Jun 4, 2016

Free You, Be You: Beefcake and Bullying

"Free You Be You" is an anti-bullying video, produced by Shirley Pierce and Angus Ledgerwood, being promoted extensively in Australia.  Instead of the usual tactic of telling kids how to recognize bullying and how to respond, it attempts to empower the victims.

The song was written and performed by nine-year old bullying victim Amber Arnold  (center, below):

I  know it's hard to rise up, to pick up your soul and go.
A cut goes deep that comes from another.  When will these feelings go?

Can't skip over the cracks, or fill them in with hope.
You can't hold your head up high, you reach up but there's no sky

The world will never know the pain inside of you
Take one little step, free you by being you

It stars three teens who are victims of bullying, cyber (Cleo Massey), racial (Larissa George), and physical (Eric James Gravolin).  They break into an empowering song, and draw allies, including ex-victims like rapper Bulldog (Cameron D'Arcy):

I used to be one of those kids that got pushed around.
I'd listen to anything they would say just to put me down.
Back then I was left shook with a frown, but today I'm doing great.
So I say, look at me now.

Performers were drawn from among amateurs and professionals in Queensland, including:

1. Chai Romruen (The Mako Mermaids).

2. Tyler Rostedt (K9, left)

3. Model Taylor Seage

4. Athlete Lachlan Smith

Jun 3, 2016

Mako Mermaids and Mermen

Mako: Island of Secrets (2013-), airing in the U.S. as The Mako Mermaids, is a sequel to H2O: Just Add Water that expands on the mythology and introduces that rarest of creatures, a merman.

Actually, anyone who comes in contact with the magic water on Mako Island will become a mer-person, but it never happened to a guy on the original series.

Here the protagonist is Zac (Chai Romruen), who becomes a merman after falling into the magic Moon Pool.  He heads back to Australia, trailed by three mermaids, Sirena, Nixie, and Lyla, who want to take away his merman powers.  They eventually befriend him and start dating mortal boys.

The mythology is further developed, with mermaid society skirmishes, dark secrets from the past, and a mysterious trident that may be the key to everything.

Heteronormativity still reigns supreme, but there's a tiny bit of homoerotic buddy bonding between Zac and his mate Cam (Dominic Deutscher), who quickly discovers his secret.

And Eric (Alex Cubis), a mysterious figure who belongs to a rival mermaid pod.

Plus, the beefcake quota is even higher.  In addition to Zac, Cam, and Eric:

Chris (Taylor Glockner), a dolphin trainer who suspects the secret.

Gabe (Chris Cocciolone), a lifeguard.

Karl (Mikey Wulff), a marine park worker.

Joe Davidson.  Ok, he was only in one episode as "Surfer Boy," but I couldn't resist.

Jun 2, 2016

Borden's Elsie: Alpha Bull Dad and Gay Son

Sometimes when we were visiting my Grandma Davis in Indiana, my brother and I got permission to go up into the attic and browse through her piles of old magazines. Good Housekeeping, Saturday Evening Post, Grit...nothing really exciting, but we liked to marvel at the craziness of the past.

One day we stumbled upon a series of illustrated stories from the 1940s starring Elsie the Cow, the mascot for Borden's Milk.

Wait -- was this cow selling the milk that came from her body?  Disgusting!  And who would name it "Hemo," after blood?

The stories were about a battle of the sexes between housewife Elsie and her alpha-male bull spouse, Elmer, with an incredibly sexist passive-aggressive vibe and the hint of violence:

"But Elmer, all the answers in the book can't be wrong!"
"I'm not trying to turn the child against you, darling!"
"Why do men lose their temper more easily than men?"
"It's possible to kill a wife with kindness, dear."

Was this an idealization of the 1940s nuclear family, or a critique?

Borden created a whole back story for the cow couple, including a teenage daughter, Beulah, a mischievous son, Beauregard, and infant twins.  Stories of their domestic life appeared through the 1940s, and for the kids, there was a 1950s comic book series.  And so many advertising tie-ins that there's a whole book devoted to them.

Elmer the Bull, future mascot for Elmer's Glue, was blustering but, oddly, sexy.  He was naked though his family wore clothes.  He had thick bull-muscles.  And, most provocatively, his sex organs were coyly obstructed. I had seen bulls on the farm -- I knew what was being hidden.

Beauregard was a general mischief maker, but he also had some gender-transgressive qualities that lent him some gay symbolism.  Here he seems to be trying on green lipstick and hair dye.

In the 1950s comic books, he's a teenager, and also rather muscular.

By now I imagine he looks something like this.

(Image borrowed from Roberto Linares on YGallery).

See also: Grit

H2O: Just Add Beefcake

H2O: Just Add Water (2007-2010) was a popular Australian "my secret" drama now airing in the United States.

It was about three girls, Rikki, Emma, and Cleo, who become mermaids whenever they touch water (so no more washing up).  They also can control water to combat antagonists and, eventually, save the world (no, not from global warming).

Heteronormative boy-girl plotlines run rampant, but at least there is substantial beefcake.

