Feb 20, 2016

General Whitman and his Cold War Boyfriend

When I was a kid in the 1960s, my parents hated books.  Comic books were suspect enough -- but full-sized books would brainwash me into believing atheism and evil-lution, keep me away from healthy masculine activities like sports, and "strain my brain"!  Maybe they were worried that reading would make me want to escape the future of factory job, house, wife, and kids they had mapped out for me.

So I could only get away with reading only if I could convince them that it was required for school.  That made General Whitman's Adventures ideal.

They were brief, 15-page storybooks, accompanied by "adventure maps,"  written by George S. Elrick (who also wrote tie-in books for tv series like Flipper, Batman, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.).  They were published by comic book company Whitman (talk about product placement!).

General Whitman's Adventures in Intriguing Europe
General Whtiman's Adventures in Exotic Asia
General Whitman's Adventures in Exciting Africa

After that they ran out of adjectives, and just had him traveling to Australia, North America, South America, the United States, and Around the World.

General Whitman,  a "global troubleshooter for the armed forces," was a thin, middle aged white guy carrying a globe.

In each story, he traveled across the designated continent with his assistant, Lieutenant Scott, on on a top secret assignment.  In South America, for instance, he was assigned to inspect rivers that might provide "juice for mission control centers, "and to select likely sites for camouflaged missile silos."

This was during the Cold War, after all.

Meanwhile he pontificated about the continent's history and geography -- with what today seems a very paternistic, Orientalist superiority complex:  "Before this continent was discovered, the poor savages were uncivilized."

And Lieutenant Scott expressed constant disgust or amazement over local customs. In Tibet, he exclaimed: "That lady's making a sandwich out of her face!"

"Butter is often used as a beauty aid here," the General explains.  "The Tibetans are too primitive to have our modern scientific cosmetics."

Still, it beat National Geographic, with its boring "This country is a study in contrasts, embracing its rich traditions and looking toward the future."

And I could claim "research for my geography class."

And neither General Whitman nor Lieutenant Scott mentioned wives or girlfriends back home.  I was pretty sure that they were best men (my childhood term for gay partners).

Feb 19, 2016

Kyle XY

In the spring of 2006, ABC Family started showing ads about a new series, with a teenage boy raising his shirt to display his abs.

Oh, wait, is he supposed to be showing us that he lacks a belly button?  I missed that.

But there's a midriff-bare girl gazing longingly at him, and I suppose he's named XY to accentuate gender polarization -- guys are guys, and guys like girls!  Heterosexist garbage.  So I didn't watch.

But upon hearing that star Matt Dallas is gay (here showing his real-life navel, along with Tahj Mowry, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, and Derek Thaler) I thought I'd check to see if there were any subtexts.

The online episode guide suggests that Kyle XY (2006-2009) was indeed about Kyle and the Girl of His Dreams working together to investigate the mystery of his origin  (I'm guessing he's a clone).  There are also some teenage allies, who fall in love and break up in staid heterosexual pairs.  Season 2 ends with Prom Night.

There were a lot of characters, and most of the girls had boys' names and boys had girls' names, making it difficult to ascertain homoerotic liaisons without a score card, but I think I came up with three possibilities:

1. A security guard, Foss (Nicholas Lea), takes a paternal interest in Kyle: "Everything I did was to protect you, to keep you safe.  You've got to trust me."  He doesn't have a girlfriend.

2. High school ally Declan (Chris Olivero) sleeps with lots of girls, but becomes Kyle's best friend, and they team up to solve this week's mystery.

3. Kyle's foster brother, Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), sleeps with a girl named Andy, but he helps Kyle meet with a grounded girlfriend by hiding in her bed in a blond wig, thus fooling her mother and moving into drag.

I thought Jean-Luc Bilodeau was either Popeye's antagonist or a French crooner from the 1930s, but surprise, he's only 23.

And then there's the implicit homoeroticism of the nudity.

A lot of nudity.

Feb 17, 2016

Steven Ford: from President's Son to Soap Hunk

Born in 1956, Steven Ford was the youngest son of Gerald Ford, President of the United States from 1974 to 1977.  By that time he was in college far from the White House, studying ranching at Utah State University.  But the acting bug bit, and he started making the rounds.

