Jul 27, 2015

Summer Beefcake at the Renaissance Faire

In 1963, Los Angeles teacher Phyllis Patterson and her husband hosted a week-long "Renaissance Pleasure Faire" in Irwindale, California, modeled after the "Living History" exhibits then popular in historic sites.  People walked around pretending to actually be living in the Renaissance, wearing the costumes, performing the crafts,  talking the lingo.

The practice gained momentum during the Medieval mania of the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of hippies, organic food devotees, and Tolkien-philes longed for a cleaner, simpler, more colorful world.

Where gym-toned guys took their shirts off.

I'm not sure where in Renaissance Europe these dancers came from.

When I dated a guy from the Society for Creative Anachronism, they told me that their character could be anyone who could have been in Europe from 500 to 1500 AD.  So no Native Americans or Pacific Islanders, but East Asians and sub-Saharan Africans were ok.

Maybe these guys are from Renaissance India.

Renaissance Faires are not popular in Europe: when there's a castle on every hillside, and your house dates from the 16th century, you don't really need to evoke the Renaissance.  It's already there.

But there are hundreds in the United States.  Some draw as many as 500,000 visitors per year.

I studied the Renaissance.  They had lice and fleas, bathing was infrequent, dinner consisted mostly of bread, and the homicide rate was ten times what it is today.  You were likely to be burnt at the stake for being Jewish, Catholic, a gypsy, or a sodomite.

And without modern nutrition and bodybuilding techniques, there were few physiques like this around.

But the Renaissance Faires are about the Renaissance we wish existed.

They tend to be a bit on the heterosexist side, all about men and women gazing into each other's eyes (heterosexuals never believe that gay people existed in the past).  But they're worth it for the beefcake, the food, and the costumes.

Jul 25, 2015

I Go Home with the Amazing Invisible Boy

One Sunday afternoon, Kevin the Vampire and I were at the beer bust at the San Francisco Eagle, when a twink caught my eye .  He was wearing a white t-shirt with a weird dark stain at the belly, jeans torn at the knee, and a light brown jacket -- quite out of place amid the leather-clad bears and muscle daddies.

He was in his 20s, tall, slim, blond, very pale.  Not my usual type, but he had a handsome, almost angelic face, and he looked...lost.  Everyone was giving him major attitude.

"Poor guy wandered into the wrong bar," I told Kevin.

He looked around.  "Who do you mean?"

I pointed. "The cute twink in the brown jacket?"

He peered into the crowd.  "Sorry, I can't pick him out of the crowd.  But cruise him, if you like.  I'll be more than willing to share anyone you find attractive."

Too late -- a drunken muscle bear with thick bear-hair on his chest and shoulders had already approached.  He had skipped the conversation stage of cruising, moving immediately into groping.  The twink looked uncomfortable, even frightened.  Didn't he know how to give Attitude?

That was my "in" -- coming to the rescue.  I grabbed a bottle of beer from the bartender, walked over, and said "Here's your beer, babe.  Sorry it took so long."

"Didn't know you spoken for," the muscle bear growled.  He dislodged his hand from the boy's crotch and loped off.

"Thanks for saving me.  I'm Mickey."  (Not the leatherman who never left South of Market -- another Mickey.)

"Jeff."  I tried to hug him, but he stiffened -- not interested?  Instead, he held out a slim hand to be shaken.

Yes, his hand was warm to the touch.

"I don't go to gay bars much, and I don't know the rules yet.  I thought if I just stood quietly, I'd be invisible."

"That's funny, it worked on my friend over there.  I tried to point you as 'the cute guy in the brown jacket,' but he couldn't see you.  Would you mind coming over so I can introduce you?"

I led him to where Kevin was standing.  "Introducing Mickey, the Amazing Invisible Boy!"

Kevin stared, visibly frightened.  "Um...very nice to meet you.  Jeff, could I borrow you for a moment to discuss that project?"

He pulled me out of earshot.  "You're out of your league with this one, Jeff.  Better leave him alone."

"Why?  Is he a hustler?  A druggie?"

"No, but...it's difficult to explain.  He's dangerous."

"He looks harmless to me.  A little lonely, and kind of starved for affection.  Why don't we invite him home?"

"No sharing tonight, sorry -- um, I'm not feeling well.  And I'd advise you to pick someone else.  I have to be running along now."

You never abandon someone in the midst of cruising -- it's just not done.  But Kevin did.

It would pay to be prudent, of course, and not invite Mickey home instantly, so I took him to a Thai place on Folsom.

Yes, he ate.

 And asked him the usual precautionary questions.  Mickey was eager to talk.

He lived with his parents and younger brother in a small white house on Custer Road in Hayward, in the East Bay.  He graduated from Tennyson High School.  He had a job in a department store, and he was taking classes at the junior college in the hope of becoming a bookkeeper.

I asked about the stain on his shirt.  He said it was probably spaghetti sauce, but he didn't remember where he got it.

