Apr 25, 2015

The Venture Brothers

I usually avoid the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block.  The animation is usually miserable, the concepts stupid -- talking fast food wrappers? -- and the homophobia intense.

The Venture Bros (2003-2015), created by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, throws out a few homophobic slurs, usually "That's Gay!", and a few gay-stereotyped characters, notably swishy secret agent Shore Leave.  But with all the gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, and gay-subtext activity going on, who has time to notice?

The central character are:
1. The snippy, sarcastic Rusty Venture, a grown-up Jonny Quest, son of a famous super-scientist trying to follow in his father's footsteps -- and failing miserably.
2. Hank and Dean, his two absurdly naive teenage sons (Hank is muscular and dimwitted, Dean petite and brainy).
3. Surly bodyguard Brock Samson.





But that's just the beginning of a huge cast of super-scientists, arch-enemies, henchmen, and secret agents, all with complex histories and past interactions, all bound by bureaucracies and traditions. There are secret agendas, changing alliances.  People change, develop new interests, take on new jobs.

When Rusty's arch-enemy, the Monarch, breaks one of the rules of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, he is forced to arch someone else, so Colonel Hatred is assigned to arch Dr. Venture.  Then Brock Samson leaves the Ventures, and Rusty hires Colonel Hatred as his new bodyguard.

The Monarch's favorite henchman, Number 21, quits to go rogue, briefly become his own super-villain, and then joins the unlicensed superhero team S.P.H.I.N.X., with former antagonist Brock Samson.

By the fifth season, the cast has become so large, and alliances changed so often, that you need a scorecard to figure out what's going on.



There are many, many gay and bisexual characters, including Colonel Gentleman, part of the elder Venture's team; "Six Million Dollar Man" Steve Summers, who is living with a male sasquatch; and the Alchemist, a member of the Order of the Triad who occasionally assists the Ventures.

And gay-subtext relationships.  I like Billy Quizboy, a failed game show champion who is living with his former mentor, the albino Pete White, while they try to break into the super-scientist business.

And Number 21's relationship with the tall, stentorian-voiced Number 24.  When he dies, Number 21 is so distraught that he asks Dr. Venture to clone him.  Apprised that the clone will be a baby, with none of Number 24's memories, he says "I don't care.  I'll raise him as my son.  Just bring him back!"


Venture Brother Hank has so many gay subtexts that one expects a "coming out" episode any moment.  He hangs all over Brock Samson, he is overcome with enthusiasm for other muscular men, and later he gets a "boyfriend," the surly wannabe delinquent Dermott.







Did I mention that there's an absurd amount of beefcake?  And, on the DVD sets, unexpurgated male frontal nudity.

See also: Jonny Quest



Apr 22, 2015

Peter Panama: The First Gay Character on TV

Everybody knows that the first regular gay character on tv was Peter Panama (Vincent Schiavelli) on The Corner Bar (1972-73). . But how many people have actually seen it?

It starred Gabriel Dell (right, early photo) as Harry Grant, owner of a Manhattan bar called Grant's Tomb.

Ten episodes aired on Wednesday nights in the summer of 1972, nine with gay fashion designer Peter Panama.  Six more aired on Friday nights in the summer of 1973, but with a different cast.

And that was it. No reruns, no DVDs, no youtube uploads. It's gone.

I've seen it -- one episode, anyway: "Cook's Night Out," on July 19, 1972., the summer before junior high. The cook at the bar has quit, so the regulars work together to take his place.  Peter prepares an "omelette a la Panama."

Peter (top right) was tall and gaunt, with frizzy hair, limp wrist gestures, and a weird nasal voice.  No one mentioned that he was gay --  I wouldn't have known what "gay" meant, anyway -- so I thought he was just a hippie.

The other cast members pictured are Gabriel Dell (top left), regular Bill Fiore (bottom right), and a waiter I can't identify.

Everyone was old, craggy, and unpleasant-looking.  They all had greasy hair.  They were sweating, as if the air conditioner in the bar wasn't working. I remember a palpable feeling of discomfort.


According to the Alternative Channels website, Peter wasn't exactly one of the gang.  Many of the jokes were homophobic.

The Gay Activists Alliance, an early gay rights organization, protested, and producer Allen King agreed to "redirect" the show.  He changed the cast, and sent Peter Panama packing.

This was the first tv performance of renowned character actor Vincent Schiavelli.  He never played a gay character again.

Apr 21, 2015

Spring 1973: My Date Must Be a Boy

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, heterosexual desire was assumed a constant, a universal of human experience.  Same-sex desire was not only never mentioned, it could not be mentioned.

