Sep 6, 2014

Fall 1985: Dating a Pentecostal Porn Star

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I began to attend the All Saints Metropolitan Community Church, a gay-specific church.  It wasn't very big.  The MCC tends to thrive in communities where mainstream churches are homophobic, but in West Hollywood you had many other gay-friendly congregations.

So every Sunday only 30 or so people gathered in a sort of chapel on the second floor of a building on the corner of Santa Monica and Fairfax, down the street from the French Quarter Restaurant, for a service that borrowed heavily from Roman Catholic liturgy, with robes and incense and chants of "Peace be with you," but old-fashioned Methodist hymns and a conservative evangelical-style sermon.

(Most members of MCC were raised in homophobic denominations, usually either Protestant fundamentalist or Roman Catholic, so the church tried to accommodate both.)

Many newcomers believed that the Bible disapproved of gay people, or that AIDS was God's punishment for being gay.  The pastor had to minister to them, so every sermon was about how God is not homophobic, the Bible is gay-friendly, you can be gay and Christian.

For those who attended every Sunday, it got a little redundant.

There was a pastor and two student clergy, quite a lot for such a small congregation, but the positions were highly prestigious -- ministering in the heart of the Gay World!  -- and therefore sought-after:

I have a thing for clergy.  The pastor was in a long-term monogamous relationship, and one of the student clergy was a bit too old for me (a Baptist minister, married with children, before he came out).

That left Alan, a tall, husky former Pentecostal who had trained to become a missionary.

He had a boyfriend, too, but by mid-October, they had broken up, and I saw my chance to move in.  I wrangled an invitation to his house for dinner on the Saturday after Halloween.

Alan and his two roommates lived in the bottom half of a brown stucco duplex, about 10 blocks from the church, near Plummer Park where all of the male hustlers hung out, and the Formosa Cafe, where Hollywood celebrities used to hang out.

He turned out to be a former English major who almost went to grad school in Medieval poetry, so we had lot to talk about.  Still, the date didn't go well.

1. He served canned ravioli, with no salad or vegetables in sight.  This is what you serve to impress a date?

2. Instead of The Golden Girls, the West Hollywood staple, he wanted to watch The Love Boat.  Geez, my grandmother watched that!

3. An hour of mind-numbing boredom later, I said, "Are you ready to go out?"  Nearly all dates in West Hollywood included an hour or so at the bars, mainly because being in a gay-friendly public place was so new and novel for most of us.

"Ok.  We can go to the baths."

A bath house!  On a date?  Unheard of!  And, for that matter, weren't clergy supposed to be into monogamous relationships, not hookups?

4. "Never mind, we'll just stay here," I said.

"Sure.  Wanna f***?"

I stared, speechless.   Maybe I did, but no one had ever used such coarse language to ask!

 "Go in the bedroom and take off your clothes.  I'm going to take a shower first."

I just sat there, speechless, infuriated.  The student clergy was treating me like a hustler!  I heard the shower run, then go off.  Alan came out in a towel.

"I thought you would be naked in my bed by now."

"You didn't pick me up at Plummer Park" I yelled.  "This is supposed to be a date, not a sales contract!  And you call yourself student clergy!"

"Hold it-- I didn't mean to offend you," Alan said, perplexed.  "I was just trying to speed things up. I'm nervous -- I like you a lot. you still want to go in the bedroom?"

"No, I want to go to the bars, and find someone who acts like a gentleman.  Like about a thousand other guys in West Hollywood!"

I stood and moved toward the door.

"Come on, I said I was sorry..."  He rushed toward me.  His towel fell off.

Whoa, what do you call that thing?  I stared.  He smiled.  "Did I mention that I used to do porn movies?"

I forgave him.  Turns out that being gifted beneath the belt (#2 on my Sausage List) got Alan out of a lot of faux pas.

We dated for about six weeks, until I went home for Christmas, and a Norwegian con artist moved in.

Next: A Norwegian Con Artist Steals My Boyfriend.  

Gotham, 2014: Can We Expect Gay Subtexts?

On the treadmill at the gym, I've been seeing commercials about Gotham (2014-), the upcoming Fox series about a young cop named James Gordon (Ben McKenzie).

