Dec 11, 2013

10 Reasons Why Playboy was a Gay Boy's Best Friend

  That's right, Playboy, the first mainstream magazine featuring female nudes, launched in 1953.  It reaching its height of popularity in the early 1970s, when 7.1 million hetero men bought it every month and millions of boys borrowed or stole copies from their fathers, uncles, older brothers, and next-door-neighbors.  Including many gay boys.  What did gay boys of the Boomer generation see in Playboy?  1. Stealing or borrowing copies to ogle was a rite of passage for boys in their early teens -- a requirement for "growing up."  So looking at the pictures, thinking "Gross!"  while your friends were moaning in ecstasy gave you a clue that you were different.      2. After you realized that you were gay, you still had to pretend to be heterosexual  -- if the wrong person found out, you could lose your friends, be expelled from your college, be kicked out of your parents' house.  And what better way to maintain a heterosexual facade than to "accidentally" leave a Playboy lying around?  3. When you got old enough to buy your own copy (if the cashier was male), you got to experience a moment of absolute, unconditional acceptance, something very rare for gay people who usually get surprise, hesitation, confusion, embarrassment, or outrage.  4. Speaking of absolute, unconditional acceptance, sharing the magazine with your heterosexual friends led to wonderful warmth and camaraderie.  5. And you could sometimes convince them to do the things heterosexual men do when there are no women around.  In your dorm room.  Right in front of you.     6. If you could ignore the gross pictures of naked women, there were stories by some of the greatest writers of the century, everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to Gore Vidal, and lots of great interviews with actors, sports figures, politicians..even Jimmy Carter.  7. Also "lifestyle" articles on grooming, fashion, cars, politics, things that teenage boys might find useful regardless of sexual orientation.   8. And some of the only positive references to gay people in all of 1970s mass media, such as an article on Steven Ostrow, owner of the Continental Baths, an early gay meeting place (1972).   9. The Playboy Forum regularly printed letters from gay men, discussing masculinity, homophobia, and harassment.  10. Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, was an advocate of sexual freedom, even if it meant non-heterosexual activity.  As early as 1964, his Playboy Philosophy included "tolerance for those whose sexual inclinations are different from our own."  In 2012, he came out in favor of gay marriage, calling it "a fight for all our rights."  See also: A Porn Film for Halloween  

Dec 10, 2013

Cliff Richard: The Britsh Elvis Presley Supports Gay Marriage

  The "British Elvis Presley," Cliff Richard hit #1 on the British charts quite often in the late 1950s and 1960s, with songs and albums like "The Young Ones," "21 Today," "Summer Holiday."   He didn't take to fame well; being a conservative evangelical Christian, he disapproved of the sordid, sexually lascivious lyrics of other performers of the day, and devoted himself increasingly to the Christian music scene.              He appeared in a string of showcase vehicles, some with  gay subtexts.  Expresso Bongo (1959): Sleazy agent manages -- and corrupts-- innocent drummer.  Wonderful to Be Young (1961): Nicky becomes a radio star to save his friends' youth club.  Summer Holiday (1963): Don and his friends drive a double-decker bus across Europe, and he falls in love with a girl disguised as a boy.  He has also had several tv series of his own, and appeared on himself on everything from The Liberace Show to The Nation's Favourite Christmas Song.      Long a conservative opponent of "permissive" and "immoral" British society, He always denied the "accusations" of gayness, and claimed that there was "nothing weird" about his long-term roommate, John McElynn.  But in 2008 he came out in favor of gay marriage.

Summer 1983: Viju Visits Rock Island

See the post on Tales of West Hollywood

Dec 9, 2013

Ted Wass: Bare-Chested Comedy


    Why was Ted Wass never a teen idol?  Soap (1977-1981) was an iconic 1970s soap opera spoof about a dysfunctional extended family -- including Jodie (Billy Crystal), the first gay character in a starring role on tv (also bisexual and transgender, depending on the plot arc).  Jimmy Baio, who played Jodie's "normal" cousin, became a teen idol.  But not 25-year old Ted Wass, who played Jodie's brother Danny, a lovable but dimwitted hunk: "How can a woman be gay?  They would cancel each other out."   His centric plot arcs included a mob connection and an interracial marriage.       In the 1980s Ted made use of his hunkiness and his comedic talent to star in a series of sex comedies, including I Was a Mail Order Bride (1982), Baby Sister (1983), and Sheena, a remake of the jungle girl serial (1984).  He also appeared in "straight" comedies, such as Oh God, You Devil (1984)  and The Longshot (1986), before landing his second iconic role on Blossom (1991-1995).          He played Nick Russo, dad of the unconventional teenager (Mayim Bialik) and her dimwitted brother Joey (future heartthrob and gay ally  Joey Lawrence).  As the stable center of the lunacy, he didn't have much of an opportunity to show off his comedic talent -- or his chest.  After Blossom, Ted retired from acting to become a director, including some gay-friendly movies and tv series such as Crumbs, with Fred Savage as a gay writer.          Ted posed nude in Playgirl in 1979.  No frontal shots, but these white rubber jeans leave little to the imagination.             

Redboy 13: Heterosexist Preteen Spy

Redboy 13 appeared in theaters in 1997.  I'd never heard of the director, or the star, Devon Roy-Brown.  But I thought "A teenage spy? There must be lots of gay subtexts!"

