Sep 7, 2013

Michael Callan: A Gay Guy and His Pretend Wife



One of the most iconic beefcake moments of my childhood came in Mysterious Island, the 1961 adaption of the Jules Verne classic about some Civil War soldiers who end up lost on a mysterious island with giant crabs, prehistoric auks, and Captain Nemo. The 1960s version added some women to up the hetero-romance, but made up for it by divesting Michael Callan of his shirt.  The scene where he and his girlfriend get trapped by giant bees is still frightening today.

Michael Callan was the go-to guy for teenage beefcake in the 1960s, wandering between Disney, ARP, and anyone else who would put a shirtless scene.  I've seen him as a bulgeworthy circus aerialist in The Flying Fontaines (1959), a troubled high schooler in Because They're Young (1960), a gang member in West Side Story (1961), a teen dancer in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), and a rascally cowboy in Cat Ballou (1965). 

He also took off his shirt in Bon Voyage (1962), The Interns (1962), The Victors (1963), and who knows what else?


Although he always seems to have his arms around a girl, many of Michael's early movies involve as much buddy-bonding as girl-kissing.  He bonds with Warren Berlinger in Because They're Young, Cliff Robertson in The Interns, and Dwayne Hickman (left) in Cat Ballou.  


The sitcom Occasional Wife (1966-67) seems to have been a sitcom about a gay guy and his "beard."  Businessman Peter (Michael Callan) knows that he can't get ahead without being married, so he convinces his gal pal Greta (Patricia Hartley) to pretend to be his wife.

Plots involve backstabbing coworkers, people suspecting their secret, and Greta's boyfriend suspecting that they're really involved, but no hetero-romance for Peter.  You can see some episodes on youtube.

In real life Michael was married three times, and doesn't have a lot of gay rumors attached to him, though Dwayne Hickman spends many pages of his autobiography describing their warm friendship.

 

4 Devils: Lost Gay Beefcake of the Silent Era

The 4 Devils, directed by German expressionist F.W. Murnau, was named one of the top 10 films of 1928.  The Internet Movie Database gives it a 6.3 rating, based on 100 viewers.  There are 3 viewer reviews and 5 critic reviews.

The only problem is, no one has seen it.  At least not since 1948.

It was shot in 1928, then reshot with talking scenes in 1929 to make use of the new technology.  In 1937 all of the prints in the Fox Studio Archives were destroyed in a fire.  You'd think there'd be other prints around, but no one has found any.  Rumor has it that star Marion Duncan had a print, but threw it into the ocean around 1948.





We know what it was about through synopses and the original novel.  Four orphans join the circus and become trapeze artists, known as the Four Devils.  Eventually Charles and Marion (left) fall in love, but Charles falls under the spell of the evil Lady.  Marion is so upset that she falls during an act (or, in some versions, the Lady sabotages their act), and she dies, or nearly dies, bringing Charles back to his senses.






Sounds like a Betty and Veronica, wholesome v. vamp plotline. But there must have been substantial beefcake -- circus movies are always good for displaying biceps and bulges, as David Nelson discovered.  (Barry Norton, who played Adolph, is obviously packing.)

And there must have been a gay subtext somewhere, since nearly everyone associated with the film was gay:
1. Herman Bang, the Danish novelist who wrote the original story.
2. F. W. Murnau, the director.
3. Charles Morton (Charles).
4. Barry Norton (Adolph).

Why did Marion throw the last remaining print into the ocean?  Was she upset over her performance, as Hollywood gossip says, or upset over the gay subtext?


Unfortunately, no one is talking.

Charles Morton and Barry Norton worked steadily through the silent era, but couldn't make it in the talkies, taking mostly uncredited parts. Barry died in 1957, and Charles in 1966.  His last role was an uncredited bartender on the sitcom F-Troop (1966).  
Most of F.W. Murnau's other films have been lost, but you can get a few on Amazon.  I recommend Faust.

See also: The Collegians.

