Nov 7, 2015

Gay Ghost #18: My Dad's Old Navy Buddy or His Grandson?

Last fall, around Halloween, I met a guy named Phil: in his 20s or 30s, round face, dark eyebrows, nice smile, and very muscular, with well developed pecs and abs.

But the most striking thing about him was: he looked absolutely familiar, as if I had known him all my life.

We met at the gay-friendly coffee house a few blocks away from my house.  In jeans and a red t-shirt, Phil looked even more familiar.  I wanted to run up, hug him, and say "It's been a long time!"  Instead I shook his hand and asked "Have we met before?"

"I don't think so.  At least, you don't look familiar."

He told me that his father was a diplomat; he grew up bouncing from Germany to Italy to Sweden, and through a dozen U.S. states.  All that moving gave him wanderlust, so after high school he joined the navy, and traveled to Korea, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Singapore.

That list sounded familiar, too, but I couldn't figure out from where.

After the Navy, he went to UCLA and majored in East Asian languages, then"bounced around," doing all kinds of things.

"I've been a hustler in Prague, a kept boy in Morocco, a translator in Beijing, a dishwasher in Nepal, a ski instructor in Spain, and an English teacher in Iran.  Have you ever eaten caviar while watching the sun rise over the Caspian Sea?"

No way!  Americans couldn't work in Iran after the 1979 revolution.  Phil was feeding me a line!

Well, I was something of a world traveler myself.

"I picked up a Swedish bodybuilder at a gay bar in Tallinn, Estonia."

"Oh, the Angel Bar, down the street from the Kiek in die Kok Tower?"

"My friend and I tried to start a gay Pentecostal church in Osaka."  

"Osaka!  Have you ever been to Physique?  I used to know the owner.  Very nice guy."

Ok,this guy had swallowed a Damron Gay Guide.  How could he have crammed all that travel into 25 or 30 years?  He must be feeding me a line.

That night I sat staring at Phil's selfie and going through the old photos on my computer.  Friends from Upstate, Florida, New York.  No.

West Hollywood, 20 years ago?  No, he wasn't old enough.

College, thirty years ago?  No.

Then I remembered!  I texted my Dad.  "That picture of you in the Navy, with civilian clothes.  Could you email it to me?"

An hour later, a photo appeared as an email attachment, Dad in civilian clothes and his 1950s hair wave, his arm around a taller guy with a crew cut.  "Me and Luke, Okinawa."

Different hair, but same face.  Phil, 50 years ago!

That's why he looked so familiar.

Dad always said that his years in the Navy, from 1954 through 1959, were the best time of his life.  He had a whole album of photos of him and his buddies, which his grandson had recently scanned and put on his computer.

When I was a kid, hungry for any evidence of same-sex desire, I was intrigued by the quiet intimacy of the photos.  I stared at them for hours, wondering if Dad had a secret gay life, but afraid to ask.

"Who was Luke?"  I texted Dad.  "What can you tell me about him?"

Dad isn't good at texting, so he called me.  "He was a couple of years older than me, in his late 20s. He took me under his wing when I was stationed in Japan.  And I think we were in the Philippines, too.  I had never been outside of Indiana before, but he had literally been everywhere!  He spoke fluent Japanese!"

He sent me three other pictures of him and Luke together.

 My favorite, one that I found hot as a kid, depicted them in swimsuits on a beach, their arms around each other, cans of beer in their hands.

Dad had a bulge.

"Did you keep in contact with Luke later" I asked.

"Not really.  Last I heard he was in college, studying international relations on the G.I. Bill. But that would have been in the early 1960s. Why so many questions about Luke?"

" met a guy today who looked exactly like him.  It was spooky."

I sent him the selfie.

"That's the spitting image of Luke!" Dad said.  "Must be his grandson.  Imagine hearing about him again after 50 years!"

Was Phil the grandson of Dad's old navy buddy?

Or Luke himself, unchanged, eternal?

Or a ghost?

The uncensored story, with nude photos is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Rocket to the Moon: Adventure Boys in Love

Gay boys of earlier generations could find an escape from the incessant interrogation of "What girl do you like" in fiction -- the fast-paced adventure series starring teenage boys.

Unlike the Hardy Boys series, the British Boys' Annuals, or the books in the Green Library, the adventure boy series offered little cover beefcake, but they made up for it with lush verbal descriptions: the teenagersare extraordinarily handsome,  immensely muscular, strong, sturdy, erect, lithe, well-formed, and “well-knit.”

In Jack Winters’ Gridiron Chums (1919),  we read that “Big Bob stretched out his massive arms. . . as though to call the attention of his companion to his splendid physique.”

