Oct 24, 2015

The Life of Riley: Bullying Boys into Girl-Craziness

Before World War II, teenage boys were expected to be concerned with the gang, or with one special pal, and think of girls as "poison."  Those boys who expressed an interest in girls prior to graduating from high school were ridiculed by their peers as pansies and Percies, evaluated by school psychologists, and subjected to tense heart-to-heart talks with their parents.

But after the War, the image of the adolescent masculinity shifted from "woman-hating" to "girl-crazy," and some of the long-running radio teenagers who had previously been concerned solely with paper routes and bad report cards suddenly began casting longing glances at their female schoolmates.  You can find the exact date: Chester Riley’s son Junior (Scotty Beckett) on  Life of Riley in January 1948; The Great Gildersleeve’s wisecracking nephew Leroy (Walter Tetley) in March 1949; and Ozzie and Harriet’s eldest son David Nelson in November 1951

Left and below: in 1948, MGM arranged for  Scotty Beckett (later Corky of Gasoline Alleyand his friend Roddy McDowall to go on a "see, they're not gay!" double date with Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Powell, but they seem to have ended up cuddling with each other.

The teenage boy had to be bullied, cajoled, and if necessary forced into girl-craziness; it could not be taken for granted.

In the January 1948 episode of The Life of Riley, for instance, blustering working-class family man  Chester (William Bendix) is horrified to discover that his fifteen-year old son, Junior, plans to bring a boy to the big New Year’s Eve dance.

He tries to explain about “the birds and bees,” sexual difference, but Junior insists that he already knows about “all that jazz.”

So Chester puts his foot down: there are “boy people” and “girl people,” he argues, and “boy people” should only take “girl people” to dances.  “Don’t you like girls?” he asks in a timid, hesitant voice, afraid of the possible answer.

When Junior admits that he likes girls “sometimes,” Chester takes charge, forcing the boy to break his same-sex date and telephone the boss’s daughter.  She is noncommital, so Chester forces him to call the offspring of another VIP (resulting, of course, in two dates for the dance, both impossible to break).  He is as hysterical in his insistence that Junior should like girls as fathers of the pre-War generation were hysterical in their insistence that their teenage sons should not.

Chester continued trying to "encourage" his son into girl-craziness when the show moved onto television, and Scotty Beckett was replaced by Lanny Reese (above) and even the obviously-grown up Wesley Morgan (left).

Oct 23, 2015

12 Beefcake Boys and Men of "The Fosters"

The Fosters (2013-) is a groundbreaking drama on ABC Family about a lesbian couple (Stef and Lena) with five children, biological, adopted, and foster (Brandon, Jesus, Jude, Callie, Mariana). Biological parents show up, and the kids have friends and romantic partners, so it gets a little crowded.

Episodes are pretty grim and angst-y.  There are drinking problems, psychological problems, incurable diseases, deaths, battles with bullies and homophobes.  But the remarkably open gay content makes it worth the gloom and doom.

Besides, there are endless teenage boys with their shirts off to draw in the gay boys and straight girls, plus a few shirtless adults thrown in for the adults in the room.

Here are the top 12 Fosters fav raves, plus one honorable mention:

1. David Lambert (left):  Brandon, the oldest son in the family. an aspiring pianist whose dreams are dashed when an injury paralyzes his hand.  He also becomes the victim of statutory rape by hooking up with his father's girlfriend.

2. Danny Nucci: Mike, Brandon's biological father, a cop who has a drinking problem, shot an unarmed suspect, and has a girlfriend who hooks up with Brandon.

3. Tom Williamson: AJ, Mike's foster son.  Where does he find the time to be a foster parent?

4. Jake T. Austin (left): Jesus, the second son, who has Attention-Deficit Disorder.

5. Brandon Quinn: Gabe, Jesus' biological father, who didn't tell Jesus because he didn't want the boy to know he's a registered sex offender.

6. Hadyn Byerly: Jude, the youngest son, who becomes mute in angst over coming out as gay (with lesbian parents?), but eventually learns to accept himself and starts dating, with probably the youngest same-sex kiss on television.

7. Gavin McIntosh (top photo): Connor, Jude's boyfriend, who has a homophobic father.

8. Tanner Buchanan (left): Jack, a shy boy with lots of angsty problems who Jude befriends.

More after the break.

The Full Monty

In the grim industrial town of Sheffield, ne'er do wells Gaz (Robert Carlyle, center) and Dave (Mark Addy) come up with an innovative way to make money -- they'll perform as male strippers, and make up for their less-than-spectacular physiques by offering "the full Monty," full frontal nudity.  They recruit shy, skinny Lomper (Steve Huison, left), their former boss Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), elderly dancer Horse (Paul Barber, right), and well-hung Guy (Hugo Speer, below).

