Dec 12, 2012

Jeff East: from Disney Adventure to Superman

During the 1950s and 1960s, Walt Disney single-handedly selected and groomed boys whom he thought could represent "youthful masculinity" -- and make money for the studio: Tommy KirkKurt Russell, Tim Considine, James MacArthur.  After his death in 1966, the Disney Adventure Boy was a rarity.  Ike Eisenmann came close, but perhaps the last was Jeff East.

Born in 1957, the tall, lanky, curly-haired teenager made a string of Disney moves in the mid-1970s, all set on the 19th century frontier.  However, Disney curtailed the shirtless shots that made Robbie Benson's Westerns a success -- Jeff displayed his chest (and nude backside) only in Tom Sawyer (1973) and Huckleberry Finn (1974), when he was barely pubescent.(That's a surprisingly muscular Johnny Whitaker next to him).

In his teenage roles, Jeff was stunningly handsome, but fully clothed.  Maybe for that reason, he remained relatively obscure,  receiving almost no notice in the teen magazines.

In 1977, Jeff moved on to his first "adult" role, as a college student who participates in a deadly hazing in The Hazing, also released as The Case of the Campus Corpse.  As if overcompensating for the censorship of Disney studios, he takes everything off -- he spends about half the movie in nothing but a revealing jockstrap.

And he has a painfully intense, overt same-sex romance with his costar, fellow college student Charles Martin Smith.

His most famous role came in 1978, when he played the teenage Clark Kent (but not his voice) in the blockbuster Superman.

Afterwards he continued to act, but mostly in low-budget projects.  Pumpkinhead (1988) was memorable for the same-sex romance between his harassed camper Chris and country boy Bunt (Brian Bremer), but most were of little interest for gay fans.

Today, somewhat chunky, no longer blond, but still handsome, Jeff East has retired from acting and works in real estate.