyantly homophobic Texas good old boys to work on Sidekicks (1992), but it was the end result.

It stars gay actor Jonathan Brandis as Barry, a flamboyantly feminine Houston teenager who can't play sports due to his asthma, and consequently is bullied by nearly everybody, including classmates (John Buchanan) and his gym teacher (gay ally Richard Moll of Night Court).

He has some allies, but no girlfriend -- the requisite hetero-romance comes between his dad (Beau Bridges) and favorite teacher.

Instead of pursuing hetero-romances, Barry fantasizes about martial arts star Chuck Norris.

He decides to study martial arts, like his crush, but the owner of the local karate school (Joe Piscopo) turns out to be a sissy-hating bully.

So the Asian stereotype Mr., I mean Mr. Lee (Mako) agrees to train him.

Soon Barry is so good that he trounces the bullies, incidentally cures his asthma, and beats out the rival team at a karate tournament by chopping a pile of flaming bricks in half.

 But that's not all -- Chuck Norris appears in person, a guest at the tournament, and they share a tender moment on a park bench.

Talk about a happy ending!

Of course, the gay subtext was purely unintentional.  For some reason homophobic nutjobs are really good at them.

See also: Jonathan Brandis; Ninja Kids of the 1990s; Breaker, Breaker