The plan brings relationship problems, trouble with the police, ridicule from their mates, and concerns over their physical inadequacies and lack of talent, but in the end they rally together, and the whole town cheers as they strip to Tom Jones' "You Can Leave Your Hat On."

The buddy-bonding of the guys and the frequent underwear and jockstrap shots would be more than enough to make the movie a gay must-see, but there's also an explicit romance between Lomper and Guy.  No one knew that they were gay before.  Maybe they didn't know themselves.  But they escape from a police raid together, run across the housetops of Sheffield in their underwear, and take refuge in Lomper's house.  After that they are a couple, a fact casually recognized by their mates.

In 2000, The Full Monty premiered as a stage musical with an American setting. The Lomper and Guy characters, renamed Malcolm and Ethan, get a love song, "You Walk with Me."  There are also Danish, Czech, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, and Icelandic versions, and it is increasingly becoming a favorite of American college and community theaters.

Of course, the actors are expected to have unspectacular physiques, but their camaraderie and casual acceptance of same-sex romance -- and the jockstraps --more than makes up for it.

Besides, you never see the physiques of real, ordinary, everyday guys on stage.  Isn't that more interesting than a parade of muscle gods?

Once Upon a Mattress

December 12, 1972.  I'm in seventh grade at Washington Junior High.  After our usual Tuesday night dinner of tuna casserole, we gather in the living room and light up the Christmas tree-- we just set it up last night -- to watch tv.  But Maude and Hawaii Five-O are pre-empted by a musical called Once Upon a Mattress.  

A musical!  Gross!  "Can I be excused?" I ask.

"Don't be antisocial!" my father exclaims.  "Whatever you got to do, you can do it in here with the family."

I'm used to playing, reading, and doing homework in front of the tv  -- when I try to spend some time alone in my room, my father always yells at me to "Don't be antisocial!" and "Get out here with the family!"

What do they think I'm doing down there, anyway?

 But I have to get out of this stupid musical somehow!

"Um...I have to practice my violin."  I just joined the orchestra.

"Hey, if Boomer doesn't have to watch this junk, then I don't either!" my brother Ken complains.

So we get permission to hide in our  basement room.  But eventually I have to go to the bathroom, which means passing right in front of the tv set where that...ugh!...musical is playing.  I brace myself to rush through quickly, but I can't help glancing at the tv set.

It's Ken Berry from The Carol Burnett Show, who has nice muscles and a rackish smile.  He's singing "I'm in love with a girl named Fred."

Wait -- Fred is a boy's name.  Could he be...in love with a boy?

No, "Fred" is played by Carol Burnett.  But Ken goes on to explain why he loves her:

She is very strong.
She can fight.
She can wrestle.

These are the reasons that boys like boys!

I sit down to watch the last half.  It's a version of the "Princess and the Pea" fairy tale, about Queen Agrivain, who doesn't want her sissy son, Prince Dauntless, to get married, so she forces every potential bride to take impossible tests.

 But Winnifred, nicknamed Fred, is so tough and strong that she passes every test, so the wedding can take place.

(In 2005, Carol Burnett returned to the production as Queen Agrivain, with gay actor Denis O'Hare, below with his husband Hugo Redwood.)

I don't realize that,  when the original musical appeared in 1959, "clinging mothers" were assumed the cause of gay identity, so Prince Dauntless would be assumed gay.   I don't catch the sexual symbolism of the mute King who suddenly finds his voice.  And of course I have no idea  that director Ron Field is gay in real life.

But I know all about liking people who are tough and strong,  liking biceps and pecs instead of the soft curves that boys are supposed to long for.

And I know all about doing things on mattresses.

See also: Looking for Muscles on The Carol Burnett Show

Oct 22, 2015

Rupert Grint's Biceps Drive Boys Mad

In Driving Lessons (2006), Julie Walters plays a free spirit actress who takes an interest in shy teenager Rupert Grint. She originally thinks that her protege is gay, so she knows that gay teenagers exist. But still, on the DVD commentary, she exclaims: "Those biceps! The girls will go mad!" She no longer believes that there is a single teenage boy in the world who might go mad over Rupert Grint's enormous biceps.

Heterosexism aside, in the Harry Potter movies, Rupert Grint was well aware of the homoerotic undertones in the original novel between his character, Ron Weasley, and teen wizard Harry Potter.  So in the movie series, he imbued his character with a tenderness, a vulnerability, and an eye-bulging desire that was not mitigated by the scripted romance with Hermione.

 And after Harry Potter, he has chosen a number of buddy-bonding projects (as well as projects that allow him to display his respectably buffed physique and Burt Ward-sized package).  Cherrybomb (2009), for instance, involves a sex-and-crime triangulation between Rupert's Malachy and Robert Sheehan's Luke.   

