Jun 14, 2014

Irv Docktor: The Power of the Male Form

Some of the my favorite childhood books were illustrated with striking, often frightening beefcake images.  Nude or semi-nude, muscular men at weird angles, merging into the objects around them or into the text itself, as if their potency was too strong and powerful to be contained by their bodies.

Science fiction like Robert Heinlein's Glory Road (1963), Podkayne of Mars (1963), Orphans of the Sky (1963), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1963).

Horror anthologies like Great Ghost Stories (1962), Stories of Suspense (1963), Ghosts and More Ghosts (1963).

Boys' adventure like Benkei, the Boy Giant (Marjorie Fribourg, 1958) and  Bimo, Young Hero of Java (Marjorie Fribourg, 1958))

Christine Noble Govan's "Lookouts" kid-sleuth mysteries, such as Mystery at Fearsome Lake (1960)

William Goldman's gay-subtext Temple of Gold (1958) about a young man who is struggling to overcome his grief over the death of his buddy.

And classics like War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and the novels of Herman Melville. 

Turns out that the artist was Irv Docktor (1918-2008, top photo), who was born and raised in Philadelphia, worked as briefly as a ballet dancer, served in World War II, and then moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey, where his surreal, psychologically-dense work was in demand during the neuroses-obsessed 1950s.

He illustrated books, magazines, record album covers, and the posters for Broadway plays such as the gay-themed Tea and Sympathy and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Beginning in the 1960s, he concentrated on fine arts, with several exhibitions.

He maintained an interest in the ballet -- and in physical fitness -- throughout his life.

Probably not gay -- he was married with three children, and his paintings include an inordinate number of female nudes.  But he understood the power of the male form.

His daughter, B. (Barbara) Docktor, a "talented gay photographer for weddings, celebrations, portraits and photo art for your walls," has a very nice website full of her memories of her father in Fort Lee in the 1950s and 1960s.  

You can also buy prints of much of her fathers work.  

And hire her to be the photographer for your gay wedding.

See also: The Homoerotic Horror of Edgar Allan Poe.

10 Gay Reasons to Visit Malta

Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world, 122 square miles (smaller than Philadelphia), and one of the more isolated, but you can fly there from Paris (3 hours) or Athens (2 hours), or take the ferry from Sicily (5 hours).

And it's worth the trip. Here are the top 10 reasons to visit.

1. It's got some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world, including the Speedo-clad men on the beach at Mellieħa Bay

2. .  You can also look for the "nude beach" at Gnejna Bay.

3. It's got towns that sound vaguely dirty, like Xgharja, Marsaxjokk, and Ghawdex.  Wouldn't you love to tell all of your friends, "I was in Marsaxjokk last month."

4. The Maltese language is an archaic version of Arabic with an Italian vocabulary, and written in Roman script.  So it looks and sounds like nothing else on Earth:

Aħna marru għall-bajja u mbagħad għall-mużew li tħares lejn l-irġiel mikxufa

(We went to the beach and then to the museum to look at naked men.)

5.  The national obsessions are wrestling and soccer.

6. You can visit the Casa Lanfreducci, one of the headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Catholic religious order, claims to be the real smallest country in the world, with just a few buildings in Malta, Rome, and Britain.  It has permanent observer status at the U.N. and issues passports for its diplomats.

7. The National Museum of Art is a beefcake paradise (check out Cain Murdering Abel).  But the National Museum of Archaeology seems to specialize in Neolithic female fertility figures.

8. There are nearly as many public penises as in Prague. In 2004, President Guido de Marco unveiled this new statue of Aeneas at the Lower Barraca Gardens, a very well-endowed gift from the people of Italy.

9. Malta has same-sex civil unions, adoption, and anti-discrimination laws.  60% of the population supports gay marriage.

10. There are a couple of gay bars, but most of the gay social activity occurs at private parties. This summer there's a Gay Pride Party (July 5th), two NaviGAYt Boat Parties (July 13th and August 24th), the Bordello Foam Party (August 9th), and the End of Summer Party (Aug 6th).

