Apr 18, 2015

More 1970s Saturday Morning Beefcake

During the late 1970s, I watched several live-action Saturday morning tv programs, like Space Academy and The Kids from C.A.P.E.R., but the 70s Live Action Kid Vid website gives some details about many that I never heard of.  They vanished quickly, and left little trace on DVD, though you may be able to find uploads on youtube.  Here are the four that look most interesting:

1. Ark II (1976-77): a sort of futuristic trucker show about Jonah (Terry Lester) driving around in a post-apocalyptic world solving people's personal problems, accompanied by his teen sidekicks Samuel (Jose Flores) and Ruth (Jean Marie Hon), plus a talking chimp.  Terry Lester, who was gay in real life, went on to become a soap opera hunk on The Young and the Restless.









2. Dr. Shrinker (1976-77), a segment of the Krofft Supershow: the teens Brad (Ted Eccles) and BJ (Susan Lawrence), plus their goofy friend Gordie (Boomer MacKay), are trapped on a desert island with a mad scientist who shrinks them.

Child star Ted Eccles starred in In Cold Blood (1967) and My Side of the Mountain (1969), and muscled up to hug James Coburn in The Honkers (1972) and get terrorized by Scott Jacoby in Bad Ronald (1974).





3. Bigfoot and Wildboy (1977-78), another segment of the Krofft Supershow: Bigfoot (Ray Young) and his teen sidekick Wildboy (Joseph Butcher) roam the Pacific Northwest, solving people's personal problems.  Sounds like some interspecies buddy-bonding occurred.







The Krofft Supershow was a very busy program. It also featured musical groups like The Bay City Rollers and Michael Lembeck (center) as Kaptain Kool (with the Kongs).



4. Jason of Star Command (1978-81): Jason (Craig Littler) and his assistants (including James Doohan, Scotty on Star Trek) work to keep the evil Dragos from taking over the galaxy in this Space Academy spin-off.

Craig Littler performed in many movies and tv programs, including Blazing Saddles (1974) and Laverne and Shirley.  In the 1990s, he became the voice of Grey Poupon mustard in tv commercials ("Pardon me -- do you have any Grey Poupon?").


The Gay Men of Roy Crane's Adventure Comics

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, a cute teenage boy rode by on his bicycle every morning about 6:00 am and threw a tightly-bound copy of the Rock Island Argus onto our porch.

It had to stay in pristine condition, untouched, until after dinner, when Mom got around to reading it -- and doing the crossword puzzle. Some of my favorite memories involve the family gathered around the tv, watching The Flying Nun or The Brady Bunch while Mom called out crossword puzzle clues.

"Star of Casablanca, five letters, begins with an I."
"Vegetable related to the carrot, seven letters.  I have R and P."
"Boomer, you'll know this one!  Greek god, nine letters, begins with a H"





Dad got the paper next.  By the time the kids' turns came around, it was nearly bedtime.  I still instinctively associate newspapers and bedtime.

I didn't care much for the news, editorials, or sports (except when there was a picture of a cute athlete).  I read "Lifestyle", with movie reviews and tv listings and events going on in town, and the comics page.

The Moline Dispatch, from the town next door, got all of the good comics: Peanuts, BC, The Wizard of Id, Doonesbury.  I didn't realize it at the time, but the Argus got mostly dinosaurs limping through their senescence, with costumes, language, and themes that delighted Grandma forty years ago.

I just thought they were bizarre.

Still, they were sometimes good for beefcake.

Alley Oop, a muscular cave man transported to the modern era through a plot device lost to history.

Prince Valiant, a knight in King Arthur's court transported to pre-Columbian North America.

Out Our Way, a single panel strip reminiscing about the joys of the Great Depression, mostly involving naked boys.

Or gay subtexts.

Captain Easy seemed to involve the swashbuckling adventures of a pair of boyfriends, the taciturn, muscular Easy and the cheerful, eyeglassed Wash.

Neither looked twice at a woman.








How was I to know that when Wash Tubbs was first introduced in 1924, the creation of cartoonist Roy Crane,  he fell in love with every woman in sight: "Gosh! Wotta bon-bon!  Wotta tomato!"

In 1929, he hooked up with Captain Easy, who soon took over the strip and changed the focus from humor to adventure.  Wash tagged along, gazing lustfully at semi-clad ladies as comic relief for 40 years.   I was just reading during a period of quiescence.











Buz Sawyer had no character named Buz Sawyer.  It was a humor strip about a middle-aged guy named Roscoe Sweeney, a bachelor who had no interest in women.  He lived with his adult sister.

He had found a loophole in the "grow up, get married, have kids" mandate.  A way to live with a woman without having to do any gross sex things!





