Nov 28, 2014

The Gay Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

When I was in high school in the 1970s, a series of paperbacks appeared at Readmore Book World with weird, evocative titles: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Doom that Came to Sarnath; At the Mountains of Madness.

They weren't actually heroic fantasy, they were "weird tales," dark fantasies by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) originally published in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly about slithering, tentacled things that lurk just beneath the surface of idyllic small towns.

Such as Azazoth, "who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes."

That's the way he wrote.

And "unspeakable knowledge" uncovered in long-forgotten grimoires: De Vermis Mysteriis, the Book of Eibon, Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... and, of course, the Necronomicon, written by the "mad Arab Abdul Alhazred."

I loved that sort of thing.  Especially because there was:

No heterosexual romance anywhere.
Lots of descriptions of masculine beauty.
Lots of male bonding.
Lots of muscular men discovering the horror behind the  heteronormative job-wife-house trajectory.

In "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" (1919), the narrator hears a disembodied voice speaking from a sleeping man: "I am your brother of light, and have floated with you in the effulgent valleys.  You have been my friend in the cosmos  We shall meet again -- perhaps in the shining mists of Orion's Sword, perhaps in some other form an aeon hence, when the solar system shall have been swept away."

Talk about soul mates!

In “The Quest of Iranon”(1921), a man wanders a stern, unfriendly world in search of the city of Aira, where there are “men to whom songs and dreams. . .bring pleasure.”  He meets “a young boy with sad eyes” who also dreams of escape.    They travel together, happy in a way yet always longing.  They grow old together and finally die, never finding their true home.

Might I suggest West Hollywood?

Randolph Carter, Lovecraft's most famous hero, has been played on screen by Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Art Kitching, Toren Atkinson, Adam Fozard, and Conor Timmis.

In real life, Lovecraft was rather a jerk.  He was even more racist than most in his era, loudly criticizing the "decadent, half-ape" immigrants who were "overrunning" New England.  He particularly disliked Jews, although he married a Jewish woman (his frequent anti-Semitic ranting was the cause of their breakup).

And he was even more homophobic than most, loudly criticizing gay people as "effeminate" and a danger to civilization.  Yet he had many gay friends, such as Hart Crane (author of The Bridge), Samuel Loveman (author of Hermaphrodite and Other Poems), and Robert Hayward Barlow (who became executor of his estate).

In fact, one might say that he found his strongest emotional bonds among gay men.

Nov 27, 2014

Kissing Boys to the Bee Gees

For good or bad, I'm a child of the disco era.  The songs of the Bee Gees bring back a rush of memories, especially those from their annus mirabilis, 1977-78:

When I brought Tyrone to the Harvest Dancewe were listening to "If I Can't Have You" on the car radio:

Don't know why I'm surviving every lonely day, when there's got to be no chance for me.
My life would end, and it doesn't matter how I cry.
My tears of love are a waste of time if I turn away

 I Kissed a Boy Under the Mistletoe at my brother's Christmas party, then went upstairs and turned on KSTT radio to "How Deep is Your Love":

Cause we're living in a world of fools, breaking us down, when they all should let us be.
We belong to you and me.

When I figured It out, "Stayin' Alive" was playing in the background of everybody's life.

Well now, I get low and I get high, and if I can't get either, I really try.
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes -- I'm a dancin' man, and I just can't lose.

Objectively analyzed, the lyrics are simplistic and contradictory -- and heterosexist, loaded down with "girl! girl! girl!"

Yet no songs have ever been so meaningful.

The BeeGees consisted of three Australian brothers, Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb.  They had been recording for two decades before they hit it big with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which launched the disco craze.   They were apparently all heterosexual, but their music drew heavily from the gay-and-black underground scene.

Their younger brother Andy had an annus mirabilis of his own in 1977-78, with "Love Is Thicker than Water," "Shadow Dancing," "An Everlasting Love," and "Don't Throw It Away."

He became a teen idol, his bare hairy chest and bulge featured prominently in Tiger Beat, as well as the "nearly" gay interview magazine After Dark.

 See also: Figuring It Out; The Eagles; and Rod and Al Stewart.

