Dec 30, 2014

The Gay Connection of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

I heard that Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) was a gay classic, the coming-out film of the pre-Stonewall Era, when gay men snipped "But ya are, Blanche!" at each other as gleefully as my generation said "Come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab!"

Legendary drag queen and dramatist Charles Busch, who recorded the DVD commentary, says that it's "one of those handful of movies you have to see to get your gay card."

Well, I got my gay card quite a few years ago, so I thought I'd better get around to seeing what all the fuss was about.

Previously I had seen Bette Davis only in All About Eve, Return from Witch Mountain, and Death on the Nile, and Joan Crawford in nothing (unless you count her portrayal by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest), so I was coming in fresh.

There are 3 parts.

1917: Baby Jane Hudson is a 10-year old Vaudeville star whose signature song is the maudlin "I Wrote a Letter to Daddy."  Her older sister Blanche is jealous.

1934: The young adult Jane Hudson is a flop in Hollywood, but Blanche has become a big star.  Jealous, Jane runs into Blanche with her car, crippling her.  The director cleverly avoids showing Blanche, and shows Jane only in one of Bette Davis's old movies.

1962: Jane (Davis) and Blanche (Crawford) have spent their lives in seclusion in a decaying Hollywood mansion, seeing only their housekeeper and business manager.

When Blanche's old movies are broadcast on television, gaining her a new generation of fans, Jane gets jealous again, and starts torturing her.  During a two-day period, she kills Blanche's pet bird, tries to feed her the bird and a rat, rips the phone out of the wall, ties her up, and...well, that's about it.

Blanche tries to signal to various people that she's in trouble, but Jane always intercepts the message.

Finally Jane has a complete breakdown, dragging Blanche to the beach and reverting to her child self.

Then comes the stunning reveal: Jane wasn't trying to kill Blanche the night of her accident.  Blanche was trying to kill Jane!

Ok, so that makes no sense at all.  But really, nothing about this movie makes much sense.  Like, shouldn't a wheelchair bound person get a room on the first floor?

And I still can't figure out the gay connection.

1. Buddy-bonding male friendships?  No.  There aren't any significant male characters, except in a humorous subplot about the middle-aged Jane trying to revive her child star career.  Victor Buono plays Edwin Flagg, a layabout she hires to help with the musical arrangements, who gamely asserts that her idea is genius, and even flirts with her in the interest of getting his paycheck.

2. Lesbian bonds, then?  No.  Blanche and Jane hate each other.

3. Same-sex desire of any sort, even hinted at?  Not a bit.

4. Critiques of hetero-romance?  Maybe a little.  No one is involved with anyone.  The next-door neighbors consist of a mother and daughter.  Blanche's courting of Edwin Flagg comes across as creepy and unhinged, like her incest-tinged relationship with her father.

5. Gay symbolism?  When Blanche laments, "If only I weren't in a wheelchair!" Jane replies acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"  Maybe the gay men of a certain age used to lament, "If only I weren't gay!", to which their witty friends replied acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"

6. Gay author or director?  No.

7. Beefcake?  A little, maybe.  Victor Buono looks like he might have a nice hairy chest, and during the beach scene,  some hunks in swimsuits stare aghast at Jane's breakdown.

I guess you had to be a gay man in the pre-Stonewall era to get it.

The 1991 remake was, apparently, even more over-the-top. Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave play Blanche and Jane.  Instead of a housekeeper, there is massage therapist Dominick  (Bruce A. Young), who is probably gay, and instead of a drunken musician, Jane flirts with aspiring filmmaker, drag queen, and pedophile Billy (John Glover, top photo).

See also: All About Eve

Dec 29, 2014

Nathaniel Choate: Gay African-American Sculptor of 1960s New York

When I was living in New York, I had a friend who lived near the  Klitgord Center,  at the corner of Jay and Tilly Street in Brooklyn, the heart of the New York City College of Technology.  Every day he, and thousands of other people, walked past its gigantic 2-story mural memorializing some of the joys of college: Art, Drama, Music, Recreation, Health, and Recreation.