Sep 6, 2013

Dan and I Escape to Saudi Arabia

Dan and I were boyfriends for about two years, from 7th grade to 9th grade (1973-75).  Our bond was more passionate and more physical than my bond with Bill, but not as instinctive.  It took work to maintain, with the distractions of Spanish club, French club, wrestling, orchestra, and other boys, not to mention the constant "what girl do you like?" interrogations.  Everyone insisted that the "discovery of girls" was inevitable, that one day soon we would abandon childish things, like boys, and spend the rest of our lives obsessed with feminine curves and smiles.

Every class and school activity began with the assumption that all boys were girl-crazy, or soon would be.

In English, we watched old black and white films that taught boys the proper technique for asking girls out on dates.

In Wood Shop, the purpose of every project, from bird houses to hat racks, was to “impress girls with.”

In Gym, if we failed to climb the rope or do enough push-ups, the coach bellowed that we’d have the strength if we would just cut back on the girl-kissing and get some sleep.

At home, there were advantages to the assumption that the Discovery had come. Mom and Dad doubled my allowance, reasoning that I would need cash to finance my upcoming avalanche of dates. I could get permission to go anywhere, even across the Mississippi into Iowa, if they found out that there would be girls there.  I could get away with almost any misdeed, from staying out after curfew to losing my new jacket, because they assumed that I had been trying to meet girls or impress a girl.

But the advantages were outweighed by the constant interrogation of  “what girl do you like. . .what girl. . .what girl. . . .”  When I tried to explain that I didn’t like girls in that way, Mom just smiled, and Dad refused to believe me: “I’ll bet you don’t! What’s her name?”

So I decided to pretend. At school, I taped a picture of Raquel Welch to my locker door, and imitated my friends’ comments: “She’s bitchin!”; “She’s hot!”; “I wish she would take her clothes off!”  At home and at church, I invented a ghostly spectacle of girls who walked in slow motion across a silent schoolyard, their long hair blowing in the wind. I found a poem about a girl’s “long blonde beauty” and copied it into my notebook and left it open for Mom and Dad to find.

But I could relax with Dan, and talk about Donny Osmond, and Barry Williams from The Brady Bunch, and what boys at school were cute.  Every once in a while I would nudge him and whisper"Girls are gross!", a secret message that only the two of us shared.

"They sure are!" he would answer.  

But how could we survive in a world where every boy longed for girls, every man longed for women?  We decided to escape.  We began looking for a "good place," where boys could walk hand in hand, and kiss, and live together through all their lives.  We discussed Greece, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, England, and many other countries and regions.

The Middle East had never been on my list of "good places," but Dan argued that the desert was clean and free, almost empty, and practical: Dan's father, an engineer, said that Americans were needed in Saudi Arabia to drill for oil and help civilize the nomadic Bedouin.

So it was settled: after high school we would move to Saudi Arabia, the only place in the world where same-sex love was celebrated, and live in the holy city of Mecca.  

In retrospect, I can think of several problems with that plan.

The story of Dan continues here, with a phone call to a girl.

Years later, I visited the Middle East.


Patrick Schwarzenegger: Born This Way

This hunky teenager engaging in homoerotic horseplay in the surf is Patrick Schwarzenegger, 19-year old son of Governor Arnold.  But he has several claims to fame other than being hunky and the son of the Terminator.

When he was 15, he started his own clothing line, Project360.  The clothes feature messages like "Love," "Peace," and "Freedom," and some of the proceeds go to charity.




Patrick also has a modeling career -- usually involving shirtless shots -- and he's appeared in a few movies.

The questions on everyone's mind:

1. Is he gay?

He hasn't made any public statements about his sexual identity, but he does spend a lot of time with muscular male buddies, such as Taylor Lautner of the Twilight Saga, who has been the subject of gay rumors.  On the other hand, he's been photographed kissing girls, too.






2. Is he gay-positive, or like his "gay marriage should be between a man and a woman" dad?

In May the gossip site TMZ reported that Patrick was booted from a nightclub and then threatened to beat up the dj, using the expression "gay boy."

