Nov 14, 2015

Space: 1999

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I was a sci-fi nut, but Space: 1999 was a little far out, even for me.

It appeared sporadically from 1975 to 1979, a few episodes on Monday nights, then off for two months, then advertised in TV Guide on Tuesday but actually airing on Wednesday, so it was hard to see, or get any idea of what was going on.

I did like the intro, which featured a lot of British people in futuristic costumes looking solemn or scared and being thrown across rooms.




Apparently it was a sequel, of sorts, to the British sci-fi UFO, which was about fighting aliens from a base on the moon.  On the far-future date of September 13, 1999, a massive thermonuclear explosion wrests the moon out of orbit and sends it careening into deep space, the 311 staff members of Moonbase Alpha with it.  They then encounter lots of civilizations ruled by giant computers or aliens with godlike powers, a la Star Trek.

There were several attractive crew members, especially in the most revealing uniforms I have ever seen on tv, but the standout star was Nick Tate as chief pilot Alan Carter (top photo).  Most scripts found some reason to get him out of his clothes.






I think this is Tony Anholt (Tony Veredichi), Chief of Security, who apparently got his clothes ripped off a lot, too.

Bodybuilder John Hamill had a guest spot in 1978, but kept his clothes on.













There wasn't a lot of hetero-romance, far less than on Star Trek, where Kirk kissed a different alien babe in a different semi-nude outfit every week.  I didn't see enough episodes to notice any particular buddy-bonding, but gay fans point to a love-hate homoromance between Alan and John (Martin Landau, center).









Maybe I should have paid closer attention in the 1970s.


Nov 12, 2015

Shaken, Not Stirred: The Gay James Bond

I think I've only seen three James Bond movies all the way through: Diamonds are Forever (1972), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Casino Royale (2006). But I've seen many, many clips of pivotal scenes, plus countless pastiches, parodies, and imitations, on everything from The Flintstones to Family Guy.  

From his introduction in a series of novels by Ian Fleming (1953-64) through fifty years' worth of movies (1962-2012), Bond created the image of the suave, sophisticated spy that has been  imitated over and over, in tv series (I Spy, Get Smart, The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible)in movies (The Bourne Identity, True Lies, The Secret of Boyne Castle, Austin Powers); even in comics (Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine).

Bond comes from a generation before the Man-Mountains, when Swinging Bachelors ruled.  He rarely took off his shirt; the producers didn't expect anyone to be looking at his muscles. In the tradition of "everybody's fantasy," the producers expected all women but no men to swoon over him due to his cool savoir-faire, his tailored suits, fluency in French, knowledge of clarets, and hint of danger.

And all men but no women to admire him for his spy expertise, his ability to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, kill an enemy spy on the way down, and land unfazed, unruffled, and ready for sex.

For all his popularity, there is very little for gay men to like in James Bond.

1. Very brief, minimal beefcake shots, only when absolutely necessary -- a part of his chest might peek out over the top of the sheets -- and overwhelmed by endless shots of bikini-clad and nude women.  Sean Connery (left) was a former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe runner-up, yet we saw no underwear, no towels, almost nothng of his physique.  Current Bond Daniel Craig has been a little better, offering an occasional swimsuit shot.

2. Few homoromantic subtexts.  The Bond world is as completely divided into evil men and nice women as Karate Kid.  Every woman Bond meets wants to have sex with him. Some try to kill him also, but usually they have a change of heart and become allies.

And the most a man can feel for him, or for any man, is a sort of grudging admiration. More often they feel raw hatred.  Same-sex friendships do not exist.

3. Intense homophobia.  Fleming wrote his novels for "warm-blooded heterosexuals," and decried the ranks of the "unhappy sexual misfits."  The movies almost invariably pit the heterosexual Bond against gay-vague "sexual misfits" -- or not so gay-vague, as the transvestite Spectre agent in Thunderball, or the hand-holding Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever.  Even Jauvier Bardem, the latest villain (in Skyfall), camps it up to ensure that we identify him as a detestable poof.

4. It's hard to find a gay-friendly actor in the corpus of Bond movies.  Sean Connery became irate when he heard that some commentators found a gay subtext in one of his movies.  Roger Moore (left) played a negative stereotype in Boat Trip (2002).  Current Bond Daniel is a little more gay-friendly, but even he became irate at the suggestion that the superspy like both sexes:  "James Bond is heterosexual.  There will never be a gay Bond, ever."

