Jul 7, 2017

The Van Patten Brothers

Speaking of show biz dynasties, Dick Van Patten's three sons and his younger brother all began appearing on screen at the same time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, producing a quadruple-threat of sandy-haired hunks.

Jimmy Van Patten, born in 1956, played a surfer in the beefcake-heavy Lifeguard (1976), and had guest spots on Gunsmoke, Three for the Road with his brother Vince, Happy Days, and Eight is Enough with his Dad.

Here he is displaying his assets in Roller Boogie (1979), standing next to androgynous romantic lead, Jim Bray.

 Jimmy also starred in the buddy-bonding Lunch Wagon (1981) with his brother Nels, and the actioner High Powder (1982) with Dick, Tim, Nels, and Ralph Macchio. Today he is a writer, director, and producer.

Vince Van Patten, born in 1957, began acting as a kid in 1970, and starred in the warm family comedy Apple's Way (1974-75), Three for the Road (1975) with up-and-coming teen idol Leif Garrett, and Rock and Roll High School (1979).

He hung out in his underwear in the homoerotic horror movie Hell Night (1981), and posed for Playgirl before becoming a professional tennis player and a semi-pro poker player. More recently, he produced and starred in The Break (1995), about a washed-up tennis pro who coaches a rookie (Ben Jorgensen).

Eldest brother Nels (born in 1955) starred mostly in his brothers' vehicles, but he can also be seen in Summer School (1987) with Mark Harmon and Grotesque (1988) with Tab Hunter.  And he appears as Farrah Fawcett's tennis instructor in the reality series Chasing Farrah (2005).

The youngest of the group, Tim Van Patten (born in 1959) is Dick's younger brother, so technically the uncle to Jimmy, Vince, and Nels.  He starred as a high school basketball player named Salami in The White Shadow (1978-81) and the actioner High Powder (1982). More recently he's had roles on St. Elsewhere and True Blue, and he's directed episodes of Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.

See also: Timothy Van Patten, Tony Danza, and Robert Wagner on a Cold Winter Night

Jul 6, 2017

Sean Flynn: Was the Son of the Legendary Actor Gay?

Born in 1941, Sean Flynn was the son of infamous bisexual superstar Errol Flynn (and uncle of his namesake Sean Flynn, star of the Nickelodeon teencom Zoey 101).

Handsome, muscular, and the son of a superstar, he was naturally pushed into acting, and in 1962 appeared in the swashbuckling Son of Captain Blood, a sequel to his father's Captain Blood (1935).  

Some other actioners followed, with Sean playing Zorro (Duel at the Rio Grande, 1963), a man-mountain of Colonial India (Temple of the White Elephant, 1964), and a James Bond-style secret agent (Mission to Venice, 1964).  But there were lots of better movies with similar characters, and audiences stayed away.

Besides, Sean didn't care for acting.  He wanted to be a real-life adventurer, like Richard Halliburton and Michael Rockefeller.   He moved to Africa to become a hunter and game warden. Then he became a photojournalist, covering the Vietnam War and the 1967 Egypt-Israeli War for Paris-Match.  

In April 1970, while traveling near the Cambodian border, he and colleague Dana Stone (left) disappeared.

His mother spent years searching for him, and eventually found evidence that the two were captured by the Khmer Rouge or Viet Cong, imprisoned for a few months, and then executed.

A tragic end to a fascinating life.

Of course, you're wondering: was he gay or bisexual?

Sean's friend Perry Deane Young (left, the one with the bulge) doesn't say anything about Sean's same-sex interests in his memoir of their Vietnam experiences (published in 1975).  But then, one wouldn't expect him to.

However, it is compelling to note that Sean spent his life surrounded by attractive men.

See also: The Disappearance of Michael Rockefeller; The Disappearance of Richard Halliburton.

Jul 5, 2017

J. Allen St. John: The Beefcake and Phallic Images of Tarzan

In spite of his aristocratic name, J. Allen St. John was born in Chicago in 1872, when it was still a small town, and lived there throughout his life, except for studying in New York and Paris.

