Sep 14, 2013

Spring 1977: A Nude Conversation with the Preacher's Son

Every four years, the Nazarene Young People's Society held an International Institute, where selected Nazarene teenagers from around the world gathered to "deepen their spiritual witness" and "spread the Word of God."  In 1977, just after my junior year in high school, it was to be held in Fiesch, Switzerland.

Five teens would be chosen from the Northwest Illinois District, where there were over 2,000 Nazarenes. Maybe 200 teens would apply. My chances were 1 in 40.

I was determined to be selected.

1. I became a Johnny Nazarene, going to everything, even activities that most teens avoided: prayer meeting, choir, missionary society.  I sang in front of the church twice.

2. I went down to the altar regularly.

3. I applied for early admission to Olivet, our Bible College on the prairie.  Mostly because Verne, the preacher's son and my sort-of boyfriend (as long as there were girls around), was planning to go next fall.  It offered 30 majors, but everyone assumed that I would be studying to become a preacher, evangelist, minister of music, or missionary.

 The strategy worked: in March 1977, the District announced the names of the delegates, and I was #1.

As the days and weeks of my junior year at Rocky High passed, Verne began to conjure an idyllic future for us.  We would be roommates at Olivet, of course, and take lots of the same classes. He would play football, and I would be an athletic trainer.

The rest of the story, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Peter Coe: The Edge of Gay Hollywood

If you were watching Chuck Acri's Creature Feature or any of the other local creature features of the 1960s and 1970s:  Ghoulardi, Sir Graves Ghastly, Count Scary, Svengooli, Zacherley -- then you've seen Peter Coe.  He starred in two of the iconic 1940s monster movies:

House of Frankenstein (1944), which brought Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman together.
The Mummy's Curse (1944), which brought the Mummy to the Louisiana Bayou.

Then there was a series of war movies, Arabian adventures, Indian adventures, including some famous ones: Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Captain Scarface (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956), mostly playing ethnic minorities in "blink and you miss him parts."  That never gave him a chance to show off his impressive physique.

When he did have a starring role, it was in what looks like rather heterosexist vehicles,  such as Louisiana Hussy (1959): "Born to make love and make trouble!"

He always preferred the stage to movies, starring on Broadway in The Fifth Column and My Sister Eileen.

Not a lot of gay content so far.  Even less when you discover that he was married 8 times and had 6 children.

But when you look at Peter Coe's private life, you see him wandering around the edges of the gay subculture of 1950s Hollywood (I'm not sure how he found the time).

He was friends with gay character actor Henry Brandon, who also did a lot of ethnic parts, and best friends with eccentric, trans-positive director Ed Wood Jr.  In fact, when Ed and his wife Kathy were evicted from their apartment, they moved in with Peter.  He died there on December 10, 1978.

Sep 13, 2013

Naked Nazarene #12: Dating the Preacher's Son

Verne, Mark, and a guy I don't remember
During my junior year at Rocky High (1976-77), most guys were obsessed with demonstrating that they were not Swishes (our word for "gay").  The best way was to become a Rock (jock), or be seen in public with one -- they hated men with muscles.

I wasn't on a team -- being an athletic trainer didn't count -- so I had no choice but the only other option: date a Rock.

But most Rocks were very busy, having sex with eight or nine girls in various combinations every night, so they had little time or energy left for boys.

 One day in November, a few weeks after my date with Todd's girlfriend, I was running around the indoor track, when I saw the preacher's son Verne (not his real name) playing one-on-one basketball in the gym be-low. Verne was a senior, so our paths rarely intersected. At school, I saw him only in the locker room after football practice, when he was anxious to get to the showers.

At church, he was always encased in a shell of fawning groupies. Practically our only contact came a couple of months ago, when I helped him Pray Through to Victory at an altar call.

As I ran, Verne finished his game. He guzzled Gatorade from a plastic bottle, then ripped off his t-shirt and collapsed, shimmering with sweat, onto the lap of a girl.  He was hugely tall, with broad shoulders, hard thick biceps, short dark hair, and dark blue, almost purple eyes.  And he was a Nazarene -- no sex allowed!  He would be perfect.