How was I to know that originally Roscoe Sweeney was the sidekick of World War II flying ace Buz Sawyer, introduced by Roy Crane in 1943?  Or that both Buz and Roscoe fell in love with many half-naked women during their adventures in the 1940s and 1950s?

I was just reading about the middle-aged Roscoe, living a quiet domestic life in a 1960s suburb, his adventurous and hetero-horny days long forgotten.

By the way, Roy Crane, a pioneer of the adventure comic strip, died in 1977.  No doubt he was unaware of the accidental gay meanings that some of his readers found in his strips.

Dean Paul Martin: Bisexual Rat Pack Kid

The Desi in the1960s  boy band Dino, Desi, and Billy was Desi Arnaz Jr., of course, and the Dino was Dean Paul Martin (left), the 13-year old son of Rat Packer Dean Martin.  Dino was very rich, very famous, and very talented, but not very focused.  He was good at so many things that he couldn't decide on one.

After his group disbanded, Dino played professional tennis and semi-pro football; he got his pilot's license; he studied medicine and joined the National Guard.  He started calling himself Dean Paul instead of Dino. He changed into a blond. He developed a spectacular physique.












And he acted, of course.  Not a lot -- he was too busy.  7 movies, mostly in roles as playboys or a woman's illcit lover; some guest spots on tv shows (including his Dad's Dean Martin Comedy Hour), and some "as himself" appearances on talk shows and game shows.






Dean's least heterosexist role was in Misfits of Science  (1985-88), part of the mid-1980s fad for science fiction comedies (others included Automan, Max Headroom, and The Greatest American Hero).  He played Dr. Billy Hayes, a young scientist who travels around in an ice cream truck with a group of mutants with weird powers.  15 episodes appeared during the 1985-85 season, and another in 1988.  A lot of homoerotic buddy-bonding (notice the number of people who can't keep their hands to themselves in this photo), and not a lot of heterosexual machinations.



Dean was married to women twice, briefly, but rumor has it that he enjoyed the company of men and women both.  He appeared in a 1979 issue of After Dark, the interview-and-revealing photo magazine aimed primarily at an audience of gay men.

He died in 1987 when the small plane he was flying crashed.  His son, Alexander Martin, is also an actor.

See also: The Gay Rat Pack; Cesar Tells about His Hookup with Desi Arnaz Jr.



Apr 17, 2015

The 12 Most Homophobic, Heterosexist, and Horrible Songs

Heterosexism is commonplace in the "girl! girl! girl!' banter of popular music.  But some songs are so heterosexist, homophobic, or otherwise horrible that I literally can't stand to hear them.  If they come on tv, I click the channel, and if I can't find the remote, I run from the room.  If they're playing in a store, I leave. And heaven help the friend who starts singing one of them!

1. "It's a Man's World" (James Brown, 1966)

It's a man's world, but you're nothing...nothing at all, without a woman!

(See: Homophobic Moments in Music)

2. "She Bangs" (Ricky Martin, 2000).

A gay guy singing about how much he likes the way a girl moves, and then a pun on "shebang" and a dirty phrase for sex.  Can't get any more Uncle Tom than that.


3. "Stand Tall" (Burton Cummings, 1976)

December 1976: I was home sick, looking for a gay comic book, and thinking "No way am I a swish!"  And I heard on the radio:

Stand tall, don't you fall, don't go and do something foolish
All you're feeling right now is silly human pride.

Right, not gay, don't do anything foolish.



4. "Lady" (Kenny Rogers, 1980).

October 1980. I was cruising at the levee, looking for love, negotiating the incessant "what girl do you like?" chants of my family and friends.  And I heard:

Lady, I'm your knight in shining armor, and I love you.
Let me hold you in my arms forever more....












5. "When Doves Cry" (Prince and the Revolution, 1984).

June 1984: I'm on my way to Hell-fer-Sartain State University for the worst year of my life, and this ultra-feminine, super-gay coded guy starts singing about a heterosexual breakup:

How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world so cold?
Maybe I'm just too demanding
Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold

(See Looking for Beefcake in Nashville.)








6. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Judy Garland, 1944).

Once I was sick and stayed home on Christmas day, and the drag queen next door was playing this horror by gay icon Judy Garland over and over and over. It's still the main cause of the spike in suicides every Christmas:

7. "Que Sera, Sera" (Doris Day, 1956)

What will happen in the future?  Will I get married?  Will I have kids?  Or will I endure years of misery and pain in a cold, lonely world?  Rather a heterosexist question, especially for gay icon Doris Day, who was best buddies with her sex-comedy costar Rock Hudson.  The answer is:

Que sera, sera -- what will be, will be.

More after the break.



8.  "Give Me a Reason" (Dave Mason, 1975)

Dave Mason is often rumored to be gay, but he has no connection to any gay community institutions.  Instead, he offers this nihilist father-son chat:

Give me a reason for laughing, give me a reason to cry.
Give me a reason for living, Daddy, won't you give me a reason why?

