Aug 5, 2017

The Top 9 Beefcake Stars of "America's Got Talent"

I don't watch talent shows on tv, so I figured that America's Got Talent (2006-)  was just another rendition of American Idol, with wannabe pop stars belting out off-key Madonna while a panel of celebrity complains.  Turns out that the acts involve more than just singers.  There are comedians, magicians, and acrobats, including a significant number who offer beefcake along with their performance.

Here are some of the best physiques.

1. Brennan Ficari from Season 6, an aerial artist based in Berlin.

2. Alex Magala, a sword-swallower from Moldova who has appeared on six Got Talent programs: Russia, Britain, the U.S., the Czech Republic, Italy, and the Ukraine.

3. Aeon, a group of parkour practitioners from Miami.

4. The Aerialist duo Catalexi, composed of Catherine Audy and Alexis Trudel, was formed at the Circus School of Quebec in 2009.  They won the Bronze Elephant at the International Circus Festival in Spain.

5. Nico Maffey, a gymnast from Argentina, has a degree in biology from Harvard University.

More after the break

Aug 4, 2017

Photographing the Beauty and Fragility of Male Youth

On his tumblr  blog, David Corvine has published a number of black-and-white photos that expertly capture the paradox of male youth: innocence and experience, strength and fragility, infinite joy and profound sadness.   I've only gone through the last two months, but I already have enough artist leads for a dozen posts.

 1. A smoking boy by Danny Fitzgerald (1921-2000), who took male physique photographs with his partner and model Richard Bennett during the 1960s and published them as "Les Demi Dieux" (the demi-gods).

2. Boy with snake by Swiss photographer Walter Pfeiffer (1946-)

3. A boy tries to discover the secret of his mirror image.  By Konrad Helbig (1917-1986), a German artist whose nude photos were only discovered after his death.

4. Contemporary artist Ricky Cohete photographs a slim youth against a backdrop of a once-opulent European street.

5. Matthew Brookes photographs a group of ballet dancers at the Paris Opera.

More after the break.

Joe Dallesandro's Date with Peter Pan

Last week I put the word out to all of my friends and friends-of-friends for celebrity hookup stories about Tony Dow.  I got a lot of other 1950s and 1960s teen idols instead: Jack Wild, "Dennis the Menace" Jay North, Jon Provost, Brandon DeWilde.  Some I'm holding off until I can do some fact-checking, but Bobby Driscoll seems pretty airtight.

It comes from a friend of Blake, my ex-boyfriend in Manhattan, who says he heard it from Wallace Berman.

The first generation of Baby Boomers remembers Bobby Driscoll (1937-1968) for only two vehicles: a young Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island (1950), and the voice and model of Peter Pan (1953).

In fact, he was a busy child star, working from the age of five, hired at the age of 11 to become Disney's first adventure boy, whose youthful masculinity and muscle would guide the way through the Cold War.

But things didn't pan out.  Apparently he wasn't masculine or muscular enough to suit Walt.  Promised roles fell through, and finally Disney cancelled his contract altogether.  Bobby found himself scrambling for guest spots on tv shows, trying to survive in a high school where everyone ribbed him for being the androgynous Peter Pan, negotiating bouts of depression, trying every drug he could get his hands on.

Around 1956, Bobby met Wallace Berman, an artist of the 1950s avant-garde, who introduced him to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger.  He thought Bobby had a great deal of artistic talent, and should concentrate on that rather than acting.

But Bobby continued to try to capitalize on his long-gone child star cuteness.  Former Disney chums took pity on him, and arranged for roles in Men of Annapolis, The Party Crashers, and The Millionaire, but he was increasingly deemed unemployable.  His last mainstream acting job was in a 1960 episode of Rawhide.

He supplemented his very meager acting income with odd jobs, petty theft, and an occasional trick with female clients.  He was arrested many times for drug possession, burglary, assault, and theft, but amazingly, either the charges were dropped or he was sentenced to probation.  He only served six months in prison.

One day in 1965, after Bobby's latest arrest, he got a call from Berman, now living in Greenwich Village and quite a big name in avant-garde circles (he is one of the celebrities on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).

"Look, the straight world is doing nothing but giving you shit," Berman said.  Come to the Village and crash at my place.  Work on your art."

So Bobby and girlfriend Didi relocated to New York, and moved into Wallace's pad in Greenwich Village.

Berman introduced him to Andy Warhol, and he began hanging around the Factory with the crowd of hustlers, transvestites, underground artists, and pop stars. They all made a fuss over him: he was immediately cast in the underground film Dirt (1965), and asked if he had any poetry to publish.

