Aug 4, 2012

Shia LaBeouf's female fans

Shia LaBeouf is not well-known as gay-friendly, but his shirtless and nude shots have gained him a number of male followers.  Or not.  According to Contact Music, his "female" fans enjoy seeing him nude.  Certainly not his male fans, since no gay men exist

Aug 3, 2012

Me and Julio

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I listened to teen idol music -- Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, The Monkees -- but not adult pop, with its confusing beats and crazy lyrics.  So I heard the duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel only from a distance, from my friend Bill's big brother, from my babysitter, from talent shows at school.   But I knew that their songs, refreshingly, weren't always about girls.  They were about trying to find emotional connection ("The Sound of Silence," "I Am a Rock"), friends ("Bridge Over Troubled Waters," "El Condo Pasa"), true loves without gender ("Scarborough Fair), and trying to keep a secret:

It's a little secret, just a Robinson affair
Most of all, you got to hide it from the kids.

Just like the boys Don Grady described "holding hands among the candles."

And I knew that they were photographed close together, hugging or with their arms around each other.

I naturally assumed that they were boyfriends, and I was sad when I heard that they broke up.

Then one day in the summer of 1972 Bill and I saw his big brother Mike reading a copy of Rolling Stone with Paul on the cover: a thin, sad smile, a tight black t-shirt, and enormous biceps.  We quickly got a ride downtown to the Record Barn and pooled our money to buy Paul's first solo album, showing him partially hidden behind the furry hood of a parka.  It was something of a disappointment, with many tracks about boys "becoming a man" with a girl and men betrayed by women.  

The only song that I could identify with was “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” 

Suddenly, in the middle of the night, parents become aware that something has happened between the singer and Julio, a Caribbean boy.  It happened “down by the school yard.”  

“The Mama Pajama” rushes to the police station, screaming “it’s against the law!”, and the father exclaims “Oy, If I catch that boy, I’m gonna put him in a house of detention.” The Yiddishism makes it clear that they are Paul’s Brooklyn Jewish parents, but oddly it is Paul,  not Julio, who is arrested and sent to prison.  Eventually the story is leaked to the press, and a “radical priest” gets him released.  The story is published in Newsweek. Now he is leaving town in disgrace.

In an interview, Paul states that he was mainly interested in the fun of rhyming “me and Julio”; he expected that “something sexual” had occurred, but he hadn’t devoted much thought to the details.   Perhaps he was hesitant about saying more to erase the existence of gay people, or perhaps he literally could not conceive of same-sex desire except in the vaguest of terms.  

Certainly he overestimates what would really happen to two boys caught “down by the school yard."  They wouldn't go to prison, even during Paul’s childhood in the 1950s, and if by chance they ended up in juvenile hall, the act certainly wasn't unusual enough to rate a Newsweek story.  Paul is merely creating a metaphor for his anxiety about an act which, although natural and even inevitable, seems to bring the height of disapprobation.

I did not realize, in 1972, that the song suggested same-sex behavior; indeed, I had no idea that such behavior even existed.  What the song meant to me was: Paul and Julio had an important relationship, and now it was over because parents, peers, and the entire complex hierarchy of civil government had expended enormous amount of energy on trying to split them up.  To attempt to preserve the love between men was futile.  

Aug 2, 2012

The Bob Cummings Show: Uncle Bob and Chuck

Dwayne Hickman (right) of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and 1960s beach movies started his tv career as Chuck, a high school boy who lives with his widowed mother and sleazy photographer uncle Bob (former film noir star Bob Cummings) in Love That Bob (1955-1959), aka The Bob Cummings Show. 

At first Chuck is interested in hot rods and rock music but not girls, so Uncle Bob tries to instill in him an appreciation of "the important things in life."  Since Bob's job involves drooling over, gaping at, and sometimes photographing girls, he's something of an expert on girl-craziness, and he has spent many episodes promoting heterosexual desire among gay-coded colleagues: his butch lesbian secretary (Ann B. Davis, later  Brady Bunch); a butch lesbian buddy (Nancy Kulp, later on The Beverly Hillbillies); and a "girl-shy" male buddy (King Donovan).

Bob's overenthusiastic attempts to induce girl-craziness in Chuck looks unconfortably like an attempt to displace his own homoerotic attraction.  Even the teen magazines seemed to notice, treating the two as a couple of "bachelors out on the town."  The December 1957 issue of Teen shows Bob and Chuck slurping ice cream sundaeas, gazing into each other's eyes while wearing matching effeminate fur coats.

Eventually Chuck went off to college, his girl-craziness still tentative, in spite of Uncle Bob's constant girl-ogling, and Dwayne Hickman went off to play high schooler Dobie Gillis.

