Apr 27, 2013

Tom Jones: It's Not Unusual


Tom Jones was another performer that adults in the 1960s loved, an antidote to the "horrible hippie music" that the teens were listening to.  The Welsh coal miner's son had a string of hits beginning in 1964, the same year as the Beatles, his jazzy pop style hitting a chord with the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin school: "It's Not Unusual," "What's New Pussycat?", "Thunderball."  Many of his songs were not gender-specific, so they drew middle-aged gay and straight fans.

When rock started getting socially conscious in the late 1960s, he countered with songs about working-class angst: "Detroit City," "Sixteen Tons," "I'm Coming Home."  With gay symbolism:

Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten
It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom
We are all misfits living in a world on fire


  But soon he was back to jazzy love songs: "She's a Lady," "Have You Ever Been Lonely," "Delilah."

Meanwhile he was everywhere on tv, performing on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Music Scene, The Engelbert Humperdink Show, Sonny and Cher (dig the hair on Cher), Donny and Marie, The Tonight Show, and two programs of his own, Tom Jones! (1966-67) and This is Tom Jones (1969-71).

The teen magazines mostly ignored him, but there were ample beefcake shots elsewhere.  Tom had no qualms about displaying his muscular, hairy chest and beneath-the-belt gifts, selling sex as well as charm to audiences composed primarily of middle-aged gay men and heterosexual women.

During the late 1970s, Tom's hits started dropping off the charts, but he continued to record and perform for his royal fans.  In 1997 he reached a new audience by singing the sultry "You Can Leave Your Hat On" during the final strip-tease number in The Full Monty.  The male voice accompanying the male performers gives the scene a decidedly homoerotic feel.







Tom tried his hand at acting: in 1979 he starred in Pleasure Cove, the pilot for a prospective series about a Fantasy Island-style seaside resort.

In 1984 he appeared on the real Fantasy Island, as legendary outlaw Dick Turpin.

And in 1991 he starred in The Ghosts of Oxford Street, a British tv movie about the music industry.


Apr 26, 2013

Second Chance: Billy Gallo and Matthew Perry

Billy Gallo's most marketable feature was his sexy Brooklyn accent, followed closely by his pretty, androgynous face and impressively muscular physique, which he displayed every chance he got.

Born in 1966, he broke into show biz when Nunzio was being filmed near his house in Brooklyn, and he begged the director for a role.  He spent the mid-1980s played streetwise teenagers in Our Family Honor, The Fall Guy, and Hill Street Blues, but gay teens really began to take notice in the fall of 1987, when the 21-year old starred on the high-concept sitcom Second Chance (1987-88).

The premise: in 2011, Charles Russell (Kiel Martin) dies in a hovercraft accident (I'm sad that we don't have hovercrafts).  St. Peter decrees that since he made all the wrong decisions in life, he must go back to 1987 to mentor his teenage self.

Going undercover as a boarder named "Time," he instantly bonds with the teenage Chazz (pre-Friends Matthew Perry), and finds himself competing with Booch (Billy Gallo), Chazz's best friend who keeps trying to pull him over to the Dark Side.

The Dark Side wins.  It offers hugs from muscular guys in leather vests.  And apples.



Both Booch and Time are obviously smitten with Chazz, and can't keep their hands off him.  The overt homoromantic love triangle astonished gay teens -- and adults.  Everyone in West Hollywood watched, right after The Golden Girls on Saturday nights.

But the intended audience of heterosexual teens didn't.  Granted, the the younger-self crushing on older-self was sort of creepy, so after a few episodes Time vanished, and the series, renamed Boys will Be Boys, was about Booch and Chazz, who moved in together.  Adam Sadowsky and Demian Slade played their friends.







That didn't work either, so in spite of the gushing articles in teen magazines and the endless shirtless and semi-nude photo shoots, the series ended in July 1988.