 In The Radio Boys at the Mexican Border (1922), the hero has “long legs, flat hips, trim waist, deep chest and broad shoulders and a flat back. . .altogether, he was a striking figure.”

Girls are entirely absent, but almost every Adventure Boy forms an intimate, passionate bond with a same-sex chum, and almost every Adventure Boy novel ends with the two planning to stay together forever, a homoromantic version of the fade-out kiss.

In Roy Rockwood’s Great Marvel series, teenagers Mark Sampson and Jack Darrow explore the North Pole, the South Pole, and various planets,  but when they return to ordinary time, they do not abandon each other in search of girlfriends. The books conclude with either a coyly described intimacy or an assurance that their bond is permanent.

For example, when they return from the Earth's Core laden with diamonds, they decide to invest their wealth in college educations. What will become of them after college, Mark wonders.  “We’ll take a trip!” Jack exclaims. The two clasp hands, and the narrator hastily retreats.

In the last book of the series, they are middle aged professors, and still living together.  They have taken an interest in two of their male students, who embark on the adventure, while the adults sit by the fire and reminisce.

In first Don Sturdy novel (1925), fifteen-year old Don is searching for his missing parents, when he encounters a boy, Teddy, being held captive by some brigands.  He mounts a daring rescue.  Since they are both missing one or more parents, it is only logical that they join forces.  But even after Teddy’s father is found, they stay together. Even after Don’s parents are found, they stay together.

They move to Hillville, New York, where they attend high school together and live with or near Don’s “bachelor uncles.”  Every so often they embark on a new adventure involving pirates in the Sargasso Sea, giants in Pantagonia, headhunters in Borneo, gorillas in Africa, or renegade Aztecs in Mexico, and afterwards they always return to lives of happy domesticity. They never discuss the possibility of one day parting.  Their homoromance is permanent.

In The Secret of Skeleton Island (1949), the teenage Ken Holt, son of a famous journalist escapes from kidnappers and stumbles into the office of a small-town newspaper, where he meets the editor’s son, the massively muscular Sandy.  The next day, they are both re-captured by the kidnappers.  Although he became involved in the adventure only by accident, Sandy does not scram the moment he gets his hands untied; he sticks by Ken through many close-calls and run-ins with the bad guys, rescuing him and being rescued by him, right through the final cliffhanger.  In the last chapter, Ken’s father arrives to explain the mystery and write it up for his newspaper.

Then, instead of saying goodbye with a promise to visit, Sandy asks that Ken come live with him forever.  Ken is so overcome with emotion that he can barely assent. Most novels end with the promise of a permanent relationship, but here it is two boys, not a boy and a girl, who will live happily ever after.

Nov 6, 2015

Why Everyone in West Hollywood Watched "Dynasty"

After spending so many years looking for "a good place," when I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I didn't want any contamination from the straight world. I read Frontiers and The Advocate instead of the L.A. Times.  I didn't go to a movie unless it had gay characters.  And tv was the enemy, alien propaganda like the pamphlets dropped over enemy villages in wartime.

So in the fall of 1984 I watched 7 hours of tv regularly: Alice, Charles in Charge, The Cosby Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, Family Ties, It's Your Move, Kate and Allie, The Jeffersons, Miami Vice, Newhart, and Who's the Boss.  To be fair, that was my dreary year in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas.

And in the fall of 1986, I watched 3: The Golden Girls, Head of the Class, Mama's Family, Married with Children, and Dynasty.

I couldn't help Dynasty (1981-89).  On Wednesday nights, every tv in West Hollywood tuned in.  Bars had Dynasty Night.  On Halloween, guys dressed up as Joan Collins.

I didn't see the attraction. It was a Dallas clone, except set in Denver, and unscrupulous oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was an East Coast elitist rather than good ol' boy J.R. Ewing, so there were more sexual intrigues than shady business deals, but it was still a soap opera.

I could see the attraction for drag queens.  Blake's trophy wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) had big hair, fabulous outfits, and lots of temper tantrums. But what did gay men who weren't looking for fashion tips see in the succession of bikini-clad ladies lounging by poolside: Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Sams, Heather Locklear, Diahann Caroll.

There were a few hunky men, who sometimes stripped down for bed, but rarely lounged around the pool.  Sometimes they appeared in speedos on Battle of the Network Stars.

John James (above) played Jeff Colby, who courts Blake and Alexis' daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin).  The two eventually spun off into their own soap, The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield (left) played Miles Colby, Jeff's cousin, who also courts Fallon.  A little triangulation between them, but not enough for a subtext.

There was a gay character, sort of: Blake and Alexis' son Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman), one of those tortured, self-hating 1970s gays who claim that they like men, sort of, while sleeping with every woman in sight and trying desperately to change "back" into heterosexual. Every time he kissed a girl, I groaned.

