Mar 29, 2013

Ed Fury

On January 5th, 1955,  My Little Margie  (1952-56) featured the first bodybuilder on prime time television.

Like I Love Lucy and I Married Joan in the 1950s and I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched in the 1960s, My Little Margie was about a stable, conventional man befuddled by the madcap antics of a woman.  In this case the man was investment manager Vern Albright (rumored-to-be-gay actor Charles Farrell), and the woman his adult daughter Margie (Gale Storm).  

This episode had Margie going to work as a fashion model, getting a crush on the oblivious photographer, and trying to make him jealous by flirting with an oblivious muscleman (Ed Fury).

It promotes the two main myths about bodybuilders in the 1950s: 
1.  They are self-absorbed, shallow, and narcissistic.
2. Women do not find them attractive.

Ed Fury was a bold choice for Hercules, even more gay-coded most of his bodybuilding peers.  Born in 1928 as Edmund Holovchik, the former Mr. Muscle Beach was one of top models for such gay-vague studios as Bruce of LA and the Athletic Model Guild, and for fitness magazines as Physique Pictorial, Today's Man, Vim, and Adonis.  

He was even filmed in a posing strap for home distribution in the days before gay porn.  No full-frontal nudity, but some rear shots.

After several small roles in movies, including one of the shirtless Seabees singing "There's Nothing Like a Dame" in South Pacific (1958), he went to Italy to participate in the sword-and-sandal craze, playing Ursus, Maciste, and similar peplum heroes, often paired with fellow bodybuilders like Rod Taylor.

Then it was back to the United States for guest spots on tv series, including The Odd Couple, Colombo, The Magician, and Police Story.  He continued to work as a physique model well into his 50s, but retired from both acting and modeling during the 1980s to devote himself to quieter pursuits.

Ed has  never made a public statement about his sexual identity -- few men of his generation would even consider such a thing.  But he inspired a generation of gay men, so it doesn't really matter.