Nov 25, 2014

Do Gay Men Play Strip Poker?

When I was growing up in the Nazarene Church, nearly everything was a sin, a one-way ticket to eternal damnation:

Reading any non-religious books or magazines, including the newspaper, on Sunday.
Dancing, "even in the guise of physical education class."
Eating any food that contained alcohol or sounded like it contained alcohol, like beer nuts.
Games with dice, including Monopoly.
Playing cards.
Entering a Catholic church, even an architectural masterpiece like the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Saying bad words, even "gee," "gosh," and "golly."

I started breaking away during my senior year in high school.  It took a couple of years to severe all ties, and a few more years to stop feeling guilty over the Nazarene "sins."

Today I'm doing pretty well.  I only feel twinges of guilt on occasion, when I read the Sunday newspaper or play golf.

But there are two "sins" that I've never overcome:

1. Alcohol.  I don't mind being in a bar or restaurant that serves it, but I won't have it in my house.  I've had two glasses of wine and 1 1/2 cans of beer in my life.

2. Cards.  Seeing playing cards fills me with revulsion.  Especially the face cards -- Jacks, Kings, Queens.  I won't touch them.

Fortunately, card games -- Bridge, Poker, Gin Rummy, Pinocle -- seem to be primarily a heterosexual pastime.  No one in West Hollywood, New York, or Florida ever invited me to "play cards."

I understand that there's a game called Strip Poker, in which everyone who loses a hand must remove an article of clothing.  It's purportedly designed to give heterosexuals a chance to see people of the opposite sex naked.

But skillful male players usually suggest the game to unskilled female players, or they plan in advance with multiple articles of clothing, so the decks are stacked against seeing a male Full Monte.

Unless it's an all male group.

Here's another all-male group.

Gay men don't really need a game to trick other men into taking off their clothes.  You can just ask.

So they don't usually play strip poker.

Strip Twister, maybe.

In 2006, Paddy Power held the first annual World Strip Poker Championship in London.  Freelance writer John Young beat out 194 other contestants, mostly male, by keeping his clothes on the longest.  He won a fig leaf trophy and $10,000, to be donated to the charity of his choice.

See also: Twister; and The Night I Drank 1 1/2 Cans of Beer.

The Erotic Temple Carvings of Khajuraho

When I was in grad school in Bloomington, my friend Viju invited me to fly back to India with him for a visit.  I had only been to Switzerland, Germany, and France before, so I was thrilled!   I spent months doing research: buying guidebooks, studying conversational Hindi, going to Bollywood films, and compiling a list of the important sights:

The holy Ganges River at Varanasi
The Golden Temple of Amritsar
The Portuguese colony of Goa
The Ajanta Caves
The Taj Mahal in Agra.
And the temple complex of Khajuraho, with the most famous erotic carvings in the world.

As it turns out, we stayed in Delhi, except for trips to Varanasi and Agra.   Viju wanted to spend time with his family and friends, and eat in his favorite restaurants, and go shopping and cruising, not drive all over the country to visit boring temples. Khajuraho, 9 hours south in Rajasthan, was definitely out of the question.

"You're not missing anything.  Believe me, it's nothing special."

"It has the most erotic carvings in the world, doesn't it?" I asked.

"Maybe you think they're erotic, but I don't think so."

Later I found out what Viju was talking about.

Guidebooks continue to praise Khajuraho as the "most erotic monument in the world," but they mean erotic for them, not for me.

1. The complex contains about a dozen temples dedicated to various gods, including Shiva, Krishna, and Ganesha.  The walls are covered with hundreds of carvings depicting thousands of people engaged in everyday activities, to symbolize the four goals of life in Hinduism.

Dharma (right conduct)
Kama (pleasure)
Artha (making a living)
Moksha (the search for the Divine).

2. There is no beefcake.  The bodies, male and female, are slim and sinuous, with feminine curves.  No muscles.

3. About 20% of the everyday activities depicted involve Kama, and only about half of those involve sexual acts.  So 10% of the total.

4. The sexual acts are overwhelmingly heterosexual.  Men are copulating with women in various positions.  There are trios, two women and one man.  There are heterosexual orgies, where every identifiable man is with a woman.

