Nov 16, 2013

Summer 1986: Cruising in Japan

I'm a sucker for ministers, priests, rabbis, Greek Orthodox monks, Mormon missionary -- anyone clerical.  So when I started attending All Saints MCC (a gay church) in the fall of 1985, I immediately latched onto ministerial student Alan.  He wasn't really my type -- too tall, too hairy, too chunky.  But he had two redeeming characteristics:

1. He used to be a gay porn actor, and he still met the size requirements for the job.
2. He was a ministerial student.

We only dated for about a month or so, until the incident with the Norwegian hustler.  But we stayed friends, and eventually become roommates.  In March he suddenly announced that he was leaving the MCC: God had called him to start his own gay Pentecostal church.

In Japan.

Ok, there were 100,000,000 people in Japan, 3% Christian, maybe 1% of that Pentecostal, and 10% of that gay.  A target market of 3,000 people.

"Oh, no, there will be a massive revival.  Thousands of Japanese gay men and lesbians will be won to the Lord.  In a few years, there will be gay Pentecostal churches all over Japan."

He invited me to come along and become his co-minister.  I should have remembered moving to Omaha with Fred.  But...

Alan quickly landed a job teaching at an English language school in Osaka, and moved in April 1986, just as the new semester was beginning.   I applied for and received a scholarship to spend the summer at Kansai University.  On May 27th, I flew to Australia to visit a friend, and then joined Alan in Japan.

He lived on a very noisy, crowded street in the Kita Ward of Osaka, in a tiny apartment -- about 216 square feet, the size of an average bedroom in the U.S.

Every day between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, Alan met with his students -- 8 to 10 per hour, talking about current events and writing essays.  I went to Gold's Gym, then to my class in Japanese Literature or to the Joto Library to study Japanese.

After dinner we cruised. I got the gay bars, restaurants, and discos, and Alan got the bath houses, bookstores, movie theaters, and Sakuranomiya Park. We were ostensibly looking for new converts for Alan's Gay Pentecostal Church, but Alan seems to have been mostly cruising.  Every night he brought a new potential convert back to our apartment: students, salary men, tourists.  For some reason, Asian men found him infinitely attractive (later, when we were roommates, he used this remarkable ability to steal my dates).

But none of the guys he brought him converted.

The Gay Pentecostal Church -- Kamisama no kyokai gei -- met every Sunday morning at 10:30 for Sunday school and 11:30 for the morning service.  With Alan and me, and sometimes whoever stayed over last night.

No one else.

We put up fliers in gay bars, restaurants, discos.  Alan announced the church at a meeting of Kansai Pride.

No one came.

In July we went to a Hadaka Matsuri, a Naked Man Festival.  It was the highpoint of the trip. Unfortunately, we missed the Penis Festival of Kawasaki.

At the end of July, when Alan's school closed for summer break, we returned to Los Angeles.  I knew he wasn't going to go back to Japan, and sure enough, in August he returned to his old job as a middle-school social studies teacher.  But soon he was talking about starting a gay Pentecostal church in Thailand.

"There will be a massive revival.  Thousands of Thai gay men and lesbians will be won to the Lord.  In a few years, there were be gay Pentecostal churches all over Thailand.  You should come...."

I said no to that one.

See also: Manga!

Shannon Kook-Chun: The Gay Footballer from Degrassi

Do you think the muscular Asian guy on the left is gay?

Nope, heterosexual.

No, really.  I can prove it.  You wouldn't believe what I erased from this photo of him and a few friends doing tequila shots.

He's Shannon Kook-Chun, a Canadian actor of Chinese and South African ancestry.  Millions of teens know him as Zane Park, one of the gay students on Degrassi: The Next Generation (2010-2011) a footballer in a relationship with Riley Stavros (Argirris Karras).

Before Degrassi, he had recurring roles on the Canadian tv series Baxter and Durham County.

And in the short film Verona (2010), a gay Romeo-and-Juliet story set in a contemporary college.  Two members of rival fraternities (Shannon, John Bregar) fall in love.

Look for Shanon in Hunting Season (2013), about five friends who "must fight for survival, salvation, and sanity" while being hunted in the Canadian northwoods. I haven't seen it, but there's bound to be some gay subtexts, if not a "real" gay character.

He's playing a heterosexual character in Home Again (2013), and most likely in Dirty Singles (2013), but he had a good run.

Nov 14, 2013

Summer 1974: Engaged

I have a confession to make: during the summer after 8th grade at Washington Junior High, shortly after my boyfriend Dan and I decided to run away to Saudi Arabia together, I got engaged.  To a girl.