He encounters a young boy named Bruce Wayne (child star David Mazouz of Touch), living with his butler, Alfred (Sean Pertwee, left) after his parents were murdered.  Man and boy form an unwilling alliance.

Of course, Bruce will grow up to become Batman, and James into Commissioner Gordon.

As a prototypical Batman and Robin, they run afoul of many of the future villains of Gotham City, such as the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) in their pre-costume days.

Don't expect retro camp; this is the grim, noirish Dark Knight Batman.

Or gay characters, although the villains will probably be standard feminine/sophisticated/gay-vague.

But you might expect some gay subtexts.  The Batman franchise has been deliberately minimizing gay content by getting rid of the teen sidekick, or making him a preteen.  But Ben McKenzie played a gay cop in Southland, so maybe he'll add some glimmers of homoerotic interest to his relationship with coworkers.  

And the young Bruce Wayne might have an occasional male friend.

See also: Batman and the Boy Wonder.

Sep 5, 2014

College Beefcake: The German Choirboy

During my freshman year at Augustana College, I declared a major in English and Modern Languages and registered for advanced Spanish and French.  So when I had the opportunity to spend a quarter abroad during my sophomore year, you'd expect me to pick Spain or France, right?

No -- Germany.

It wasn't my fault.  I was taking first-year German, too, and the professor kept rhapsodizing over his trips to Germany: Munich, the Black Forest, the Rhine, Neuschwanstein Castle, Wittenberg, where Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses on the cathedral door.

So in the very busy summer of 1979, right after I got back from meeting the gay cannibal in Colombia, I started packing for Germany.  Six Augie students flew from Chicago to Frankfurt on August 19th, and then took the train south to the university town of Regensburg.

St. Peter's Cathedral, Regensburg
  We all took Intensive German and The Protestant Reformation, and for my elective I chose German Myths and Legends. Classes met in the morning, so we had the afternoons free for sightseeing, and there were weekend trips to Augsburg, Munich, and Salzburg.

As in Colombia, I didn't know how to meet gay people.  I didn't realize that Regensburg had several gay bars, or that Munich, an hour away by train, had a gay neighborhood full of bars, restaurants, bath houses, and community organizations.  But I found a gay guy anyhow.

Regensburg was predominantly Catholic, so I overcome my early religious training about Catholics being evil! evil! evil! and toured all the churches.  I toyed with the idea of converting, and started going to Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral, where I heard the famous boys' choir, the Domspatzen.

 There were about 80 of them, mostly little kids, but in the back row I saw some teenagers and young adults.  One caught my eye -- the tallest of the group, broad-shouldered, probably muscular, with a shock of unruly brown hair.  I thought he looked back, but I was probably imagining it.

The next day I went to the Musikgymnasium, the boarding school attached to the choir, said I was an American University student, and asked for a tour.  They summoned a boy my own age to show me around -- 18 year old Wolfgang (not his real name) -- the same one who caught my eye yesterday!  (Ok, it was actually the one standing next to him, but wouldn't that make a great story?)

Domspatzen Swimmers
Wolfgang (top photo) showed me the classrooms where the younger kids were studying English, Latin, history, and science, the music rooms, the sports complex -- and the swimming pool.  I asked if there were any good places to lift weights in Regensburg -- the gym at the university was tiny --and he suggested the Reebok club.

We started going out regularly, mostly to museums and Catholic churches, sometimes to dinner, and eventually we ended up dating -- though we both had roommates, so we never spent the night together.

The Musikgymnasium
Wolfgang was in his last year in the Domspatzen -- next year he would be in the University, but he didn't want to study music.  He hated the Musikgymnasium, and especially the conductor, Father Ratzinger (brother of the future Pope).

"He treats us like animals.  Always shouting.  He threw me across the room once.  Paddling on the bare buttocks.  He caught me and another boy together once, and forced us to stand outside naked in the snow."

He didn't mention any sexual abuse, but there have been recent allegations against a teacher (not Father Ratzinger) by many former members of the Domspatzen, according to this article in Der Spiegel.