But he has recorded an anti-bullying PSA for Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, encouraging kids to "be who they are."  I'm thinking that overrules the "gay boy" comment.

Spring 1975: Dan Makes a Phone Call, and the World Ends

When Dan and I were boyfriends, from 7th grade to 9th grade (1973-75), we were obsessed with escaping from the mandate to date girls, go steady, and eventually get married.  We decided that Saudi Arabia was a "good place," where same-sex loves were validated, so we became obsessed with the Middle East.  (This isn't him; I'm almost out of Dan photos.)

We scoured Readmore Book World for any books they had on Islam, Islamic art, Islamic literature, the Arabs, or the Middle East in general.  We learned to eat olives and drink coffee.  We practiced sitting cross-legged on the floor, since one of our books (slightly out of date) said that "chairs are a rarity" in Arabia.

I often suspected that we would never actually get on the plane.  During the summer after 7th grade, I caught Dan kissing my old boyfriend Bill.  I often saw him talking to other boys -- and I sometimes felt drawn to other boys myself.  But I never suspected that our relationship would end with a "discovery of girls."

One night in the spring of ninth grade -- I don't remember the date, but it was after my wrestling match with the Estonian brothers -- we were sitting on the bed in Dan's room, so close together that our arms and thighs were touching, watching Barney Miller.  I was talking about how cute Wojo was, but Dan cut me off.  “I’m going down to the kitchen to make a phone call," he said.

“Who are you going to call?”
“Cindy Wagner.”
My stomach started to hurt. "What for?” I asked, weakly.

“I’m gonna ask her to the Fort Armstrong (theater). Hey  -- you could get a girl, too, and we could double.”

“Why. . .why do we need girls?” I stammered, struggling to find some explanation other than the Big Discovery.  "Girls are gross!"

I expected him to agree, as he had a dozen times in the past.  It was our secret code. But he said: “Not every girl. Cindy’s nice, and she always smiles at me.”

“What about Saudi Arabia?  We're going to live in tents with the Bedouins!"

"We can still do that. Our wives can go with us."

Suddenly feeling sick, I said goodbye and went home.  The next morning I checked the picture of Raquel Welch on my dresser. No sudden shuddering gasp of desire. No feelings at all. I was alone, the only boy in the universe who liked boys.

Sometime during the morning, before I left for school, Dan called.  “Hey, why'd you leave?” he asked. “I got crazy news: she said yes!  I got a girlfriend!" (In those days, saying "yes" to a date implied consent to a long-term romance).

I thought of the sci-fi novel The White Mountains, and the tripods who scooped up all of the fourteen-year old boys, capped them with wire, and changed them forever. “What are you telling me this for?” I asked in a low bitter tone.

“You’re my friend, aren’t you? I thought you’d be happy for me.”

“Yeah, I’m thrilled. Overcome with joy. Congratulations!” I slammed the phone down.

 Mom made him call back and apologize.

But that was the last time I called him.  We were still friends; we ate lunch together in the cafeteria, and worked on school projects together.  But we didn't hang out after school, or on the weekends.  I couldn't explain why, not even to Darry.  I didn't really know why, myself.  I just knew that I wanted to cry.

See also: A Pilgrimage to Mecca and The Estonian Wrestling Brothers.

Sep 5, 2013

Parenthood: Gay Teen Tease

Parenthood (2010-) is a "warm," "family-friendly" drama centered on the lives of Zeek and Camille Braverman and their four adult children:

1. Adam Braverman (Peter Krause, left), who has a "traditional" job, house, housewife, and 3 kids.
2. Julia Graham (Erika Christiansen), a hotshot lawyer whose husband (Sam Jaegar, below) stays home to raise the kids.
3. Recently divorced Sarah Holt (Lauren Graham), who has two kids (Amber and Drew)
4. Irresponsible bachelor Crosby (the less-than-attractive Dax Shepard), who is helping to raise his baby mama's child (Jabbar Trusell)



Think Modern Family, without the gay characters.  Or any gay references.
Or The Waltons, without the gay subtexts.

