Dec 4, 2015

A Hookup with Barry and the Poz Boy

In the fall of 1999, Barry, the traditional Catholic who had been exorcised from the homophobic demon, invited me to "share" his friend Jared.

"You'll like him," Barry insisted.  "He's from the Midwest, like you.  And an intellectual.  He knows everything about world history.  Just ask!"

"What's he look like?"

He send me a picture -- not my usual type.  In his 20s, tall, thin, pale, with long scraggly hair and a pretty, androgynous face.

"I like my guys with a little more heft to them,  Sorry."

"Well...he's gigantic beneath the belt," Barry said.  "And he really needs this.  He hasn't been with anyone for months."

"Why, what's wrong with him?"  I asked suspiciously.

"Nothing.  He's just been going through some things.  Some health problems.  He can explain."

I was intrigued by the mystery, so I agreed.

On a Saturday in late November, I took the train out to Barry's apartment in Sayville (he had given up on the traditional Catholic community).

Jared was slim and fragile, sitting shyly on the couch.  He had a soft, limp handshake.  I put my arm around him, and he sank against my chest, as if he were cuddling with a lover.

This guy was the polar opposite of the dynamic, loquacious Barry!   I wondered how they had ever become friends.

"So, what do you do?" I asked.

"I work at the Fashion Barn.  But I want to get into design someday."  He held me tightly and nuzzled my chest.  "Sorry if I'm a little's been awhile."

"That's fine.  I like being the object of attention."

He disentangled himself for dinner at the Sayville Inn.  He ordered only a salad, no dressing.

"How did you guys meet?" I asked.

"At church," Jared said.  "I gave up on the church when I came out, but a few months ago I came back.  Barry got me involved in Dignity [the gay Catholic group], and sometimes I go to Mass with Andre at the Catholic brotherhood."

He returned to the church a few months ago?  And he hadn't been with a guy for a few months?  What happened?  

Back at the apartment, the three of us hugged.  I kissed Barry, and then tried to kiss Jared, but he pulled his head away.  "Before we go any farther, I have to tell you something.  I'm poz."

He meant positive for the HIV virus.

"No problem," I said.  Actually, I was a little curious about what poz guys do in bed.   I had never dated anyone who was poz before, that I knew of, or even had any poz friends.   A couple of guys at the church, who I knew vaguely, and that was about it.

You're probably wondering how I managed to live in West Hollywood at the height of the AIDS crisis and not meet anyone poz.  Literature and film of the period always describes losing most of your friends to AIDS, a dozen in just a few months.

I've wondered about that myself.  I think it was just by accident.

The most common way to transmit HIV is through unprotected anal sex.  I was simply not interested in that, so when I was asked, I refused, and usually didn't see the guy again.  Since we typically chose our friends from among our ex-boyfriends, I built up a social circle of guys who also were not interested in anal sex, and remained negative.  By accident.

I'm not blaming the guys who practiced anal sex -- they had no way of knowing that it was unsafe at the time.

Jared had a huge Mortadella+, but he doesn't get a place on my Sausage List, since I wasn't permitted to do anything with it.

We spent the night, had a replay in the morning, and then went out to breakfast.

"I thought my sex life was over," Jared said.  "No one wants to be with a poz guy.  But last night was great."

I hoped he wasn't implying that he wanted to start dating!  Our evening together was nice, but he wasn't really my type physically, he was kind of weird, and what was up with the no kissing?

I can do without oral, but no kissing?  The virus isn't transmitted that way!

A few days later, Jared called.  "I'm coming into the City for my birthday. Free to get together?"

"'m a little busy, with finals coming up and all."

"I want to try something.  I've been too nervous before.  But it's my birthday, and I thought you could help."

"What is it?"

"You go to the New York Bondage Club, right?"

So on Sunday Jared took the train into Penn Station.  We dropped into a diner for a piece of cake, and then went to a meeting.  He asked me to tie him to a St. Andrew's Cross, blindfold and gag him, and leave him open to all comers.

I monitored the situation as he was fondled, prodded, kissed, licked, tickled, teased, edged, and spanked.