5. There used to be some same-sex acts, two women together or two men together, but they were erased during the "sexual cleansing" regiment of Gandhi and Nehru.  Now there are perhaps two left.  The official Indian government says "none," that this one is a misinterpretation of a disciple bowing to his master.

You'd be better off watching Rajasthani bodybuilder Anand Arnold.

See also: A Bodybuilding Contest in India.

Veronica's Closet: How Not to Play a Gay Character

In the 1990s, TV writers didn't know what to do with their gay characters.

They knew what gay men were: men who were really women.  Men who were interested in show tunes and chick flicks and skin care products, who used their hands when they talked, who secretly wore dresses.  And who men.

  But what to do with them?

Veronica's Closet (1997-2000) took a novel approach: how about a gay man who doesn't know he's gay?  He'll have the show tunes and skin care products, but claim to be straight!  Won't that be hilarious?

It wasn't hilarious at all.

The show aired after Seinfeld, and starred Kirstie Allie, formerly of Cheers, so it became popular.

Veronica ran a clothing company designed to increase women's chances of romance (modeled after Victoria's Secret).

Her staff included:
1. Olive (Kathy Najimy), whose job was undefined.
2. Underwear model turned publicist Perry (Dan Cortese, top photo).
3. Uptight marketing manager and token black guy Leo (Daryl Mitchell).
4. Secretary Josh (Wallace Langham).

Josh started out as feminine-coded, working as a secretary for a women's underwear company.  And the feminine traits piled on, week after week. Not only show tunes and skin care products, but pink handkerchiefs, demitasse, a worry over getting fat, a female best friend, no interest in sports, a girly car, hints at drag. For heaven's sake, his middle name was Nicole!

Therefore he must be gay.  The entire cast acted as if he was gay, asking his advice on skin care products and trying to fix him up with men  When he protested that he was straight, they smiled knowingly.

"Wait," I wanted to ask, "Has Josh ever expressed the slightest interest in men?

"No, never," Veronica might answer.

"Has he ever expressed any interest in women?"

"Yes, often.  He's been shown having sex with women.  He had a girlfriend, nearly got married. But what does that have to do with it?  He's feminine, so he's gay."

Near the end of the series, Josh finally gave and admitted that he was, I mean gay.

He reluctantly gave up his heterosexual romances and began dating a guy, not because he was interested, but because that's what, I mean gay men do, right?


The cast doesn't have a great record on gay rights.  Kathy Najimy is bisexual. Kirstie Allie is not a gay ally

Wallace Langham, who played Josh, turned out to be rather homophobic also.  In 2000 he beat up a gay tabloid reporter while using anti-gay slurs.  He was sentenced to 450 hours of community service for LGBT charities.

Nov 23, 2014

5 Places to See Naked Men in Australia

The Australians love their nudity.

1. There are nude beaches near Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, with several that cater mostly to gay men.

2. The Meredith Music Festival, held every December in the town of Meredith, Victoria, features "the world's nude footrace," a sprint around the main amphitheater in front of 12,000 spectators. There are men's and women's races, with the winners of both competing in a final race.

3. In January, the Nude Olympics are held on Maslin Beach in Victoria. There are balloon races (couples carry balloons between them), sack races, frisbee contests, and doughnut eating contests.  Contestants must all be nude, but spectators have a choice.

Contestants are mostly middle-aged heterosexual nudists.  There's a Ms. Maslin contest, but not a Mr.

4. At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, performance artist Stuart Ringholt leads nude tours.
He's nude, and you're nude.

He believes that you can get a new perspective on art by breaking down the barrier between you and the physical world.

But won't people be checking out each other more than the art?

5. Artist, Stuart Tunick, photographs people naked in front of iconic structures to depict the struggle between art and the natural world.  He began in New York, but got arrested and fined five times, so he moved abroad.  He has had exhibitions in Mexico, Switzerland, Belgium, and Australia.

In 2010, he got 5,000 to pose in front of the Sydney Opera House.  The logistics of getting so many volunteers to undress and stand still for hours must have been staggering.

Here's the results.  A solid wall of human bodies.

See also: Top 12 Public Penises of Australia


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