The uncensored story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Summer 1984: A Bodybuilding Contest in India

The 1997 episode of Seinfeld where the gang goes to India for a wedding always gives me a weird nostalgic vibe. In 1984, just after my second year at Indiana University, I traveled to India for a wedding.


During my first 1 1/2 years in Bloomington, I invited my gay Indian friend Viju home for two Christmases, one Spring Break, and to my sister's graduation, where he hooked up with my Cousin Joe.  So he decided to return the favor: at Christmastime in 1983, he told me that my present would be a trip to India to visit his family next summer.

A free trip to India!  I was never so excited about Colombia, Germany, France, or Switzerland!  I spent all spring semester studying guidebooks, practicing conversational Hindi, going to Bollywood films at the Indian Students' Association, and reading a dozen books: The Wonder that Was India, Plain Tales from the Raj, India: A Wounded Civilization, Tales from Ancient India.

Jahanpanah City Forest
Of course, there was no way to see the whole country in two weeks.  We only took one trip out of Delhi, to Agra (for the tourist-trap Taj Mahal) and Varanasi (to see the Ganges).  But we did see the Red Fort, the India Gate, the Qutub Minar Mosque, lots of temples, lots of department stores,  a few naked ascetics, and because I was a bodybuilding enthusiast, a competition sponsored by Talwalkars Gym.

There were no gay bars, bathhouses, community centers, or gay organizations  in India, Viju said: being gay was illegal (India didn't decriminalize "sodomy" until 2009, and then recriminalized it in 2013).

So, like I noticed in Turkey five years later, men met by cruising in parks or metro stations, or through friends. But the cruising was very, very active in Nehru Park, Vasant Vihar Park, and Jahanpanah City Forest

Viju was not "out" to his family, except to his sister Aruna (a chemistry major at Nehru University).  And he wasn't planning to come out.  No one in India would, he said.

Khalkaj Mandir
As long as you met family obligations by marrying, having children, and passing on the family name, no one cared about your secret "sexual tastes" -- or wanted to know about them.  So Viju told everyone all about a fictional "girlfriend" back in the States, a lovely girl, not Indian but from a high class family, with blonde hair and a yacht.

"You can't keep that up forever," I pointed out. "Eventually they'll expect a wedding announcement."

"Oh, eventually she will dump me, and I'll be devastated, and move on. Then I'll find someone new, and the cycle will start all over again."

I had a fictional "girlfriend" story prepared, too, but no one ever asked about her.

Soon I found out why.

Viju kept inviting Aruna along on our expeditions to museums and restaurants, and to the bodybuilding competition, and one day when we went to a movie -- I think it was Asha Jyoti, starring Rajesh Khanna -- he suddenly vanished, forcing us to sit through the whole thing and then find our way home alone.

Finally I got the picture: "Are you trying to fix me up with Aruna?"

"Ok, you caught me!"  he said, grinning.  "She's cool -- she won't mind if you have boyfriends on the side."

"Yes, but..."

"And it will solve your job problem."  I had sent out hundreds of resumes to book publishers, newspapers, magazines, and tv stations, with no luck.  "Once you are married, you can stay in India, and my brother Gadin can set you up in a job teaching English."

"Yes, but..."

"And the best part -- you'll be my brother-in-law, a member of the family!"

I grabbed him by the shoulders.  "Yes, but I'd have to sleep with a woman!"

He blinked.  "Only until she gets pregnant. Why, what do you have against women?"

"Nothing, as long as I don't have to sleep with them!"

Too bad Viju didn't try to fix me up with Gadin, an English teacher at a private academy.  He was quite a hunk -- with a "girlfriend" that no one had ever met.

See also: The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism; and The Bodybuilding Villages of India

Sep 4, 2014

Kieron Richardson: Questioning His Sexuality

Kieron Richardson was starring as the teenage bad boy Steven Hays on the long-running British soap Hollyoaks.  His character was involved in domestic violence, drugs, and various scandalous behaviors, so the producers thought, "Let's really up the ante and get super-scandalous,  and have him 'question his sexuality'!"

So they made Steven wonder if he might be gay.  While he was wondering, he got involved in a violent same-sex relationship, and later got a new boyfriend and married him.  Apparently while still wondering.

