Dec 15, 2017

70 Years of Archie Beefcake

For over 70 years, Archie Andrews and his pals and gals have been presenting an idealized portrait of the American teenager, with countless thousands of comic book stories, plus cartoons, tv series, radio series, movies, and songs.  Preteens look to Archie for a glimpse of their future, and adults, for a nostalgic look at their past.  And gay boys can find in Archie comics more shirtless and swimsuit-clad hunks than anywhere else in children's literature.

I wanted to see how Archie and the gang have changed over the years, becoming more and more buffed, more defined to meet the changing expectations of masculine beauty.


Archie is thin, even underdeveloped, with little attention to realism in his arms and shoulders.  He looks like a cartoon character.


Archie and Jughead appear in the Dan Montana house style, with some indication of pecs and maybe a line down the stomach to indicate abs.


When I was reading Archie comics as a kid, there was a lot more attention to the detail of pecs, shoulders, and biceps, particularly in the "muscle bound" Big Moose.


The guy's got a chest and abs, but no biceps.


A rather realistic Archie, with chest, abs and biceps.


Whoa, Reggie's got a 6-pack, plus shoulders, pecs, and biceps.  Of course, he's parodying the tv show Jersey Shore, but still, he's come a long way in 70 years.

Dec 14, 2017

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Born in September 1981, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) became a star at age 11 through Home Improvement (1991-1998), playing Randy, the middle son of macho tool-show host Tim Allen. He was passive and somewhat feminine, gay-coded yet indefatigably girl-crazy from the start, and careful to rebel against any hint that he might be gay.

In “Groin Pull” (October 1992), Randy is cast as Peter Pan in the school play.  First he is horrified because he must “prance” rather than fly: as his father states, “Men don’t prance.  We walk, we run, we skip if no one’s looking. . .but we never prance!”  Then he discovers that Peter Pan is generally played by a woman, and almost drops out of the play, before Dad confinces him that he can re-create the role as heterosexual, “a man’s man. . .a man with hair on his chest.”  And it works: Randy comes home after the performance and exclaims triumphantly, “I saw Jennifer looking at me!"

The pubescent Jonathan Taylor Thomas soon began to dominate the teen magazines.  There are literally thousands of pin-ups and centerfolds, far overwhelming those featuring the more muscular Zachery Ty Bryan, who played his older brother, or Taran Noah Smith, who played his younger brother, or their various hunky friends (such as Josh Blake of Alf).

. His character became a teen dream operator, intensely attractive to girls -- never to boys -- and intensely heterosexually active and aware.

But Randy was not content to be just another of the girl-crazy hunks who populated 1990s tv.  He often supported liberal causes, in opposition to his conservative father, and his episodes often drew the series into serious themes, such as Randy questioning his religion or facing a possible cancer diagnosis. When JTT left the series in 1998, it was explained that Randy had been accepted into a year-long environmental study program in Costa Rica.

In his other projects, JTT more than made up for the "every girl's fantasy" plotlines of his conservative tv series.  He enjoyed a buddy-bonding romance with Brad Renfro in Tom and Huck (1995), and with Devon Sawa in Wild America (1997).  He played a bisexual hustler in Speedway Junky (1999), opposite Jesse Bradford, and a gay teenager in Common Ground (2000).

2 gay/bi roles in two years!  The gay rumors came fast and furious, but JTT, like his character on Home Improvement, always denied them: he said he didn't mind, but they made his elderly grandmother upset.

He moved into voice work, guest starred on Smallville, and went to college, graduating from Columbia University in 2010 with a degree in history.

 In 2011, tv personality Lo Bosworth re-ignited the rumors by stating that he was gay on the Chelsea Lately program.

There's a sausage sighting story on Tales of West Hollywood

West Side Story: Stick to the East Side

When I was in high school, we had to read West Side Story in conjunction with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  They were even bound together, in the same book.  Plus the orchestra played highlights from the score.  So I got a double dose, and I hated every moment of it.

Was there ever anything more heterosexist?

It's about two rival gangs in New York City, the Jets (white) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).  Tony, a retired member of the Jets, meets a girl named Maria, who happens to be the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.  Guess what happens?

Right.  The Jets hate Maria, the Sharks hate Tony, conflict, conflict, conflict, our love will triumph, fight at the gym, death, everybody's sad.

A flame of heteronormativity envelops songs like "Maria" and "One Hand, One Heart."

Plus all of the Jets and Sharks have girlfriends.  Every one of them.

The most you can hope for is the tiniest bit of chest-pounding, girl-chasing buddy-bonding between Tony and Riff (the leader of the Jets), and Bernardo and his right-hand man Chino.