In Wild Target (2009), a middle-aged hitman (Bill Nighy) takes on a young apprentice (Rupert) and a hostage (Emily Blunt), and proceeds to fall in love with both.

In Into the White (2012), Rupert plays a British pilot shot down over Norway during World War II.  In order to survive, he must share an isolated mountain cabin with a German pilot.  I haven't seen it, but it sounds like it's tailor-made for homoerotic buddy-bonding.

Rupert has not addressed the usual gay rumors, but there is no doubt that, like his Harry Potter costar Daniel Radcliffe, he is a gay ally.

Oct 21, 2015

Cruising in the Navajo Nation

I grew up around Native Americans, at the annual pow wow and through visiting relatives (my Cousin Joe is half Potawatomie).  But I was never with a Native American guy, through all my years in college and in West Hollywood, except for the Inuit that Lane and I hooked up with.

When I visited Larry in New Mexico in 2004, I was determined to find a Native American guy.

Cruising in Santa Fe proved fruitless -- well, I brought home a cute college boy, but he was Anglo.

Albuquerque and Taos, the same.  Lots of Hispanic guys, but not a lot of Native Americans.

So I decided to go to the heartland -- the Navajo Nation.

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

Oct 19, 2015

The Day I Turned Japanese

When I was growing up in Rock Island, almost every kid had a "homeland": their grandparents or great-grandparents came from Sweden, Germany, or Belgium, or less commonly Greece, Poland, France, Italy, or Estonia.

Except me: As one of the few plain generic Americans, with ancestors from Indiana and Kentucky as far back as anyone kept records, I was always left out.

My Grandma Rani belonged to the Potawatomi tribe, but she wasn't a blood relation, so she didn't count  I checked.

Teachers were constantly assigning us reports on our homeland.

We had to bring food from our homeland to club meetings and church socials.

We had to learn the song of our homeland for pageants.

Every new acquaintance asked "Where are you from?", and wouldn't take "Indiana" for an answer.  "No, where are you from? What's your homeland?"

One day in the spring of fifth grade, my boyfriend Bill said "Why don't you just pick a country?  You can be adopted!"

That was a great idea -- I could adopt a country!

I was already making a list of "good places," where boys could hug and kiss openly and grown-up men could live together without wives.  I could be from a good place.

During recess Bill, Joel, and I went to the school library to look for a place.  We sorted through all of the My Village books,  by Sonia and Tim Gidal, photo stories of real boys in villages in Germany, Ireland, France, Switzerland, and so on.

Bill liked Yugoslavia, because there was a picture of two boys hugging.

Joel voted for Finland, because there was a picture of the boy naked in the sauna.

I liked Italy, because the boy had a lot of hunky adult friends.

But wait -- why did it have to be a European country?

I knew where the men were always naked!

I took Joel and Bill into our house, down to the basement, where my mother's old set of  Collier's Encyclopedias sat on a lonely shelf.

"These books have all kinds of naked guys in them," I said, handing them the pertinent volumes.

We leafed through old black-and-white photos of naked men.

Bill liked some Indonesian athletes, because they were holding hands.

Joel liked African tribes, because they were muscular and naked.

I liked the Philippines, because the guys were cute.

"Wait -- I know where we can get pictures in color!" Joel exclaimed.

We ran over to his house.  In his basement there were shelves of old National Geographic magazines -- his older brother once had a subscription.

The guys were never naked, but there were lots of shirtless pictures.

Cambodian boys splashing in the ocean.

Dour Amazonian men carrying blowguns.

Pygmies of the "Belgian Congo."

Japanese athletes in singlets with noticeable bulges.

"We shouldn't decide just on a couple of pictures," I said.  "We should do research."

Through the spring semester, and into the summer, we worked on our project, reading geography books like The Land and People of Israel and Come with me to India, looking up old magazine articles on Switzerland, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and Spain.

When we had sleepovers, we interrogated the Fifth Boy about his homeland, the food, the costumes, the songs.

For my birthday trip in May, we went to the Putnam museum (with Randy the Golden Boy tagging along) and got a whole new revelation: why did it have to be a modern country?

Why not the Aztecs, or the ancient Egyptians?

Or ancient Greece, where they worshiped naked musclemen?

For that matter, why did it have to be a place in the real world?

Soon we were looking at Leonard Wibberly's Encounter Near Venus, the Basidium of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, and the oxygen-rich canals of Robert Silverberg's Lost Race of Mars.

It was time to reel it in, get back to the basics of men with muscles.

One day in Joel's basement I leafed through the December 11th, 1970 issue of Life Magazine, and found an article: "The Samurai Who Committed Hara Kiri."

It was about the ritual suicide of Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima (without mentioning that he was gay, or that his novels were infused by gay themes).

I was already taking judo lessons.  My sensei, Sammy, turned out to be married, but I was reasonably sure that he liked boys, not girls.

