Jan 2, 2016

What the Butler Saw: Crossdressing, Nudity, and Churchill's Penis

Your high school drama club won't be performing What the Butler Saw (1969) anytime soon.  45 years after it opened, the play by gay playwright Joe Orton is still scandalous, homoerotic, and very funny.

There's no butler in What the Butler Saw.  The phrase comes from a British divorce case in 1886, in which a butler peered through a keyhole to see his employer having an adulterous affair in the dining room.  It became a catchphrase for risque sex.

There's no sex in What the Butler Saw, either.  But there's a lot of discussion of sex.  It's a spoof of the 1960s medicalization of sexuality, "normal" heterosexual monogamy against "sick" perversions.  Lots of them.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Prentice, tries to seduce Geraldine, who is interviewing for a job as a secretary.  His wife, Mrs. Prentice, has promised the job to her lover (and blackmailer), the bellhop Nicholas.

Nicholas and Geraldine end up switching clothes.

A government inspector and a police officer arrive.

There's crossdressing, incest, mistaken identities, homoeroticism, nudity (if the production is particularly daring, full frontal nudity), and Winston Churchill's penis.  What more could you want in an evening at the theater?

Since Nicholas Beckett spends most of the play in his underwear, he must be played by an actor of substantial hotness: Hayward Morse in the original production, David Tennent (the star of Blackpool), Nick Hendrix (top photo), Parry Glasspool, and Ewan McGregor (left).

It's been filmed once, a 1987 BBC adaption starring Tyler Butterworth as Nicholas.

If you can't find a stage performance, there's always a print version.

Jan 1, 2016

Chrononauts: Sometimes Buddy-Bonding Is Not Enough

This is why I don't read science fiction anymore.

Amazon was aggressively pushing the graphic novel Chrononauts at me.   It's about a big, buffed, square-jawed scientist named Corbin Quinn, who gets lost in time, and his big, buffed buddy, Danny Reilly, goes out looking for him.  Sort of a Time Tunnel thing.

I read the reviews very carefully.  "Jaw-dropping!" "Magnificent!" "Breaktaking!" "Big and fun!"

"A bromance for the ages!"

I searched for the authors, Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy, with the keyword "gay."  Mark Millar included gay characters in his comic books The Authority and Jupiter's Circle, and celebrated the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality by offering fans free downloads.

Ok.  I clicked on "buy."  Chrononauts arrived yesterday.

Quinn and Reilly are indeed bromantic partners.  They are constantly hugging and putting their arms around each other's waists and shoulders.  They rescue each other from danger.  When one exclaims "Leave me and escape while you can!" the other refuses.  "I won't go without you!"  They call each other "companions,"

But they are also heterosexual.  Boy oh boy, are they heterosexual!

Why do they want to go on the time travel mission?  Scientific curiosity?  Adventure?  No - girls: "You'll be banging every co-ed from here to Timbuktu."

Meanwhile Reilly is in love with a woman, and Quinn has an estranged wife.  He wants to stay unstuck in time because he has nothing to live for in the present: "No wife, no family."  But to assuage his pain, he's been dating women from a dozen time periods, including Marilyn Monroe.  He needs a chart to keep track of them all.

At the end of the story, Quinn uses his time travel ability to go back and be a better husband, so when he returns to the present, she and their child are waiting for them:   Unfortunately, when Reilly proposes to his girlfriend, she is already married due to time distortion.

Girls, girls, girls, as the goal of every journey!

Heterosexual romance as the meaning of life!

I did all the research I could, and still got caught in a firestorm of frenzied heterosexism.

I don't read science fiction anymore.

See also: Time Tunnel.

Dec 31, 2015

Gay Fan Art 1: Max Goof

Go to deviantart.com or one of the x-rated yaoi sites and do a keyword search for "Max Goof slash."

You'll find dozens of fan-produced pictures of the Disney character kissing a guy, hanging out in his underwear with his boyfriend, or having explicit sex with him.

His boyfriends include the portly P.J., 1980s-lingo-spouting slacker dude Bobby Zimeruski, and one of the 101 Dalmatians.

There are also pictures of Max having sex with women, but they are far outnumbered by the homoerotic pictures.

Apparently fans enjoy envisioning Max Goof as gay.

Ironically, the character appeared during the 1980s conservative retrenchment, when the cartoon characters of previous generations came under scrutiny.  Quasi-romantic same-sex bonds, gender ambiguity, any hint of a potential gay subtext had to be erased.  Sometimes they were transformed into children, but more often they were explicitly heterosexualized, given husbands, wives, and children.

So, in the tv series Goof Troop (1992-1996), Goofy, the gay-vague sidekick of Mickey Mouse in many Disney comic books, became a widower raising his 11-year old son, Max.   Most of the episodes involved Max's embarrassment over his less-than-cool Dad.

The characters spun off into two movies with similar "embarrassed Max" plotlines.

A Goofy Movie (1995) has a teenage Max torn between going to a concert with the girl he likes, and going on a father-son fishing trip with Goofy.

