Jan 22, 2015

Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby: Bodybuilder and Buddy

Speaking of bodybuilder buddies, when Bill Bixby finished his gay subtext series My Favorite Martian and The Courtship of Eddie's Father,  he cashed in on the 1970s superhero craze in The Incredible Hulk (1977-82).

He played the antiheroic Marvel comic book character Bruce Banner, heterosexualized by being renamed David (Bruce "sounded too gay") and a getting a dead wife. When he gets angry, David transforms, Jekyll-Hyde style, into the green-skinned, muscular Hulk, who has super-strength, subhuman intelligence, and a nasty temper.  Fortunately the Hulk knows enough to avoid harming good guys or bystanders, and he usually disarms or scares the bad guys rather than killing them.



Like The Fugitive, David is wandering the countryside, trying to find a cure for his "problem," fleeing an tabloid reporter (Jack Colver) obsessed with him, and getting involved with people's personal lives along the way.









The Hulk was played by 26-year old bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno (left and top), a multiple Mr. Universe and Mr. America contender whom I met when I was working for Muscle and Fitness; he appeared on the cover at least once a year.

Other than the documentary Pumping Iron, this was his first screen appearance, but soon his physique and his inspiring story -- he had been nearly deaf since childhood, and had a slurred voice -- propelled him into fame.  After The Incredible Hulk, he had starring roles in Hercules (1983), Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989), The Cage (1989, with James Shigeta as the villain), and The Incredible Hulk TV Series (1996-97), where the Hulk could speak.   A special favorite of kids, he appeared as himself on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?


I don't know if there were any gay subtexts in the series -- it was on Friday nights, so I never saw it -- but there was an off-screen bromance.  Bill became Lou's mentor and confidant, and like Paul Newman and Rocky Graziano twenty years before, they were often seen socializing together off the set.

I remember them coming into the Muscle and Fitness editorial office together, looking for all the world like a gay couple, especially Bill in his tan suit and sunglasses.

In his memoirs, Lou stated that he doesn't like to watch The Incredible Hulk now because it is too sad.  Bill "was like a brother to me.  We grew together.  I miss him."

Bill Bixby was a gay ally, of course, and Lou Ferrigno always seemed perfectly fine with the adulation of gay fans.  When he appeared on the reality series The Apprentice, he was fine with the elderly gay icon George Takei commenting on his  hotness of his semi-nude body, but got upset over a joke that criticized his fashion sense.

Lou is now appearing on the webseries The Incredible Ferrignos, in which his entire family, all certified personal trainers, offer make-overs to families with unhealthy diet and exercise habits.

Lou Ferrigno, Jr., (born 1984) starred in two of David DeCoteau's nearly-gay movies: 1313: Hercules Unbound! (2012) and 1313: Night of the Widows (2012).

I get more of a gay-friendly vibe from Brent (born 1990).  He's not an actor, but you can see lots of shirtless pix on his facebook page.

See also: Guess Which Celebrities I've Dated.