Nov 17, 2012

Boyfriends Down Under: Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

Since I couldn't see many movies, video games hadn't been invented, and I didn't like sports, you might think that I spent the first 20 years of my life staring goggle-eyed at the tv set every day from 3 pm to bedtime.

Actually, I was quite busy: LOTS of church activities (choir, prayer meetings, Bible studies, youth groups), plus school clubs, orchestra, cross country, and judo.  But those were sites for indoctrination into heterosexism, not sites of freedom.  When I liked a boy, every adult, from my Sunday school teacher to my orchestra director to the sensei at the dojo, insisted that we were "pals," if they acknowledged the relationship at all, but when I befriended a girl, they could barely restrain their congratulatory shoulder-pats and misty eyed proclamations that I was "growing up."  

I could discuss dreamy boys with female friends, but only teen idols. If I mentioned the boy with dark curly hair and a nice smile who sat behind me in Social Studies, they got blank, uncomprehending looks and changed the subject.   

I could discuss muscular men with male friends, but only if they were spies or superheroes.  If I pointed out a high school hunk playing basketball shirtless on the playground, they would order me to "stop fooling around"  and probably punch me in the stomach.  Of course, no gay people existed; I was just being silly.

So I returned, again, and again, to the tv programs, movies, books, and comics that hinted at the existence of a "good place."

Like the Australian outback.

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was syndicated in the U.S. from 1969 to 1972, but it appeared only sporadically, at weird times like Sunday morning or Saturday afternoon, so I only caught occasional glimpses.  

Enough to know that it was about a 10-year old boy named Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) who lived in some sort of national park with his dad (Ed Devereaux), a forest ranger, and his pet kangaroo.  Like Lassie, or Flipper.

Except Sonny had two hunks in his life: his older brother Mark (20-year old Ken James, left), an ever-smiling practical joker; and tanned, handsome Jerry (25-year old Tony Bonner, right), a park ranger who flew a  helicopter.  I was pretty sure that Mark and Jerry liked each other.

In most kid-pet dramas, the kid needs rescuing all the time, but in Skippy, Jerry and Mark were always getting into trouble, requiring Sonny and Skippy to save the day.  In one episode, they were being held hostage by a young juvenile delinquent.  In another, they both ate spoiled fish, so Sonny had to actually fly the helicopter to bring them to the hospital.

What could be cooler than rescuing your brother and his boyfriend in a real helicopter?

I don't remember a lot of shirtless shots, but Ken James made up for it later, on many Australian tv series (the only one airing in the U.S. was Barrier Reef).  He even had a nude shot. 

 Tony Bonner briefly pursued a teen idol career before returning to his true loves, acting and life saving.  Gerry Pankhurst has retired from acting, and manages a Lutheran senior citizens home.