And lots and lots of heterosexism, boys meeting girls, boys and girls falling in love, with the elders intoning "This is what life is like for everyone.  Every boy falls for girls, every girl falls for boys.  No one has ever, in the history of the world, not even once, experienced even a glimmering of same-sex desire.







I don't know any gay people who have even bothered to watch, but some heterosexuals have wondered where the gay characters are?  There's a cast of 3,000 (this is only half of the main cast).  It's set in Berkeley, California, right across the Bay from gay mecca San Francisco.  Why aren't some of them gay?  Why doesn't somebody mention gay people?

Two words: Ron Howard, the homophobe who drains gay content from everything he touches.





Sarah's son Drew, played by Miles Keiser, was sweet, sensitive, artistic, and not particularly into girls (at least, in the few scenes he got, having to share the program with 3,000 other people).  Viewers thought he was gay, and expected an eventual coming-out episode.  But apparently it was purely unintentional, and when producers got wind of the fact that the viewers were "getting the wrong idea," they quickly gave Drew a girlfriend.

Of course, just because he's on a homophobic tv program doesn't mean that Miles can't be gay-friendly in his personal life.  After all, he played a gay teen on Private Practice in 2007.   I doubt he's gay in real life -- I have seen approximately 300 photos of him off-screen, and in every one, he has his arms around a girl or woman.  Every one!

Summer 1965: The Bodybuilder on the Beach


Heterosexuals are allowed to just "be," their glancing at girls or boys presumed instinctive, universal, unquestionable, as inevitable as sunrise, unworthy of comment but worthy of constant praise.  But gay people are constantly asked for a history, or an etiology, for how they Figured It Out, for When They Knew.

Maybe when I was 4 years old, and fumed with righteous indignation when Dad accused me of "liking" the hostess of The Land of Ziggy Zaggy.

Maybe when I was 3 years old, and sneaked out into the living room long past my bedtime to see two men hugging on tv .

Or when my parents gave me a Little Golden Book with a picture of a muscular, loincloth-clad Tarzan on the cover. Probably by age 2.

Or maybe when I met the Bodybuilder on the Beach.

We moved to Racine, Wisconsin just before kindergarten, and stayed through second grade (1965-68).  Our house was only a block from Lake Michigan, so we went to the beach almost every day. 

The Event happened before my sister was born, so probably in the summer of 1965, when I was four years old.  I was playing with a toy dump truck while my father swam and my mother sunbathed.  Suddenly a bodybuilder walked past our blanket (I didn't know that word yet, so I called him a Muscle Man).

He stood head and shoulders above any of the other beachgoers. He was as tall and tanned as Hercules, with broad shoulders, a thick, hairy chest, and xylophone-hard abs.

Overcome with joy, I rushed up to him.  "Can I touch you, Mister?" I asked, not at all shy.

Grinning, the Muscle Man stopped and flexed.  I patted his marble-hard stomach and hairy chest, but I couldn't reach his arms, so he got on his knees.  His bicep was enormous, so big that I couldn't cup it in two hands.  It was the most amazing thing I had ever felt.


Mom was standing beside me.  "Yes, isn't he big and strong?" she said.  "I bet all the girls like him."

Girls?  But...I was a boy, and I liked him.

"When you grow up, you'll have big muscles like that, and all the girls will like you, too!"

Girls?  But...I wanted boys to like me.

She thanked the Muscle Man for putting up with me, and he continued on his way down the beach. He hadn't said a word.

The Event taught me two things:
1. Men were incredible.
2. I wasn't supposed to think so.

I never saw the Muscle Man again.

Nearly 50 years have passed, but not much has changed.  Men are still incredible, and I still hear, every day, that I'm not supposed to think so.

See also: A Boy Named Twilight.

