Jun 8, 2013

The Boy Named BooBoo

I've heard the name Booboo Stewart frequently for the past few years, but I knew nothing about him.  I was curious about a boy named after Yogi Bear's sidekick, especially when the first google images that popped up showed him with a girlish face and extremely feminine long hair.  Anybody so unabashedly gender-nonconforming is a LGBT hero, regardless of his sexual identity.

Born in 1994, his real name is Nils Allen Stewart Jr.  He began modeling at age 10, and singing as a member of Disney's T-Squad at age 12.  He also performs with his sisters in the group TSC ("The Stewart Clan").





Booboo began acting at age 10 as a kid martial artist in various movies and tv series, including several of gay interest.

1. The Conrad Boys (2006): he plays the younger brother of Charlie Conrad (Justin Low), who falls in love with Jordan Rivers (Nick Bartzen).

2. Dante's Cove (2004-2006), the gay paranormal tv series: he plays Stephen.  I haven't seen it, but he looks demon-possessed.








3. Logan (2010), about a boy (Patrick Probst) dealing with his brother's suicide with the help of his gay friend Ben (Booboo).

4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Breaking Dawn (2010, 2011, 2012), about the warring factions of vampires and werewolves.  He plays Seth Clearwater, a young werewolf in Jacob's clan who befriends the vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and doesn't get a girlfriend.

5. Hansel and Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013), directed by gay-vague movie expert David DeCoteau.

6. Isolated (2013), about surfers and Ambassadors for Peace with their shirts off in New Guinea (also starring Chris Galya).

7. White Frog (2013), about a boy who discovers that his deceased older brother was gay (not a suicide, for a change).


8. Hidden Valley: The Awakening (2014), about werewolves.  It's not out yet, but this pic looks promising.







Jun 7, 2013

Don Stroud: Robert Conrad's Buddy

My church taught that going to a movie was the worst sin imaginable -- God would strike you dead if you even set foot in a theater.  So my brother and I saw almost none during our childhood, only when an oblivious babysitting uncle took us or when a sleepover involved a movie as entertainment.  In high school, my friend Darry and I occasionally took the bus downtown to "study at the library," and went to a matinee at the Fort Armstrong Theater.

We always looked for "good" movies.  We couldn't exactly articulate what "good" meant, but posters with two guys together always caught our eye.  Especially if the two guys were muscular and shirtless.  A surprising number starred Don Stroud:


1975: Murf the Surf.  A surfer (Don) and his buddy Allan (real life buddy Robert Conrad) plot a jewel heist. They like girls, but they also like each other.  A lot

1977: Sudden Death, with Robert Conrad.  Buddies who like girls go to the Philippines to investigate a series of murders by an evil sugar company, and end up rescuing each other with their shirts off.  This is the first R-rated movie I ever saw.





1978: The Buddy Holly Story.  The rock and roll legend (Gary Busey) and his gay-vague best buddy, drummer Jesse (Don).

1979: Search and Destroy, with Perry King (then known for playing gay and gay-vague characters).  Buddies investigate a murder.

Don Stroud got his start as a world-class surfer hired as Troy Donahue's stunt double on Hawaiian Eye; he would return to surfing later as the Big Kahuna in the recasts of the Gidget series (1985, 1988).




During the 1980s and 1990s he moved into television, appearing in over 175 episodes of a huge number of tv series, including Chips, Knight Rider, The Powers of Matthew Star, and The A-Team.  Most recently he played the evil sheriff  most recently in Django Unchained (2012).

Always a beefcake star, Don took off his shirt in most performances, and appeared nude in Playgirl in 1973.

He had many gay friends and moved in the same circles as Robert Conrad, Robert Wagner, and Nick Adams, yet oddly he was never the subject of any gay rumors.

Married three times, he has retired to his native Hawaii.

Jun 6, 2013

Zachery Ty Bryan: Home Improvement Also-Ran

Born in Colorado in 1981, Zachery Ty Bryan was hired to play the oldest brother on the TGIF sitcom Home Improvement (1991-1999).  As he grew into adolescence, he became more and more muscular, but his spectacular physique never made a splash in teen magazines -- they were all agog over Jonathan Taylor Thomas.  For most of the series' run,  JTT was the standout star, Zachery a background player.

