Jan 10, 2015

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

  Over thirty years ago, I was struggling to "figure it out" in the Year of the Cat, and my quest was illustrated by the songs of Rod/Al Stewart.  I couldn't turn on the radio without hearing his wheezy, gravelly voice wailing out a ballad with a story attached.  And the stories were always about coming out.  I didn't find out until researching this post that they were two different people.   It's still hard to tell them apart.  Both British, born in 1945, both with that androgynous 1970s look.  When you do a google image search, you get more shirtless and swimsuit clad photos of Rod.      For Al, all you get are a lot of photos that the search engine insists are him, but aren't.  Like this one.  Al's songs were easier to find a gay subtext in.  "On the Border": About a revolution in your mind..  "Time Passages": The years are slipping by, and you're not finding it.  "Year of the Cat": In a Latin American country, you meet a girl whose dress is running in the rain.  She brings you to a hidden door. You go inside, spend the night, and realize that you've lost your ticket, so you're going to stay awhile.     I guess it's supposed to be about a romantic interlude, but I found it rather sinister.  The girl is using some kind of black magic to keep you trapped in a heterosexual prison.   "Broadway Hotel" You told the man in the Broadway Hotel Nothing was stranger than being yourself And he replied, with a tear in his eye  Love was a rollaway.  You tried finding love everywhere, and then you met the man in the Broadway hotel.      Most of Rod's songs were aggressively about girls! girls! girls!  So it took a little tweaking to make them about being gay.  "Tonight's the Night." You draw the shades, pour the wine, and prepare to have sex with a virgin girl, because "tonight's the night."  But drop the "girl," and you're preparing to have sex with a man.  "You're in my Heart": You're an essay in glamour -- please pardon the grammar, but you're every schoolboy's dream.  Ok, well, I'm pretty sure that Shaun Cassidy was every schoolboy's dream.       "I Was Only Joking": Rod and his friends were Valentinos, and broke some hearts, without specifying who those hearts belonged to.  And one that never got air time -- at least, I never heard it, was about a gay guy.  "The Killing of Georgie": His friend George was killed in a homophobic hate crime.  It actually uses the word "gay," a rarity in 1977.   See also: Subtext Songs of the 1980s; The Eagles; and Kissing Boys to the BeeGees.   

Brian Kerwin: Not Just a Deputy

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Jan 9, 2015

The League of Extraordinarily Heterosexist Gentlemen

  I was looking forward to seeing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).  What's not to like about a Victorian England with steam-powered submarines and tanks?  Or a group of secret agents made up of Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, H. Rider Haggard's Alan Quartermain, and other fictional characters of the era?   Including a grown-up Tom Sawyer (Shane West, left)?  I knew that Mark Twain wrote some novels about the grown-up Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as secret agents.  And Oscar Wilde's gay antihero Dorian Gray?  I heard some bad things about the movie.  Like the stars had a three-picture contract that was scrapped.  And director Stephen Norrington hated it so much that he swore off directing for good.  But I said to myself, obviously some members of the audience haven't read the original novels, and won't get the jokes.  Then I started watching.    The set-up is interesting enough.  The mysterious M, a precursor to the M who heads the British secret service in the James Bond novels, recruits a group of action heroes.  The previously mentioned four, plus:  5. Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng, left, whose Mr. Hyde is an Incredible Hulk clone) 6. Mina Harker (from Dracula) 7. "An invisible man" (Tony Curran, below; they couldn't get permission to use The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells).      Their opponent, the villainous Darth Vader-like Fantom, plans to start World War I a little early by blowing up Venice.  There are more plot twists, double-agents, and betrayals.  I think.  It's all so very, very tedious that I kept falling asleep.  When I wasn't getting angry about the constant heterosexism.  These Extraordinary Gentlemen are all very, very, very heterosexual.  The older ones are all mourning dead wives, and the younger ones spend their time flirting with Mina Harker, telling each other "She's out of your league," or thinking "She'll never be interested in anyone like me."  The gay subtexts of the original novels are gone.  Even Dorian Gray has been de-gayed.  He gazes at men as unwelcome competition in his quest to get with Mina.    The only gay subtext of any sort comes between Tom Sawyer and Alan Quartermain, who can't keep their hands off each other, and keep talking about the size of each others' "guns."  But lest we get "the wrong idea," Quartermain explains that he lost his son, and he's trying to be a father figure to Tom.  There wasn't even any decent beefcake, just the extraordinarily ugly Dr. Jekyl with his shirt off and whatever CGI muscle they used for Mr. Hyde.  Nothing to take my mind off everyone congratulating each other on being heterosexual and yelling "Aren't you happy that gay people don't exist!"  I hated this movie.  See also: Robert Louis Stevenson; Jules Verne; H. Rider Haggard. 

Rod Taylor: Ignoring the Girl

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Jan 8, 2015

Knight Rider: Detective, Boyfriend, and Car

  Knight Rider (1982-86) was similar to many of the detective adventure series of the 1980s, especially  Magnum PI -- a sly antihero with a hairy chest and tight jeans solves crimes (mostly involving supermodels)  with the assistance of an uptight, gay-vague mentor.  But in this case the mentor is a talking car named Kitt (voiced by William Daniels).  Apparently the producers wanted buddy-bonding without any of those pesky gay subtexts, and what better way to eliminate longing glances than by making the buddy a car? And, indeed, during the first few seasons, longing glances are at a minimum as Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) rescues or teams up with ladies: con artists, thiefs, daughters of ranchers, ex-girlfriends, reporters, even a student at a bodyguard school.       It sounded far too heterosexist to even glance at, so I never saw a single episode.  Until I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, where it was a gay favorite.  Why?  Hasselhoff was cute, but he rarely took his clothes off, and he was surrounded by ladies.           It turns out that the talking car wasn't enough.  In the fourth season (1985-86), producers gave Michael a human buddy: RC3 (Peter Parros), an immensely muscular, street-smart mechanic whom Michael encounters fighting some bad guys.  He gets a job at Michael's funding organization, FLAG (Foundation for Law and Government), and spent his time yelling "Michael, help!" or "Are you all right?" or glancing longingly at Michael.           They went undercover together, took vacations to Chicago to listen to jazz, and got tied up by baddies side by side in muscle shirts.  Michael continued to court women, but RC3 displayed little or no heterosexual interest.  His devotion to Michael was total.          After Knight Rider, David Hasselhoff went on to the long-running Baywatch, a Playboy series about the breasts of lady lifeguards jiggling in slow motion (with an occasional far shot of a guy). He is rumored to be gay in real life, and his performed his nightclub act, "An Evening with the Hoff," at gay clubs.  Peter Parros starred in a revised version of Adam-12 (with a gay-bashing episode) before settling down to a career of taking off his shirt in soap operas.