Jun 19, 2015

The Golden Boy in His Underwear

I was a horny little kid.  I wasn't thinking about sex yet, of course, but I loved looking at, talking to, hanging out with, and hugging cute boys and men.  I had a steady boyfriend, plus I cruised at the bookmobile, got kissed by a boy vampire, hooked up with boys at sleepovers, and got crushes on any number of grownups.

But the most obviously erotic of my crushes was on Randy.

He was a Denkmann School celebrity, one of those golden boys who seem perfect in every way.  Tall, lean, muscular, tanned, with wavy hair and bright eyes and a smile.  Good at schoolwork, good at sports, plus friendly to everybody, just plain nice.

How hard is it to be a muscle god and nice at the same time?

But he was way out of my league.  A year ahead of me in school, almost two years older,  with "grown up" friends and activities.

And he was hit  on by everybody all the time: boys, girls, teachers, parents, puppy dogs.  He had a dozen invitations every weekend.

How could I ever break through Randy's army of admirers and incite his interest enough to ask him to play, or get comic books, or go to a movie downtown?

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

Jun 18, 2015

Spring 1979: Captain Ernie and His First Mate

Back before Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, Netflix, and DVDs, you got your dose of kids' tv in two places:

1. On a sugar-rush five hours of cartoons every Saturday morning.

2. Weekdays after school, on local kids' tv shows hosted by an army of clowns, hobos, cowboys, and pirates.

The Quad Cities was on the Mississippi River, so we had Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat.

The tall, commanding Captain Ernie (Ernie Mims) stood on the deck of the Dixie Belle, to announce Bugs Bunny and Hanna Barbara cartoons and Three Stooges shorts.  Then he opened his "Treasure Chest" and passed out prizes to the kids in the studio audience.

When I was in fourth grade, my boyfriend Bill and I were in the audience.  I got a plastic "pirate cape," and he got a cardboard sword.

The cartoons and prizes weren't the only attraction: Captain Ernie was cute, with squarish hands, a hairy chest, and a pleasant suggestion of muscle.

Sometimes he performed skits with his "First Mate," Sidney.

I didn't know what a "first mate" was, but it was obvious that Captain Ernie and Sidney lived together on the Dixie Belle, and neither had girlfriends or wives.  Obviously a gay couple!

I found out that they weren't really a couple in fourth grade: one of the kids in my class at Denkmann was Captain Ernie's nephew.  Turns out Ernie Mims had a wife and kids after all, and Sidney was just an intern, a student at the Palmer College of Chiropractic, up the street from WOC TV.

Still, many of the iconic moments of my childhood took place in front of Cartoon Showboat, or with Captain Ernie: a local celebrity, he appeared at the Celtic Festival, the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival, the Pow Wow, the annual Christmas parade, and various ribbon-cuttings and supermarket openings.

During the 1970s, our first PBS station brought the competition of the kinder, gentler Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and frenetic but non-violent Sesame Street, and in 1974 Cartoon Showboat was cancelled.  By that time, I was in junior high, too old to watch.

Ernie Mims went on to become the weatherman.

The last time I saw him was in the spring of 1979, during my freshman year of college  I was working at the Carousel Snack Bar when Captain Ernie -- not in character -- came up and ordered an ice cream cone.

As I passed it to him, our hands touched.

I wanted to say "Thanks for a great childhood," but I played it cool.

Jun 17, 2015

Beau Mirchoff: Awkward Bromance

I am often asked if I can find a gay subtext in anyone, anywhere.  Let's try it out:

The Wizards of Waverly Place reunion movie (2013) splits young-adult wizard Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) into good and evil halves.  Good Alex is allied with on-off boyfriend, the werewolf Mason (Gregg Sulkin), while Evil Alex teams up with the hunky though evil wizard Dominic (Beau Mirchoff).  Guess which team wins?

Jake T. Austin, always good for a subtext, doesn't have much to do.

No subtexts.

This was 24-year old Beau Mirchoff's first time on the Disney Channel, but he's been playing evil teens for several years.

The arrogant equestrian Ben in the Canadian tv series Heartland (2007-2008).  Never saw it.

Danny Bolen in Desperate Housewives (2009-2010), first a murder suspect, then the hostage of his eco-terrorist biological father. No subtexts in his story line.

A teenage murderer on CSI: Miami (2011). No subtexts.