But then, seeing any gay person on tv in the 1980s, even a conflicted one who likes girls, felt like a victory.

Fall 1987: My Boyfriend Gets a Girl Friend

In West Hollywood in the 1980s, the boundary between friend and lover was fluid. A friend might invite you into his bed; a lover might cruise someone else. You might have a regular Saturday night date with a friend; you might not see a lover for weeks at a time.

So I'm not sure exactly when Raul and I broke up.

1. Maybe in August 1987, when my roommate Alan moved to Thailand to start a gay Pentecostal church.    I asked Raul to move in to help with the rent, but he refused: "too far from work" (he was now in customer service at a company on Wilshire). So I had to hustle to find a new place, with Derek on Sunset Boulevard.

2. Or in September 1987, when Raul's lease expired, and he moved into an ugly house with a German cinematographer or something named Heinz -- in West Hollywood, only two miles from my old apartment.

Heinz's Horrible House
3. Maybe when Heinz got to be really, really annoying.  He wouldn't let anyone walk in shoes or socks on his white shag rug -- we had to go barefoot.

He listened incessantly to a terrible German pop group -- "Come away wiz me tyu Molly-Byu, tyu Molly-Byu, tyu Molly-Byu."

He forced us to watch the Miss America pageant.  Why would a group of gay men want to watch the Miss America pageant?  "For the outfits!"

The rest of the story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Dan Byrd: Nearly Gay

For someone who is not yet 30 years old, Dan Byrd has an enormous number of acting credits, including more gay, mistaken-for-gay, and nearly-gay roles than any actor in Hollywood.

Born in 1985, the Georgia boy arrived in Hollywood in at the age of 14, and was soon guest starring on tv, in Er, Camp Nowhere, State of Grace, Touched by an Angel, and The Nightmare Room.  

In his first starring big-screen role,. A Cinderella Story (2004), he played gay-vague best buddy of Cinderella Hillary Duff

Then, in Salem's Lot (2004), he reprised the homoerotic-subtext role that Lance Kerwin originated  in 1977.  Rob Lowe played his boyfriend.

 By 2005, the 20-year old had developed a pleasantly muscular physique, and, surprisingly for someone who often played victims or comic-relief sidekicks, he was not averse to showing it off with semi-nude shower or swimsuit scenes.

In Mortuary (2005), Dan played boyfriend of a girl who has a gay best buddy.

In The Hills Have Eyes (2006), a remake of the Wes Craven classic, Dan played a gay-vague teenager who is waylaid while traveling through Appalachia by a family of mutants.

In Easy A (2010), an adaption of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, he played a gay student who  pretends to be straight to avoid harassment, but ends up with a boyfriend -- older, and black, which has to be a first in American cinema.

 Suburgatory (2012): An undercover cop who infilitrates the school to check for steroid use, but is assumed gay due to his interest in muscles (which, as we know, Suburgatory specializes in).

On Cougar Town (2009-2013), Dan plays Travis Cox, the college-aged son of Jules (Courtney Cox), heterosexual, but often assumed gay, and fond of "fake coming out" to people.

Why is Dan so good at playing nearly-gay roles?  Maybe it's his deadpan wit, or his unimposing hotness.  Or maybe he's just lucky.

Nov 5, 2015

20 Shared Boyfriends, Friends, and Lovers

"Sharing" means a romantic couple inviting a friend or roommate to share them in the boyfriend in bedroom activity.  The custom developed during the first years of the AIDS epidemic, when sex with strangers was frowned upon.

But even in the world where smartphone apps have made anonymous hookups commonplace, sharing has some distinct advantages.

1. You don't need to bother looking; the arrangement is already made.

2.  Someone else has already screened him to make sure he's not crazy, a criminal, or lacking in basic hygiene.

3. You get to be with someone who would otherwise be out of your league, spoken for, or not into hookups.

4. And you might develop a polyamorous 3-way romance.

Here are 20 memorable sharing experiences.


1. Mark the Optometry Student and Shaun  During my first year in Bloomington, I accidentally intruded upon my down-the-hall neighbor Mark with his boyfriend Shaun, who he introduced as a visiting cousin.  I didn't realize that they were gay or on a date, so I "stole" Shaun away for a date of my own.

2. Viju and Sunan.  My roommate Viju and I often cruised at Bullwinkle's, competing over who could pick up the cutest guy.  One night we competed over a Thai guy named Sunan, who finally invited both of us back to his apartment.