With or without the cachet of having a famous Dad, he got lots of two-fisted roles in Escape from New York, The Eleventh Commandment, and Body Count.  

But his blond hair, square jaw, and chiseled physique got Steve more attention as a heartthrob.  From 1981 to 1987, he starred on the soap The Young and the Restless as private detective Andy Richards (right), where he buddy-bonded with fellow p.i. Paul Williams (Doug Davidson, left).  The extremely girlish-looking bottom guy is Michael Damian, who played singer Danny Romalotti.

Afterwards Steve hosted the tv series Secret Service and continued to act, with roles opposite action heroes like Al Pacino in Heat, Richard Griego in Against the Law, and Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers. Today he spends most of his time on his ranch and giving motivational speeches about alcoholism.

Steve has never married, so he's been the subject of lots of gay rumors.His Mom, former First Lady Betty Ford, was a proponent of gay marriage.

Feb 16, 2016

Michael Landon, Gay Ally

Michael Landon arrived in Los Angeles at age 19 and immediately started landing roles as tortured outcasts and juvenile delinquents, such as the gay-vague protagonist in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). He also cut some teen idol records and posed for innumerable beefcake shots before landing the role of Little Joe, youngest of the three sons of widowed rancher Ben Cartwright (Lorne Green) on Bonanza in 1959.

For the next 14 years, Little Joe played the part of "teen hunk," strutting about shirtless and bulging, giving thousands of boomer kids their first crushes.  Unfortunately, he had little significant buddy-bonding, as he was constantly consorting with women, culminating in a marriage -- and the tragic demise of his bride -- 1972.

When Bonanza finally ended in 1973, Landon had acquired a reputation as a stable, solid, and "wholesome," a conservative remedy to the endless sexual innuendo found elsewhere on prime time.

But his next series, Little House on the Prairie (1974-83), was not exactly conservative.  It offered cynicism, backstabbing, contemporary social issues -- and an endless supply of beefcake.  According to Alison Arngrim, who played the bitchy Nellie Oleson, Michael Landon was quite aware of the program's gay male fans, and catered to them by mandating that the cute guys on the show often appear shirtless -- and engage in some buddy-bonding plotlines.

Never far from a tv screen, Landon continued after Little House with Highway to Heaven (1983-89), about a wayfaring angel who displays little heterosexual interest and travels with a male companion (Victor French).

He was in declining health, but he lived until 1991, long enough to express his support of his gay son, 16-year old Christopher.

Feb 15, 2016

12 Valentine Dates, Boyfriends,and Hookups

My least-favorite holiday is Christmas, but Valentine's Day comes a close second: a corporate-controled paeon to heterosexual desire, with millions of male-female couples paraded out to proclaim that their emotional bond is the most important thing in the world, the meaning of life.

And therefore you should spend money on maudlin cards, boxes of gut-busting candy, and dead flowers.

In gay neighborhoods it was ok, but in the straight world, same-sex couples who try to participate get stared at in restaurants, laughed at at the flower shop, jeered at the candy store.  Or at least they feel hideously out of place amid the cooing boys and girls.

And God forbid you're single!

Here are the highlights of Valentine's Day seasons past, some ok, some bad, some horrendously bad.

Not counting childhood, when everybody in the class got a valentine from everybody else, regardless of gender.

1. My First Gay BarValentine's Day, 1983. At Indiana University, my friend Viju talks me into driving up to Indianapolis.  I've never been in a gay bar, or any type of bar, before, and I'm blown away by the light, color, and camaraderie.  Nothing like the dark, sleazy, leering gay bars they show on tv.

2. T, the Thug from Catch On.  Valentine's Day, 1986.  There aren't a lot of black men in West Hollywood: if you want to meet them, you have to go to Jewel's Catch-One.  Alan and I go, and get cruised by a thug wannabe named T.

3. My Celebrity Boyfriend.  Valentine's Day, 1987.  The Celebrity and I have only been dating for about a month, and he says he wants to go "all out" for Valentine's Day.  I wonder what a famous ex-teen idol considers "all out."  A thousand doves swooping down from a helicopter?  A life-sized box of candy?  Sharing Scott Baio?  Turns out to be him on a heart-shaped blanket.