Speaking of violent objections, in 1999 there was a rumor that gay actor Rupert Everett would be the next Bond.  He quickly spoke up, stating that it would be impossible: "Bond fans would burn down MGM if the studios got a gay actor to play James Bond."

So, what's gay about the James Bond movies?

1. A remarkable preoccupation with Bond's sex organs, from the laser-beam in Goldfinger to the chain-thwacking in Casino Royale.  Heterosexuals have never spent so much time envisioning phalluses.

2. Wearing tailored suits, drinking fine wines. dining on  haute cuisine, conversing in Italian and French?  Metrosexual, to say the least.

3. The violent objections incited when you suggest that Bond might be gay -- or played by someone gay -- suggest that he meets a deep-seated desire in heterosexuals to postulate a gloriously gay-free world.  It's fun to discomfort them, to point out that there are gay people everywhere, even in the most homophobic of texts.  So take one of Bond's male allies - Willard Whyte in Diamonds are Forever, Milos Colombo in For Your Eyes Only, Damian Falco in Die Another Day -- it doesn't matter how tenuous the relationship is -- and let the slash fictions roll.

Nov 11, 2015

13 Gay College Boys

I spent my undergraduate years at Augustana College, never hearing about gay people in class or from friends or on the street,  There were no gay clubs, organizations, newspapers, or books, as far as I knew.  The only way to meet gay people was by sheer accident.

In that world of total darkness, it's nothing short of miraculous that I managed to meet 13 gay guys in Rock Island or nearby during my four years at Augustana.
Freshman Year

1. Peter the Male Witch.  First I tried asking around, but the only gay guy anyone at Augustana knew of was Peter the male witch, who was expelled for being gay a few years ago.

2. Mary's Brother.  My friend Mary was worried that her kid brother Jake might be gay.  She asked me to visit her during spring break and find out.


3. The Dwarf at the Post Office.  He made eye contact a little "too long," and "accidentally" touched my hand as I passed him the package to be mailed.  I found an excuse to go to the post office every day for a week before I got the nerve to ask him out.

4. Cute Nerd or Creepy Old Guy.  He was way older than me, in his 30s, a regular at the library book sales.  I invited myself back to his creepy old house to help him carry the load of books he had bought, but was he a lonely gay guy or a serial killer?


Sophomore Year

5. Fred the Ministerial Student.  When the ministerial student at the United Church of Christ asked me out to dinner, I wasn't sure if he meant a date or not.  I wasn't even sure that he was gay.

6. The Priest with Three Boyfriends.  Fred introduced me to his friend Thomas, an Episcopal priest who had three boyfriends and introduced me to the concept of "sharing."

Junior Year

7. Tricking My Friend into a Date.  Haldor was a member of the Bookstore Gang who never dated girls.  But was he gay?  So I suggested a dating contest: we would systematically ask out all of the eligible girls at Augustana, and the one who got the most dates won.  Of course, we would both go along on each of the dates, and go back to my room after dropping the girl off.

8. Adam at the Bell Tower.  Adam was the bookstore manager, a few years older than me, who wanted to "big brother" me.  I wanted a kiss.

9. My Professor's Handcuff Party.  Every year Dr. Burton, the geology professor, held a handcuff party for his advanced students.

10. What the Graffiti Meant. In junior high Brian wrote a mysterious message, "Brian gives free LBJs," on the school wall.  The summer after my junior year Brian, now in college, told me what the graffiti meant.

11. My First Gay Rights March.  That same summer, I marched in my first gay pride parade -- except they were Gay Rights Marches then, with placards demanding an end to sodomy laws and police harassment.  I met a University of Iowa Russian major named Mickey.




Senior Year

12. The Priest with the Pushy Mom.  My second real boyfriend, an ex-Greek Orthodox priest with a Mortadella+ and a pushy Mom.  I held on for two months to get access to the Mortadella+, but finally Mom was too much for me, and I bolted.

13. The Chubby Musician.  During my senior year, a freshman started working at the radio station, and immediately took over: a music major, black, chubby, annoyingly elitist, extraordinarily feminine.  But was he gay?