Soon I saw him at Ravi's Bear Parties, too, wandering around, fondling, teasing, edging, but no oral.

And still no kissing.

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

The Wiz: Gay Manhattan in the 1970s

Dorothy is a 24-year old kindergarten teacher  living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in 1978 Harlem, New York.  They were happy to raise her, but now they're dropping broad hints: "You're grown up, practically middle aged.  Move out!"

But Dorothy is paralyzed by fear.  She's never been south of 125th Street, which means that she's never been to the Museum of Modern Art, about a mile away, or the Empire State Building, or to the gay village of Chelsea.  Like everyone in America in the 1970s, she has heard horrible things about Manhattan: skyrocketing crime, economic decline, a failing infrastructure.  It's a cesspool of corruption, misery, and perversion.  There are gay people there.

Then she follows her dog Toto out into a snowstorm, and gets lost in Manhattan -- which she calls Oz.

She encounters raw racism -- taxis invariably refuse to take her fare -- and  many of the urban evils that 1970s critics bemoaned: graffiti, prostitutes, gangs, drugs, gay people.

But she still visits sites that are both beautiful and powerful -- the New York Public Library, the World Trade Center, Cony Island, and the glittering emerald fantasy of Park Avenue.

She makes more friends than she ever had before in her life: a Tin Man, a Scarecrow (played by Michael Jackson), a Lion.

And she is surrounded by beefcake.  Cute "numbers runners."  Munckins frozen in graffiti.  Sweat-shop workers who escape their masks and uniforms to reveal muscular bodies, naked except for jockstraps. Many, if not most, are gay-coded.

In the end she defeats the evil Evilene, debunks the shyster Wizard, and goes back home to Harlem.

But she is no longer afraid. She knows now that for all its dangers, squalor, and decay, Manhattan is a beautiful, magical place, where you can find friends, where difference is accepted, where you can be free to be who you are.  Where being gay is ok.

The Wiz is not a great movie.  It's way too long, the acting is awful, and paralyzing fear is not the best attribute for a heroine -- Dorothy has none of the resourcefulness of her counterpart in the Baum books, none of the courage of the Judy Garland version. One gets the impression that she should be talking to a therapist rather than going on a heroic quest.

But I liked the fantasy versions of New York landmarks, the soul-inspired score, the black/urban adaption of  the all-white Oz of Frank L. Baum and Judy Garland.  The utter-lack of hetero-romance. The beefcake.

And the gay symbolism.

When I saw The Wiz in the fall of 1978, during my freshman year in college, I had visited 17 U.S. states and 5 foreign countries, but still, my world felt as constrained as Dorothy's.  Faced with constant heterosexist pronouncements about my future wife and kids, I felt, like Michael Jackson's Scarecrow, that:

You can't win, you can't break even
And you can't get out of the game

The Wiz suggested that home might be a "good place" after all.  All you needed was a copy of the Gayellow Pages.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

 If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) was advertised as a hilarious comedy about a group of Ugly Americans on a whirlwind tour of Europe, but I found it heartbreaking.  In fact, I was hesitant about revisiting it after forty years, for fear that it would bring back the intense feelings of longing and loss that had me almost in  tears as a kid.

When you find something heartbreaking that the rest of the world thinks is hilarious, there must be a subtext somewhere.

There was beefcake.  Lots of it.  Ian McShane, the Swinging Sixties Bachelor who herds the tourists around Europe, displays his body frequently as he falls for and loses prim librarian Suzanne Pleshette.

Luke Halpin, formerly a teenage hunk on Flipper (1964-67), wanders around Europe as a hippie in painted-on jeans as he falls for and loses apathetic teen Hilary Thompson.

Even the hunky Sandy Baron, fresh from his odd-couple sitcom Hey, Landlord (1966-67), displays a toned hairy chest as he rips his shirt off and dives into a Venetian canal to avoid a marriage-crazy relative.  (Incidentally, Sandy Baron would become famous thirty years later on Seinfeld, as the doddering oldster Jack Klompus).

But beefcake doesn't make for poignancy.

Sandy Baron's character doesn't seem to be interested in girls, but otherwise I find no significant gay content.  No male bonding, no same-sex rescues.