West Hollywood

3. Alan and the Kept Boy. When I first moved to West Hollywood, I wasn't interested in sharing.  But one night at Mugi, a tall, blond twink named Zack invited himself home with me, and Alan joined in the bedroom activity.

4. Raul and Heinz.  Raul was my on-off boyfriend from 1986 to about 1989, and Heinz was his roommate, an older German guy who had a lot of annoying habits, like requiring us to take our shoes and socks both off before walking on the carpet, and singing "Come away wiz me tu Mal-i-buuu" all the time.  So how did we end up inviting him into our bed?  It was Raul's idea.

5. Derek and Cowboy of Sunset Boulevard.  My housemate Derek, a fitness model turned realtor, never invited me to share.  Until the Cowboy of Sunset Boulevard dumped me for Derek, and felt so guilty that he invited me to share.

6. Lane  and the Teenage Beach Boy.  Lane and I were together from 1989 through 1996 or 1997 (depending on who you ask). We were allowed to date other guys, as long as the date ended with the all three of us in the bedroom together.  We both were interested in Artan, the teenage beach boy, but he broke up with us after the third date because we were too energetic for him.

7. Gershom and the Gentile.  In gay Jewish circles, dating non-Jews was frowned upon and uncommon, and Gershom, raised in an Orthodox household, was more scrupulous than most.  But then he met the Man of His Dreams, who happened to be a Gentile.  He asked to practice on me first.

San Francisco

8. David and the Homeless Teenager.
  David, the ex-Baptist minister, came out at 43 and was making up for lost time by cruising everyone in sight.  But I didn't think he would cruise the teenage panhandler...and make a date with him.  We didn't actually share, but there was some fondling going on.

9. David and the Straight Boy.  
David bet me that we could both pick up straight guys at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  I struck out with mine, but later he went back to the festival, picked him up, and brought him back to the hotel to share.

New York

10. Yuri and Ali.
  After Yuri came out, he was a little nervous, so he asked me to share in the bedroom activities on his first date.

11.  Yuri and the Unhung Hippie.  Yuri's four-point plan for finding super-sized penises went astray when we cruised the unhung hippie.

12. Joe and the Muscle Bear.  The Muscle Bear was my boyfriend Joe's ex, a conservative country guy who was absolutely not into sharing.  Or so Joe believed.


13. Dick and the Pizza Boy.  When I was in Rock Island one summer, I cruised Jack, a theater major working the counter at the pizza place.  I didn't have time to finish the hookup, so I asked my friend and former bully Dick to take over.  He ended up dating Jack, and later gave me to as a "Christmas present."

14. Dick, Jack, and the Son of Mr. Blowfish.  Sammy, the son of my old speech teacher Mr. Blowfish, invited me to visit him in small-town Iowa, and wouldn't let me leave.  To avoid becoming "the boyfriend," I introduced him to Dick and Jack.  They took him off my hands.

15. David and the Teenage Hitchhiker.  David came to Florida for a visit one summer, and we took a road trip to Key West.  On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker, an 18-year old FIU student.

The full list, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Pasolini's Arabian Nights: Homophobia and Nudity

Between 1971 and 1974, Italian filmmaker Piers Paolo Pasolini produced and directed three adaptions of famous Medieval stories.  The Arabian Nights (Il fiore delle Mille et una Notte) was the last, and the most ambitious, with filming locations in Yemen, Iran, and Nepal.  I saw it at an Italian Film Festival in college during the famous summer of 1981, and again a few days ago.

If you've seen the other two (The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales), this one will be familiar; most of the same actors, especially Pasolini's lover Ninetto Davoli (left) and his protege Franco Merli, whom he discovered working at a gas station in Sicily.

Some of the same annoying bits as in the previous movies: dozens of people sitting around singing for no reason; lengthy closeups of random people with bad teeth grinning idiotically at the camera; stories that merge into other stories, so you're never sure what you're watching.

Pasolini eschews the more familiar stories, like Aladdin and Ali Baba, to concentrate on Nur Ed Din (Franco Merli, left) who loses his favorite slave Zumurrud (Ines Pelligrini), and wanders around, crying and having erotic adventures while searching for her.

Inside that story is another, about Aziz (Ninetto Davoli), who depends on his girlfriend for advice on how to win The Girl of His Dreams.  It ends badly.

And a few others.  They're somewhat convoluted, but from what I can figure out:
A man tries to save a woman from a demon, but ends up being turned into an ape.
A man tries to save a boy from a prophecy, but ends up killing him.

It's all rather confusing and very, very heterosexist.  In spite of the frequent assertions that it's perfectly ordinary to prefer men to women, the only same-sex relationship is just hinted at, and ends in tragedy.  Otherwise there are about a dozen men and women in love with each other.

