Jul 1, 2017

Fred with Tires: The Iconic West Hollywood Photograph

This is one of the iconic photos of West Hollywood.  Nearly everyone I knew had a print in their living room or bedroom.  It was a fixture in our homes, like the family photos that heterosexuals keep on their mantles:

A buffed young man carrying tires through an auto shop, his male-model face and expensive hairstyle contrasting with his working-class surroundings, a sweaty, macho, implicitly heterosexual grease monkey emerging from his closet, transformed into an object of homoerotic desire.  

He represented all of small-town joys that we left behind in the Straight World, and the much greater joys we found with our friends and lovers in our new home.

I didn't know where it came from until yesterday: it's "Fred with Tires" by fashion photographer Herb Ritts (1952-2002).

He grew up in a wealthy household in Los Angeles (his next door neighbor was Steve McQueen), and attended Bard College.  His photography career began in 1978, when he and buddy Richard Gere had car trouble on a road trip, and he began photographing the future star in front of their jalopy -- not shirtless but sultry, bulging, a canny evocation of working class machismo combined with pretty boy sensitivity.

The next year, a photo of John Voight made it to Newsweek.

Pleased with the critical reaction, Ritts began photographing other celebrities, such as Brooke Shields and Olivia Newton-John.  He specialized in female supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford.  He published a number of books on fashion photography, and became a renowned expert in the field.

He was also a well-known commercial photographer, with work for Levis, Revlon, Brut, Chanel, Maybelline.

Although he was gay, out since college, in a committed relationship with partner Erik Hyman, his artistic emphasis was always on the feminine.  There are only a few male celebrities in his archive, and those few are rarely shirtless, displaying a sensuality but not overt eroticism.  This color photo of Justin Timberlake is an exception.

So how did we get "Fred, with Tires"?  In 1984, Herb hired a UCLA undergrad named Fred for a raincoat ad in the Italian magazine Per Lui.

 He hated the raincoats, so he had Fred pose in jeans instead.  The editor hated the photos -- too sultry, too erotic, too gay -- but ran them anyway.  And the last, taken when Fred was tired, sweaty, and little annoyed, anxious to finish up and go home -- perfectly captured the West Hollywood moment.

The original hangs in the Getty Museum, and prints became fixtures in our apartments, emblematic of home.

Gay Pride Has Changed

I've been marching in gay pride parades since they were called gay rights marches.

I was in the first ever to be held in the state of Iowa, in June 1981.

When I lived in California and New York, from 1985 to 2001, I marched almost every year, either with the Metropolitan Community Church or with the gay synagogue.

 It was the biggest event of the year: we spent months deciding which group to march with, working on banners and floats, charting out the route, making plans to meet friends afterwards, at the festival.

The day of the parade,we would show up at the staging ground on Crescent Heights an hour early (walk, if you could), dressed lightly -- Los Angeles in June is hot!

It was fun to be walking down the streets we drove down every day, with a wall of spectators on all sides, more gay men and lesbians than we ever knew existed.

The hetero screamers, outraged by our existence, with their signs saying we were going to hell, were confined to a small area next to the Rage, where we could ignore them easily.

Then came the festival in West Hollywood Park: 20 or 30 booths from every gay organization you had ever heard of, and some you hadn't: Dignity (for gay Catholics), Frontrunners (for runners), Gay Fathers, the Gay Asian-Pacific Alliance.  A few food carts, whatever vendors were brave and non-homophobic enough to come, selling ice cream, corn dogs, and Thai food on a stick.

A huge crowd of gay men and lesbians, some you would never see anywhere else.  A chance to catch up with friends you'd lost track of.

Acres upon acres of shirtless musclemen.  Nonstop cruising: it wasn't a successful pride festival unless you got at least three phone numbers.

Hetero screamers milled about with pamphlets about how we were going to hell, so the rule was: never accept anything someone tries to hand to you.  Representatives of gay organizations will sit at their booths with brochures for you to pick up.