The uncensored post, with nude pictures, is on Tales of West Hollywood.


Adventure Time: Gay-Positive Cartoon Series

The Looney Tunes Show notwithstanding, the Cartoon Network usually gets it right.  Adventure Time (2010-) is a sort of reflection of the 1975 sci-fi classic A Boy and his Dog (with Don Johnson):

Finn the Human (voiced by Jeremy Shada, left), the last human alive, and his shape-shifting adopted brother, Jake the Dog (voiced by John DiMaggio), are dedicated to fighting evil in a post-Apocalyptic, quasi-Medieval world where magic works and nearly everything is alive.

Usually they pledge their fealty to Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom, but they have also journeyed to the realms of other princessess, plus the Underworld, the Fire Dimension, the planet Mars, a staggering number of parallel worlds, and even a place beyond space and time.

Though the word "gay" is never spoken, same-sex desire and practice are matter-of-fact realities, with very few missteps.

1. Finn is invited to a couples-only movie night. He plans to bring a duck, but Jake advises: "You have to bring somebody you can smooch!"  Note the major difference from "You have to bring a girl!"

2. The Ice King, who provides comedic tension by constantly kidnapping princesses and trying to force them into marriage, approaches the vampire Marcelline and suggests that they team up.  "I'll take the princesses, and you can have whatever you're into."  Another big difference from "you can have the men."

3. Although fan sites try to talk their way out of it, Marcelline has had relationships with both sexes.  In "What Was Missing," she and Princess Bubblegum must reunite after a long estrangement, and work together to solve a mystery.

 They discuss what went wrong with their relationship ("I never said you had to be perfect!"), and in the end we discover that Bubblegum still sleeps in a t-shirt that Marcelline gave her.

4. Beemo, the robot video game console, does not have a gender, but is usually called "he."  In one episode, Finn suggests that Beemo might be interested in the Ice King, and eager for dish, Jake says "Why?  Did he say something?"

And in another, Beemo has an adventure with a bubble filled with sentient male Air, who proposes marriage.

5. The Earl of Lemongrab is too fussy and demanding to get along with anyone, until Princess Bubblegum makes him a clone of himself.  The two Lemongrabs later have a child together, or at least pretend to.

There have been a couple of missteps, however.

1. Prismo, a two-dimensional being who lives outside space and time, befriends Jake, eagerly asks him to return for a visit, and gives him a gift, a jar of pickles.  Jake sighes "I got to get him a girlfriend."

2. A male chocolate chip cookie named Baby-Snaps wants to become a Princess.  Although Jake supports his transgender aspiration, Princess Bubblegum believes that it signifies insanity, and has him committed to a mental institution.

See also: Clarence: Gay Characters on Kids' TV, Sort Of; and Gay Fan Art 4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom

Everyone has heard of 120 Days of Sodom, the much-excoriated novel by the Marquis de Sade, written while he was in prison in 1785, and not published until the 20th century.  But most people haven't read it.

I have, for a paper I wrote in grad school.  Or at least I skimmed through it.

Four wealthy libertines decide to try out every sexual gratification there is.  So they shut themselves up in a secluded castle for four months with 46 victims: their own daughters, some male prostitutes, some exceptionally attractive teenage boys and girls, and some exceptionally ugly older women.   They get ideas from four experienced prostitutes, who tell stories of "passions," or erotic acts.

Though the list is long -- 600 items -- it omits a lot of  common sexual acts, fetishes, and paraphilias, and includes a lot of weird ones.  All of them require the act to be non-consensual.

Sacrilege is apparently a big turn on: the victims are forced to renounce God, spit on crucifixes, desecrate communion wafers, and so on. And so is anal sex, which Sade perceived as a kind of sacrilege.

But violence is the biggest draw.  A month is devoted to the "cruel passions," various types of torture.  Another month is devoted to the "murderous" passions: burning alive, disemboweling, and otherwise killing victims.

Gay Italian filmmaker Piers Paolo Pasolini adapted it Salo (1975), substituting World War II fascists for libertines.  He adds a bit more plot, including a hetero-romance, and ups the humiliation factor.


There's a ton of male nudity, with many very attractive male bodies, and a lot more gay sex than in the original book -- but it's presented as much more shocking than audiences today may find it: "Look, that man is having sex with another man!"

