Feb 6, 2016

Kaliman and Solin: Magician and Boy Pal

Spanish class didn't offer a huge selection of teenage adventurers with boyfriends, or teen magazines featuring frontal nudity, but it did give gay students some spectacular beefcake and a Batman and Robin-like adult-juvenile relationship.

Kaliman, el Hombre Increible, an orphan adopted by Prince Abul Pasha of Kalimantan, Indonesia, grew up to immensely muscular, gifted with magical powers, and dedicated to fighting injustice.

He first appeared on Mexican radio in 1963 (where his program still runs), and soon moved into weekly comic books.  Over 1,000 issues have been published to date. There is also a Colombian version read throughout Latin America.

Kaliman wears a turban emblazoned with a K and an all-white outfit, though he often takes his shirt off before fighting the bad guys.

He has antecedents in Mandrake the Magician and other magical superheroes of the pulps, but he is a distinctly Latin American creation, with the colorful enemies -- the vampires, aliens, mad scientists, and evil cultists -- that one would expect of a Santo or Blue Demon.

Sometimes he rescues attractive women, but he rarely expresses any romantic interest in any of them.

Most often he rescues his youthful companion, Solin, whom he picked up in ancient Egypt.  Solin's age is not specified, but he looks 12-14.  Because he is depicted with black curly hair and a cute girlish face, because he wears eyeliner and mascara, and because he becomes "the damsel in distress" nearly as often as Robin, fan fiction writers sometimes transform him into a girl.

But when he must rescue Kaliman or perform some other act of bravery, Solin proves more than capable.  There are hints that he will take over the job of protecting the world from evil when Kaliman retires.

There have been two movies (1972, 1976), with a third in the works.  Kaliman was played by the American Jeff Cooper, who unfortunately wasn't as buffed as his comic book counterpart.

Solin was played by Nino del Arco and Manuel Bravo.

Feb 5, 2016

Shaun Cassidy: Not Just David Cassidy's Little Brother

Growing up in the shadow of his brother David, Shaun Cassidy began singing at the age of fourteen, but no one took him seriously until, at eighteen, he landed a role as cleancut teen sleuth Joe Hardy in The Hardy Boys Mysteries (1977-79), alongside Parker Stevenson’s Frank. The plots were simple: sleuthing, a touch of danger, followed by jokes and dazzling smiles, with ample swimsuit and shirtless scenes and the camera lingering lovingly on the teenage bodies. Endless teen magazine pin-up spreads followed.

Joe was frequently thrust into peril, tied up in old barns, menaced by madmen, in need of rescuing and subsequent hugging by his older brother or some other hunk. In a two-parter, wealthy rescuer Jocco Halsey (Kevin Brophy), invites Joe to move in with him.

And Joe rarely expressed any interest in girls. In “Campus Terror” (May 1978), guest star Valerie Bertinelli says “I love you,” and Joe responds dryly: "You've had a long day.”   What gay boy could afford to miss such a revelation?

Unlike many Tiger Beat fave raves, Shaun actually had a brief singing career; between 1977 and 1979, his albums went platinum, and his singles topped the charts. A surprising number of his songs were gender-ambiguous, and "You're Using Me" even alluded to a relationship with a boy.

The cover of the album Room Service (1979) shows Shaun in a hotel room, smiling invitingly at the voyeur who peers through the Venetian blinds. The voyeur's gender is ambiguous (though, if you look very carefully, you can see sharp fingernails). Shaun seems to be openly acknowledging the romantic interest of both male and female teens.


Teen idol careers are brief. Shaun tried reinventing himself as a hard rocker, complete with leather pants bulge, but still, his star faded by 1980, and he moved into writing and production. He’s been married to women three times, but he (like his brothers David, Patrick, and Ryan) remains a gay ally.

See also: Trying to Escape Church

Feb 3, 2016

The Chronicles of Narnia

When I was in high school, the neopagans, anarchists, stoners, and dungeons-and-dragons players all read The Lord of the Rings.  The fundamentalists, Young Republicans, cheerleaders, and Junior Achievers all read The Chronicles of Narnia.  

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends, but Tolkien never let his Roman Catholicism intrude into Middle Earth, while Lewis was a conservative Christian apologist whose Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) was distinctly theological, even though it was set in a Medieval fantasy world with swords and dragons.

I liked the first four books of the series, which starred the Pevensie children, Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy, and eventually their cousin Eustace.  They enter Narnia in various ways to deal with the crisis at hand -- usually an evil woman who has wrested the throne from its rightful male heir -- and  on the way one or the other experiences a personal redemption.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: the White Witch, who has made it "always winter and never Christmas"

Prince Caspian: Caspian's evil uncle.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian (played by Ben Barnes, left, in the movie version) leads a quest for the end of the world.
The Silver Chair: a witch with a subterranean lair, who tries to convince them that there is no world outside.