In the evening there was a round of parties and dances, with a lot more cruising, and there was always that one guy who was completely nude in a public place.

At work the next day, you could always tell who was gay: they were sunburned.

In Florida I didn't go, and in 2005 I moved to the Straight World, where Gay Pride was a small, understated affair.  A barbecue in the park for about 20 people.  A parade with about 20 banners but no floats that marched down one side of the street, the other still open to gawking traffic.

I haven't been to a big-city Gay Pride for 16 years.

They've changed.

Last weekend I went to Minneapolis for Twin Cities Pride.  Due to a GPS problem, my wisdom tooth extraction, and oversleeping, my friend and I missed the Parade, but we went to the festival in Loring Park, near downtown.

1. It's not Gay Pride or LGBT Pride, it's just Pride. It's rather annoying to be erased from your own festival.

2. Instead of 20 or 30 booths, there were over 200.  Most were not gay-specific.  Banks, credit unions, colleges (not college LGBT groups, just "why you should come here"), sheets and towels, a service that would clean your rain gutter.

Instead of two or three food trucks, there were about fifty.  No longer do the organizers have to scrounge around to find enough vendors willing to be seen with us.

3. The rule about not accepting anything someone tries to hand you was gone.  Everyone tried to hand us something: beads, buttons, bags, brochures.  I didn't take anything -- force of habit.

Fortunately, I didn't see any screamers.

4.  But the festival wasn't for us anymore.  Over half of the crowd consisted of male-female couples, often with kids in tow, and most of the rest were groups of women  A scattering of gay men.  

5. The acres and acres of beefcake were gone. Very few of the men were shirtless, and very few were buffed.  At least I can say that I have a better physique than 99% of the men at a Gay Pride Festival.

6. The cruising was gone, too.  The few times I got cruised, it was by a woman or a teenage boy.  I get more action at the doctor's office.

Afterwards we walked back across Lyndale Avenue, through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  A large Muslim family was photographing each other in front of the cherry spoon statue.  College kids were playing miniature golf on a weird course with brillo pads and maps of downtown.  There was a baseball game going on at the stadium.

They were half a mile from Gay Pride.  They didn't know, or they didn't care.

"Gay Pride has changed,"  I told my friend.

"For better or worse?"

"I'm not sure."

One of the college boys playing miniature golf looked over at me with a cruisy glance.

Some things don't change.

This post with nude photos is on Tales of West Hollywood

See also: My First Gay Rights March

Jun 30, 2017

With Voyeuristic Intention: The Joy of Watching Other Guys

I've always been a big fan of watching other guys doing it.

Half the fun of bear parties and sharing is watching.

Especially boyfriends.  On the first few dates, you may get a little jealous, but once you're in a committed relationship, there's something undeniably erotic about seeing your guy with another guy.

It's also nice to watch your partner stripping and flexing.  

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

Superhero Sidekicks in Bondage

Pulp magazine covers often featured a woman drawn in the style collectors called GGA or Good Girl Art, tied to something and about to be murdered or violated by a drooling villain, while the hero rushes to the rescue.  But in superhero comics of the 1940s, the teenage sidekick was either tied next to the GGA woman, or else tied up all alone, and while GBA is not an official comic book term, his muscles were displayed quite as prominently as her breasts, providing hours of fun and excitement for gay kids of the pre-Boomer generation.

The Human Torch’s sidekick Toro, nearly-naked, muscles straining, chest heaving, is tied spread-eagle in the path of a tank , tied to the barrel of a cannon, or being lowered into a buzz-saw machine.

 3 of the first 10 covers of Detective Comics after the introduction of Robin, and nine of the first thirty, feature a surprisingly fit Boy Wonder tied up and about to stabbed, shot, drowned, or otherwise violated, while Batman rushes to the rescue.

As World War II progressed, many other superhero comics followed suit. The magazine racks of every drugstore were overflowing with images of superheroes rushing to the rescue of bound-and-threatened GBA sidekicks.