The full story, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood

How Do You Handle a Hungry Man?

I'm not a big fan of soup, especially that partially coagulated Campbell's stuff.  Besides, they had a stupid logo -- "Mmm, mmm, good," not even words -- and the most cutesy-disgusting advertising icons, Campbell's Soup Kids.  But in the early 1970s, Campbell's redeemed itself with the Manhandlers.

They were a thick, stocky variety of soup introduced in 1968, reputedly in response to housewives' complaints that the wimpy Chicken Noodle  lines didn't fill up their husbands.

The commercial showed a hunky, muscular guy in a plaid shirt  engaged in various farm tasks (not him -- this is Matt Neustadt of reality tv).  I remember him plowing a field, piling concrete blocks atop each other, and mending a barbed wire fence -- while a male voiceover sang the double-entendre laden  "How do you handle a hungry  The Handlers!"

The gay symbolism was obvious, though no doubt unintentional.  Viewers could think of all kinds of ways to handle a hungry man.

 He goes home, bursts into the kitchen, and plops down at the table, where there is a bowl of Manhandlers soup waiting for him.  He thrusts a spoon awkwardly into his fist like he's not used to utensils and begins shoveling the soup in, occasionally making little animal grunts of pleasure.  One expects him to say "Me like soup!  Soup good!"  Oh, right, that's the logo.  The voice over repeats: "The Handlers!"

No ladies were shown in the commercials.  The Man evidently lived alone, or maybe with the man who was singing about a ""

He was Frankie Laine, who performed in many genres but specialized in cowboy songs, including "Hanging Tree," "Mule Train," "Riders in the Sky," and the themes for Rawhide and Blazing Saddles.

By 1977, the ravenous cave man had been civilized into a New Sensitive Man.  He even knew how to hold a spoon properly.

I couldn't find the original commercial, but here's a youtube audio.

Sep 12, 2013

Tyger Drew-Honey. The Name Says It All

After BooBoo Stewart, Tyger Drew-Honey has to be the world's greatest name (although my blogger keeps changing it to "Tyler" without my permission).  When I first heard it, yesterday, I had to know more about him.

Especially when he tweets nude pics of himself, and asks "how camp is my leg?"

And when there are screencaps on the internet that show him getting a homoerotic back rub.

And in drag.

What I found out:

1. He's 17 years old.
2. His parents are porn stars (Lindsay Drew and Steve Perry).

3. He was a regular on the sketch comedy Armstrong and Miller Show (2007-2010), which often had gay-themed sketches.  Here he plays a gay teenager who comes out to his parents; Dad's reaction is rather underwhelming.

4. In Horrid Henry: The Movie (2011), Tyger played Stuck-Up Steve, Henry's gay-vague cousin.
5. Next he starred in the Britcom Cuckoo (2012), about a conservative family whose daughter marries a free-spirited hippie, Cuckoo (Andy Samberg).  Tyler played Dylan, her younger brother, so obviously in love with Cuckoo that he told an interviewer that they would need a "coming out as not gay" episode for him.

6. In Outnumbered (2007-), another Britcom about parents (Hugh Davis, Claire Skinner) raising three rambunctious kids,  Tyler plays Jake, the oldest son.  He's heterosexual, but Uncle Ben and Uncle Bernard are gay.

7. He gets lots of gay rumors but hasn't said anything specific.

Male Bonding at the Altar Call

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, church services typically ended with an "altar call," an invitation for people to come down to the long, low railing at the front of the sanctuary, kneel, and "get raht with God."  That is, apologize for your sins and get saved from an eternity in the Lake of Fahr (preachers always used a fake Southern accent).

Teens rarely went down -- there were so many invitations to “bow your head right now and ask God to forgive you” in Sunday school and Nazarene Youth Society that most of us got saved regularly without going to the altar.

But one Sunday in the fall of ninth grade, I found myself going down.

Altar calls were only supposed to last for five or ten minutes, until the Preacher was satisfied that enough people had come down to get raht with God. But today, for some reason, no one went down, not after five miinutes, or ten, or fifteen.

