Dec 26, 2015

Getting Naked after Christmas: The British Boxing Day Dip

In Britain, Christmas is traditionally a time for caroling, exchanging gifts, going to pantomimes...

And plunging naked into the frosty Atlantic Ocean.

Porthcawl, Wales, has been holding an annual Christmas Morning Dip for chartiy for over 40 years.

Many other seaside towns hold their in Wales and England, like Aldeburgh,  Llandudno, Cromer, and Tenby, hold theirs on Boxing Day, December 26th (so-called because people would box up their Christmas dinner leftovers and pass them out to the less fortunate).


In Aldeburgh, Llandudno, Cromer, Tenby, and a dozen other towns, Boxing Day means a morning of fun and entertainment, followed by a quick costume change and a headlong dash into the sea (typically a frigid 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many dress in tuxedos and evening gowns (they're not limited to men, like the Naked Festivals of Japan).  Others go in costumes as Santa Clauses, Elves, Uncle Sams, or Power Rangers.  But most take off as many clothes as they can stand.





The rules are:
1. No full nudity (though occasionally skimpy thongs are ok, and sometimes they "accidentally" slip off).
2. No wetsuits (you have to be cold).
3. It only counts as a "dip" if you get your hair wet twice.



Afterwards the participants dry off, sip Bovril (beef tea)  and wait to see if they have won the prizes for bravest, best costume, and most donations.

Boxing Day Dips aren't gay-specific events, but they're a nice opportunity to see some beefcake during the most bundled-up of seasons, and give to charity.


Dec 25, 2015

The Shea Brothers and Charlie Brown

In the 1970s, American mass media couldn't get enough of blond preteen boys.  Not toddlers, but boys in late childhood, old enough to be cast as adventurous, daring, and mischievous in "boys will be boys" roles.  And too young for the pubescent growth spurt that would turn them into yucky androgynous teenagers.









Christopher Shea, born  in 1958, is best remembered as the voice of the wise-beyond-his-years Linus in the animated Peanuts specials, especially It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).













Linus has always been my favorite Peanuts character: witty, intellectual, rejecting the advances of girls, a good friend to Charlie Brown.  And no other voice artist comes closer to capturing his inner beauty than Christopher Shea.

Christopher also did some television work, with guest spots on The Invaders, Green Acres, The Odd Couple, and Here Come the Brides, and a few movies.  His last credited role is A Little Game (1971), about a teenager (Mark Gruner) who plots to kill his stepfather.

He moved to Humbolt County, in northern California, where he died in 2010, leaving a wife and two daughters.
His brother Eric, born in 1960, did the usual tv guest spots: Batman, Here Come the Brides, Gunsmoke, The Flying Nun, Room 222 -- but he snared some more substantial movie roles, such as Lucille Ball's son  in the big-family comedy Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968) (top photo, the one in the pajamas.  The other one is Tim Matheson).

The younger brother of Ben Harvey (Beau Bridges), who gets involved with a clan of prostitutes in Gaily, Gaily (1969).

Kid kid genius Alvin, who solves Cooperstownes with the help of his buddy Shooie (Clay O'Brien) in two Whiz Kids movies (1974, 1976).   He also played the Spunky Kid in The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

His last credited role was in When Every Day was the Fourth of July (1978), about a lawyer (Dean Jones) defending a deaf man who has been accused of murder.

Eric has retired from acting and, according to the imdb, works as an electrical contractor in Los Angeles.

I have no pictures of Stephen, born in 1961, since he has only one live screen credit: "Small Boy" on a 1968 episode of Adam-12.  But he took on his brother's mantle and voiced Linus in all of the Peanuts animated specials from Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971) to Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975).

So I'll give you a pic of one of the many other voice artists who has played Linus over the years, Corey Padnos

See also: Tim Matheson; and The Fabulous Bridges Boys.

My Worst, Best, and Most Erotic Christmases

I hate, hate, hate Christmas!  It's big, crowded, glaring, noisy, uncomfortable, loaded down with gut-busting cookies and candy and growling, nasty people who call you a Grinch if you're not ecstatic all the time.