Actually, the whole movie is somewhat less shocking than one expects from hearing its history of banning and censorship.  Today you can see much, much worse in the torture porn genre, like Saw and The Human Centipede.

Pasolini was killed on November 2, 1975, shortly before Salo was released.  If this is his "farewell" to the world, it's curious that he presents same-sex acts as universally degrading, as bestial, and gives the only hint of tenderness, compassion, and love to heterosexuals.

But maybe not so curious.  His other movies present same-sex acts as, at best pleasant diversion from the heterosexual romance that is the theme of everyone's dreeaming.

He was gay, but apparently he wished he wasn't.

Nov 10, 2015

My Boyfriend Bill Grows Up


Remember my first boyfriend, Bill, from Denkmann Elementary School?  We were inseparable for three years, walking to and from school, watching Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat, reading comic books, inviting cute boys over for sleepovers.

We had our own gang -- me, Bill, Joel, and Greg -- who liked looking at men with muscles.

We stayed friends in junior high, but we drifted apart into other interests and social circles.

The last time I was at his house was for a Halloween party in tenth grade, probably October 31st, 1975.  I spent most of the evening talking to his big brother Mike, who used to call me "Bud" and drive us places.

The last time I saw Bill was during our senior year in high school, when we visited David Angel in the mental hospital.  He thought we were a couple.  We laughed it off as ridiculous.

The years passed: Augustana College, Indiana University,  Texas, West Hollywood, San Francisco.
I didn't hear anything from or about Bill, though I often spoke of him as my first boyfriend.

The years passed: Long Island University, Florida, Ohio, Upstate New York.  I started a blog about my childhood memories, and recorded all of my Bill stories.

I tried to look him up, but none of the high school or college friends that I was still in contact with remembered him, and he had a common name, impossible to google.

Before I knew it, I was 54 years old.  Nearly 40 years had passed since the day Bill and I visited David Angel.

Then out of nowhere I got a friend request from him on Facebook.

Was he gay?  Were my memories real, or a misinterpretation of a straight boy's friendship?



We exchanged life histories in that stilted, obituary style that you use when reconnecting with someone after many years.  He studied culinary arts at Black Hawk College, then worked as a chef at Jumer's Castle Lodge, across the river in Bettendorf.  During the 1990s, he opened a restaurant near the resort of Wisconsin Dells.  It went bankrupt after the stock market downturn of 2004, and he moved to Reno, Nevada, where me now manages all of the restaurants in the Circus Circus Casino.

"But I've dabbled in other businesses, too," he continued.  "In 1999 I became co-owner of a strip club in Moline, out by the airport."

My heart sank.  A strip club?  Straight!

"I insisted that we were equal opportunity," Bill continued.  "We had male strippers on Tuesday nights."

"I've been there!" I exclaimed.  "Christmastime 1999 or 2000.  On male stripper night.  I saw my old Sunday school teacher's sons, Mickey and Dom!"

Bill was nonchalant.  "Sure, I remember them!" Bill said.  "College boy act.  Very good, very professional, and they had the goods.  I always auditioned the strippers personally, to make sure they were up to speed."

"Men and women both?"

"Of course!  I have a pretty good eye for beauty, as you saw with Mickey and Dom."

Bisexual?  Or straight and nonchalant about gay people?

"What about romances?" I asked.  "Any long-term relationships?"

"I was married for 15 years.  We had an open relationship, though. We both saw other people.  Since then I've been single."

Bisexual?  Or straight and wild?

"But what about you?" Bill asked.  "Any boyfriends, lovers, husbands?  After Dan at Washington, I mean."

Boyfriends, lovers, husbands -- he knew about me!  And he interpreted my friendship with Dan as a romance.  

I told him about Fred the Ministerial Student in college, Raul and my celebrity boyfriend in West Hollywood, 10 years with Lane, 5 years with Troy. 7 years with Yuri (we were friends, but closer than many lovers).

"You've been busy!" Bill exclaimed.  "Me too.  I'm single but not lonely.  I can still attract the hotties -- look."

He sent me a nude photo.  

It was eerie looking at Bill's face again after 40 years.  He was a little chunky, with a muscular, slightly hairy chest and big biceps.  

