May 17, 2014

The Penis Cemetery of Iran

You're not going to Iran anytime soon; the ultra-conservative government has made same-sex relations a crime punishable by death.

And even if you could go, you would probably spend all of your time in Tehran, with maybe a side trip to Isfahan.  You probably wouldn't take the 600 mile trip northeast around the Caspian Sea, to the Turkmen-speaking province of Golestan.

But if you did, you could see some Turkmen muscle.

And the Khalid e Nabi Cemetery.



It's a field covered with over 600 standing stones, between 3 and 16 feet tall, in the shape of erect penises.  There are also some that look like women's breasts.

According to legend, the pre-Islamic prophet Khalid bin Sinan, who has a mausoleum nearby, was being chased by evildoers, and asked God to turn them into stone.

Another legend says that after Khalid died, they started worshipping the sun, and got turned to stone as punishment.  Apparently God selected a phallic shape to make their punishment more humiliating.



According to archaeologists, they are gravestones erected between 500 and 1000 years ago, perhaps by the Goklan tribe, and they're meant to represent human figures wearing caps.











They don't look anything like traditional Turkmen caps to me.

Official tourist literature from the puritanical Iranian government doesn't mention the phallic cemetery, just the tomb of Khalid e Nabi.











During the last 10 years, about half of the stones have disappeared.  Maybe locals, worried that they are distracting religious pilgrims to the shrine, have been carrying them off at night.

See also: The Penis Shrine of Thailand.; The Penis Valley of Turkey

Ghoul: The Kid from "Modern Family" Fights Zombies

Ghoul  is a gay-subtext buddy-bonding horror novel by Brian Keene (2007), who specializes in postapocalyptic zombie novels.

A ghoul, a monster that lives on dead human meat, is terrorizing the town, getting most of its victims in the cemetery run by Clark, who is violently abusive to his son Barry.  Barry gradually realizes that his father is assisting the ghoul, and has even kidnapped a woman from town to become its mate.




Barry's friends, Timmy and Doug, agree to help him look for the ghoul, but they have problems of their own.

Doug is being sexually abused by his mother.

Timmy is being emotionally abused by his father.

The real monsters are the adults.

Doug is quiet, passive, rather chunky, probably gay, and interested in Timmy (who, unfortunately has a girlfriend).  He is the one who gets eaten by the ghoul.  

I wonder why Keene decided to make Doug's mother the abuser.  In real-life, the father is the offender in 90% of cases of sexual abuse.  Maybe he didn't want to reflect the myth that same-sex abuse causes kids to "turn" gay.  Or maybe he wanted to add some diversity by making one of the evil parents a woman. 

The ghoul ends up kidnapping Timmy's girlfriend, and Barry and Timmy rush to the rescue.  They all escape.

But not entirely.  Twenty years later, when Timmy returns to the cemetery to bury his father, he sees that Barry is now the caretaker, and his son has bruises consistent with abuse.

The real monsters are the adults.

The novel was made into a tv movie in 2012, but it aired on the Chiller Network, so I haven't seen it, and I don't know if the gay subtext was retained.   It starred Nolan Gould of Modern Family as Timmy, Mattie Liptak, left, as Steve (the gay-vague Doug character), and Zack Rand as Ronny (the Barry character).  Brett Lapeyrouse (top photo) played Pat.

Gay characters appear often in the works of Brian Keen, including the protagonists of The Rising and of Dead Sea.  



May 16, 2014

James Whitcomb Riley: Even Dull, Depressing Poets Can Be Gay

When I was growing up in Rock Island, teachers thought it their duty to lecture incessantly on local writers and artists, like Carl Sandburg, gay jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, and Isabel Bloom.

My cousins in Indiana were hearing about their local writers and artist, of course, and whenever I visited, I had to hear about them, too: Theodore Dreiser, Gene-Stratton Porter, Hoagy Carmichael....

The one I hated the most was James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), the "Hoosier Poet," the official poet laureate of the state of Indiana.


My Aunt Mavis scared me and my Cousin Buster to death with her rendition of "Little Orphant Annie":

The goble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out! (The "git" was accompanied by a sudden grab.)

And "Nine Little Goblins":

You shan't wake up 'til you're plumb dead!

My Cousin Joe had to read "My Bachelor Chum," about a guy who is old -- nearly 40 -- and fat, who claims that he loves being unmarried -- he can smoke and drink and stay out late, and there's nobody around to nag him.  But then he sneaks off to a private study, looks at a picture of a woman, and starts crying.