During all of this, Kieron announced that he was gay in real life.

He's been out for several years now, and claims that he never experienced any homophobic bias, slurs, statements, or discrimination.  He reasons, "We're in the 21st century and actually homophobia's more or less been stamped out."

Um...Kieron, have you being paying attention to your own storyline?  The phrase "question your sexuality" is in itself homophobic, asserting that being heterosexual is the default, a universal category, and you turn gay when you become "confused."

That's a Hollywood myth.  I have never once met any gay person who was ever "confused."  They knew exactly who they were attracted to.  It was the heterosexuals who were confused, constantly chiming "What girl do you like?" to gay boys and "What boy do you like?" to gay girls.

Apparently Kieron has never been to a gay event where the bigots are screaming and waving signs.  Or heard politicians make their "gay marriage leads to incest" spiel?  Or lost a job, or never got the interview, because someone in the office thinks he has no right to exist.  Or read the comments at the end of every internet article on a gay topic.

In July 2014, a footballer named Kieran Richardson signed on to the Aston Villa team, thus making headlines in Britain.  Fans confused the two, and thought the footballer was gay.

Suddenly Kieron started receiving homophobic tweets.  He was shocked.

I wasn't.

Sep 3, 2014

Summer Cruising at the Bookmobile

Other kids spent the summer waiting anxiously for the ice cream truck.  I spent the summer waiting anxiously for the bookmobile.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there were hundreds of bookmobiles, vans carrying an assortment of books for those underprivileged readers who couldn't get to the public library.  Such as kids.

 You could check out up to 3 books at a time, and keep them for two weeks. If you read 10 during the summer, you got a prize.

I don't remember any of the prizes, but I remember the books.  Some of my top childhood favorites came from the bookmobile, like  My Village Books of Sonia and Tim Gidal,  The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom PlanetTom Sawyer, and the boys' adventure books of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The bookmobile pulled into the parking lot of Denkmann Elementary School every Tuesday morning at about 10:00 am. Other neighborhood bookworms had to wait on the blacktop.  I could hear it coming from inside the house, and then run over.

But soon I discovered a reason to wait with the others: the bookmobile was a good place for cruising.

I met a lot of cute guys while cruising at the bookmobile. Like Greg, the Boy Vampire who gave me my first kiss.  Joel, the curly-haired soccer player who came with me to A Little Bit O'Heaven.

And Robbie, a dark-haired boy wearing a red muscle shirt.

I was only about 10 years old, but I already knew the rules of gay cruising:

1. Select a venue with mostly guys.  Check.  The early birds were usually boys; girls came later.

2. Cruise early. Check. The bookmobile came in the morning.

3. Cruise with a buddy.  No, I went by myself.

4. Do not drink while cruising.  Check. I hadn't had any soda or candy all day, in case a cute boy invited me to Dewey's Candy Store.

5. Gather information. Check.  Robbie was waiting to check out a book on caves, because he was going to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky with his parents later that summer.  He was a Cute Young Thing, a year younger than me.  He liked Star Trek, and his favorite subject was math.

6. Don't discuss sizes or acts.  Nope.  I definitely asked about his size: "You have really big muscles.  How strong are you?"

7. Word the invitation carefully.  If you invite him to do something specific in the future, it's a romance. Something vague in the future, it's a friendship.  Something vague right now, it's a hookup.

After we checked out our books, I asked, "Wanna play?"


8. Invite him to your place.  Check.

9. Take your own cars.  Well, we were walking.

10. Make sure someone knows where you are. Check. My Mom was upstairs.

11. Clean your house in advance.  Mom always had the house clean.

12. Hide your valuables.  I was a kid.  I didn't have any valuables.

13. Bring condoms.  Um...I was a kid.  We sat on my bed to look at our books, then we played space explorers in the back yard. I did get to feel his biceps.

14. Don't kick him out afterwards.  Check. Robbie stayed for lunch.  Mom made us hot dogs and potato chips.

15. Don't pretend you want a relationship.  Check. I didn't give him my phone number.

I saw him at the bookmobile a few times after that.  We talked politely, but I didn't ask him over again.

Not a friendship.  Not a relationship.  Just play.

