Jun 7, 2014

James Royce Edwards

If you've been anywhere near a muscle magazine in the last ten years, you know fitness model and personal trainer James Royce Edwards (left).

But he is also an accomplished singer, dancer, and actor.  Of course, his theatrical roles tend to emphasize his physique.

Early in his career, when he was still doing regional theater, he starred in several Disney plays, including Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin.  





Plus The Little Shop of Horrors, Grease, Footloose, Bye Bye Birdie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live (as Rocky, naturally), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (as both Joseph and the Pharaoh), and Miss Saigon.










Off-Broadway, he's starred in the boy-band comedy Altar Boyz (which has a gay altar boy), Wanda's World, Ty Belvedere, and Matthew Passion (which juxtaposes the death of Christ recounted in the Book of Matthew with the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepherd).







And he's starred on Broadway or in national tours of Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Pippin, All Shook Up, Les Miserables, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Top photo: he poses in underwear with Michael Jason Blaine (his stage son Theo) in Pippin.









When there are no gay texts, he ensures that there are gay subtexts.  Here's a "Brokeback Mountain" scene from Pippin.

You can also see James on tv in True Blood, Passions, and in the movie Star Child.




Jun 6, 2014

Looking for Muscle on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

The Dick Van Dyke Show won 15 Emmies during its five seasons (1961-1966), and is constantly praised today as one of the greatest TV shows of all time (TV Guide ranks it at #13).

It came on before my bedtime during its original run, but it was constantly being rerun during my childhood, often at lunchtime during the summer, so my brother and I watched while waiting for Mom to fry our  baloney or egg sandwiches

I know, it's a classic, and it won lots of Emmies, and all, but I didn't like it.


1. The premise: Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) was head writer for a weekly comedy-variety show.  Stories alternated between work and home.  Father of beefcake actor Barry Van Dyke (but no relation to Philip Van Dyke), Dick was tall, gawky, and rubbery-limbed, not at all attractive.

Plus he was hetero-horny in that obnoxious eye-bulging 1950s way, although devoted to his wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, who would get her own iconic tv sitcom in the 1970s).

2. Rob's writing staff included the unhappily single, man-hungry Sally Rogers (Rose Marie), who was desperate to get married, even though that would mean giving up her successful comedy-writing career.


And short, sarcastic Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam).  Cute, but in his 50s, a bit too old to be attractive to a preteen.

He was as hetero-horney as Rob, and married to a former chorus girl with the ridiculous name Pickles.

3. Buddy had a sparring love-hate relationship with Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), the balding, stuffy producer of the tv show.  But it was mostly hate.  You have to push really hard to find an undertow of homoerotic attraction.

Richard Deacon was gay in real life, and a fixture in West Hollywood bars during the 1970s (he died in 1984).




4. Back home, Rob and Laura had a son, Ritchie (Larry Mathews), who was about my age.  But I don't recall him being the focus of any episode, except one where they explain how he got the feminine middle name "Rosebud."  He was mostly a non-entity.

5. The only regular cast member who was marginally attractive was next door neighbor Jerry Helper, played Jerry Paris, who starred in some sex comedies during the 1960s.  But he was married, too.






6. And maybe an occasional guest star, such as Jerry Van Dyke (left), Jamie Farr, and Jacques Bergerac.

No muscles, no buddy-bonding, a lot of hetero-horniness.  No wonder I didn't like it.

Besides, the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" scared me to death.

See also: Hip Workplace Sitcoms of the 1970s; Mary Tyler Moore and the Two Richies


Jun 5, 2014

Fall 1977: A Gay Romance on "Barnaby Jones"

October 27, 1977, the cold, windy Thursday night four days before Halloween, during my senior year at Rocky High.

The family has gathered in front of the tv set, as usual: the tv is on every night from dinnertime to bedtime, a backdrop to all of our other activities.

7:00: Welcome Back, Kotter.  I look up briefly to see Horshak (Ron Pallilo) explain, yet again, that his name means "The cattle are dying."

7:30: What's Happening!. I look up briefly to check out Haywood Nelson's butt and bulge.

At 8:00, my parents want to watch Barney Miller, but I'm anxious to see James at Fifteen, starring teen idol Lance Kerwin.  So I watch on my small portable set upstairs.

At 9:00, I turn off the tv and start doing homework.  A few moments later, my brother Ken comes clomping up the stairs.  "You'll never guess what they're watching down there!" he exclaims.  "Barnaby Jones!"