Beau is playing against type in the MTV series Awkward (2011-), about high schooler Jenna (Ashley Rickards) who gains notoriety after she has an accident, and everyone thinks she attempted suicide.  He plays Matty, who is competing for Jenna's affection with his best friend Jake (Brett Davern).  When Jake sees Matty and Jenna kissing, he angrily breaks up with them both.

Classic triangulation.

Jake and Beau, BFFs in real life, are playing up the bromance.

Found a subtext!

By the way, Awkward also has an gay character, Clark Stevenson (Joey Haro), who comes out at Bible Camp and is later caught kissing Ricky Schwartz (Matthew Fahey), the boyfriend of Jenna's bff Tamara.

Easter Island: Phallic Statues and Penis Festivals

If you thought Mongolia was remote for Westerners, try Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui).  From New York, you fly to Miami, then to Panama City, and finally to Santiago, Chile (about 24 hours).  From there, only one airline flies to the town of Hanga Roa on Rapa Nui, once a day (about 6 hours).

It's a tiny island, about 15 miles long and 8 miles wide, alone in the Pacific Ocean, probably settled from the Marquesas Islands, 2000 miles away.

Once the early Polynesians got there, they became very interested in the penis.

1. Most Rapa Nui men incorporated the word Ure, "Penis," into their names, but in the 19th century Christian missionaries put an end to the practice.

2. The Moai, "Easter Island Heads," are actually complete torsos, over 800 of them, 20-30 feet high, weighing over 80 tons, sculpted and installed over a period of 300 years (1200-1500 AD).  They took so much time and energy that the islanders had little time left for other pursuits, and so many trees were felled to facilitate transport that the island is now almost entirely treeless.

The noses of the figures have often been interpreted as phallic symbols.  Indeed, some scholars interpret the Moai themselves as giant phallic symbols, representing the sexual potency of the Rapa Nui men. There's a legend still common on the island that a penis served as the model.

3. Rongo Rongo, the Easter Island script, appears on dozens of tablets and ceremonial objects.  By the time the Europeans arrived, no islander remembered how to read it, and it remains untranslated.  But at least one of the glyphs is called "Tangata Ure Huki" "Man with Erect Penis"

4. The Tapati Fesival, held every year during the first two weeks of February, is a celebration of the island's history, culture, and penises.  There are parades, dances, athletic contests like haka pei (sliding down a mountainside on a tree trunk), and a race called the Tau'a Rapa Nui: men wearing only skimpy loincloths race through town carrying bunches of phallic-symbol bananas.

See also: The Beefcake Festival of the Andes.

Jun 16, 2015

Spring 1997: David Pulls "It" Out

When I was living in San Francisco, my friend David and I walked down Castro Street every day on the way to and from work, even though it was strictly not necessary, to immerse ourselves in the heart of the heart of the gay world.

The Castro Theater -- Orphan Andy's -- Almost Home -- All American Boy -- Twin Peaks -- even the Walgreen's on the corner of 18th and Castro were icons of home.

I liked the morning best, when the street was quiet and calm, empty except for an occasional gym hunk on the way to his workout.

And the barfly.

Every morning, we passed a little bar -- now it's the QBar -- with big French doors open to the street, and in the darkness inside, a single guy, alone on a barstool, gazing out into the world.

He was older, white haired, rather well dressed for the denim-and-leather crowd, wearing a white shirt and a tie.  I couldn't tell what he was drinking, but it wasn't beer.

Who would be in a bar at 9:00 am?

"Drunks," David said with a disapproving scowl.  A former Baptist minister, he was vehemently opposed to alcohol.  "Has to get his fix."

Every morning, day after day, the barfly sat at the bar, looking out at the world.  Sometimes he nodded or waved at us as we passed.

I got so used to seeing him that when he wasn't there, I waited for a few minutes to see if he'd show up.

In the evening, when we passed again after work, the bar was usually packed with the Happy Hour crowd, but the barfly was still there.

In the same spot, as if he hadn't moved.

Who would stay all day and all night in a bar?  Didn't he have other things to do?

Gay people are very territorial.  They've been battered around the straight world so much that when they find a home, they stay.  Maybe this guy couldn't bear to leave the heart of the heart of the gay world, that one block of Castro Street between 17th and 18th.

But no one could spend their life on that block.  There were restaurants, bars, clothing stores, a drug store, a theater, and a hair stylist, but no gyms, bookstores, post offices, grocery stores, or banks. Or jobs.

For weeks David and I passed, morning and evening, and the barfly was there.

