Aug 16, 2014

Pehlwani Wrestling of India

It seems that every culture has its own way of getting muscular men to take off most of their clothes and press their bodies together, while audiences watch.

Oil Wrestling in Turkey
Naadam in Mongolia
Sumo in Japan
Lucha Libre in Mexico

And Pehlwani in India.



Pehlwani or Kusti has been practiced in India for thousands of years, but it was first codified by the Mughal Emperor Babur (1483-1530).   You meet your opponent in the middle of a ring scraped from the dirt, wearing nothing but traditional Indian underwear, a skimpy loincloth called a kaupinam.

The object is to pin your opponent to the ground without kicking, hitting, or punching. And to show off your muscles.

It is a spiritual exercise as well as a sport, with the wrestlers dedicating their lives to the buffed god Hanuman.  They are expected to follow a strict dietary regiment, and get up at 3:00 am to spend the day training.





There are competitions throughout India and the Indian Diaspora, and in the annual Asian Games.  (This year they will be held in Seoul, South Korea, in August and September).











However, with the increasing globalization of sports, most pehlwani cross-train with Graeco-Roman wrestling and judo.  And professional wrestlers study pehlwan techniques.  It's rare to see "pure" pehlwani anymore.

There's a lot of internet buzz, commentators screaming that the pehlwani "weren't gay!  Absolutely not!  Can't two guys strip down to their underwear and grab each other without people thinking they're gay?"

Which, of course, suggests that the sport was intensely homoerotic.

See also: The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism; A Bodybuilding Contest in India




Aug 15, 2014

Gavin Fox: Not Enough Nudity

Gavin Fox, the son of Canadian tv star David Fox, has not given his spectacular physique the exposure it deserves.

He got his start as a production assistant, working for such programs as The Adventures of Sam and Max, Bob and Margaret, and Ned's Newt.




 His first acting role was a two-episode story arc on the gay-themed Queer as Folk (2003) that didn't require him to take his shirt off.

Then he played a cop on Tarzan, a fireman on Code Breakers, and a bouncer on Naturally, plus Sadie,  "Guard," "Muscular Boyfriend," and "Trainer."  All macho roles, not requiring substantial nudity.








He does get naked as Rahm the Baptist in A Beginner's Guide to Endings (2010).

To date, Gavin's most substantial role has been in Connor Undercover (2010-2011), an adventure series about a teenager(Max Morrow) drawn into the world of political espionage.  Gavin plays secret agent Eduardo Garcia, who trains Connor in the spy biz, and sometimes requires rescue himself.  There may be some gay subtexts there, but no nudity.




Somebody give this guy a job playing Tarzan or Conan.





Aug 14, 2014

Devon Ke Dev: Queer India Comes to Television

Like many former British colonial possessions, India has a rather homophobic climate.  Sodomy laws were just re-instated, gay-themed movies are regularly censored, and pundits continually howl "We don't have that here!  It is foreign to our culture!"

Some writers and scholars have dared to reveal the rich history of queer Indian mythology, from gender-changing gods to kings who fall in kings, but usually they're part of the Indian Diaspora, living in North America or Europe.

Devdutt Pattanaik lives in Mumbai, where he is an expert on economics and business management.  And in his spare time, he writes about Hindu mythology.

With a recognition of gender-atypical and gay-positive Hindu mythology:

The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore
Shikhandi, and Other Tales They Don't Tell You
The Pregnant King

His popular introduction to the god Shiva has been adapted into a television series, Devon Ke Dev...Mahadev (Lord of Lords, Mahadev), with 140 episodes so far.  The main cast includes:

1. Mohit Raina as Shiva







2. Saurabh Raj Jain as Vishnu, Krishna, and Rama
3. Alpesh Dhakan as Ganesha













4. Vishal Kotian as Hanuman

Plus gods, sages, kings, queens, demons, and monsters.

You can see some episodes on youtube.  It's in Hindi, but there's substantial beefcake and some soulful looks.  No doubt gay subtexts.

Or even texts.

See also: The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism

Aug 13, 2014

Steve Burton: Out of This World

During the 1960s, there was a fad of tv programs about adults who were "different" and had to keep their secret lives hidden from the world.  During the 1980s, there was a fad of tv programs about teens with secret lives that they had to keep hidden from the world: My Secret Identity, Harry and the Hendersons, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, Alf, Small Wonder, Teen Angel.

On Out of This World (1987-91), the teenage Evie (Maureen Flannigan) discovers that she is half-alien.  She lives with her human mother, and her father, Troy from the planet Antares (voiced by Burt Reynolds), communicates with her through a cube. Aliens have all sorts of magical powers, from freezing time to controlling the weather, and disastrous misuse or accidental use of powers fuels the plots.