Mishima's gleaming, muscular physique and suggestively packed fudoshi settled it.

"I'm from Japan," I announced.

When sixth grade began, and our teacher assigned yet another essay on "our homeland," Bill wrote on Indonesia, Joel wrote on Ethiopia, and I wrote on Japan (without mentioning the suggestively packed fudoshi).  She gave us all B+'s, with the comment "very imaginative!"

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

The Top 10 Public Penises of Islam

Islam doesn't have quite the beefcake potential of Hinduism or Jainism.  No androgynous gods, no naked holy men.  The Quranic prohibition of idol-worship is often interpreted to mean "no human figures, period," and even when humans are allowed, propriety forbids bare chests, let alone nudity.

But there are remnants of the penis-obsessed Graeco-Roman culture and  muscular transplants from the neoclassical greats of Europe -- and, sometimes, contemporary Muslim artists get away with arguing that the only way to depict strength, honor, liberation, or war is through muscle. Nothing sexual is intended.

One assumes.

In fact, I found at least 20 impressively nude or muscular statues, reliefs, and other public works of art in the Islamic world (countries with 50% or higher Muslim populations).

 Here are the first 10, arranged roughly from west to east.

1. Ceuta (a Spanish colony on the coast of Morocco): The Pillars of Hercules, two mountains standing guard at the entrance to the Mediterranean, is memorialized in a statue of Hercules.

2.Algeria was under French domination for over 100 years, from 1830 to 1962, so one might expect some equivalent of the Luxembourg Gardens or the Musee d'Orsay.  There isn't a lot, but in Jijel, about 350 km from Algiers, you can see Le PĂȘcheur (The Fisherman), a boy mending his nets.

3.Tunisia, likewise, was under French domination from 1881 to 1956, but about the only significant beefcake art is, oddly a statue of the first president, Habib Bourguiba, in Ksar Hellal.  He's liberating four oppressed peasants, including two muscular, half-naked ones.

4. Libya was the site of the Roman Province of Tripolitana, so there are many statues of muscular men, now in the National Museum.  This one came from the Hadriatic Baths.

More after the break.

Oct 18, 2015

Three's Company

Three's Company (1977-84) premiered at the height of the disco era, when sex was on everyone's mind, and it was about people having sex.  Or, rather, about people thinking that other people were having sex: finding them in bed together, overhearing innocent conversations that sounded sexual, or just assuming.

No one actually had sex at any time during the eight year run, not even long-married apartment complex managers, Mr. and Mrs. Roper: joke after joke branded him impotent.  Nor, when they left, self-designated ladies' man Ralph Furley (Don Knotts of The Andy Griffith Show).

Certainly not the two single girls who occupied the apartment near the beach in Santa Monica: plain-jane Janet (Joyce DeWitt, right, next-door neighbor to one of my friends in West Hollywood) and dumb-blond Chrissy (Suzanne Somers, left, who was eventually replaced by two other blondes). Or their roommate, cooking student Jack Tripper (John Ritter, who would later star on Eight Simple Rules with Martin Spanjers).

Wait -- a guy with two girls?  Mr. Roper/Mr. Furley demanded.  This is the 1970s -- it's impossible for a man and a woman to be alone together without sex happening.  You can't live here!

Jack and the girls hit on a novel solution: he'll pretend to be gay!  Whenever Mr. Roper or Mr. Furley are around, he'll sashay about, limp-wristed and lisping, and maybe bat his eyes at them.   He'll have to hide his girlfriends, of course, or explain them as drag queens.

What could possibly go wrong?

Not much.  Most episodes ignored the pretending-to-be-gay angle in favor of heartwarming sitcom antics:
The roommates get a new puppy.
They buy Mr. Roper's car.
Jack and Chrissy take over Janet's babysitting job.
Janet has two concert tickets, and can only invite one of the roommates.

Jack's gay persona was a negative stereotype, no gay characters ever appeared, and at the end of the series, when Jack plans to get married, he announces that he's been "cured."  The writers had apparently never met a real gay person.  But still, there was a lot for gay kids to like on Three's Company.

1. In the fall of 1977, Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign was in full force and our preacher had just discovered gay people, so all I heard about gay people was: subhuman monsters, bogeymen who lived only to seduce and destroy.  It was remarkable that anyone would pretend to be such a person, for any reason.
2. Or that a landlord would rent such a person an apartment.
3. Or that others would willingly flirt with the guilt by association. Even horndog neighbor Larry (Richard Kline) had no qualms about people thinking that he was gay.
4. Jack eventually forgot to do the limp-wristed bit, becoming a conventionally masculine pseudo-gay guy.
5. You could hear the word "gay" frequently.
6. There were frequent muscular men as guest stars, such as Steve Sandor

In 2012, it was rebooted in the stage play 3C, starring Jake Silbermann.


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