Matthew Perry went on to fame in Friends.  Billy Gallo continued doing comedy, with recurring roles in Life Goes On and Who's the Boss, and guest shots on Married with Children and Can't Hurry Love, before re-inventing himself as a tough guy with a gay-subtext best friend or brother: Richard Griego in Against the Law (1997), Blair Singer in Fool's Gold (1997), Alexander de Hoyos on an episode of Air America (1999).

Today his production company, Brooklyn Bridge Productions, has released several award-winning crime dramas. He is married with children in real life.

Apr 25, 2013

Pippin: a Gay Piece of the Sky

In high school (1975-78) and college (1978-82), I hung out with the drama club crowd and played in the orchestra, so I spent a lot of time playing in, going to, and analyzing musicals.  I saw Pippin on stage at least three times, including a 1978 performance with a young Chris Young, who would go on to become a Hollywood star. Its bare sets, broken fourth wall, and tinkly songs made it a favorite of high school drama clubs (photo is from an Eagan, Minnesota production starring Jordan Oxborough).








It has a theme similar to that of Peer Gynt: Pippin, son of King Charlemagne, sets out to find where he belongs in the world.   He tries becoming a scholar, a warrior, a hedonist, and a fighter against tyranny -- butting heads with the gay-vague villain Lewis.

None of those work, so Pippin becomes an artist, a religious zealot, and a tyrant.  Then he realizes that the only true happiness lies back home, in being a husband and father to the widow Catherine and her young son Theo.

Same old story: job, house, wife, kids.  Conform. Resistance is futile. Learn to love Big Brother.

The difference: everyone in Pippin knows that they're acting in a play, they and often break the fourth wall.  The Lead Player, a sort of Mephistophiles, keeps admonishing the actor playing Pippin to have his character dream, experiment, achieve things.

When the actor decides that Pippin would be happiest settling down with Catherine,  the Leading Player becomes furious. He orders the troupe and the orchestra to pack up everything, including the sets and the costumes, and leave.  No more play!  But even on a dark, silent stage, with no script and no final bows, Pippin is content.

I'll take the Lead Player's advice and aspire, thanks.

One thing Pippin never tries is same-sex love.  He doesn't even do any buddy-bonding, though sometimes the androgynous, leering, gay-coded Lead Player seems to have a homoerotic interest in him (or a hetero-erotic, when she's a woman).

And there is substantial beefcake.  Pippin and Lewis usually wear sleeveless form-fitting chain mail tunics that accentuate their chest and biceps, and they sometimes go completely shirtless.  You're not going to see many more bare chests on stage, except maybe in The King and I.

Pippin premiered on Broadway in 1972, and ran through 1977, with John Rubinstein (left) as Pippin and Ben Vereen as the Leading Player.




Other Pippins include Barry Williams (1975, above), William Katt (1981 film version), Jack Noseworthy (2000), Matthew Arden and Tyler Giordano (2009, playing Pippin together), James Royce Edwards, and Matthew James Thomas (2012, left).




Dan Gauthier: Prime Time Muscle

Don't mix up Dick Gautier with Dan Gauthier -- no relation, and there's an "h."  Dan was born in 1963, one of the last of the Boomer kids, and worked as a model before his physique was displayed to the world on the gay teen favorite Married...with Children (1987).

He played a local hunk that daughter Kelly hooks up with during a family vacation in Florida.






Teen Witch followed (1989), which works well as a comedy, except that no gay boy leaving the theater could remember anything except for Dan's shirtless shots.


And then lots of starring roles on tv series, such as the aptly-named Muscle (1995). Dan played a police detective who dates Ellen's best friend on Ellen (1996-1997); a pro baseball player who dates Samantha on  Melrose Place  (1998); and various other hunks who date women, not to mention sheriffs, detectives, athletes, and nuclear family dads.


He also starred in movies in a wide variety of genres, including horror (Groom Lake, 2002), romance (Dating Games People Play, 2005), and comedy (Help for the Holidays, 2012).

Directors ordered Dan's clothes to stay on most of the time, recognizing that whenever his shirt came off, heterosexual women and gay men stopped paying attention to the plot.  But still he got his fair share of shirtless, underwear, and nude shots.