I didn't like the last three:
 The Horse and His Boy: anti-Muslim prejudice.
The Magician's Nephew: a silly tale of the creation of Narnia
The Last Battle: everybody dies!

Unlike Tolkien, C.S. Lewis was aware that gay people exist.  One of his works (I forget which) discusses the proliferation of "the third sex" as a problem of modern culture, and in another, he states that maybe they don't all, necessarily, choose their "disability."

Maybe for that reason, there is no buddy-bonding or male-male rescueing in Narnia. The adventurers come in boy-girl pairs, which effectively eliminated buddy-bonding. Edmund (played by Skandar Keynes, left, in the movie version) and maybe Eustace  are gay-vague: soft, prissy, non-athletic, beset-upon by allergies and the other problems of modern culture -- but they are redeemed, and become exact replicas of the other boys in the series.

But there is no hetero-romance either.  The children -- and most of the adults -- remain blissfully asexual, lacking romantic or erotic interests of any sort.  Marriages sometimes occur in afterthoughts ("And later he got married"), but in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the four Pevensie children grow into adults, and become co-rulers of Narnia, without ever experiencing or desiring romance.

Those few people who are attracted to someone are evil --in  The Magician's Nephew, evil Uncle Andrew finds the Witch "a dem fine woman."  Or doomed -- in The Last Battle, Susan's interest in dating and romance bars her from Paradise.

The first few of the Chronicles have been filmed twice.  The 1988-89 BBC series starred Richard Dempsey, Jonathan R. Scott, David Thwaites, and Samuel West.  I didn't see it.

The 2005-2010  movie series starred William Moseley (left), Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, and Ben Barnes.  Executive producer Perry Moore (who died in 2011) was gay, and added some buddy-bonding between Eustace and Caspian.  Not enough to incite audience interest.

See also: Shocking the Nazarenes with C.S. Lewis

100 Things To Do Before High School: New Nickelodeon Teencom with Major Hunkage

Have you watched Nickelodeon lately?

Me, neither.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, it produced high quality, creative teencoms, with interesting premises and witty dialogue.  Things you could actually sit through for reasons other than research.

Now, research or not, I can't bear to sit through The Thundermans and Henry Danger.  The laugh tracks are constant, the characters are stupid, and the situations dull.

Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn is about...well, who knows? I can't stand it for even a few seconds.

But there may be a bright spot on the horizon: 100 Things To Do Before High School, created by Scott Fellows, who produced the gay-friendly Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide. 

It sounds like Ned's Declassified, with the same three friends:
1. Central character C. J. (Isabela Moner)
2. Crispo (Owen Joyner), a mega-popular Golden Boy.
3. Fenwick (Jaheem King Tombs), the nerdish feminine black kid.

Except instead of rules for survival, each week they go through one item on a bucket list (their "bucket" is high school, not death).  Some are sound advice (make a new friend, join a club), some are crazy:

1. Start a Garage Band
2. Run with Bears
3. Say "Yes" to Everything for a Day
4. Be a Fairy Godmother
5. Find Your Superpower

In the year since the pilot, they have already grown considerably.  One sees major hunkage on the horizon for 15-year old Owen Joyner.

There is also the usual Nickelodeon attempt to provide tweens with as many hot guys as possible in the supporting cast:
1. The guidance counselor (Jack De Sena of All That).
2. Two big brothers (Max Ehrich, Garrett Clayton).
3. Chazz Nittolo, who is billed as Gorgeous Eighth Grade Boy

We'll see whether it lives up to the glory days of Nickelodeon's gay subtext teencoms.

See also: Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.; Garrett Clayton

Feb 2, 2016

From Muscle Beach to the Cimarron Strip: TV Westerns

By the time I started watching TV in the 1960s, the Western was stale, outdated, staggeringly unhip; my friends and I could stomach only those few that involved a flashy new gimmick, like Wild Wild West or Alias Smith and Jones.  But for the Boomers growing up in the 1950s, they were as iconic as Pinky Lee and Father Knows Best.  

The Western heroes were usually the discovery of gay talent agent Henry Willson, so they were gay, bi, or at least gay-friendly.  They usually wore full leather, buckskin, or other less-than-revealing garb, but they were not averse to revealing stunning physiques for the movie magazines, and even for the AMC’s proto-gay Physique Pictorial.  Guy Madison (who went so far as to pose nude) in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock (1951-56)

Rugged movie star Hugh O’Brian in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-61);

Clint Walker of Cheyenne (1955-63).