One evening, without warning, I headed into the bar.

David grabbed my arm.  "Wait -- don't tell me you're hot for that barfly?  He's cute and all, but he's a drunk!"

"I just want to hear his story.  Maybe he's lonely.  I could take him to a meeting of SAGE, the gay seniors group."

"He knows how to use the phone book!"

"Hey, I went with you to cruise in the men's room at Macy's.  The least you can do is help me cruise the old guy."

Grumbling, David followed me into the bar.  We sat on barstools on either side of the barfly and ordered cokes.

The barfly turned to David, grinning.  "What took you so long?"

"What?  Er..."

He held out his hand.  "I'm Karol.  Not a drag name -- it's Polish for 'Charles.'"

"David...and this is Boomer."

"Hiya," he said over his shoulder.  "I've been coming to this bar morning and night for weeks, .  I was about ready to give up."

"So...you don't spend all day here?" I asked.

Karol laughed.  "I don't think my clients would like that!"

It turns out that Karol was a graphic designer.  One day he stopped in at the QBar for a Bloody Mary on the way to work, and he saw us pass by.  He was so entranced that he made a point of coming to the bar at the same time every morning and evening, in the hope that David would stop and say hello.

"I should have chased after you, but I didn't want to be that Creepy Old Guy, you know."

"Come on, you're not that much older than us," I said.

"I'm over 40, by a few years.  I remember Poland before the War -- World War II, not Vietnam.  And I remember the Summer of Love -- I bet you were still in diapers."

"So you don't drink?"  David asked.

"A Bloody Mary now and then, and maybe a vodka and tonic.  But I don't drink a lot, no."

Then Karol turned to me, his back to David -- the guy he had a crush on.  What was his game?

He told me about growing up during the War, coming to America to find work as an artist, marrying, having kids, and then coming out and finding his way to San Francisco.

"I was here before AIDS, before Gay Liberation, back when Jose Serria was doing drag shows at the Black Cat Cafe."

Suddenly I glanced down -- while he was talking, Karol had been groping David, unzipping his pants, and now he had pulled it out!

You heard me.

Right out in the open.

This was my cue to leave!  "Have fun, guys," I said.

Later that night, David called me.

"So, how was the date with your secret admirer?"

"Well, that's just it.  You know how, when you finally get a guy you've been fantasizing about for a long time, the reality is always disappointing? Plus when you get older, things get more difficult.  And Karol had been drinking...."

"His mission was a failure, huh?"

"And that embarrassed me so much that my mission was a failure, too.  Big bust all around.  So...you want to go to the Bear Party?"

The next morning Karol was not on his usual bar stool on Castro Street.

See also: A Hookup in the Restroom at Macy's and Waking Up to a Straight Boy in My Bed.

Jun 14, 2015

Summer 2001: Hooking Up with the Pizza Boy

When I was growing up, the best pizza in town came from Harris Pizza on 14th Avenue, about a half mile from our house.

The best in the world -- I've never found anything close.  Ground sausage, with the cheese on top. Real, fresh mushrooms, not the canned stuff.

We never got delivery -- why wait around, and then have to tip the delivery boy?  Dad just drove over and picked it up.

After I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I went back home for visits twice a year, at Christmastime and in the summer, and I always insisted on getting Harris pizza at least once.

My parents moved to Indiana in 1995, so I didn't get back to Rock Island often, maybe every two years.  I stayed with my brother, who lived downtown, a long way from 14th Avenue, but I still insisted on ordering it at least once during my visit.

During the summer of 2001, a few weeks before I moved from New York to Florida, I was back in Rock Island visiting Ken, and for some reason I got the job of driving my sister-in-law's car to pick up the pizza.

I had never actually been inside Harris Pizza before.  I was surprised by how small the space was, how much it smelled of sausage and mushrooms, and how hot the guy at the counter was.

He was stunning!  College age, oval face, sparkling black eyes, wavy black hair, nice chest and biceps.  His name tag said "Jack."

I couldn't decide which I liked better: the smell of the Harris Pizza, or Jack saying "May I help you?"

My pizza wasn't quite done, so we chatted a bit.  "I grew up in Rock Island.  Whenever I visit, I always come back for a Harris Pizza."

"Where do you live now?"

"New York.  I have an apartment in the East Village." (I didn't mention that I would be vacating it in three weeks.)

Jack grinned.  "Wow, that's exciting!  I'd love to live in New York someday.  I'm studying theater arts at Augustana, so Broadway is my dream."