Manville, our Nazarene summer camp on the prairie, had church services every morning and evening, with altar calls, sports, and jump quiz practice in between.  In Tuesday morning's chapel, I happened to sit next to a short, rather husky girl who bore an extraordinary resemblance to Jimmy on H.R. Pufnstuf: rounded features, red lips, houlder-length black hair. During the altar call, she glanced over at my Bible and saw Psalm 2:8 marked with the initials S.A.: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

“Who’s S.A.?” she whispered.

“Saudi Arabia,” I said.  I was framing our escape as a missionary endeavor. “God’s Will is for me to become a missionary to the Bedouins of the Empty Quarter."

“No, I don’t think so. God didn’t say anything about Arabia. He said you should go to West Germany."  Her voice was calm, matter of fact, as if she had said “No, the test is on Chapter Three, not Chapter Two.”

Germany was a bona fide Nazarene mission field, all Lutheran or Catholic.  Still, I was astonished.  “When did God tell you that?” I asked.

“In the service last night.  I at you, and God gave me a vision of you preaching in a big stadium in Munich.  You were leading an altar call, and hundreds of people were Praying Through."  She began to sing "Just as I Am," our altar call hymn, in German. “Oh, Gottes Lamm, Ich komme. . . .Ich komme.”

All Nazarene kids knew that God had a specific Will for us, usually a career for the boys and a marital partner for the girls.  He might reveal it through "a small still voice," or through "opening a door," or, most dramatically, through a Vision of Our Future.

"Why would God give you a vision of my future?"

“It was for both of us," she said.  "I was playing the organ, so obviously His Will is for you to become a missionary in Germany, and me to be your wife."

“No, I already heard His Will," I protested.  "It's to go to Saudi Arabia with my friend Dan.  Definitely with Dan."

"He told me Germany.  And who knows, this Dan guy might be there too, with his wife."

"That's crazy!  We're not going to have wives!  We're going to be missionaries together, like Paul and Barnabas."

The altar call was over, so I walked out with the others into the heat of mid July. The girl -- her name was Sarah -- followed me toward my Bible study class.

"You can't be a missionary without a wife!" she said.  "You have to go to the field as a team, like Adam and Eve."

I laughed.  "You're crazy!"

 But I found my cabin counselor, Brother Dino, who was my Sunday school teacher back home (the one whose sons became male strippers later).  He went to the office and dug up a list of requirements for the Nazarene ministry.  You had to be male, at least 21 years old, saved and sanctified, never divorced, never a Roman Catholic -- and married!

So, in order to escape to a "good place" with Dan, I would need a wife!  God said so!  Later I met Sarah in the snack bar and gave her my grim consent to our future wedding.

Manville Camp, with the woods on the right
We were engaged for part of Tuesday and all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  We ate our meals together in the camp canteen, sat together in chapel and the evening service, and even walked through the woods behind the tabernacle where boys and girls went to kiss -- though we never kissed.  Sarah hated "that mushy stuff" as much as I did.

I enjoyed being engaged -- being seen with a girl got me endless triumphant shoulder-pats, thumbs up, cries of "Awright!," and approving grins.  It meant absolute, unwaivering acceptance, none of that awkward confusion or the deliberate refusal to see that happened when I was with a boy.  Not bad!

We were engaged for exactly three days. Then I had a Vision of My Future.

See also: The Sanderson Brothers Get Naked

Summer 1981: Adam and I Sleep Together, Sort Of

During my junior year at Augustana College, I knew lots of guys who liked guys at night, in the dark, but they always went back to their chants of "girls! girls! girls!" in the morning.  I kept looking for guys who were gay, who continued to dream of masculine smiles in the daytime.  They were impossible to find; Corey, who wanted to teach me to fly; Hal, who challenged me to a dating contest; Bruce, who didn't like to be called gay -- all were straight, or claimed to be.

What about Adam Horowitz, manager of the Student Union bookstore?  He never dated girls; when pressed, he claimed to be in love with an icy Hitchcockian blonde, but gave no more details.  He never dated boys, either.  We had a "date" in March 1981, with a thwarted kiss under the Bell Tower,  but that was the only time I saw him away from his counter in the bookstore.

Until the summer of 1981,  when the Film Club took a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin, about 3 hours away, for an Italian Film Festival, two days of Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, and Zeffirelli.

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

Wake in Fright: Gay Savagery in the Australian Outback

John Grant (Gary Bond) is a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in  Tiboonda, a small town in a searing, endless desert in the Australian outback.  Too fey, sophisticated, and pretty to feel at home (except with one of his older students who seems to have a crush on him), John dreams of spending the Christmas holiday back in Sydney, with a girlfriend whose breasts he fantasizes about.