Captain America rescues Bucky in eight of the first ten covers of his comic book, and fully half of the first thirty.  Bucky is often (but not always) drawn as a muscular teenager, and his green-skinned, fairy-tale ogre captors have devised much more creative methods of execution than Robin’s.  He is strapped to an operating table next to a monster, while a leering Nazi doctor prepares an injection; mummified and threatened with an Iron Maiden.

He is hanging from his wrists and threatened by hot coals; in a cemetery, about to be buried alive; thrown overboard with a 500-pound weight around his neck; strapped to a table while a bed of spikes lowers onto him.

Roy the Super Boy, his massive chest jutting out of his red-and-white striped shirt, is tied to a rocket about to be launched into space, or about to be doused with nitroglycerin and ignited, while his superhero, the Wizard, rushes to the rescue.

Dusty the Boy Detective, in a skin-tight blue costume, is about to be stabbed, or tied to a runaway jeep.

The Black Terror's sidekick Tim is tied up, muscles straining in GBA form, about to be run over by a jeep, castrated by a buzzsaw, executed by a Nazi firing squad, or used for archery practice by a weird cult.

Comic books and pulps were not alone in featuring attractive people tied to things and about to be violated in sexually symbolic ways. Men were rescuing women everywhere, in order to create suspense and clarify the emotional investment of rescuer and rescued, who finally realize how much they care for each other.  The woman generally reacts to the narrow escape by melting into the man’s arms for a fade-out kiss.

But superhero comics presented boy instead of girl bondage threats, identifying the teen sidekick as an alternative to the spunky girl-reporter as an object of desire. The comic book superhero and sidekick walked into the sunset together through the War and for several years afterwards, but by the 1950s, Robin, Buddy, and Bucky had surrendered to girl-craziness or retired.

Jun 29, 2017

"U Are Gay!"

Most comments on this blog consist of:
1. You said he played a gay character for the first time in 1993, but actually he played a character that was probably gay in an off-Broadway play that folded after 3 performances in December 1992.

2. How dare you say that this actor is gay! That's a big, fat lie!  I know because he is my boyfriend, and we're in love and we hug and kiss all the time, and we're going to get married as soon as I'm old enough!

But the other day someone wrote this comment:
"U Are Gay!"

Twelve times.

Once it was "U Are Gay Gay Gay!!!!"

Um....ya think so?

This blog describes my coming out process in detail, plus about 100 of my boyfriends, dates, and hookup, and the gay content of about 1000 books, movies, tv shows, comic books, songs, paintings, and advertisements.

 It should be obvious, right?

But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that heterosexuals will do anything to avoid figuring it out.

Plaster your room with pictures of naked men.  They'll say "Fitness enthusiast, huh?"

Write 55 articles and 3 books on LGBT history.  They'll say "With all of your research into gay people, does anyone ever mistake you for gay?"

Tell them "I've been out since I was 17, 40 years ago.  In that time I've had 10 boyfriends and gone on about 2000 dates, and had gay sex about 14,000 times.   I have never had sex with a woman, although I did kiss a girl once when I was 15."

They'll say "Aha!  You kissed a girl!  You're straight!'

And after an extraordinary amount of time and effort, you finally get them to admit that you are, in fact, gay, they will constantly forget, and ask you about your attraction for this or that actress and whether or not you have a girlfriend.

And God forbid you ever mention a woman, briefly, in passing, for the most mercenary of reasons: "I'm going to ask the waitress to bring more coffee."

They will consider it proof positive that you are actually straight.  "Aha!  I knew you weren't immune!  You like her, don't you?  You're not really gay at all!"

But maybe the anonymous poster really didn't know, and just now, after reading hundreds of posts, figured it out.  Did he think I didn't know, and he was doing me a service by giving me a term to use to identify over 50 years of desires, actions, and relationships?

Or did he think I knew, but didn't like it, that I was overcome with sadness, guilt, and pain over being gay, so he was trying to rub salt in the wound?