"You're kidding -- Jed Clampett as a private eye?"  The oldster detective is played by the star of the Beverly Hillbillies.

"And Catwoman is his secretary!"  Lee Meriwether, who plays Barnaby's daughter-in-law, was Catwoman on Batman.

"Gross!  Next they'll have Scooby-Doo!"

Ken laughs.  "Don't take my word for it -- you have to watch to see how terrible it is."

"Come on!" I complain.  "Old people tv?"  My friends would rib me unmercifully if they found out I had watched something as lame as Barnaby Jones!

Ignoring me, he flips the tv on, and clicks the dial to CBS.

No Jed Clampett, no Catwoman.  Two cute young guys, one in a muscle shirt that displays baseball-sized biceps, the other in skin-tight jeans that reveal an enormous bulge.  They are standing so close together that they seem about to kiss.

"You're the man for me!" Muscle Shirt says.

"Let's not get carried away!" Tight-Jeans protests.

"This looks good...I mean, awful."  I stammer.

Looking back, I'm surprised that I didn't come out at that moment.  But no, I absolutely did not connect I want to see those guys kiss!  with gay.

"What did I tell you?"  Ken flips the tv set off, flops down on his bed, and opens a math textbook.

The next week I pretend to be immersed in a book in order to watch Barnaby Jones with my parents.  Tight-Jeans is Mark Shera, playing Barnaby's nephew, a law school student.  But he definitely likes girls.

What about Muscle Shirt, with his baseball-sized biceps and the romantic plaint of "You're the man for me?"  He must have been a guest star.

Before the days of the internet, there is no way to track down the episode.  I'll have to wait for summer reruns.

But during the summer, I am working at the Carousel Snack Bar on Thursday nights.  The scene of gay romance is lost forever.


Until three days ago, when I found a photo of the scene on ebay, which led to the entire episode on youtube: "Gang War," starring 31-year old Asher Brauner.  My memory changed the dialogue a bit: he's not in love with Mark Shera, he's about to kidnap him.

Asher Brauner has been in a few movies of gay interest: he  played "Buddy" in Alexander: the Other Side of Dawn (1977), about a teenage runaway who becomes a hustler, and "Ted," in the gay-themed Making Love.  

He played the hero in the Indiana Jones spoof Treasure of the Moon Goddess (1987), and a man-mountain who takes out entire countries in American Eagle (1989) and Merchants of War (1989).

And he was the hero of a gay romance that I misread 30 years ago on Barnaby Jones.

Jun 4, 2014

Nicholas D'Agosto: Hustler, Sex Researcher, Cheerleader

Dirty Girl (2010) is about a promiscuous straight girl who goes on a road trip to meet her biological father.  She takes her chunky gay bff, who is trying to escape his violently abusive parents.  It has three things to recommend it:
1. The gay bff (Jeremy Dozier) is chunky, not svelte (although still a swishy stereotype named Clarke).

2. He actually has sex, with a hitchiking hustler (Nicholas d'Agosto).

3. He doesn't turn straight at the end.




Jeremy Dozier has slimmed down since. His other movies include Bad Behavior (2013), about a babysitter fighting off the bad guy, and Rock, Paper, Scissors (2013), which seems to be about three friends playing Russian roulette.






Nicholas d'Agosto has taken off his clothes in a number of other movies, mostly teen sex comedies and horror spoofs such as Drive Through (2007) and Extreme Movie (2008).  

He is naked most often in Fired Up! (2009), in which two goofballs (Nicholas, Eric Christian Olsen) sign up for cheerleader camp in order to get girls, but find that they actually like cheerleading.  They have a swishy gay-stereotyped roommate (Adhir Kalyan)





Nicholas is currently starring as Dr. Ethan Haas on Masters of Sex (2013), about the homophobic sex researchers Masters and Johnson.  There's a closeted gay character.


Jun 2, 2014

Ramon Novarro and the Gay Hustlers

Ramon Novarro (1899-1968) was one of the great beefcake actors of the silent movie era.  He was cast mostly as "exotic" Middle Easterners (The Arab,  A Lover's Oath, The Barbarian, The Sheik Steps Out) or Mediterranean types (The Road to Romance, In Gay Madrid, Call of the Flesh), plus an occasional Native American.











Almost always as romantic leads.  He was advertised as "a new Valentino."  He was gay, but stayed strictly closeted, although he refused a "screen marriage."

Very few photos have survived of Novarro with his lovers.