 Andy was particularly entranced with Bobby.  "Peter Pan finds a new way to fly," he said.  "The ironic rebirth of a lost boy.  I love it.  Take your clothes off."

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

Aug 3, 2017

Little Lulu: The Perils of the Gay Child's World

During the 1960s, when Bill, Greg, and I zoomed into Schneider's Drug Store to blow our allowance on comic books, we zeroed in on the Gold Key jungle titles (Tarzan, Korak), Disneys (Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge), or maybe Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig as swashbuckling adventurers.  I had to go back later to pick up Little Lulu, since my friends would rib me for liking a comic that was "just for girls."

But Little Lulu offered something that no other comic book or tv program or movie of the 1960s had: cute boys running around completely nude. Stylized, cartoon nudity, but still exciting for a preteen who had a vivid enough imagination to fill in the blanks.

I didn't know that I was reading reprints of comics written by John Stanley in the 1950s, and originally based on single-panel strips published in the Saturday Evening Post.  So, like Out Our Way, I was mesmerized by this kid world so different from my own.

1. At Denkmann Elementary School, boy-girl friendships were discouraged, but Lulu Moppet had friends of both sexes: the self-assured Tubby (left); timid Annie and her brother Iggy (right); spoiled rich kid Wilbur; the haughty Gloria.

2. Some of the plots involved Tubby wanting to kiss Gloria or Lulu getting valentines from boys, but not many; mostly boys and girls were completely oblivious to heterosexual desire, a pleasant surcease of the girl-crazy boys on tv during the 1960s.

3. There was little of the gender segregation of my grade school.  Boys had no qualms about appearing in girls' clothing.  Girls excelled at boy-only pursuits.

4. They had remarkable freedom to go wherever they liked without parental supervision.

5. They lived in a urban neighborhood, a short walk from downtown shops that were curiously specialized (meat, vegetables, bread, and candy all in different stores).  There were also woods, a lake, caves, and a swamp nearby; the beach was a short bus ride away.

6. There were many inexplicable dangers.  Spankings, often for things they didn't do.  Truant officers who wouldn't listen to reason. Goblins who stole your identity.  Parental abandonment ("I found a little boy I like better, so you'll have to leave").  A witch who would turn you into a stone or a lead pipe and leave you, immobile and helpless, forever.

These dangers mirrored those of gay kids who tried to negotiate the straight world, following  nonsensical rules, knowing that the slightest slip-up would mean disaster.

19th Century Slave Paintings

This is one of the most famous paintings of the 19th century, Le supplice de fouet (Flogging), Whipping of a Fugitive Slave" by Marcel Verdier (1817-1856).

It depicts a naked slave, tied spreadeagle on his stomach, his butt in the air, being whipped by a black overseer while the master, his family, and other slaves watch.

The erotic energy and power usually associated with male nudity has dissipated, leaving only abjection and despair.

Pictures of slaves being punished were not uncommon during the period. They allowed the artist to make a statement about the brutality of the "peculiar institution" while still drawing out the beauty of the nude male form.

 In Augustus Earle's Punishing Negroes at Cathabouco, Rio de Janeiro, the slave being whipped stands upright, displaying a muscular back and buttocks in defiance of the whip.

In an 1834 illustration of a slave being punished in Brazil, the man is forced into the fetal position to take the switch, yet his muscular physique is anything but infantile.  He seems ready to break his bonds and burst into freedom.

This illustration from The Story of My Life, by Mary Livermore (1899), shows a very muscular slave with a massive chest, his arms lifted to heaven.

An illustration of a slave being punished by hanging, by Offert Dapper, emphasizes the muscularity of his arms and legs.

A slave market, from Bickwell's History of the West Indies as They Are (1835), contrasts the classical physique of the man being sold with the effete dandies examining him.

See also: Uncle Tom's Cabin: The Slave as an Object of Desire

My First Asian Hookup, with a Little Help from My Friends

West Hollywood, July 5th, 1985

I arrived in Southern California two days ago, on Wednesday afternoon.  Thursday was a holiday, but today I'm getting started with the three things I need.

1. An apartment.
2. A job.
3. Asian men.

I've been into Asian men for as long as I can remember, at least since I read My Village in Japan in third grade, or got a fleeting glimpse of a cute Chinese boy, Chi Ehr Ma, in fourth grade.  But I've only met a few.  Heck, I've seen only a few (even in 2017, Rock Island has an Asian population of only 0.75%).

But there are 1.4 million people of Asian ancestry in Los Angeles, more Burmese, Thais, Cambodians, Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Indonesians than anywhere outside their home countries.