So why was it heartbreaking?

Maybe it was the metaphor of escape. Dozens of Boomer movies and tv programs were about people trapped in a dangerous alien world -- Gilligan's Island, My Favorite Martian, Danger Island,  H.R. Pufnstuf, Lost in Space.  They are desperate to get home, to return to their conventional lives, to their jobs and houses and husbands and wives and stark heterosexist conformity.  But If It's Tuesday has it backwards -- the alien world is a Paradise, an escape from their conventional lives to a world of light and color and infinite possibility.

At the end of the movie they all reject the romantic partners they've fallen in love with and go home -- you can't stay in Oz forever -- as the theme song says, "Can't wait to tell the folks back home."  But for a nine-year old in a dull factory town, it was heartbreaking to know -- or to suspect -- that Oz existed, that there was a good place out there somewhere.

Dec 2, 2015

The Beach Boy and the Giant

Saturday, September 21st, 2002

A Saturday morning during my second year in Florida.  We're all sitting at breakfast, when my housemate Barney abruptly announces that he plans to go to a bathhouse.

Yuri and I hide behind cereal boxes to hide our shock. Barney is a former bodybuilder who runs a mostly-gay gym.  He lives a scrupulously healthy lifestyle: low-fat diet, daily exercise, meditation, herbal supplements.  And, after he lost his partner to AIDS three years ago, no hookups.

He dates, of course, and occasionally he invites us into his bed to "share," but he would never dream of casual sex.

"Are you ok?" Yuri asks.  "I don't think you liked bathhouses."

"Well, I haven't been to one for ages.  But think about it -- I'm 61 years old, I have Cute Young Things clamoring to get into my bed all the time, but all the guys my age are taken or not interested.  I figure the bathhouse is my best place to find someone my age.

"You know it's mostly for anonymous sex, right?" I say, dubious.

"But you often make a date with the guy afterwards.  At least, you did in my day."

" you want us to go with you, show you the ropes?"

He chuckles and turns back to his egg white omelet.  "I was going to bathhouses while you were still in diapers.  I think I can handle myself."

We advise him that the bathhouse would have a lot of older guys in the mid-afternoon or early evening, so he goes about 5:00 pm, after pumping up at the gym.  I can't wait around to hear the details.

The rest of the story, with the Giant he picked up, plus Wade the Beach Boy, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

15 Simple Rules for Cruising Straight Guys

In West Hollywood many people believed that there was no such thing as a straight man.  Exclusive same-sex desire was a universal of human experience. Men who called themselves straight were just too weak or cowardly to resist the heterosexist chant of "what girl do you like?  what girl do you like? what girl do you like?"

Today we know that some men are, in fact, heterosexual, with no conscious same-sex attraction.

But others, a much larger proportion of the male population, are heterosexual with occasional glimmers of same-sex attraction, strong enough for them to want a man in their bed, but only occasionally amid their endless pursuits of the feminine.

And still others are heterosexual, but willing to "settle" for a man if no woman is available.

The last two categories are open for cruising, and in small towns with a limited gay population, tremendously increase your chances of success.  But you have to be careful.  Cruising a straight man requires a whole new set of skills, and a whole new set of rules:

1. Cruise online. Straight men rarely go to gay venues, lest they be seen, and in public places they are always with women or with straight male friends who don't "know."

2. Find out how straight he is.  How occasional is his interest in men?  If he meets guys once a month or less, ok.  If he's always seeking out guys, then he's a traitor, enjoying all of the privileges that come with heterosexual identity, hoping to enjoy sexual freedom while letting "real" gay people do all the work of fighting homophobic injustice.  He's a pathetic loser.  Move on.

3. Find out how homophobic he is.  Many straight guys with occasional same-sex interests overcompensate by denigrating gay people, especially those who are open.  "I don't shout it from the housetops!" he yells.  "Marching in parades, broadcasting your sexual preferences!"  Move on.

4. Skip the first-timers.  "I've never done this before.  I've thought about it, but I've never had the nerve..."  Yeah, right.  He's been saying that for the last five years, enjoying the thought of a same-sex liaison, but always losing his nerve.  And if he does actually show up, there's no way the reality can live up to his fantasy.