Horrible.  Absolutely unwatchable.

Which is surprising, when you consider that the writer Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim were all gay (see Hello, Dolly! for another example).

And about half of the cast members.

There isn't even any beefcake: the high-stepping hunks never take off their shirts.  Not once.

The original Broadway musical starred Larry Kert (Tony), Carol Lawrence (Maria), Michael Callan (Riff), Ken Le Roy (Bernardo), Jamie Sanchez (Chino),

The 1961 movie starred Richard Beymer (Tony, left), Natalie Wood (Maria), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Jose de Vega (Chino).

Many other hunks have played Tony, such as Colt Prattes (top photo) and Matthew Cavenaugh.

Including some gay ones.

I can not figure out why.

See also: Leonard Bernstein's Mass; Michael Callan: A Gay Guy and His Pretend Wife.

Dec 13, 2017

The Most Boring, Stupid, and Heterosexist State Songs

At every school assembly when I was a kid in Rock Island, we had to sing the state song.  You were also forced to sing it at football games, wrestling matches, and political rallies:

By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,
O'er the prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,
Comes an echo on the breeze.
Rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois.

Has any state song been more reviled and made fun of?

Yep.  Across the river, Iowa's state song is just as bad, if not worse:

From yonder Misissippi's stream
To where Missouri's waters gleam
O! fair it is as poet's dream, Iowa, in Iowa.

Who decided that states should have official songs to be foisted upon schoolchildren and the audiences of football teams, and who decided that they should be uniformly so awful?  And heterosexist?

I took it upon myself to read the lyrics of all 50+ state songs (some have more than one).

It was dismal.  Song after song of nonsense.

This state is full of badgers, this state is full of sod,
This state is full of sandwiches, this state is under God.

New York's is hands-down the stupidest:

New York is special. New York is diff'rent' cause there's no place else on Earth quite like New York and that's why I love New York.

What, "Start spreading the word, I'm leaving today" was taken?

Contrary to what you might think, it was not composed by a 5-year old, but by Steve Karmen, an accomplished tv commercial jingle writer: "Aren't you glad you use Dial?", "When you say Budweiser," "The Great American chocolate bar."

Maryland's state song is grotesquely bloody:

Avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!

Colorado's is all about mass extinction due to global warming:

The bison is gone from the upland, the deer from the canyon has fled,
The home of the wolf is deserted, the antelope moans for his dead

Fortunately, they replaced it with John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" in 2007.

And over half are disgustingly heterosexist, making schoolkids and football teams sing about "Aren't you glad everybody is heterosexual?  Aren't you glad those pesky gay people don't exist?"

 How many times have you heard Indiana's "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away," without knowing who ir what was on that riverbank?  Some guy's dead girlfriend:

Long years have passed since I strolled thro' the churchyard.
She's sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear,
I loved her, but she thought I didn't mean it,
Still I'd give my future were she only here.

Georgia has Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind," in which the guy thinks of his ex-girlfriend while he's in bed with other women.

Other arms reach out to me, other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see the road leads back to you

By the way, when you google "Georgia football player shirtless," what you get is Darian Alvarez, a soccer player from Honduras.  Not that I'm complaining.

Before countering with "South Carolina On My Mind" in 1984, South Carolina's state song was a little more graphic about the guy's girlfriend getting with other guys..

Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,
They shall not touch thy noble heart!

After that, Michigan's state song about lost love is sort of a relief.  The girlfriend is receding into the distance, while the guy moans  "What am I supposed to do without you?"

Tennessee has "The Tennessee Waltz," which we had to sing in grade-school music class; "I was dancing with my darling, etc., etc."  Missouri has "The Missouri Waltz," which has a whole complicated story about a father reminiscing to his children about his wife or ex-wife or something.

Oklahoma adopted "Oklahoma," from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which is all about getting married and moving to the land stolen from the Indians:

Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky know that hawk is searching for small animals to kill and eat, right?

Utah's state song is all about Brigham Young, Family with a capital F, and the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place!

I just wish these guys were from Mississippi, so there'd be ten of them.

No state song extolled same-sex friendship, and the only one with any beefcake was Alabama's, mentioning two Native American heroes with muscular physiques:

Fair thy Coosa-Tallapoosa
Bold thy Warrior, dark and strong,
Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee!

Whoops, my mistake.  Those are both rivers.

Still, I imagine that grade school kids in Alabama have a lot of fun thinking of dirty meanings to Coosa-Tallapoosa.

Dec 12, 2017

Dorno of the Herculoids, Grown Up and Tied Up

These are The Herculoids, Zandor (middle), Tara (left), and Dorno (right), protectors of the planet Amzot in a Saturday morning cartoon series that ran 18 episodes from 1967 to 1969.  A few more episodes were aired in 1981-1982.