The last scene is rather annoyingly homophobic.  Zumurrud, disguised as a man, has become the king of a city-state.  When Nur Ed Din arrives, the King summon him and orders him to strip and prepare for a sexual act.  Nur Ed Din refuses and protests -- he doesn't swing that way -- but the King says that he must submit or die.  Then "he" reveals "himself" as Zumurrud. It's ok, Nur Ed Din won't have to do anything icky after all, and the boy and girl hug and kiss for a heterosexist conclusion.

That being said, this is by far the most boy-crazy of the trilogy.  There isn't as much female nudity, but every male character spends most of his screen time with his clothes off.  There are closeups of gigantic penises every five seconds. If you want to see Ninetto Davoli in a state of arousal, this is your chance.

I suggest watching with the sound or subtitles turned off, so you can skip the heterosexism and blatant homophobia of the gay director.

Nov 4, 2015

The First Time Yuri and I Shared

Yuri knows the exact moment he came out: at 7:40 pm on December 5th, 1997, the night of the department Christmas party.

We tried to date, but we were so used to being friends that it was awkward.  So we decided that Yuri should start exploring the gay world on his own.

"For my first date," he said, "My first real date, I want somebody special.  Big."

"What, I'm not big enough for you?"

He laughed and hit me on the shoulder.  "You know what I mean.  Super big!  In Russia we don't have a lot of chernokosnie -- black guys.  Have you been with them?"

"A few."

"How big are they?"

"Well, I can't speak for all black guys, but T, the thug wannabe I dated in West Hollywood, was a Mortadella+."

He grinned.  "Great!  We will go to Manhattan and find some chernokosnie.  Except  for my first time I'm a  So for the sex, you will be there too, ok?"

The rest of the story, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

The Golden Girls in West Hollywood

Since I don't drink, bars don't have much of an attraction.  But in the late 1980s, when I lived in West Hollywood,  Saturday night meant picking up tangerine chicken to eat while watching Throb, Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, then heading out to Mugi, the Gold Coast, or the Faultline.

The Golden Girls theme song "Thank You for Being a Friend" still brings back memories of those Saturday nights of lights and music, checking out the musclemen, searching for Mr. Right (or Mr. Right Now), and schmoozing with friends.

It featured four senior citizens who live together in an affluent small-town Miami: former Southern Belle Blanche (Rue McClanihan), dimwitted Rose (Betty White), sensible Dorothy (Bea Arthur), and sarcastic Sophia (Estelle Getty).

The Girls were all played by gay-friendly actresses; Bea Arthur often spoke out against homophobia, and Betty White is a tireless supporter of gay marriage.  But the show itself was less tolerant:
1. Blanche is shocked to discover that her brother is "a homo."
2. Blanche cannot restrain her disgust at a feminine caterer.
3. A female visitor develops a crush on Rose, who has no idea what lesbians are.  When she finds out, she is shocked.

There was little beefcake.  Though the Girls were sexually voracious -- jokes mostly involved sex -- the men they slept with were older, and fully clothed.

Occasionally there was a hot guest star for the gay teens, such as as Mario Lopez (later photo) as one of Dorothy's students, Scott Jacoby as Dorothy's son, or Billy Jacoby (below) as Blanche's grandson.

Why, then, was it a gay favorite?

The recurring scene where the Girls sit around their kitchen table, eating cheesecake and schmoozing.

The men in their lives came and went, but their same-sex friendship was eternal.

Like the subtext songs of the 1980s, an image of connection, of the families you build for yourself.

Gay Ghost #8: Joseph and I in the Haunted House

One day in July of my first year in grad school in Bloomington, Joseph called: "You up for a road trip this Saturday?"

"Toga!  Toga!" I cried, hoping for a road trip to the gay bars in Indianapolis.

"I gotta go to Terre Haute to pick up some stuff, then drop it off at my parents' house in Broad Ripple [a suburb of Indianapolis]."

"How much stuff?" I asked suspiciously.  I didn't want to be conned into helping him move.

"Not a lot, just a few keepsakes.  My parents are selling my great-aunt Rose's house, and they want me to go get what I want before everything gets packed up and sold."

"Are other guys coming, too?"

"There aren't a lot of guys around Bloomington during the summer, so it will be just you and me."  He paused.  It's a pretty long trip, so we'll probably have to spend the night in Broad Ripple before heading back."

Spend the night!  I know what that meant!

 Joseph was  one of the first gay guys I met in Bloomington: an undergraduate history major, very cute, with black curly hair, a baby face, and a lean tan physique. Definitely my type!  But he was also very popular, dating Rick the philosophy major, then Mark the optometrist, then a medical student named Manfred (really!), so I never managed to squeeze in.