I especially hate the long, crowded, delayed, cancelled flight back home to the Midwest, where I'm stuck in my old room, surrounded by the ghosts of Christmas past.

Where it's too cold to go out or I don't have a car, and all of my friends have moved away, so I'm stuck in the house, watching tv and having uncomfortable conversations with people I haven't seen since last year.

I left the gay world for this?







My Worst Christmases during the last 30 years have all involved traveling back to the Midwest.

1. 1985: Back from West Hollywood to hear my future brother-in-law talk about how everyone with AIDS should be shot.  In my absence, my boyfriend Alan hooks up with a Norwegian con artist.

2. 1988: My terrible dissertation committee has motivated me to flee the country for Turkey, but my crazy relatives worry about me living in tents and riding camels.

3. 1992: Nothing special, just infinite boredom, and some homophobic editorials in the local newspaper.

4. 1994: Too cold to leave the house.  AND I discover that my parents still have that darn photo of me with a girl on their dresser.  

5. 1997: Back in New York, I have two boyfriends, Yuri and Jaan.  How long will it take them to realize that they could be dating each other?


6. 2005: My friend Dick and his partner have moved to Denver: the last of my Rock Island friends. A very lonely visit.

7. 2006: I'm living in Dayton, just two hours away from Indianapolis, but still, artistic, neurotic Paul, one of my two closeted boyfriends, doesn't want to come home with me.  Someone might figure out.

8. 2008: I am dating Chad, the Satyr's boy toy, and dread leaving him home with the Satyr for two weeks.






And My Best Christmases have usually involved staying in the gay world.

1. 1987:
Too sick to go to the Midwest. My very hot Muslim doctor makes a housecall that turns into a date.  Then two.

2. 1989: Working at the Getty Consternation Institute, not enough time off to fly back to the Midwest.  Lane and I go to a Hanukah party, a bear part, Midnight Mass at a gay-friendly Catholic church, and Christmas breakfast at the French Quarter.

3. 1991: More of the same.

4. 1995: My first year in San Francisco.  We go to a bear party, a Gay Men's Chorus concert, and It's a Wonderful Life at the Castro Theater.  It is a wonderful life when you're living in San Francisco.

5. 1996:
More of the same, plus David and I go on a date with Santa Claus.




6. 2002: In Florida, I start dating the Young Republican just before Christmas, and prudently don't leave him behind for two weeks, surrounded by Florida beach boys.  It's 78 degrees on Christmas day.

7. 2004: The gift of the Magi:  Yuri and I exchange Christmas hookups AND spend a week in France.

8. 2010: Ok, for this one I went back to Indianapolis with Troy, my Upstate boyfriend, and introduced him to all of my "old" haunts.  




On the other hand, My Most Erotic Christmases have all been in Rock Island or Indianapolis.  I guess everyone is wowed by a sophisticated guy who lives in a gay mecca.  Or else I'm not the only one suffering from infinite boredom during a holiday visit with parents.

1. 1986: My ex-boyfriend Fred and I hit JRs together on Christmas Eve and bring home a ginger boy Fred knew in high school.

2. 1990: My friend Dick and I hit JRs in Rock Island on Christmas Eve, and meet the same guy!

3. 1993: I hook up with Brother Byron, the Church Treasurer of the Nazarene church when I was a kid.

4. 1998: In Indianapolis, I meet a guy who lives only five blocks from my parents' house.  Unfortunately, he's closeted.


5. 1999: A big holiday.  First, in Rock Island, I meet my old Sunday School teacher's stripper sons.  Then I spend New Year's Eve in Indianapolis, where Matt the Bartender uses the Y2K bug to trick me into his bed.

6. 2000: I bring Yuri home for Christmas, and we teach my 14-year old nephew the Gay Facts of Life.

7. 2001: I discover that Dick, my old bully, has been dating the pizza boy, who becomes my Christmas present.