They were barbarians with sci-fi powers and a lot of cool pets: a space dragon; a giant ape; a rhinocerous with a laser cannon for horns; and two blob-beings.

Most episodes involved one of the three getting captured by Bird Men, Mole Men, Spider Men, Bubble Men, Electrode Men, Sun People, Crystallites, Reptons, Monkey People, and so on. 

Dorno, of course, ignores the orders to "stay here where it's safe" and either initiates the action or stumbles upon a way to perform a daring rescue.

Although it's been 35 years since we saw any new episodes, the Herculoids have not been forgotten. They've appeared on Harvey Birdman and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and in various comic books, including DC Comics' Future Quest (2016).

And there's a lot of fan art of Dorno tied and threatened.

Usually he's aged into young adulthood and buffed up a bit, to appeal to adult sensibilities.

Sometimes he is threatened by villains from the show, and sometimes by new characters.  There's a whole series of Dorno fighting Freddie Kruger.

Here Jonny Quest and Hadji gang up on the barbarian hero.

Jonny and Dorno have some romantic moments, too.

But there's not much time for romance when every monster, pirate, and villain in the galaxy wants a piece of you.

And the rule in the Villain's Code about hurting kids no longer applies.

All pictures are copyrighted by their respective owners on

See also: Saturday Morning Muscle

Sandy Ricks in Trouble

It's been 50 years since Sandy and Bud Ricks appeared on the Boys with their Shirts Off Show, aka Flipper (1964-67).

It was about two boys and their dad living in the Florida Everglades.  In each episode, one or both would get into a jam, and their pet dolphin Flipper would rush to their aid.  Sort of like an aquatic version of Lassie.

Except neither of the boys owned a shirt

Dad was shirtless sometimes, too.

And the show was in color, giving you clear, bright, beautifully detailed views of muscular chests and taunt biceps.  Especially when they were tied up, and straining at the ropes.

I never saw Flipper during its first run -- it was on Sunday night, when we were in church.  But millions of Baby Boomer kids watched, enthralled by the endless teenage beefcake, getting their first glimmers of same-sex desire.

And they remember.

My childhood favorite was Bud (Tommy Norden), with his impossibly buffed physique, but most Boomer kids seem to have favored the lithe, slim Sandy (Luke Halpin).

Today you can go to an online archive where a fan has digitized thousands of screencaps and pictures of Luke Halpin, and there's plenty of fan art.

On, aard4447 envisions a meeting between Sandy and Robin the Boy Wonder of Batman (1966-68).

Bondageincomics draws Sandy bound and gagged, being kidnapped, and left to drown.  If only Flipper were here!

Korak225 gives us another Sandy Ricks kidnapping scene.

And Sandy being untied by his brother Bud.

Or maybe tied.  Bud was always jealous of Sandy's teen idol status, after all.

All drawings copyrighted by their respective owners.

See also: Flipper Toys

Dec 11, 2017

Naked in the Shower with Randy Travis

Born in 1959, country-western singer Randy Travis has a face that would send me running for the exit: long and narrow, with a gigantic forehead and tiny, beady eyes -- and he wasn't much cuter when he was young.

I've never heard his voice, but it has apparently won him a shelf-full of Grammies, CMA, ACM, and AMA awards (whatever those are).

His discography looks rather heterosexist, with a liberal addition of Jesus-Saves Gospel: "It's God's Amazing Grace that brought me this far."

Is it just me, or do people who mention God in every other sentence tend to be homophobic?

Not much gay content in his acting career.  I thought he played Will's wealthy cowboy client on Will and Grace, but that was Harry Connick Jr.  Travis has been in some cowboy movies and Christian dramas.

He's apparently been "plagued" by "accusations" of gayness, which he "vehemently denies." Sounds you think being gay is about the worst thing in the world, cowboy.

He's been married twice.   In 1991 he married his manager, Libbie Hatcher, who was 20 years older than him (yeah, I know, a double standard).  They divorced in 2010, and in 2015 he married Mary Davis.

No kids.  A lot of "family, Family, FAMILY" lyrics, though.

Not very good fodder for a gay sausage sighting story, but I have one:

Warwick, Rhode Island, August 1984

Call me Carlo.  I'm a Rhode Island boy.  I drink coffee milk, say "cah" instead of "car," and know who won the Governor's Cup in 2017 (Brown). I can't imagine living anywhere else.