Not only heterosexist, but depressing! Can you believe that James Whitcomb Riley was one of the most popular writers of his era, and all of his books were best-sellers?



Glancing through a copy of the Selected Poems that was on every bookshelf in Indiana, I found nothing but death, despair, lost heterosexual loves, dying soldiers, and more death.

They loved that kind of thing in the 19th century.

Riley's most famous poem is "The Old Swimmin' Hole": an old man reminisces about how as a boy he used to enjoy skinny dipping with his chums, but now he just wants to die:

I wish..I could dive off in my grave like the old swimmin' hole

Wait -- he liked to swim naked with his chums?

Could Riley have been gay?


His biographer, Elizabeth Van Allen, says certainly not, but what biography doesn't try desperately to establish the heterosexuality of her subject?

She admits that he sought same-sex friendships through his life, and described them in passionate terms; to physician James Matthews, for instance, he wrote: "I love you, and no knife shall cut our love in two."

But that's just a 19th century convention, she explains: "he understood that there was a limit to what was socially acceptable between people of the same gender."

Of course there was.  The same limit exists today -- it is expected, encouraged, and demanded that same-sex relationship be platonic, and cross-sex erotic.    Being gay crosses that line.  But that simply means that gay people must spend a lot of time defending themselves against the accusations that they're trying to destroy the world.  It doesn't mean that they aren't gay.

Or that they never experienced glimmers of same-sex love while writing their dull, depressing poems.

See also: John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

May 14, 2014

Jean-Claude Brialy: Gay Actor in 1960s France

Gay actor Jean-Claude Brialy (1933-2007) lived in the days when LGBT people had to spend their lives hiding, so he hid, coming out only in his autobiography  Le Ruisseau des singes (The River of Monkeys).  But he managed to include a substantial number of gay-coded characters in his long film career.

Les Garcons (La Notte Brava, 1959), an adaption of Pasolini's novel Ragazzi di vita, follows the exploits of a gay-vague criminal couple (Brialy, Laurent Terzieff).







Une femme est une femme (A Woman is a Woman, 1961):  Brialy's girlfriend wants a baby, but he isn't ready, so he enlists the aid of his best buddy (Jean-Paul Belmondo).

Cheri (1962): The bisexual male prostitute from the Colette novel.





L'oiseau rare (The Rare Bird, 1973): a gay-vague waiter gets involved with the problems of his customers.

Robert et Robert (1978).  The two Roberts form a bromance while trying to find heterosexual partners through a computer dating service run by the gay-vague Brialy.

La nuit de Varennes (1982): during the French Revolution, a gay-vague hairdresser encounters the legendary lover Casanova (Marcello Mastroianni) and American patriot Thomas Paine (Harvey Keitel).

The Innocents (1987):  In his most overtly gay role, Brialy plays a German composer whose son is having an affair with his favorite male prostitute.


By the way, he's written several interesting books available on Amazon France, such as Les Pensées les plus drôles des acteurs.

See also: Colette's Cheri: A Male Prostitute Finds Love.



Prime Time Drama Thinks You Don't Exist

I usually don't watch contemporary tv dramas, because I never get past the first episode, no matter how interesting the premise.  Every one of them, at least every one that I've tried to watch, begins with a hysterical assertion that the protagonist is not gay.  It doesn't take long -- a few seconds of loud smooching, a bedroom scene, some flirtation.  Then, the heterosexuals assured once again that they are alone in the universe, we can get on with the plot.  By that time, I have usually changed the channel in disgust.

Fringe (2008): Special agent Olivia (Anna Torv) has sex with her boyfriend.  He dies. She's not gay!!!!! Thank goodness!  Now she can get to the business of investigating the paranormal.  (See: The 12 Beefcake Stars of Fringe.)

White Collar (2009): Neal Caffrey (gay actor Matt Bomer) is visited in prison by his girlfriend.  They touch hands through the glass window separating them. He's not gay!!!!  Thank goodness!  Now he can get to the business of investigating forgeries and frauds.

Person of Interest (2011): CIA agent John Reese (Jim Cavaziel, left) smooches with his girlfriend.  She dies.  He's not gay!!!!  Thank goodness!  Now he can get to the business of stopping crimes before they happen.