The altar is circled
My brother  Ken and I exchanged looks of surprise, then consternation. “Just as I Am,” the only hymn ever used for altar calls, droned on and on and on. Brother Tyler, more red-faced and sweaty than usual, kept yelling “Don’t put it off ! This may be your last chance! Today you might be called home to Glorah or thrown into the Lake of Fahr!”

Why didn’t Brother Tyler just give up and let us go home? Ken was slouching in a pew, his Sunday tie undone, refusing to sing anymore. Back home, our roast beef was probably burning in the oven.  You should never look at your watch during a service, or someone would accuse you of being “bored with God,” but I snuck a peek anyway. The altar call had been going on for twenty minutes! We must have sung “Just as I Am” a thousand times:

Then Brother Tyler confirmed my worst fear. He yelled: “There’s someone here today  who’s not raht with God! You know who you are! We’re not going to end the altar call until you come down!”

It was a battle of wills. Who would fold first: the sinner, or Brother Tyler? Or would the congregation mutiny and storm the red double doors?

Suddenly it dawned on me that if I went down, we could all go home!

I didn't remember committing any sins since the last time I was saved, but He hated so many things that surely I had done something.

As the congregation started their three-thousandth chorus of “Just As I Am,” I stood, scooted across the legs of other people in the pew, and walked down slowly, hesitantly, as if my feet were almost too heavy to move. I kept my head bowed, but still I felt the stares and heard the whispering voices.  "Look, a teenager is going done?”

I knelt at a spot directly in front of the pulpit, with my knees against the base of the altar and my elbows against the smooth wood of the rail. I closed my eyes and began apologizing for getting mad at my brother last week.

But before God heard two words, a wash of male bodies enveloped me. Muscular arms in Sunday suit coats draped across my waist and back; strong hands pressed onto my wrists and shoulders;  the air around me grew hot and musky with sweat and fervent prayers.

As I apologized, beefy factory men, hardbodied high school jocks, junior high Fairies pressed against me with hands and arms and thighs. And when I announced that I had successfully Prayed Through to Victory, we became a single mass of men, all whooping and hollering and bear-hugging.

I knew that you always had company at the altar. Going down meant that you couldn't get saved "right there in your seat"; God was holding a grudge.  So in order to Pray Through to Victory, you needed several people beside you, beseeching God on your behalf, and propriety permitted only same-sex beseeching.

But I hadn’t expected this orgiastic abandon!

Nazarene boys: Mark, Allen, Verne
After that I  went down to the altar often. Not so often that people suspected I might be sinning on purpose, but every three or four weeks.  When I didn’t go down myself, as someone who was Saved, I had carte blanche to follow any boy or man that I liked down, to hug, hold, and caress him, to luxuriate in the sight, smell, and feel of the masculine as I helped him Pray Through to Victory.

Once I even I helped the Preacher's son, Verne, Pray Through from a backsliding.  He was always surrounded by groupies and unapproachable, so I'm certain that he only accepted a date with me later on because he remembered our jubilant hugs.

Christian Beadles: The Face of Evil

This is Christian Beadles, age 16.  He's a close friend of Christian Fortune and teen idol Justin Bieber, and a singer in his own right, performing in music videos such as "Doctor Stalker" and "Yes, I Can."

A goofy grin.  A pleasant personality (I surmise).  Fun-loving. Talented.  The face of evil.

It' not that he lacks moral reasoning skills, he just decides to put them on hold now and then to dehumanize people.  That's the definition of evil.

It's not his fault.  Throughout his life, he has been taken to regular meetings where he is informed that he has enemies.  A group of people -- not really people, they lost their humanity years ago -- are scheming to overturn the natural order, destroy civilization.  Destroy him.

God hates them even more than he hates real people.  After all, doesn't He say in His book that they should be put to death?  It's right next to statements about other monsters deserving of death -- those who eat shellfish, wear clothing of mixed wool and linen, and work on the Sabbath.

But no one in the meetings talks about those other monsters.  They zero in one one group, scapegoats responsible for all of the world's problems, someone distant and alien to distill all of their hatred onto.

