Mar 25, 2014

John Davidson: Hollywood White Bread with a Gay Twist

Everyone was shocked in 1974  to see John Davidson nude in the centerfold of Cosmo.

First, he had quite a nice physique (his privates were coyly hidden).

Second, he was John Davidson.

Hollywood Nice, wholesome, white bread, son of a Baptist minister, star of Broadway musicals like I Do, I Do!, The Music Man, and Camelot.  

Star of two Disney movies: The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968).

A singer whose first album, The Young Warm Sound of John Davidson (1964) featured such easy-listening non-classics as "Once in a Lifetime" and "Love Me Forever."  Later he moved on to covers of "Let It Be," "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and "Easy Come, Easy Go."

A perennial guest star on "square" tv shows that kids wouldn't be caught dead watching: Hollywood Palace, Joey Bishop, Carol Burnette -- not to mention long tenures on game shows (Hollywood Squares), reality tv (That's Incredible) and two versions of his own John Davidson Show.

But Hollywood Nice had a mischievous side.

He starred in the sex comedy Coffee, Tea, or Me (1973), about a stewardess with a husband and a lover.

Here he appears to be the bottom of a four-way encounter with the Hudson Brothers.  Notice that he's obviously being groped.

He was never averse to gay content. The tv pilot Roger & Harry: The Mitera Target (1977), about two buddies (John Davidson, Barry Primus) who solve crimes, may have some gay subtexts.

 And in a 1974 episode of The Streets of San Francisco, he played a drag queen whose female "alter ego" is a vicious killer.

In his 2008 two-man play, "Father/Son and Holy Ghost," he goes back to his childhood, where he and his Baptist-minister dad butted heads over religious doubts and homophobia (John's older brother Porter was gay).

Today Davidson is playing The Wizard in a national touring company of Wicked.