He takes a train to the outback town of Bundayabba, where he will catch a plane to Sydney.   It's very hot. Everyone is sweating, and lying languidly about.  He goes to a bar full of sweaty, hugging, muscular working-class blokes who keep staring at him and grinning, and offering to buy him drinks and take him gambling.

Intoxicated by the male bonding, he gambles all of his money away.  He awakens nude in his hotel room, stranded in The Yabba.  We see his penis as he lumbers across the room, an emblem of his fall from civilization to savagery.

With nowhere to go, he accepts an invitation from one of the leering, grinning men, Tim (Al Thomas), and goes back to his house for dinner, where Tim's adult daughter tries unsuccessfully to seduce him.

Tim introduces John to his friends Dick and Joe (Jack Thompson, left, and Peter Whittle), rough gigantic men who leer at John and at each other.  They criticize John's masculinity: only poofs hang around with women when they could be drinking with their mates. (Rather an interesting definition of gay identity.)

Later Dick and Joe, along with Doc (Donald Pleasence, Dr. Loomis in the Halloween series), take John carousing: they brutally kill kangaroos, get into a fist fight, and vandalize a pub.  At the end of the evening, Doc and John have sex.

Horrified by what he has become, John tries to hitchhike to Sydney, but he accidentally gets on a truck that brings him back to The Yabba.  There's no escape.  He contemplates killing Doc, but decides to kill himself instead.  He recovers, and Doc sees him off at the train station as he returns to his life as a teacher in Tiboonda.

Is John horrified because he has been manipulated and seduced by the gay outbackers, or because of the recognition that he was gay all along?  The association between same-sex desire and savagery is rather homophobic, but to be expected in 1971.

Gary Bond was gay in real life, the lover of future Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett.

Nov 13, 2013

Joe Namath Wearing Pantyhose

Beginning in 1973, TV viewers were treated to the gender-bending sight of 30-year old former pro football player and perennial tv guest star Joe Namath wearing pantyhose.  "I don't wear pantyhose," he confessed, "But if Hanes Beauty Mist can make my legs look good, imagine what they can do for yours?"

Many viewers thought that his legs -- and the rest of him -- looked good without pantyhose.

The commercials weren't trying to break down gender stereotypes -- they were based on the assumption of a gender binary, with men rough, hairy, and by definition unattractive.  Still, it was shocking to see a "macho" football player comfortable enough to engage in an intensely feminine-coded activity on tv.  A lot of people began assuming that Joe was gay, and making homophobic spoofs and jokes.

He followed up with commercials demonstrating the usefulness of Noxema Shaving Cream:  he got Charlie's Angels superstar Farrah Fawcett to shave his legs.  This got him a parody with a limp wrist and a simpering smirk in Mad Magazine.

The laid-back Namath dealt with the gay rumors gracefully, not with the hysterical denials of other celebrities of the 1970s and 1980s, like Tom Selleck and Tom Cruise.  He seemed bemused by the fact that he was assumed gay in spite of his many girlfriends.  In a 1979 interview in Esquire, he said, "Not only am I not gay, I'm not even bisexual."

In 2013, he told Huffington Post that he had a lot of gay friends, and "if you've got a hangup about it, I hope you can get over it."

Here's Joe's legs in pantyhose.

Nov 12, 2013

Papadopoulos & Sons: My Big Fat Gay Brother

If you haven't had enough of the "see how colorful and funloving the Greeks are!" yet, check out Papadopoulos & Sons (2012).  Millionaire Harry Papadopoulous (Stephen Dillane of Game of Thrones) loses everything, and he and his family (and accountant) have to seek refuge with his estranged brother Spiros (Georges Corriface), who runs the decrepit Three Brothers Fish & Chip Shop.  Expect lots of loud arguments, fish-out-of-water exploits, and a hetero romance between Harry's daughter and the son of the Turkish kebab shop down the block (Cesare Taurasi of The Borgias).

And not a lot of beefcake, though Frank Dillane and Georgia Groome (Harry's teenage children Frank and Kate) did this publicity shot.

And Georges Corriface (left) has appeared nude elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like there's any more gay content than in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

But, surprisingly, Spiros doesn't express significant heterosexual interest, and the numerous past problems and disagreements that the brothers relive can be taken as a history of homophobic rejection.

And an important subplot involves Harry trying to find a common ground with his teenage son James, a probably-gay plant enthusiast. Frank Dillane, by the way, played a gay-vague Tom Riddle, the teenage Voldemort, in the Harry Potter series and is rumored to be gay in real life.

As heartwarming, family-friendly fare goes, this is about as gay as it gets.