When I was growing up in Warwick, Rhode Island in the 1960s and 1970s, the Warwick Musical Theater was a place to stay far away from, if you had any interest in being cool.  They called it "The Tent," although in 1967 the original circus tent was replaced by a gaudy, candy-colored theater-in-the round.

It specialized in dinosaur acts: Wayne Newton, Tom Jones, Andy Williams, Perry Como (who we called Perry Coma). No rock, unless you count Sha Na Na.  No black performers, except once Sammy Davis Jr.

I graduated from high school in 1975, majored in English at Roger Williams and the University of Rhode Island, moved to Providence, and in 1982 got my first job, as an entertainment reporter for The Cranston Herald.  But I tried to steer clear of the Tent. A kid's ballet recital!  A society luncheon! Anything but that.

But one day, the editor told me that on Sunday, August 5th, the Tent was having "A Night with Barbara Mandrell and Randy Travis."  He ordered a review, plus an interview of one or the other.

I had heard of Barbara Mandrell, but I couldn't name one of her song.  I had never heard of Randy Travis, but his picture showed a nice physique and a considerable basket.  Besides, I figured, a guy is a guy.

The full post, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Cheers: Where Nobody Knows Your Name

In the mid-1980s, Americans were afraid.  We had a crazy president who wanted to start a nuclear war (not as crazy as the Orange Goblin, though). People thought that AIDS could be transmitted through drinking water and mosquitoes.  Unemployment was as high as during the Depression, the violent crime rate higher than ever before in history.

 No wonder people wanted to go to a place "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."

Cheers (1982-93) was must-see tv, as in all your relatives and everybody at work talked about it constantly, so you had no choice but to watch.

The premise: Sam Malone (Ted Danson) flopped as a ball player due to his alcoholism, so he opens a bar in Boston (really?) and begins love-hate sniping with his stuck-up Ivy-League grad student barmaid Diane (Shelley Long), and later with neurotic bar manager Rebecca (Kirstie Alley).

Other cast members included earthy barmaid Carla (Rhea Pearlman), dimwitted bartender Coach (Nicholas Colassanto), replaced after the actor's death by Woody (Woody Harrelson), and two bar patrons, the rotund Norm (George Wendt) and the talkative Cliff (John Ratzenberger).

In spite of the theme song,  no one knew any gay names.

Gay patrons came to the bar in only one episode.  The gang sees two metrosexual guys talking and laughing, thinks they're gay, and is about ready to string them up, when Diane reveals that the real gay guys, two bears, have been masquerading as part of the mob.

Carla is particularly homophobic.  "If they keep coming out of the closet, there won't be any men left, and I'll have to. . .ugh!" she says, imagining sex with Diane.

Not only is the bar gay-free, there aren't any significant homoerotic subtexts.  Cliff and Norm are buddies, but reject any hint of affection.  The female characters seem as boy- crazy as Betty and Veronica in Archie comics: Carla has a dozen kids with many different men; Diane leaves two men at the altar; Rebecca has an unrequited golddigger crush on a millionaire.

Sam was the hunk of the series -- Ted Danson even posed for Playgirl (not nude) -- and two other male cast members warranted gazing.

 1. Woody (before Woody Harrelson, left, got craggy and redneck).

2. Hockey player Eddie (radio personality Jay Thomas, previously seen on Mork and Mindy), Carla's love interest for a season.  But since almost all of the action occurred on two sets, the bar and Sam's office, there was little opportunity for disrobing, thus no beefcake.

Not a lot of gay allies in the cast.  Kirstie Alley was rather aggressive in "defending" John Travolta from the "insult" of gay rumors. Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson have both played swishy gay stereotype.

In 1993, stuffy psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) spun off onto his own series, Frasier, which lasted for another 11 years.

Dec 10, 2017

11 Reasons John Smith Was Probably Gay

Not the animated Pilgrim of Pocahontas, the beefcake actor fondly remembered by the first generation of Baby Boomers as the star of Laramie (1959-63). 

1. He was a shy, sensitive, artistic child.  He appeared in the choir in Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945).

2. He signed on with casting agent Henry Willson, who single-handedly started the beefcake fad of the 1950s.  Willson filled studios with gay, bi, and gay-for-pay hunks: Ty Hardin, Rock Hudson, John Saxon, Dack Rambo, Farley Granger. His all-male Sunday afternoon parties were legendary.

Wilson also named him "John Smith."  Rather a serious lack of creativity.

3. Laramie aired on Tuesday nights amid a profusion of Westerns, it is distinctive for the strong gay subtext between the two cowboys, Slim (John Smith) and Jess (Robert Fuller).

4. It also starred Spring Byington, a lesbian actress who is best known for the sitcom December Bride.  Not a romantic interest for either of the male characters.

More after the break