Frankie Says Relax

March 1985: after several years of subtext songs, the radio was booming with plaints about heterosexual sex:  Madonna living in a "Material World," Phil Collins begging for "One More Night," Tina Turner rasping about being a stripper.  So I should have noticed that the lyrics to "Relax" could be construed as sexually suggestive -- after all, the song was banned in Britain for several months in 1984.

But my acceptance letter from the University of Southern California had just arrived, and I was eagerly planning my crosscountry move to West Hollywood.   The group was named Frankie Goes to Hollywood, so:

Make making it (in Hollywood) your intention.
Live those dreams, scheme those schemes.

Relax, don't do it (play it cool, don't get over-excited)
When you want to go to it ( Hollywood).

I added "Relax" to my list of songs about finding a "good place."

Years later, I saw the original music video (banned in the U.S. and the U.K.), in which Holly Johnson (one of the two gay members) goes to a underground club, hugs a leatherman, gets leered at by a woman, and tames a tiger, to the delight of a decadent Roman emperor.

Then he gets into a nightmarish fight with women, leathermen, and drag queens.

So I changed my interpretation: relax, don't get excited, and you can overcome your aggressive impulses, tame the tiger within.

Or else it's an orgy, and the song is about heterosexual sex, like everything else on the radio in 1985.

Aug 1, 2012

Logan's Run

Based on a 1967 anti-counterculture novel, Logan’s Run (1976) is set in a post-Apocalyptic Love, American Style paradise, where hundreds of young, beautiful heterosexuals with blow-dried hair, the girls outnumbering the boys five to one, stroll the corridors of a gigantic shopping mall, shopping mostly for sex. If they are unsuccessful in hooking up at the mall, they drop by a “Love Store” for slow-motion orgies, or go home and dial up one-night stands on a teleportation circuit. The downside is everyone explodes on their thirtieth birthday. A few deviants called “runners” hide to avoid exploding, and try to break the city’s bonds and head out for the distant, mythical Sanctuary. It is the job of “sandmen” to hunt them down and kill them.

Michael York, straw-haired with languid blue eyes, and Richard Jordan, square-jawed and passionate, play sandmen partners Logan and Francis. Strolling down the airy causeways side by side, the two make a startling contrast to the crowds comprised entirely of boy-girl or boy-multiple girl groups. In the first scene, they gaze lovingly at Logan’s test-tube son in the City nursery as if they are both its parents. And Francis can’t seem to keep his hands off Logan: he is always grabbing him, hugging him, putting his arm around his shoulders or waist as they walk, and in one scene he literally orders Logan into a hot tub with him. In the original novel, Francis is practically a stranger.

Logan receives an assignment to go undercover as a runner and find Sanctuary, so the City can have it destroyed. He teams up with runner-friendly Jessica (Jenny Agutter),. Francis, meanwhile, thinks that Logan is really a runner, and follows, but not to kill him – to talk “sense” into him. 

Logan and Jessica, with Francis close behind, journey through the Cathedral, where wilding teenagers run rampant and shirtless; through endless underground corridors where renegade Sanctuary sympathizers hate sandmen; through an ice palace, where a giant robot named Box tries to freeze them; and finally though the wilderness beyond the City. They end up at the Library of Congress in the ruins of Washington, DC, and discover that there never was a Sanctuary.

Francis goes to great extremes, far beyond sandman duty, to stay close to Logan. He is injured, his uniform is shredded, and he even breaks the bonds of the City, an absolute taboo. When he finally corners them, he approaches Jessica not as a runner but as competition: “What did you do to him? He was happy. Now you’ve ruined him!” Then he rages against Logan, not because he has betrayed sandman principles, but because he has run off with a girl: “Why, Logan? We had good times. Why did you let her. . . .” Logan tries to explain that exploding at age thirty is unnecessary, that “we can grow old together.” It is unclear whether “we” means all humanity or he and Francis.

They fight, and Francis is mortally wounded. Logan cradles him in his arms; Francis seems to see him for the first time, smiles, and grabs his hand. “Logan!” he exclaims happily, “You’ve renewed!” And he dies.

Of course he has to die, so Logan and Jessica can have a “happy” heteronormative ending. Still, one rarely finds a more touching portrayal of same-sex love in 1970s film.

Savage Sam: Disney Adventure Kid

The Disney Adventure Boy was usually a teenager (Tommy Kirk, left, James MacArthur, Roger MobleyKurt Russell,Jeff East)    who demonstrated his all-American masculinity by taking off his shirt (as Jimmy Lydon also did inTom Brown's School Days)  and by falling in love with a girl.  By the end of the 1950s, heterosexual desire as as emblematic of "young manhood" as a hard chest and bulging biceps. 