It was starting to get dark.  "I have to get to the station soon," Mickey said, looking apprehensively out the window.  "The last train to Hayward leaves at 7:00 pm."

"Oh...I was hoping we could spend more time together.  Why don't you come back to my place and spend the night?  I'll spring for breakfast in the morning, and then put you on the BART."

He looked hesitant.  "You're sure it won't be any trouble?  I snore."

Back at my apartment, he took off his jacket and draped it on a kitchen chair.  We watched Nick Freno, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The X-Files, some old sitcoms on Nick at Night, ate ice cream, and talked, talked, cuddled, kissed, and talked.

Mickey asn't out to anyone, and hadn't had sex with anyone but a high school friend.  He turned 21 a few days ago.  On a whim he took  BART across the Bay, got off at the 16th Street Station, and looked for the nearest gay bar.  That turned out to be the Eagle.

Finally it was midnight, past my bedtime.  "I have to get up early," I said, "So we should go to bed.  We don't have to do anything, if you don't want.  We can just cuddle."

Mickey kissed me on the cheek.  "You're the first guy I met with who didn't try to push me into the bedroom right away,  But I think I'd like to go home now, if that's ok with you."  He stood and walked around the couch toward the door.

"BART's closed.  You'll have to spend the night..." I began.  But he was gone!

He didn't have time to get to the door, and besides, it was still locked.  I opened it and looked out onto the balcony and the street below.  They were deserted.

I ran back and checked the bedroom and bathroom.  No.  Mickey had just vanished.

In retrospect, there were some weird things about him.
1. His invisibility.
2. Kevin's warning.
3. There aren't any junior colleges anymore.  They're community colleges.
4. Who in the computer age studies to be a bookkeeper?
5. He didn't know how to use a VCR.
6. He had never seen The Simpsons.
7. That weird stain, like a blood stain.
8. This was his first time in a gay bar, but he had taken several guys home before.

Had I been making out with a ghost?  Maybe a boy who came to the City for his 21st birthday, was killed in a hate crime, and ever after has been trying to find his way home.

What would have happened if I insisted on bedroom activities?

The next day I called Kevin.  He said, "I was just jealous that you were so into that Cute Young Thing.  I'm sorry that my attempt to scare you away made you hallucinate."

By the way, I couldn't do a "Vanishing Hitchhiker" thing: Mickey took his jacket with him.

See also: The Leatherman Who Never Left South of Market

Chuck & Buck: The Most Homophobic Movie since Cruising

Some movies you go into expecting homophobia -- any comedy about young adult slackers, anything directed by Ron Howard, anything starring Will Smith. But sometimes the director or actors are gay, or the reviews suggest that the movie is gay-positive, and the homophobia hits you out of nowhere, like a slap in the face.

I heard that The Phone Call (1989), with Michael Sarrazin, was the most homophobic movie of all time, but it has to be Chuck & Buck (2000), just because the homophobia is so unexpected.

Mike White is the son of gay Christian advocate Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America.  One would not expect him to be homophobic.

Chuck & Buck was actually advertised in gay publications!  Sort of like advertising Birth of a Nation in Ebony.

The premise: Chuck (Chris Weitz) and Buck (Mike White) were gay boyfriends when they were kids.

Years have passed, and Chuck has grown up: he has a a house, a job, and a fiancee. And of course, he's now heterosexual  But Buck hasn't grown up. He's living with his mother, he still likes childish things.  And he's still gay.

When his mother dies, Buck remembers his lost boyfriend, and begins stalking him.  Humorous complications ensue.  Chuck is up for a "bit of fun," one last homoerotic fling, but he finally convinces Buck that he's got to move on.  Being gay is fine for kids, but eventually you have to grow up, get a house, job, and wife, accept your heterosexual destiny.

But it's not merely a matter of acquiescing to the heterosexist mandate.  When you grow up, you literally turn heterosexual.

What about adults who are gay?  Well, they are, in the words of Mike White, "retards."  They've experienced arrested development.  They're terrified of adulthood, with its responsibilities and its ladies, so they get stuck in childhood.

 Freud thought that, too: you're gay because you stopped at the oral stage of psychosexual development, and have yet to experience real, mature, heterosexual desire.

And Mr. Falwell -- um, I mean Mr. White -- expected gay people to eagerly accept this theory?  Did he think he was writing for Will and Grace?

This is easily the most homophobic movie made in the U.S. since Cruising (1980).  I would say "the world," but Poland's Floating Skyscrapers is a little worse.

Two years later, Mike White wrote the script for Orange County (2002), which has two gay characters ( played by Kyle Howard and RJ Knoll), but they actually are adolescents, so I can't tell if they have "arrested development" or not.

And director Miguel Arteta?  The New Normal (2012).

By the way, the top photo is of Eric Nies, who has no connection to this movie, and has probably never even seen it.