Under the Dome (2013): Every one of the 9 main characters, with the exception of the lesbian attorney, spends the first episode kissing, flirting, losing a husband/wife, or discussing a husband/wife.

Dexter (2006) was the most egregious offender, maybe because forensic scientist/serial killer Dexter was played by Michael C. Hall (below), fresh from a gay role on Six Feet Under, and it was introduced through a full-page ad in The Advocate, openly inviting gay viewers. Naturally, one assumed that it would be gay-friendly. Yet the opening scenes scream loudly, over and over, that gay people ABSOLUTELY DO NOT EXIST.

Dexter doesn't have a girlfriend, but they find other ways to proclaim universal heterosexuality:
1. He goes to a crime scene, where one of the investigators exclaims that his sister is hot and the other commentss on the dismembered woman's attractiveness.
2. He goes to the police station, inquires about the hetero-romances of his coworkers, and talks to an older women, who advises "You should find a pretty girl,” utterly unaware that some men are gay.



3. Then – and only five minutes of air time have passed -- it’s Friday night, “date night in Miami; everybody’s having sex.” Many shots of men and women dining al fresco in the heart of a gay neighborhood that is utterly gay free.
4. Dexter announces that he doesn't experience emotion, and doesn't care for sex, although he "appreciates women, like every man."
5. However, in order to keep up an "appearance of normalcy," he is dating a woman.

Why go through the trouble of advertising a television program to an audience, and then devote the entire first episode to chanting "You don't exist!  Ha-ha!"


May 13, 2014

The Muscles of Morris Street


A few days ago, one of the readers of this blog told me that he grew up in Morris, Illinois, about 120 miles from Rock Island.

Reading the name instantly aroused the conmingling of joy, anxiety, and erotic energy that I associate with a "good place," a country or city where, as a child, I imagined same-sex love to be open and free.  Like Tibet, or Middle Earth, or even the Los Angeles of The Lucy Show.

The name brought back the memories of:
1. A very, very old man sitting in a rocking chair with a collie next to him.
2. The collie whining softly like Lassie.







3. Muscles!  Hundreds of men and boys, maybe thousands, more than I had ever seen before, shirtless, in swimsuits, their bodies gleaming in bright sunlight, flexing their biceps, adjusting themselves, running, jumping, hugging.

Could that beefcake paradise have been Morris, Illinois?  But I didn't remember ever visiting.

We passed often.  At least once a year, often two or three times, we took Interstate 80 from Rock Island across the Illinois prairie on the way to visit my relatives in Indiana.  I got to know the route intimately, feeling perfectly at home on the endless gray highway banded by white lines.  I can still list the towns along the way: Geneseo, Kewanee, Princeton, Lasalle, Peru, Ottawa, Morris, Joliet, Chicago Heights.



Sensitive to the problem of kids getting bored on car trips, and probably getting bored themselves, Mom and Dad always found new, interesting places to stop: Starved Rock State Park, Culver's Frozen Custard; a haunted theater in Chicago Heights; the glass octagon of Valparaiso University.

Could we have stopped in Morris?

I got a map and checked the possibilities: Norwegian Settlers Memorial, Gebhart Woods State Park, Morris Diner & Pancake House, Boz Hot Dogs.  Nothing seemed particularly homoerotic.

Anyway, the old, old man didn't seem like a random encounter.  We visited his house.  We knew him.

He was too old to be one of my parents' friends.  He must be a relative.


I emailed my mother and asked if we ever visited any relatives in Morris, Illinois.

"No," she wrote back. "All of your Dad's family are in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, except for your Cousin George in South Carolina.  And my family is in Kentucky."

Maybe I had the wrong Morris?  There's a Morris in Indiana, a Morris Township in Ohio, and a Mount Morris in Michigan.

Eva Marie, my Cousin Joe's sister, is big on family genealogy. She helped me track down the gay connections of our biological grandfather, and she has gedcoms that trace our ancestry through a dozen different lines back to Canada, England, Ireland, and France, all the way back to Charlemagne.  I emailed her and asked if anyone in our family lived in a town called Morris between 1960 and 1970.


"No," she wrote back.  "You had a second-cousin on a Morris Street.  Does that help?"

Yes!

Daniel Scholle, son of Grandpa Davis's older sister, lived on Morris Street in Indianapolis in the early 1960s.  But he was too young to be the old man of my memory.