But his imagination went far afield beginning in 1916, when he was offered the cover and interior illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Beasts of Tarzan

An opportunity to draw muscular, half-naked men?  He had found his dream job!

One that lasted for the next thirty years, through dozens of Tarzan books, plus some of the Venus and Mars series.

St. John's extremely-muscular, mostly-naked men and blatant phallic imagery also enlivened the covers of Weird Tales, The Blue Book, and Amazing Stories.

He influenced a generation of beefcake science fiction and fantasy artists, such as Frank Franzetta.

He only wrote one novel of his own, The Face in the Pool: A Faerie Tale (1905).  It's a standard Medieval "boy meets girl" fantasy: "He came to the tower where the Princess Astrella's golden head at the window served as a gleaming beacon to those who would rescue here."

So her head revolves, or what?

Better stick to illustrations.

St. John always tried to get his male figures as naked as possible, negotiating as many phallic images as possible.  Is this a giant snake or a penis come to life?

But not his female figures.  Here the titular Cave Girl, fully clothed, rescues her semi-naked boyfriend from a semi-naked Neanderthal.

St. John was hired to do the cover art for Weird Tales, but fired after a few issues when he refused to provide enough female t. and a. to titilate the straight male audience.  Who wanted to look at naked men?

This is a cover of Mystic Magazine, November 1953, probably to illustrate the article "The Secret Kingdom: Secret Rules of Earth and the Coming Armageddon!"  Armageddon is presaged by a naked redhead with a scythe, his penis cleverly hidden by Father Time's head.

But that didn't stop him from including THREE phallic images

St. John was married to a woman named Ellen from 1904 to his death in 1957, but his interest in the male physique and the penis is obvious.  I'd be surprised if he wasn't gay.

My Hookup with a 48 Year Old.

Plains, July 2017

Four things you need to know to understand how amazing that is:

1. Plains is crowded with twinks and Cute Young Things.  They're everywhere, in the campus gym, at the gay-friendly coffee house, on the street.  You go on Grindr for 10 minutes, and 10 guys who just turned 18 (they claim) are sending you selfies of their aroused penises taken in the bathroom while Mom and Dad are at work.

2. But hardly any gay men over 30.  Every twink and Cute Young Thing, without exception, plans to move to West Hollywood, Chicago, Denver, or Minneapolis.  I can't blame them -- I would too, if it was financially possible.   And very few adult gay men move here for jobs -- if you had a choice of the Plains or a big city, or even a middle-sized city, which would you choose?

As a result, the number of gay men over 30 in town is infinitesimal.  I know two, and they are planning to move to Phoenix.

3. As you get older, the guys who cruise you get younger.

It's a weird inverse relationship:

In your 20s, you get cruised, approached, and asked out mostly by guys 10-20 years older.

In your 30s, mostly guys your age, or a few years older or younger..

In your 40s, it's mostly Twinks, under thirty but grown up, living on their own, with jobs and cars.

In your 50s, it's mostly Cute Young Things, in their late teens or early twenties,  living in college dorms or with their parents

I don't want to know what happens in your 60s.

4. This particular gym is low on men aged 20 to 70.  At least in the mid-afternoon, when I go.  A lot of kids (real kids, 12-13 year olds), a lot of elderly retirees, but few others.  So seeing any guy in his 40s is unusual, and meeting one who is gay and interested in going home with me is as rare as meeting a gay Jewish Bushman.

I didn't even see him working out.  It was my running day, and I got there late, when the treadmills are typically taken, so I made a beeline for the first open one I saw, and didn't get off it for 45 minutes.  Then I did some quad, thigh, bicep, and tricep sets, never going into the free weight room.

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

The 4th of July in the Straight World: Fireworks, Cruising, and Searching for America

Plains, July 2016

In gay neighborhoods, we never went to 4th of July Fireworks.  Deliberately watching loud, flashy explosions?  More of a heterosexual thing.  Besides, gay people were criminals in 23 states, we were deprived of our most basic human rights, we were regularly beat up by the police and demonized by politicians -- why should we celebrate the Independence Day of a country that hated us?