It not only didn't exist, it could not be conceived of.

It wasn't just a certainty that no boy on Earth had ever longed for the touch of another boy, not once in the history of the world.

We were unable to even imagine the possibility.

Boys who obviously longed for boys?

They were looking for a buddy or a role model.




Boys who obviously didn't care for girls?

They were shy, or immature, or hadn't found the right girl yet.














Boys who were derided as "fairies" and "fags"?

Their interest in art and ballet, their inability to catch a ball, obviously represented deficient masculinity, but they desired girls as heartily as every other boy.

Desire for the same sex was simply beyond the boundaries of our imagination.

It was easier to conceive of hobbits.









But there were hints, mysteries to mull over, to contemplate like zen koans, to puzzle out like cryptograms.

Men on tv or in movies who cared for each other, fought for each other, and walked side by side into the future.

Men who didn't marry, who lived alone or with other men.

Men who hugged.

Who smiled at me, or touched me on the shoulder.

The sight of a muscular frame that filled me with inexplicable joy.

Small subtle signs.

Through the looking glass.
Take the red pill.
With a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip.







Sometime in junior high, I read an one-page story in an Archie comic book.  Big Ethel's friends criticize her for being indiscriminate, accuse her of accepting dates with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

On the contrary, Ethel says, she has very exacting standards.
1. Her date must be a boy.
2. He must be breathing.
3. He must be a slow runner (so she can catch him as he's fleeing in terror).


It was just a throwaway joke with the punch line of "slow runner."  But I was mesmerized.  There was something -- a logical fallacy -- a paradox -- a hint.

Slowly it dawned on me: Ethel has a rule about dating only boys.

Such a rule is necessary only if there are other groups of people whom she could date.

Does she only date teenage boys, and not adult men?
Or only date boys, and not girls?

Could a girl date a girl?
Could a boy date a boy?

It's not raining upstairs.

Land of the Lost

Saturday morning tv in the 1960s and 1970s was full of teenage boys trapped far from home.   From 1974 to 1977, that boy was a hot teenager named Will (Wesley Eure), who was on a "routine expedition" with his hot dad Rick (Spencer Milligan) and kid sister Holly (Kathy Coleman), when they zapped through a time-space portal into a jungle world crowded with dinosaurs, reptilian aliens named Sleestaks, and cute gibbering primates named Pakuni.  After a couple of seasons, Rick vanished, replaced by hot Uncle Jack (Ron Harper).

There wasn't much bonding, since the only available males were close relatives.  Nor much beefcake; you'd think after three years in the humid jungle, the guys would start wearing Tarzan-style loincloths, but no, only one episode featured Will shirtless, in painted-on jeans.



Otherwise gay boys had to make do with shirts unbuttoned to his navel.

But at least there was an utter lack of mentioned or displayed heterosexual interest in any of the characters, ever.












And Wesley Eure made up for his lack of shirtless shots later, as Mike Horton on Days of Our Lives.  

In 2009, he finally made one of the obligatory "coming out" statements, informing the world that he was gay via afterelton.com,  but he was never really in.  While on Land of the Lost, he was dating Richard Chamberlain.




Philip McKeon after Alice

Philip McKeon was one of the biggest teen stars of the 1970s, mostly for his role as Tommy Hyatt, son of single mom Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin) on Alice (1976-85), and also because he was the brother of Nancy McKeon, the tomboy Jo on The Facts of Life (1979-88).   But he had a respectable career in buddy-bonding and gay-vague roles, without Linda and Nancy around.

Born in 1964, the tall, grinning blond got his start as a child model at age 4, and soon moved on to television commercials and theater.  Linda Lavin saw him in Jason and Medea, a retelling of the Greek myth, and recommended him for Tommy.







While working on Alice, Phil did the usual Love Boat/ Fantasy Island guest shots, plus Leadfoot (1982), a cautionary tale about a teen who drives too fast, thus jeopardizing his life and that of his best friend Murph (played by fellow teen star Peter Barton).

In an episode of Amazing Stories (1986), Phil plays a World War II solder who is saved, along with other members of his platoon, by the outcast Arnold (Larry Spinack), who may have been a ghost. There's some glimmers of buddy bonding.








In Red Surf (1989), a drug dealer named True Blue (Phil) is busted by the police, talks too much, and draws the ire of crime boss Calavera (Rick Najera).  So his two buddies, Atilla (Doug Savant) and Remar (George Clooney) must rush to the rescue.