5. Arrange for a daytime meeting, at your place.  Chances are these will be required anyway, since he's busy with women at night, and there are people at his place who "can't find out."

6. But not for "right now."  Anybody willing to come over "right now," without finding out a little bit about where he's going and who he's meeting, is bound to be a dud.

7. A face photo is a must.  Not necessarily to determine his degree of hotness -- it's probably 20 years old, and photoshopped.  To determine his degree of openness.  No face photo: very skittish, probably a no-show.

8. Get contact information.  A last name, a working cell phone number, an email address.  And use it to make sure it's not fake.  It might come in handy later.

9. Give him the geographic layout of your place.  He believes that passersby will see him and infer somehow that he is having a same-sex hookup.  That's ridiculous, of course, but a pedestrian on the street outside your house, or a neighbor in the hallway of your building, could make him bail.  So warn him in advance if it's apartment, if there are other houses close by, if its a well-traveled pedestrian area, and so on.

10. He gets only two chances to show up.  You wait half an hour for him to show up.  Later that day you get an email: "Sorry, the wife asked where I was going" or "Sorry, I saw somebody who looked like somebody I work with."  Set up another meeting -- we all have scheduling problems.  But if he doesn't show up the second time, move on.

11. Have a friend present.  Hopefully you've screened out the straight guys with malicious intent, and the ones who are so skittish that they might freak out over their "sordid act" and attack.  But just in case, have a friend present.

You can also protect yourself by telling your friend about the meeting, and sending him the straight guy's complete contact information.

12. ID all Cute Young Things.  14, 15, and 16 year olds lie about their age and background all the time, and saying "He told me he was 18!" is not an excuse.  If there's any doubt, ask for an ID.

13. Don't be afraid to tell him "stop talking about women."  Straight guys love to talk about women, especially during a same-sex hookup.  It reassures them that they're "really" straight.  They'll tell you all about their wives and girlfriends, discuss the attractiveness of various actresses, ask about your heterosexual dalliances, bemoan the refusal of most women to engage in their favorite sexual activities.

Don't say "Women!  Gross!"  Say something like "This is a men-only zone. For the next hour, we celebrate the masculine!"

14. Don't be afraid to give him a Gay 101 lecture.  A surprising number of straight guys have had no connection whatever to gay history and culture.  They don't know that there are gay organizations.  They don't know about Stonewall.  They are unaware of contemporary battles over workplace discrimination, religious harassment, and marriage equality.  Enlighten him, either during the online chat, or during the meeting.

15. If you see him in public afterwards, let him lead.  Straight guys are often worried that talking to a gay person in public, in any capacity, identifies them as gay.  Or they might not want their wives and straight male friends asking "So, where did you meet him?"  If he says hello first, stop to chat.  If he pretends not to know you, give him your best Attitude.

See also: 15 Rules of Gay Cruising; and 14 Simple Steps for Turning a Straight Guy Gay; and 10 Easy Steps for Getting Any Guy

Dec 1, 2015

When a Bratwurst Isn't Big Enough

When I was a senior at Augustana, a freshman named Julian joined the radio station crew.  Bruce, by then the general manager, planned to assign him a job as news stringer, someone who picked up and adapted news stories from the wire.  But Julian's father, a VIP in Chicago politics, called his old friend President Treadway, and guess who became music director?

Suddenly 50% of our programming was classical music.

Julian was brash, sarcastic, elitist, demanding, and entitled.  But he immediately piqued my interest:

1. He was into classical music.

2. He was black  There were very few black guys at Augustana.

3. He was chubby.  There were even fewer chubby black guys.  The 1980s fashion was svelte.

4. And he was flamboyantly feminine, what we called a flamer back then. Obviously gay, though of course none of the straight guys at Augustana noticed.

I hadn't met any gay students at Augustana, just some guys who would accept a same-sex hookup as a last resort, if there were no girls around.  So I was determined to get into Julian's life, as a boyfriend, a hookup, a friend, something.

Unfortunately Julian didn't like me.  Not at all.