"Health" was a muscular man on the parallel bars, naked or wearing a skimpy jockstrap.

The Klitgord Center was demolished in 2013.

Recently I investigated the mural, and tried to find out something about the artists.

Sculptor Nathaniel Choate (1899-1965) was one of the few African-American men to graduate from Harvard in the 1920s.  Afterwards he studied in France, and traveled extensively in Morocco and Sudan, perhaps looking for the "good place" that drew dozens of gay men to North Africa.  He returned to the U.S. in the 1930s, and taught in Pennsylvania and New York.  He never married.

His subjects were usually muscular African men, such as "Alligator Bender" at Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Tile artist Francis Von Tury (1901-1992) was born in Hungary, had a studio in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and was a leading proponent of ceramics as both an art form and an industrial tool.  He never married, either.

Most of his work is stylized, but there are some interesting male figures, like this fisherman on a blue tile.

I don't know if the two men were friends, or lovers, before they began their collaboration.

See also: Myrtle Beach.

Dec 27, 2014

Fan Art 5: Gay Crossover Romances between Jake, Danny, and Ron

Usually fan artists prefer to stay within the universe of a single tv program, envisioning their hero in a romantic or sexual bond with one of his antagonists.  For instance, teen ghost Danny Phantom (Nickelodeon, 2004-2007) is approached by the bully Dash in the locker room, while their team mates look on in shock.

A more serious enemy, Vlad Plasmius, threatens to destroy both Danny and the world, but here they have acknowledged their mutual attraction.

But sometimes there are no appropriate antagonists or buddies to be found, so fan artists must resort to crossovers, pairs of characters from different series. Here two characters from Disney channel animated series, teen spy Ron Stoppable (Kim Possible (2002-2007) and Chinese-American dragon-in-training Jake Long (2005-2007) share an intimate moment.

Ron and Jake stand close together in gym trunks, Ron's hand on Jake's thigh.

For some reason, I was unable to find any Danny-Jake pairings.  Danny and Jake are both serious, morose characters, so maybe they aren't compatible.  They need Ron Stoppable's goofiness and good humor.

You might expect a lot of trios, but there aren't many, and they never portray the act itself. Here Ron and Jake are aggressively cruising Danny Phantom, who is rather perplexed at the attention.

A Japanese-infused Ron and Danny wonder if classmate Jake Long wears boxers or briefs.  They are highly stylized, but Ron is wearing a "Save the molerats" t-shirt, referencing his pet mole rat, and Danny's t-shirt has a ghost on it.

(All pictures borrowed from the original artists on

See also: Gay Fan Art #4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Dec 26, 2014

Gay Fan Art 4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Fan artists enjoy depicting their favorite cartoon characters involved in same-sex romances or explicit sexual situations.

But there's a problem with many of the more popular characters.  Regardless of how much you may envision them as adults, Bart Simpson and Nelson the Bully are still children, and depicting them having a romantic encounter would look rather silly.  And, if you depict them in an erotic situation, you're facing a 10-year prison sentence in the U.S.

Better to age them into teenagers into adults.

Ben Tennyson (Ben 10), who found a device that allows him to shapeshift into aliens, has appeared in four tv series (2005-2014) and several movies. But he never shapeshifted into this super-bodybuilder before fan artists discovered him.

T. J. Detweiler of the Disney Channel's Recess (2000-2003) was the leader of a band of 3rd grade buddies.  Here he's grown up and beefed up so much that he's unrecognizeable except for the signature red hat.  I don't know why he's tied to a tree in his underwear.

Sometimes fan artists choose rather obscure subjects.  The Backyardigans (2003-2006), for preschoolers on CBS, featured a group of toddler anthropomorphic animals: a penguin, a hippopotamus, a kangaroo, and so on.  This is Tyrone, the red-headed moose, turned into a buffed, morose human teenager.