Obviously I wasn't his first choice, but who cared?  This was my chance to get intimate!

Saturday after lunch we set out for Terre Haute, about 1 1/2 hours away.  Joseph said that he grew up in Broad Ripple, but they drove out to visit his mother's aunt Rose almost every weekend.  He had fond memories of fishing in the Wabash River, drive-in movies, dinner at the Pizza King, and drinking hot chocolate while watching tv.

"When did she die?" I asked.

"Oh, she's not dead.  She's in a nursing home with dementia.  She fades in and out.  Some days she's almost normal, and others she thinks it's 1941, and I'm her brother Oscar.  But she can still name all of the U.S. presidents, in order, up to Richard Nixon."

"Did she know about you [being gay] before her dementia?"

"That was three years ago, when I had only just admitted it to myself.  She was always worried that I wasn't dating enough.  One of the last things she said to me before her dementia began was 'You shouldn't be so picky, or you'll never find a girl.'  I was too scared to tell her I was gay."

Aunt Rose used to be a professor of American history at Indiana State University.  She lived in a big, two-story house in West Terre Haute, just across the Wabash.  It was painted a depressing shade of grey, but it had a wide porch and a big, carefully mown front lawn.

As we walked up to the house, I saw what looked like a face in the attic window!

I stopped and grabbed Joseph's arm.  "Does anyone still live here?"

"No. But about a dozen members of the family have keys.  We drop by to do housework, pay Aunt Rose's bills, and such.  We still hold family gatherings here.  Why?"

"Oh,'s just well kept up."  I didn't want to turn Joseph off by being leery of an old house.

The living room was mostly packed up and ready to go, all of the pictures taken from the walls and the furniture all carefully marked with the name of whoever had claimed it.  Joseph took a candy dish and a ceramic figure of a dog.

The kitchen was cluttered with pots, pans, dishes, and various obscure implements in piles on the counters and tabletops.  Joseph took a fondue set and the cup his Aunt Rose used to serve his juice in.

It was very warm.  He turned on the air conditioner, but we still had to take our shirts off.

Next came the study, heavy laden with books from a career as a college professor: a three-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Bruce Caxton's Civil War trilogy, plus mystery novels, literature, folklore, music, and about a hundred books on gardening.  Joseph and I filled five boxes with books to argue over later.

He left Aunt Rose's bedroom alone.

Upstairs was a storage room that was pack rat heaven.  50 years of Christmas and birthday cards. Stacks of report cards and school papers. Old magazines, carefully bundled.   Old wrapping paper.  Slide carousels.  Souvenirs of long-ago trips.  Joseph took a nativity set, some Christmas tree ornaments, and a painting of the house.

He left the first bedroom alone and zeroed in on the second, where he stayed whenever he slept over.  There were two twin beds with flowered comforters, a night stand between them, an old-fashioned dresser, and a little card table with framed pictures of Aunt Rose's family.

"Help me get this comforter.  And I think I want the lamp, too.  I used to fall asleep with the light on, and Aunt Rose would come in and turn it off...."  he stopped short.  He was trembling.

"Are you ok?"

"She joked that I liked this room so much, I should spend my honeymoon here.  I just... wish Aunt Rose could know about who I really am.  I'm sure she'd be ok with it...I'm so much happier now then when I was trying to be straight, with all the friends I've made...and .."  He started to cry.  I rushed to put my arms around him.  Then somehow we were kissing.

Joseph pushed me down onto the bed.

A few moments later, I saw a shadow.

There was a woman standing next to the bed!

Not a ghost, completely corporeal. Elderly, white haired, wearing a fluffy terrycloth bathrobe.  I couldn't make out a face.  She was standing parallel to us, facing the night stand.  As if she was about to turn out the light.

I screamed.  She vanished.

"What's wrong?" Joseph asked.

"Is anybody else in the house?" I asked, panting.


"I think I just saw your Aunt Rose!"

"You're spooked."  Joseph lay his head on my chest.  "This house isn't haunted, and besides, Aunt Rose isn't dead.  We can go visit her tomorrow, if you want."

"Let's just...let's just finish up and get out of here.  I don't want to be here after dark!"

We grabbed the comforter and the lamp, locked up the house, and drove up to Broad Ripple for dinner with Joseph's parents.  He wasn't out to them, but they still put us up for the night in his old room, where we finished what we had started earlier.

In the morning we had breakfast, sorted through some books to take back to Bloomington, and then, as promised, dropped by the nursing home to visit Aunt Rose.

She was a frail, elderly woman sitting by herself in the tv lounge.

Joseph said "Hi, Aunt Rose" and hugged her.