Sergi Lopez: Gay Characters and Frontal Nudity in Three Languages

You probably remember Sergi Lopez as the evil Captain Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth (2006).  The polyglot actor (fluent in Spanish and French as well as his native Catalan) has appeared in over 60 movies, specializing in psychotic killers, amoral conmen, and other evil types.

But he also plays gay-subtext characters.  In With a Friend Like Harry (2000), his Harry reunites with high school friend Michel (Laurent Lucas), seduces him, and takes over his life.

In Parc (2008), a chance meeting between two married heterosexual men in the park (Sergi, Jean-Marc Barr) turns into a cat-and-mouse game of manipulation and desire.

And gay characters.  In Les derniers jours du monde ("Happy End," 2009), as the end of the world approaches, Theo (Sergi) confesses his love for his straight friend Robinson (Mathieu Almaric), and then commits suicide. I know, the gay gay always dies, but to be fair, Robinson and everybody else on Earth also dies.  And there's a frontal-nude shot of Sergi that's more than worth sitting through the angst.

Sergi doesn't play a gay character in Pa negre ("Black Bread," 2010), but he does play the mayor of a town where a gay boy uncovers a dark secret.


Erik Palladino: The Guy from "Latter Days" Goes Gay-Vague

Every gay-themed movie of the 1990s and early 2000s had to have a character dying of AIDS.  In Latter Days (2003), it was Keith (Erik Palladino), who had nothing much to do with the plot, except to demonstrate that partyboy Christian (Wes Ramsey) wasn't entirely self-centered.

Erik Palladino was a bold casting choice for the sensitive, wounded Keith.  Growing up on the mean streets of Yonkers, arrested for assault at age 17, a heavy-metal rocker, the actor had previously played tough, no-nonsense,  working-class heterosexual Italian types, such as Michael Nardini on Love and Marriage (1996), Vinnie in The Day the Girl Died (1998), and Dr. Dave Malucci on ER (1999-2001).  

He hasn't played a gay character since, although he did appear in the gay-themed play The Sonneteer at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center in 2011.

But his various cops, detectives, and horror-movie victims have provided us with some gay subtexts.

In the comedy-horror Dead & Breakfast (2004), he buddy-bonds with Jeremy Sisto at a sinster hotel.

L.A. Dicks (2005) is about a stand-off between two buddy pairs, cops and detectives.

I haven't seen Crash and Burn (2008), but the premise, about an ex-car thief working as an undercover cop who hooks up with his old gang, has some buddy-bonding potential.

Tony DeMeo (Erik), the doorman at the sinister 666 Park Avenue (2012-2013) gives me a gay vibe.  Maybe it's his lack of heterosexual interest, or his relationship with Shaw (Nick Chinlund).

Erik is a gay ally, of course.

The Naked Man in the Peat Bog

Most of my autobiographical posts have been about my father's family, Grandma Davis, Aunt Nora, and Cousin Joe, because I have more memories of them: we stayed with them on holidays, and they took me places.

We visited my mother's family, too,  at my Grandpa Prater's farmhouse in Garrett, but it was sort of boring -- impenetrable Kentucky accents, smoking and drinking, endless discussions of things that happened 100 years ago back in the hills.

And no one to play with, except for my Cousin Buster.   Sometimes my Uncle Paul  would play -- until the summer after 3rd grade, when he got married and turned into an adult.  I have only a few solid memories: swimming in the pool down the road, catching frogs, fishing, having milkshakes with his friends, learning how to "pee in the wind" (with the wind blowing away from you, so the stream is carried a long way).

And the Naked Man in the Peat Bog

There was a peat bog beyond the cornfields, a swampy, mossy expanse that looked like a good place to catch alligators.  But Paul -- he never liked to be called "Uncle" -- told us never to go near it: "There's a Naked Man who lives in there, and he eats kids.  If you get too close, he'll pop out and grab you and cook you for his dinner!"

"Why doesn't Grandpa tell him to move out?" I asked, already aware of property rights.

Paul thought for a moment. "He's been living here a lot longer than we have, more than a hundred years."

The full post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Nov 11, 2013

Religious Date #2: The Gay Cult Member

My goal during my junior year at Augustana College was to find one gay student.  Lots of guys were willing to do things in the dark, in secret, like Haldor who challenged me to a "dating contest," or the fratboys who cruised the levee, but in the daylit world they chanted "girls! girls! girls!"

I wanted just one guy out of the 1,036 male undergraduates who dreamed only of men.  (It didn't occur to me to look for lesbians.)  But with no organizations, no meeting places, and everyone pretending to be straight, finding gay men required research.  You look for a rote recitation of the desirable traits in girls, as if they had memorized a list; a glint in the eye when a cute guy passed; a reticence about evening and weekend activities, or else too glib an answer.