8. 2003: My Uncle El dies on January 1st.  We go to Kentucky for his funeral, and I reunite with my Kentucky Kinfolk.  It's more erotic than it sounds.

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



Dec 24, 2015

December 2015: Who Can Hook Up the Fastest?

The other night, I was complaining about my infinite attractiveness to twinks to my friend Gabe. a recent graduate of the University, now a barista at the gay-friendly coffee house.

"Aren't you exaggerating a bit?" he said.  "I mean, I think you're hot, but most guys my age aren't into anyone over 30, I don't care how much you can bench press."

He paused.  "Now, me, on the other hand, I can attract anyone, any age,  18 to 85.  I just have to bat my eyes and flash my come-hither smile."

"Sure, you can attract androgynous, artsy guys," I said, "But what about a man's man?  A guy who drinks beer and goes deer huntin', and wants you to help him skin his kill?"

Gabe, a staunch vegan, whitened.  "Well...I might not want to date him, but I could certainly get him into bed.  Any guy, twink, bear, chubby, Daddy, not a problem."

"Well, I might not want to date a Cute Young Thing who still lives with his parents and has a 10:00 curfew," I countered, "But I could get him into my bed in a second."

"How about we make a little bet?  We each select someone on a dating app, and the other has to convince him to meet in one hour or less. The loser has to buy the winner dinner."

"What if we both land our guys?"

"Then we have a four-way."

So Saturday night, prime dating and hookup time, we met at my apartment and went to work.

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





"The Crazies": A Gay-Free Hollywood Iowa

In order to get my mind off Christmas, last night I watched The Crazies (2010), which at least has nothing to do with egg nog, wrapping paper, or Saint Nick.

That's the only good thing I can say about it.

Picture it: a small town in Iowa as only Hollywood can imagine it, where everyone drives tractors and goes to the dime store downtown, where all the women are young blond supermodels and all the men are middle aged, bald, and scuzzy-looking, except for the young, hot sheriff, (Tim Olyphant) who happens to be married to the young blond supermodel town doctor.

Really, really married.  I mean, wedding rings gleaming in every single shot, "I love you" every five seconds, announcements to everybody in earshot about how they can't live without each other.

The young blond supermodel wife is barely pregnant, not showing yet, but they have already furnished an elaborate nursery, so eager are they to demonstrate that they have reproduced.

Got it?

Ok, here's what happens: at an idyllic small-town high school baseball team, one of the middle aged, bald, scuzzy looking men pulls out a shotgun.  Another middle aged, bald, scuzzy looking man kills his young blond supermodel wife and son.  More people turn into homicidal maniacs, but mostly off-camera.

Just as the Sheriff and the Doctor figure out that a virus has infected the town water supply, the military marches in, blocks off the town, and separates the sick and the well.  The well are taken to the bus station to be sent to Cedar Rapids, and the sick to isolation. The Doctor is identified as sick, along with most of the young blond supermodel wives, while the Sheriff and most of the bald middle-aged scuzzy-looking guys are identified as well.




But the Sheriff can't live without his wife, remember?  After roiling with condemnation at a friend who doesn't love his wife adequately, he breaks into the isolation facility and breaks out the Doctor.  They join up with the Deputy (Joe Anderson) and the Deputy's girlfriend, and try to escape.

After some trials and tribulations, including a murder attempt in the nursery, the Girlfriend dies, the Deputy sacrifices himself to save the married couple, and the Sheriff and the Deputy rush out of town just as the military drops an atom bomb on it.

You're probably wondering about the gay content.

None.  Zilch.  Zero.  Everybody is heterosexual -- this is Hollywood Iowa, after all -- but, apparently, only two are heterosexual enough to escape together.

No beefcake either.  These shirtless shots are from elsewhere.


Boy, do I hate this movie.

It's a remake of a 1973 George Romero stinker, with the location changed from Pennsylvania to Iowa, and a new cast of young blond supermodels and bald middle-aged scuzzy-looking men added.

And an endless paeon to heterosexual marriage.