 1. Lewis (Angus McLaren, left), the trio's ally, whipping boy, and all around factotum.  He dates Cleo.

2. In Series 3, Emma and Lewis vanish, replaced by a new girl, Bella, and a new ally, whipping boy, and all around factotum, Will Benjamin (Luke Mitchell).  He dates Bella.

3. Zane (Burgess Abernethy, second from the right), the local arrogant rich kid, who suspects the girls' secret. He dates Rikki.

4. Byron (Christopher Poree), a windsurfer who dates Emma.

5. Ash (Craig Horner), a riding coach who dates Emma after Byron.

6. Ryan (Andrew Lees), a geologist with rather a spectacular physique who sometimes helps the girls, but doesn't date any of them.  Not because he's gay, though --  at age 22 and 23, he's too old for them.

7. Nate (Jamie Timoney), who starts a band with Bella, and flirts with the girls but gets rejected.  Not hot enough.

With all the beefcake floating around Australia, I can see their point.  I wouldn't turn him down, but he might get relegated to a Sunday or Monday night date.  I'd save the weekends for the heavy hitters.

May 31, 2016

Fall 1982: Prince Charles is Gay, And Other Things I Learned in College

In the fall of 1982,  I moved to Indiana University to work on my M.A. in English.  One night -- Saturday, September 25th, to be exact -- I bolstered my courage enough to walk the mile or so into downtown Bloomington and go into adult bookstore.  The clerk, an obese man in a dirty t-shirt, was watching Love Boat on a small black-and-white tv set.  I asked "Do you have anything gay?" and without looking up he jerked his thumb toward a rack near the bathroom.  It contained straight softcore porn like Playboy and Penthouse, but also the gay news magazines The Advocate, Christopher Street, and In Touch -- plus, on a bottom shelf, the directory, The Gayellow Pages.

I bought them all, along with a Playboy for cover, and rushed back to my dorm room, and read them all that night.  One of the articles listed 10 reasons why Prince Charles was...you know. (They didn't say "gay" for fear of a lawsuit): he was musical and artistic, enjoyed the theater, and often wore the color pink.   He was a hunk, with a tight, muscular physique.  And more importantly, he was never seen with women, but often seen with attractive men, some of whom worked as his "butlers" or "valets," where they had intimate access to his bedchamber.

But: Prince Charles' fairytale wedding to Lady Diana Spencer last year, in July 1981, was a major event, televised worldwide.  Their romance was the subject of two tv movies, both coincidentally airing a few days ago: Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story on September 17th, and The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana on September 20th.   He had a son, Prince William, born July 1982.  (Prince Harry, bottom photo) would be born in 1984). How could he be gay?

 But he was well over 30 when he married, the article stated, and he picked Diana seemingly at random.  His mother, Queen Elizabeth, no doubt pressured him into it.  It was a screen.

At the time, I thought that gay people were physically, emotionally, and spiritually unable to engage in heterosexual relations, even as a screen, so I was astonished.

Thirty years later, Prince Charles is still the subject of gay rumors.  They may or may not be true.  But he was essential to my first realization that the gay world was more vast and complex than anything I had ever imagined.

See also: My First Visit to an Adult Bookstore

Fred Dryer's Nude Modeling Career

Hunter (1984-1991) aired during the Reagan-Bush years of conservative retrenchment, on Saturday nights, aimed at an audience of oldsters sitting at home complaining about how much better things when they were kids.  It took the new "tough on crime" stance -- forget about social programs, go out and break some heads -- with tough, trigger-happy Sgt. Hunter (Fred Dryer) and his female partner/eventual romantic interest McCall (Stephanie Kramer).

I never saw it; in West Hollywood we went out on Saturday nights (after The Golden Girls, of course).

Born in 1946, Fred Dryer spent 13 years as a pro-football player (for the Giants and the Rams), only hitting Hollywood after retiring in 1980.  He had "muscle stud" guest roles on Laverne and Shirley, Lou Grant, Hart to Hart, and Cheers, and a few man-mountain roles in movies: The Star Maker, The Kid from Nowhere, Something So Right, before being cast as uber-macho Sgt. Hunter.

Since Hunter ended in 1991, he's done several reprisal movies, and a sequel tv series (2003), plus some tough-cop movies.

There was a serial-killer-targeting-gays episode of Hunter, but otherwise no specific gay content in Dryer's works.  He's a hard-core Republican who supports the homophobic Tea Party movement.

So why does he have gay rumors?

Maybe it's just the incongruity of the uber macho having a "feminine" gay side.

Or the fact that he didn't marry until he was trying to make a go of Hollywood, and his marriage lasted for only five years.

Or this nude beefcake photo.

I don't know where it came from, but it looks like some of the physique photos gay magazines began to publish when the restrictions on nudity eased in the late 1960s.

Excpet in the late 1960s, Fred Dryer had hair.  Quite a lot of it.  This was the hippie generation, after all.

The uncensored photo is on Tales of West Hollywood

May 30, 2016

Bobbseys, Boxcars, and Beefcake

I was never much of a fan of the mystery genre, but many gay kids liked the gentle, pre-Hardy Boys exploits of The Famous Five or their American counterparts, the Bobbsey Twins and the Boxcar Children.