"Hey, I know lots of theater people.  If you visit New York, I could introduce you to my friend Blake, who works for...."

Then my pizza slid up from the kitchen.  I paid and left -- forgetting to give Jack my name or phone number.

The next day I went to Harris Pizza at about the same time.  No Jack -- and it would be pushy to ask the staff about him.

And I was leaving tomorrow!

Thinking fast, I called my friend and former bully, Dick.

"Harris Pizza!" he exclaimed.  "All that fat and sodium!   I never go near that place -- you might as well be eating a deep-fried Big Mac!

"The pizza might be bad, but you should see the pizza boy!  His name is Jack, he's a theater student at Augustana, and he's incredible!"

"Your type, huh?  A short bodybuilder with dark skin, an extra big sausage, and a degree in theology?"

"Well -- rather tall and fair skinned, actually.  More your type.  But gorgeous with a capital G!  And he was obviously cruising me!  Except I'm flying back to New York tomorrow, so I don't have time to pursue him."

"So you want me to pursue Jack for you?"

"Just go to Harris Pizza, mention me, maybe wow him with the list of celebrities I've seen naked -- feel free to add Tom Cruise to the list -- and maybe get his number.  I'll take it from there."

"I don't know, Potsie," he said, referring to Happy Days.  "Sounds like a crazy scheme. What's in it for me?"

"Well...if Jack and I hit it off, I'm willing to share.  Besides, you owe me for the 3,000 times you called me a 'sissy,' 'wuss,' and 'girl' back in grade school."

"Ok, ok," Dick grunted.  He didn't like to be reminded of his bullying days.  "I'll see what I can do."

The next day I went back to New York, and got so immersed in packing and truck rentals and lease walk-throughs that I forgot all about it.  Dick didn't say anything in his emails.

Then in November he emailed me: "Are you coming back to Rock Island for Christmas?"

"I wasn't planning to.  I was just there last June -- I don't want to wear out my welcome at my brother's house."

"You can stay with me.  I have a special present for you. Come the day after Christmas -- but not until 6:00 pm.  That's when the present is coming."

Puzzled, I agreed.  I spent Christmas with my parents, then rented a car and drove out to Rock Island on the 26th, timing my trip to arrive at 6:00 sharp.

Dick opened the door in a Christmas sweater, gave me a bear hug, and took his present -- a rather expensive set of wine glasses.  I noticed that the table was set for three.

"So, you mentioned a special present?"

"Right, right."  He yelled "Okay, now!" into the back of the house.  "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" from Damn Yankees started playing.

And a shirtless twink in a Santa hat and red jockstrap came dancing seductively out of the bedroom.

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets,
And little man, little Lola wants you!

"Merry Christmas!" he said, grinding against me.

I helped myself to a grope.  "You got me a twink?  How thoughtful!"

Dick grinned.  "You idiot, this is Jack -- the famous hot pizza boy you were all crazy about!"

Over dinner (for which Jack got dressed), I heard the story:  last summer Dick went to Harris Pizza as I requested, but Jack wasn't there, so he gave up.  But in September, he read that the Augustana Theater Department was performing Death of a Salesman, with someone named Jack as Biff.  He wasn't a big theater fan, but he went to the performance, talked to Jack afterwards -- sure enough, it was the same guy.  And they started dating.

"Since you're kind of responsible for us meeting, Dick wanted to surprise you," Jack added.  "But not recognizing me kind of ruined it."

"Well, I only talked to you for five minutes, six months ago.  But it's a nice surprise now -- you're even hotter than I remember."

"You are, too," Jack said.

"Ok, enough grade school 'Oh, you're cute!' bull!" Dick exclaimed.  "Everybody thinks everybody is hot -- now let's get busy.  We have some sharing to do!"

Jack moved in with Dick a few months later.  They've been together ever since.

See also: Hooking Up with My Old Bully

Superman: You'll Believe a Man Can Fly

Superman first flew in 1938, and for the next 40 years he had comic books, movie serials, cartoons, and radio and tv series, but no feature films.  Nor, for that matter, did any superhero except for the tongue-in-cheek Batman (1966).

That all changed in December 1978.

 It was a dreary winter, dark, cold, and snowy, with movies about angst, tragedy, and lost love: The Deer Hunter, Same Time Next Year, California Suite, Moment by Moment, Oliver's Story.  I was depressed; a semester into college, and I hadn't met any gay people, or learned of any gay writers except Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.  Superman was a bright spot, a cozy childhood memory (though it too had a cave of ice).