While his characters usually dated women, buddy bonding was not unknown. No gay characters, but he would be happy to play some.

He's a gay ally, even good at finding subtexts.  When he was on One Life to Live (2003-2010), he became best buds with Trevor St. John, who played Todd Manning, and suggested that their characters might have a romantic connection: "We could be daytime's first power gay couple!"


Apr 24, 2013

Rounin: Philippine TV Hunkfest Flop

The U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on high-concept tv flops.  In the spring of 2007, the Philippines tv network ABS-CBN premiered Rounin, about an elite group of alien martial artists dedicated to protecting the city of Lumeria from the evil Draco, who rules the City of Helion.


Characters all had Greek or Greek-sounding names.  Each Rounin was in charge of a different virtue (justice, love, pride, loyalty) and a different element (earth, air, fire, water, electricity).


Sounds like a mixture of Battlestar Galactica, Power Rangers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and the Pinoy comic hero Tartaro. Couldn't miss, right?

Thinking they had an international hit, the network advertised incessantly, and spent a fortune on a brand-new studio, high-def video technology, and an army of high-priced hunks, including three from the hunkfest Bora:  


1. Diether Ocampo (left) as Cadmus, the head Rounin












2. Luis Manzano as Juris, the strongest Rounin
3. Carlos Agassi (left) as Septo, head of the criminal city Argos

Plus:
4. Jhong Hilario as Venom, from the Dark Side
5. Rafael Rosell  (top photo) as Creon, who broke up with Juris to hang out with Venom.  Maybe a gay subtext.







Apr 23, 2013

Caio Castro: Gay Homophobic Teen Idol

Born in 1989, Caio Castro was a 20-year old computer science student in Rio de Janeiro when he was cast as heartthrob Bruno on the teen soap Malhacao (Workout).














After a relatively short run of 21 episodes (2009-2010), he moved on to the telenovela Ti Ti Ti (You You You) for 26 episodes  (2010) as the heartthrob Edgar Sampaio.  His character wasn't gay, but he interacted with the gay Julinho (Andre Arteche).








Next Caio moved on to the telenovela Fina Estampa (Look and Essence) for 35 episodes (2011-2012) as duplitious medical student Jose Antenor. Again, he interacted with a gay character, Baltazar (Alexandre Nero).

Although he has a rather short resume to date, Caio has become a Brazilian superstar, with many public appearances, endless photo shoots, and 6 awards, including the 2011 "Gato del Ano" from the Brazilian Nickelodeon, and the 2012 "Idolo Teen."






He's also been subject to gay rumors, especially after being seen with gay fellow Malhacao star Micael Borges (left). But he denies them.

In an interview, Caio stated that he would prefer to be known as a "catcher" rather than a "queer" ("deer," a derogatory term for gay men in Brazilian Portuguese).

The statement caused a great deal of controversy in Brazil, where it was widely condemned as homophobic.  He later stated that he was misquoted.

Apr 22, 2013

Mark Spitz: The Speedo

When I was in junior high (1972-75), I didn't follow sports, so I barely recognized the names Wilt Chamberlain, O. J. Simpson, and Pete Rose, and I knew Bruce Jenner only from cereal boxes.

But since I tried to hang out with the swim team as much as possible, hoping for a glimpse of muscular boys in speedos, I heard quite a lot about Mark Spitz, who won 9 Gold Medals at the 1972 Olympics and was named Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine in 1969, 1970, and 1971.








Besides, this beefcake poster was hanging on the bedroom wall of all of the swim team members, ostensibly to provide them with inspiration.  Or maybe they just liked the bulge.

My friend Dan thought he was dreamy, but I liked more muscle, and besides, the Castro Clone moustache was a turn-off.  I thought it made him look too feminine.

One of the first beefcake posters in history, it subjected Mark to a lot of leers and dirty jokes from comedians. In the Doonesbury comic strip, Zonker has a recurring homophobic nightmare that Mark Spitz is coming to "get him."