It's ludicrous, yet he believes it.  We are all capable of believing ludicrous things, especially when we hear them over and over.

"What I tell you three times is true," says Lewis Carroll.

But now that he's famous, Christian can no longer believe that they are distant, alien monsters.  He sees them every day.  They are his classmates, his fans, even his friends.

Does he ever think  "Wait -- how can I be friends with someone who is scheming to destroy the world?"

Or is it just a fact, to be accepted regardless of how ridiculous it is?  Regardless of how much pain it causes in the fans and friends, vulnerable gay teens who conclude "Maybe I'm a monster after all."

Maybe he does think.  Maybe there are doubts in his mind.  Maybe, as he encounters more of them, he  will develop the ability to see that they're just people, not monsters, he will get the courage to reject hate.

Sep 11, 2013

Mr. Clean: Gay-Vague Advertising Icon of the 1960s

When you're a kid in the Midwest in the 1960s, you get your beefcake and gay subtexts wherever you can, even on household cleaning products.  I was always fascinated by Mr. Clean, the bald, bodybuilder genie with white eyebrows and a single golden earring (left ear), who burst into homes to show housewives how to shine up their kitchens.

I had a lot of questions -- did only women clean kitchens?  If so, why did they depend on a man to demonstrate the proper method?  Didn't the husbands mind that this big man was consorting with their wives while they weren't home?

And what about men who lived with men -- how did they clean kitchens?

And who was this Mr. Clean, who exuded not only cleanliness, but a raw sexual energy?  Yet never expressed any romantic interest in any of the women he assisted? Maybe he wasn't interested in women?

And why does this action figure have a blatant bulge?

Mr. Clean (by the way, his first name is "Veritably") was introduced in print ads and tv commercials in 1958.  Everyone thinks he's a genie, but according to his official biography, he's a sailor -- product inventor Linwood Burton had a ship-cleaning business, and was apparently entranced by a big, bald, muscular sailor in Pensacola, Florida.

In commercials he was played by House Peters Jr., who also appeared in Flash Gordon, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Target: Earth.

Real-life representatives have been appearing at public events since the 1990s.

Sep 10, 2013

Fall 1976: Winning a Boy by Dating His Girlfriend

In the fall of 1976, shortly after Todd and I spent the night together at music camp, I tried to win him by dating his girlfriend, Faith.

She was establishing her autonomy joining every club she could find that Todd didn’t belong to -- Writers’, Swedish, Circle K, Archery, Golf – and in October she got around to the fundamentalist Christian club, Campus Life. I didn't have my driver's license yet, so I asked her for a ride home, thinking vaguely that she might be meeting Todd, and ask me to tag along.

On the first Monday night, we chatted for a few minutes as she dropped me off.

On the second Monday night, we parked for a long time, while she complained about Todd.  Seven years of engagement, and he treated her like a buddy! No parking on the levee to watch the Mississippi flow past! No “getting some” on her doorstep!

“You kiss!” I exclaimed. “I’ve seen you kiss, in the cafeteria.”

“That’s only for show, so Todd can brag to all his friends,” Faith said, witch eyes flashing. “When we’re alone, he’s a drip, all cold and stiff like a dead fish.”

“Maybe he’s waiting for your wedding night?"
"He doesn't even like to hold hands!  Even his sister says he’s a Swish!”

I winced at the forbidden word. “You’re from East Moline! Why would a Swish want to marry you? They can’t stand being around women.”

“For a screen. They marry women so no one gets wise.” She paused. “Maybe I should just dump Todd.”

I was starting to get nervous.  Girls usually dumped their boyfriends only when they found someone they liked better, and that would be. . .me!   I quickly said goodnight and left.

But then I thought, this might be useful.  If I dated Faith -- briefly -- Todd would be jealous, and fall into my arms.

Ok, I was fifteen years old, and not thinking clearly.

On the third Monday, we sat in the darkened car for almost an hour, talking about Faith’s frustration,  Todd’s lack of interest in her, or apparently in any girl, on and on, with no jokes, no wit, nothing to relieve the boredom. Finally I leaned forward, pushed briefly against her cold, hard lips and then jumped from the car and crushed across the dead leaves to my door.