1.4 million people means 40,000 adult gay men, and probably 20,000 who are single and available.   I'm going shopping!

I have dinner at the Greenery and hang around the Different Light Bookstore and the Gold Coast until  cruising time, 9:00 pm.

My Gayellow Pages lists two gay Asian bar in Los Angeles, but one is "full of hustlers," so I go to the other, Mugi.  It's about a 20 minute drive from West Hollywood, down Santa Monica to Highland to Hollywood, past the 101, almost to Echo Park.

The neighborhood makes me a little nervous.  There are panhandlers and leering drunks and sleazy hotels.  Finding parking is not easy!

Mugi is a long, narrow room with a bar at the far end and some tables in the middle.  No dance floor.  No patio.  No theme nights, trivia games, best physique contests, or drag shows, nothing to do or watch.

You come here for only two reasons: to talk to your friends; and to cruise.

There are a few men sitting alone at the tables, and a few standing against the walls, lined up, facing the opposite wall like boys and girls lined up on opposite sides of the school gym on dance night.  But most are in tight groups of four and five.

More Asian men than I have ever seen before.  Thin, fat, muscular;  tall, short; young, old; masculine, feminine.  This is heaven!

It's the middle of the AIDS epidemic, so of course I'm not interested in "tricking" -- going home with someone that night.  I want a telephone number -- or two or three -- to make dates for next week.

There doesn't seem to be much tricking going on, anyway.  Most guys seem to come in groups, and leave in groups.

Maybe this isn't a cruise bar after all?

I don't care -- I'll make it a cruise bar!

Some guys are walking slowly along the rows, eyeing everybody as if they are merchandise on sale. I try that, and get major attitude, no eye contact at all, except from a white guy, a middle-aged Daddy with a short beard and an enormous basket.

"Hi, I'm Boomer, from Texas.  Quite a crowd tonight."

He shakes my hand.  "Travis.  Yeah, it's early, so most of the rice queens aren't here yet.  This is the social hour."

"Rice queen?"

"White guys looking for soft, passive Asian cocks."

Travis tells me that this bar was originally set up for rice queens to easily pick up "Asian cock," which is why Asian-Americans, guys born in the U.S., stay away.  It's all recent immigrants, mostly from Southeast Asia.  Some are refugees. Some are ladyboys who escaped from the sex trade.  Some were thrown out of their families for being gay.  All have stories of pain and degradation.

"Um...I just think most Asian guys are hot," I say, meekly.  "I just want a date."

"Don't we all?  But you have to know what you're up against.  They're suspicious of rice queens, worried that they're going to be exploited or abused. They won't even date Asian guys from other countries.  Look --"  He points at the various groups along the left wall: "Burmese, Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese."  And along the right wall: "Malaysian, Chinese, Thai but from a group that won't talk to the other Thais, Korean."

He puts his hand on my shoulder.  "If I were you, I'd go down to the Rage, have a drink, dance, and cruise some white twinks.  It'll increase your chances by about 500%."

I thank him for his advice and walk away.  I stand on the other side of the bar from a cute guy, tall, light skinned, lightly muscled physique, standing alone.



More attitude.

Travis is doing the same thing, with no success.

I'm getting annoyed!  24 years of fantasies about Asian men, and this is what I get?

Biting the bullet, I approach three guys standing together in a clump.  Short, dark-skinned, handsome grinning faces.

"Hi, I'm Boomer.  I just moved here from Texas."

One holds out his hand.  "Dato, from Malaysia.  Your friend is cute.  Tell him ok."

"Um...ok what?"

He frowns.  "To meet, of course.  What you think?"

"I'm new here.  I don't know..."

They burst out laughing.  I'm about to retreat when Dato grabs my arm.  "Ok, you new here, so I tell you.  At Mugi you don't cruise.  It's rude."

 "Your mother never told you, don't talk to strangers?" his friend asks with a giggling laugh.  "You like a boy, you send a friend to see if it's ok.  Then if he says yes, you bring him over, meet all his friends."

"So now you go tell Travis it's ok," Dato says.

How did Travis, a regular, miss this rule?

I look around the bar for him, so I can offer to introduce him to Dato -- and ask him to return the favor.

He's vanished, maybe gone on to the Rage to cruise some twinks.

I hang out with Dato for awhile, telling him and his friends all about Texas (yes, they grow them big there!).  Eventually a guy approaches and offers to introduce me to his friend Huan.

A 23-year old from Shanghai who has only lived in the U.S. for a few months, and doesn't speak English very well.  He has a job, though,  working as a liaison at the Community Redevelopment Agency.   Short, slim, young-looking, with thin arms but nice hard shoulders.

