May 19, 2014

Joe DiMaggio's Nude Frolick

I first heard of Joe DiMaggio through the Simon & Garfunkel song "Mrs. Robinson," from The Graduate (1968):

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation's turned its lonely eyes to you.
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Jumpin' Joe has left and gone away.

So who was this Joe DiMaggio whose passing represented the disillusionment of modern life?

For one thing, he hadn't passed,  He lived until 1999.

He was a baseball player, a center fielder for the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, and a major cultural icon for the next 40 years.

He was painted by Pierre Belloq and Harvey Dinnerstein.  He appeared in stories by Hemingway and Joyce Carol Oates, and in songs by Billy Joel and Demi Lovato.  He -- or a character he inspired -- was played by Lloyd Bridges, Gary Busey, Frank Converse, and Bill Murray.

Why was he so popular?  And more importantly, did he have a gay connection?

It's impossible to search the internet. The keyword "gay" is overwhelmed by references to an article, "The Silent Season of a Hero" (1966), by a man named Gay Talese.

Plus about a thousand commentators drooling over DiMaggio's second wife, actress Marilyn Monroe:
"There's not a man alive, straight or gay, who wouldn't want to have sex with her!"
"Every man, straight or gay, is looking for a woman like her!"

 Back to the gay connection. Maybe it's in Madonna's Vogue (1990), where DiMaggio is included in a list of film greats who were gay or bisexual:

Greta Garbo, and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
On the cover of a magazine

Why was he included with the others?

Maybe it's his superheroic attractiveness.  I don't see it, personally -- I think his brother Dom got the looks in the family (left, with two guys' hands on his naked body).

But other people think Joe was hot.  On a 1998 episode of Seinfeld, Kramer mentions that he saw Joe DiMaggio at a doughnut shop.  The homophobic George, who has spent the episode worrying that he is gay because "it moved" during a massage, nevertheless concedes that DiMaggio is "a handsome man."

So the gay connection is the universality of his appeal:
"There's not a man alive, straight or gay, who wouldn't want to have sex with him!"
"Every man, straight or gay, is looking for a man like him!"

Oh, and also Joltin' Joe's many close same-sex friendships, and the photos that recently appeared of  him frolicking naked in the shower with his teammates.

See also: Not Liking Sports; and The Gay Connection of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.