May 14, 2013

Dave Draper Doesn't Get the Girl

Dave Draper, "The Blond Bomber," was the go-to guy for movie bodybuilders during the 1960s, when most of the bulkers had moved to Italy to do sword-and-sandal flicks.

He never appeared in the gay-vague Physique Pictorial or similar physique magazines; in fact, some of his magazine covers are rather heterosexist, sandwiching him between two women, who are lusting after his biceps.  Inside, however, we see some homoerotic subtexts, as when fellow bodybuilder William Smith gazes at Dave's biceps.

After a minor role as a guy who takes his shirt off in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed (1963), he capitalized on the sword-and-sandal crazy anyway, showing old Steve Reeve movies as Dave the Gladiator on local L.A. TV (1964-65).

In 1966 he landed a starring role in Lord Love a Duck, a comedy about a gay-vague Mephistophiles, Alan Musgrave (gay actor Roddy McDowall), who concocts wild schemes, including murder, to grant the wishes of his friend Barbara (Tuesday Weld).  Dave was one of her wishes, but not the man she married. Alan is supposed to find him intimidating, but instead approaches him with barely-restrained eye-bulging desire.

After more minor roles as guys who take their shirts off and scare people in Three on a Couch and Walk Don't Run, Dave starred in Don't Make Waves (1967), about New Yorker Carlo Cofield (Tony Curtis), who moves to Southern California to "Turn on!  Stay loose!  Make out!"  and romance a skydiving model named Malibu (Sharon Tate).  Dave played her boyfriend, Harry Holland, who also befriends Carlo.  There's a significant gay subtext, as in most of Tony Curtis's movies.

In 1967, Dave appeared as musclemen on episodes of The Monkees and The Beverly Hillbillies.  No significant gay subtexts, though it is interesting to watch the lesbian actress Nancy Kulp pretend that she is swooning over his physique.

Disillusioned at always been cast as bullies, objects of derision, and guys who don't get the girl, as if the bodybuilder was somehow inadequately masculine, Dave retired from acting to concentrate on bodybuilding and writing, and on managing World's Gym in Santa Cruz.  His personal website features many interesting articles on the history of bodybuilding, but doesn't mention gay people.