Laura Lee Hope’s Bobbsey Twins series lasted through 72 installments from 1904 to 1979.  Originally the two sets of twin siblings aged normally, but when the series was revised and extensively rewritten during the 1960s, Bert and Nan remained twelve (but behaved as adolescents), and Freddie and Flossie remained six (they all seemed to behave somewhat older than their "real" ages, or maybe that is just a reflection of the extra freedom kids had in earlier generations).  In the 1960s they also began to have more dramatic adventures in realistic locales, though the titles were still aimed at a youngish market: The Secret of Candy Castle, The Doodlebug Mystery, The Flying Clown.

Gay boys found most resonance in Bert, who was in his last days of childhood, still happy to play with his sister and younger siblings but obviously longing for emotional connections outside the group.  In fact, an ongoing theme of the books is the conflict between the comfort and safety of family and the need to “leave the nest” and find one’s own way in the world.  But girls play no part in any of the stories; instead, in nearly every book, in the midst of piecing out clues and solving mysteries, Bert goes off on his own with a boy.

The Boxcar Children were another group of siblings, Henry (14), Jessie (13), Violet (10), and Benny (6), orphans who moved into an abandoned boxcar in the 1924 novel by Gertrude Chandle Warner.  Then, in the late 1940s, Warner realized that the four would make ideal child-sleuths.  She had them adopted by their wealthy grandfather, Mr. Alden, who traveled around the country to keep track of his various business investments, thus providing lots of exotic locales for sleuthing.  Eighteen new installments appeared between 1949 and 1976, sending the kids to haunted houses, bedeveled ranches, mountain cabins, and seaside resorts.   The children age through the adventures, and by #19, Benny Uncovers a Mystery, Henry is in college.

Like Bert, Henry is trying to establish his independence while still remaining part of the family, but, unlike adolescent boys in children's media today, he is never portrayed as girl-crazy.  Instead, when his life outside the family appears in the novels, he is usually seen in the company of a boy (the girl on this cover is his sister).

May 29, 2016

Kalevipoeg: Gay Epic Hero of Estonia

When I was visiting Estonia in the summer of 1998, I couldn't go anywhere without hearing about Kalevipoeg.  There were a dozen public statues of him, a naked, muscular god carrying small people.

There was a Kalevipoeg Sculpture Park in Tallinn.

There was a Kalevipoeg Museum near Kaapa, which became a full Theme Park in 2007.

There was a chain of Kalev Chocolate Shops.

Teenagers were filming adaptions of his adventures for  school projects.

Kalevipoeg Imprisoned, Enn Poldroos
Museums were crowded with sculptures, murals, and paintings, often emphasizing the god's superheroic endowment.

Kalevipoeg at the Gates of Hell, Kristjan Raud
Or muscular backside.

Bookstores were teeming with books that praise Kalevipoeg as "James Bond and Chuck Norris put together."

So who is this guy?

He's the son of the god Kalev in The Kalevipoeg,  the Estonian national epic, culled from ancient myths by Friedrich Kreutzwald and published in 1853.

The youngest of  Kalev's children, but the biggest, strongest, and most resourceful, Kalevipoeg has many adventures.  He:
1. Swims to Finland to rescue his mother from an evil wizard
2. Gets a cursed sword from the Finish god Ilmarin.
3. Wins the throne of Estonia in a stone-throwing contest.

Kalevipoeg, Amandus Adamson
From then on, his companion is Alevipoeg, with whom he:
4. Fights a water demon and a sorcerer.
5. Travels to Porgu (Hell) twice.
6. Seeks out the edge of the world.
7. Fights an apocalyptic battle with the demon Sarvik and his army.

When Alevipoeg is killed, Kalevipoeg is so grief-stricken that he gives up his kingdom and becomes a hermit.  When he dies, he goes to Heaven, but is deemed so valuable that he is tied to the gates of Porgu to keep the world safe.

Kreutzwald was inspired by the Finnish Kalevala, also compiled from ancient myths, and set to verse by Elias Lönnrot in 1849.

But there's a big difference: the Kalevala is all about the quest after the Eternal Feminine, the gods Ilmarin, Väinämöinen, and Lemminkäinen searching for wives.

Kalevipoeg, Drisil Woan

But except for one short maiden-seduction early on (which, admittedly, gets a lot of attention), Kalevipoeg is oblivious to women.  When he rescues three maidens from Porgu, he busily tries to find them husbands, never attempting to seduce them himself.

He is all about masculine buddy-bonding, first with his brothers, and then with Alevipoeg.

A gay epic hero?

Kalevipoeg Mural, Tallinn
In addition to the many literary and artistic adaptations of The Kalevipoeg, there's been a ballet featuring the Kalevipoeg Suite, by Eugen Kapp, and a stage play, a "Cool Epic" starring Tanel Saar, that has toured Europe and the U.S.

See also: Kristjan Raud: Mesmerized by Male Beauty and Yuri and I Cruise in Estonia.


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