But I live in the Straight World now, and apparently the 4th of July Firework Celebration is the big event of the summer, so last night I went, for the first time since high school.

My friend Gabe had to work at the gay-friendly coffee house, and my sort-of boyfriend Dustin was out of town, so I went alone, figuring I would run into people I know there.

But things got weird.  It was like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

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

Jul 4, 2017

Levi's Date with a Star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

West Hollywood, June 1995

It's the night before Gay Pride, so of course Lane and I have a full house: Infinite Chazz, my ex-boyfriend Fred and his boyfriend Matt, Randall the Bear with the Pierced Penis and his date Levi ("like the jeans"), and some other guys.  Most of them will spending the night, six in the beds and four in sleeping bags on the floor, so they can march in the parade tomorrow or get a good place to watch (we're a scant three blocks from Santa Monica Boulevard).

The only one I haven't met is Levi, a Long Beach boy in his late 30s or early 40s, slim, very tanned, and just starting to go bald, with gray hairs among the black in his beard and poking up from beneath his white t-shirt.  Very nice bulge.  I'm hoping to get to "share" later, but chances are he and Randall will invite Will the Bondage Boy into their bed instead.

As usual at West Hollywood parties, we discuss celebrity hookups: Scott Baio, Michael J. Fox, Rob Lowe, Louis Ferrigno.

Randall tells about the time he and Dick Sargent competed over a Disney teen star -- not Tommy Kirk  (that's a story for later).

Then Levi stands.  "All right, boys and girls, it's time for a guessing game.  And to make it more interesting, everyone who guesses correctly wins 10 minutes in the bedroom with me:

On Gay Pride Day in 1978, when I was a 22-year old Cute Young Thing, fresh off the boat from Alamosa, Colorado, I met and had a swooning night of passion with my boyhood crush, a star of The Dick Van Dyke Show.  You have to guess which one."

The classic Boomer sitcom (1961-1966), about tv comedy writer Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) balancing his work world with his suburban family!  I'm too young to remember first-run episodes, but I've seen a lot of reruns. Not a lot of gay content, no beefcake, but some of the guys were interesting.

"Was it Buddy?" Fred asks. (The short, spunky Morey Amsterdam)  "He had a wife named Pickles -- you don't get more phallic than that."

"I'm voting for Jerry Paris, who played the next door neighbor," I say.  "He was incredibly handsome, nice hair, great hands."

Maybe it was the son," Will the Bondage Boy suggests.  "Larry Mathews would be all grown up by 1978."

"Dick Van Dyke himself?" Matt asks.  "I always got a little -- je ne peux pas dire -- a vibe from him."

Nine votes are cast, with Randall abstaining: 3 for Jerry Paris, 2 for Dick Van Dyke, and 1 each for Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, Jerry Van Dyke, and Carl Reiner.

"Unfortunately, no one will be getting me in the bedroom" Levi says, "Not until later, anyhow.  The famous tv star who set my heart aflutter when I was a boy, and who brought me to my knees that hot day in June 1978, was none other than Richard Deacon, who played Mel Cooley."


Mel Cooley, the officious busybody, the easily perturbed stick-in-the-mud, the quintessential square, the brunt of a thousand digs and put-downs?   How could he set anyone's heart aflutter?

Besides, he was bald, bespectacled, and rather homely, with a W. C. Fields nose, a weak chin, and a nondescript physique, even for the 1960s.

Levi explains:

Alamosa, Colorado, 1960s

A small town in the scrub grass at the base of the Rockies, 200 miles from the nearest big city, where the biggest tourist attraction was sand dunes.  It was full of cowboys, Mormons, and hobos, with nothing to do on a Saturday night but go to football games and drink beer: painful for a quiet, non-athletic, bookish boy regardless of your sexual identity, but when you're growing up gay in the police-state 1960s, sheer torture.

