Jul 2, 2015

Summer 2002: Getting the Shy Boy in the Third Row into my Bed

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I joined the All Saints Metropolitan Community Church, and I saw John there every Sunday.  He always sat by himself in the third row.  Eventually he joined the Food Bank Committee, and then he served on the church board, but he still sat by himself.

He was about five years younger than me, a junior at UCLA when we met, short and slim, with ruddy blond hair and blue eyes.  Very cute.

But I never even thought about asking him out.

Maybe it's because I usually dated Asian guys, or  gym rats like the Pentecostal Porn Star and the Thug on my Sausage List.

Or because I never saw him at the French Quarter, the Different Light, the gym, or anywhere in West Hollywood.  He seemed to exist only in church.

But it's probably because John just didn't seem like the dating kind.  He never sat with anyone; he never cruised anyone.  At the coffee hour after church, he was all Attitude, staring into the crowd without making eye contact.  He would talk to you about business, the church's financial goals and Food Bank program, but offered few personal details.

The only conversation we ever had on another topic:  he came up to me one day and said "I hear you work for Muscle and Fitness."

"Just part time.  I'm mostly in it to meet bodybuilders."

"Oh."  He  walked away.

In four years, I probably saw John 200 times, and said 200 words to him.

When I started dating Lee in 1989, I dropped out of MCC.  We attended the gay synagogue, Beth Chaim Chadashim, or the Episcopal Church.

A few years later, around 1991, I was visiting a friend in the San Fernando Valley, and we went to the gym together.  As I walked into the locker room, I saw John!  He was just out of the shower, with a towel around his waist.  He had bulked up a bit, with nice six-pack abs.

"John, how are you!" I exclaimed.  "Small world!"

"Yeah, hi, Jeff."  He caught me sneaking a peak at his rather small endowment, and quickly turned away.

As he got dressed, I got undressed.  I told him about Beth Chaim Chadashim, and he told me about MCC and his job doing some kind of statistical analysis.

Then he said, in a rather odd, stilted voice, "I might go for... um... coffee... um... um... never mind."  And he was gone.

He had been trying to ask me for a date!

I started wondering about John.  What was his story?  Why was he so standoffish?  Or maybe I just didn't express any interest.  Maybe there was a hidden gem at the All Saints MCC that I was too caught up in the big, loud gym guys to notice.

Too late now.  I was in a relationship, and besides, I didn't even remember his last name.

But gay neighborhoods are small.  Sooner or later, everyone you have ever met will show up again.

The years passed.  I moved to San Francisco, then New York, and then Florida, where I shared a house with Yuri and Barney, a former bodybuilder who owned a gym in Wilton Manors.

 Every morning Barney prepared us a bodybuilder's breakfast of egg white omelets, seven-grain pancakes, or oatmeal infused with spinach and kale (try it). On special occasions, cinnamon buns.

All three of us were dating and hooking up, and we often got out-of-town guests, so you never knew who would be sitting at the breakfast table in the morning.

But I never expected to see John!

One morning in the summer of 2002, I came into the kitchen, where Barney was making whey-protein French toast with apple slices and strawberry yogurt.

"Jeff, this is my friend John from Seattle," he said.  "He's here on vacation for a few days."

"Nice to meet you," I said, glancing at the kitchen table, where Yuri was drinking coffee with -- John from West Hollywood!

Not the slim, shy college kid I knew at the MCC. Middle aged, graying at the temples, a little craggy, and heavy muscled, a semi-pro.  But umistakable!

We stared at each other.

"This is my other housemate, Jeff," Barney continued, his back to us.

"Small world," I managed.

"Oh, do you guys know each other?"

"Yeah, from West Hollywood."

"From the All Saints MCC!" Jack exclaimed.

"Is this one of your church boys?" Yuri asked.  "He's so hot -- did you date him?"

"No."  I sat down next to John, and we hugged.  "I would have liked to, but it never happened."

Over breakfast John told us about being a shy, closeted college student going to his first gay venue, the All Saints MCC, but too self-conscious about his scrawny body and undersized endowment to approach a guy.

Who didn't have sex until 1988, when he was 23.

Who started weight training to increase his self-confidence, found a lover who dumped him for a celebrity, found another lover, and now was immersed in a community of gay bodybuilders and fans in Seattle.

Not bad for a guy who, a just few years before, couldn't even ask someone out for coffee.

Barney did a lot of sharing that weekend.

See also: The Pentecostal Porn Star and The Thug on My Sausage List

Jul 1, 2015

Paul Anka: The Gay Next Door

Paul Anka was the first teen idol to be known for his physique as well as his music.  Other teen idols of the 1950s -- Bobby Rydell, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Pat Boone -- may have been dreamy, but the teen magazines emphasized their cool threads, not their muscular chests. Paul not only had a face and a voice, he had a body, and he knew how to use it to his advantage.

His first single, "Diana," hit the top of the charts in 1957,  pushing hits by Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley out of the way.  "Puppy Love," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," and "Lonely Boy" followed, all chart toppers, mostly about lost or unrequited love.

In the early 1960s, as the British invasion limited the appeal of the 1950s-era teen idols, Paul re-invented himself as an adult contemporary performer, and continued to enjoy a string of hits: "In the Still of the Night," "You're Having My Baby," "One Man Woman."

And he made movies that required more underwear, swimsuit, and semi-nude shots than any other teen idol of the era.  Look in Any Window (1961) is particularly memorable.

Craig Fowler (Paul), the teenage son of dysfunctional parents, has a paralyzing "sexual abnormality."  He goes to a youth center and ogles the buffed athletes working out.