DH Lawrence and the Naked Cornish Farmer

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) was the darling of the grad English students when I was at Bloomington, maybe because he was more accessible than James Joyce or T.S. Elliot, but still Great Literature, and he wrote about sex.

A lot.

The heterosexual girls seemed to gravitate toward Lady Chatterley's Lover (1926), a Harlequin Romance with bad words.

The heterosexual boys liked Sons and Lovers (1913), about a boy who is in love with his mother.

No one ever mentioned Women in Love (1920), and I hadn't yet seen the 1969 movie starring Oliver Reed and Alan Bates (top photo).

Turns out it's about two sisters who become involved with a gay couple.  Actually they're all bisexual.  One of the men dies, and the other is told, "There can't be two kinds of love."

Aaron's Rod (1922) is about a flutist who leaves his wife and kids to go to Florence with his boyfriend and show his "rod" to men and women.

Lawrence was rather critical of heterosexual romance, Instead spinning wild fantasies of all-male Arcadias.

But he also created horribly homophobic characters, and criticized Walt Whitman for his gay subtexts in Studies in Classic American Literature. 

D.H. Lawrence had several same-sex relationships, notably with a farmer named William Henry Hocking, whom he apparently encountered naked on the beach in Cornwall.  He spent the rest of life searching for someone as perfect, just as Ernst Josephson spent his life searching for the "beautiful boy with a violin" he met in Norway.

But he also warned writer David Garnett against pursuing his "homosexual tendencies," and he hated the gay men he met in the Bloomsbury Group, such as Duncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes; they made him "mad with misery and hostility and rage."

Do you get the impression that this guy was a little nuts?

He tried his hand at painting, and exhibited 25 works at the Warren Gallery in London in 1929.  But they were mostly of nude Italian men with their penises flapping around, including his lover Piero Pini.

The police raided the gallery and seized 13 paintings. They were later returned, on the condition that Lawrence never again show them in England.   When his wife, Freda Lawrence, died in 1956, she willed them to her friend Saki, who willed them to Taos art collector George Sahd.  They're in Taos, New Mexico today.

Priest of Love (1982) stars gay actor Ian McKellen as D.H. Lawrence, Graham Faulkner in a five-second flashback as a nameless Cornish farmer, and Massimo Ranieri (left) as Piero Pini.  It displays his bisexuality in a couple of "you have to be looking for it" scenes.

Jun 12, 2014

Mark Trail: A Substandard Tarzan

This is not a parody beefcake cover; it's the real thing. Mark Trail Magazine, the Magazine of Adventure for Boys, gave Boys' Life some strong competition during the 1960s, with articles about rough-and-tumble activities like camping, horseback riding, shooting, skiing, and fishing.

And, apparently, building rafts in your underwear.

It was based on Jack Elrod's comic strip Mark Trail, started in 1946 and still syndicated in 175 newspapers.

Mark Trail was a sort of North American Tarzan, an adventurer more at home among redwood trees and grizzly bears than in the city.  He lived in Lost Forest National Forest, where he shot pictures for Woods and Wildlife Magazine (a take on Field and Stream).  His assignments got him into jams involving rampaging grizzly bears or (more often) villainous poachers, gun-runners, and...well, um poachers.

His comic strip was very popular during the 1950s and 1960s.  There was a radio series, a tv pilot starring Todd Armstrong (Jason and the Argonauts), and even a series of books, from Mark Trail's Book of Animals to Mark Trail's Cooking Tips.  

But Mark Trail was no Tarzan.
1. Darkest Africa offered much more interesting animals than the United States.  Lions, jaguars, 20-foot pythons, crocodiles vs. grizzly bears and...um...squirrels.

2. Darkest Africa had cannibals, leopard cults, and lost civilizations.  The United States had....um, poachers.

3. Outside of the MGM movies, Tarzan worked alone, or with a teenage sidekick.  Mark Trail had a girlfriend, Cherry Davis, and a series of flirtatious female photographers, damsels in distress, and villainesses to contend with.

4. Tarzan was loincloth clad and muscular.  For that matter, real naturalists tend to be quite muscular, like Stan Brock of Wild Kingdom.