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

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Between 1996 and 2000, the TGIF adaption of the Archie Comics character Sabrina the Teenage Witch was the most gay-friendly of the 1990s teencoms, and not just because of the gay symbolism of outsider-with-a-secret, such as we see in that other witch sitcom, Bewitched.

It featured a surprising number of gay-friendly actors.  I met Nate Richert (Sabrina's on-off boyfriend, Harvey) at a gay club in West Hollywood, and Jenna Leigh Green (her evil nemesis, Libby) spoke at UCLA during National Coming Out Week in 2000.

And references to gay people.  In the first episode, Sabrina's aunts explain that they are "sisters, not an alternate couple."  In "Dream Date," Sabrina is wandering the hallways looking for a boy to date.  She casually asks "I wonder if that guy is taken?" Harvey says "Yeah, by that guy," thus making history by marking the first gay romantic couple in any teencom.

In "Sabrina the Teenage Boy," Sabrina transforms herself into a boy named Jack to find out what guys talk about.  Jack has retained Sabrina's desire for boys.  When he accidentally exclaims that a baseball player is "hot," Harvey stares in shock,so he quickly redeems himself by claiming that he meant the player's athletic prowess.  But when the spell starts to fail, giving Jack makeup, Harvey says: "Your mascara is running.  It doesn't bother me, but the guys will razz you."  Apparently he has gotten used to the idea that his new friend might be gay.

Sabrina had no homoromantic couples in the tradition of Saved by the Bell or Boy Meets World, but in the fall of 1999, muscle jock Brad (Jon Huertas, who has played gay several times) moves to town, and falls into love-at-first-sight with Harvey. Their sizzling on-screen chemistry leaves little doubt that their attraction is both physical and romantic.  They spend the rest of the season joyously making plans to be together tonight, tomorrow night, every night, while Brad and Sabrina jealously snipe at each other, and each devises schemes to get the Harvey out of the other's clutches.

In the fall of 2000, Sabrina moved from ABC to the WB Network, the writers were replaced, along with most of the cast, and Sabrina becomes aggressively homophobic. She goes to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and is disgusted by a man in the audience wearing garters!

 Her friend tells about how he met a girl and discovered while they were kissing that he was really a dude.  He thinks it's a funny story, but Sabrina grimaces in disgust.  Kissing a dude?  She was never so homophobic in high school.

The addition of David Lascher and Trevor Lissauer (right, in the gay-themed Eden's Curve) didn't help.

The homophobia has continued.  Today Melissa Joan Hart is infamous for her homophobic (and otherwise nasty) jibes.  In 2009 she complained about someone else taking credit for her husband Mark's song: "Mark fully wrote every bit of that song except the new lyrics in the chorus... which are gay anyhow. They turned it into a fairy love song."

She is currently paired with Joey Lawrence in the sitcom Melissa and Joey. 

See also: Nate Richert's Kielbasa.

Nov 30, 2015

16 Naked New Yorkers

Of all the gay neighborhoods I've lived in, the East Village in Manhattan is my least favorite --  better than anyplace in the straight world, but still lacking.

It has some of the iconic sites of gay culture, including the Stonewall Inn, where Gay Liberation began.  Plenty of gay bars, bookstores, organizations, and cultural events.  Plus the best museums, art galleries, and bookstores in the world were a brief subway ride away.

Still, there was something cold about the City, something distant, something...well, almost grim.  West Hollywood felt like home from the moment I arrived, but in the City I was always a stranger.

During my three years living with Edward in the East Village, I only had one real boyfriend: Joe the Regular Guy, who moved back to Pennsylvania after a year.

But I had a series of crazy hookups, dates, and sausage sightings.

1. A hookup with Yuri and the hippie, who talked a never-ending stream of trivia and gibberish, and turned out to be deficient beneath the belt.

2. Back in L.A. for a visit, a celebrity date with Nate Richert, who played Harvey on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  I didn't know who he was at the time.  

3. The Harvard boy I picked up in the Rare Book room of the Widener Library.  That was in Boston, not New York.

4. Tomor the Mongolian Shaman.  Ok, he was from Paris, not New York, but how often do you meet Mongolians?  Who are shamans?  Who are gay?  And gifted beneath the belt?