Dec 23, 2015

The Hookup Contest, Part 2


The Plains, January 2016

Remember the hookup contest Gabe and I had before Christmas?

We each chose someone for the other guy to try to hook up with on a dating app. I had to approach the 18-year old Bastian, a high school senior whose profile said explicitly "no older guys" and "no hookups -- dating and relationships only."

So I offered to set Bastian up on a date with Gabe, and tag along "for moral support."

All's fair in love and cruising.

The date was scheduled for December 20th, but Bastian cancelled. He said we could reschedule for after Christmas.

I figured that was the last we would hear of him-- younger guys wimp out all the time.  But he did text me a few days after Christmas, asking for the date to be scheduled on January 3rd, a Sunday night: dinner at a Mexican place, then the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.

He didn't want his parents to know he was gay, so he arranged to spend the night at a friend's house.  We had to pick him up and drop him off there.

Bastian was slim, a little shorter than me, with sandy-blond hair, blue eyes, and sharp features.  He was wearing an Adventure Time sweater, no coat, and carrying a backpack.  "In case we spend the night," he said, sliding into the back seat next to Gabe.

Driving to the restaurant, I kept mostly quiet.  It was their date, after all.  Their conversation consisted of:

Gabe:  So you're a senior in high school. What are your college plans?

Bastian:  I applied to UCLA, Columbia, Florida State, and the University of Hawaii.  I'm going to wherever the guys are the hottest.  Boomer, you lived in California.  Were the guys big there?

Me:  Well...um...

Gabe:  What do you want to major in?

Bastian:  Art.  I want to start a fashion blog.  I'm really big into fashion.  Like, do you shave your pubic hair?

Gabe: [Embarrassed pause].  Um...no, I never tried that.

Bastian:  Oh, it's great!  It makes your penis look a lot bigger.  Here, have a look.  You too, Boomer." [A cell phone is shoved at me, showing Bastian nude, aroused, very big, with shaved pubes.]


The questions continued at the restaurant, including the sort of questions one doesn't ask in public in a small town on the Plains:

"Have you ever been topped by a really big one?"

"Do you know any guys with big ones?  I mean, really gigantic ones, like in porn?"

"Have you ever been with a black guy?  Do they have big ones?"

"Have you ever been rimmed?"

"Who's the youngest guy you ever let top you?"

"What does 'golden showers' mean?"

And, he was rubbing his leg against mine under the table!

When Bastian went to the bathroom, Gabe turned to me: "I thought this was a quiet, shy, conservative guy who wanted to date and get to know you.  Sounds like he won't even make it to the end of the movie!"

"I know, it's weird.  You know, he was brushing my leg under the table.  And I thought he didn't like older guys."

"Considere yourself lucky.  He was trying to grope me!"  Gabe laughed.  "Man, this aggressive bit is a big turn off.  We should take him home, so he can take a cold shower!"

"No, let's go to the movie, and see what happens.  Maybe he'll calm down.  Besides, I've been looking forward to seeing it for weeks."


At the movie, Bastian sat between us and held the popcorn, so we would reach in to get some and grab his hand instead.  Plus he used his free hand to brush against my thigh. He tried to grope me through my pants, but I pushed him away.

And he kept peppering us with comments.

"I bet Finn has a big one!"

"You think Finn and Poe are together?"

"Han Solo is one hot Daddy! I'd do him in a minute!"

I shushed him, but the comments continued.

Afterwards we walked out into the lobby and then into the mall parking lot.  Bastian linked arms with both of us.  "Hey, let's get frozen yogurt!" he said.

"Well, I'm a Vegan," Gabe said.  "They probably won't have anything I can eat."

"Ok...so then, back to your apartment?"

Gabe flashed a "no way!" look at me, and said "Well...I have a roommate, so I can't bring anyone home."

Bastian's grip on our arms tightened.  "Then let's go back to Boomer's place.  He can watch.  Or join in!  I've never been with two guys at once before!"