Sorry, can't think of one.

Who is God, and what's on His mind?
"That's a good question" I reply.

That is a good question.

More after the break.



Totalitarian Television: Underdog and Friends

When I was a kid, all of the grown-up men I knew worked in the great smoking factory that my Dad called "the goddam hellhole."  And all of the grown-up women were their wives, cooking and cleaning and raising their kids in the small square houses that stretched out to infinity in all directions.  Everyone assumed that this was my destiny, too.  When I grew up, I would spend every day in the goddam hellhole, and come home every night dog-tired and cursing to my small square house, where my wife and kids would be waiting.  

Most of the tv programs I watched offered an escape: Gilligan and the Skipper didn't work in a goddam hellhole, they were sailors, and Robbie Douglas' Dad and Uncle Charlie lived happily together without wives.  But if I got up too early on Saturday morning, or dared to watch tv on Sunday, a series of badly animated cartoons pushed obedience to Big Brother:

Tooter Turtle longs to escape his dreary pond in the woods, so he asks Mr. Wizard to hook him up with a new job: firefighter, lumberjack, pilot, astronaut, college student.  Catastrophe strikes, and Mr. Wizard returns him to reality with his chant: "Twizzle, twozzle, twozzle, twome, time for this one to come home."









Tennessee Tuxedo, a penguin voiced by Don Adams of Get Smart, thinks he is just as good as any human, so he and his friend Chumley get jobs as weathermen or movie producers, or start a rock band.  Catastrophe strikes.  Inevitably.  The theme song tells us: "He will fail, as he vies for fame and glory."  (Later it was changed to the less depressing "he may fail").

The message was clear: don't dream, don't aspire.  Conform.  No escape is possible.



Commander McBragg, a retired British army officer, told an unwilling visitor about his adventures in India, Africa, China.  But was he telling the truth, or making it all up?

At least they didn't have wives.  But the superhero Underdog (voiced by Wally Cox)  had a girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebread.  And his alter ego wasn't a cool journalist, like Clark Kent, or a millionaire, like Bruce Wayne -- he was a shoe shine boy!

The cartoons were produced by Total Television.  Some originally appeared on King Leonardo and His Short Subjects (1960), and some on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales (1963) or Underdog (1964), but by the time I was watching, they were relegated to the ghetto of early Saturday or Sunday mornings.

At least they were better than Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Apr 16, 2015

The Original Jungle Boy and His Boyfriend

An orphan, the son of a mahout, Sabu Dastigir was riding a real elephant around Mysore when he was signed to star in Elephant Boy (1937), an adaptation of the Kipling tale "Toomai of the Jungle."  Wearing only a dhoti and turban, his last name deleted to make him seem more savage, he became a media sensation.  He was transplanted to England as a ward of the state and enrolled in school, but he found little time to study when he was receiving almost as much publicity as Johnny Weissmuller.



After a starring role in the pro-colonial Drum (1938), he was cast in The Thief of Bagdad (1940), set in the mythical past, an "Arabian fantasy in technicolor."  In the 1924 silent version, Douglas Fairbanks plays a thief who wins a princess, but Sabu would not win any princesses.  Instead, the spunky, enterprising  thief Abu falls in love with Prince Ahmad (John Justin), who has been deposed by an evil uncle.  The two escape together, steal a boat, and plan to sail downstream from Bagdad to the ocean, where they might find a safe haven in the wilderness.  But then Prince Ahmad falls in love with a princess from another kingdom, and insists that they stay in Bagdad. The rest of the movie involves the prince ignoring, endangering, or simply abandoning Abu to make time with the princess.  In the throws of unrequited love, Abu often looks hurt but never complains.

After starring in a loose adaptation of Kipling's Jungle Book (1942), in which Mowgli befriends both a native girl and a British officer but falls in love with neither, Sabu moved to Hollywood and signed on with Universal, where he starred as a dhoti-clad Jungle Boy in three Technicolor romances, all set in distant lands where no one had ever heard of Hitler.   Sabu was in a rather precarious position.  Although he (or rather, his body) was the top-billed star, he was irrelevant to the plots, about swarthy adventurer Jon Hall wooing cool, mysterious Maria Montez.

Sabu became a darling of World War II beefcake photos.  His torso, v-shaped, barrel-chested, bronze-skinned, sculpted but softening slightly at the stomach, is often displayed in a bright light against a black backdrop, so that every muscle will stand out.  The only problem is, he has no one to desire; in movie after movie, his same-sex loves go unrequited.

 He courts Jon Hall's character aggressively -- hugging, grabbing, taking his arm, pressing against his chest, unbuttoning his shirt, mussing his hair, offering him flowers, chasing away other suitors with a barking "Get back, he's mine!"  Hall's characters respond with amusement and affection, but no longing.