In all of our sleepovers, I never saw Bill nude.  He was a little small beneath the belt, uncut.  
"Hot!" I told him.

"Thanks.  It gets me a lot of action."

Ok, still noncommittal.  Time to ask.

"Action with men or women?"

Bill didn't hesitate.  "Oh, men, of course.  Women are nice and all -- I wouldn't kick Scarlett Johansson out of bed -- but at the end of the day you really want two muscular arms around you and a baseball bat pressing against your leg.  We knew that back in third grade, didn't we?"

"All but the baseball bat part.  That took me a few years to figure out."

"Well, I was precocious.  Remember Aaron, the Rabbi's son?"  

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

Bill and I Turn Music Class Gay

When we were in fifth grade at Denkmann Elementary School, my boyfriend Bill and I hated music class, or as we called it, Muse-Ick!

1. The teacher, Miss Randall, was a power-mad martinet: tall, black-haired, with a constant scowl and a baton that doubled as a weapon of mass destruction.

2. Why should anyone other than future pop stars learn how to sing?  It was a holdover from prehistoric times, when people sang to each other for entertainment.  News flash: we had radio and tv now!

3. How could you grade someone on their musical ability? It was a talent, like painting or poetry.



4. Everything we sang was like a thousand years old, mostly ridiculous "American folk songs."

5. The songs were usually oppressively heterosexist, all about boys meeting their true loves, courting girls, getting married.  Only Streets of Laredo mentioned a gay relationship, and the boyfriend was dead.

We didn't know about cool folksingers like gay-friendly Woody and Arlo Guthrie, or the gay Justin Utley (left).

So we decided to engage in some civil disobedience, just like I had in second grade, when I corrupted the Mean Boy.  We got a few confederates, had a practice session in Bill's family room -- his big brother Mike joked that we were becoming rock stars -- and when it came time to sing, we had a few different lyrics:







Shucking of the Corn, Old People's Version
The winter's cold in Cairo, the sun refuses to shine
Before I'd let my true love suffer, I'd work all the summertime.

Our version:
The winter's cold in Cairo, the sun refuses to shine.
If I can't see a boy with muscles, I'll kiss a porcupine!

"Some of you are way off!" Miss Randall shouted.  "Pay attention to the words!"

Billy Boy, Old People's Version
Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Can she bake a cherry pie, Charming Billy?
She can bake a cherry pie, quick as a cat can wink his eye
She's a young thing, and cannot leave her mother

Our version:
Can he take off all his clothes, Charming Billy?
He can take off all his clothes, and be naked to his toes
He's a young thing, and cannot show his pee-pee.

Now she was catching on.  "Sing the right words!"






Sweet Betsy from Pike, Old People's Version
Oh don't you remember sweet Betsy from Pike,
Who crossed the wide prairie with her husband Ike,
With two yoke of oxen, a big yellow dog,
A tall Shanghai rooster, and one spotted hog?

Our version:
Oh, don't you remember sweet Benny from Pike
Who crossed the wide schoolyard with his buddy Ike
With two boys with muscles and a color tv,
And a tall guy from Shanghai who wants to kiss me?

We had to stay after school and write an essay on "Our Proud Musical Heritage," but it was worth it.


A Catholic Priest in Love: The Little World of Don Camillo

After I spent the night with Todd in the summer of 1976, after my sophomore year in high school, I became obsessed with all things Catholic.  One day I found The Little World of Don Camillo (1950) at the St. Pius Catholic Church book sale: a small, yellow collection of short stories, illustrated by cute, half-naked angels and devils.

I had never read anything like this before. There were lots of stories about boys in love with boys, or teenagers with adult men, but never two adults!  And one was a tall, muscular Catholic priest who assaulted people with candlesticks!  And the other, a Communist!

The small yellow hardback remained on my bookshelf for several years before vanishing; I think my mother accidentally put it in a "to donate" pile.  Then, in the spring of 1985, my Italian class in east Texas was assigned the original.



The Little World of Don Camillo is the first of eight collections of short stories about the priest of a small village in Tuscany.  Formerly a boxer and World War II resistance fighter, Don Camillo has hard fists and a hot temper.   The Mayor, Peppone, once fought the Fascists beside Don Camillo, but now he is a godless Communist. The two former friends, on opposite sides of an ideological fence, argue religion and politics as they vie for control of the village.