In An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000), Max heads off to college, hoping to be rid of his less-than-cool Dad once and for all, only to discover that Goofy has enrolled along with him.

Both father and son have hetero-romantic plotlines.

In his last incarnation, the Disney Channel series House of Mouse (2001-2003), Max works as a valet at Mickey Mouse's nightclub.

It's not a very long pedigree, nor are there any major gay subtexts, but it still resonated with fans.

Maybe it's because Max is voiced by Jason Marsden, long-time gay ally and all-around hunk.

(All pictures borrowed from the artists on deviantart.com.)

See also: Jason Marsden, the Pocket Gay; Tijuana Bibles; and Gay Fan Art 2: Invader Zim

Dec 30, 2015

Even Stevens: Shia Labeouf's Gay Subtext Teencom

Today Shia LaBeouf stars in quirky independent movies, but in the early 2000s, he was the Disney Channel's Next Big Thing, given as much screen time as Simon and Milo music videos. He starred in two Disney Channel movies, Hounded (2001) and Tru Confessions (2002); he guest starred on  The Proud Family and The Nightmare Room; he appeared on all of its reality programs, including Express Yourself, Movie Surfers, and  Super Short Show.

And he starred in Even Stevens (2000-2003), about Louis Stevens, a mischievous middle-school boy who bedevils his upper-middle class Jewish family, especially his older sister Ren and older brother Donnie.

Not a big fan of the gay community, Shia Labeouf today is the source of casual heterosexism, makes casual homophobic comments, and punched a guy in the face for "accusing" him of being gay.  But his Louis Stevens would probably be a strong ally.  He is intensely girl-crazy, and gets a steady girlfriend by the third season, but he is surrounded by gay people.  

His best friend, Twitty (A. J Trauth), is flamboyantly feminine, rarely expresses any interest in girls,  and has an obvious crush on him.  

A.J. Trauth's soft features and flamboyance prompted many real-life gay rumors, particularly when he was photographed wearing a t-shirt that read "Boy Toy."  A boy toy is an attractive younger man who has sex with an older man in exchange for money and gifts. 

But he is apparently heterosexual.  Today he lives in Odessa, Texas and performs in the band Maven.

Ren has a gay-coded best friend, Nelson Minkler (Gary LeRoi Gray), who is prissy, intellectual, not interested in girls, and obviously interested in Louis' older brother, Donnie.  After Even Stevens, he starred as a gay teenager in Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom (2003), the film sequel of the Logo tv series about a group of gay black men.

Donnie Stevens (Nick Spano) is a bodybuilder who wanders around the house shirtless, providing ample beefcake.  He also expresses no interest in girls; in one episode he states that he has "a date," but carefully avoids pronouns, to leave the question of his date's gender open.  However, he is frequently seen with boys, and he has a particular interest in his coach (Tom Wise).

Prior to Even Stevens, Nick Spano played mostly muscular hunks who were required to take their shirts off, or everything off.  He starred in two gay-themed movies, The Journey: Absolution (1997) with Mario Lopez, and Defying Gravity (1997).  No word on whether he's gay or straight in real life.

With all of that gay-friendly talent and gay subtext, Shia must have felt rather uncomfortable on the set.

See also: Shia Labeouf's "Female Fans"

Dec 28, 2015

Looking for Muscles on the Carol Burnett Show

Variety shows are out of style now, but in the 1960s, they were all the rage.  At least among the adults.  In 1969, they could watch 9 hours of variety per week: Leslie Uggams, Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Glen Campbell,  Jim Nabors, Tom Jones, Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, and Andy Williams (programs all named after their star).

All of the kids I knew hated variety. Passionately.  Except for our own Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In, of course.  Slow songs from dinosaur times, lady dancers in skimpy costumes, jokes involving heterosexual desire, comedy sketches featuring characters popular on radio a thousand years ago, and bathetic closing numbers involving sad clowns or cleaning ladies.

I usually managed to get out of watching variety shows by claiming homework, or when my brother and I got our own tv set, watching something else -- anything else.  But for some reason I saw a lot of Carol Burnett, hatred or not.

There were only three reasons to watch:

1. Co-host Lyle Waggoner, a former male model who appeared nude in Playgirl.  He played the leading-men and hunks in comedy sketches.  Unfortunately, because they were comedy, he never appeared nude or even shirtless on the show.

2. Frequent guest star Ken Berry (previously of Mayberry RFD), who sang, danced, and appeared in comedy sketches.  He had some muscles, and often wore extra-tight pants that would give Frank Gorshin some competition in the bulge department. Unfortunately, his numbers usually involved heterosexual romance.  One, called "Love Stolen from the Cookie Jar," was about how much he enjoyed  grabbing the butts of strange girls.