But Mark Trail almost never took his shirt off, and when he did, he displayed a scrawny, unimpressive physique.

Artists have the choice of drawing muscular physiques or not.  Why wouldn't they?

See also: Top 10 Nature Show Hunks.

Jun 10, 2014

10 Teen Hunks of Disney's Summer Movies

Instead of yet another installment in the endless High School Musical franchise, this summer the Disney Channel is offering the distaff side of two 1980s sex comedies.  Although they are about girls, gay boys should have some beefcake and buddy-bonding to look forward to.

The first Zapped (1982) starred then-popular teen idol Scott Baio as a high school nerd who develops telekinetic powers, which he and his sleazebag buddy (Willie Aames) use chiefly to pull up girls' blouses and look at their bras.

The Disney Channel Zapped (premiering on June 23rd) stars Zendaya (Shake It Up) as a high school dancer who downloads a dog-training app to her smartphone and discovers that it works on boys, too.  No doubt she'll use it to get it over on her new stepbrothers, played by:

1. Spencer Boldman of Lab Rats

2. Adam DiMarco of Radio Rebel.

No word on whether she'll also use it to pull up boys' shirts and look at their chests; there are quite a lot of cute boys in the cast, including:

3. Samuel Patrick Chu of Level Up (left)

4. Donnie MacNeil of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

5. Jeddidiah Goodacre of Restless Virgins

6. Not to mention Drew Tanner as "Shirtless Guy."

Weird Science (1984) was about two high school nerds (Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan-Mitchell Smith) who build a sex-doll cyborg.  It spun off into a tv series (1994-1997) starring Michael Mannasseri and John Mallory Asher, which wasn't terrible.

How to Make a Better Boy (July 18) stars Kelli Berglund (Lab Rats) and China Anne McClain (A.N.T. Farm) as two girls who download a cute-boy cyborg:

7. Newcomer Marshall Williams.

Only to discover that he has been programmed as a super-soldier.

It also features a large supporting cast of cute boys, including:

8. Noah Centineo (top photo)

9. Jesse Camacho of Less Than Kind.

10. Matt Shively of Tru Jackson (left).

Better set your DVR.

See also: 10 Unexpected Disney Channel Teen Hunks and 13 Nickelodeon Teen Hunks of the 1990s

MyMusic: A Webseries with Nudity and Deliberate Gay Subtexts

Back when I was a kid, and great herds of dinosaurs thundered across the prairie, every night you turned a knob on a small box in the living room called a "TV."  After it warmed up, you could watch a weekly episode of a "program," a dramatized story with ongoing premises and characters.

All programs began in September and ended in May.

There were programs playing on three different channels, so you had to choose one.  

After the episode ended, it was gone forever, so you could never see it again.  If you happened to be away from the TV while the episode was playing, you missed it forever.

Today there are over 100 channels.
Programs begin and end randomly through the year.
You can tape the episodes you miss to watch later.
Or you can go online and watch them whenever you want, on your tv, computer, ipad, or smart phone.
Plus there are web tv series that have never been anywhere near a tv set.

Deciding what to watch, when to watch it, and what platform to watch it on is all rather exhausting.

So my head is still reeling from MyMusic, a youtube series which starts out as a mockumentary, pretending to follow the daily activities of an indy music studio.  The employees are named after their jobs or the style of music they represent:

1. Indie, the CEO (Adam Busch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
2. Metal, the Production Manager (Jarrett Sleeper)
3. Idol, the Social Media Expert (Grace Helbig)
4. Scene, the Scene Girl (Lainey Lipson)
5. Flowchart, the Gay Intern (Jack Douglas)
6. HipHop, the HipHop Fan (Mychal Thompson)

In the second season, they added Toby Turner (top photo) as Satan, Paul Butcher of Zoey 101 as Boomer Pookie (left), and several others.

The characters all have a strong social media presence, with accounts on facebook, twitter, linkedin, yelp, tumblr, instagram, and so on.

But that's not all: the 8-minute episodes are compiled into a 24-minute "Sitcom Version" and broadcast (um, I mean uploaded) separately.