Peppone is married, but his wife and children rarely appear.  And almost none of the stories involve the hetero-romance of other characters.  Often they involve a conundrum that requires Don Camillo and Peppone to work together:


Vandals steal Don Camillo's clothes while he's swimming.
Don Camillo returns to the boxing ring to save the town's honor.
Don Camillo and Peppone are stuck on a ferris wheel.
Peppone is lost in the mountains, and Don Camillo must rescue him.

As the years pass, from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, Don Camillo and Peppone grow into middle age, and though they remain "enemies," their love for each other shines through more often than not.  In the last volume, Don Camillo Meets the Flower Children (1969), a young, hip priest has come to town, and butts heads with Peppone's hippie son, and the cycle begins anew.

The French-Italian movie Don Camillo (1952) starred Fernandel as Don Camillo and Gino Cervi as Peppone (above), and Franco Interlenghi (left) as the young hunk who requires their assistance.  Four sequels appeared.








There was also a 1980 BBC television series, with Mario Adorf and Brian Blessed, and a 1983 Italian movie with Terence Hill (left) and Colin Blakeley.

The author, political satirist Giovanni Guareschi (1908-1969), was a conservative Catholic, and heterosexual -- he also published humorous stories about his wife and children. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew that his books had a strong gay subtext.


Nov 9, 2015

Russell Johnson: The Professor and His Gay Son

Everyone in West Hollywood knew Russell Johnson, who played the Professor on Gilligan's Island.  I met him once, and saw him a few times at events.  He was a gay ally, primarily due to his son David..










Everyone in West Hollywood knew David, too -- Alan (my ex-porn star roommate) dated him.  He was a fixture in the bars, at the French Quarter, and at the AIDS Project of Los Angeles.  Later he was named AIDS Coordinator of the City of Los Angeles (he died in 1994).

Russell's career began during the 1950s, with lots of roles in Westerns and sci-fi movies: look for him in the MST3K rendition of The Space Children (1958). 



In the late 1950s, he moved into tv, with guest spots on Twilight Zone, Thriller, Laramie, Rawhide, and such hip-detective series as Adventures in Paradise and Hawaiian Eye.  But Boomers will always remember him for Gilligan's Island, a "trapped far from home" sitcom about seven people who set sail from Honolulu for a "three hour tour" and end up trapped on a desert island.

The Professor was an egghead of the old school, an expert in every field of science from astronomy to zoology, who constantly amazed kids in the 1960s by concocting radios from coconuts.  His utter lack of interest in the two female castaways, Ginger and Mary Anne, gave me some of my first gay subtexts.

And some of my first beefcake, in his occasional shirtless scenes.

Although typecast as the Professor, Russell continued to work steadily during the 1970s and 1980s.  But he devoted most of his time to raising AIDS awareness and taking care of David.

His last screen role was in 1997, in Meego, about an alien boy hiding out on Earth. He played "The Professor."

Russell died in 2014.

Paul Newman and Rocky Graziano: Somebody Down Here Likes Me


Paul Newman and James Dean met in 1952, when they were studying at the famous Actors Studio in New York.  They began a passionate affair.

But there were problems from the start: Paul didn't like sneaking around under the nose of his wife, and he wanted exclusivity, whereas Jimmy had a roving eye (Paul had the same problem when he dated Yul Brynner a couple of years before).

In 1953, they both auditioned for the roles of the twin brothers in East of Eden -- check out the homoerotic screen test on the Eddi Haskell blog.

Jimmy got the part, but Paul lost out.  He was devastated, and the relationship cooled.


After James Dean's tragic death on September 30, 1955, Paul was offered several roles that had been earmarked for him, including  Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), a biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano (top photo) based on his bestselling autobiography.

It was a Hollywood rags-to-riches story, with a juvenile delinquency twist.  The young Rocky is abused by his father, joins a street gang, gets into fights, is drafted into the army but goes AWOL, is sent to prison, finds a new life as a boxer, and finally triumphs over an evil rival (real boxer Tony Zale).






Oh, and there's a requisite hetero-romance, but there's a strong gay subtext between Rocky and best buddy Romolo (gay actor Sal Mineo), plus the gay symbolism of a blackmail plotline.






