Jul 20, 2018

Robby Benson's Six Pack

Was there any 1970s teen idol more dreamy than Robby Benson?  Sure, David CassidyDonny Osmond, and Leif Garrett were cute, but Robby's blue eyes, coiffed hair, and soulful pout could cause thousands of straight girls and gay boys to swoon with goofy smiles on their faces, even without a beefcake shot.

Even his single scene in The End (1978) as a baby-faced priest confessing Burt Reynolds, was a show-stopper.

But to top it off, Robby soon developed a physique than would shame Scott Baio and Adrian Zmed, with a tight muscular chest and six-pack abs.

And the producers knew it.  All of his earliest movie roles -- Jory (1973), Troy (1973), and All the Kind Strangers (1974) -- featured ample shirtless shots.  When he moved on to teen angst, dying in Death be Not Proud (1975), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), and The Death of Richie (1977), the beefcake completely overshadowed the gravitas of the plots.

Hs only significant bonding was in The Chosen (1981), about the romance between an Orthodox and a Hasidic Jewish boy  -- otherwise his characters are busily falling for girls or dying.  But the gay kids in the audience weren't paying attention to the plot anyway.  They were waiting for the next shirtless shot.

When Robby moved on to young adult roles, mostly involving bigotry and sports, the beefcake continued.  Who could forget his underwear shot in Ice Castles (1978), his nude locker room scene in Running Brave (1983), or his magnificent shirtless scenes in Die Laughing (1980) and Harry and Son (1984)?

After a few years in the post-teen idol sleaze-movie ghetto -- City Limits (1984) and California Girls (1985) were good only for fast-forwarding to the shirtless scenes -- Robby managed to establish himself as a grown-up actor.  He continued to appear regularly in movies and tv through the 1980s and 1990s, gradually shifting into voice work (he was the voice of the Beast in the 1991 Disney movie Beauty and the Beast). 

Robby was one of the first Hollywood actors to play a gay character, instead of the ubiquitous "best friend to the gay guy" role  (in Ode to Billy Joe)

And though he has never officially acknowledged his debt to gay fans, he has worked on a number of gay-friendly projects, from Ellen to Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  

There are nude photos on Tales of West Hollywood.

And I have a post on his son Zephyr.  What's it like being the son of the most beautiful teen idol in the world?

The Top Teen Idols in the World, #11 to #20

Time to look at Teen Idols #11-20, to see if they can hold a candle to the teen idols of the Golden Age, such as David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, and Robby Benson.

11. Brooklyn Beckham.  Another of soccer guy David Beckham's kids.  He doesn't seem to sing or act, but he was on the cover of the magazine Man About Town, in an article entitled "Drop the Boy."

Kind of pasty, and what's with the Cupid tattoo?  But at least he's 19.

12. Aiden Gallagher, age 14, Nicky in the Disney teencom Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn.

13. Levi Miller, age 15, Calvin in A Wrinkle in Time.  I liked the movie, but I thought Levi was miscast.  Calvin should be a long, gawky stringbean, not the school Golden Boy.  I'd like to know who his friends are.

14. Bradley Steven Perry, age 16, star of the Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie

15. Izan Llunes (right, with his brother and father Marco).  Androgynous, like a young Leif Garrett.  He won the Spanish musical competition La voz kids, has two albums, and stars in the Netflix series Luis Miguel.  I don't know how old he is.  Six?

16. Jake Short, age 21, star of the Disney teencom A.N.T. Farm.  He's on the right, with Austin North and Bradley Steven Perry.  Not the most buffed of the group.

17. Joshua Rush, age 16, who plays the first identified gay teen on children's tv, on Andy Mack.  He's on the right, in the arms of Asher Angel, who really gets around.

So does Joshua:

I'm not slut-shaming; there's nothing wrong with dating two guys at once.

There are shirtless pics of Joshua, but he's with a girl.

18. Merrick Hanna, age 13.  According to wikipedia, he's a "popping and animation style dance, mostly focusing on dancing like a robot."  He gave an "interstellar performance" on America's Got Talent at age 11, and won the Shorty Award for Best in Dance.  His sponsors include Honda and the Gap.

We have to get to #18 before the teen idols stop posting selfies of their abs.  During the Golden Age, such things were rare; there were only two shirtless photos of Shaun Cassidy in existence, and just one of Leif Garrett. 

19. Anthony Ursin, age 13, a French actor known for Chocolat (2016).

20. Nicolas Bechtel, age 13, from Disney's Stuck in the Middle and the soap General Hospital.

Believe it or not, he's got shirtless selfies out there for the edification of his 711,000 Instagram followers.

I can't imagine junior high kids putting up posters of any of these guys in their bedrooms, or writing their names in little hearts in their chemistry notebooks.  But I guess those things are passe, today's tweens follow their idols on Instagram and Twitter and find out what they had for lunch.

Jul 19, 2018

Dom Deluise and Sons: Gay Stereotypes Were a Step Forward

The most flamboyantly feminine actor in the 1970s was not Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly: it was Dom Deluise (below), who played gay-coded roles in many of his buddy Burt Reynold's movies (Smokey and the Bandits II, Canonball Run, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), and many of his buddy Mel Brooks' movies (Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, The World's Greatest Lover).   It seemed that you couldn't go to any comedy where Dom wasn't camping it up.

His characters were all gay stereotypes -- in fact, they were rather homophobic -- but you never saw positive portrayals of gay men anywhere.  Just depicting them as vivacious, fun-loving, and not monsters was a step forward in 1976.

Dom continued to work steadily during the 1980s and 1990s, moving into voice work, appearing as himself everywhere on tv, and publishing some best-selling cookbooks.  No movies with "real" gay characters, except for Girl Play (2004), in which a director casts two women to play lesbian lovers, and they end up falling for each other.

With all his flamboyance and camp, and his close friendships with closeted gay performers like Liberace and Jim Nabors, most people assumed that Dom was gay.  Maybe he was, but that didn't stop him from being married to Carol Arthur from 1965 to his death in 2009.

His three sons are all actors, but they have resisted the family tradition of flamboyant, gay-coded characters, playing mostly cops and other macho types:

1. Peter (left), born in 1966, is best known as Officer Doug Penhall on 21 Jump Street. 

2. Michael, born 1969, had a recurring role on The Gilmore Girls.

3. David (top photo), born in 1971, is best known as the father of a family of wizards in the Disney Channel's gay subtext Wizards of Waverly Place.


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