She looked at him blankly, without recognition.

"This is my friend Boomer, from school."

Suddenly she perked up.  "Oh, Boomer, nice to finally meet you in person!"

"But this is the first...."

"Are you treating our Joseph right?  Oh, of course you are!  Forgive my big mouth!  We were just so worried about him.  It seemed like he would never find a fellow...."

Joseph blushed.  "Aunt Rose, Boomer is my school friend."

Then she was gone again: she had to get ready for her class, but she couldn't find her notes, and were we her new teaching assistants?

Joseph figured that someone in the family must have known he was gay, and outed him to Aunt Rose during one of her lucid moments.

But I think she saw me the day before, at her house: she came into the bedroom to turn off the light.

The uncensored story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood

Saving the Nazarene Boy

For all the misery and deprivation of growing up in the Nazarene Church, there were some advantages.  Three services per week, plus Sunday School, Nazarene Young People's Society, Afterglow, summer camp, revivals, adult and teen choirs, fall and spring cantatas, Christmas pageants, and miscellaneous special numbers -- we spent half our lives singing.

We learned to read music almost as soon as we could walk.  Keys, chords, timbre, arpeggios, adaggio, tremolo, glissando were second nature.

We were accompanied by the piano and organ only.

And only girls played them.

Boys could learn the piano and organ, to help them with their voice lessons, or if they planned to become Ministers of Music.  But they never played in front of the church.  A boy pianist or organist would have been as bizarre as a girl preacher.

I left the Nazarene church years ago, but my mother and sister still call or email me regularly, to tell of the going ons, the squabbles with preachers, the relationships of the children and grandchildren of people I used to know -- and, when they all moved to Indiana in 1995, the children and grandchildren of people I've never met.

One day Mom said "I don't know what got into the preacher's son!  He's studying music at Olivet.."

"So what?  Maybe he wants to become a Minister of Music."

"No."  Mom paused, breathless with scandal.  "He's concentrating in the organ!"

I grinned.  A boy organist!  It was as gender-transgressive as a boy wearing a dress!   "I'm surprised they even allow him to major in the organ.  Do they let him play in church?"

"Not yet.  But his dad promised to let him accompany the singers at the cantata."  That was an all-music service that we had at Christmastime.

I thought immediately: "Gay kid!" and "Needs saving from Nazarene homophobia!"

So I flew home for the holidays, and went to the Sunday morning service at the ultra-homophobic Nazarene church

I hadn't been inside a Nazarene church, except for weddings and funerals, since college.  I kept close to Mom and Dad so no one would pounce on me as "fresh meat."

The cantata consisted of an adult choir of ten people, a children's choir, and five soloists.  No one wore robes, of course.  They sang the same songs I remembered from countless cantatas as a kid: "His Name is Wonderful," "Do You Hear What I Hear?"; "What Child is This," and a single nod to classical music "O Come, Emmanuel" from The Messiah. 

Simon the preacher's kid was a slim sandy-haired twink, about 20 years old, with a long face and and slim, delicate hands.  He closed his eyes while playing, as if the music was flowing through his fingers directly to the keys.

Definitely gay.

Nazarenes don't have coffee hours for, I mean socializing...after church, but some socializing goes on in the foyer as you're waiting to shake the preacher's hand on the way out.  The choir members got effusive praise, but Simon stood by himself, being studiously ignored by everyone except some of the teens.

I walked over and introduced myself, and Simon politely said "Praise the Lord" and shook my hand.  He had a warm, loose handshake.

"I think it's great that you want to become a church organist," I said.  "There's no reason why a man can't be an organist, or a woman a Minister of Music."

Whoops! A controversial statement!  But Simon grinned.  Apparently he was a member of that rare breed, a liberal Nazarene.

Would my superheroic attractiveness to twinks work on a Nazarene?  I decided not to risk it, and went with place-dropping.

"Um....I know a guy in California who's a church organist."

"California!"  His eyes widened.  "I'd love to go there someday!"

"I lived in West Hollywood for 10 years and San Francisco for two."

"Wow!  Weren't of the gays?"

My face burned.  Homophobic!  But then, I was mega-homophobic when I was his age.  Before I came out.

"Oh, no," I said.  "They never bothered me."

One of the teens -- a boy, I noticed -- whispered something in Simon's ear.

"I'd love to hear about it, but we have to go.  Maybe we could hang out tomorrow?"

"Sure.  I'll come by the parsonage at noon, and take you to lunch."  And a Gay 101 lesson!

The next day, we went to a Mexican restaurant, and I started my spiel.  "I knew lots of gay people in California...they were..."