Along with Evie's attempts to live a "normal" life and her ongoing fear of discovery.

Gay kids could always relate to tv programs about being different and having secrets, but there was more.

A lot more.

Evie's on-off boyfriend, Chris, was played by Steve Burton, age 17 when the show began, blond, buffed, with six-pack abs and biceps that seemed to get bigger every episode.



And when the plotlines didn't call for his shirt to come off, the teen magazines obligingly plastered his shirtless and swimsuit-clad body over almost every page.











After Out of This World, Steve landed the role of mob enforcer turned body guard turned coffee importer Jason Morgan on the soap General Hospital.  But he still had time for beefcake photos, including the cover of Playgirl.














Still amazingly buff in his 40s, Steve recently announced that he will be leaving General Hospital to work on other projects.  Hopefully involving beefcake photos.

Aug 12, 2014

What's Gay About Chess?

When I was in junior high, chess was a big deal. When Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky to win the World Chess Championship, he became a national hero.  Lest anyone think that chess was "for sissies," magazine and newspaper articles emphasized his muscular physique and "regular guy" interests.

I remember one article with a description, in loving detail, of a lunch where Bobby Fischer orders a steak, eats a piece, and grunts "Good!", like one of those cave men in the Campbell's Manhandler commercials ("how do you handle a hungry ma..aa...aan?").

This was before he started subscribing to white supremacist literature, praising Hitler, and making shocking racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic comments.



In junior high, we played chess all the time, before class, at lunch, on the bus, in the swimming pool.

It was as homoerotic as wrestling.  You sit across from your opponent, stare at him, memorize his face, learn every detail of his physique, the heft of his chest, the curve of his biceps.

Where else can you get away with staring at a cute guy for 10-15 minutes?

One of my fondest memories of my boyfriend Dan is a game of chess.  He was a very fast player, rushing to move his piece before I had a chance to take my hand away from mine.  So sometimes our hands touched.  I still remember its warmth.


Chess tournaments were as well-attended as wrestling tournaments, and with bigger trophies.  In 1975 I met the Estonian wrestling brothers when George trounced me at a tournament at Washington Junior High.

The fad eventually faded away, like all fads do. I knew only a few people in high school who played, and none in college.

But for a few  years, chess offered a homoerotic idyll nearly as good as wrestling.


(By the way, today's reigning chess champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, is equally athletic, and not racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic.)


See also: One Night in Bangkok

Cory Haim's Bubble Bath


The Lost Boys (1987) was directed by Joel Schumacher, who is gay, and starred teen idol Corey Haim, who was widely rumored to be gay at the time. The plot, about high schooler Sam Emerson (Corey) discovering that his older brother  Michael (Jason Patric) has been seduced by androgynous vampire David (Kiefer Sutherland), is overloaded with homoromantic same-sex bonds: Sam and and Michael, Michael and David, Sam and the vampire-hunting teen Frog (played by Corey's real-life best friend, Corey Feldman).


There are endless beefcake scenes and vows of same-sex commitment, but only one act of heterosexual intercourse, with Michael's body on display and the woman's hidden from view, instead of the usual scenes of a nude woman atop a fully-clothed man. Surely even the most oblivious heterosexual can find such blatant slippages and subtexts!

But not one of the nearly 200 user reviews on the Internet Movie Database or nearly 500 fans who posted to a Lost Boys message board noticed the beefcake, the lack of attention to girls, or the many homoromantic bonds.

 One fan did ask “Is Sam gay?” and as evidence, pointed out that:
1. He has a poster of contemporary heartthrob Rob Lowe on his bedroom wall
2. He wears a “Born to Shop” T-shirt
3. He takes bubble baths
4. He has a pet dog.
5. He sings an old novelty song with the line “I’m a lonely girl, ain’t got a man.”
That is, he uses gender-transgressive behavior (like owning a dog?) as proof.



But even those broadly-drawn gender-transgressions are lost on most fans. One stated, “I’ve seen that movie probably somewhere around fifty times, and never once stopped to think that [Sam] was supposed to be gay.”  They never stop to think that any fictional character is gay, unless he is Wearing a Sign.

 Fans commenting on the "Is Sam gay?" post enthusiastically pointed out that Sam was not Wearing a Sign, so he must necessarily be taken as heterosexual.

About the beefcake poster: “It was his grandfather’s idea, to give him a manly role model! It has nothing to do with being gay!” (Would Grandpa really consider androgynous prettyboy Rob Lowe a better candidate for displaying machismo than contemporary man-mountains like Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris?)