In those days before the Hays Code, you stripped your stars out of their clothes as much as possible.  Novarro has semi-nude scenes in Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ (1925), The Pagan (1929), The Barbarian (1933), and probably lots of other movies that haven't survived.




With the rise of talkies and new 1930s models of masculinity, roles became scarce, but Novarro continued to work in movies and on stage, and later on television.  In the 1960s, he had guest roles on Dr. Kildare, Combat, The Wild Wild West, and Bonanza, in addition to appearing as himself in various nostalgia programs.











On October 30, 1968, he invited Physique Pictorial model Paul Ferguson and his brother Tom to his North Hollywood home for sex.  Believing that Novarro had a lot of money hidden away, they tried to beat him into revealing its location, and finally choked him to death with a large art-deco phallus.

They both received sentences of life in prison, but were paroled within seven years.  You didn't do much time for killing gay men in the 1960s.

See also: Ben Hur, a Gay Tale of Christ.





Barry Williams/Greg Brady

Of the three boys in the iconic 1970s blended-family sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-74), Christopher Knight (Peter, middle) grew into a bodybuilder with a spectacular physique, and Mike Lookinland (Bobby, right) grew into a hunk who could fill out a pair of tight jeans.


But Barry Williams (Greg, left) was hot right then, every Friday night during the 1972-73 school year, when you were working on your algebra homework and reading Donald Duck comic books.






He had a face -- dreamy, cool, goofy, handsome all at the same time.  And a killer body. He didn't display it often, but those few episodes where Greg drops his shirt or tries surfing in Hawaii are forever etched into the brains of heterosexual girls and gay boys of the Boomer generation.

 He didn't get as many gay subtexts as his brother Peter -- in fact, every other episode seemed to be about Greg liking some girl -- but sometimes beefcake is more than enough.



Born in 1954, Barry Williams burst onto the television scene in 1968, with appearances on The FBI, Lancer, That Girl, Gomer Pyle, Mod Squad -- you name it.









For the next two decades, he would be busy with The Brady Bunch and its various sequels and spin-offs: a Saturday morning cartoon (1972-73), The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976-77), The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), A Very Brady Christmas (1988), The Bradys (1990).  But he still had time for guest shots, on Three's Company, Murder She Wrote, Highway to Heaven, and even General Hospital.  



And live theater, in Pippin (1975).

He's also done his share of stunt casting:

In 2002, he boxed with former Partridge Family kid Danny Bonaduce (Danny won).

On an episode of That 70s Show (2006), Barry and his tv brother Christopher Knight played a gay couple who move in next to the 1970s Formans.  They got a big audience reaction from their on-camera kiss.

In Bigfoot (2012) Barry and Danny played a folk singer and music promoter, respectively, who go on the offensive after Bigfoot invades a rock festival.

See also: Christopher Knight/Peter Brady; and The Brady Bunch Dad


Maleficent: A Disney Fairy Tale That's Not Heterosexist

When I was a kid, I hated fairy tales. All about princes rescuing princesses, or else being told "if you accomplish this quest, I'll give you the princess."  I'd rather get a prince.

And the worst of the lot was Perrault's Sleeping Beauty.  You can't even say her name without objectifying women, and what's with the sexual symbolism?  A girl lies sleeping, waiting for a guy to climb into her bed and "awaken" her?  


Maleficent (2014) turns the tale on its head, starting with the evil fairy herself: she's a young girl with horns and bat-wings (Isobelle Molloy), who enjoys zooming through the stratosphere and playing with the various elves, fairies, and nature spirits of her kingdom (no one explains why she was named "Evil-doer").  She and the human Stefan (Michael Higgins) meet and fall in love, and on  her sixteenth birthday, he gives her "true love's kiss."     


But the adult Stefan (Sharito Copley) betrays her and cuts off her wings in a scheme to become king.  Now crippled and desolate, the brooding Maleficent  (Angelina Jolie with prosthetic cheekbones) gets revenge by putting a curse on his newborn daughter, Aurora: on her sixteenth birthday, she will fall asleep, and can only be awakened by "true love's kiss." 

As Maleficent and her crow-turned-human sidekick Diaval (Sam Riley) watch Aurora (Elle Fanning) grow up, they begin to care about her, and even invite her to live among the fairies.  As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Maleficent tries to remove the curse, but is unsuccessful: she falls asleep right on schedule.  