And the cast comments on the Sitcom Versions on another webseries, Sitcommentary.

Plus they have a podcast, a tumblr series, and an audience-interactive series called The Mosh.

Fictional characters merge with real people, fictional situations merge into commentaries on real pop culture events, mockumentary becomes reality.

Personally, it gives me a headache.  But I'm willing to put up with it for the constant male nudity and deliberate gay subtexts.

TV series aimed at the younger generation tend to be vigorously homophobic, like Family Guy and everything on Adult Swim.

This one, not so much.

Jun 9, 2014

Ernst Josephson: A Water Sprite Disguised as a Boy

Ernst Josephson (1851-1906) was the "father of Swedish modernism," a painter who drew on folkloric and mythological themes and infused his work with private symbolism.

Sounds like a fertile place to find some gay subtexts.

Sure enough, at age 20, Ernst was taking a nature walk in Norway when he encountered a water sprite, or Näcke, disguised as a beautiful young man with a violin.  The sprite's music almost lured him to his death.

A water sprite?  Or maybe a real person who suggested an erotic encounter?

Ernst went home and painted the sprite -- actually, many different sprites over the years.  The image of the beautiful young man haunted him.

He was plagued by mental illness through his life.  In 1877 he transcribed his madness into David and Saul: the Biblical king is soothed by the sound of David's harp.  Ok, so this time the beautiful young man is a saviour, not a threat.

Ernst kept looking for his own beautiful young man.  Maybe he found one in the young art student Anders Zorn (1860-1920).  In 1879 they embarked on an artistic tour of Italy, Germany, France, and Spain.

Spanish Blacksmiths (1879) looks like a naturalistic depiction of two men in the style of Velazquez, naturalistic, but are they really Ernst and Zorn?  And who is the black-robed woman standing behind them, threatening their idyll?

Maybe it's heterosexual marriage: Zorn married in 1886, and could no longer keep Ernst calm.

He began to behave bizarrely: he claimed that he was God, and demanded a sacrifice, like Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac.  He was taken back to Sweden, where he spent the rest of his life under psychiatric supervision.

He produced many more paintings and drawings of nude men, some too risque to display here.

He suffered a devastating blow when his masterpiece, Strömkarlen (another water sprite disguised as a beautiful young man, top photo) was rejected by the National Museum as too risque (the water sprite's penis is visible).  But Prince Eugen, the Duke of Närke, saved the day by adding it to his personal collection.

Today it can still be seen in his home in Stockholm, Waldemarsudde, now a museum (a great place for beefcake aficionados, by the way).

There's a nude statue of Ernst Josephson in Stadhusparken, Stockholm, right next to the nude August Strindberg.

Wikipedia says that actor Erland Josephson is his grandson, but it's wrong.  Ernst never married and had no children.

Jun 8, 2014

My Boss Lets Out His Trouser Snake

During my senior year in high school, my parents said "It's time you started earning your own money."  So I got a part-time job at the Carousel Snack Bar in Southpark Mall, about a ten-minute drive from home.

It had the curious idea that going to a mall was a rare, exciting event, not part of everyday life, so they sold the kind of snacks you would expect at a carnival: hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, and soft-serve ice cream.

There were benefits to the job: all the junk food I wanted, a bookstore down the hall, and a never-ending parade of high school and college jocks.

But I hated my boss, Mark Morris (not his real name).  He was about thirty, a little on the chunky side, with black hair, a square face with a little beard, and nerd glasses.  But what he lacked in physical presence, he made up for in raw machismo.

1. He swaggered.  He swore.  He barked out orders while swearing:  "Clean out the butter dispenser, damn it!"; "Restock the f*** ketchup!"; "Didn't I tell you to change the god** bun warmers!"

2. He kept us late every night, mopping, polishing, shining until an hour after the Mall closed.  I'm still fuming over being forced to stay late and mop out the store room, thereby missing the district jump quiz tournament and killing my chances of going to the regionals!