The story doesn't end there. The real 37-year old Rocky appeared as an adviser, and he and Paul hit it off. They were often seen socializing together off the set.

I couldn't find any information on whether they became lovers, but since Rocky also hung out with the bisexual Marlon Brando, it's a possibility.









The t-shirts are from Grossinger's Resort in the Catskills.

Paul went on, of course, to become the most famous actor of the 1960s and a master of gay subtexts.  Rocky Graziano had a respectable tv career and opened a restaurant.

Nov 8, 2015

Gay Ghost #15: The Football Player Who Got Unstuck in Time

You often hear stories about people who get unstuck in time.

Two British ladies touring Versailles slip into the era of Louis XIV.

A man makes a wrong turn in a department store and finds himself in an earlier version of the store from the 1930s.

A man in 19th century costume falls out of the sky.












Here's a photo of  a hipster dude, wearing a t-shirt and modern sunglasses, looking tremendously out of place amid the old people in fedoras witnessing the opening of a bridge in Canada in 1941.

He's probably not unstuck in time, just unstuck. .

There are a lot of unstuck people wandering around on Christopher Street in New York.

It's not exclusively or even predominantly gay: the few gay bars and restaurants are scattered amid weird boutiques, kids' clothing stores, pet supply stores, and the Finnish Lutheran Church.






But it's where Gay Liberation began, a sacred place, a site for pilgrimages for gay people from around the world.

Especially those who have been traumatized by homophobic hatred.

Lost, lonely, confused.  Ghosts. Revenants. Time travelers.

Like the guy who was wearing only white shorts and a black Amish hat, on a cold day in October.

And the Man in Black who just appeared, walking next to me, one day.

And Carey from Tuscaloosa.

I saw him in Christopher Park, staring at the Gay Liberation Monument as if he had seen anything so strange: in his 20s, medium height, solidly built, a little nerdy, with a square face, dirty blond hair, and thick eyebrows.  He was wearing brown slacks, a red sweatshirt with giant letter A on it, and a brown fedora, and carrying an old-fashioned knapsack rather than a backpack.

First rule of living in big cities: don't stop to talk to anyone you don't know.  They will con you, or rob you, or both.

But I am particularly attracted to "lost souls," so I stopped.  "Pretty great, isn't it?"

"Murder!"  he said with a smile.  " I knew the Big Apple was up-to-date, but so out in the open and all!  You sure couldn't get away with this tootie back home."  He turned to me and held out his hand.  "Hiya, kid.  I'm Carey, Tuscaloosa U. of A.  Go Crimson Tide!"

Later I figured out that he meant the University of Alabama football team. "Boomer.  You're a long way from home."

"Don't I know it!  We're on field trip to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State.  I sort of got side tracked on the Staten Island Ferry.  Say, you wouldn't know any eateries around here, would ya, Jackson?  I could eat a horse, hooves and all!"

I took him to a Thai place, where he was amazed by both the food and the prices.

Carey said he had always been attracted to guys, but he wasn't out to anybody, and he would probably get married, because "that's the way we do things in the South."  He had no idea that there were books on gay topics or gay characters on tv: "we don't look at a lot of television in the South."

I took him back to my apartment -- yes, my roommate was that way, too --  and let him look at some of my books on gay history.  "What's Stonewall?" he asked, pulling a book off the shelf. "Stonewall Jackson?"

"It's the bar you were standing outside of, where Gay Liberation began.  The Stonewall Riots?  Gay Pride Day?"

He stared at me, confused, and put the book down and wrapped his arms around me. "I'm not much for history --  I like the present.  Two guys together, right here, right now, that's all that counts, dig?"

After the hookup, he got dressed and said "Thanks, Boomer.  It's been swell, but I'd better be getting back."  And he vanished into the night, leaving me thinking.

His slang, his costume, his lack of familiarity with tv or the basics of gay history -- was Carey unstuck in time, or just a clueless Southern boy?

I looked up the roster of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in the 1930s -- yes, those records are available -- and found a William Cary Cox from Bainbridge, Georgia, who played center from 1937 to 1939. Afterwards he served in World War II, and then ran an auto dealership in Alexandria City, Alabama.  He died in 1991, survived by his wife and two children.

Did he take a "jump to the left" one day in 1939 and end up in the West Village?