Sep 4, 2013

Criminal Lovers: Heterosexist Postmodern Fairy Tale

Criminal Lovers, or Les Amants Criminels (1999), directed by Francois Ozon, was advertised heavily in gay publications and in the gay-specific TLA Video.  But it's an aggressively, unabashedly heterosexist thriller, with a minor gay sex scene.




High schooler Alice (Natacha Regnier) gets her boyfriend-stooge Luc (Jeremie Renier) to murder their classmate Said (Salim Kechioche, right, but don't get your hopes up; this photo is from another movie.)







After burying the body in the woods, the two get lost on the way back to their car, and encounter L'Homme de Foret or "The Woodsman" (Predrag Manojlovic, top photo), a shaggy, wild-eyed man who can only be described as a fairytale ogre.  He imprisons them in his basement and provides food for Luc but not Alice, stating that "I like my girls thin and my boys fat."

Eventually L'Homme convinces Luc to have sex with him.

The heterosexual lovers escape, with L'Homme in hot pursuit.  They arrive back at their car, only to encounter the police, who shoot Alice and arrest both Luc and L'Homme. The end.

This is a postmodern fairy tale, with disparate and contradictory pieces of the story not quite falling into place. Why did Alice really want Said murdered? Who is L'Homme de Foret, and what does he really want?  Why are the police still buzzing around the car, days after the murder?

Maybe this was advertised as a gay-themed movie, but it is aggressively, unabashadly heterosexist. Luc's one on-camera sexual experience with L'Homme is as skittish and underplayed as a episode of Will and Grace, and it only serves to boost his confidence sufficiently for him to initiate loud, graphic heterosexual sex with Alice.

At least there's a bit of frontal nudity.

Jeremie Renier has played gay characters several times, but his only film available in the U.S. is the heterosexist Brotherhood of the Wolf.  Salim Kechioche, who doesn't have nearly enough locker-room and shower scenes, has played gay character before, but here plays a heterosexual.

Sep 3, 2013

The Anita Bryant Spectacular: A Hate-Fest That Nobody Watched

Singer Anita Bryant was never a superstar in the mainstream market: only two songs in the Billboard Top 10,  half a dozen in the top 100, a few appearances on Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Art Linkletter, some Bob Hope specials, and Lawrence Welk.  But she found her niche in complaining about how bad modern life was in the burgeoning fundamentalist Christian market.

She began releasing albums like How Great Thou Art and  Old Fashioned Prayin', publishing books about being a fundamentalist, and denouncing Hollywood in churches.

In the 1970s, fundamentalist Christians were looking for something new to blame the world's problems on after the decline of the "long-haired hippie freaks," and they latched onto gay people.  In March 1977, Ms. Bryant jumped onto the bandwagon with her Save Our Children Campaign, a successful attempt to revoke a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Florida, by arguing that gays were, among other things, child molesters.

Soon Ms. Bryant was the Voice of Homophobia in America: shrill, vicious, hateful, and jaw-droppingly ignorant as she recast myths from the 1950s.  Fundamentalists believed every word, and even invented some new myths of their own.  In September 1977, our preacher at the Nazarene church began screaming that gays had committed the Unpardonable Sin.  Gay people proclaimed her Public Enemy #1.  Everyone else thought she was rather ridiculous.

Mainstream media dropped her, but no matter; she made lots of money screaming about gays to fundamentalist church groups.

Then, in 1980, her husband, Bob Green, asked for a divorce.

Fundamentalist Christians believe that divorce is a sin.  Maybe not as Satanic as being gay, but a sin.  Speaking engagements dropped, book contracts were cancelled, and Ms. Bryant declared bankrupcy.

On March 27, 1980, in a last-ditch effort to get back into the limelight, she got some influential friends to lend her the facilities at West Point for an all-homophobia comedy-variety program, The Anita Bryant Spectacular.  Appearing with her to "bring the nation back to decency, morality, and wholesome family life" were a pack of homophobic icons: Bob Hope, former teen idol Pat Boone, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (beefcake star of 77 Sunset Strip, top photo), the Imperials, and the West Point Chorus.