Timmy Turner of Fairly Oddparents (2001-2014) is "an average kid," ten years old and drawn in a stylized, nondescript fashion.  But here a grown up, buffed up version towels himself off after a shower.

 More after the break.

Dec 25, 2014

Michael Forest: Playing a God of Masculine Beauty

The September 22nd, 1967 episode of Star Trek had the cryptic title "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Even when I grew up and studied English literature, the title was still cryptic.  It comes from "Adonais," an elegy written by Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley for his dead friend, John Keats.

He took the name from Adonis, the ancient Greek god of masculine beauty.

So audiences were supposed to expect a god of masculine beauty?

They got one: 37 year old Michael Forest as Apollo, an alien who was mistaken for a god by the ancient Greeks, and who still expects worship.  It takes a femme fatale scientist to subdue him.

The heterosexist plotline didn't detract from the image of Michael Forest as Apollo, clad in a toga, with a laurel leaf, his bare chest, shoulders, and arms visible, one of the iconic beefcake shots of the Boomer generation.

Although never a beefcake star of the Henry Willson stable, Michael managed to display his bare chest several times during the 1950s, in guest-spots in Westerns (as an Indian) and swinging-bachelor dramas, and in horror-sci fi movies like Beast from Haunted Cave (1959), 

He fell somewhat short of the superlative physique necessary to cash in on the 1960s bodybuilder craze; his only peplum was Atlas (1961), directed by Roger Corman.

But he worked steadily through the 1960s, with guest spots across the tv dial, and starring roles in movies.

One of his most important was Deathwatch (1966), based on the Jean Genet play about two prison inmates, Maurice (Paul Mazursky) and Lefranc (Leonard Nimoy) competing for the affections the hot, muscular Green-Eyes (Forest).

That's right, Leonard Nimoy playing a gay character, a year before he became Spock.

(This actually wasn't his first; he played a hustler in Jean Genet's The Balcony in 1963)..

After Star Trek, Michael continued to take off his shirt a lot, playing Achilles (1972), a motorcycle thug (1972), a spaghetti Western Man with No Name (1972), and Agamemnon (1973).  Plus theater and lots of voice-over work (look for him in the 2008 documentary Adventures in Voice Acting).

In 2013, he reprised the character of Apollo on the web series Star Trek Continues (2013).

Apparently heterosexual in real life, he has retired to Walla Walla, Washington.

Dec 24, 2014

Prison Beefcake

Researching prisons has some advantages over researching Chaucer and Cervantes.

Your interview subjects are quite an eyeful.

Try putting this picture on a powerpoint presentation for Chaucer class.

There's even beefcake art, friezes, murals, and paintings produced by or for the inmates.

The most famous is a statue of two naked guys called "Elmira: Builder of Men," installed outside Elmira Reformatory in New York in 1951.

Here sculptor Ernfred Anderson poses with one of his inmate models.

Unfortunately, the finished statue got the fig-leaf treatment.

Ernfred Anderson, by the way, was born in Sweden but moved to America in 1931, where he taught at Elmira College and ran an art gallery with his partner Lars Hoftrup.  Since neither he nor Hoftrup have wives listed in their bios, I assume they were a gay couple.

Dec 23, 2014

The Eastwood Insurance Cowboy: Cruising in the Shower

Insurance companies go to great lengths to produce clever, memorable commercials, but they rarely venture into the realm of beefcake.  That's why the Eastwood Insurance cowboy was so memorable.

In California in the early 1990s, a series of tv commercials showed a Cowboy riding up to a befuddled car owner who was paying too much for car insurance, and "saved the day" with Eastwood's low, low prices.

The best commercial had him in the shower, naked except for his white cowboy hat,, I mean talking about insurance to another naked guy, who seems more interested in his physique than his insurance policies.

In retrospect the Cowboy wasn't particularly muscular, especially for gym-crazy California -- the guy he was cruising had better pecs.  But nudity in unexpected places is always stunning.