4. A Boy for Valentine's Day.  Valentine's Day, 1990.  I'm dating Lane, and still thinking of that "sharing Scott Baio" thing.  I don't actually pick up Scott Baio, but I get a nice substitute with Raul's friend Dominic, a cute Mexican twink.  While Lane and I are having dinner, Raul lets Dominic in the house, where he puts on a Cupid outfit and hides in the bedroom.  

5. The Estonian Word for Valentine.  Valentine's Day, 1998.  Yuri and I are both dating Jaan, the Estonian mountain climber, and we both want to impress him.  We plan a three-way date involving Estonian food, Estonian music, Estonian everything, until Jaan gets sick of it and kicks us both out.

But there's a nice side effect to gay dating: if the guy you both want rejects you, you can always spend the night with each other.

6. The Boy Who Cried Fabulous.  Valentine's Day, 2005.  What could be worse than to be dating the annoyingly cheerful, annoyingly upbeat Florian on hearts-and-flowers day?  Nothing.  A 5-pound heart-shaped box of candy, a dozen roses, a card two feet square with a horrible pun, and a teddy bear with a heart-shaped bib reading "I Wuv You."   He doesn't even love me, he wuvs me.

7. The Wild Night of Tricking.  Valentine's Day, 2007.  I'm back in West Hollywood for a mid-February visit, and Lane suggests that we hit the bars.  On Cupid Day?  It will be all depressed single guys.

"Precisely," Lane says.  "We can spend the night tricking, like we did before AIDS -- pick someone up, bring him home, do him, kick him out, back to the bar for the next guy."

"But we were Cute Young Things back then.  I'm 46!"

"So what?  I'm 51!"

8. The Asian-American Family Valentine Dinner.  Valentine's Day, 2009.  I'm dating Chad, who is second-generation Korean-American.  He invites me to dinner with his family, which turns out to be like a Korean Thanksgiving: tons of food, relatives you only see once a year, and innumerable questions about the new guy Chad is dating.

9. The Guilt Trip. Valentine's Day, 2010.  I'm dating Troy, a newly-graduated French major who says "Oh, I hate Valentine's Day.  Let's not celebrate at all."  Fine with me.  Until February 14th, when I awaken to candy, flowers, expensive jewelry, and dinner reservations.  Fooled you!

10. I Become a Creepy Old Guy.  Valentine's Day, 2012.  #9 is probably the reason I hate Valentine's Day now.  I insist that we don't celebrate.  At all.  We go to a bathhouse instead, the River Club in Albany, where I become a Creepy Old Guy.

11, The Youngest Guy I've Ever Dated.  Valentine's Day, 2015.  A 22 year old theater major.  Fortunately, we start dating too close to the Day to celebrate it.

12, My Ex-Student Naked in the Locker Room.  Valentine's Day, 2016.  A 19-year old political science major who wants to become a lawyer.  Our first date is the night before.  I wake up, go down on him, give him a bagel, and kick him out.

I get to spend The Day alone in my apartment, doing course prep, downloading porn from the internet, and watching The Walking Dead.  

Best Valentine's Day ever!

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

Bubba Lewis: Not Just Zac Efron's Life Partner

Bubba Lewis is best known as the BFF of teen idol Zac Efron -- the two have been passionate heterosexual life partners for eleven years, ever since they starred together as autistic twins in a sappy tv movie, Miracle Run (2003).  

But the Georgia-born singer, dancer, and good old boy -- who took the name "Bubba" to emphasize his country-fried heritage -- does more than bask in the glory of High School Musical fever.  He has a resume of his own, full of serious dramatic vehicles.

Very serious.

Snap (2005): A teenage boy must defend himself from a killer (Ian Ford) who has invaded his home and murdered his parents.

Flags of Our Fathers (2006): About the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.  Bubba plays one of them as a boy.

The Bottom (2007): A boy working at a gas station "in the ruins of America."

It's Dark Here (2013): A boy has a schizophrenic breakdown in front of his horrified parents.

Plus episodes of Saving Grace, Medium, ER, Numbers, and Dexter. 

He doesn't do many comedies.

Just Weather Girl (2009), about a Seattle weather girl who moves in with her little brother and romances his bff (Patrick J. Adams, Ryan Devlin).

And The In-Betweeners (2012-2013): A sitcom about four misfit boys in high school who band together.  And, apparently, take their clothes off.

