Aug 1, 2015

Alice's Queer Wonderland


I first encountered Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) when I was 8 or 9, in a volume of the Junior Classics called Stories that Never Grow Old (along with such oddities as The King of the Golden River and Jackanapes).  I didn't understand most of it , and what I did understand was either horrifying or deadly dull.  Alice falls into a constantly-changing world where bizarre characters quiz her on her knowledge of arithmetic and poetry.  Most of them want to kill her. And it turns out to be a dream.

Besides, there were no cute boys or muscular men in it, although movie adaptions often feature hot actors, like Andrew-Lane Potts as the Mad Hatter (2009), left, or Jason Byrne as Pat the Gardner (1999), below.  Lewis Carroll liked little girls (a lot), but he detested boys.



Give me a nice, normal science fiction novel, like The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet or The Spaceship under the Apple Tree.

But in the spring of 1985, just before I moved to West Hollywood, the music video of Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" used an Alice motif.  I reread Alice and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and found ample gay content.



1. No character displays even a hint of heterosexual interest. Lewis Carroll was utterly baffled by sex and romance in general, and looked in horror at the day when Alice would grow up, and marriage would "summon to unwelcome bed a melancholy maiden."  Although there are occasional sexual threats, such as the Duchess, who digs her sharp chin into Alice's shoulder as they walk (begin Freudian analysis here).

2. Male characters often come in domestic duos: the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the Lion and the Unicorn.

3. For all of Lewis Carroll's fear of sex, he populates his Wonderland with phallic symbols (the Caterpiller's mushroom, the swaying flamingo mallets, Alice with the elongated serpentine neck) and castration motifs (the Red Queen's constant cry of "Off with his head!").  He is very interested in the power and threat of sexual potency.


4. The adult characters, with their lessons and demands, are trying to force Alice into the constraint of a proper Victorian girlhood, but she will have none of it.  She mangles her lessons, rejects advice, and fails utterly at domesticity when the child in her charge turns into a pig.  Gay kids understand, perhaps better than others, the malice of adult constraints, the "what girl do you like?" chant, the "when you grow up and get a wife" threats.

5. Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wonderland uses madness as a substitute for the queer, the marginal, and the outsider.  "We're all mad," the Cheshire Cat tells Alice.  "You must be [mad], or you wouldn't have come here."

The Hitchhiker

Another common porn scenario is picking up a hot hitchhiker, who happens to be gay, gifted beneath the belt, and interested in you.

I've only done it once.

In West Hollywood you saw guys hitchhiking all the time, but they were usually hustlers.  I never picked anyone up.

In San Francisco and New York, I didn't have a car.

In Florida I was too apprehensive, until David visited.

You remember David, the effusive, ultra-horny former minister who got me into lots of scrapes in San Francisco, like Waking Up to a Straight Boy in My Bed.   In August 2003, he flew out for a five-day visit.

The rest of the story is too risque for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can see it on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jul 31, 2015

The Homophobia of "Rocky and Bullwinkle"

Rocky and Bullwinkle (1959-64, and rehashed into many different series during the 1960s) is often praised as genius, a classic of animation. Amazon promises: "the wittiest, most inspired, and relentlessly hilarious animation ever created!"

No one thought it was great in the 1960s.  It was relegated to the Sunday morning ghetto, with Totalitarian Television and Davy and Goliath.

Either of which were preferable to the Moose and Squirrel.

Ok, maybe I was too young to understand the clever satire, so a few months ago I  purchased and watched Season 1 on DVD.

I still hated it.

50% of each episode was devoted to repetitive, incomprehensible filler:

When the mountain they are climbing is destroyed by lightning, Rocky and Bullwinkle fall to their deaths, but are resurrected in a field of daisies.

Magician Bullwinkle tells Rocky, "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat."  He pulls out a scary monster instead, and quips, "I take a 7 1/2."  