"What about his father?" Eva wrote.  "Otto Scholle, your great-uncle.  He turned 75 in July 1965, and we all went down for his birthday party. Mom, Dad, your parents, Grandma Davis.  Maybe that's what you remember."

Back to Google Maps.  I didn't recognize the house Eva mentioned.  But two blocks north was Rhodius Park, which has a softball field and a swimming pool.

Now I can figure out what happened:

A hot day in July, after The Book of Cute Boys, but before we moved away from Indiana.

  A birthday party for an old, old man on "Morris Street."  A house full of strangers.  After the cake, Eva, Joe, and Larry get bored.  Their parents suggests that they go to the park, and take their 4 1/2-year old cousin Boomer.

They walk past the crowded swimming pool.  Through the chain link fence, Boomer sees dozens of half-naked men and boys,splashing, flexing, hugging, adjusting themselves, a stunning homoerotic spectacle that stays with him forever, even after he forgets everything else about the day.

Except for the old, old man, the collie whining, and the name "Morris."

See also: A Boy Named Twilight.; Was My Grandfather Gay?

May 12, 2014

Samson Burke: the Villain of 1960s Bodybuilding Movies

If you saw The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) -- and every Boomer kid did -- you probably that Joe DeRita, the most flamboyantly feminine of the Stooges, was trying his best to appear afraid rather than excited during his scenes with the super-muscular Hercules.

This was a rare example of a villainous Hercules, played by 6'6", 275 lbs Samson Burke (born Samuel Burke), a Canadian-born Olympic athlete, bodybuilder (a former Mr. Canada), pro wrestler, and budding peplum star whose Vengeance of Ursus had just been released (1961).


He went on to specialize in more rare examples of villainous bodybuilders: King Blo-Edin in the German Nibelungen series, Khemal in Three Green Dogs (1967), and Polyphemus the Cyclops in an Italian tv version of The Odyssey.  After a minor role in the Italian comedy Satiricosissimo (1970), he retired from acting.

He moved to Hawaii to pursue his interest in fitness (and incidentally joined the crew of Magnum P.I. when it was filming in Hawaii during the 1980s).  The Three Stooges film brought him his greatest popularity, and he still appears at fan conventions, where his bicep is still capable of crushing heads.


On his personal website, he advises: "once you're finished browsing, get out from behind your computer and exercise!  Taking care of your body is something you will benefit from for the rest of your life."

Good advice from a 84 year old bodybuilder.

Burke  has never married.  I don't know if he's gay or not, but on Hollywood Teen Movies, the interview keeps feeding him openings like "that actress you worked with was very beautiful" and "that actress was very attractive," but Burke won't own up to any heterosexual interest, limiting himself to evaluations of her physical fitness:  "yes, she was fit and healthy."

See also: The Three Stooges; Sword and Sandal.

A Beefcake Tour of the Musee d'Orsay

The Louvre is my favorite museum in Paris, but the Musée d'Orsay has some points in its favor:  It's housed in the old Gare d'Orsay railroad station, which is kind of cool.  It's smaller and less crowded -- you can see everything in two hours.

And there's more beefcake.

Here is the perfect two-hour beefcake tour:

Go on Thursday evening, when it's open until 9:45 pm, and there are special concerts and lectures.  And, in the winter (the absolute best time to visit Paris), you can cross the Seine on the Pont Royal and see the museum lit up





6:00 pm:  You bought your ticket in advance, so go through Entrance C.  Climb the stairs to the Third Level, where you can look down on the galleries, and incidentally see some nice views of Paris (the Sacre Couer is visible through the Clock Window).









Unless you're a fan of Impressionism -- Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne -- you won't find much of interest in the galleries on this level, but go to Room 36 for Rodin's  Le Homme qui marche, Room 34 for his John the Baptist, and Room 29 for Renoir's Le garçon au chat (Boy with Cat, left).  15 minutes.












6:15: Downstairs to the Middle Level, and the Terrasse Seine, which offers more views of the galleries, plus Coutan's Chasseurs d'aigles (Eagle Hunters)Saint-Marceaux's Génie gardant le secret de la tombe (Genie Guarding the Secret of a Tomb), and Indrac's Mercury. 15 minutes.

6:30:  Go through the galleries on the Seine side, looking for d'Epinay's Portrait charge d'Ernest Meissonie (Room 57), Sicard's Oedipus and the Sphinx (Room 59), and Georges' L'homme à l'outre (Room 60).