But he never became bitter over his second-banana status; ZTB and JTT remained on friendly terms.  Instead, he used his free time to star in movies and tv series:

1. First Kid (1996), about a regular guy who lands a date with the President's daughter.



2. "Mr. Muscles," a 1997 episode of Promised Land about steroid abuse.
3. Principal Takes a Holiday (1998), about a teen operator who gets a drifter to stand-in as his school principal.
4. Held for Ransom (2000), which allowed his character to buddy-bond with Jordan Brower.

Afterwards he mostly played athletes whose plots involve winning the championship, not getting the girl.  The Game of their Lives (2005), for instance, is about the U.S. soccer team beating Britain in 1950.



Code Breakers (2005) is about a cheating scandal at West Point Military Academy, with no girls in the cast.

In Hammer of the Gods (2009), he played a man-mountain, the Norse god Thor, who wields a mighty hammer and saves his friends (there's a girl, too, but it's most about his friends).

Today Zach has moved into independent film production.




Jun 5, 2013

Jinx's Mom Comes Out: The First Lesbian in Children's Comics

If you read Archie comics as a kid, you probably remember the backup feature Li'l Jinx, which first appeared in 1947 and continued through the 1980s.  A seven or eight year old with blond pigtails, L'il Jinx was a distaff Dennis the Menace who always caused catastrophes for her single Dad (I don't remember her Mom ever appearing).  She was a tomboy, strong and athletic, particularly interested in baseball.

Her coterie of friends included the fat Charlie Hawse, the nerdish Greg, the snobbish Gigi, and the token black kids Russ and Roz.






In 2011, the Life with Archie series, about young-adult versions of Archie and Company, printed a story about a teenage Jinx.  The teenage version spun-off into her own comic book series, reprinted as graphic novels by J. Torres and Terry Austin.  The first, Jinx, appeared in April 2012.

The second, Little Mis-Steps, came out this week.  It solves the problem of the missing Mother:






She's not missing, she's just not around a lot.  Jinx's parents are divorced.  Her Mom, Merry, is a Emergency Room nurse, always on call, so it seemed more practical for her to live with her Dad.  Oh, and she has something to tell Jinx:

She's a lesbian.

Jinx wonders: does that explain why I'm into boy stuff like baseball, not girly stuff like makeup and dresses?

No: liking baseball has nothing to do with liking boys.

Coming a couple of years after Kevin Keller became the first gay character in children's comics,  this is another breakthrough with only one misstep: Mom is portrayed as borderline neglectful, too busy with her career to spend time with Jinx.

Kings of Summer: Three Boys Alone

Most boys-alone movies isolate the kids through a tragic accident -- a plane crash in Lord of the Flies, a terrorist attack in Toy Soldiers.  But in The Kings of Summer (2013) aka Toy's House, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is now in limited release, the boys head out into the wilderness by design.

Tiring of the oppression of adult society, nerdish teen Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) and his muscular best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso, below) build a house in the woods near their home and vanish, hoping for one last summer of freedom before high school.  Tagging along is Biaggio (Moises Arias, right), an eccentric outsider who claims to have no gender.

These are affluent kids, so they outfit their retreat with furniture, a boombox, and video games, and sneak into town for groceries, but they still bring a sense of wildness to their adventure, and homoromantic freedom with many scenes of the three swimming, dancing, slicing watermelons with swords, and hitting each other in the shoulder to demonstrate their affection.  Soon they have formed an alternative family.

Unfortunately, there is some homophobia that cast a shadow on the gay subtext. Biaggio worries that he's gay because he coughs a lot and gets sinusitis. Turns out he actually has the debilitating disease cystic fibrosis.  That's not nearly as bad!

Also some racism, sexism, and a lot of profanity, including the f-bomb every five seconds.

And the summer ends with the boys acquiescing to their heterosexual destiny: a girl shows up, and both Joe and Patrick like her.

But for awhile, they had each other, and a summer that could have lasted forever.