Only a few of the Adventure Boys were preteens, or cast as preteens (Bryan Russell, Kevin Corcoran Ike Eisenmann).  Then the requirements changed: they weren't expected to like girls at all -- the mythic "discovery" was still in the future.  But they still had to take their shirts off, displaying their physiques as blatantly as the teenage musclemen.  And the conflation of semi-nudity and lack of heterosexual interest allowed a space for the recognition of same-sex desire among the preteens in the audience.

Kevin Corcoran was born in 1949 into a family of actors (with six siblings in the business).  By the age of 7, he was starring on The Mickey Mouse Club as one of the singing, dancing, ear-wearing Mouseketeers

In The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (1957), Kevin played Moochie, the tagalong annoyance to the gay-coded couple (Tim Considine, David Stollery).  The name (and the personality) stuck, and soon he was playing tagalong annoyances named Moochie in several Disney productions, often as the little brother of Tommy Kirk, James MacArthur, or both.

But not merely annoyances. The boy exceeds the teenager in masculine bravado, his masculinity becoming even more enhanced by the absence of heterosexual desire. His semi-nudity itself becomes queer, signifying maleness without a feminine gaze. 

In the boy-and-dog Western, Savage Sam (1963), for instance, 14-year old Kevin plays Arliss Coates, his Old Yeller character, now living alone with his big brother Travis (Tommy Kirk). 

Mom and Dad are breezily dismissed, but adult guardian Uncle Beck (Brian Keith, who always wears pink) looks in on the boys from time to time, occasionally bringing along his gay-coded life partner, Lester White (Dewey Martin, who always wears lavender) and daring us to draw conclusions.

Travis does the wimmen’s work, cookin’ and cleanin’ and bein’ purty (the adult men constantly comment on how handsome he is), while Arliss, a scrappin’, ornery cuss, does the man’s chores.

Girl next door Lisbeth (Marta Kristen), responsible for demonstrating that Travis is heterosexual, overdoes it, eyeing him hungrily and bandying about barely-cloaked sexual innuendos. When they ride together, she places her hands not around his stomach, like most back-seat equestrians, but around his belt, a posture that might allow her intimate access to his privates. We can find few more risqué gestures in the Disney opus.

A band of Apaches, unregenerate savages of the old school, abduct Travis, Arliss, and Lisbeth, rip off the boys’ shirts to give the audience what they bought their tickets for, and force them on a cross-country journey back to their village. Butch Arliss squawks and fights, but shy, feminine Travis suggests that they bide their time until they can escape.

As a consequence, the Apaches pretty much leave Lisbeth and Travis alone, but they decide to make a brave out of Arliss. They grab and grope him exhaustively, including hands placed directly in his most intimate areas, suggesting a link between homoerotic desire and savagery, as juxtaposed with the “civilized” heterosexual romance of Travis and Lisbeth

Tommy Kirk was outed a few years later, and fired from Disney.  

Kevin played "the man of the house," his masculinity undiluted by a feminine desire for the feminine, in The Shaggy Dog (1959), Toby Tyler (1960), Swiss Family Robinson (1961), and The Mooncussers (1962).  In adolescence he retired from acting, but continues to work behind the camera, directing episodes of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Quantum Leap, Baywatch, and Murder She Wrote.  

Nicholas Hoult: A Gay Adolescence

Born in 1989, Nick Hoult began acting and modeling at the age of six, and first drew attention in About a Boy (2002), as the boy being big-brothered by the man (Hugh Grant).

Then in the British tv series Skins (2007-2008), as the arrogant sociopathic bisexual Tony Stonem.  Bisexuals get nearly a bad a rap in mass media as gay men: they're always stereotyped as duplitious, conniving, mentally unstable, and potentially murderous.

But at least Tony got to work out in his underwear and kiss Maxxie (Mitch Hewer).

In A Single Man (2009), based on the Christopher Isherwood novel about a middle-aged college professor (Colin Firth) trying to adjust to the sudden death of his partner, Nick plays Kenny, the student who tries to involve him in a relationship again.

He also played a gay character in New Boy on the London stage.

Since then, Nick has played a character of unspecified sexual identity in Clash of the Titans and heterosexuals in The X-Men: First Class,  Jack the Giant Slayer, and Warm Bodies.  The latter is particularly heterosexist, with a woman's love transforming R (Nick) from mindless zombie to caring human.

Still, not a bad start.

Whenever he is asked if he is gay in real life, Nick makes a joke: "I was gay, but I gave it up.  It made my eyes water."  I guess that's better than screaming "I'm so insulted!!!!!!"


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