3. Every other sentence was a clever reference to penises or sex, or both:

"How's it hangin', Sarge?" (he called all the boys "Sarge").
"You guys better take your hands outta your pants and start pushing the the cotton candy!"
"It's cold enough out today to turn an Eskimo dick into a popsicle!"
"Hey, dickless wonder, I said go chop the onions!"

Considering that we were sixteen and seventeen-year olds, his comments seem dangerously close to sexual harassment.  But the term was not in common use yet.  I thought sexual references were standard in the work world.

Mark was only obnoxious to the boys.  The girls got away with murder:
"Of course you can take tomorrow off, Dear. Your studies come first."
"Of course you can skip the mopping, Sweetheart, if you're too tired."

The Carousel Snack Bar didn't have a restroom, so we went across the hall to use the one at Flowerama.

Of course, we had to ask Mark for permission to leave our post, and he always embarrassed the boys with comments implying that we intended to have sex:

"Gonna go choke the chicken, huh?"
"Gonna go spank the ol' trouser snake, huh?"
"Don't have too much fun over there, Sarge!"
"Sure, Sarge. Wanna borrow my Playboy?"

I wanted to quit, but my parents said "You have to stick to your commitments.  You'll be working for bad bosses your whole life."

Which is true, but no other boss has ever asked if I was going to "spank the ol' trouser snake."

Mark actually did keep a stack of Playboy magazines in the store room, and sometimes on a slow day he disappeared into the Flowerama restroom with one for fifteen or twenty minutes. We speculated that he was maybe "spanking" his own "trouser snake."

I pretended disgust, but actually, I wanted to see it.

Maybe I could think of a plan to get a glimpse of Mark's penis, and minimize the obnoxious comments at the same time.

I toyed with ideas while working at the Carousel full-time during the summer after high school graduation, and part-time again in the fall of my freshman year at Augustana.  Finally, in March, shortly after I got naked with the male witch,  I decided on a plan.  Joel, a very cute Augustana music major who was working part-time at Flowerama, agreed to be an accomplice.  First he put a wad of putty on the latch in the back stall in the bathroom, so it wouldn't lock.  Then we waited.

Until a rainy Tuesday night, long past the Christmas rush, so customers were scarce.  Suddenly Mark barked, "Clean out the cotton candy machine!  I want it so shiny you can see your dick in it!"  Then he stuck a rolled-up Playboy under his arm and headed across the hall.

About five minutes later, Joel called the store.  "Nobody here. He's ready."

"I'm going on break," I announced.

Flowerama was deserted except for Joel, who was pretending to be  immersed in a florist's magazine.  He nodded as I passed, walked to the back of the store and through the door marked "Employees Only."  It led to a corridor, with the employee restrooms across the hall.

I carefully opened the door to the men's restroom.  Two stalls, a urinal, and a sink.  I saw Mark's feet in the far stall.  And his pants and underwear.

Not gathered around his ankles.  All the way off, carefully folded, at his feet.

The plan was to burst into the stall and yell "Caught you!", but this was much better!

I sneaked across the floor, noiselessly, and scooped up his pants and underwear.

"Hey!" Mark yelled from inside.  "What 're you...."

I ran, bursting through the restroom door and the "employees only door" while Mark was still fiddling with the latch on the stall.  I deposited his clothes on a tray of lilacs, then ducked behind the checkout counter next a giggling Joel.

Mark burst out a moment later, naked from the waist down.  Still fully aroused.

He saw his pants on the lilac tray, stomped over and picked them up, glared at us, and then stomped back to the store room to get dressed.

I worked at the Carousel Snack Bar for another few weeks, finally quitting when my modeling career started.

Mark never talked about what happened, but he made far fewer references to the penises and sexual appetites of his employees.

By the way, his trouser snake was python-sized.

See also: My Brief Modeling Career and A Gay Romance on Barnaby Jones

Spring 1965: The Book of Cute Boys

I love books.  Who cares about Kindles and Scribds and .pdfs?  I love browsing through used bookstores, driving home from the mall with a Barnes and Noble bag beside me, checking my recommendations on Amazon.

And reading every night before turning out the light.

Whenever I'm depressed, I rearrange my books.