On our date, we go to Chinatown, just north of downtown L.A., to browse in the shops and have dinner in a Chinese restaurant.  Then we go back to his apartment.

[This part is censored.]

Huan, now my friend, could introduce me to anyone at Mugi that I wanted to meet.

Plus he got me a job at the Community Redevelopment Agency.

I returned to Mugi at least once a week, often twice, for the next eight years.  I met many more Asian guys.  And I found that almost everything Travis told me was wrong.

Either he didn't know what he was talking about, or he was trying to discourage me with a weird cock and bull story.  Mostly bull.

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

Joe Dallesandro: Counterculture Icon with the Most Famous Face, Physique, and Bulge of the 1960s

Joe Dallesandro had one of the most recognizeable faces, physiques -- and bulges -- of the 1960s.

When the teenager met Andy Warhol in 1967, he had already had a colorful career as a juvenile delinquent who had run away from two detention centers, crashed a car during a police chase, and was shot by a police officer.  He was currently working as a hustler, and a model for the gay-themed Physique Pictorial.  Bisexual, adventurous, a little dangerous, and devastatingly handsome, he was just the sort of person Warhol wanted for his entourage.

Joe immediately got a starring role in Flesh, directed by Warhol staple Paul Morrissey.  He plays a bisexual hustler who has several frontal-nude scenes and has sex with a number of people, including a transvestite.

During the next few years, Joe starred in five more Warhol movies:

Lonesome Cowboys (1968), a Western spoof which involved a nude wrestling scene, plus Trash, Heat, Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, and Blood for Dracula, sometimes with nude scenes, sometimes without, but his fame as a counterculture icon was sealed.

He appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, nude, with his infant son.  20 years later, they recreated the iconic photo.

He appeared on the cover of the Smiths' album The Album.

His bulge appeared on the cover of the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers.  Actually, Andy Warhol submitted it from a stack of photos without knowing who it depicted, but Joe has always claimed that it's him.  He should know what his own bulge looks like.

He was referenced in the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side":

Little Joe never gave it away, everybody had to pay.

(Joe is 5'6", a head shorter than Andy Warhol at 5'11")

During the late 1970s, Joe broke into mainstream cinema, first in Europe (The Gardener, The Climber, Season for Assassins, Je t'aime moi non plus), then in the United States, specializing in gangsters and other tough guys (The Cotton Club,  The Hitchhiker, Cry-Baby, Guncrazy). He also worked in tv, on such series as Wiseguy and Matlock.  

Today, at age 68, he has retired from acting, although he appears occasionally as a commentator in in documentaries about the 1960s, or Andy Warhol, or himself.

Joe has always been a vocal advocate of LGBT rights.  He said that if his sons, Joe Jr. and Michael, were gay, he wouldn't want them to endure the homophobia that he witnessed in the "liberal" 1960s and 1970s.

There's a story about Joe's hookup with Bobby Driscoll on Tales of West Hollywood.

The nude photos are on Tales of West Hollywood

Rex Smith: Not Gay, in Spite of the Outfits

When I was in college (1978-82), I still read teen magazines; they were the only place to get beefcake images in the small-town Midwest.  And this was the image I saw most often: Rex Smith, a gleaming, smooth chest in a brown leather vest and highly bulgeworthy leather pants.

Tiger Beat is not good at background information on its fave raves, so I learned nothing else about him.  Although I assumed that such a flamboyantly feminine guy in a leather catsuit must be gay.

Turns out Rex Smith was a pop star in the midst of a 10-album career, with several charting singles, including "You Take My Breath Away" and "Never Gonna Give You Up." I often heard those songs playing in the distance, along with a steady diet of Neil Diamond, But I didn't make the connection.  At the time, I was busy listening for Gay Subtext songs like "Physical" and "I'm Coming Out."

His Broadway career began with the role of Danny Zuko in Grease in 1978, and went on to The Pirates of Penzance, The Human Comedy, Sunset Boulevard, and Annie Get Your Gun.

He has done some work on television, including some tv-movies about finding love, a two-year run on on the soap As the World Turns, and Street Hawk (1985), a Knight Rider clone about a cop crippled in an accident who gets a super-motorcycle.

And the movie version of Pirates of Penzance, for which he wore another pair of extraordinarily tight leather pants and buddy-bonded with Kevin Kline.

Currently Rex and his son Brandon are starring in the reality webseries Smith & Smith Unlimited, about father-son Hollywood producers.  You can see a clip on his official website.