Director Richard Donner was careful to include every familiar aspect of the Superman myth: the doomed planet Krypton, the elderly farm couple of Smallville, the Daily Planet, Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, the Fortress of Solitude, Lex Luthor. And some from the familiar TV Superman of the 1950s, who used to change clothes in a phone booth (no old-style phone booths left in 1978).

Indeed, everyone was so busy checking off their list of Superman conventions that they forgot to pay attention to the plot: Lex Luthor plans to drop a nuclear bomb on the San Andreas Fault, thus causing California to slip into the ocean, whereup he will get rich by selling prime oceanside real estate in Nevada.

Ok, that was ridiculous even for a comic book.

The Man of Steel was played by 26-year old Christopher Reeve, a virtual unknown (he had one movie credit and a few tv appearances). He was hired for his muscles, his square jaw, and for his uncanny ability to be both sexy and wholesome at the same time.

He didn't disrobe during the movie, but he favored us with some beefcake shots in teen magazines and in the faux-gay After Dark.

 He was interviewed in gay magazines, an almost unprecedent act of solidarity in the 1970s, and in 1982 he played a gay character, the protege of playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Cane) in Death Trap.  I can still remember the gasps of shock when the two characters kissed on-camera.

Gay-positive Christopher Reeve and his studly physique provided the only gay interest in Superman.  No buddy-bonding in high school, no boy pal, no subdued homoromantic sniping with Lex Luthor.

It was a heterosexual love story, and rather a sappy one.  Audiences twittered and squirmed when Superman and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) flew endlessly through the skies of Metropolis hand in hand, while Lois thought: "Can you feel what I feel? Do you know what you're doing to me?"

On the other hand, she wasn't a complete Girl Scout.  She asked, "How big are you...um, I mean, how tall?", leading to considerable speculation about the Man of Steel's package.

William Smith: the Bodybuilder of Laredo

Before Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the bodybuilder a human face, there were two kinds of roles available for him: Italian sword-and-sandal, and American beach bunny, an object of ridicule, vain, silly, sexless.  How dare he try to transform his body into a work of art! Women's bodies were made to be looked at, men's to be ignored.  So bodybuilders who weren't playing beach narcissists had to keep their physiques under wraps.

William Smith worked to change all that.

Born in 1933, Smith graduated from UCLA magna cum laude, and was teaching Russian (one of several languages he spoke fluently), when he began modeling for Bob Mizner's Athletic Model Guild, which published  many other posing-strap-clad hunks (Gary Conway, Glen Corbett, Randy Jackson) for a mostly-gay male fanbase.  He was also a regular at Henry Willson's infamous gay-and-gay-friendly parties.

He was also acting intermittently, with roles in projects as diverse as Meet Me in St. Louis, The Boy with Green Hair, Wagon Train, and The Nutty Professor.  

When he signed on for Laredo (1965-67), he was already accustomed to presenting his body as an object of male and female desire.  It would not be one of the stereotypic Westerns of the period.

1. Other Western heroes were loners, or had unattractive, sexually unavailable sidekicks, but Laredo, like Alias Smith and Jones a few years later, was about buddy-bonding.  Two hunky Texas rangers, Chad Cooper (Peter Brown) and Joe Riley (William Smith), worked together, played together, and had eyes only for each other, in spite of Chad's occasional dalliance with the feminine.  The actors remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

2. Other Western heroes were often displayed nude or shirtless in movie magazines, but almost never on screen, especially if they were bodybuilders.  But Joe Riley had his shirt ripped off in practically every episode.  Usually when he was captured by the bad guys, to give him some vulnerability, so his massive physique wouldn't scare the audience.

After Laredo, Smith continued to work in Westerns (Daniel Boone, Death Valley Days, The Virginian) until the genre faded away in the 1970s, and then in cop shows and mysteries.  He had big hits in Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) as the villainous Falconetti, and in Conan the Barbarian (1982) as Conan's father.

His most recent project, Tiger Cage (2012), comes after nearly 300 movie and tv show appearances over a period of 70 years, not to mention producing, directing, bodybuilding, boxing, and even writing poetry.  But few of his accomplishments can match the simple power of demonstrating to the world that the male body can be a thing of beauty.

See also: Peter Brown, the Buddy-Bonding Cowboy.