Sep 24, 2016

Pat Boone, Gay Icon

It's hard to imagine, but conservative spokesperson Pat Boone was once an icon for gay kids.  In a 1959 version of the Jules Verne classic Journey to the Center of the Earth, one of a series of adaptions of Jules Verne classics which Disney made during the period, Alec (Boone) journeys into the subterranean world with his geologist uncle, Professor Lindenbrook (James Mason), their guide Hans (Peter Ronson), and a love interest for the professor (Arlene Dahl).

While minimizing plausibility (they encounter giant lizards and the ruins of Atlantis), director Henry Levin maximized beefcake. As the explorers descend, Alec doffs his clothes, and the camera forsakes closeups of his prettyboy face to concentrate on his small, firm biceps and lean, tight chest.

Soon Hans doffs his clothes, too; he is blond and beefy, considerably more defined, a veritable Tarzan.

The men spend the rest of the movie falling into pits, fleeing from lizards, almost suffocating in salt pits, and almost drowning in oceans, and consequently rescuing, grabbing, holding, and comforting each other; Alec is especially likely to require rescue, followed by cradling in Hans' strong arms. When they reach a field of giant mushrooms that will replenish their dwindling food supply, they are so delighted that they break out into a dance while the Professor's love interest stands aside, a spectator only.

Hans is not interested in girls, but Alex has a girlfriend back home, whom he marries in the last frames of the movie.  But after two hours of half-naked men grabbing, holding, and comforting each other, we could put up with a fade-out boy-girl kiss.

In real life, Pat Boone is a conservative Christian who frequently makes homophobic statements, although my friend Randall said that he was "straight but open to suggestions back in the 1950s.

See: Dick Sargent's Hookup with Pat Boone