May 2, 2015

200,000 Photos of Naked Harvard Men

From 1940 to sometime in the 1970s, all incoming freshmen at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and some of the sister schools, including future presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were photographed.  Naked.  Three shots: front, back, and side.   No black boxes -- penis in full view.

Some were told that it was to check their posture.  Others, to check them for rickets. But actually it was the pet project of Columbia University Professor William H. Sheldon (1898-1977) and Harvard University Professor Earnest Hooten (1887-1954), who said they were interested in somatotyping.

Classifying human bodies by size and shape, and determining how those shapes influenced personality.

They had already taken nude photos of 400 undergraduate men at the University of Chicago and 200 juvenile delinquents in Boston.  Hooten died in 1954, but Sheldon continued, photographing men in the military, in hospitals, in colleges, in prisons, until by the end of his life he had accumulated 200,000 photographs of men and 2,000 of women.

During the 1970s, Harvard was embarrassed by the study, and hid the photos away in a storage bin.  Eventually most were destroyed. See, you can't go around just taking pictures of random naked guys, even with a "scientific" goal.  It's a violation of their privacy.

But you can see some samples online, and several hundred in Sheldon's book, Atlas of Men (1954), with clever little taglines comparing them to animals: "paleolithic tiger," "dugongs and manatees."

Sheldon divided male bodies into three types: endomorph (fat), mesomorph (muscular), and ectomorph (skinny), and discovered that juvenile delinquents were likely to be mesomorphs, while Ivy League freshmen were more likely to be ectomorphs.

Also, ectomorphs are bigger beneath the belt.  Or at least it shows better.

Nice to know when you're cruising.

An obsession with taking nude photographs of young men.  Were Sheldon and Hooten gay?

Neither married women, but Hooten spearheaded the famous purge of Harvard "homosexuals" in 1920, along with his friend and roommate Lester Wilcox.

Maybe he was protesting too much.

May 1, 2015

Summer 1974: A Hint of Gay Romance on the Radio

When I was a kid in the 1970s, we never heard about gay people, not even in a whisper.  We assumed that heterosexual desire was a universal of human experience, that every boy on Earth longed for girls, or would soon, that every man was married to a woman, or wanted to be.

But I kept looking for...something. I didn't know what.  I didn't even know that I was looking.  But a few experiences became iconic, evidence that I was being lied to, same-sex desire existed, same-sex romance existed.  It was not raining upstairs.

In The Secret of Boyne Castle, Rich and Sean smile at each other.
In Archie comics, a statement that "My date must be a boy"

A boy sings about his love for a boy.

June 9th, 1974,the summer after eighth grade at Washington Junior High.

American Top 40, with Casey Casem, plays on KSTT radio every Sunday morning from 9:00 to 12:00.  My brother and I usually listen to the first 15 minutes while getting ready for church, and the last fifteen 15 after church, while changing into our everyday clothes, so we hear #38-40 and #1-3.

Today #38 is by Steely Dan, a guy I never heard of before

Someone named Ricky is leaving:

We hear you're leaving, that's ok, I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart...

Wild time, change of heart -- sounds like a boyfriend leaving.  That's impossible, of course, since Steely Dan is a boy.  They must be friends who had a falling out.

Ricky, don't lose that number, you don't wanna call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Ricky,, don't lose that number, it's the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better when you get home

Feel better?  Ricky is leaving in anger. And Steely Dan is desperate for him to return, lost without him.  Sounds like...that's impossible, of course.  They're both boys.

I think about it all through Sunday school (another lesson on why God hates people who go to movies) and church (three funereal hymns and a blustering, Bible-pounding sermon on why God hates liberal so-called "Christians").

"Ricky" rises in the charts through the summer of 1974, as I go to summer enrichment classes, had our annual visit to relatives in Garrett and camping in the wilds of Minnesota.

It hits the Top 10 in July, while I am at summer camp, getting engaged and seeing Brother Dino in the shower.

I learn that Steely Dan is actually a group, originally the duo of Don Fagen and Walter Becker.  "Ricky Don't Lose That Number" has Don Fagen as the lead singer and Tim Schmit doing backup vocals.

It doesn't matter: it's still a boy singing about how lost he is without Ricky, and begging him to return.