During the 1970s, Mark was all over tv: Sonny and Cher, The Tonight Show, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, Hollywood Squares.  Always as himself, except for a 1974 episode of Emergency! where he plays a man who accidentally shoots his wife.














He continues to work as a sportscaster and commentator today.  I don't know if he is gay-positive or not.

Apr 21, 2013

Brokeback Mountain for the 1950s: Laramie

Fifty years before Brokeback Mountain and twenty years before Zachariah, the tv Western Laramie gave us a portrait of two cowboys in love.

Shortly after the Civil War, Slim Sherman (played by an actor with the regrettably anonymous name John Smith) and his teenage brother Andy (Bobby Crawford) run a ranch and a stagecoach relay station in Wyoming Territory.  A hunky drifter, Jess Harper (Robert Fuller) comes to town and draws Andy's attention (for obvious reasons).   

Robert Fuller and Bobby Crawford also became friends in real life, and were often seen in Hollywood hotspots together.

But Slim found his own romantic intentions stymied, so after the first season he shipped Andy off to boarding school so he could have Jess to himself.  After that they were blatantly physical, emotionally intense partners. Not even the third-season addition of Spring Byington as single mother Daisy Cooper could detract from their gay subtext.

They were unusual among 1950s cowboys for their occasional shirtless and undewear shots on-screen (as opposed to just in the muscle magazines), thus enhancing the homoerotic gaze.


John Smith was one of talent agent Henry Willson's stable of gay and gay-friendly 1950s hunks (others included Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter), so he may have been gay or bisexual, though of course he never made any public statements.


He had a long career in Westerns and actioners where his shirt had to come off, including The Women of Pitcairn Island (1956), Cimarron City (1958-59), Island of Lost Women (1959), and Hondo (1967). 













Robert Fuller was one of the movie magazine hunks of the 1950s, eagerly photographed when he was seen in public with either men or women (he was married twice).  After Laramie, he had starring roles on Wagon Train, The Big Valley, Emergency!, Guns of Paradise, and Walker: Texas Ranger.


Jansen Panettiere



Teenagers often find themselves pushed into heterosexist vehicles, regardless of whether they support gay inclusitivity or not. Jansen Panettiere is no exception.

The younger brother of female star Hayden Panettiere, Jansen began securing guest roles on tv in 2002, at the age of eight.  He also did voice work on cartoons and appeared with his sister in the thriller Tiger Cruise (2004).











But his first star vehicle was the Nickelodeon movie The Last Day of Summer (2007), in which the 12-year old Luke (Jansen) relives the same day over and over, and uses it to win the girl of his dreams.  Yawn.

At least he took his shirt off, in case any gay preteens in the audience weren't too upset by the heterosexism to look.














After the evangelical Christian Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (2008), Jansen starred in The Perfect Game (2009), about a group of Mexican boys who become the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series.  It's an underdog-triumphing film, with nearly every Hispanic child actor in the business, including Moises Arias (Hannah Montana), Jake T. Austin (Wizards of Waverly Place), Ryan Ochoa, Gabriel Morales, and Carlos Padilla.

No girls around, and Jansen became best friends with the gay-friendly Jake T. Austin. They uploaded a youtube video called "The Closet Chronicles," which doesn't appear to be about the gay metaphor.






Next came 8, a 2012 movie version of the play about the fight to repeal Proposition 8, the amendment that banned gay marriage in California. Many actors, gay and allied, appeared, including Kevin Bacon, Matt Bomer, George Clooney, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Brat Pitt, Martin Sheen, and George Takei.

With all the star power, there was still room for Jansen as Elliott Perry, the teenage son of two moms denied the right to marry (played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Christine Lahti).










I haven't seen Jansen in The Forger (2012), which stars gay ally Josh Hutcherson as a young art forger and Hayden as his girlfriend.  Or The Lost Medallion (2013), about two teenagers who use a magic medallion to go back in time (he plays a South Pacific native named Huko).  But both look promising.