Lots of heterosexuals think that we are constantly sad, constantly depressed over missing out on their wondrous hetero-romance, that we're all moping around every moment that we're not having risky sex.

Or was he trying to express his own disapproval: "You are gay, therefore incomplete, broken, deviant, wrong, worse than me?"

It's rather depressing that people still use "U are gay" as an insult.

Hookup with Brothers at the Dentist's Office

Plains, June 2017

The Wednesday after my return from Amsterdam, I'm at the oral surgeon's office, waiting to get a wisdom tooth removed.

It's a more delicate procedure than you might think.

No solid food or exercise for the next 48 hours.

On the third day, I can try jogging and eating normally, but nothing with granules (rice, potato chips) for a couple of weeks.

Antibiotics and two pain medications, one narcotic.

No "sucking" for at least a week.  The oral surgeon probably means through a straw, but I imagine no oral, either.

While I am sitting in the waiting room, a woman comes in with her two sons.  I can't tell which is older.

Brother #1 is not exactly a supreme beauty, but he's very, very cute: shorter than me, slim, with a round open face, short black hair, prominent eyebrows, high cheekbones, dimples, and square workman's hands.

He's wearing a black t-shirt, short pants (no bulge), and sandals.

He sits on the side of his mother farthest from me,  immersed in nonstop texting.

Brother #2 is tall, with a square face, sharp features, glasses, and a slim physique.  He's wearing a button-down shirt with a white undershirt visible underneath, slacks (no visible bulge), and orange shoes.

He gives me an obvious face-crotch-face cruising gaze, then sits down to fill out a form.

Remembering when I have been cruised at doctor's offices before -- at the sports doctor, while waiting for a colonoscopy -- I wonder if I can follow through and land a date or a hookup.

Problem: he's with his mother and brother.  Not much maneuvering room.

Another problem: I'll be called any minute.

I check Grindr on my cell phone, on the off chance he's there.  Nope.

Brother #2 finishes the form and drops it off at the receptionist's desk.  I go up to pretend to ask where the bathroom is, and try to check his name.

All I can see in a brief glance is "Oliver."

I look back -- Oliver is watching me.  He smiles.

Since I asked, I have to actually use the bathroom.  It's out in the hallway, shared with the insurance agency next door -- one urinal, one toilet, one sink.    I go in, pretend to urinate, turn to wash my hands -- and Brother #1 is there!

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

Cruising in Lithuania

West Hollywood, June 1997

Lane and I haven't lived together for a year, and I've been sort of dating Kevin the Vampire, so we're not sure if we are a couple or not.  But we don't want to break our tradition of a trip every summer, either Europe or a road trip across the U.S.

"Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam?" I suggest.  "We haven't been there in a while.  Or maybe Germany?"

"No Germany!"  he exclaims.  "I want to go somewhere off the beaten path.  Lithuania.  In search of my Jewish ancestors."

"Your mother was Polish -- we've already been to Poland to check out her heritage -- and your father was from California."

"But Dad's parents were Litvak -- Lithuanian Jews.  Bubbe -- Grandma -- immigrated with her parents in 1915.  She used to tell stories of the shtetl of Kvedarna, where her father was a rabbi."

The more I research Lithuania, the less I want to visit.  Granted, the Lithuanian language is the closest we have to the original Indo-European.

English:  My sausage is very big.
Hindi: Mera sosej bahut bada hai
Lithuanian: Mano dešra yra labai didelė

But it is an extremely homophobic country, like Mississippi squared.  No gay bars, no bathhouses, no nothing.  Plus 95% of the Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust.

95%!  Why would you want to go there?

But Lane is  adamant about investigating his Bubbe's Rabbi father, and he is paying for the plane tickets, so....Paris, Amsterdam, and Lithuania

Day 1:

There are no nonstop flights from Amsterdam to Vilnius, so we have  to go through Frankfurt, arriving at 1:30 pm.

Six years after independence, Soviet influence is everywhere: most signs are in Russian, not Lithuanian; there are long blocks of Brutopian apartment complexes, and statues of liberated workers gazing defiantly at the future; there are police officers and soldiers everywhere, who keep asking for our papers.