So I bought a ticket and went in.  And left after about three minutes.

I have since watched it on Netflix.  Sort of.  I keep whispering "WTF?" and fast-forwarding.

Sean (Devon Roy-Brown) is a retired superspy trying to live a "normal" life.  Then he is called back into action and teams up with adult superspy Tanya 12 to fight the wheelchair bond Nazi Dr. Strangelove...um, I mean Dr. Heimlich Manure.

Did I mention that this isn't a comedy?

The actor went through puberty during filming, so he looks completely different in sequential scenes.  During the climactic battle, he draws a sword, looking like this.

Then goes into the next room, looking like this.

I had a big  "WTF?" with the nudity.  Redboy 13 wasn't aimed at an audience of kids -- they wouldn't catch the James Bond, Dr. Strangelove, and Sheena references -- so who did the director, Marcus Van Bavel, think would be interested in seeing a preteen or early teen bouncing around in a Rambo suit?  











But my biggest "WTF" was with the heterosexism. Sean vanquishes the villain and saves Tanya 12, who ludicrously falls for him.  There's also Sheena of the Jungle...um, I mean a Jungle Girl --  who falls for him.

Did I mention that this isn't a comedy?

Devon Roy-Brown has not appeared on screen since. Marcus Van Bavel has not directed anything since, but he got a "special thanks" in the gay-themed Circuit (2001).

Dec 8, 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

My partner is making me watch the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) on DVD, in order, for the second time. And I already saw many episodes when it originally aired, so the third time. That's a record broken only by Seinfeld and maybe Gilligan's Island when I was a kid.

The premise: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an ordinary teenager at Sunnydale High, discovers that she is The Slayer, one girl out of all the world given the super powers necessary to kill vampires and other demonic beings.  She and her allies make wisecracks and discuss trivial home-and-school issues as they fight the monster of the week.

Every season has a story arc with an Apocalyptic threat by the "the worst enemy we have ever encountered" (by the later seasons, the hyperbole becomes tedious).  Also lots of romantic entanglements.


Her team, facetiously called the Scooby Gang, includes (not all at the same time):
1.-3. "Regular guy" Xander (Nicholas Brendon, top photo), who dates snobbish Cordelia, and then Anya, a 1000-year old vengeance demon
4.-6.  Computer whiz/witch Willow, who dates the sardonic werewolf Oz (Seth Green), and then the mousy Wiccan Tara.
7.-8. Watchers (professional Slayer mentors) Giles and Wesley
9-11. Buffy's boyfriends, reformed vampires Angel and Spike and military vampire-hunter Riley (Marc Blucas, below)
12,  Her sister Dawn.


Beefcake: Quite a lot.  The boyfriend characters don't seem to own shirts, Oz is always naked when he finishes "wolfing out," and Xander displays a respectable physique.

Male bonding: Not much.  The primarily relationships are always male-female or female-female.  The male Scoobies treat each other as cordial coworkers.

Gay characters: Two minor gay male:
1. Larry, a football star, originally accused of being a werewolf in Season 2.  Xander discovers his "real" secret, and freaks out.  He reappears several times, out and proud, during Season 3.





2. Andrew, the only survivor of a trio of nerd-villains in the last season, becomes the gang's gay-vague hostage-mascot.  No one ever says that he's gay, but it seems obvious that that's how Tom Lenk is playing the character.

He appears in the spinoff Angel with a blatant crush on reformed vampire Spike (James Marsters, left).  But later, he appears surrounded by beautiful women and comments: "People change." Creator Joss Whedon explains that Andrew wasn't supposed to say the line -- it was to go to a female character, who was supposed to be surrounded by beautiful people.

Three major lesbian:




1.-3. Willow (Allison Hannigan, left) spent three seasons hot for guys, notably her werewolf-boyfriend Oz.  Then at the beginning of Season 4, she meets Tara, something clicks, and she's a lesbian.  But she hasn't discovered her true sexual identity; she states repeatedly that she has "turned" lesbian.  They're a couple through Season 6, when Tara is killed (I know, the gay person always dies).

In Season 7, Willow gets a new girlfriend, streetwise Slayer-in-training Kennedy.

See also: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters; and MyMusic, a webseries starring Adam Busch (who played a villainous nerd).






Fall 1971: Cousin George: Only Fools Wear Pajamas

My Cousin George, son of my father's older brother, was just my age, tall and blond, with a hard chest, a thin belly, and a Southern drawl.  He lived in Walterboro, South Carolina, a thousand miles from Rock Island, so I only saw him twice during my childhood:

1. We drove out to visit in the summer of 1967, when I was six years old.
2. Grandma Davis took me down on the train in the summer of 1971, when I was ten.

And once as a teenager, when he drove up for my Grandma Davis's funeral in October 1975.

What I remember most about my visits was the sizzling heat, the humidity,
and the beefcake.  No one in South Carolina owned a shirt. I had never seen so many sleek muscular bodies.


We went swimming in the warm salty Atlantic Ocean.

At night Cousin George and I took our baths together together in scalding-hot water, and then slept naked together under thin sheets -- "only fools wear pajamas," he insisted.

 It was not erotic, like seeing my older Cousin Joe naked.  It was warm and soft and sensual, like falling asleep in the arms of my boyfriend Bill, back home in Rock Island.

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


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