We got to the car.  Bastian climbed into the front seat, next to me.  Gabe climbed into the back.

"Ok, your place, right?"  he asked, putting his hand on my knee.

"I'm a little tired," I said.  "We'd better just take you home.  Or to your friend's house."

"But...you know, it's a date," he said in a small voice.  "I thought...but aren't we?"

Was the kid starting to cry?

I put my arm around him.  "What's wrong, Bastian?  You've been on dates before.  Sometimes things happen, sometimes they don't."

His shoulders were trembling.  "No, I haven't.  I've never been on a date before. Or had sex.   I never even met anybody gay before. Everybody at my school is straight.  Church, too.  I download porn and get hit on by Creepy Old Guys on that dating app, and that's it."

"So why all the questions about rimming and golden showers?"

"And the hands everywhere?" Gabe added.

He looked up teary-eyed.  "That's what gay guys do, isn't it?  I didn't want you to think I was just an ignorant kid..."

"That's not at all what gay guys do," I said.  "What they do is this."  I wrapped my arms around him and hugged Bastian, and kissed him on the cheek.  He didn't want to let go.

"Maybe I'm up for some frozen tofu, after all,"  Gabe said.  "Then we'll see what happens."

The full version of this story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Noah Fleiss: 1990s Child Star Homophobia

Gay teens in the 1990s liked teenage Noah Fleiss for the beefcake: he appeared in his underwear in nearly every movie, often in the midst of autoerotic activity.

They disliked him for his roles as troubled, wounded, and abused kids in depressing, usually homophobic movies.

Josh and S.A.M. (1993).  Concerned about "accusations" that he is gay, Josh (Jacob Tierney) concocts a wild scheme to prove his straightness, including convincing his brother Sam (Noah Fleiss) that he is a cyborg (S.A.M.).

It's not a comedy.


Chasing the Dragon (1996): A woman becomes addicted to heroin, and her son suffers.

Bad Day on the Block (1997): A deranged firefighter terrorizes his family, including his son.

Joe the King (1999): An abused kid commits crime and slips in and out of reality (left)

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her (2000).  A woman is shocked to discover that her son  is sexually active (top photo)






Double Parked (2000): A mother is concerned when her asthmatic son (Fleiss) becomes friends with the son of her abusive ex-husband.

Storytelling (2001): Brady (Fleiss) worries about the gay rumors concerning his older brother Scooby (Mark Livingston).





Brick (2005): While searching for his missing girlfriend, Brandon encounters the sleazy, gay-vague drug dealer Tugger (Fleiss, left).

Ok, but has he done any gay-positive roles?

Two of them:

The Favor (2001):  straight teen Steve (Fleiss) agrees to buy gay porn for his closeted friend Boomer (Jared Hillman).

The Laramie Project (2002): he plays Shannon, one of the friends of homophobic killer Aaron McKinley, who thinks it's all a big joke.

Dec 22, 2015

Fafhrd and Grey Mouser

When I was in college, the Bookstore Gang was all wild over Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, a sword-and-sorcery duo that Fritz Leiber had been writing about since the 1930s.  Their adventures were being collected in a series of anthologies:

Swords against Wizardry
Swords in the Mist
Swords and Ice Magic
Swords and Deviltry
Swords against Death

Fafhrd is a 7'0 Conan-style barbarian, and the Grey Mouser is a 5'0 sneaky thief.  They wander the barbarian world of Nehwon (i.e., "Nowhen"), stealing cursed jewels, fighting evil sorcerers and renegade gods, exploring strange new lands, brawling, drinking, and wenching.

Yes, they go "wenching."


It wasn't Tolkien.  There was no Dark Overlord to conquer, they didn't spend a lot of time singing mournful songs, and there was sex.  Or whatever stood in for sex in those days.

Eventually they both settle down with wives and kids, become domesticated, and their adventures end.













But in some of the stories, at least, they were a homoromantic pair.

At least, that's how I read it.

Fritz Leiber also wrote Conjure Wife (1943), about men in a small college town who discover that their wives are all witches, and out to do them in.  Nuff said.