I have a lot of them.  I've been buying at least 2 per week since I moved out of my parents' house in 1985.  That adds up to over 3,000, but actually I have only about 1,000.  Every time I move, I pare down my collection to 30 boxes.

Where did this bibliomania start?  Maybe with my parents, who disapproved of books.  They were at best a waste of time, and more likely sinful.  The only way I could get away with reading was to claim that it was a school assignment (evidently my teachers assigned a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels).

Or maybe it's all due to a traumatic incident that happened when I was about four years old, when we were still living on Randolph Street in Garrett,  Indiana.

 I had a Little Golden Book  I couldn't read most of the words yet, but the front cover showed two boys hugging and waving.  So I called it my Book of Cute Boys.

I think it was this adaptation of the Disney movie The Swiss Family Robinson, about a family shipwrecked on a desert island.  The publication date is right.

One day in the spring of 1965, around the time that I chased the Boy with the Guitar, we were driving somewhere on a scary country road, and I was reading in the back seat (this was before car seats, or even seatbelts).  Dad yelled back, "Don't read in the car!"

But the book was too beautiful to look away.  Look at this man hugging a muscular blond boy.  He's wearing girls' shoes. They have v's of skin visible where their shirts are unbuttoned to their chests.

I said something like "I wanna see the cute boys."

"Dammit, Skeezix, do you want to get sick?"

I kept reading...

Look at blond boy now: he's much bigger and taller. The elephant is trying to unbutton his shirt, while the boy in purple pants looks on, his hand jauntily on his hip.

Dad always got mad easily while driving.  He may have warned me a few more times.  Then, sucking his lower lip  in his look of pure fury, he reached back, grabbed The Book of Cute Boys from my hands, and threw it out the car window.

It was lost forever!

There's a lot of gay symbolism in that distant memory:

Was Dad worried that I would get motion sickness from reading in the car, or that I would get sick from looking at cute boys?

(He only called me Skeezix when I was subverting gender expectations, as when Bill and I wanted to become a "Mama" and a "Papa.")

When he threw away the book, was he trying to expel my same-sex desire in a sort of exorcism?

From that day on, my same-sex desire would be denied, suppressed, challenged, explained as something else, criticized, excoriated, qualified, discussed, or tolerated.

It would never again be allowed to just exist.

I've spent my life buying that book over and over again, but nothing will bring that innocence back.  

See also: The Boy with the Guitar; The Swiss Family Robinson.

Summer 1969: Give Me a Prehistoric Man

During the summer of 1969, when I was 8 1/2 years old, my Grandma Davis came to visit, and took us to the store to pick out any toy we wanted. My brother Kenny asked for a bicycle, and I asked for a Cave Man Toy Set.

"Are you sure you don't want a bicycle, too?"  Grandma asked in surprise.

Certainly not.  What fun could you possibly have with a bicycle?

But just look at Cave Man Toy Set: hard-muscled guys in loincloths throwing spears and rocks at gigantic dinosaurs!  (This was before toymakers realized that dinosaurs and prehistoric humans didn't coexist).

My boyfriend Bill agreed with my decision.  We spent many hours with that Toy Set, imagining jungle explorations, nick-of-time rescues from warring tribes or brontosauri, and "my hero" hugs.

Cave men were more fun than other action figures.  Our church taught that the world was created about 6,000 years ago, so evolution was a lie, there was no prehistory, and there had never been any cave men. So in addition to the beefcake, you had the thrill of blasphemy.

My Grandma Davis wasn't entirely opposed to the idea of prehistory.  One day in her attic I found this Van Loon Story of Mankind, published in 1926, with some muscular cave men on the cover.

Most museums had exhibits featuring full-sized statues of prehistoric bodybuilders.  In the Putnam Museum in Davenport, they were wearing loincloths, but in the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, they were naked!

You almost never saw or heard of a cave woman.  I got the distinct impression that our ancestors were all male, roaming around naked in hunter-gatherer bands.

Maybe this was before Adam and Eve, so women hadn't been created yet.

See also: Tarzan Toys; Dan and I Fight Evil-Lution.