On Tuesday I expected Faith to make a "just friends" speech, but she chatted as if nothing had happened.  So I asked her to a concert on Saturday.  She agreed.

My parents spent the rest of the week variously jumping for joy and weeping that I was "growing up."  My friends congratulated me as if I had won a major competition.  No one cared that she was Todd's girlfriend -- it was expected, even obligatory, to wrest the Girl of Your Dreams from the place-holder she was dating.

But the date never happened.  On Thursday night she called. "I didn't plan on it, but I can't go to the concert.  I met a guy, and. . .I didn't plan on it. . .but I Fell in Love With Him."

“Huh?” I said, as articulately as possible, given the situation. This was an unexpected development, and quite unwelcome. For one thing,  I was looking forward to the concert.

“I met the One! Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Um. . .when did all this happen?”
“Yesterday.” It seems that on Wednesday evening, Faith went a Photography Club Halloween party, where she danced with, drank blood punch with, kissed, and Fell in Love with a jock named Kent. I knew him from my athletic trainer job: tall and firm-muscled, with a pleasantly open face. . .and the biggest penis I had ever seen.  We had to order a special extra-extra large cup for him.

Faith apologized for not calling to break the date last night, but after Falling in Love she had to call to dump Todd, and he cried so hard that she felt guilty and needed comforting in Kent’s muscular arms. (Right, comforting! I thought savagely.) Then  – two or three hours later -- it was too late to call.

One more thing: could you surrender the tickets, for use with her True Love?

I couldn’t think of a response sufficiently acidic, so I yelled “Waste your time doing some-thing else!” and slammed down the telephone. I stayed home moping on Saturday night, staring at my unused tickets, feeling jealous and outraged and sad.

Why was I so miserable?  I didn't really want to date Faith.  But now we wouldn't be talking about Todd every Monday night, so in a weird way he was no longer part of my life.

The uncensored story is on Tales of West Hollywood

Sep 9, 2013

Auntie Mame: A Gay Escapade

Auntie Mame was one of the best sellers of 1955, about the irrepressible, exuberant, bon vivant Mame who must raise her young nephew Patrick during the Depression and World War II, and in spite of the turmoil in the world, vows to introduce him to all that life has to offer.  And it offers quite a lot: art, literature, music, eastern mysticism, existential philosophy, and gay people.

The novel is loaded down with casual gay references; there are transvestites at a party; Patrick overhears the word "lesbian"; Mame reads Andre Gide's gay classic The Counterfeiters, and receives "intimate letters" from lesbian poet Sarah Teasdale.

Mame may like transvestites and lesbians, but she rather dislikes gay men.  She throws the word "faggot" around a few times, and is relieved to discover that Patrick isn't "that way."  In the sequel, Around the World with Auntie Mame (1958), she cautions Patrick's young son to avoid "men who kiss each other too much," since they might know.

But the author (nom de plume Patrick Davis) rather liked men: he describes male bodies in ecstatic detail, rhapsodizing over handsome faces, muscular chests and well-turned thighs.  With women, he describes the clothes.

Auntie Mame became a Broadway play (1956), a movie (1958), a Broadway musical (1966), and another movie (1974).

Mame: Rosalind Russell, Angela Landsbury, Lucille Ball

Beauregard: Robert Smith, Forrest Tucker (left), Charles Brassing, Robert Preston

Young Patrick: Jan Handzlik, Frankie Michaels, Kirby Furlong

Teenage Patrick: Robert Higgins, Roger Smith (of 77 Sunset Strip), Bruce Davison (above, from The Strawberry Statement)

Unfortunately, the beefcake does not translate to the screne (although Forrest Tucker was rumored to have the largest penis in Hollywood), and the gay references were deleted, leaving only a lesbian subtext in Mame's friendship with hammy actress Vera Charles.