Looking for survival strategies on tv, Levi hit upon Mel Cooley.  Obviously gay -- at least, no wife was ever mentioned.  And a master of the passive-aggressive barbs that let you survive and even triumph over bigger, more powerful adversaries.  When fisticuffs would get you pummelled, try a slow burn or a disapproving eye-roll.  When an open objection would get you killed, try a snarky quip.  Genius!

Smitten, Levi watched Richard Deacon in everything he could find: Mr. Ed, The Addams Family, That Darn Cat, The Gnome-Mobile, Blackbeard's Ghost, Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, Here's Lucy, Maude, BJ and the Bear.  

He always played gay-vague, passive-aggressive, snarky sticks-in-the-mud aching to ruin the hero's fun.  But on the talk and game shows -- Dick Cavett, The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas, The Match Game -- he revealed the sensitive, sweet soul beneath the bristly facade.  Levi was intrigued: he wanted more.

Hollywood, June 1978

A few weeks after he graduated from Adams State College with a degree in agriculture (his parents insisted), Levi was living in California (top photo), working in a department store, and watching his first Gay Pride Parade.  Harvey Milk was the grand marshal. There were protests against the Briggs Amendment, which would prohibit teachers from making pro-gay statements.

 And -- sitting on the patio of a restaurant facing the street, Levi saw his childhood crush, Richard Deacon!  He was with Paul Lynde and Phyllis Diller and a couple of Cute Young Things.

He was 57 years old, graying, and kind of chunky -- Levi later discovered that he didn't like the gym, and followed Miss Piggy's rule about jogging: "One should run only when one is being chased."  But he was enormously tall, massive, and vibrant, talking animatedly, waving his hands about.

"Mr. Deacon, I loved you in Dick Van Dyke!" Levi exclaimed, rushing forward.  "And in That Darn Cat!  You're a genius!"

"I'm not a genius," Richard said, looking up with a cruisy smile.  "I'm a craftsman."

Levi instinctively looked around, waiting for an insulting quip like "You mean crap-man."  But the others in his party just smiled.  Richard -- "Deac" -- invited Levi to join them.

Later they all had dinner at Deac's house off Coldwater Canyon Drive, north of Sunset.  He cooked: steak with corn compote and summer squash,  asparagus, and a Napa Valley cabernet, with a chocolate torte for dessert.

After dinner, Paul and Phyllis and the Cute Young Things went home, but Levi spent the night.  And the next.  They didn't become lovers, but they became friends, and shared tricks and recipes and Gay Pride Parades until his death on August 8, 1984.

West Hollywood, June 1995

"During my six years of friendship with Richard Deacon, I learned three important things about him," Levi says.

1. He didn't want to play heroes, or God forbid, romantic leads.  No fisticuffs, no kissing ladies.  He found what he was good at, and used it to his advantage, crafting a respectable Hollywood career, making enough money to indulge in all of the things he loved: good food, good wine, art, theater, travel.

2. He was the nicest, most approachable, most easy-going guy in Hollywood.  He would talk to anyone, from superstars to the counter girl at the deli, and no one had a single bad word to say about him.  

Levi pauses.

"What's third thing?" I ask.

"For some of you, it might be the most important.  Not to me -- I couldn't care less.  But it was very nice on a hot Hollywood night with a glass of Merlot by the bedside."

"What's the third thing?" I repeat, annoyed.

He spreads his hands, spanning at least a Kovbasa+.

3. Richard Deacon was hung to his knees.

The uncensored story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

South Pacific: A High School Music

I don't care much for musicals, but I've had a soft spot for South Pacific (1949), the Rogers and Hammerstein musical adaption of James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific (1948), ever since I saw it performed live 8 times in high school.

I was in the orchestra pit, so I had no choice.  But anything that required my male classmates to parade around with their shirts off was fine with me, even if they were singing the heterosexist "There's Nothing like a Dame."

Over the years I've seen four more live versions, at my nephew's high school, Augustana College, a community theater in Ohio, and a gay synagogue in West Hollywood.  But until recently, I never saw the 1958 movie with Ray Walston (later on My Favorite Martian), Jack Mullaney (later on It's About Time), and Ken Clark (the bodybuilder with something extra). (Gay icon Robert Goulet starred in the original.)