5. Barry, an acolyte at a traditional but pro-gay Catholic community, who got exorcised from a homophobic demon.  I think I just wanted to date him because of the exorcism.

6. The HIV Positive bondage boy: he had just gotten his positive status, and he wanted to go to the New York Bondage Club for his birthday.  He had never tried BDSM before, but he figured it was safe sex.

7. Another celebrity date, with Broadway songster Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Again, I didn't have the slightest idea who he was at the time.  But we had tacos in a limousine.

8. Matt the Bartender, who convinced me to spend the night with him because it was the night of December 31, 1999, and the Y2K bug was making everything go crazy.  At least, that's what he claimed.  That was in Indianapolis, not New York.

The complete list, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Gay Fan Art 3: Beast Boy in love with Robin, Aqualad, Cyborg...

I have never seen Teen Titans (2003-2006, 2012-), the cartoon series based on the DC comic books, so I don't know much about the shapeshifting Beast Boy.  But according to Wikipedia, he is portrayed as a lighthearted jokester (voiced by Greg Cipes, left).  He is best friends with Cyborg, and has a love-hate romance going on with a female titan named Raven.

Fan artists usually limit the Beast Boy -Cyborg bond to depictions of friendship.  For sex and romance, they prefer pairing him with Robin and Aqualad.

Robin gets the more explicit sexual acts, sometimes unwillingly.  Here they're being pushed together and assaulted by purple tentacles (a Japanese erotic tradition).

Fan artists like envisioning Beast Boy and Robin in intimate situations. This is about as G-rated as their pairings get.

For more romantic relationships, Beast Boy is usually paired with Aqualad, who appeared in the first season as his rival (another pair of antagonists in love).

Even while he's in love, Beast Boy's irreverent, fun-loving nature shines throughout.  Here, dressed up for the Old West, he makes a risque joke about "poking dogies," while embarrassed boyfriend Aqualad, asks him to put on pants under his chaps (so his bare backside doesn't show).

(Original pictures from the artists on

See also: Batman and the Boy WonderGay Fan Art #2: Invader Zim

Nov 29, 2015

Danny Nucci: Some of My Best Friends

During the early 2000s, the success of Will and Grace prompted producers to flood the market with clones like Some of My Best Friends (2001), about an upper-class Anglo gay guy (Jason Bateman) living in Manhattan (aren't all gay people affluent, Anglo Manhattanites?) who accidently gets a straight, homophobic, working-class, Italian roommate (Danny Nucci, left).  Sounds more like Joey and Chandler of Friends than Will and Grace.

Only five episodes aired during the spring of 2001.  I saw half of one. Stereotypes were abundant.

The Advocate heavily promoted the show (before it aired).  It even gave Jason Bateman and Danny Nucci a test to see who knew the most about gay people.  Danny won.

No wonder.  Jason Bateman hasn't had a lot of experience in gay and gay-friendly roles, but Danny Nucci has. As a teenager in the 1980s, he played a lot of buddy-bonding roles, and in the 1990s he transitioned to gay, bisexual, or "best buddy of the gay guy" roles.  Plus he provides ample beefcake with numerous shirtless and nude scenes.

The Brotherhood of Justice (1986): a group of teenagers become violent vigilantes. Danny's character cuddles with brother Keanu Reeves.

An Enemy Among Us (1987). A CBS Schoolbreak Special.  Danny plays a boy who contracts AIDS from a blood transfusion.  But everybody thinks he's. . .you know.

Titanic (1997): Danny plays Fabrizio, Leonardo DiCaprio's buddy in the only gay subtext in the interminable movie.

The Unknown Cyclist (1998): a man dying of AIDS gets his gay and straight friends to participate in a charity bike race.  Danny plays the bisexual Gaetano, who is HIV positive.

Friends and Lovers (1999): a group of friends hits the ski slopes.  Danny plays a gay guy who gets his first boyfriend.

More recently, on "Mob Rules," an episode of House (2005): Danny plays a mobster who discovers that his brother is gay (he's going to become a witness so he can enter the Witness Protection Program and avoid harassment by his homophobic family).