My First Hookup


I figured "it" out during the summer after my high school graduation, and immediately started looking for gay people in Rock Island.

Not for sex or dating, necessarily, just to find someone to talk to.  I had made a major discovery, uncovered the Big Lie, and I couldn't tell anyone about it.

No one to  compare stories of the hints and signals that helped me finally realize that "it is not raining upstairs."

Or complain to about the incessant "what girl do you like?" interrogations of my family and friends.

Or just nudge on the street and say "Isn't that guy hot!"

But how to find gay people in a world with no dating apps, no internet chatrooms, no gay organizations, and everyone pretending that they had no idea that same-sex desire existed.

There was a gay bar in town, but you had to be 21 to get in.  I was 17, and looked around 15.

Asking knowledgeable straight people was a problem.  They would answer with a suspicious "Why do you want to know?  Are you a fag?"

So I made my inquiries as homophobic as possible.  "No, of course not!  I just want to know if it's safe to walk down the street in this town!"

That research yielded mostly dead ends, hints and rumors, no last names, no details.

I tried to look for  clues: guys who were especially feminine, or who made eye contact a little too long, or who touched your hand by "accident."

That was fruitless, too: I spent weeks hanging out with Jack Kerouac, aka Jurgen, only to discover that he was straight, living with a girl!


As far as I could tell, there were no gay people at Augustana, in Rock Island, in the state of Illinois, in the world.

Then, around Christmastime in 1978,  I went to the post office in downtown Rock Island to buy some stamps, and behind the counter was a grinning Little Person.

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

The Naked Ghost of Hylton Castle: A Gay Murder Mystery

Hylton Castle in Sunderland, near the Scottish border, is closed now, but for centuries staff and visitors reported seeing a naked teenage boy wandering the hallways.

When they approached him, he moaned "I'm cauld"(cold),  and vanished.

Dubbed "The Cauld Lad of Hylton," the ghost had a helpful side.  He lit fires that had gone out, and tidied rooms that had been left in disarray.

But he also had a mischievous side.  He would slam doors, knock books over, blow candles out, and move objects around.

Besides, what could be scarier than a naked teenager complaining about the cold?

According to legend, the ghost was Robert Skelton, a stableboy in the employ of the young Baron Robert Hyland during the age of Shakespeare.  On the morning of July 3rd, 1609, he overslept and didn't have the Baron's horse ready for a trip.  The enraged Baron killed him.

Some versions say that he chopped the boy's head off; others, that he stabbed him with a pitchfork, or hit him with a riding crop. 

Historical records do mention that a Robert Hylton was tried for the murder of Robert Skelton in the fall of 1609.  He claimed that the murder was an accident, and was pardoned by James I.

But the 20-year old Hylton wasn't the Baron yet.  His older brother, Henry, was.



In English Fairy Tales (1890), the famous anthology by Joseph Jacobs, the Cauld Lad is turned into a monster.





Most modern illustrations make him human, but  much younger than a real stableboy of the era, and not nearly as naked.

This leads us to a question:  Ghosts usually appear in the outfit they died in.  Why was Robert Skelton naked?

Elizabethans didn't sleep naked, even in the summer time.   Unless they had thrown off their clothes in the heat of passion.

So Robert Skelton must have been having sex on the night of July 2nd.  Who was is partner?

Some legends give him a forbidden romance with the Baron's daughter, but in 1609 Robert was too young to have a teenage daughter.



Robert Hylton himself, then?  But why would Hylton then be surprised at Skelton's oversleeping?


Maybe his brother,  24-year old Baron Henry Hylton? Shortly after the murder, Henry went to live with his cousin Nathaniel Hylton, and stayed for 30 years. He never consummated his arranged marriage.  He was characterized as reclusive, eccentric, and "mad."

Picture it: Robert finds his older brother and the stableboy in the midst of a sexual encounter and, outraged at the breach of etiquette, grabs a pitchfork.  Robert is able to use his social position to get a pardon.  Henry never recovers.