Most musical comedies have two hetero-romantic plots, one romantic and the other humorous.  In South Pacific, the romantic plot is handled by Jim Cable (in this case, Anderson Davis in a 2008 Baltimore production).  A soldier stationed on a small island in the Pacific during World War II, he falls in love with the native girl Liat, but his family's prejudices keep them from marrying.  Then he dies on a secret mission.

Here's another Jim (Matthew Morrison, who plays Will Schuester on Glee) from the 2008 Broadway revival.

The humorous plot is handled by Nellie Forbush, one of musical theater's big-voiced, gutsy broads, who falls in love with Emile, a fey, sophisticated, gay-coded plantation owner -- they perform a gender-bending number in drag -- but rejects him because he has mixed-race children.  He goes on the secret mission, too, but returns alive just in time for Nellie to overcome her prejudice and marry him.

The prejudice theme, plus the gender-bending romance between the gay-coded guy and girl, provides adequate gay symbolism.  But you hardly need any, with all the muscles to look at.

Jul 3, 2017

Homophobic Moment in History: Bob Hope's AIDS Joke

Bob Hope (1903-2003) was probably the most famous and beloved entertainer of the 20th century, from the 1940s Road movies with Bing Crosby (Road to Morocco, Road to Singapore) to 30 years as a radio staple to a series of tv specials in the 1950s and 1960s.

He was known for his snide, snarky one-liners -- over 500,000 through his career, contributed by an army of over 100 writers on his payroll.  Most commented on current fads, fashions, Hollywood stars, and politics.

From the 1950s:
Eisenhower admitted the budget can't be balanced and McCarthy says the communists are taking over. You don't know what to worry about these days ... whether the country will be overthrown or overdrawn."

From the 1980s:
Everything Reagan does, Gorbachev does him one better. Reagan wears the flag of his country on his lapel. Gorby wears the map of his country on his forehead.

During the 1970s and 1980s, gay activists often complained about the raw homophobia in his jokes, but Hope shrugged them off: "They're threatening to get together and hit me with their purses."

Until July 4th, 1986.

Hope was performing at a dinner to commemorate the hundredth year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.   The aging entertainer told the audience of patriotic Liberty enthusiasts, who paid $1000 apiece to be there ($2000 today):

I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS.  No one knows if she got it from the Mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan laughed, but the rest of the audience sat in stunned silence, horrified by the slur against Miss Liberty's sexual habits.  The Los Angeles Times said:

Hope's "joke" was worse than obscene. It was abusive and unworthy...It is both sad and shameful that a man who many have considered a national treasure should think it would be funny to besmirch Miss Liberty on her 100th birthday.

Gay activists complained again about the raw homophobia,, and AIDS activists complained about the horrifying misinformation.  Hope didn't actually apologize, but he said:  "I've known so many people like that over the years, worked with so many.  But it's different now.  Now they fight back."

Hope continued to make homophobic jokes until 1988, when a reference to "fags" on The Tonight Show prompted GLAAD to demand an apology.  Hope agreed to participate in an PSA, which aired only on local gay tv programs:

"I was amazed to discover that many people die each year in anti-gay attacks, and thousands more are left scarred, emotionally and physically.  Bigotry has no place in this great nation, and violence has no place in this world."

He was amazed to discover that anti-gay violence exists?  Really?

Gay people are not mentioned in the 2015 biography, Hope: Entertainer of the Century.  

See also: Bing Crosby

Who are the Guys in Sweat Pants on My Twitter Feed?

This showed up in my Twitter feed, a welcome change of pace from the outrage over the lunatic in the White House.

"Thanks for the great weekend, boys," the tweet said, signed Dante Colle.

And at the bottom, the watermark "Guys in Sweatpants."

I was intrigued.  Who were these guys?  A baseball team?  A boy band?  An youtube celebrity and his entourage?  And why weren't any of them actually wearing sweat pants?