But the absence of gay reference means the absence of Mame's homophobia, making her seem not only tolerant but expansive, celebrating difference and diversity.  The movie Mame would not only hang out with gay men, she would joyfully host gay weddings.  And if little Patrick told her that he was gay, she would plan a fabulously expensive "coming out" party to introduce him to the sons of her celebrity friends.

Paradoxically, censoring the gay content made the movie more gay-positive than the book.

Violetta: 10 Teen Hunks on 1 Disney Channel Soap

The telenovela is a Latin American genre, an evening soap opera about wealthy, attractive people who fall in love a lot while scheming to take control of empires.  Teen telenovelas are especially popular among the junior high set, so the Disney Channel has jumped on the bandwagon with Violetta (2012-).   

Violetta (Martina Stoessel) is a teenage girl who wants to become a singer like her dead mother, against the wishes of her father.   She has a series of female friends who support her and enemies who try to destroy her as she tries to decide whether the Rich Boy or the Poor Boy is really The One.

As in most Disney Channel teen series, the amount of beefcake is staggering.

1. German (Diego Ramos, left), Violetta's hunky dad, and the ruler of a construction empire.

2. Matias (Joaquin Berthold), who is scheming to destroy him.

3. Tomas (Pablo Espinosa), The Poor Boy: quiet, artistic, and passionate.

4. Leon (Jorge Blanco), The Rich Boy: arrogant, and self-assured.

5. Andres (Nicholas Garnier), Leon's gay-subtext best friend.

6. Maxi, the gay-vague fashion plate.

7. Facundo (Maximiliano Ponte) and 8. Beto (Roberto Sultani), professors at the music academy.

9. Federico (Ruggero Pasquarelli), the new kid (top photo).

10. Diego (Diego Dominguez), his best buddy.

Sep 8, 2013

A Clockwork Orange: Violence, Homophobia, and Violation

The 1960s was crowded with movies and tv series that contrast young and old, individuality and conformity, bondage and freedom.  A Clockwork Orange (1971) isn't among them.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell, who would play the Emperor Caligula) is an "ultraviolet" youth gang leader who spends his free time assaulting men and raping women.  When he kills a woman during a home invasion, he is sentenced to 40 years in prison.  He volunteers for an aversion-therapy treatment in exchange for a reduced sentence.  Now he gets sick whenever he thinks of violence, even in self-defense.  Unfortunately, he keeps running into people he assaulted earlier, and they have retribution in mind.

I expected a totalitarian dystopia that drove the youth to acts of violent resistance.  Instead I found a slightly futurized 1960s England, with freedom of speech and assembly.  Alex volunteers for the therapy; he isn't forced.  He isn't rebelling against the system; he's just bad.

Most of the counterculture movies, like Easy Rider and Alice's Restaurant, give the youthful protagonist a gay-subtext buddy or a "do your own thing" nonchalance about gay people. But in A Clockwork Orange, we see instead a homophobic portrayal of oldsters "desiring" youth.  Alex's juvenile parole officer tries to have sex with him,  the prison is full of what he calls "perverts," who blow kisses at him, and a prison guard performs a symbolic rape as he checks to see if Alex is "a homosexual."

 In fact, the last half of the movie involves one symbolic rape after another at the hands of older men, including the elderly, handicapped writer Frank Alexander and his bodyguard (bodybuilder Frank Prowse, who would play Darth Vader in Star Wars a few years later).

There is some beefcake -- Malcolm McDowell has a pleasant physique, displayed in his underwear often and nude once (including a glimpse of his penis).  But to see it you have to sit through many, many scenes with naked ladies (I lost track at eight), plus gigantic paintings of naked ladies in nearly every room.  In their milk bar hangout, all of the furniture is shaped like naked ladies.  (In case you were wondering, the society is blatantly sexist as well as homophobic).

McDowell has played so many gay-vague villains that I thought he was gay in real life, but apparently he's heterosexual.

A new theatrical adaption premiered in London last spring, with Martin McCreadie as Alex and an all-male cast, restores the anti-establishment tone of the original novel and omits the homophobia, transforming the work into manifesto against the violence of heterosexism.

See also: Beefcake and Grammatical Atrocities in Hidden Valley