Besides, he had quite a smile.

The Cowboy was played by actor Jason Bradley Jacobs, who has put on a lot of muscle since his Eastwood days.  He has a few screen credits, but mostly he does modeling and voice work, specializing in country accents.

Last summer he went to Kentucky to provide the voice and artists' model for a character in an upcoming animated series, Plowman in the Cornmeal Universe.  It will be set in the Appalachia of 1978, the era of Jimmy Carter, Hee-Haw, and The Dukes of Hazzard.  Look for lots of good old boys riding pick-up trucks with their shirts off.

See also: Hi, Guy! Cruising in a Right Guard Commercial.

Dec 21, 2014

The Biggest and Smallest Penises in the World

I'm sure you've seen the famous World Map of the Penis, which lists the average size of men in every country in the world.  I'm not sure how reliable the data is, since there's such a wide variability, but it's interesting to note that American men end up around average, at 5.6", Russian men a little smaller, at 5'2" (Sorry, Yuri), and Italian men smaller still, at 4.9"

I checked some nude and basket-heavy photos of men from the countries with the biggest and smallest average sizes, to see if the difference was noticeable.

(The penises are censored, but you can still get a good idea of the sizes).

The biggest come from about where you'd expect, sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

1. The Congo, 7.1" That's rather an under-estimate.  Maybe this guy took a dip in any icy stream before going in for his measurements.

2. Ecuador, 6.9"(left). Doesn't look like this guy measures up.  But his muscles definitely make it worth the trip.

3. Colombia, 6.7"  Nelson Gutierrez Cuellar (top photo), an engineering student and third runner up in the Mr. Universe Model competition in 2011, is very attractive, but apparently a little disappointing beneath the belt.

4-5. Ghana and Venezuela, 6.7"

6. Lebanon, 6.6"  Ali Hammoud, runner up to Mr. Lebanon 2012 and Mr. International 2013, was actually born in Syria, so he might not count.  I'm not really seeing 6.6".  Or 5.6".  Or....

7. Hungary, 6'5" (left). Keep on pumping iron, kid.  Your greatest gifts to the world are your chest and abs.

8-10. Belgium, Greece, Morocco, tie at 6'4"

Well, that was disappointing.   Let's try the "smallest" guys in the world, working down from #10.  They're mostly in East and Southeast Asia.

More after the break.

10. Malaysia, 4.4"  Maybe twice that!  Obviously this delegate to Manhunt International wasn't in the research sample.

9. India, 4.3" (left). No way this guy is 4.3"! And he was the smallest I could find.  Honest!

8-6. Sri Lanka, Japan, China, ties at 4.3"

5-4. Taiwan and Philippines, ties at 4.2"  Now I understand why my old roommate Huang, a Formosan aboriginal, was so proud of his +++-size.

3. Cambodia, 4.0"  Are you kidding? I'm running out of black pixels to censor the private parts.

2. Thailand, 4.0" Direk Sindamrongsi, who won Mr. Thailand, but failed to place in the 2011 Mister International competition, doesn't seem to have any photos in underwear or a swimsuit. Maybe because this one is accurate?

1. Korea, 3.8"  Reputedly the smallest in the world.  But nobody told Korean bodybuilder Lane Seungcheol.  I'm certain that the 165 on his posing strap stands for "165 millimeters" (6.4 inches).

I guess in-group variability is greater than out-group variability.

Or in layman's terms, there are plenty of big and small guys in every country in the world.

See also: The Truth about the Formosan Penis; and 6000 Words for Penis; and The Biggest Sausages I've Ever Cooked (no, it's not really about sausages).

Dec 20, 2014

Gay Fan Art 2: Invader Zim

Invader Zim lasted for only a season and a half on Nickelodeon (2001-2002) before it was cancelled due to low ratings.  But it got a new life through internet downloads and DVD sales, and later it was successfully rebroadcast on Nicktoons.