Seattle native Nick Robinson is currently starring in Melissa and Joey (2010-) with Melissa Joan Hart (formerly Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and Joey Lawrence.

Gabriel Basso (left) has starred in Alabama Moon with Uriah Shelton and Super 8 with Joel Courtney, and on the tv series The Big C (2010-2013), as the son of a woman with cancer.  He also appears in the music video Kyle and Donny: The Anatomy of Tide, which is mostly devoted to close-up shot of the two semi-nude musclemen.

Jun 4, 2013

Days of Our Lives: Will Horton's Big Gay Kiss

I never got into soap operas, except Dark Shadows, but I remember a thousand summer days when my mother called us in from play, sat us down at the formica table in the kitchen for a lunch of fried baloney sandwiches and potato chips -- nothing tastes better -- and then rushed into the living room, where an impressive baritone voice was intoning: "Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."

My mother has heard those words -- the theme to Days of Our Lives -- almost every day since 1965, the problems of the Hortons and the Bradys providing a warm, reassuring stability as the days and weeks and years pass with lightning speed.  I've watched only at my annual Christmas visits, when the characters are giving each other presents and saying "I hope the New Year will be better."  It never is.

But now, at least, gay people are participating in the angst.

Soaps first began to display gay characters during the 1980s, but Days of Our Lives, rather on the conservative side, waited until June 23, 2011, when gangster grandson Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith, left who previously played a gay character on the evening teen soap 90210) tells his friend Will Horton (Chandler Massey) that he's gay.












But the real coming out story is for Will, a Days of Our Lives legacy, grandson and great-grandson of long-term characters.  As with most soap opera storylines, it takes over a year.

1. When Sonny reveals that he's gay, Will (left) is shocked, but eventually says he's ok with it.
2. He breaks up with his girlfriend Mia, arguably because he's into her ex-boyfriend Chad (Casey Diedrick).
3. He gets a new girlfriend, Gabi, but he rebuffs her sexual advances, and they break up.






4. He goes to a party and kisses Neil (Jesse Kristofferson). He tells everyone that he was just drunk.
5. In March, he tells his grandmother Marlena that he's gay.  She's ok with it.
6. He tells everyone else in the cast, one at a time.  Their reactions are all positive.
7. By the summer of 2012, he is dating Sonny.









8. He's outed in the media, and experiences homophobia.

9. He befriends Michael Corinthos (Chad Duell, previously a Disney hunk with credits on The Wizards of Waverly Place and Sonny with a Chance) who murdered his stepmother and was raped in prison.

Soap buzz is that they may be the next DOOL power couple.




White Frog: Gay Asian Teen and His Brother

During the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of After School Specials and Schoolbreak Specials provided teenagers with dramas like The Skating Rink (1974), about a boy with a stuttering problem who wants to become a skater; and Me and Dad's New Wife (1976), about a blended family.  Lance Kerwin, Shane Sinutko, Ronnie Scribner, and even Rob Lowe got their start in teen dramas.  But then came the era of the teencoms, light comedies set in a world far removed from everyday life, where the main problem is your classmates discovering that you're a rock star.

White Frog (2012) is a teen angst melodrama in the After School Special tradition.

High schooler Nick Young (BooBoo Stewart, left) has Asperger's Syndrome, which causes difficulty in social interaction.


His parents aren't equipped to handle his disability, so it falls on his older brother Chaz (Harry Shum Jr.) to take care of him.  When Chaz dies in an auto accident, his friends, including boyfriend Randy (Gregg Sulkin, below), rally around Nick to help him work through his loss.  They become a new family.

Nick and his parents weren't aware that Chaz was gay, or that he was secretly training to become a dancer.  To honor his brother's memory, Nick decides to take up dance.  He studies with Randy (Gregg Sulkin of Wizards of Waverly Place).






The cast includes a huge number of teen favorites: BooBoo Stewart from The Twilight Saga, Harry Shum Jr. from Glee, Gregg Sulkin from Wizards of Waverly Place, and Tyler Posey from Teen Wolf (left).    There's a tremendous amount of beefcake, and a same-sex kiss.