The galleries on the opposite side contain mostly female nudes, but check out Bartlett's Homme debout and Homme accroupi in the Galerie Francois Cachin, and Signac's Le démolisseur (Room 69). About 30 minutes.

More after the break.










Pasolini's Decameron: Nudity Alone

When I was studying  Italian literature at USC in the mid-1980s, I liked The Divine Comedy, Orlando Furioso, and the poetry of Michelangeo, but not Boccaccio's Decameron (c. 1350).

The frame story was morbid, uncomfortably reminiscent of AIDS: ten young aristocrats flee plague-ravaged Florence, seek refuge in a deserted villa, and pass the time by telling stories. As they're waiting to die.

And the stories themselves were dull, all about corrupt clerics and randy housewives. I didn't find any gay characters, and the professor, of course, didn't mention any.

When Piers Paolo Pasolini wrote and directed Il Decamerone (1971), the first of his famous Trilogy of Life (other installments include The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights), he didn't include gay characters, except for one identified as "a bit queer." Nor any gay subtexts.  Most of the stories are about illicit heterosexual affairs:

1. A young man (Pasolini's boyfriend Ninetto Davoli, left)  is swindled by a woman who claims to be his sister, then forced to help rob a tomb.
2. The nuns at a convent force a young man to have sex with them, thinking that he's mute and won't be able to tell anyone.
3. A woman has sex with her lover while her husband is cleaning a large pot.
4. A dissolute man tells lies on his deathbed, and is revered as a saint.
5. A boy and a girl have sex, and their parents discover them and force them to marry.






6. A girl's brothers kill her lover, but she preserves his head in a pot of basil.
7. A priest finds a clever way to have sex with a woman in front of her husband.
8. A man is terrified of going to hell due to having sex with his wife (even marital relations were considered sinful during the Middle Ages).  But his dead friend tells him that no one in the afterlife cares who you have sex with.

The near-complete omission of same-sex behavior or romance is striking, when you consider that Pasolini was gay himself; his Canterbury Tales is full of same-sex behavior and romance, and his Arabian Nights contains frequent statements like "some people prefer boys, and others prefer girls."

Maybe he was afraid.  Gay characters and situations were very much taboo in 1971, and he had not included them in any significant way in his previous films.

There is, however, an emphasis on the male form, with lots of muscles and frontal nudity (mostly of amateurs, not of established actors Ninetto Davoli and Franco Citti).  Sex usually occurs between a fully-clothed woman and a naked man.  Pasolini gives us a gay male gaze, but closeted, hidden, available only to those in the know.

Weeds: Gay and Gay-Vague Drug Dealers

You're probably wondering what Alexander Gould has been up to since he played David Collins, the young heir to the Collins fortune, in the 2005 reboot of the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows.

He's done some voice over work and guest starred on several dramas, such as Supernatural and Pushing Daisies.

He starred in How to Eat Fried Worms (2006) and the short Ties (2011), about a man (Jacob Grodnik) who gets stuck in a junkyard while taking his father's ashes to a memorial service, and bonds with the teenage Evan (Alexander Gould).



But he's most famous for Weeds (2005-2012), about suburban housewife Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), who begins selling marijuana to support her family after her husband dies, and eventually rises through the ranks of an international drug syndicate.  Her oldest son Silas (Hunter Parrish, left) assists her.















Alexander played Shane, her youngest son, a sensitive, often-bullied boy with a violent, unpredictable side.  After several seasons of out-of-control behavior, he settled down, went to the police academy and became a LAPD cop.

Shane expressed little heterosexual interest, except when he was goaded on by his friends or his uncle, leading fans to wonder if he was gay.  Not to worry: in Season 6, the writers took care of that little "problem" by giving him a girlfriend.








There were a couple of "real" gay characters on the show: Sanjay (gay actor Maulik Pancholy), one of Nancy's dealers, who was gay for a few seasons then turned straight and married a woman; and Josh (Justin Chatwin), who was selling marijuana to kids, breaking Nancy's cardinal rule, until she discovered that he was gay and blackmailed him.

Sounds rather homophobic.

Oh well, at least there was ample beefcake.  And Alexander is a gay ally.  He wore a white knot to the 2009 Emmy Awards to symbolize his commitment to marriage equality.

See also: David Collins, Gay Heir to the Throne