"Older guys always beat around the bush," Simon said, cutting me off.  "I guess you had to, back when you were young.  But nowadays we just ask.  Yep, I'm gay.  And you are, too."

I stared.

"Don't get me wrong.  It was cute, watching you try to bring up the topic without saying it."

" it ok, being gay at a Nazarene college?"

"I have to keep a low profile, but I'm out to all of my friends.  Some of my professors, too."

"And your parents?"

He laughed.  "Oh, they're not happy with it, but they don't say anything.  They've even met my boyfriend.  Want to see his picture?"  He handed me his phone (top photo).  "They were more upset about his beard and tattoo than about us being a couple."

A preacher's kid and his boyfriend having dinner at a Nazarene parsonage!  My mind reeled.  "Is he a Nazarene, too?"

"Devout Episcopalian.  We met on Grindr.  Wanna see the selfie I used to get him interested?"  He took back his phone and flipped through his photos to find it.  Very cute, very big beneath the belt.

"Impressive," I said.

He dug into his chile relleno.  "What about you? You grew up in the Nazarene church in..what, the 1960s?  The 1970s?  You must have some horror stories!"

Nothing physical happened, but it was nice to meet a Nazarene boy who was out and proud, who didn't need saving after all.

Nov 3, 2015

Johnny Weissmuller: A Second Rate Tarzan

I have a confession to make: I never liked Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan.  I prefer Buster Crabbe, Herman Brix, or Mike Henry.

I know, I know, he invented the Tarzan mythos.  There were Tarzans on screen before, not to mention comic strips, a radio program, and the original novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but nothing matched the popularity of the MGM Tarzan series:

1. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
2. Tarzan and His Mate (1934)
3. Tarzan Escapes (1936)
4. Tarzan Finds a Son! (1938)
5. Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)
6. Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)

And the RCA series:
1. Tarzan Triumphs (1943)
2. Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943)
3. Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)
4. Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946)
5. Tarzan and the Huntress (1947)
6. Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948)

 The yell, the vine-swinging, the "me Tarzan" patois -- all invented by or for Weissmuller.

The problem is, they were entirely heterosexist, all about Tarzan and Jane's primal jungle romance.   They were Adam and Eve in a pristine heterosexual paradise, threatened only by the savages and unscrupulous Europeans who carried Jane off, kicking and screaming, in every single episode -- that girl was totally unable to take care of herself.  When Jane wasn't around, Tarzan found a nubile female substitute.

There were no gay subtexts, except maybe between Tarzan and his adopted son, Boy (Johnny Sheffield). Tarzan had no male friends, and whenever Boy tried to make a male friend, Tarzan roughly jerked him

 And, come on -- look at him!  In the 1960s, the go-to guy for Tarzan on film was the spectacularly muscular Mike Henry.
Or you could see Gordon Scott, whose impossibly super-sized chest cast its own shadow.

After that, it was quite a shock to turn on Tarzan Theater  and see this rather paunchy specimen, with ridiculous hair and yet another woman tied up by his side.

Dick York: Bewitching Beefcake

I imagine that most gay male and heterosexual female Baby  Boomers have been desperate to see Dick York with his shirt off ever since their diaper days, when they saw him eye-bulge as Darren Stephens, mortal married to the witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) on the gay-symbolism-heavy "my secret" sitcom Bewitched (1964-69)  

Good luck.  As a stick-in-the-mud advertising executive in the Mad Men sixties, Darren usually wore a business suit, slept in pajamas, and was never shown in the shower or at the beach.  Dick was suffering from a debilitating back injury that prohibited most stunts and action scenes; finally the writers had to find reasons to keep Darren in bed for entire episodes.

Prior to Bewitched, Dick starred in various Westerns, thrillers, and dramas.  I haven't seen any of them except for Inherit the Wind (1960), but they probably didn't include significant beefcake.

But you can find everything on youtube.  A  compilation clip called Dick York: the Sexiest Man Alive seems to be displaying clips from Dick's very early work, playing high schoolers in "educational films" such as "How Popular Are You?" (1951).  They were used in classrooms for promoting conformity and compulsory heterosexuality.

In Bewitched, Darren was the "straight" man, in more ways than  one.  Not only the eye-bulging, slow-burning spectator to the mayhem, but aggressively heterosexual, faithful to Samantha but tempted by slithery witches, wood nymphs, sirens, and human women every five seconds.

But the compiler finds some gay-subtext images.  Dick and another boy check out each other's equipment in the shower (top photo), and he demonstrates that he is popular by walking off arm in arm with the school hunk.

There are also a few pics, very small, of an older Dick York at poolside, courtesy of Democratic Underground.  Not a bad physique.  Too bad Darren didn't get zapped out of his clothes from time to time.