Mar 17, 2015

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, 1976, produced by Max Baer Jr. of The Beverly Hillbillies). 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.