See also: The Boy Vampire; and 15 Rules of Gay Cruising.

Sep 2, 2014

Beefcake and Grammatical Atrocities in Hidden Valley

Have you heard the buzz for Hidden Valley: The Awakening?  It's being advertised as the greatest horror movie of this generation.  But it sounds utterly putrid.  A cliche plot, stereotyped characters, stilted dialogue, and bad grammar.

A dark mystery lies hidden in a small rural community as a chilling story unfolds about young love, life, and the extreme measures a small town is willing to undergo trying to win a high school championship.
The first rule of writing: cut back on the adjectives.
The second rule: cut back on the repetition.
You don't "undergo" measures.
And saying your movie is about "life" is like saying it's about "people"!

It's got a facebook page with random pictures of teen hunks, dead cheerleaders, and werewolves, and an official site full of gushing hyperbole (and bad grammar).

And a tie-in novel, incredibly, monumentally hackneyed.  High schoolers come up with better dialogue in their Remedial English classes.

"Well Sheriff...I know this is something you are not going to want to hear, I mean with your boy in the hospital and the town in a damn uproar an-"
He was immediately cut off by Tom.
Need a comma, and that's not being cut off "immediately."

"Yeah, yeah, I got everybody screaming in my ear and wanting to know what the hell is going on with this thing," he said as his face turned beat red. 
The cliche is "beet red."

He buries his face into his hands momentarily, then clasps them together in a sarcastically peaceful manner.
Changed tense there, and what is a "sarcastically peaceful manner"?

"And really, Doc, with all due respect, it really has been long, what the hell do ya got?"
Wait, I thought that the Sheriff didn't want to hear it, but now he wants to?
"Well, Tom, I am pretty sure it was an animal. I can't be sure without more testing, but there was most certainly saliva present on both of the boys.
Saliva was present?  That's how you tell that an animal bit them?  How about big gaping bite wounds?

But I love the line: There was most certainly saliva present on both of the boys.  I'm going to try to work that into conversations as often as possible.

Somehow it managed to land perennial gay-vague villain Malcolm McDowell, star of A Clockwork Orange and Caligula, as "Dr. Marcus."  He must be related to the producer.  Or the producer's GED teacher.

Sep 1, 2014

Here's Johnny: The Gay Snark of the Tonight Show

One night when I was 10 or 11 years old, I woke up to the sound of the tv in the other room.  I looked at the clock by my bedside -- 11:30!  What could my parents be watching?  There was nothing on tv that late but an emptiness of test patterns and static snow.

I walked out into the living room.  On the tv set, I saw a guy sitting behind a little desk, talking to a row of people in chairs.

"What are you doing up?  Did you have a bad dream?" Mom asked.

"I heard noise.  What are you watching?"

"The Tonight Show."

The people were just sitting around.

"But what is it? What's it about?"  TV shows were always about something: detectives, witches, spies, seven stranded castaways.

"It's not about anything.  It's a talk show."

"You mean....people just sit around talking?  That's dumb!"

"That's why it's on late at night," Dad said. "It's not for kids. Now get back to bed."

A few years later, when I was a teenager, I could stay up until midnight if I wanted to, but I was always in bed or had other things to do.

A few years after that, when I lived in West Hollywood, I could stay up until 1:00 am if I wanted, but I was always in bed or had other things to do.

So to this day I have seen only one episode of  The Tonight Show.  Johnny Carson was supposed to be interviewing a literature scholar who believed that Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him, so I waited through an hour and twenty minutes of boring interviews to hear his five-minute spiel.

To be fair, it wasn't all boring interviews.  There were musical guests, and sometimes Johnny performed in comedic sketches like "Carnak the Magnificent."

Gay content was minimal.  Johnny Carson (1925-2005) had a trim physique and a bulge (always hidden behind that desk).  But he displayed a rather snarky twist on the rampant homophobia of the 1960s and 1970s.

His ongoing "sissy jokes" against singer Wayne Newton ended only when Newton burst into his office and asked "Which of your children have I deserve such treatment"?  (Equating being gay to killing a child?  Really?).

But in real life Carson had gay friends, including gay icon Truman Capote.

In those days gay people often put up with snark.