Sabu is captured once, and once he and Hall are captured together, but otherwise Hall is tied, struggling, about to be drowned or fed to cobras, and the jungle boy comes swinging down on a rope or galloping up on a white horse to save him.

And Sabu's characters never expresses any heterosexual interest. In Arabian Nights, Ali (Sabu) enters a harem to deliver a message, and the sex-starved girls engulf him, groping and fondling. He screams "Please stop!  Stop it!" with shrieks of terror.  They back off, bewildered, as if no man or boy had ever resisted their advances before.








At the end of each movie, Sabu practically shoves Hall's characters into the arms of Maria Montez. Then, after the final clench, they offer to adopt him.  It seems absurd to emphasize Sabu's muscular physique, have him approach Jon Hall with blatant homoerotic desire, and then claim that he is just a little boy, not yet able to understand "adult" desires.

After the war, when Sabu was too old to play teenagers, he played heavily muscled, usually half-naked Jungle Men who get girlfriends.  He appeared briefly in his own comic book title.  Later in the 1950s, he invested in a real estate business and took whatever roles he could find that did not require wearing a loincloth.

Days after filming A Tiger Walks in 1964, Sabu died of a heart attack. He was in perfect health and only 39 years old. He left a legacy of superbly homromantic movies, and influenced two generations of dhoti-clad Jungle Boys,  from Gunga in Andy's Gang, Hadji on Jonny Quest, Haji of the Elephants, and Raji on Maya, to the various Mowglis of the 1990s.




Apr 14, 2015

Tarzan, the Stage Musical: Major Loincloth-Clad Hunkage



With all of the movies, tv series, books, comic books, and toys surrounding Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan since his first appearance in the October 1912 issue of All Story Magazine, it makes sense that someone would attempt a musical.  One appeared in 2004, but based on the 1999 Disney animated feature, not on Burroughs.

The plot follows the movie: his parents shipwrecked on the coast of Africa and then killed, Tarzan is raised by apes. He and young naturalist Jane Porter meet and fall in love, in spite of the opposition of the ape tribe and the jealous interference of her guide, John Clayton.  The ape-human conflict is resolved in a monumental battle, Clayton goes back to England, and Jane stays in the jungle with Tarzan.











It is very heterosexist, but there is one queer spot: Terk, Tarzan's best friend in the ape tribe, is a girl in the movie, but in the play, a flamboyantly feminine, gay-vague buddy whose emotional attachment to Tarzan matches anything Jane could provide.

You're one of a kind, I can't explain it.
You're kind of cool, in a wonderful way.
Struggling along for years and years, until I came along for you.

The original Broadway production, with Josh Strickland as Tarzan, played for 486 performances in 2006 and 2007.  There have been many regional productions in the United States, plus international productions in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and the Philippines, with such stars as Anton Zetterholm, James Royce Edwards, and Isaac Gay (left, playing Tarzan in the Children's Theater of Charlotte, North Carolina).

It's a favorite of high school, college, and community theaters, giving audiences all over the world the opportunity to see major loincloth-clad hunkage.





Apr 12, 2015

Dark Shadows: David Collins, the Gay Heir to the Throne

I loved the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-71), though in retrospect I didn't see it very much.  It came on just as the school day was ending, so if my friends and I ran fast, we could catch the last 10-15 minutes.  But even after 40 years, I still have fond memories of the gay-subtext romance between Barnabas and Willie, the conflicted, often-shirtless werewolf Chris Jennings, and David Collins, the young heir to the family fortune and ghostly doings.










Although he was a kid, and then a teenager (aged 10-15), he didn't do any of the things I did: he never watched tv, went to school, or got birthday or Christmas presents, and his parents, Elizabeth and Uncle Roger, never pushed him into playing sports or liking girls.


He sometimes had a female companion for adventures, but he never longed for them; they were playmates, nothing more.  Instead, David found his strongest emotional bonds with older men, first Chris Jennings, then Quinten (who had a Dorian Gray portrait in the attic), and then unwitting antichrist Jeb Hawkes.  I didn't know it then, but I saw some strong gay symbolism in David.





David Henesy, who played David Collins, was as popular as the other teen idols of the 1960s, like Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, and photographed for teen magazines nearly as often.  Oddly, he consented to only one shirtless  shot, but still, I thought he was dreamy, and fantasized about meeting him one day.

In fact, by the time I moved to West Hollywood, he had retired from acting, and moved to Panama, where today he runs a chain of upscale restaurants.

There have been remakes in 1991, 20015, and 2012, but they eliminated the gay symbolism by casting David with little kids: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Alexander Gould (top photo), and Gulliver McGrath.

Or maybe it's too late for the magic to return.

See also: Alexander Gould in Weeds.