Notice that Bubba hasn't played any heterosexual romantic leads.  Not one.  It's all about the BFFs.  Which is always good for gay subtexts.

Feb 14, 2016

Pogo: The Gay Possum of Okefenokee Swamp

There have been three major comic strips devoted to the naivete, colorful traditions, and homespun wisdom of the hillbilly:
Li'l Abner, about a backwoods Adonis allergic to hetero-romance.

Snuffy Smith, who doesn't seem particularly romantic toward his towering wife Loweezie.

And Pogo, about a possum who lives in Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia.

Created by Walt Kelly for a line of Dell comic books in 1941, Pogo premiered in The New York Star in 1948, and entered national syndication in a year later.

The titular Pogo, "a possum by trade," is laconic and soft-spoken, the foil, best friend, and sometime domestic partner of the loud, blustering Albert the Alligator.  (we see a similar "forbidden" predator-prey relationship in the animated Sitting Ducks)

 They are intimates, sharing a house and a bed.  Moreover, their physicality, the grabbing of arms and shoulders, the hugging, the casual pressing against each other, is quite surprising for the 1950s, and suggests a homoerotic subtext even more strongly.

Pogo's other friends include the turtle Churchy LaFemme ("Ah loves yo', Churchy"); the misanthropic Porky Pine, who doesn't like anybody -- except Pogo; Howland Owl; Beauregard the Hound Dog; and the young "sprat" Rackety Coon Chile, who is studying to become an elephant when he grows up.

But Pogo makes new friends easily, with a zeal that veers into the homoerotic.  In a 1951 continuity, a carrier pigeon arrives with a "secret message," and the next day the two are shown walking off together, a new male bond formed.  One wonders what the "secret message" was.

The swamp animals have little use for heterosexual romance.  The flirtatious French skunk Mam'zelle Hepzibah is sometimes an object of affection, but more often a "sivilizing" attempt to introduce culture into their backwoods idyll.  When she presses the matter, Pogo admits that "I'm just not the marrying kind," 1950s code for "gay."

On November 10th, 1950, the entire cast watches the sunset, dismal over the conservative turn in the midterm elections (the Democrats lost 28 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate).  And the political satire began.

Pogo ran for President regularly, with a campaign platform supporting various liberal causes.

Political figures were regularly satirized, beginning with witch-hunting senator Joseph McCarthy, and moving on to Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and Spiro Agnew.

But the gay subtexts continued unabated until the strip ended with Walt Kelly's death in 1973.

Although probably not intended in this "Gay and Fey" association between Albert the Alligator and his creator.

Everyone sees Albert in Pogo's bed, and assumes that they're married.

A male flea asks Beauregard Dog to marry him.

A male cat begins chucking bricks at Beauregard, and the other characters conclude that he is in love with him.

On and on, giving us the impression that everyone in Okefenokee Swamp is either gay, or nonchalant about gay people.

See also: Krazy Kat, the First Gay Comic Strip Character; and The Surprising Gay Origin of "Deck us all"

Your Grandfather's Beefcake: Circus Acrobats

Back before physique magazines, Johnny Weissmuller movies, and superhero comics, there were few options for beefcake: J.C. Leyendecker's magazine ads, statues of Greek gods -- and the circus.

The 3 Moros (the Three Moors) was a brother act.

Actually, they were mostly brother acts, whether they were actually related or not.

Unfortunately,it was beefcake only, and the guys didn't appear alone; there were usually scantily-clad women in the act.

Not a lot of gay symbolism.  In fact, the whole drama of highwire acts, with a woman tumbling and a man catching, replays a heterosexual drama.

The circus is so soaked in heterosexual imagery that it's hard to find references to gay performers.  Bob Yerkes of the Flying Alexanders was married for 40 years, and  a born-again Christian, so probably not.

The acrobat tradition started failing in the 1950s, facing stiff competition from tv and movies.  The last world-famous acrobat was probably Jimmy Cavaretti, and he supplemented his circus fame with appearances on tv and a spread in Playgirl.

For instance, why wasn't Scott Osgood (top photo) a superstar?  He performed with the Sailor Circus in Orlando in the 1980s, and got excellent reviews.  Today he owns a rigging design company.


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