I like the inclusivity of having some nonwhite gay characters, for a change.  Especially nonwhite gay characters with muscles.

But I have three problems:







1. Teen angst.  But that's always a turn-off for me.
2. Why was it such a big secret that Chaz was gay?  What's the big deal?
3. "The perfect family discovers that it wasn't so perfect after all."  So being gay bars you from perfection?  By definition, it's not as good as straight?

White Frog has screened mostly at film festivals, where teenagers are unlikely to be in the audience, but it's available on Video Direct, and a DVD will be released in July.

Jun 3, 2013

Cruising: Homophobic Classic

February 1980: My sophomore year at Augustana College.  I've seen many movies with gay subtexts, but only three with gay characters: Rocky Horror, with the pansexual Doctor Frank-N-Furter; Tommy, with creepy pedophile Uncle Ernie; and Blazing Saddles, with a cadre of limp-wristed chorus boys.  And none of those featured The Gay Community, gay people living and working together, their homes, their hangouts.

Cruising would.  The tv promo said only that Al Pacino would play a cop who "disappears into the darkness," but the theatrical trailer showed him putting on makeup, plus men dancing together, and a brief flash of the word "homosexual" (along with "violence," "murder," "fear," and "sex").  The final shot showed one man putting his hand atop another man's.  I guess we were supposed to find the image disquieting, but I found it erotic.

The movie wasn't playing in Rock Island, so one cold Saturday my boyfriend Fred and I drove an hour west to the college town of Iowa City to see our first gay movie, ever.

The plot: in a gay bar, Loren Lukas cruises a mysterious stranger.  After discussing what turned them gay, they go home together, where the stranger politely asks Loren to lie still while he stabs him to death.  And the milquetoast complies!

More bar pickups, more murders. There's a gay serial killer out there "targeting his own."  Police detective Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is asked to go undercover and catch him.  So he moves into a sleazy apartment in the bad part of town, puts on a leather vest, applies makeup, and goes cruising.





He befriends his next door neighbor, Ted (Don Scardino), but runs afoul of Ted's effeminate, histrionic dancer-boyfriend (James Remar, right; photo is from The Wanderers).

Occasionally Steve sees his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen), but he becomes less and less interested in her as he is infected by the gay lifestyle.










Eventually he finds the man he thinks is the killer, a disgruntled gay music student.  But after they take him into custody, Ted's body is found, so they arrest Gregory.  Is it just one of the usual gay lovers' quarrel-homicides, or is Gregory the real serial killer?  Since all gay men are violent, it's hard to tell.

Steve moves back in with his girlfriend.  But it's too late, he's turned gay.  He puts on his makeup and leather and heads out to the bars.  Maybe he's a killer now, too.

We walked out of the theater amid the crowd of University of Iowa students into a clear, bitter-cold night, got back into our car, and drove home.  Where to start with the homophobia?

1. All gay men live in horrible neighborhoods.
2. They all have artistic or creative jobs: playwright, dancer, musician.
3. But they're not very competent; they can only afford tacky, run-down apartments.
4. In spite of their leather jackets and muscles, they're all effeminate queens.
5. They have no culture, no organization, no nothing except bars.
6. They're obsessed with what "turned" them gay, desperate for a cure.
7. They're shallow, histrionic, and violent, with a strong death wish.
8. You can get infected with gay.

I was most upset by #1-3.  I planned to finish my degree, move to a "good place," find a job as a book publisher or translator, and live in a nice apartment in a decent neighborhood.  But apparently that was impossible.  Gay meant desolation and despair in a criminal demimonde.

See also: Sean and the World of Gay Leathermen

Jun 2, 2013

Zoey 101: Your Big Brother's Gay Subtexts

The teencom, like the teen idol, has a short life expectancy.  It bursts onto the scene and becomes an instant Saturday-night must-see for millions of junior high students.  They memorize favorite scenes, fantasize about the teen hunks, buy the tie-in novels and trapper keepers.  But they grow older, go to high school, get drivers' licenses, make plans on Saturday night.  The stars grow older, too, and yearn for mature roles.  So, after two or three years, rarely more, the teencom fades away, replaced by a new one that has the new class of junior high students gushing.