Through assiduous research, I found three "probably gay" undergrads: the first was a freshman Asian Studies major named Corey: tall, slim, very handsome but not very muscular.  I sat next to him in Eastern Religions class in the spring quarter of 1981, and noticed that he never gazed at or flirted with any of the girls in the class -- my first clue!

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

Nov 10, 2013

Spring 2003: Finding a Boyfriend at the Horsemen's Club

Not Janik or me
Just after getting my Ph.D., when I was working in Florida (2001-2005), I tried to go to Europe every year at Christmas or spring break: a weekend in Amsterdam, a night in Brussels,two or  three days in Paris, and then home. I always liked to be in Amsterdam on Sunday nights, when the Horsemen met at the Argos Bar on Warmoesstraat.   It was a social club -- no sex allowed -- but members all had to be nude. Their guests had the option of nudity or underwear.

The membership fee varied depending on your size (yes, they took measurements).  "A" got in free.

So the majority of men drinking beer, playing pool, and cruising had the endowments of porn stars.

It was quite a nice place for sightseeing, and sometimes guys would invite you back to their house.

In the spring of 2003, I met Janik, smooth, muscular, balding, in his early 40s, in the A category and then some, as big as my Cousin Joe, or bigger  (#9 on my Sausage List).

He was pleasant to talk to -- even after I admitted to being American (usually I claimed to be Canadian to avoid being asked why Americans were such idiots).  And at the end of the evening, he invited me back to his place -- in Heerenveen.

I didn't realize that Heerenveen was 90 miles north of Amsterdam, 2 hours by train, in Friesland (where most people speak Frisian, not Dutch).  Janik had a tiny apartment on the same block as the "Dirty Duck Coffeeshop" and a heterosexual dance club called "Party Cafe Salsa," which made it quite noisy at night.

Still, we had a very nice evening, and in the morning Janik said, "Stay here with me.  We can be lovers. I can get you a work visa."

Living in Europe with a muscle god in the A+++ category vs. teaching sociology in Florida?  It sounded like a good deal.

So I cancelled my day in Brussels.

On Monday morning Janik went to work, leaving me to go sightseeing in Heerenveen.  Unfortunately, there was not much to do except walk around and look at the houses and canals.  I ended up buying a Frisian phrase book and a depressing French novel about Tintin's sexual problems.  Janik came home, and we went to the gym, then got Japanese take out and watched soccer on tv.

I hate sports and Japanese food.

But we had a very nice evening later, so I cancelled my train to Paris.

On Tuesday, while he was at work, I took the train into Groningen and saw the Martinitoren (St. Martin's Tower) and the Netherlands Stripmuseum (a museum of cartoon and comic strip art).  But the train was so crowded with rush hour traffic that I didn't get home until 7:30 pm.  We got Indonesian take out and watched The Simpsons dubbed in Dutch.

I would have to learn both Dutch and Frisian to live here.  I like languages, but I'd really rather learn something that would be useful outside of Friesland.

On Wednesday, I signed up for a Frisian class and then went out looking for jobs on my own.  The manager of the only gay bar in Heerenveen, Le Clochard, said he could use a waiter who spoke English and German.  That night Janik and I went to the gym, then got Japanese take out and watched soccer on tv.

I still hate sports and Japanese food.

Waiting tables and watching sports with a muscle god in the A+++ category, or teaching sociology in Florida?

On Thursday I took the train to Amsterdam and got on my 5:00 pm flight back home.

See also: The Top 13 Beefcake Sights of Amsterdam

Fall 1980: I Win a Dating Contest

Haldor and Friend
At the start of my junior year at Augustana College, I liked a member of the Bookstore Gang named Haldor (his real name, he was Swedish), tall, muscular, with a cute nerdish quality, especially his horn-rimmed glasses.  So I was pleasantly surprised when one day he took me aside and said, "You never date girls, and I never date girls, so why don't we team up?"

"Um...what?"   I assumed that Haldor never dated because he was too busy with the radio station, writer's club, and trying to read every science fiction novel ever published.  Was he gay?  Did he want to date me?

No such luck.  "Like a contest, to give us an incentive.  We make a list, and we each ask out every girl on it. Whoever gets the most dates by the end of the quarter wins."

The last thing I wanted was a date with a girl. I was busy cruising at the levee and spending occasional nights with Dr. Burton and his handcuffs.  But I agreed.  Maybe I could turn things around and get a date with Haldor.

The rest of the story is on Tales of West Hollywood.