Mar 22, 2015

Damn Yankees

When I was a kid, I kept away from the movie Damn Yankees (1958) and its various live versions.

It was about baseball -- yawn -- there was a lady in her underwear on the poster -- and the word damn hurt my ears -- Nazarenes thought that even saying the watered-down darn was a sin.

Turns out I was mistaken: baseball is discussed, but there's also a  lot of beefcake, and a nice gay subtext.

The plot: middle-aged Joe Boyd is obsessed with baseball, and wants his team, the Senators, to beat the New York Yankees.  He makes a deal with the devil, aka Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston), to become an expert player for the Senators.  He can back out of the deal anytime before they win the pennant.

Transformed into the young, virile "Shoeless Joe" Hardy (gay actor Tab Hunter), Joe takes the team into a winning streak, but he misses his wife back home.  Applegate has to find some way to keep him distracted long enough to win the pennant and lose his soul permanently.

So he sends one of his previous clients, Lola (Gwen Verdon), to seduce Joe.

But it doesn't work.  Lola confronts Joe in the locker room, gyrating suggestively and singing  "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets, and little man, little Lola wants you."

He completely ignores her.  Ostensibly because he's being faithful to his wife, but you can also read him as gay.

He ignores every other woman who approaches him during his superstardom.  Same reason.  Or is it?

Meanwhile,there's lots of shirtless athletes singing and dancing.

On stage, gay-coded Mr. Applegate has been played by a number of actors who specialize in gay-coded roles, such as Tony Randall, Bill Kerr, and Sean Hayes.

Shoeless Joe has been portrayed by Cheyenne Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Christopher Charles Wood, Matt Bogart, and Jarrod Emick.