Apr 1, 2016

Fall 2008: The Darkroom of the Gay Bar in St. Louis

St. Louis, Fall 2008

Most gay bars in Europe have darkrooms, cut off from the main bar by a black curtain.  It's completely dark inside, not even a safety light, although some guys walk around flashing the lights on their cell phones.  You feel around until you find something you like.

In the U.S., there are no darkrooms.  State and local laws strictly forbid public sexual encounters.  Even in bathhouses, private clubs with membership fees, you're not allowed to do things in public areas.  

I've seen the equivalent of a darkroom only once in the U.S.

In the fall of 2008, in St. Louis for a conference, I went to the Spike (I don't remember its real name) on Manchester Street, in the gay neighborhood.

Bare brick walls, a small dance floor, a lot of guys in jeans hanging around staring into space, their beer bottles protruding like phalluses.

I noticed a lot of beer bottles by a door in the back, as if people were leaving them on the way to the bathroom, but it wasn't a bathroom.

They would set down their beer bottle, go through, and return a few minutes later.

After awhile, I investigated.

It was a narrow enclosed patio, partially open to the sky, lit only by the stars and a string of multicolored Christmas tree lights.

No heat except for a red-glowing space heater.

A bulletin board, some railings, no place to sit.

There was a row of men standing with their backs against the wall in single file, waiting.

The rest of the post is too explicit for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood.

We Got It Made: 1980s Sitcom with Gay Actor Tom Villard

When I was at Indiana University studying for my M.A., lots of the guys in Eigenmann Hall watched the sex comedy We Got It Made (1983-84), about two nerds who hire Mickey (Teri Copley), one of those ubiquitous 1980s servants who provide joie de vivre along with the housework.   I watched because it was stuck between the must-see Mama's Family and Cheers.  It wasn't awful.

1. The odd couple, button-down attorney David (Matt McCoy, left, John Hillner) and goofy salesman Jay (Tom Villard), had a nice gay subtext going on, in spite of the cheesecake maid and their respective girlfriends.

2. A hot bear cop, Max (former pro wrestler Ron Karabatsos), lived downstairs, with his teenage son Max (Lance Wilson-White).

3. Like Three's Company, it was all about thinking people were having sex, sex itself: Mickey sleepwalks and ends up in the boys' bed; Mickey and Jay work on a screenplay, and David thinks they're having an affair; Mickey's diary entry makes everyone think that she wants to have sex with David; Mickey sleepwalks and ends up in the boys' bed.

4. Tom Villard (right) was gay.  In the mid-1980s, I occasionally saw him at Mugi, the gay Asian bar in Hollywood. He came out as gay and a person with AIDS in an Entertainment Tonight interview in February 1994, which at the time was career suicide; but he thought that speaking out was more important.

He was one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.

When he died in November 1994, his partner,  production designer Scott Chambliss, set up The Tom Villard Foundation to provide assistance to people living with AIDS.

Mar 29, 2016

The Patty Duke Show

I was saddened to hear of the death of Patty Duke today, at age 69.

The actress was a long-time friend of the gay community, supporting gay rights and AIDS research, and appearing in a number of gay-friendly productions, such as By Design (1982), in which she played a lesbian fashion designer, and Hail to the Chief (1985), about the first woman president of the U.S., with a gay Head of the Secret Service ("The deadliest fairy you'll every meet").

Two of her sons, Sean Astin (born 1971) and Mackenzie Astin (1973), are actors.  They have also appeared in gay-positive productions.  Mackenzie is bisexual.

Of all her memorable performances on tv and in the movies, Baby Boomers remember her most fondly for The Patty Duke Show (1963-66).  It was before my time, but I've seen episodes on youtube.

Patty Duke plays Cathy Lane, a sophisticated, urbane Scottish teenager "who's lived most everywhere, from Zanzibar to Barclay Square," but comes to America to live with her uncle.  She has a cousin, Patty Lane, a typical American teenager who "loves to rock and roll, a hot dog makes her lose control."

Guess what: Patty Duke plays both girls!  They're identical cousins!

Ok, there's no such thing.  They must be sisters -- there's more going on in that family tree than meets the eye.  Better not to ask.

We also shouldn't ask about what happened to Cathy's parents.  Better leave it open, like Mike and Carol's exes on The Brady Bunch.

Cathy sets in to become Americanized, and the standard sitcom complications ensue:
Patty gets a crush on her French teacher.
Cathy tutors a basketball star.
Patty becomes the editor of the school paper.
Cathy gets a date with Sal Mineo.

Looking through the episode synopses on Wikipedia, I find few instances of the girls masquerading as each other.  I guess the novelty of seeing Patty Duke playing two characters at once was enough to fuel the plots.

The family was rounded out with a mother and a father (William Schallert, Jean Byron), a kid brother (Paul O'Keefe), and a series of boyfriends and crushes, notably Eddie Applegate (Richard, who appeared in 88 episodes), but also just about every young adult in Hollywood: Ronnie Schell, Steve Franken, James Brolin, Frank Sinatra Jr., Bobby Vinton, Richard Gautier, and Daniel J. Travanti.

Celebrities like Frankie Avalon, Sammy Davis, Jr. Troy Donahue, and Robert Goulet played themselves.  Chad and Jeremy and the Shindogs performed.

No gay specific characters, obviously, but the show was memorable for not trying to push people into a heteronormative box.  Patty and Cathy's classmates included science nerds, movie buffs, artistic types, athletic types, boys who weren't interested in girls, girls who weren't interested in boys.

William Asher, who co-created the program and wrote most episodes, went on to the gay-subtext filled Bewitched.