And Robert Skelton wanders the hallways, moaning "I'm cauld..."

See also: The Gay Ghost of Davenport House.

Dec 21, 2015

The Jackson 5: Beefcake Brothers of 1970s Soul

In 1964, the Jackson Brothers, consisting of  Jackie (age 13), Tito (11), and Jermaine (10), began performing r&b and soul in their hometown of Gary, Indiana.  Five years later, they added younger brothers Marlon and Michael to the group, changed their emphasis to soul-enhanced bubblegum pop, and, with some savvy promotion from Motown Records and Miss Diana Ross, burst onto the teen idol scene.





They had four #1 hits in 1969: "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There."

The lyrics were incessantly heterosexist, always about dating and romance, with "girl" every other word, so gay kids weren't impressed.


You went to school to learn, girl, things you never knew before
Girl, since you been away
Goody girl, let down those curls.


But they were impressed by the semi-nude and beefcake shots splashed across the teen magazines, almost unheard of for African-American performers in the era.  Jackie had the most impressive physique.

The Jackson Five appeared on such white-centric series as The Andy Williams Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Jim Nabors Hour, not to mention their own razzle-dazzle pop show.

I watched their Saturday-morning cartoon series (1971-73).  Michael was the star, involved with pirates, mad scientists, fairy tales, and even a Wizard of Oz parody that presaged his role as the Scarecrow in The Wiz a few years alter.

Their popularity peaked in 1971,  but never waned.  In 1975, after Michael had struck out on his own, they continued to perform as "The Jacksons."  Later Jermaine left the group, and younger brother Randy joined.  Sisters Janet and LaToya have careers of their own.

Raised in the extremely homophobic Jehovah's Witnesses sect, The Jackson family varies in their levels of homophobia.  Jermaine made the nasty comment "We're not faggots."  Marlon said "There's nothing wrong with it. I have gay friends." Janet supports gay marriage.

Tom Cruise: All the Wrong Moves



If I were to compile a list of the gay community's biggest enemies, it would include the usual suspects, the preachers who want gays killed, the politicians who want them classified as subhuman, the producers who litter their movies or tv programs with offensive stereotypes.  But near the top of the list, I would place an actor who hasn't said or done any of those things: Tom Cruise.

In 40 movies over a period of 30 years, we find few, if any offensive stereotypes.  In innumerable public appearances, we find few, if any complaints that gay people are plotting the destruction of civilization.  Yet by suing anyone who suggests that he might be gay -- for huge sums -- Tom Cruise continually broadcasts the message that gay people are unspeakably vile.  He is not merely correcting misinformation, he is defending himself against allegations that he is a monster.

Was there ever a time when gay people could find even a moment of hope in any of his vehicles?

Not in the gay-free Mission: Impossible franchise.  Not in his alien-fighting family man in War of the Worlds (2005), heterosexual lives in ruins in Magnolia (1999), or "show me the money" Jerry Maguire (1996).  

But before that, there are many gay subtexts:

Interview with the Vampire (1994): the vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) bites Louis (Brad Pitt), and they form an alternate family.

Days of Thunder (1990): race car drivers Cole (Tom Cruise) and Rowdy (Michael Rooker) move from enemies to buddies.






Cocktail (1988): novice bartender Brian buddy-bonds with his mentor, bartending pro Doug (Bryan Brown).

The Color of Money (1986): novice pool hustler Vincent (Tom Cruise) buddy-bonds with his mentor, pool hustler pro Fast Eddie (Paul Newman).

Top Gun (1986): a homoromance between air force pilots Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards).

All the Right Moves (1983): up and coming football player Stefen (Tom Cruise) buddy-bonds with his mentor, coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson).




What happened after 1994 to end Tom Cruise's buddy-bonding roles and transform him into an enemy?  His marriage to Nicole Kidman?  His conversion to the Church of Scientology?  His friendship with John Travolta (who is also quick to "defend" himself against allegations)?