It proved to be in a bizarre photo format, which wouldn't load in any of my photo programs, so I converted it to a .jpg, but it was still invisible until I copied it onto another file and converted it again.

Which only added to the mystery.  So I started checking out the twitter accounts.

The one on the far left, with the horse shoe tattoo, is Dante Colle, "GQ in the streets, hippie in the sheets.  Pura Vida," with 3,000 followers on twitter.  Lots of shirtless, semi-nude, and NSFW gay sex scenes on his social media feeds.

Kaden Dean, the femme guy with the ears standing next to Dante in the back row, is a 22-year old college student from Texas.  He has a Hebrew phrase tattooed on his chest.  He retweets a photo of himself aroused, sent by Logan Cross with the phrase "Look at this new meat my booty gonna eat."

Logan Cross, the short guy in the front with the weird hair and the chest, is from  Utah, with 58K followers on Twitter.  He likes pizza, pug dogs, Miley Ray Cyrus, his hairstyle, and sex with Kaden Dean.

Leo Luckett, the blond guy with the big red tattoo, second from the left, is  from San Diego.  He likes Harry Potter, peanut butter, and Daddies.   He tweets: "Who wants to top?  I wanna bottom."

Clark Parker,  hiding in the background, second from the right, was born on September 6, 1990, is into skateboarding and sex, and belongs to Slytherin House at Hogwarts.  He's Austin Wilde's sock buddy and favorite bottom.

Austin Wilde, the bald one holding the camera, has 90,000 followers on Twitter.  He lives in San Diego, where he regularly tops men on camera.  It helps if you like dogs and are a good cook.  He won the "Best Body" trophy at the Gay Porn Awards in 2017.

Charles King, on the far right, has excellent abs, representation from Ted Faye, and 1,300 followers on Twitter.  He tweets "I can't remember the last time I paid for underwear," and admits that he's never had sex with Hugh Jackman.

Yeah, it didn't take long to figure out that they were the cast of a porno, and guysinsweatpants.com is a website devoted to "Real. Gay. Sex."  134 models, countless scenes, and an invitation to become a model (the application is quite lengthy, though, so I didn't fill it out).

But it's nice to know that there is still professional porn being made in this age where everybody and his brother has a nude selfie floating around the internet, and it's a class act.

Yes, I have some nude photos on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jul 2, 2017

Looking for Muscle on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

The Dick Van Dyke Show won 15 Emmies during its five seasons (1961-1966), and is constantly praised today as one of the greatest TV shows of all time (TV Guide ranks it at #13).

It came on before my bedtime during its original run, but it was constantly being rerun during my childhood, often at lunchtime during the summer, so my brother and I watched while waiting for Mom to fry our  baloney or egg sandwiches

I know, it's a classic, and it won lots of Emmies, and all, but I didn't like it.

1. The premise: Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) was head writer for a weekly comedy-variety show.  Stories alternated between work and home.  Father of beefcake actor Barry Van Dyke (but no relation to Philip Van Dyke), Dick was tall, gawky, and rubbery-limbed, not at all attractive.

Plus he was hetero-horny in that obnoxious eye-bulging 1950s way, although devoted to his wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, who would get her own iconic tv sitcom in the 1970s).

2. Rob's writing staff included the unhappily single, man-hungry Sally Rogers (Rose Marie), who was desperate to get married, even though that would mean giving up her successful comedy-writing career.

And short, sarcastic Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam).  Cute, but in his 50s, a bit too old to be attractive to a preteen.

He was as hetero-horney as Rob, and married to a former chorus girl with the ridiculous name Pickles.

3. Buddy had a sparring love-hate relationship with Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), the balding, stuffy producer of the tv show.  But it was mostly hate.  You have to push really hard to find an undertow of homoerotic attraction.

Richard Deacon was gay in real life, and a fixture in West Hollywood bars during the 1970s.  My friend Levi dated him.