3. Occasionally other hunky guest stars, like Steve Lawrence and John Davidson.

4. The "Mama's Family" sketches, about a dysfunctional Southern family, featuring Carol as the brash Eunice (left), Harvey Korman (not pictured) as her husband, and the much younger Vickie Lawrence as crotchety Mama (right).  Gay actor Roddy McDowell (center) appeared occasionally as Eunice's highly educated, sophisticated brother, who lived to regret his visits. Alan Alda and Tommy Smothers appeared as other brothers before it was established that Mama had only one son, Vinton (Ken Berry).

 Anything that skewered the myth of the deliriously happy nuclear family was fun.  And it spun off into the sitcom Mama's Family, which was a must-watch program of the 1980s due to the hunky Alan Kayser.

See also: Once Upon a Mattress.

Summer 1976: On My Knees in a Cute Boy's Bedroom

June 1976, Minnesota

Every year the family spends a week camping somewhere in the northwoods, fishing, swimming, hiking -- and, on Sunday, finding the nearest Nazarene Church.

Even when it's in Brainerd, Minnesota, an hour's drive away.

"But Nazarenes can't eat out on Sunday, so we'll have to drive back here and cook dinner!" I protest.  "It will be after 2:00 when we eat!"

"Jesus prayed and fasted all night," Mom pointed out.  "Besides, there might be some cute girls there."

I sigh.  Not the "what girl do you like" litany again!  What about cute boys?

"And what about the soulwinners? We'll be mobbed!"

"Oh, stop complaining.  We'll just call ahead and tell them we're coming!"

I sigh.  Not the "what girl do you like" litany again!

The most prestigious thing a Nazarene can do is soulwinning, talking sinners (which basically meant all non-Nazarenes) into accepting Jesus as their Personal Savior, thereby winning their souls for our team.

We take classes in soulwinning, hear sermons about it, read stories about it, evaluate scenario.  Our Sunday School teacher often asks "How many souls did you win this week?"

Usually none at all.  It's not easy.  When you were 14 years old, would you have been able to walk up to this guy and say "Hi, do you have a moment to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ?"

If you aren't "spiritually mature" enough for soulwinning, you can witness instead: tell the sinner that you are ecstatically happy every moment of every day because you're saved, or just demonstrate with a broad smile.  The sinner, immersed in the unrelenting agony of the unsaved life, will eventually want to know more.

Soulwinning is so prized that casual visitors to a Nazarene church can easily be mobbed by people grinning at them and trying to start soulwinning conversations.  Unless they come with a member, signifying that they are "taken," or call ahead.

When we walk through the foyer of the Brainerd Church of the Nazarene, looking for all the world like a family of sinners who stumbled in by accident, we are nearly mobbed, but the Sunday School superintendent, the one we called earlier, comes to the rescue.

"This is Brother Davis and his family, from the Rock Island Church of the Nazarene," he announces, and the wannabe soulwinners back off.

But in my Sunday School class, they haven't gotten the word.

Ten or so high schoolers are sitting on folding chairs or chatting before the class begins, and every one of them looks up and flashes me a toothy witnessing grin.  Two girls and a boy approach, intent on starting soulwinning conversations.

"I'm from Rock Island..." I begin.  Then a tall, black haired boy with a strong physique, obviously church royalty, leaves his cluster of admirers and exerts control.  The others back off.

"Welcome!  I'm Roald," he say, offering a warm, tight handshake and a more subtle witnessing smile.  He's done this before!  "Is this your first time?"

This could work to my advantage!

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

Dec 27, 2015

What We Do in Shadows

What We Do In the Shadows (2014) is a mockumentary about four vampires sharing a flat in contemporary Wellington, New Zealand:

1. Viago (Taika Waititi, who also wrote and directed), a Byronesque partyboy.
2. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), a sexually voracious Dracula.
3. Deacon (Jonathan Brugh, left), a newby (only 183 years old).
4. Petyr (Ben Fransham), an 8,000 year old inarticulate Nosferatu.

They are old-school vampires who vaporize in sunlight, have no reflection, and dislike crucifixes, but they have modern problems, like problems over chores, squabbles with friends and slaves, and how to meet potential victims in the increasingly tech-driven world of modern New Zealand.

Vladislav (left) butts heads with a shrewish female ex-lover, and another re-unites with his long-lost girlfriend.  There are no identifiably gay characters.  I counted at least one homophobic slur.  Yet there is a strong gay subtext in the struggles of four men living together.

Particularly with the newly-vampirized Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), who displays no heterosexual interest, before or after, and who "comes out" as a vampire to his best friend Stu (Stu Rutherford) in scene full of gay symbolism.

Vampires think of humans as either slaves or prey, so human-vampire friendships are scandalous.  Yet when Stu starts hanging out with the vampires, they all come to love him.  Then Stu comes as Nick's date to a vampire-zombie-witch masquerade ball, and they risk their lives to save him from becoming an appetizer.

None of the cast is apparently gay, although in interviews they often compare vampires to gay people, who also must "walk in shadows," hidden from a persecuting world.

In 2014?  Really?

Still, a perfect little vehicle for getting your mind off the roar of Christmas.


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