Feb 14, 2016

Your Grandfather's Beefcake: Circus Acrobats

Back before physique magazines, Johnny Weissmuller movies, and superhero comics, there were few options for beefcake: J.C. Leyendecker's magazine ads, statues of Greek gods -- and the circus.

The 3 Moros (the Three Moors) was a brother act.

Actually, they were mostly brother acts, whether they were actually related or not.

Unfortunately,it was beefcake only, and the guys didn't appear alone; there were usually scantily-clad women in the act.

Not a lot of gay symbolism.  In fact, the whole drama of highwire acts, with a woman tumbling and a man catching, replays a heterosexual drama.

The circus is so soaked in heterosexual imagery that it's hard to find references to gay performers.  Bob Yerkes of the Flying Alexanders was married for 40 years, and  a born-again Christian, so probably not.

The acrobat tradition started failing in the 1950s, facing stiff competition from tv and movies.  The last world-famous acrobat was probably Jimmy Cavaretti, and he supplemented his circus fame with appearances on tv and a spread in Playgirl.

For instance, why wasn't Scott Osgood (top photo) a superstar?  He performed with the Sailor Circus in Orlando in the 1980s, and got excellent reviews.  Today he owns a rigging design company.