Then he spies on his hunky neighbor (Jack Cassidy, David Cassidy's dad), kissing his wife in the swimming pool.

Meanwhile rumors of his sexual deviance run through the neighborhood.  Two teenage boys chase him, yelling threats, and the cops are on his trail.  "Let me get my hands on any guy that isn't normal!" one grunts.

Craig tries to pursue a "normal" life by courting girl-next-door Ellen (Gigi Perreau), but eventually even "true love" can't repress his aberrant desires.

Nope, Craig's not gay -- that would have been too controversial for Hollywood in 1961. There are still almost no gay teenagers in mainstream film.  Craig's a Peeping Tom.  But the gay symbolism is obvious.

Assumed gay in real life, Paul was actually heterosexual, though he was friends with gay teen idol Sal Mineo and bisexual Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr..

Jun 30, 2015

Fall 2002: Cruised by a Young Republican

When I was a teenager, I could get away with any stupid mistake by claiming that I had been trying to meet girls or impress a girl.  Actually, everyone assumed that the reason every boy did anything, from joining a school club to selecting a college, was to meet girls or impress a girl.

In gay communities, they don't make such assumptions.  If you join a garden club, everyone assumes you like gardening, not that you're trying to meet guys or impress a guy.

So I have no excuse for going to a meeting of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Except this one:

He was a short, tightly-muscled, amazingly goodlooking 22-year old named Tom, who took my Sociology of Religion class at Florida Atlantic in the fall of 2002.

He kept grinning at me during class, especially during the lecture on gay Christians, and after the final grades were posted, he stopped by my office to cruise, just as I had with my own professor back at USC in 1986.

Over coffee, Tom told me that he grew up in, and was still attending, the Calvary Chapel, an ultra-fundamentalist mega-church.

Religious!  Just my type!  We bragged about the deprivations we faced growing up fundamentalist.  No movies -- no theater -- no eating out on Sunday -- and so on.

"Of course, I'm not out to my parents.  They would just start yelling.  Almost as loud as if I told them I turned Democrat!"

I interpreted this to mean that he was not out to his parents as gay or a Democrat.

"There's a Christmas party at the club next week," Tom offered.  "I'll have to introduce you as my professor, not my date, and we can't dance, but...anyhow, can you come?"

The Club turned out to be the St. Andrew's Club, the most exclusive and elegant of Boca Raton's many country clubs.

It was fun going undercover in a roomful of conservative, rich, straight people.  I met Tom's teenage brother and trio of hunky country-club buddies, and his parents, who said things like "Tom just thinks the world of you!  He found your class so enlightening!"

Everyone asked about "my wife."  I said she wasn't feeling well.

The dancing was a bit uncomfortable.  Tom had no problem cozying up to teenage debutantes, but I stood on the sidelines, being cruised by innumerable middle-aged ladies and not one man.

Afterwards we drove (in separate cars, of course) to the beach to walk in the moonlight, and then we went back to my house in Wilton Manors to spend the night.

I should have guessed earlier, but I was having so much fun deceiving the straights that it didn't occur to me that Tom's conservative-speak was not part of the act.

I figured it out over breakfast in the morning, when Tom praised some statement by President Bush.

"That homophobic a*hole!" my housemate Barney exclaimed.  "He's worse than Reagan!"

"Reagan did a fine job, considering what he had to work with," Tom said.  "Remember, it was the 1980s."

Then Tom came out: he was a Republican!

"How can you be a gay Republican?" Barney asked.  "It's like being a Jewish Nazi, or a black Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan!"

"You can be gay and still want a strong economy.  I know that some of the Republican leaders need to be educated."

"Educated?"  I said.  "President Bush is trying everything he can to keep us second-class citizens.  But he's a lot better than Governor Jeb Bush, who doesn't think we should grant civil rights to 'sodomites.'"

"What about the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Jim Naugle?  He doesn't like the Sun-Sentinel because there are too many 'homos' on the staff, and he's a Democrat.  All of our leaders need to be educated about gay people.  That's what the Log Cabin Republicans are all about."

Log Cabin Republicans!

So this guy wasn't just pretending to be straight among his parents and their friends, to make sure he got his inheritance.  He was Tom the Uncle Tom, actively collaborating with our oppressors.

I should have showed him the door. But....

Remember what he looked like?

We went out again after I got back from my Christmas visit back home.

And I ended up going to a meeting of the Log Cabin Republicans with him!

It was full of doddering, elderly, elegant gay men wearing fancy rings, sipping martinis, complaining about America's faltering role in world politics, and cruising.  They approached the few young guys shamelessly, ignoring the rule that younger must always approach older.

I kept my arm tightly attached to Tom to signify that he was taken, but he still got extensively cruised.

"Guys who are into Daddy types must get a lot of action here," I whispered.

"Oh, you have no idea!" Tom said with a smile.

The "celebrity" guest speaker was Ruta Lee, an elderly actress who was in some Westerns and sitcoms during the 1950s.  She said "You should keep trying until the Republican Party gives you a place at the table."

"Wait -- your own party won't acknowledge you?"  I asked.

Tom squirmed in his seat, embarrassed.  "We're still working on them.  They need a lot of education."

So they weren't even Uncle Toms.  They were Uncle Tom Wannabes, just hoping for a chance to collaborate with our oppressors.

Or were they all just there to meet guys, or to impress a guy?

Tom and I went out two more dates.  I may be liberal, but I'm not crazy -- did you see what he looked like?

The Log Cabin Republicans were finally recognized by the California GOP in 2015.  The national organization still won't acknowledge them.

See also: I Hook Up with the Most Conservative Professor on Campus