William Smith of Laredo

Richard Boone of Have Gun, Will Travel (1957-63)
Robert Horton of Wagon Train (1957-65)
Rory Calhoun of The Texan (1958-60)
George Montgomery of Cimarron City (1958-60)
Scott Brady as Shotgun Slade (1959-61)

The Western hero traditionally displayed little heterosexual interest: dames were characteristic of an emasculating civilization, along with government, education, opera, and church.  Instead, they had a  “sidekick,” a life partner of the same sex, usually someone of inferior rank due to race, age, or socioeconomic class, who provided an emotional or spiritual energy.  The sidekick is an essentially American phenomenon, and its homoerotic import has been noted for at least thirty years, since Love and Death in the American Novel.

Most of the sidekicks of the 1950s were elderly, corpulent, or buffoons, perhaps because clowns minimze the homoerotic impact of their devotion.  The fat, hee-hawking Andy Devine, later on Andy's Gang played “Jingles,” Guy Madison’s sidekick in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickock.  

Or they were father and son, as in The Rifleman.

 But we can locate several same-sex partners whose homoerotic bond was not miminized:

Indian agent Tom Jeffords (future Days of Our Lives hunk John Lumpton), who fell in love with...um, I mean befriended...handsome, muscular Chief Cochise (Michael Ansara) in Broken Arrow (1956-57).

 John Bromfield as The Sheriff of Cochise (1956-60) with Stan Jones his faithful deputy.

John Smith and Robert Fuller of Laramie.

Yancy Derringer (1958-59), an ex-Confederate soldier turned gambler played by Jock Mahoney, and X Brands as his Native American companion.

Feb 1, 2016

Summer 2005: Searching for Beefcake at a Slovak Waterpark

One day in Levoča, Doc and some of the other faculty got saddled with the job of chaperoning 20 students on a day trip to Tatralandia, a water park about an hour's drive west of Levoča.and he invited me along.

"Couldn't we take them to a museum instead?"  I asked.  I'm not big on sliding down waterslides."

"It's got more than that. There's a Jungle Cove, a Wild West Town, an Adventure Cave."

"Like Disneyland?  Gross!  I lived in Los Angeles for 13 years, and only visited Disneyland once, and I hated it. Does a Slovak Mickey Mouse come out to shake your hand?"

"Tatralandia has something that I think you won't see in Disneyland," Doc said with a sly grin.  "A thousand Eastern European men in Speedos."

I never thought of that!  I had already gotten a glimpse of Slovakian endowments in Kosice. "Ok, I'm in."

Eastern Europeans love water parks.  There are three in Slovakia, and AquaPark Tatralandia is the biggest, probably the biggest in the world.

You go in through a Wellness Center, like a well-equipped gym with hot and cold spas, 16 steam rooms, massage, exercise equipment.  The ads showed muscular guys getting massages, but inside were mostly middle-aged women.

Next came water slides called The Galaxy, The Fire Slide, the Sun Slide, and the Splash, occupied entirely by children, while their parents, fawning heterosexual couples, lay on deck chairs at the Tropical Paradise.

"Um...hot guys in Speedos?" I asked.

"They are around.  Keep looking."

The little kids were occupied in a castle with a dozen water slides protruding from it, a Safari Adventure, and an Old West Mining Town, where you could mine for "gold" (I did that as a kid, too, at Mother Goose Land in the Quad Cities).

So far I wasn't impressed.  Lots of swimsuits, but little kids and dismally unattractive adults.

We pressed on past water slides called Amazonia and Niagara, a place where you could practice Free Falls, a Monkey Slide, an exhibition of paleolithic artifacts from a nearby museum, and lots of restaurants.

"Um..have you been here before?  Did you know about the lack of beefcake?"

Doc shrugged.  "Last year there were some muscular guys."

Then we turned onto a Sports Pool, where you could play water polo, and an entire university team was splashing around!  Gems of Eastern European manhood everywhere!

The northern part of the park was devoted to non-water sports: archery, shooting, tomahawk throwing, soccer, oversized chess.  And it was crowded with single men in their 20s.

It made sense: people in their 30s and 40s were often parents who had to supervise their kids, and by their 50s and 60s, they were ready for the Wellness Center.  But the guys at the peak of muscularity just wanted to play Sports.

While wearing Speedos.

See also: I escape to the gay haven of Slovakia; and Jozin z Bazin, the Swamp Monster of Moravia


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