His first lawsuit for a "gay allegation" came in 1996.  Maybe he suddenly realized that gay people existed, that subtexts were possible.

Dec 20, 2015

My Grade School Bully Grows Up

December 21st, 1984, a Friday night.  I am teaching at Lone Star College, in Houston, Texas, the loneliest place on Earth --  I've had no dates all semester, except for some very weird one-night stands.  The high points of my semester have been a visit from Bruce and the student who got naked in my class.

Now I'm home for Christmas in Rock Island, the second loneliest place on Earth.

I've just had dinner with my parents, Tammy and her boyfriend, and Ken and his wife and kids.  Marriage and children are on everyone's mind.  The boyfriend asks, "Do you have a girlfriend in Texas?" My father shushes me before I can think of something witty and sardonic to say.

Then we watch tv: Benson, Webster, Dallas.

There are no gay people here.  Anywhere.

"Got stuff to do," I say.  "See ya."  I get into my car and head out into the black, clear night.  It's too cold to go to the levee, so I go to JR's, Rock Island's gay bar.

It's still early, only 9:30, and not crowded.  Most gay people are with their relatives now, lying, dissimulating, or keeping silent during conversations about boyfriends and girlfriends and the hotness of tv stars.

Then I see, across the room, my worst nightmare: Dick Sunstrom (not his real name).

Dick in Grade School
Dick was the biggest, meanest, nastiest bully at Denkmann Elementary School. He lived next door to Dewey's Candy Store, where Bill took me on our first date -- I think his grandpa owned it -- and he terrorized kids who tried to get after-school snacks.  Just boys he deemed insufficiently masculine: they were punched, kicked, tripped, spat on, and called names: Sissy!  Fairy!  Wuss!  Tiny Tim!  And the most devastating: Girl!"

At least once a week, Dick challenged a "sissy" to a fight, and the entire school watched as he pummelled the poor kid to death.  I was pummelled to death twice.

His reign of terror continued into junior high and high school, except that he got bigger and bigger, until he towered over us mortals, with huge hands and huge biceps and a beneath-the-belt gift that you couldn't take your eyes off.

He didn't fight much anymore, but he was one of the boys who pushed my future boyfriend Dan into the girls' restroom, and now he had a whole new repertoire of insults: Swish!  Fruit!  Fag! Homo!  The worst remained: Girl!

Now, six years after graduation, Dick is here in JR's, even bigger, more muscular, and meaner-looking.  Was he fooled by the country-Western decor?  Doesn't he realize that it's a gay bar?   I brace myself for the shouts of Sissy!  Fruit!  Fag! Wuss! Girl!

Dick sees me, clomps over, and claps a huge hand on my shoulder.  "Boomer!  How the hell are you?  I never expected to see you here!"

"Um...I never expected to see you, either.  How are you?"

"Great, just great!  Merry Christmas!  Let me buy you a beer!"

Turns out Dick is gay, a regular at JR's.  Really, shouldn't we have known?  He was a man's man who never spent a moment around girls.  He liked only male-coded activities like hunting, fishing, cars, and guns.  And the years of yelling: an obvious defense against the struggle that went on inside every boy who liked boys, when liking boys meant that you were a girl.

I should be angry over the damage Dick has done to a generation of feminine boys who heard his taunts of  Sissy!  Fairy!  Wuss!  Fag!  Girl!  But I'm not.  It took him forever to figure it out -- he was 22, in his senior year of college (he majored in accounting, of all things).  And in the last 2 1/2 years, he's had one-night stands but no boyfriends, no lovers.  He's more damaged than any of them.

Dick's house by the Candy Store
Dick invites me back to his house -- he still lives next to the Candy Store.  He shows me his cars, his fishing trophies, his gun collection.  Then he takes me into the bedroom and shows me the body that terrorized a generation of feminine boys.

He is enormous beneath the belt.

We exchange phone numbers, and get together whenever I come home for a Christmas or summer visit. Over the years he will meet my lovers, and I will meet his.

It's not so lonely in Rock Island after all.

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