Apr 16, 2013

Fabian Forte at the Beach

Born in 1943, Fabian (he didn't need a last name) was a superstar by age 16.  He was a competent singer, but in a market flooded by teen singers, it was his curly hair, heavy-lidded gaze, and buffed physique that sold his records.  He practically created the teen magazine market, with beefcake pinups boosting the sales of Teen Magazine, Teen Live, Teen Illustrated, and many others.  He even got his own magazine, Fabian: Boy of Mystery.  

After his film debut in Hound Dog Man (1959), buddy bonding with Stuart Whitman, Fabian played androgynous, gay-vague, girl-crazy teens against any number of men's men: Robert Mitchum, Bing Crosby, Stewart Granger, John Wayne.

Surrounding a fey teen idol with all that brawn created a problem: the boy simply did not seem straight, in spite of his girl-ogling, especially when he sang.  So, when Henry Koester directed Fabian, he simply gave up.  

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) has Fabian on stage for about five minutes, long enough to dance with Jimmy Stewart's daughter and sing "Cream Puff."

He gets slightly more screen time in Dear Brigitte (1965), but no songs, and though he buddies around with Jimmy Stewart's next daughter, he is never identified as her boyfriend and never gets physical with her.  Instead, his part of the plot involves exploiting math prodigy Erasmus Leaf (Billy Mumy) for capitalist gain.

Ride the Wild Surf (1964) capitalizes on the star's androgyny.  College student Jody (Fabian) hits Hawaii's North Shore with his buddies Steamer (Tab Hunter) and Chase (Peter Brown), to surf amid crowds of male surfers and spectators (only a few girls). Surfing becomes intensely homoerotic spectacle: they stand, their power distilled into a sharp thrust of surfboard, and explode toward the shore, all bronze chests and thick biceps, war-whooping a triumph over the elements that has nothing to do with heterosexist civilization.

Should Jody stay in Hawaii forever, luxuriating in the male beauty, living as a beach bum, or get a girl, go back to college, and settle for the staid heterosexist future of wife, kids, job, and house?  You know how it will end -- he picks the girl. Yet there is no fade out boy-girl kiss: Jody wins a surfing contest and is enveloped by his jubilant buddies, all hugging and hollering, a solid mass of men as the camera pans out to a wide-angle shot of surf and sky.

Fabian continued to act through the 1960s and 1970s, starring in Fireball 500  and Thunder Alley with Frankie Avalon, in an adaption of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, in a cautionary tale about the dangers of marijuana.  And he continued to display his physique, including nude shots in Playgirl.  

Today he is still performing, based out of Branson, Missouri.

See also: Peter Brown, Buddy-Bonding Cowboy.