When you finally got to the story, it was an endless serial cut into five-minute segments.  I never saw the first or the last of them, so I had no idea what was going on.  But the titles were bound to involve incomprehensible puns.
The Treasure of Monte Zoom
Maybe Dick
The Guns of Abalone
Kerwood Derby

I know what most of them refer to now, except "Kerwood Derby."  It's a malapropism of "Durward Kirby," a very, very, very minor tv personality of the early 1960s.

And the animation!  There wasn't any.  Incomplete art, splashes of color instead of filled-in lines, no backgrounds, static scenes with only the tiniest mouth movement or gestures.  Abysmal!




The only things I liked were:

1. The scenes set in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, the home town of the Moose and Squirrel, where they behaved and were treated like romantic partners.

2. Boris and Natasha, the Cold War spies from Pottsylvania assigned to steal the couple's secret or just grift them in various ways.  Although a male-female dyad, they were obviously not a romantic couple, nor did they express any heterosexual interest.

3. Some of the supporting features, like Fractured Fairy Tales, Mr. Peabody's Improbable History, and Aesop & Son.  








4. Some of the parodies of dull poets, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and William Wordsworth (really, who would write an entire poem in praise of daffodils?)

5. Edward Everett Horton, who narrated Fractured Fairy Tales, played "pansy" roles during the 1930s.







The Moose That Roared (2000), a history of the program, reveals that Bill Scott, Jay Ward's partner and the voice of Bullwinkle, often made homophobic statements.  "Women's dresses today look like they were designed by fags," he would rant.  Or he would tell a voice artist, "for this story, do your Fag Prince voice."

Of course, lots of people in the 1960s were homophobic, but it is shocking how Moose That Roared author Keith Scott (no relation) gushes about the homophobia as if it somehow made him endearing: "'There are too many fags in Hollywood,' Bill said with his characteristic wit."

See also: Peabody and Sherman


Jul 29, 2015

Codpieces: the Renaissance Bulge

Men often try to draw attention to the size of their sex organs.  Athletic supporters -- ostensibly to keep them from flopping around, but also serving the function of creating an eye-catching bulge.

Football players' cups -- for protection, and to enhance their erotic appeal?

During the Renaissance, they wore codpieces ("cod" is the Old English word for scrotum).

Originally the codpiece was simply a triangular piece of cloth placed over the sex organs.  By the 1520s, it was getting cotton enhancments to better accentuate the basket.




During the codpiece craze of the mid-16th century, men tried to outdo each other with the biggest, boldest, most elaborate designs.

This is Don Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568), painted by Alonzo Coello.  Did he really walk around like that?













Guidobaldo II, Duke of Urbino (1514-1574), painted by Agnolo Bronzino, wears a huge ball-shaped codpiece.  I don't think his sex organs would really fit in there.

The codpiece was out of fashion by the time of Shakespeare, but fortunately, most modern directors don't know that, and push their actors into them anyway.












Today you can sometimes see codpieces at Renaissance Faires.    But not often. Modern men feel too exposed wearing them.
















Jul 28, 2015

My Friend with Benefits Learns About Gay Men

In the fall of 2005, I moved to Fairborn, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.  After 20 years in gay neighborhoods, it was a shock.  Dayton had only a tiny gay presence: a bar, two welcoming churches, a gift shop with gay-themed cards, and two organizations, one with the oddly closeted name “Friends of the Italian Opera” (“we do not go to the opera or discuss the opera”).


 burrowed into the womb of my apartment.  I didn't go into Columbus.  I didn't go to gay venues in Dayton.  I taught my classes and went to the gym.  On weekends I ordered Chinese food, watched Seinfeld, and hung out in internet chatrooms.

My only social life came from Chuck, a "friend with benefits": one of those guys who visit you for awhile and then leave, with only minimal contact information and no personal biographies.

Chuck was in his early 30s,  very muscular, with short brown hair and a round, appealing face.  He visited every couple of weeks -- I would call him, or he would call me.