The premise: Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) is an incompetent alien warrior sent, as punishment, to scout out the inconsequential backwater of Earth.  Since he is a child, he enrolls in elementary school, where the outcast human boy Dib (Andy Berman) suspects his secret.

One would suspect that the two antagonists would eventually learn to trust and support each other, but in fact that never happens.  Zim never waivers in his bombastic "We will enslave you all!" contempt of humans.  He forms alliances with Dib only when it is essential for his purposes, and then quickly and easily betrays him.  And Dib never grows to like or respect the alien; in fact, he takes great pains to torment him.

Thus, no gay subtexts between the two.  No beefcake.  No nothing.

Still, fans went wild, conjuring image after image of the duo (usually aged to adolescence or adulthood) hugging, kissing, cuddling on a couch, sharing an apartment.

In the top picture, a fully-nude Dib opens his bedroom door to display Zib sleeping peacefully after a night of passion.  It originally featured a very nice full frontal shot.

Here they just hug.

Sometimes the antagonism is retained. One captures and tortures or sexually assaults the other.

But even that is usually cast as a consensual S&M scene, willingly giving and taking power.

I'm not sure why, but antagonists always inspire much more gay fan art than buddies.

(Original pictures from the artists on

See also: Gay Fan Art #1: Max Goof.; and Gay Fan Art #3: Beast Boy

Dec 18, 2014

American Horror Story: Gay World

The anthology series American Horror Story is a hit in gay communities.  It's stylish, witty, adequately creepy -- and gay inclusive, a rarity in horror tv.   Here's my rating of the gay content of the first four seasons: beefcake, buddy-bonding, gay characters, and gay symbolism.  Scale of 1 (terrible) to 5 (excellent).

Season 1: Murder House (2011)

A family moves into a house overrun by the ghosts of previous residents.  Interesting twist: ghosts can become corporeal, with bodies indistinguishable from those of the living.
Beefcake: lots of muscular chests and backsides.  These ghosts get naked a lot.
Buddy Bonding: Troubled teen Tate (Evan Peters) seems to have a little thing for the troubled psychiatrist (Dylan McDermott).
Gay Characters: Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears play a bickering gay couple who were planning to split up.  Then they were murdered in the house, and now they are stuck together for all eternity.  The other ghosts and humans are generally nonchalant about them.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****

Season 2: Asylum (2012)

An evil nun runs a creepy asylum for the criminally insane in the 1960s.  With demons, Anne Frank, and alien abductions.
Beefcake:  Not much.  Evan Peters as an alien abductee.
Buddy Bonding: None.  Again, all of the significant friendships are male-female.
Gay Characters: Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters, a lesbian reporter committed to the asylum and forced to undergo a homophobic "treatment" regiment.  In the present, she's a famous writer, out-and-proud.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****

Season 3: Coven (2013)

A school for teen witches, a voodoo queen, and the re-animated corpse of 19th century murderess Delphine LaLaurie.  What more could you ask for?  Maybe some gay characters?
Beefcake: Lots.  Madame LaLaurie had a thing for torturing hunky male slaves, and the teen witches build themselves a Frankenstein-monster boyfriend (Evan Peters again).
Buddy Bonding: Some female bonding going on.
Gay Characters: None, except for a fruity Truman Capote-esque member of the Witches Council, who appears briefly in two episodes.
Gay Symbolism:  Witches hiding in the shadows, afraid to let anyone know their true identity, etc., etc.
Overall Rating: ***

Season 4: Freak Show (2014)
A financially-strapped freak show in 1950s Florida, with a murderous clown and his dapper young apprentice wandering around.
Beefcake:  Evan Peters again, the bare buns of a Viking Hustler, a circus strongman, and an amazing bodybuilding little person (his name is Kyle Pacek).
Buddy Bonding: Men are mostly competitors.
Gay Characters: Several.  But for a change, Dandy, the ultra-feminine murderer, is not.
Gay Symbolism: Freaks hiding in the shadows, et., etc.
Overall Rating: *****


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