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


Gershom and the Gentile


One Friday night after Shabbat services at Beth Chaim Chadashim, the gay synagogue, he approached me at the refreshment table. "Boomer, vi geyt es du?" he said.  "Ken ikh fregn ir epes?"

Sometimes people spoke to me in Yiddish to feel me out, see if I was one of them.  But Gershom knew I wasn't Jewish.  He was in his 30s, tall and slim, with curly black hair, thick eyebrows, sensual lips, and a scraggly beard.    He always came to Shabbat services in a suit, even in L.A. heat, and wore a prayer shawl for davening.
"No comprendo," I said in Spanish.



"Sorry, sorry."  He grinned. "I go back to Yiddish when I'm nervous.  Let's take a walk outside, ok?"

Curious, I followed him out onto bustling Pico Boulevard.   "What's up?"

"Well...you know Bernard and I broke up a few weeks ago."

I didn't know, but I nodded.

"We started dating almost the moment I got to West Hollywood.  Eight years we were together, and totally monogamous, no sharing."

Where was this going?  Was he cruising me?

"Well, there are lots of cute guys at the synagogue," I said. "As soon as word gets around that you're available, they'll be knocking on your door."

"That's the thing.  At work there's a new guy, Nathan, a blond angel, so cute I can't stand it!  And smart -- he speaks five languages.  And he's cruising me constantly.  And yesterday he asks me out!  I'm thinking, 'my first date in eight years!'  Where should we go?  What should I wear?  And then I get all ferblunjit. 

"Sounds great.  What's the problem?"

"The problem is, he's goyische -- a Gentile!"

"So what?  You're not prejudiced, are you?"

"Well -- you see I'm not very experienced.  I've only been with four guys before, other than Bernard, and none of them were Gentiles."

How was that possible?  But, I figured, he grew up in Brooklyn's Hasidic community and now lived in the heart of L.A.'s Jewish neighborhood.  He had a job in a travel agency that specialized in flights to Israel.  His entire social life revolved around the synagogue and the Gay Jewish Alliance. How would he meet anyone non-Jewish?

"We put our pants on a leg at a time, just like you.  And take them off."

"Well, that's the problem... you don't get a bris, you're nischt mie -- uncut, right?"  He looked down at my crotch.

I instinctively covered it with my hand.  "Right, I'm uncut, but circumcision is pretty common for Americans.  I wouldn't worry..."

"Boomer, Nathan isn't American, he's French! From Marseilles!"

"Ok, then, he's probably uncut, but what's the difference?  It's still a penis."

"What's the difference, oy -- what if seeing one makes me sick?  The date will be ruined!"  He looked down at the sidewalk.  "Nu, I was wondering..."

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

Christopher George: Heterosexual Icon with a Gay Connection

When Steve Bond posed nude in Playgirl in October 1975, he was 21 years old and unknown, except for one role as a child seven years before.  When Christopher George posed in June 1974, he was 43 years old and a Hollywood veteran, famous for his marriage and collaboration with Mission: Impossible girl Lynda Day George.

He reclines, eating watermelon, a little paunchy in middle age, but hirsute, tanned, gold-chained, the sharp phallic knife accentuating his obvious gifts beneath the belt.

The uncensored photo is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Is there any gay connection to such an indefatigably heterosexual icon?



How about Rat Patrol (1966-68), about four allied soldiers in North Africa during World War II: Troy (Christopher) was the leader, Moffitt (Gary Raymond) the intellectual, Hitch (Lawrence Casey) the jokester, and Tully (Justin Tarr) the redneck.  Lots of buddy-bonding in the desert, and nary a woman in sight.

Or The Immortal (1969-71), about a racecar driver (Christopher) whose blood has amazing regenerative powers, thus making him very attractive to a sick millionaire. I can't even begin to parse out the gay-vampire-predator subtext.





Or I Escaped from Devil's Island (1973).  No women in the French penal colony, just fellow Playgirl  centerfold Jim Brown.

Or a 1975 episode of SWAT Team, where he played a scuba diving jewel thief partnered with famous gay actor Sal Mineo.

Not to mention Playgirl itself, which everybody knew had a huge gay male following.

He died in 1983, before most actors would dream of acknowledging their appeal to gay fans.