Aurora had been flirting with Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) earlier, so Maleficent drags him to the castle and forces him to kiss her, but it's not "true love's kiss."  

You'll never guess what finally awakens Aurora.  I was completely surprised.  

Hint: it's not hetero-romance.

Hetero-romance is of minimal importance in this brave new world.  None of the adults display the slightest heterosexual interest, not even King Stefan, and there is no wedding at the end. Instead, same-sex or cross-sex friendships drive the plot.

I especially like the platonic friendship between Maleficent and the gay-coded Diaval.

Incidentally, Sam Riley's nude scene provides the only beefcake in the movie, although both Brenton Thwaits and Jackson Bews (the teenage Stefan, top photo) have displayed respectable physiques elsewhere.



Jun 1, 2014

Primo Carnera: Plus-Sized Bisexual Boxer

Primo Carnera (1906-1967) was big -- maybe not the giant as he seems in the publicity photos that deliberately pair him with short guys, but tall, thick, and built -- 6'7", 265 lbs, with a bicep the size of a basketball.  And, judging from the bulge that was impossible to hide, also gifted beneath the belt.

Born in Italy, he came to the U.S. in 1930 as a boxer, and won his first seventeen bouts by knockout.  In 1932 and 1933 he became the tallest heavyweight boxer in the world.  Later he fought such greats as Max Baer and Joe Louis (both of whom knocked him out).  By the time he retired in 1945, he had 89 wins and 14 losses.




In 1946, searching for a second career, he became a professional wrestler, and continued to draw the crowds through the 1960s.

His film career began in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he played himself in The Boxer and the Lady (1933) and Mr. Broadway (1933). 







In 1940 he began appearing in Italian sword-and-sandal films, usually playing the bad guy who is much bigger than the hero.  In 1949, he fought Steve Reeves in Hercules Unchained. 













Did I mention that he was bisexual?  Among his lovers were, reputedly, boxer Emile Griffith and Joe Louis, and  the exiled king of Italy, Umberto II.  In 1946, Umberto invited him to his palace in Cascais, Portugal.  Carnera thought he was just another fan, until Umberto invited him go to swimming.  "But I didn't bring a swimsuit," Carnera protested.

Umberto found a way around that little problem.


Il Sorpasso: Italian Buddy-Bonding with a Tragic Twist


Il Sorpasso (The Good Life, 1962) is an Italian homoerotic buddy drama directed by Dino Risi.

Roberto, a young, timid law school student (Jean-Louis Trintignant, left) meets the brash, devil-may-care, 40-ish Bruno (Vittorio Gassman, below), and they both abandon their obligations for two days of driving around Italy, buddy-bonding and having picaresque adventures.









Most of which involve "looking" for girls, then taking their clothes off and explaining how they're not attracted to each other.

Of course, they are attracted to each other: that's the whole point.  They just have to sublimate it through discussions of girls and their lack of interest.

Their idyll ends in sudden tragedy -- a convention of the 1960s commedia alla italiana, but also a way of punishing Roberto for his "deviance," choosing homoerotic freedom over a "respectable" life with a job, a house, a wife, and kids.




Jean-Louis Trintignant starred in many romances and sex comedies in the 1960s.

Vittorio Gassman, one of the greats of the Italian theater, had a few gay-subtext movies, such as Big Deal on Madonna Street with Renato Salvatori.



Tad Hilgenbrink: Corey Haim for the 2000s

I haven't seen any of those American Pie movies -- they sound awful, especially the straight-to-video American Pie Presents Band Camp (2005). It starred Tad Hilgenbrink as Matt Stifler, rabble-rousing brother of Steve Stifler, who is sent to the nerdish band camp as a form of punishment, but ends up helping them win a competition with a rival camp and (naturally) getting the girl.

But apparently there were some "ha-ha, it looks like a penis" jokes.




Besides, Tad is from my neighborhood: he grew up in Quincy, Illinois, near the Quad Cities, and attended Milikin University in Decatur.

And he has a respectable physique.

His only specifically gay role is in The Curiosity of Chance (2006):  he played the flamboyantly feminine and gay Chance Marquis (when will they have a gay character named Bob Smith?), who forms some friendships with other outcasts at his high school while exploring his drag persona.

Since then he's played mostly in slasher films, which of course I haven't seen. .


But you might be interested in Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008), which pairs surfer dude Chris (Tad) with vampire hunter Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman) from the original Lost Boys movie.

The original has some amazing gay subtexts.

See also: Corey Haim's Bubble Bath.