4. Back home, Rob and Laura had a son, Ritchie (Larry Mathews), who was about my age.  But I don't recall him being the focus of any episode, except one where they explain how he got the feminine middle name "Rosebud."  He was mostly a non-entity.

5. The only regular cast member who was marginally attractive was next door neighbor Jerry Helper, played Jerry Paris, who starred in some sex comedies during the 1960s.  But he was married, too.

6. And maybe an occasional guest star, such as Jerry Van Dyke (left), Jamie Farr, and Jacques Bergerac.

No muscles, no buddy-bonding, a lot of hetero-horniness.  No wonder I didn't like it.

Besides, the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" scared me to death.

See also: Hip Workplace Sitcoms of the 1970s; Mary Tyler Moore and the Two Richies; Levi's Date with a Star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

Kafka's Boyfriend: 10 Surprising Gay Facts about Everybody's Favorite Writer

The one thing I learned from studying literature for ten years at Augustana College, Indiana University, and USC:
Writers must never, ever be gay.

If their gayness is undeniable, it is a trivial thing, not worth mentioning, as irrelevant to their art as their preference for marshmallow sundaes.

If it is deniable, it will be denied.  Diaries, journals, and stories will be scrutinized, ahd the most fleeting reference to a woman's beauty will be pointed out triumphantly: "See?  See?  See?  Not gay!"

And the strongest, most passionate, most intense same-sex friendships will be ignored.  "He never mentions that they had sex!  Not gay!"

Like Franz Kafka (1883-1924), author of The Metamorphosis, which everyone has to read in high school. 

Biographers and literary critics scream loudly and vociferously that he was "Not gay!"  Saul Friedlander discusses some same-sex desire in his new biography, The Poet of Shame and Guilt (2013), but insists that Kafka never acted on his icky impulses.

But Kafka has a substantial gay connection.

1. Gay symbolism in the stories.

The Metamorphosis: Your relatives are shocked to discover that you have turned into a disgusting, slithering monster (like when homophobes discover that you are gay).

The Trial: You are arrested by unspecified agents of an unspecified government agency for an unspecified crime (like homophobes putting you on trial for making a "choice" that you never made to do evil that isn't evil).

2. In a 1917 book, psychiatrist Wilhelm Steckel analyzes The Metamorphosis as an evocation of gay self-hatred. Kafka did not deny the theory, and even wrote to his friend Felix Weltsch to ask his opinion.

3. Kafka was thoroughly disgusted by the idea of sex with women.  He preferred to court them by letter, so they wouldn't need any physical contact.  He writes in his diary of a nightmare in which a woman gropes him and tries to tear his clothes off, while he is struggling desperately and screaming "Let me go!"

Sounds really heterosexual to me.

4. He was immersed in the Physical Culture movement of early 20th century Germany, which idolized the naked young male body and sang the praises of same-sex activity.

5. He tried to read The Role of Eroticism in Male Society (1917), an early gay history by Hans Bluher, but had to put it aside for a couple of days because it was too "exciting."

6. He had crushes on guys throughout his life. In 1914 he saw 24-year old writer  Franz Werfel (left) in a coffee house, and rhapsodized over "the beautiful profile of his face pressed against his chest."  Later he dreamed that he kissed Werfel.

7. At the age of 19, he modeled for a painting St. Sebastian, the Christian saint who was arrowed to death (top photo, not Kafka).  Throughout history, images of St. Sebastian have been renowned for their blatant homoeroticism. I've never heard of a model for St. Sebastian who wasn't gay (Yukio Mishima also posed).

8. In 1902, while a student at Charles University, Kafka sat in on a lecture by Max Brod (left, the one with the chest hair).  Afterwards Brod took him home and...whatever happened, their relationship was the deepest, most intimate in Kafka's life.  After his death, Brod was named executor of Kafka's estate, and supervised the publication of his stories.

9. Kafka was also a close friend of philosopher Felix Weltsch (1884-1964), who wrote about anti-Semitism in a way that presages current views about homophobia.

10. He lived in Prague, a city which now has more public penises per square mile than any other city in the world (except maybe Thimpu, Bhutan).