Nov 2, 2013

Cal Bolder: The End of 1960s Gay Hollywood

Kansas boy Earl Craver came to California about 1954, after college and the Marine Corps, and found work as a Highway Patrolman.  In 1959 he happened to encounter gay talent agent Henry Willson, who discovered every 1950s hunk from Rock Hudson to John Saxon -- according to Hollywood legend, by giving him a speeding ticket.

 Impressed by his, chest and biceps, Willson signed him on, gave him one of his patented name changes -- to Cal Bolder -- and got him a minor role in the Anthony Quinn-Sophia Loren Western Heller in Pink Tights (1960).

Bolder claims that he was on the force for 14 years, and left to make movies in 1960.  That would mean he got through college and the Marine Corps and became a cop by age 15.  One of the many problems with Cal's biography.

Another problem: why did Henry Willson sign him on? He didn't care for bodybuilders.  And in the 1960s, the gay subculture of Hollywood was in decline, after the accidental outing of Tab Hunter.  No more big parties with only gay and gay-friendly beefcake hunks in attendance.  No more cooperation from movie magazines to keep gay stars closeted.

Another problem: why didn't Bolder make it big?  The 1960s were all about muscles.  Maybe it was the increasing stigma of associating with Willson, but he only got some guest spots on tv,  mostly of the hulking man-mountain sort: Neanderthal Nathan on Ensign O'Toole, Alex the Assassin on Daniel Boone, Arnie the Ape on Bonanza, an alien barbarian on Star Trek.   

Here he plays "muscular thug" Ingo Lindstrum on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

His most significant movie role was in Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), #8 on my list of Top Beefcake Horror Movies of the 1960s a gay subtext-camp classic that gives you what it advertises: legendary outlaw Jesse James (John Lupton) and his wounded buddy Hank (Cal Bolder) go to the spooky castle of Maria Frankenstein, the Baron's daughter or granddaughter. She finds Hank the perfect subject for her experiments, and turns him into a zombie named Igor (get it?).

After playing a trapper on a January 1968 episode of Cimarron Strip, Bolder retired and moved to Royal City, in rural eastern Washington.

A final problem: was he gay, other than the casting couch?
His internet biographies don't mention anything about a wife or kids, but I doubt that a gay man would leave Los Angeles for the wilderness.  I found an obituary for a "Billie R. Craver" of Royal City, Washington (1931-2006).  Maybe his wife?  And a Dain Craver, who runs an orchard, CraveOrganics.  Maybe his son?