A boy is lost without a boy.  How is that possible?  

I know better than to mention these mysteries to anyone.  Other kids will exclaim "don't be an idiot!", teachers will get all flustered and leave the room, and my Dad will force me into the back yard to throw a football around.

But I can't help myself.  I ask Mark, an older boy at camp: "Ricky is leaving, and another boy is anxious for him to return.  How is that possible?"

"Doofus!" he exclaims.  "It's not Ricky, it's Rikki, spelled R-I-K-K-I.  A girl's name!"

"That's crazy!  There is no girl's name RIKKI."  The only Rikki I know of is in the Rudyard Kipling story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," and he was a boy mongoose.

When I get home, I go to the record store and look at the jacket. R-I-K-K-I.  But it's still a boy's name!

By August, when I am trying to win the Boy on the Prospect List and decipher the secret message that Brian left on the wall of the junior high, the song is off the charts.

Years later, I discover that other people jumped to the same conclusion, that the song was about a lost same-sex romance.  Steely Dan may even have intended the interpretation.  After all, Don Fagen has been the subject of gay rumors -- he didn't marry a woman until 1993 -- and his group was named after a dildo that appears in Naked Lunch, by gay writer William Burroughs.

Intentional or not, it helped me recognize that the adults were lying.

It is not raining upstairs.

See also: Brother Dino in the Shower.

Virgil Finlay: Pictures of Naked Astronauts

When I was a kid in the 1960s, we were all revved up on space exploration -- Lost in Space, Star Trek, the juvenile novels of Robert Silverberg and Robert Heinlein.  Our games involves outer space.  Even our breakfast cereal was Quisp, starring an alien from outer space.

None of these were very good for beefcake -- astronauts kept their clothes on.

So I was pleasantly surprised, at the age of nine or ten, to find this drawing in The Complete Book of Space Travel, by Albro Gaul.(1956), in the Denkmann Elementary School Library. It illustrates the physical requirements for becoming an astronaut: normal height, blood pressure, and so on.

It was the only picture of a shirtless astronaut that I had ever seen.  I checked out the book over and over again, memorizing the thick, shining muscles of the chest and shoulders, the stalwart expression, the weirdly shaped space helmet, the bulge in his shorts.  I repeated the name the illustrator, Virgil Finlay, like an charm.

Then I moved on to Washington Junior High, which didn't have The Complete Book of Space Travel in its library, and forgot about it.

Recently I looked up this Virgil Finlay (1914-1971), who drew one of the most iconic pictures of my childhood.  He became interested in science fiction while in high school, and published cover and interior illustrations in most of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror pulps of the 1930s and 1940s, winning a Hugo Award in 1953.  As the pulp magazine market faded away, he began to illustrate astrology magazines, reprints of Shakespearean plays, and novels.

Although he drew many muscular, semi-nude male astronauts, barbarian heroes, and gods, Finlay also drew women: there have been two collections of his female illustrations (it may have been a marketing strategy: most of his intended audience wanted to see women).

He was married for most of his life, and there is no evidence of any association with the 1960s gay community, although one of his illustrations, "The Oracle of Victory" (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, 1952) was borrowed to illustrate Growing Up Gay: A Youth Liberation Pamplet (Michigan, 1976).

Still, when you look at the loving detail Finlay extended to the erotic potential of his male illustrations, you can't help but wonder.

Apr 30, 2015

A Boy Named Angel Helps Me Figure It Out

When I was in grade school, I had a regular boyfriend, but I liked lots of  other boys: Craig, who sat next to me in class; Joel, who also liked looking at boys with muscles; Robbie, a hookup at the bookmobile one summer: and David Angel.

Not the David Angell who produced Cheers and Frasier.  A slim, shy boy, puppy-dog cute, with dark hair and dark blue eyes and nice hands.  We played occasionally, but never became friends, I think because there were so many bigger, bolder guys around.  It was one of those relationships that might have gone somewhere, but didn't.

I have three good memories of David:

1. One day at recess we all decided to take nicknames.  David wanted "Muscles."
"But you don't have any muscles!" I protested.
"Sure I do. I'm real strong!  Feel."
He flexed a small, hard bicep.  I cupped it with my hand.
"You're right.  It's really big."  Flushed with an warmth that I didn't understand, I moved quickly away.