Apparently not gay, and maybe even homophobic.  The entire country of the Philippines was up in arms when singer and gay icon Charice Pempengco was rehearsing for a corporate event in Cebu, and Rex , also performing at the venue, stormed in, told her to "stop doing what you're doing," and allegedly used a homophobic slur.

See also: Rod and Al Stewart: Coming Out in the Year of the Cat.

Aug 2, 2017

Walk on the Wild Side

The gay world is always hidden, flickering on the edge of our vision, invisible to the average person.  Merely a shadow to us.  But then one day something happens.  By accident or design, we go down the rabbit hole, or through the wardrobe, or to Platform 9 3/4, and we can see the gay world, bright and colorful.

With a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip, and nothing can ever be the same.

"Walk on the Wild Side," by Lou Reed (1972), is about several people making that slip from dull Mundania to the gay world, where all gender and sexual norms vanish and you can find yourself -- or lose yourself -- in the savage possibilities.

Holly shaved her legs and then he was a she.

Candy was everyone's darling in the back rooms.

Little Joe never gave it away, everybody had to pay.

Sugar Plum Fairy visited the Apollo, where the "colored girls" sang.

Jackie thought she was James Dean and crashed.

Transvestism, back-room sex, male prostitution, interracial sex, drugs -- heavy stuff for 1972.

When I first heard the song, in high school, I didn't understand most of the sexual references.  I didn't know that the people mentioned were all members of Andy Warhol's Factory: Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis.

But I knew that there was a world out there, "beyond the fields we know," the Wild Side, frightening, dangerous, disturbing -- and free.

See also: Searching for a Gay Comic; Andy Warhol; Joe Dallesandro

Aug 1, 2017

The Joy of Summer #5: Watching Guys Mow Lawns

I hate summertime, but I have to admit, it has some beefcake benefits, like car washes; dunking booths at county fairs; and guys mowing lawns.

During the 19th century, most people in the U.S. cities lived in townhouses, houses crammed against each other with no space in between. Sculpted green lawns were for the estates of the very rich.  It wasn't until the 20th century, and especially after World War II, that even people of modest means expected to have a "castle" surrounded on all sides by green lawns.

Today practically every house has a lawn, regardless of its environmental impact: grass is a water-hog, and it doesn't give off a lot of oxygen.  In fact, it doesn't do much of anything.  You'd be better off planting a vegetable garden, or some flowers that can attract bees.

But one benefit of all those lawns is: they have to be mown.  At least once a week from sometime in April to sometime in September in the northern United States.

The hot months.

It's hot work, so people -- usually men -- often mow shirtless.

In every suburban neighborhood, Saturday afternoons are filled with the sound of electric mowers, as the parade of beefcake begins.

Once you reach middle age, you don't mow lawns anymore.  You give the job to any teenage boys in your household.  If there are no teenage boys in your household, you hire someone.

Elderly people usually solicit volunteers from among their sons and grandsons, or again, hire someone.

Gay men usually have to hire someone.

More after the break.

The Gay Couples of "Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag"

In some movies, you get exactly what the title says: Snakes on a Plane; Sharknado; Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997).

The heads are in the custody of mafioso Tommy Spinelli (Joe Pesci), who is transporting them across the country to prove to his boss that their owners are actually dead.  Unfortunately, the bags are switched at the airport, and the bag with the heads gets picked up by Charlie (Andy Comeau), who is en route to Mexico to visit his girlfriend and meet her parents for the first time.

Question: how did he get the human heads through security?

Question: wouldn't you notice right away that your duffel bag contained hard, round things instead of shirts and pants?

Trying to track down the heads, Tommy runs into Charlie's friends, Ernie and Steve (David Spade, Todd Louiso).  At first he tortures them in humorous ways (in their underwear), but then they bond, and agree to help him track down Charlie.

Humorous complications follow: Charlie loses a head, his girlfriend's parents think he's a serial killer, and so on. Tommy and Charlie bond, and the kind-hearted mafioso decides that he should give up crime.

But the hit men who originally killed the eight men (Anthony Mangano, Joe Basile) are upset over the "double cross," and put Tommy, Charlie, and the whole crowd on their hit list.

It's not very funny.  Most of the humor involves someone trying to keep someone else from realizing that he has a human head in his possession.  But there are gay subtexts everywhere in this movie.  Ernie and Steve come across as a gay couple.  So do the two hitmen.  Tommy, who keeps bonding with men, expresses no heterosexual interest, and could easily be read as gay.

By the way, Todd Louiso has an impressive physique.  Andy Comeau doesn't show anything here, but you can see his penis on tv series Huff (2004).