But our hotel is in the Old Quarter, on a winding Baroque street near the University and the Signatory House (where independence was declared).

We tour the rather austere Palace of the Grand Dukes and the Vilnius Cathedral, have dinner in a French restaurant, and, near dusk, see the statue of the Gaon, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), a Talmudic scholar and leader of the non-Hasidic Lithuanian Jews.

Then back to the hotel and to bed, having not met any actual Lithuanians, gay or straight, Jewish or Gentile.

Day 2:

After breakfast, we rent a car (quite a feat in a country not set up for tourism) and drive to Kaunas, about an hour away, which once had a Jewish population of 40,000 (today about 500, mostly elderly).   We arrive in time for Shabbat services at the Ohel Jahov Synagogue, where the congregation consists entirely of elderly men.  We don't talk to anyone.

In the afternoon, we visit the Museum of the Devil and Kaunas Castle, then the small, austere monument to the Jews who died in the Holocaust.

"This is all very interesting," I tell Lane, "But I need some masculine companionship.  What's the point of traveling, if you don't meet locals?  Preferably hot ones."

Our Spartacus guide doesn't list any gay bars in Kaunas, but it lists a "mixed bar," Baras, which caters to "students, bohemians, transvestites, fairies, and misfits."

Although we roil at being labeled "misfits," we check it out.

Mostly students and bohemians, not a lot of cruising going on.  I try to strike up a conversation with a twink reading a paperback book and drinking beer: in his 20s, slim, pale, weird half-mohawk hair style, horn-rimmed glasses:

"Mano vardas Boomer.  Aš esu iš Toronto." (I always claim to be Canadian while traveling in Europe, to avoid the extreme anti-American prejudice.)

He responds briefly and coolly, in English.  Soon I back off.

Well, at least I talked to a local.

Day 3

Our hotel has a gym, so we can work out before hitting the road for Kvedarna, where Lane's great-grandfather was a rabbi.  It's about two hours west over flat, green countryside.

The main street doesn't look anything like a main street: just single story, gable-roofed Lithuanian farmhouses, painted orange and green, so widely separated that they seemed rural, not urban.  There's a gas station, a grocery store, a Catholic church, a row of ugly apartment buildings leftover from Soviet times, and a monument to Vytautas the Great (1350-1430), the leader of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a hero in the independence movement.

The only trace of a Jewish presence is a small, overgrown Jewish cemetery, with fifty or so markers in Hebrew.  We can't find one for Lane's great-grandfather, the rabbi, although there are a few with his Bubbe's name that could be relatives.

The trip has been a bust: some interesting sights, but mostly sadness, loss, and loneliness.  It's an odd feeling being in a country of 3.6 million people, and not knowing anyone.

Since there's no restaurant in town, we stop at Kvedarna's small grocery store for some meat, cheese, and bread to make sandwiches.

There's a twink boy outside, eating a popsicle, shirtless even though it's a cool, rainy day: slim, pale body, pinprick nipples, tight abs.  He has the same weird hair and eyeglasses as the guy from last night.

For a moment I think it's the same person, so I say "Sveiki!  Small world, isn't it?"

He smiles.  "Americans?"

I realize my mistake.  "Taip.  I'm Boomer, and this is Lane.  We're from Hollywood, California."

"Joku."  He switches the popsicle to his left hand so he can shake our hands.  "You are from Hollywood!  You are movie stars?"

"We've been in some tv shows," I lie.

"Palike!  You will give me your...your..."  He made a writing sign.  "Why you come to Kvedarna?"

"My grandmother was born here,"  Lane said.

"Tikras!  My grandmother, too.  Maybe we are...um...cousin.  Come, cousins hug."  He wrapped us both in a bear hug.  "You come home, meet my mother and brothers?"