2. In the spring of sixth grade, shortly after we went to "A Little Bit O'Heaven," Joel invited some of us over for a sleepover.  His small twin bed was only big enough for two; everyone else had to make do with sleeping bags.  We spent the evening wondering who would be the Fifth Boy, the boy invited to share Joel's bed.

At bedtime, Joel said "Everybody else here has been in my bed before, so it's David's turn."

My heart sank.  I wanted to be the one!

"That's ok -- I like the floor," David said.  "Why don't you let Boomer?"

Joel glared at him, and my boyfriend Bill glared at me, but neither of them could say anything as I took my place beside Joel.

3. In junior high, we had gym class together, and I got one of my first sausage sightings of David in the shower.

And three bad memories:

1. We were playing once when a middle-aged woman appeared.  "Your father won't let me in the house," she told David.  "There's food cooking -- I need you to go turn the stove off, so it won't burn."  Weird and creepy.

2. David never invited anyone over to his house to play or watch cartoons.  We were intimately familiar with every other house in the neighborhood, but not his. So one day Bill and I knocked on the door, ostensibly to invite him to go to Schneider's and look at comic books, but really to get a glimpse inside.

He came to the door, pale and nervous.  "Are you nuts?" he whispered.  "You can't be here!  My Dad sleeps during the day!"

"We were just..."

"Get out!" he whispered.  "Get lost!"

3. One day in junior high gym class, David was stripping down, and I saw a large red-and-purple bruise on his chest.

"Wow, how did you get that?" I asked.

"What, this?"  He quickly covered it up.  "That's nothing.  We were just playing around.  It happens to everybody."

"Who was playing around?"

" cousin and me.  Just playing around, no big deal."
I couldn't imagine what kind of playing around might cause a bruise like that.

Ok, I get it now: these are obvious signs of domestic and child abuse.  But what kid in the 1970s would think of that?

And one mixed memory:

During our senior year in high school, Bill told me that  David went crazy.  All of a sudden he forgot to how speak English, and he only knew a few words of Spanish, so he started yelling "Te amo!  Te amo!  Te amo!"

We went to visit him at the East Moline State Mental Hospital.  We were directed to a big, airy room where patients in bathrobes were playing pingpong and foosball.  At the far end, several sat on chairs watching One Life to Live.  

David was sitting on a white couch, in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, laughing over a paperback edition of Tom Sawyer.  I hadn't seen him, except in passing, since junior high gym class -- my first thought was "He's gotten really muscular!"  He had a hard, smooth chest and thick biceps. He still had a shy, wounded puppy-dog expression.

But he didn't act shy or wounded!

"Hi, guys!"  he exclaimed.  "Rapley let you out early, huh?"

Bill and I glanced at each other.  Mrs. Rapley was our fifth grade teacher.

David laughed.  "I'm just joking with you.  I know what year it is.  Let's have a hug."

He stood and gave us each a bear hug, and sat us down on either side of him.

"So, what's new with you guys?  You still an item?"

"An item?" Bill repeated.  "What...what do you mean?"

"An item -- you know, like giving each other flowers and chocolates and carving your names into trees with little hearts!"

My face burned.  "David, you know that we're both boys, right?"

"Come on, Boomer, you know the soul doesn't have a gender.  We're infinite beings trapped in one-dimensional bodies, so what does it matter if you have the same plumbing?  Get married already, march down that aisle.  God knows you were meant for each other!"

"What are you talking about?" Bill asked in a curt, angry tone.

"David is confused," I told him.  "He doesn't mean to imply anything."

"Hey, just because I'm crazy doesn't mean I can't see what's right in front of my eyes!  Now you gonna kiss, or what?"

"Um..actually, we broke up awhile ago."  I figured that was the only way to end the uncomfortable conversation.

"Yeah.  We're still friends, of course, but we're dating now."

"That's too bad.  You make such a cute couple! Maybe you'll find each other again later on, in your next life."

We chatted for awhile longer, about other things, and then left.  In the parking lot, Bill said "Wow, David is worse than I thought!"

"Completely delusional!  Where'd he ever get the idea that we know?"

"Next he'll be claiming that we're little green men from Mars!"