31 years later, a gay cadet was bringing a same-sex date to the Winter Formal.  Ms. Bryant must be turning over in her grave.  Oh, wait, she's still alive.

Old homophobic friends Art Linkletter, Jack Lalanne, and Lawrence Welk phoned in their support.

As far as I know, nobody saw the 3 hours long hate-fest. It was syndicated, and few local stations could afford to devote that much time to gay-bashing, no matter how homophobic they were.  And where it did air, everyone was watching the gay-friendly Barney Miller and Soap on the other channel.


Sep 2, 2013

Adam Irigoyen: Disney Teen Operator

Adam Irigoyen, #10 on my list of Unexpected Disney Channel Teen Hunks, plays Deuce Martinez on Shake It Up (2010-2013), about a group of aspiring dancers.  Deuce is a teen operator who works at the hangout Crusty's and gets involved with wild moneymaking schemes.  











Like most teencom boys, Deuce is obsessively girl-crazy and soon gets a steady girlfriend, but he also has a permanent, emotionally intense bond with his best friend, dancer Ty Blue (Roshon Feagan).  In "Parent Trap It Up," they double date, but tire of the girls' bickering, so they go off by themselves.  In "My Fair Librarian It Up," Ty becomes jealous when Deuce likes another boy.

Outside Shake It Up, his credits include episodes of Whitney, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Good Luck Charlie, plus 24 episodes of the obstacle course game show Wipeout!







He is also a singer, with a popular music video, "School Girl."  It reprises the plot and dance moves of the 1980s John Hughes movie Breakfast Club, about a Saturday detention, with no one falling in love, though the lyrics, in English and Spanish, are entirely heterosexist: "School girl, could you be my girlfriend?  You got me going...when I saw you walking with your books...tell me, will you be my girlfriend?"











I haven't seen much more gay content in his work, but he's friends with gay-positive actors Jake T. Austin (right) and Ryan Ochoa (center), so I imagine that he's gay-positive also.


Sep 1, 2013

Richard Bennett: The Unknown Bodybulder

During the Golden Age of Bodybuilding, when Physique Pictorial and many other magazines were distributing semi-nude (and nude) photos of musclemen to a worldwide, mostly gay male audiences, a surprising number of models managed to make the transition to tv or movies: Davis Cole, Doug McClure, Sammy Jackson, Gary Conway, William Smith, and so on.  But most, due to limited acting ability, lack of media contacts, or lack of interest, found their way into other careers.  Some are so obscure that, half a century later, we know practically nothing about them.

According to the Vintage Male Physique blog, Richard Bennett was photographed in both nude and semi-nude poses, primarily by Danny Fitzgerald.  Not much is known about Danny Fitzgerald, except that he published under the name Demi-Dieux, Demi-Gods, in magazines like Demi Gods and Young Physique during the 1960s.

But they weren't just nudes for their own sake; they were exquisitely composed, studies in light and dark, hardness and softness, strength and fragility.

And intensely homoerotic.  No way could you buy these magazines under the pretense that you were looking for musclebuilding tips.











He drew his models primarily from New York City, often selecting toughs, street hoods, and hustlers.  But Richard Bennett wasn't among them.  His perfect physique is not the haphazard muscle of a street hood, but of someone with the time and money to spend countless hours at the gym, sculpting his body with artistic precision.

Richard Bennett was not a pro bodybuilder, but he does appear on the rosters of amateur competitions from the late 1940s through 1965.  He had no wins, but he could have.







What was his life like, before and after the shots?  What did he do for a living?  Who were his friends and lovers?  Was he gay, bisexual, heterosexual?

A correspondent stated that he still lives in New York City and he has a house upstate, so he must be an economic success.  And he has a brother who looks like James Dean.

That's all.  Otherwise, even in the Age of the Internet, Richard Bennett remains a mystery.