So we spend an hour having tea and very sweet pastries with Joku and his mother, two brothers, and two very hot friends, discussing Hollywood celebrities, Lane's Jewish heritage ("lots of Jews in Hollywood, no?"), and, obliquely, being gay:

Brother: "Do you have wives in California?"
Joku:  "Lane and Boomer don't want wives.  They are free."

Then it is time to drive back to Vilnius to catch our plane in the morning.

No sex, no gay people, that I know of.  But sometimes, meeting a local is enough.

 Especially a hot one.

This story with nude photos is on Tales of West Hollywood

Jun 28, 2017

Vintage Beefcake and Homoerotic Ads

When we were kids in the 1960s, there was virtually no beefcake on tv or in movies, but if you looked carefully, you could find shirtless boys and men in kids' magazines like Boys' Life. This one is selling you meat.

Sometimes you didn't even need a shirtless shot.  A cute face and a risque phrase was enough to get your fantasies fueled.

A little before my time, but the dad and son both have exceptional abs.

For bulges, you had to make do with clothes catalogs.  The thick, hefty things came in the mail twice a year, displaying the packages of men.

And boys.

More after the break.

The Gay Myths of Orpheus

You're probably thinking, "Orpheus?  Wasn't he that musician who was trying to lead his wife out of Hades, but he looked back, so she was lost forever?  Moral: Never look back.  Also: Be heterosexual.

That's the story that has appeared constantly in stories, legends, ballets, operas, and symphonic poems for the last 500 years, from Sir Orfeo in Middle English to Black Orpheus in Brazilian Portuguese.

Even gay artists, like Tennessee Williams, go with the heteronormative myth.  Orpheus Descending is about a man with a guitar and a muscular physique who invades a seedy Southern town, falls in love with an older woman, and...well, you get the idea.

But Eurydice is actually a later addition.  In the earlier myths, Orpheus was gay.

He was the greatest musician in the world, able to charm animals, able to use his music to gain entrance to Hades.

He only liked boys (young men).  In fact, he introduced the practice of same-sex love to the Thracians.

He started a relationship with Calais, one of the Boreads (sons of the North Wind).

Therefore he refused the Bacchantes, who tore him to pieces in  a jealous rage.

Jun 27, 2017

Top 16 Public Penises of the Cowboy States

I'm afraid of the Cowboy States, that swath of ranches, grassland, and mountains west of Minnesota and east of California.  I've driven through them four times, and they are very pretty, with the amber waves of grain and the shirtless cowboys and all.

But they also have survivalists, right-wing extremist groups, hate crimes, Republican majorities, homophobic laws, and billboards about Jesus.

Still, if you find yourself driving through the Cowboy States en route to West Hollywood, there are some nice public penises.  Working south from Canada:

1. North Dakota doesn't have a lot of public art, but there's a shirtless CCC worker at the entrance of Fort Abraham Lincoln Park in Mandan.

2. Everyone goes to South Dakota for the Sturgis Bike Rally, but also check out the Crazy Horse Memorial, about 17 miles south of Mount Rushmore.  When it's finished, it will be the biggest statue in the world, 563 feet of pure beefcake.

3. There's also a replica of Michelangelo's David, penis and all, in Sioux Falls.

4. I lived in Nebraska for five weeks with my first boyfriend, Fred the Ministerial Student.  It was awful.  But the Joselyn Art Museum in Omaha has a very impressive collection,  and a naked Sioux Warrior out front sculpted by John David Brcin.

5. Kansas is very flat, and the waves of Protestant fundamentalists made me nervous.  I could see why Dorothy wanted to stay in Oz (in the original novels, not in the dreary 1939 movie).  But I like the loincloth-clad Native American atop the State Capitol in Topeka Sculpted by Richard Bergen in 1988, he's called "Ad Astra" ("To the stars").

6. The Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City also features a semi-nude Native American, "The Guardian."  He wasn't erected until 2002.

7. Another Native American is offering a peace pipe to students at the University of Oklahoma.

8. For a more modern beefcake image, check out the Air Force Monument in Oklahoma City.  It features a naked young man holding an airplane aloft.

More after the break.