He also starred in a few horror movies before moving into direction (Edge of Nowhere, The Young Unknowns) and production, including Where the Day Takes You (with David Arquette as a bisexual prostitute), Teresa's Tattoo (with a full contingent of 1980s hunks, including Matt Adler, C. Thomas Howell, and Lou Diamond Philips),  Murder in the First, and The Jacket. 

Both Phil and Nancy McKeon have been the subject of gay rumors, but they haven't made any public statements.

10 Easy Steps to Getting Any Guy

We've all had this problem:

You see the Man of Your Dreams at the gym or sitting by the pool, or at a cruise bar, standing by himself and glaring out at the world.  Physical perfection!  Exactly your type!  But when you try to make eye contact, you get cold, deadly Attitude.













Or he with a group of friends, so lively and animated that he brightens the room.  But when you go over and introduce yourself, he gives you a quick, dismissive "howsitgoing?" before turning away forever.

Chances are you'll move on, embarrassed, sad, angry, wondering "What's wrong with me?"    Maybe you'll latch on to the nearest guy to boost your self-esteem.

Don't.  Keep trying.

In 30 years of cruising and dating, I have not yet met a guy who was not available.



Literally.  Every guy who is gay, single, and over 18  is available.  Sometimes they just take a little work.


The key is to work on them without seeming obnoxious or desperate.

If you are interested in a hookup (not a romance).

1. It will take several weeks, so find some way to see him regularly.

2. Watch him for a few nights, noting how he interacts with other guys.  This will give you an idea why he rejected you.

3.  I was tired, not in the mood, or interested in someone else. Simply approach again.

4. You were too aggressive or not aggressive enough, too physical or not physical enough.  Modify your technique and approach again.

5. You look like you're into sexual acts that I wouldn't enjoy.  I get this one all the time.  Approach and complain about how hard it is to find a top, or a bottom, or someone who is just into cuddling.

6. You're not the type I usually find attractive.  This is the most common reason for rejection.  It requires you to convince him that he actually does find you attractive.

7. Return with a wingman -- guys feel less threatened when they are approached by a pair.


8. Have your wingman play up the qualities that he will find attractive.  Physical (exceptional beneath-the-belt gifts), social (maybe you're both recovering fundamentalists), or intellectual (maybe you speak five languages).

9. Approach him on another night, and seal the deal.

10. If he still rejects you, introduce him to a guy who is his type, and include yourself in the bargain.  Few guys will turn down a chance to go home with a muscle god, even if it means sharing with the unattractive friend,





If you are interested in romance (not a hookup):

1. This will also take several weeks.

2. As with the hookup, watch him interact with other guys.  Determine the reason he rejected you.

3.  I was tired, not in the mood, or interested in someone else. Simply approach again.

4. You were too aggressive or not aggressive enough, too physical or not physical enough.  Modify your technique and approach again.

5. I just got out of a bad relationship, or I'm not ready for a relationship.  Pretend that you just want a casual hookup.

6. I want a relationship, and you acted like you wanted a hookup.  Approach with a wingman, with whom you will discuss your romantic inclinations.


7. You're not the type I usually find attractive.  This requires a different approach than with a hookup.  Make friends with one of his friends and casually find out about his social, political, and intellectual interests.

8.  Develop a sudden interest in golf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Italian opera.

9. Soon you will find yourself set up on a date with him, without ever asking.

10.  If that doesn't work, you may have to settle for a hookup only.  But who knows?  Hookups often develop into something more.

This only works if he's gay.  If he's straight, see 15 Simple Rules for Cruising Straight Guys.

See also: 10 Guys Who Got Away.



Apr 20, 2015

77 Signs that You're a Fairy

In my junior high, the worst possible fate was to be a "fairy."  Not a boy who was interested in boys -- we didn't have the slightest inkling that same-sex desire existed, anywhere in the world.  A boy who suppressed his natural masculine instincts and  pretended that he was a girl.

We didn't know why fairies pretended to be girls. Malice, stupidity, sheer perversity?  But they were in deadly peril.  Most obviously, every boy's sole reason for living was to get girls, and girls only liked real men.

But there was another, more sinister peril that the older boys whispered about: if you pretended to be a girl long enough, you might actually turn into a girl, or rather a swish, a nightmarish he-she creature.

Fairies had to be convinced to stop it! and act like boys again, by any means necessary.  Friends tried gentle persuasion; enemies, catcalls and jeers; mean boys, public humiliation, and if that didn't work, pummeling in the schoolyard.

Teachers rarely intervened.  After all, it was for the fairy's own good.  He had to be convinced to stop it! and act like a boy again.