In 1999, 33 years after the series ended, many of the cast reprised their roles in The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights.  The family reconvenes to prevent the destruction of the old high school.

Patty is a drama teacher, divorced from Richard, with a grown son (Alain Goulem) and a granddaughter, and Cathy is a widow with a teenage son (Kent Riley. left).

Neither of them is immersed in the heterosexual nuclear family box.

See also: Mackenzie Astin; Sean Astin

13 Writers and Artists of the Romantic Era That You Didn't Know Were Gay

When I was studying for my M.A. in English (1982-84), I had to select two adjacent historical eras for my Comprehensive Exams.  The problem is, gay content seems to go up and down, a homophobic wasteland (Medieval, Restoration-Augustan, early Victorian) followed by a period of homoerotic exuberance (Renaissance, Romantic, late Victorian).

For my first period, I chose the Restoration-Augustan Era, mostly because the professor of my graduate seminar, Dr. Singer, was gay -- or at least we thought he was.  For my second period, I chose the Romantic Era (1770-1830), because the poets were young and cute, and their lives seemed informed by homosocial and homoerotic bonds.  Later I discovered that several were gay in real life. 

The top 13 gay or gay-subtext literary figures:

1. Hugh Walpole  (1717-1797), who built a pseudo-Medieval castle, Strawberry Hill, to entertain the A-list gays of the early Romantic era.

 2. and 3. The Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Charlotte Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), who eloped, set up housekeeping, and entertained many of the artistic and literary greats of the era.

4. Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), who forged a series of Medieval poems during his teens, and upset over his lack of recognition, committed suicide.  Many of the other Romantic poets revered him as a beautiful youth martyred by an uncomprehending world. He has only appeared on screen once, in a 1970 German movie, played by Ulrich Faulhaber.

 5. William Blake (1757-1822), who advocated for "free love" and illustrated his poetry with lovingly-detailed, super-muscular male nudes

 6. William Beckford  (1760-1844), who built his own pseudo-Medieval castle, Lansdowne Tower, where he kept his huge art collection. 

7. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and 8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who roomed together and walked across England together (in the company of William's sister Dorothy).In Pandaemonium (2000), they are played by John Hannah and Linus Roach.

9. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), who hung out with attractive men, especially Greeks and Italians, and shared a house in Rome with fellow poet Percy Shelley. I hadn't yet read Byron and Greek Love (1985), but I thought Manfred highly homoerotic.  In Gothic (1986), Byron was played by Gabriel Byrne (seen here holding hands with Shelley, played by Julian Sand).

10. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who cohabitated with Byron and wrote Adonais to mourn the death of the beautiful young poet John Keats (check out the beefcake in the Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais". Besides, his wife, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein.  In Frankenstein Unbound (1990), a scientist goes back in time to meet Shelley (gay performer Michael Hutchence, top photo) and the real Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia).

11. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), who introduced the gay-coded Dandy to England.

12. John Keats (1795-1821), whose love for Charles Armitage Brown overwhelmed his love for Fanny Brawne (which was never consummated), and wrote of pure beauty much more often than the beauty of women.  In Bright Star (2009), which makes the romantic triangle overt, Keats is played by gay actor Ben Whishaw (left), and Brown by Paul Schneider.

13. Gay artist Henry Fuseli.

Frankenstein, vampires, gay subtexts, and beefcake.  What's not to like?

Mar 28, 2016

Top 12 Public Penises of South American #2: the West

Our Public Penis tour of South America left off with Argentina.  Next stop: Uruguay.

1. Greetingman, a 20-foot tall blue naked man, bows in Buceo, Uruguay to demonstrate friendship.  He is the creation of Korean artist Yoo Young-ho.

2. A monument to the last of the indigenous peoples of Uruguay in Montevideo.

3. Working our way north, we come to Paraguay, the only nation in South America where an Indian language, Guarani, has official status.  Parque Ybycui, about 60 miles south of Asuncion, has a statue of a semi-naked gladiator.

4. Next comes Bolivia, the only nation in the world with two capitals, La Paz and Sucre.  In Lapaz, this muscular Unknown Soldier lies prostrate on the ground.

5. But you may be more interested in Cabezas, a small town in the Gran Chaco region, where Father Francisco de Pilar is leading a buffed, loincloth-heavy Indian to Christ.

6. In Santiago, Chile, there's an interesting statue of Dedalus mourning a prostrate, naked Icarus outside the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

More after the break.

7. And Capoulican, the military leader of the Mapuche, who led an uprising against the Spanish from 1553 to 1558.

8. If you go all the way south to Punta Arenas, Chile, the monument to Magellan features more semi-nude Indians.

9. I definitely want to visit Peru for Machu Picchu and other Incan archaeological sites, but there's not a lot of beefcake art.  Unless you count this statue in the Museo de Historia y Arqueologia in Lima.

10. North to Colombia, the only country in South America that I've visited in person, to help build a church in a suburb of Medellin.  The most famous artist in Colombia is Fernando Botero, whose distinctive style of squat, hefty naked people is called Boterismo.

Many of his paintings can be seen in the Botero Museum in Bogota, but there are also a number of statues, including this one in Medellin.

11. And this one in Bogota.  Even the horse is sculpted in Boterismo style.

12. If you prefer your beefcake art a little more svelte, visit the Cathedral of Salt, an underground church carved out of the salt mines in Zipaquira, about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Bogota.

There's a naked miner at the entrance, one of the few fully nude pieces of beefcake art in all of South America.

See also: Top 12 Public Penises of South America 1: The East and Me and the Gay Cannibal.


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