Mar 19, 2016

Martin Spanjers: 8 Simple Rules for Playing Gay

In case you're wondering who this boy is who showers wearing a towel and seems very happy to be looking at the muscular adult hunk, his name is Martin Spanjers, and he was playing the teenage Rory on the TGIF sitcom Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2002-2005), about an overprotective Dad.  It wasn't as heterosexist as it sounds

1. Dad was played by the gay-friendly John Ritter, who originated the "straight pretending to be gay" bit on Three's Company (1977-84).
2. Mom was played by the gay ally Katey Sagal, star of Married with Children and Futurama.
3. The teenage daughter takes a girl to the prom in order to make a stand for gay rights.
4. At the same prom, Rory's date turns out to be a lesbian.

5. Grandpa (James Garner), brought in after the tragic death of John Ritter, thinks the school principal is hitting on Rory.
6. James Garner originated the "attracted to a guy who's really a girl"  in Victor/Victoria (1982).
7. Rory is one of the standard gay-vague sitcom kids, soft, shy, pretty, and struggling valiantly to act girl-crazy.

After Eight Simple Rules, Martin did the usual guest star bit, on 90210, Family Guy, and Good Luck Charlie.  Then he got a starring role on the vampire drama True Blood, with Joe Manganiello. When his parents discover that the teenage Sam Merlotte is a shapeshifter, they abandon him -- he comes home from school to find the house deserted.  A lot of gay kids could relate to parents unable to accept their true identity.  He drifted for a long time, through a series of failed relationships, unable to find a home anywhere, not even among werewolves.  Finally he grew up (into Sam Trammel), and opened a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, where he dated women but had erotic dreams about men.

Martin has also made some quirky black comedies, such as Sassy Pants (2012), in which a teen (Ashley Ricards) runs away from her oppressive mother to live with her deadbeat Dad, and bonds with her Dad's much younger boyfriend (Haley Joe Osment).  Martin plays her younger brother, who is also gay.

Justin Morrit, the Guy Who Shared Rob Lowe

Have you seen the famous Rob Lowe sex tape?  It depicts then-Brat Pack star Rob Lowe and a friend having sex with two women in a hotel room in Atlanta in 1988, on the night before the Democratic National Convention.

Only one of the women appears on the tape, plus Rob Lowe and his friend.

I didn't know that heterosexuals had the West Hollywood custom of "sharing."

They don't do anything specifically with each other, but one assumes that they did off-cameras.

Unfortunately, the tape doesn't show much of the second guy other than a muscular silhouette.  This is a better picture.

Not a bad boyfriend candidate.  I can see why Rob invited him to Atlanta.

His name is Justin Moritt.  He doesn't have any credits on IMDB before 1988, so I don't know how he and Rob met.  Since then he's worked as a production assistant, then a production manager, and finally a producer, of films like Ghost (1990), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).

 He was married to actress Krista Allen from 1996 to 1999.

They have a son, Jake Moritt, born in 1997, now eighteen years old and working as a production assistant.

According to his Facebook page, he likes Tim Allen, Radiohead, bodybuilder Casa Wilson, and the Marani Hair Salon in L.A.

When you search Google Images for "Justin Morrit," this picture pops up of a tall guy with a tattooed nipple and his pants falling off.  Obviously not our Justin Morrit, but maybe a relation.

And some pictures from one of Rob Lowe's many on-screen homoerotic relationships, this one with Doug Savant in Masquerade (1988).

Is this what was going on in the hotel room in Atlanta that night?

See also: Mario's Date with Rob Lowe

Mar 18, 2016

A Teenager Doing Pushups on TV

Today you can go online and see 100,000,000 pictures and videos of naked bodybuilders and athletes flexing for selfies, and every actor with even minimal musculature takes off his shirt at the drop of a script.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, there was virtually nothing.  An occasional Tarzan movie, an occasional teen idol with an open shirt in a Tiger Beat centerfold.  And that was it.

Seeing a man or boy on tv with his shirt off was so rare -- vanishingly rare -- that every instance is indelibly imprinted in my brain, as unforgettable as my first airplane trip or my first date with a guy.

Greg strips down to go surfing on The Brady Bunch .
Stephen Parr shows off his washboard abs on Mystery Island.
Steve Elliot shaves while wearing only pajama bottoms on Petticoat Junction.

And, sometime in the 1960s, I'm guessing around 1968, a Public Service Announcement for the President's Council on Physical Fitness shows a teenage boy doing pushups.