There were dozens of signs that you were a fairy, or in danger of becoming one.  Here are the top 77:

Clothes
1. A shirt with a little loop in back (called a fruit loop)
2. An undershirt.
3. A green shirt.
4. A turtleneck sweater.
5. "High water" pants that revealed your socks.
6. Pants with buttons instead of a zipper.
7. Glasses
8. A bow tie.
9. Buttoning the top button of your shirt.
10. Jewelry, especially rings.
11. Being excessively neat.

Language and Deportment
12. Wiggling hips
13.  Hand gestures.
14. Wrist movements
15. An enthusiastic voice (it must be angry or a monotone).
16. Using too many adjectives.
17. Using correct grammar.

Before and After School
18. Talking to/ walking with girls.
19. Carrying books home with you.
20. Carrying a violin case home with you.
21. Refusing to fight when challenged.
22. Fighting ineptly.
23. Crying for any reason.
24. Telling a teacher or parent about bullying.

In Class
25. Carrying a pencil case.
26. Sitting in the front row.
27. Volunteering the answer to a teacher's question.
28. Not referring to the teacher by her last name only ("Mrs. DeSmet" instead of just "DeSmet")
29. Taking French (a fairy language) instead of Spanish.
30. Using a protractor.
31. Having neat homework assignments.
32. Getting good grades on purpose (saying "I studied hard", for instance)
33. Worrying about/asking about grades.

Gym/Sports
34. Not going out for a sport.
35. Pretending to be ignorant of the results of last night's game.
36. Pretending to be ignorant of a player's statistics.
37. Calling gym "p.e. class"
38. Not being able to play a sport adequately.
39. Being selected last for a team.
40. Wearing a towel around your waist on the way to the showers.
41. Having insufficient muscles.
42. Having an insufficient penis.
43. Having insufficient pubic hair.










Leisure/Extracurricular Activities
44. Belonging to an academic organization (Spanish Club or Chemistry Club)
45. Participating in student government.
46. Playing in the band or orchestra.
47. Performing in student plays or musicals.
48. Studying dance.
49. Studying art.
50. Going to libraries, museums, art galleries, or concerts.
51. Not going bowling.
52. Watching The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, or any variety show.
53. Not watching Adam-12. 
54. Listening to David Cassidy, the Captain and Tennile, or Elton John.
55. Not listening to The Eagles.
56. Reading teen magazines.
57. Not knowing about cars.
58. Not knowing about guns.
59. Disliking hunting, fishing, and camping.
60. Having never been on an airplane.
61. Having to be home before dark.
62. Calling your parents to tell them your whereabouts.
63. Hanging out with girls.


Lunch/Food
64. Sitting with girls in the cafeteria.
65. Carrying a lunch box instead of a paper bag.
66. Eating grapes.
67. Eating jello.
68. Drinking chocolate milk.
69. Using a napkin instead of your sleeve.
70. Depositing apple cores in the trash instead of on the ground.
71. Eating in an excessively neat fashion.
72. Knowing how to cook.

Dating/Sex
73. Being a virgin.
74. Having sex with fewer than five girls per week.
75. Being attracted to athletic girls.
76. Dating a girl who is overweight or wears glasses.
77. Walking hand-in-hand with a girl.

Bonus (for Rock Island only)
78. Coming in through the back entrance of the school (past the girls' locker room).
79. Going to Little Caesar's (a pizza place next to a hair salon).

See also: Slow Dancing with Boys

Cartoon Muscle: Not Just Superheroes in Spandex

When I was a kid, you could occasionally see shirtless boys or men in Saturday morning cartoons, but it was rare, primarily on jungle or prehistoric adventure series like The Herculoids.   Mostly you had to make do with an open shirt or a spandex superhero uniform, and of course Saturday morning live-action series.

Fred from Scooby-Doo seemed to have a nice physique, but not once in 10,000 episodes did he ever take his shirt off.

Times have changed. In Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010-2013), he flexes at poolside.




The Anime Boys with Their Shirts Off blog displays the shirtless boys and men appearing in a huge number of animated tv series, everything from adventure to comedy, and even some toddler tv.  Did you ever want to see Dora the Explorer's brother Diego with his shirt off?  Or Bill from Curious George?













There's a lot of Japanese anime, like The Legend of Korra and The Daily Lives of High School Boys),  but also a lot of Western cartoons, everything from Phineas and Ferb to Johnny Test.




There are even a few oldies, like these golden-haired preppy types (from Beverly Hills Teens and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, respectively).







Apparently animators are no longer worried about kids being traumatized for life by the sight of a torso or two (like these from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego).

See also: Saturday Morning Muscle