 About the “Born to Shop” t-shirt: “It was the fashion in 1987! It has nothing to do with being gay!”

Or they bring up the  myth that only adults are gay: "He’s fifteen years old, too young to be gay!”

Or the myth of the Discovery of Girls: “He hasn’t begun to notice girls yet, it doesn’t mean he’s gay!”

Anything they can think of that helps them keep on believing that the world of fiction belongs to heterosexuals only.

See also: Tad Hilgenbrink, Corey Haim for the 2000s.; and Clarence: Gay Characters on Kids' TV.

Aug 11, 2014

The First Nudie Musical: 1970s TV Stars Get Naked

A few years after Oh, Calcutta! came The First Nudie Musical (1976), a sort of smutty parody of the 1930s "let's save something by putting on a show!" musicals with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.

Down-and-out producer Harry Schechter (Stephen Nathan, right) and his wisecracking secretary Rosie (Cindy Williams of Laverne and Shirley) try to save their studio with a pornographic musical.

They bet the debtors that they can finish in two weeks.  So they write a script about a naive country girl in the big city, find a down-and-out director (Bruce Kimmel, left), and hire a lot of down-and-out actors (including Diana Canova of Soap).  Also, Richie Cunningham himself, Ron Howard, has a cameo in an early scene.


It turns out to be a big hit, everybody is happy, and to obey the heterosexist mandate, Harry and Rose fall in love.









We only see a few scenes of the movie-within-a-movie.  It appears to be similar to Oh! Calcutta!, with songs about orgasms, dildos, and masturbation.
None of the main cast is nude, but there is ample male and female frontal nudity.  Nothing hard-core (presumably that occurred in the scenes we don't see).

I like the Stunt Cock.  "Are you always like that?" "Yeah, always."

And it's fun to hear prim, proper Shirley yelling "Cue the Stunt Cock!"  I want that on my business cards.



There are no gay men, but crossdressing may be referenced in the song "Perversion" ("I'll be the king, and you'll be the queen")/









Lesbians are represented only in a predatory seduction scene:

Lesbian, butch, dyke
You can call it what you like, but it's what I am and what I'll always be
Lesbian, butch, dyke
You can call me Mike, and not Jane or Susan or Penelope









Stephen Nathan played Jesus in Godspell, and also appeared in Busting Loose, one of my favorite tv shows from high school.  He is now a producer, with credits including Joan of Arcadia, Bones, and Family Law.  

Bruce Kimmel was a fixture on 1970s tv, mostly playing cute, cuddly nebbish types on The Partridge Family, M*A*S*H, Marcus Welby, Happy Days, Alice, and Laverne and Shirley.  In 1999, he produced Out at the Movies, about LGBT characters in film.  He's also written several novels with gay characters.

Aug 10, 2014

The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism


If I had to select a religion based on beefcake alone, Jainism would be #1, where the holy men walk around naked.

But #2 would have to be Hinduism.  Where else can you find a god who offers wisdom, compassion, and enlightenment plus a bodybuilder's physique?

And they make them big.  Statues of Hindu gods are some of the tallest in the world.  Here are the top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism.

The Trimurti, the three Great Gods who represent different aspects of the Divine, are a little too esoteric for representation.  Only Lord Shiva, who destroys and transforms life, appears often.









1. Lord Shiva at Rishikesh, on the banks of the Ganges.  It was washed away by flood waters in 2010.

2. There are several other statues of Lord Shiva that are even bigger.  The one in Kachnar City, Jabalpur is 75 feet tall.

By the way, Mohit Raina (top photo) plays Lord Shiva in the popular Indian tv series Devon ke Dev (2011-)











3. Lord Vishnu, who preserves and maintains life, is represented by this very detailed -- and very large -- bust in Bali.









4. Vishnu has 10 avatars, for various incarnations of the world.  The one for humans, Lord Krishna, receives lots of devotion.  For members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he's the ultimate god of the universe.  Usually he's portrayed as a baby, or as a beautiful youth. Here he stands beside his bull, Nandi.












5. Another avatar of Vishnu, Rama, lived about 1.2 million years ago.  He is the protagonist of the Ramayana and a veritable action hero.  Sometimes he's portrayed with his devoted wife Parvati at his side, but alone, he's used for both secular and profane purposes.  Here a young boy appears to be crawling under his legs.




More after the break









Fall 1991: Finding Larry's Fetish

I spent the fall of 1991 in Nashville, studying Biblical Hebrew at Vanderbilt Divinity School and dating country-western stars.

I also met Larry, one of the "lost souls" that I'm always drawn to.

He was 35 years old, with dark curly hair, a respectable physique (he worked out every day) -- and not bad beneath the belt.