Hard delts, thick biceps, beautiful interplay of muscles as he rises and falls, rises and falls.  His face becomes red.  He is smiling.

The narrator tells us that with every pushup, he's "a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier, a little bit happier than before."


I can't find the original PSA, but it was an iconic moment, a moment when I recognized the beauty of the male physique, in spite of the adult insistence that only women liked to look at men.

By the way, pushups are still widely recognized as a good way to maintain core strength.  The recommended number in a minute differs by age and sex.  50-60 year olds are supposed to be able to do at least 25.  I can do 50, which makes me "excellent" for my age group but only "above average" for a 20-year old.

The Homoerotic Horror of Edgar Allan Poe

When I was a kid in the 1970s, Chuck Acri's Creature Feature broadcast a lot of very loose adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories: The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia.  They were all terribly cheesy.

I loved them.

And the original short stories, which I first encountered in a Scholastic Book Club edition of Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Groff Conklin, with a drawing of a naked man (by Irv Doktor) illustrating "Metzengerstein."

It's about a man killed by a ghost horse. The nudity was completely unnecessary, but certainly welcome.

Even without the nudity, the stories were amazingly homoerotic, male narrators visiting male friends to hear their tales of murder and madness, with few or no women around, except for a few husbands who hate their wives.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838).  Pym and his boyfriend Augustus stow away about a whaling ship and have adventures.  After Augustus dies, Pym hooks up with Richard Parker.  The two have more adventures.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839).  Roderick Usher and his sister are killed by the evil house.  His sister, not his wife!

 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841). The narrator and his buddy solve a murder.

 "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842). The narrator is tortured by the pit and the pendulum, but rescued by the strong arm of a French soldier.

(Left: New ABC series with Edgar Allan Poe as a paranormal investigator.)

"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843).   The narrator (played on film by Stephen Brockway) "loves the old man," but kills him anyway.

"The Gold-Bug." (1843). The narrator, his buddy, and their servant search for buried treasure.

"The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)  Montresor gets revenge on Fortunato by walling him up.  But why is he so upset?

No wonder he was not mentioned in my class in American Renaissance Literature at Augustana, though he lived at the same time as Melville, Hawthorne, and Emerson.

But why was so much of Poe's poetry -- "Annabel Lane," "To Helen," "Lenore," "The Raven" -- about men mourning dead girlfriends?  (Left, Jeremy Renner in The Raven).

Maybe because if the women are dead, the men don't have to worry about any of that icky hetero-romance. 

Poe certainly spent a lot of time courting women through his life, but usually they were sickly or dying, like his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, whom he married in 1836, when he was 27.

Maybe he found some solace in glimmers of same-sex desire.

See also: The Gay American Renaissance.

Mar 17, 2016

Mitch Vogel: The Bulge and Biceps of Bonanza

We needed as many freckle-faced redheaded boys as possible during the 1970s: Ron Howard on Happy Days, Johnny Whitaker on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and Mitch Vogel on Bonanza (1970-73).

He played Jamie, a teenager adopted by the Cartrights to give Ben someone to offer fatherly advice to (and, apparently, to give Michael Landon some competition in the bulge department).

But before he blossomed into teenage biceps and bulges, Mitch was a popular child star, with roles in Adam-12, Ironside, The Young Rebels, and The Immortal.  

He was best known for The Reivers (1969), set in turn of the century Mississippi, as an 11-year old who tags along with his free-spirit relative (Steve McQueen) on a trip to a brothel in Memphis, sees naked ladies, and "comes of age" (although he doesn't actually have sex with anyone).

But the teenage Mitch did a lot of buddy-bonding, too.

In Two Boys (1970), Jud (Mitch) and his boyfriend Billy (Mark Kearney) "come of age" in a small Midwestern town.

In The Boy from Dead Man's Bayou (1971), Jeannot (Mitch) and Claude (Michael Lookinland from The Brady Bunch) buddy-bond as they wrest a church bell from the jaws of a giant alligator.

His characters got girls on Little House on the Prairie  (1975) and State Fair (1976), and were backwoods outsiders who didn't get anyone on Here Come the Brides and Saturday morning's The Mighty Isis (1975) and Ark II (1976).

His last credit movie role, Texas Detour (1978), is a Dukes of Hazard clone about three hippies stuck in a hayseed town.  Except it's a drama.

Today Mitch lives in Southern California, where he is active in directing, music, and church groups.

But gay Boomers will always remember him for the bulge and biceps of Bonanza.


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