Sep 14, 2013

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

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 ma...aaa...aan?  The Ma..aaa...aan 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 Ma...aaa...aan Handlers!"

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

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.






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 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 be....you 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

L

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