The rest of the story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Gay Symbolism in the Tom Swift Books

Adults who knew that I liked boys' adventure stories and science fiction sometimes gave me books in the Tom Swift series.  After all, they starred a boy scientist who came up with weird inventions, and they were available in every department store.  But I didn't care for Tom Swift, in spite of the beefcake covers.

There have been four incarnations of the boy scientist.

1. Tom Swift, Senior (40 books, 1910-41) is a young adult, working for his father's construction company and inventing things (a motor-cycle, a motor-boat, an electric rifle). He adventures with a friend, Ned, but while most adventure boys of the era have no interest in girls, Tom practically shoves Ned aside the moment their gyro-copter lands at Shopton Airport in his haste to hold hands with Mary Nestor.



2. Tom Swift, Junior (33 books, 1954-71) is the son of the original Tom, a teenager who uses Dad's vast laboratories to invent things (a space solartron, a triphibian atomicar, a polar-ray dynosphere).  Mostly he uses them to fight the Communists. It's all very mechanical rather than scientific, like shop class.

Tom engages in some buddy-bonding with his friend Bud Barclay, but both have girlfriends -- with relationships much more overtly romantic than those of the Hardy Boys:


Tom grinned. "How about another dance, Phyl?"
As the music struck up again, he squeezed Phyl's hand. Phyl blushed as she returned the squeeze. "You rate with me," she confided shyly.




3. Tom Swift III (13 books, 1981-84) is probably a descendant of the original tom (though his paternity is never fully explained).  In the future,  doesn't really invent anything; he travels through space on a faster-than-light craft, along with two companions, Ben and Anita. I haven't read any of these.













4. Tom Swift IV (15 books, 1991-93) is the son of the original Tom.  He stays on 1990s Earth and invents things, and collaborates with the Hardy Boys.

This Tom has a best friend, a practical joker named Rick, but again, they both have girlfriends, with lots of hand-holding and kisses on cheeks, and discussions of feminine beauty are almost as common as discussion of science.

For whatever reason -- a desire to be "relevant," to attract female readers, to avoid the obvious gay subtexts in the Hardy Boys series -- the ghost-writers introduced an incessant girl-craziness.  There was some buddy bonding, too, but it was drowned out by Tom blushing as he held the hand of some girl.

Jul 27, 2015

Summer Beefcake at the Renaissance Faire

In 1963, Los Angeles teacher Phyllis Patterson and her husband hosted a week-long "Renaissance Pleasure Faire" in Irwindale, California, modeled after the "Living History" exhibits then popular in historic sites.  People walked around pretending to actually be living in the Renaissance, wearing the costumes, performing the crafts,  talking the lingo.

The practice gained momentum during the Medieval mania of the 1960s and 1970s, when thousands of hippies, organic food devotees, and Tolkien-philes longed for a cleaner, simpler, more colorful world.

Where gym-toned guys took their shirts off.

I'm not sure where in Renaissance Europe these dancers came from.

When I dated a guy from the Society for Creative Anachronism, they told me that their character could be anyone who could have been in Europe from 500 to 1500 AD.  So no Native Americans or Pacific Islanders, but East Asians and sub-Saharan Africans were ok.

Maybe these guys are from Renaissance India.







Renaissance Faires are not popular in Europe: when there's a castle on every hillside, and your house dates from the 16th century, you don't really need to evoke the Renaissance.  It's already there.

But there are hundreds in the United States.  Some draw as many as 500,000 visitors per year.












I studied the Renaissance.  They had lice and fleas, bathing was infrequent, dinner consisted mostly of bread, and the homicide rate was ten times what it is today.  You were likely to be burnt at the stake for being Jewish, Catholic, a gypsy, or a sodomite.

And without modern nutrition and bodybuilding techniques, there were few physiques like this around.

But the Renaissance Faires are about the Renaissance we wish existed.





They tend to be a bit on the heterosexist side, all about men and women gazing into each other's eyes (heterosexuals never believe that gay people existed in the past).  But they're worth it for the beefcake, the food, and the costumes.

See also: Codpieces