Two months later, I finally discovered what David had known all along.

The adults are lying -- only real is real.
We stop the fight right now -- we got to be what we feel.

See also:  I Figure It Out; and My Top 15 Sausage Sightings

Apr 28, 2015

Smalltown Boy: Subtext Songs of the 1980s

After the demise of the drag-queen ABBA and the faux-gay Village People, I started listening to popular music more aggressively, looking for "real" gay-friendly songs. Or at least songs with subtexts.  I found no depictions of same-sex romance, anywhere -- the most you could hope for was a dropped pronoun.  But a few Top 40 Hits -- one or two per year -- were about the search for a Good Place, or celebrations of male beauty (with beefcake-heavy music videos), and or just about being proud of your identity.

1. "Physical" (Olivia Newton-John, 1981).

2. "I'm Coming Out" (Diana Ross, 1981).  Ms. Ross claimed that it was about teenage girls "coming out" into high society, but gay teens knew what it was really about:
I'm coming out -- I want the world to know, got to let it show.

3. "It's Raining Men" (The Weather Girls, 1982).  The catchy beat made it easy to appropriate.  I didn't even mind the heterosexism:
God bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too
She took off to heaven, and she did what she had to do
She taught every angel to rearrange the sky,
So that each and every woman could find a perfect guy.

4. "Self-Control" (Laura Branigan, 1982).  She goes to a mostly heterosexual orgy, screams when hands reach out to grab her, and ends up sleeping with a mysterious man in a white mask and red gloves, but in a era where gay teens had to live in masks, a celebration of the night resonated:
Oh the night is my world. City lights, painted girls.
I must believe in something, so I guess I'll just believe that this night will never go. 

5. "Holiday" (Madonna, 1983). No gay people mentioned, but coming out often required forgetting about years of pain: it's time for the good times -- forget about the bad times.

6. "So Many Men, So Little Time" (Miquel Brown, 1983).  A woman praises heterosexual one-night stands, but you could also use it to praise the joy of boy-watching.
Each new one I meet makes my heart beat faster, when I see them so strong and tall.
So many men, so little time. How can I lose?  
So many men, so little time.  How can I choose?

7. "Relax" (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 1983).

8. "I Am What I Am" (Gloria Gaynor, 1983) could be read as a response to the bigots (and there were a lot of bigots) who kept screaming that gays were worthless, subhuman, monsters out to destroy the world.
I am good, I am strong, I am somebody, I do belong.
I am useful, I am true, I am worthy, I am as good as you.

9. "Smalltown Boy" (Bronski Beat, 1984).  I didn't realize at the time that the boy was leaving town to escape homophobic harassment --but it could easily be applied to anyone searching for a "good place." (and I liked the music video with the smalltown boy swimmer in tight speedos).

The answers you seek will never be found at home.
The love that you need will never be found at home.

10. "Let's Hear it for the Boy" (Deniece Williams, 1984).

Not much after.  AIDS, conservative retrenchment, and the re-demonization of gay people eliminated even those few songs that could be appropriated.  In 1985, Madonna was singing "Like a Virgin" (about sex, not pride), Wham started making their previously androgynous songs gender specific (I said you were the perfect girl for me), and the vigorously homophobic Eddie Murphy was inviting heterosexuals to "Party All the Time."

See also: Ocho Rios: Tracking Down a Jamaican Bodybuilder; and Culture Club

Apr 27, 2015

20 Celebrities I May (or May Not) Have Dated

When I was living in West Hollywood, my mother called every Saturday morning and asked "How many movie stars have you met this week?"  Like most people who have never been to Los Angeles, she thought that about 30% of the population consisted of celebrities, so you would run into them everywhere, at the French Quarter, at the laundromat, at the gym.  

There were a lot of professional actors around.  But most were famous only to their fans: "Look, there's Greg Rikaart, who plays Kevin Fisher on The Young and the Restless!"

Or not actually famous at all: "Look, there's David Greenan, who starred in the low-budget horror movie Silent Madness!" 

And if you did see a really famous person, you probably wouldn't recognize them.  They look different in real life.

But I have managed to meet a number of celebrities and semi-celebrities. Usually just a fleeting conversation.  Once in a while, a friendship. Or a relationship of another sort.