Between 2005 and 2008, this face and physique was intimately familiar to teens, when Zoey 101 ruled Nickelodeon, with 65 episodes and four made-for-tv movies.  It starred Jamie Lynn Spears (younger sister of the pop diva Brittney Spears) as Zoey Brooks, a student at an elite oceanside boarding school in California, and her coterie of friends and friendly enemies.  The boys included:

1. Logan (Matthew Underwood, above), a handsome but self-absorbed rich kid who doesn't own a shirt.

2. Dustin (Paul Butcher, left), Zoey's younger brother, who has bulked up and now stars on the webseries MyMusic.
















3. Chase (Sean Flynn, right), a nerd with a crush on Zoey.  The grandson of film great Errol Flynn, and nephew of actor and photojournalist Sean Flynn, Sean has starred in several movies since, including Bad Blood (2012), about the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

4. Michael (Christopher Massey), the token black guy.  The older brother of Kyle Massey of That's So Raven and Cory in the House, Michael previously starred in the parodic "instructional training video" Color Me Gay (2000).






5. James (Austin Butler), Zoey's on-off boyfriend.



Aside from the beefcake, there were hints about same-sex desire or practice in nearly every episode.

A computer dating service mistakenly pairs two boys for a school dance, and they decide to go through with it.

Trying to wrangle an invitation to join a campus fraternity, it-boy Reese gives the president a gift and says “This is just to let you know I’m interested.” The other boy replies, “Thanks, but I’m seeing someone.”

When nerdish Logan displays an expertise in comic book trivia, another boy sighs, “He’s handsome and knowledgeable!”  Later, he challenges Logan to a trivia contest with “Let’s see what you got, Hot Shorts,” a Freudian slip on “hotshot.”

Enough hints and signals to challenge Drake and Josh, or even Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.

Looking for Muscles on The Andy Griffith Show

On a 1960 episode of Make Room for Daddy: nightclub entertainer Danny Williams (Danny Thomas), traveling through the rural South, is arrested by corrupt sheriff Andy Taylor (comedian Andy Griffith).  His sponsor liked the episode so much that they spun Andy off into his own hayseed comedy, The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968).  Now the slow-talking but wise sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, Andy rarely did any police work; he was a single dad, busy with the humorous catastrophes of his friends and family.

I know we watched; my parents were big fans of hayseed comedies, and it was sandwiched between some of their other favorites, Family Affair, and Carol Burnett.  But I don't remember a single episode.  I must have been rolling my eyes and saying "Can't we watch Felony Squad, starring former Physique Pictorial model Davis Cole (left) instead?"


When Andy Griffith left the show in 1968, it was renamed Mayberry RFD (RFD stands for "Rural Free Delivery," a mail service).  Most of the other regulars stayed on board, and the focus became single dad Sam Jones (Carol Burnett Show regular Ken Berry, right).  It lasted until 1971.

I've watched a few episodes recently for research. No shirtless shots, not a lot of beefcake (although Ken Berry has some beneath-the-belt things going on in some scenes).  But quite a substantial gay connection, for a hayseed comedy:

1. Andy Griffith played a gay villain in Rustler's Rhapsody (1985).

2. Ron Howard (his son Opie) went on to the gay-subtext Happy Days, and then became one of the more homophobic directors in Hollywood, heterosexualizing gay characters and adding homophobic jokes.


3. Jim Nabors (gas station attendant Gomer Pyle), spun off into his own gay-subtext series) and is gay in real life.

4. Buddy Foster (Sam Jones' son) is the brother of lesbian actress Jodie Foster, and played several gay-vague roles, including episodes of Chips and The Mighty Isis, before he retired from acting.














Here he shows some muscles as a feral Wild Boy on a 1975 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. 

5. Don Knotts (deputy sheriff Barney Fife) later played Ralph Furley, landlord to pretending-to-be-gay Jack Tripper on Three's Company.

6. The character of Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) was a gay-stereotyped mother-obsessed milquetoast with an interest in music and art and no interest in women, one of the few gay-coded characters in hayseed comedies (or in any 1960s comedy, for that matter).