But he grew up in a Bible-belt fundamentalist church -- nearly as bad as the Nazarenes -- and didn't come out until two years ago.  During that time, he had five dates.  And never a second date.

He had so many personal quirks that he turned everyone off.

His life was regimented to the point of obsession.  He got up at the same time every morning, went to bed at the same time every evening, and had the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.



He worked at the IRS Office on Broadway in Nashville, the most  sinister, soulless building you can imagine.

His only off-work passion was opera.  He bought all of the operas on cd that he could find, and had season tickets to both the Nashville and Memphis Operas.  Once a year he drove all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for their opera festival (which he considered the best in the world).

With all of the expenditures on opera, Larry had little money for anything else.  He never went to a movie, or out to dinner.


His living room was completely bare except for one reclining chair,  a stereo, and a bookcase containing 130,000 opera cds.

If all that wasn't enough to scare guys off, Larry had many more quirks:

1. He did not own a television.
2. He changed his sheets and towels every day.
3. No food or beverages could be consumed in his apartment, except while sitting at the kitchen table.
4. He frequently said "yum" while eating.
5. He kept an exact count of every penny he spent in a little notebook.
6. He showered, and insisted that his partner shower, both before and after sexual intimacy.

No wonder he had only been on five dates.

"You have to get out into the gay community," I told him.  "Find guys who share your interests."

"I hate gay guys!" he exclaimed.  "All they're into is sex and dancing."

"That's just the party crowd.  There are plenty of other gay activities."

So I took him on a grand tour of Nashville's Gay Scene.

1. The Metropolitan Community Church
"Reminds me too much of my childhood church!"

2. Black and White Men Together
"What will I do if I'm into a white guy?"

3. A gay cowboy bar
"Ugh!  Country-Western music!"

4. Nashville AIDS Network
"Too depressing!"

5. The Imperial Court
"I'm not into drag queens!"

6.  A gay soccer team
"I hate sports!"

8. Gay nudists
"I'm too shy!"

9.-15. Politics? Gay Pride Planning Committee?  Gay fathers?  Gardening? Chubby chasers?  Board games?  Motorcycle club?

16. Um...S&M?

"I'm not into pain!  Well...maybe we could try it."

So we tried various configurations.  Top, bottom, ropes, chains, clamps clothes pins, gags, blindfolds, vibrators, whipping, flogging, spanking....

"Could we do this with opera in the background?"

It makes sense: his life was all about control, so his fetish was about giving up control.

Larry soon found his way into the gay leather world.  In 1993 he was a participant in the International Mr. Leather competition.   1994 he became one of the founders of the Tennessee Leather Tribe.

It's all about finding your niche. Or in Larry's case, your fetish.

Larry's story continues here.

See also: My Date with the Country-Western Star and The Slave Boy of Castro Street.

Rex Smith: Not Gay, in Spite of the Outfits

When I was in college (1978-82), I still read teen magazines; they were the only place to get beefcake images in the small-town Midwest.  And this was the image I saw most often: Rex Smith, a gleaming, smooth chest in a brown leather vest and highly bulgeworthy leather pants.

Tiger Beat is not good at background information on its fave raves, so I learned nothing else about him.  Although I assumed that such a flamboyantly feminine guy in a leather catsuit must be gay.

Turns out Rex Smith was a pop star in the midst of a 10-album career, with several charting singles, including "You Take My Breath Away" and "Never Gonna Give You Up." I often heard those songs playing in the distance, along with a steady diet of Neil Diamond, But I didn't make the connection.  At the time, I was busy listening for Gay Subtext songs like "Physical" and "I'm Coming Out."



His Broadway career began with the role of Danny Zuko in Grease in 1978, and went on to The Pirates of Penzance, The Human Comedy, Sunset Boulevard, and Annie Get Your Gun.














He has done some work on television, including some tv-movies about finding love, a two-year run on on the soap As the World Turns, and Street Hawk (1985), a Knight Rider clone about a cop crippled in an accident who gets a super-motorcycle.

And the movie version of Pirates of Penzance, for which he wore another pair of extraordinarily tight leather pants and buddy-bonded with Kevin Kline.






Currently Rex and his son Brandon are starring in the reality webseries Smith & Smith Unlimited, about father-son Hollywood producers.  You can see a clip on his official website.

Apparently not gay, and maybe even homophobic.  The entire country of the Philippines was up in arms when singer and gay icon Charice Pempengco was rehearsing for a corporate event in Cebu, and Rex , also performing at the venue, stormed in, told her to "stop doing what you're doing," and allegedly used a homophobic slur.

See also: Rod and Al Stewart: Coming Out in the Year of the Cat.