Here are the 20 that made the biggest impression on me.  Can you figure out which I've dated?  Or hooked up with?

(I'm skipping my celebrity boyfriend, since he's still closeted.)

1. Michael J. Fox, star of Family Ties. Had lunch in the summer of 1985.

2. Scott Valentine, who played Mallory's boyfriend on Family Ties. Had lunch later that year.

3. Robin Williams. Met at a party.

4. Richard Chamberlain. He tried to steal my date one night at Mugi.

5. Lou Ferrigno.  He used to come into the office at Muscle and Fitness with Bill Bixby.  They acted a lot like a couple

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Ditto.

7. Rob Lowe.  On the pier in Santa Monica.

8. Bodybuilder turned opera buff Ed Stroll.  He came into Muscle and Fitness quite often.

9. Ernest Thomas, star of What's Happening.  He was walking down San Vicente, carrying a large package to match his large package.

10. Adam West, TV's Batman.  He appeared at lots of benefits, auctions, and events, including the AIDS Walk.

11. David Cameron, whose mother wrote the children's classic The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet.  He was a fixture at gay events in West Hollywood.

12. Former teen idol Frankie Muniz.  Met him in Paris, of all places.

13. Nate Richert, star of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. We met at the Rage, but I didn't know who he was.  Until later.

14. Jeff MacKay, who starred in Tales of the Gold Monkey, the cutest of the lot.  Met at the Gold Coast; didn't know who he was, either, even after he told me.

15. Douglas Barr, who starred in Designing Women.  Married, but showed up at parties by himself.

16. John Amos, who starred in Good Times and played the older Kunta Kinte in Roots.   I often saw him at the gym.  Lots of guys couldn't keep their eyes off him.  His physique -- and Kielbasa+ -- was amazing.

17.Teen idol  Jimmie Walker, star of Good Times. Obnoxious guy holding court every night at the gym.  He was gifted beneath the belt, too.

18. Richard Dreyfuss, a fellow fan of the paranormal, met browsing at the Bodhi Tree.  One day we got  coffee, and I tried to subtly determine if he was gay or not.

19. Cesar Romero, heartthrob in 1940s movies, later a Batman villain.  He sold me a love seat.  Turned out to be the most uncomfortable thing ever (the love seat, not Cesar Romero).

20. Tom Wopat, star of Dukes of Hazzard.  I cruised him at a party while everyone else was fawning over Andrew Lloyd Webber instead.

Hint: they were cute, my age or a little older, and not obnoxious.

Apr 26, 2015

The Top 10 Hunks of "Orange is the New Black"

I've been watching Orange is the New Black, the Netflix series based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman, a spoiled rich girl whose thirst for adventure led her to drug-running, and a 15-month sentence in federal prison.

It's not Oz.  Bloody beating is rare, rape practically non-existent.  Plotlines involve catching an elusive chicken, a missing screwdriver, and a fundamentalist Christian who tries to install a gigantic cross in the chapel.  Plus the backstories and ongoing drama of a cast of quirky characters.

Lesbian relationships -- and hookups -- are commonplace.  Even Piper, who identifies as bisexual, gets involved with the ex-girlfriend who drew her into the drug trade in the first place.

Plus there's a transwoman played by an actual transwoman, Laverne Cox, who became the first transgender person to be nominated for a prime time Emmy and to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

Even though it's set in a woman's prison, there is ample beefcake: male guards, boyfriends, guys from the backstories.

1. Jason Biggs (top photo), grown up considerably since his salad days in those horrible American Pie movies, as Larry Bloom, Piper's ex-fiance, who is writing an expose of prison conditions.

2. It came as quite a shock when naive young guard John Bennett (Matt McGorry, left), who is having an affair with the inmate Daya, first took his clothes off.  He has a bodybuilder's physique!

3. Nick Stevenson plays Pete Harper, the husband (then ex-husband) of the woman Larry is having an affair with.  When he finds out, he goes on a rampage and punches Larry in the face.

4. Chubby redhead Michael Chernus as Piper's hippie brother, who lives in a van in the woods.

5. Bodybuiilder Alexander Wraith plays Vasily Reznikov, son of Red, the Russian woman who runs the prison kitchen.  He helps Red smuggle contraband.

More after the break.