Jun 10, 2016

The Unsolved Murder and the Two Footlong Redheads

When I was growing up in Rock Island, I often heard about the biggest unsolved murder in Chicago history.  It appeared in "Spooky Chicago" television pieces every Halloween, and in newspaper articles on the anniversary.  We discussed it in the schoolyard, even in class.

When I moved to West Hollywood, I often told the story, along with the story of my meeting with Mark Percy in 1977.  But then something weird happened.

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

Beefcake and Heterosexism in My Netflix Recommendations

During the last week of May and first week of June, I was very busy, with late hours, getting caught in the rain, and lots of dates and hookups.  As a result, my immune system was impacted enough for me to catch a miserable summer cold.  I've spent the last two days on the couch with orange juice, ice cream  -- and Netflix.

It gives you recommendations based on your previous viewing.  Unfortunately, no matter how much I screen them for gay potential, my Netflix recommendations always turn out to be blearily heterosexist, with Girls! Girls! Girls! proclaimed from the get-go.  Here are the last 10 that I tried, and turned off within a few minutes.

Remember, these are movies and tv programs that I selected from a long list because I thought would have gay potential.

1. The Strange Calls (2011). An Australian comedy-paranormal tv series.  A screw-up police officer (Toby Truslove) is transferred to an isolated small town, where weird things keep happening. I love the paranormal, and he's rather cute, but guess who he meets within five seconds of his arrival in town?  The Girl.  Next!

(I don't think this is him, but it's what comes up when you google "Toby Truslove shirtless.")

2. I thought Phantom Halo (2015) would be paranormal, but it's a caper about two grifter brothers (Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Luke Kleintack) who decide counterfeit some bills to pay their debts. Ok, I can watch a caper movie.  Except it takes five minutes to introduce the Girl.  Next!

3. The Heroes of Evil (2015).  Three bullied, battered teens in Spain begin to use violence to defend themselves,but first they break into an abandoned house and find...porno magazines!  Straight ones!

I hear that there's a gay kiss later on, but star Jorge Clemente explains that his character "isn't gay."  A kiss is just a kiss.  Next!

4. Fried (2014), a British workplace comedy about the employees of a chicken restaurant in Croydon, with Matthew Cottle as the sane center of the lunacy, mostly about heterosexual dating and marriage.  Next!

5. The Ranch (2016), stars Ashton Kucher as a pro athlete who comes home after a failed football career  to run the family ranch with his older brother (Danny Masterson), while negotiating...well, their hetero-horniness.  Within the first ten minutes, Ashton runs into -- and jumps into bed with -- his old high school Girlfriend.  At least we see some Ashton Kucher chest.  Next!

6. The Lady in a Car with Glasses and a Gun (2015): ok, I know there will be a lady, a "beautiful secretary" who steals her boss's car and goes on the lam to a resort town she's never visited before, only to find that everyone knows her.  And there's a body in the trunk.  Sounds intriguing.  But it took only three minutes for me to get annoyed by the constant close-up shots of the Lady's legs and breasts, and the constant open-mouthed leers from every man who sees her.  Next!

7. Dope (2015).  A high school "geek" (Shameik Moore) tries to get into his dream school, Harvard, while negotiating drugs and crime in his hood.  Starts out nice, with Shameik Moore shirtless in bed, but then, less than a minute later, he's gazing at the Girl and discussing how much he is into her.  Next!

8. Wrecker (2015).  "Two friends on a road trip are menaced by a psychotic truck driver."  I love road rage movies like Duel, and two guys clinging to each other in terror -- there certainly should be some homoerotic buddy-bonding!  Whoops, it's two girls, or more precisely, the legs and breasts of two "hot girls."  Next!

9. Special Correspondents (2016), a Netflix comedy with two hot guys on the poster -- and no girl.  No doubt an odd-couple buddy comedy.

Nope -- journalist (Eric Bana) cracks a story by posing as a cop, and promptly sleeps with the wife of a sound technician (Ricky Gervais) who will become his partner on a road trip to Ecuador.  But I don't get that far.  Next!

10. Hibana (2016), a Japanese tv series adapting the novel Hibana (Spark), by Naoki Matayoshi, which won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize.  It's about two comedian buddies who specialize in manzai (comedic dialogues): the young, struggling Tokunaga (Kento Hayashi) and the older, established Kamiya (Kazuki Namioka).

There aren't any girls in the first episode, anyway...

Jun 9, 2016

Kenneth Anger: Experimental Homoerotic Filmmaker of the 1950s

Kenneth Anger (1927-) was an experimental filmmaker of the 1950s and 1960s, known for his surreal, chaotic imagery.  There is no spoken dialogue; instead, the actors pantomime.  The background soundtrack consists of either classical music or 1950s pop hits like "My Boyfriend's Back" and "Blue Velvet."

Anger was heavily involved in ceremonial magick of the Aleister Crowley school, and imbued his films with esoteric magickal symbolism as well as beefcake.

His homoeroticism caused celebration and censorship during the 1950s, although it seems rather tame by contemporary standards.

Fireworks (1947) is probably his most overtly homoerotic statement.  A shirtless man (Anger himself) goes cruising, tries to pick up a muscular, flexing sailor (Gordon Grey), but is bashed and killed instead.  He wakes up to discover that it was all a nightmare, but there's a naked man in bed next to him.

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) is a long, complex, weird piece about a Magician summoning various magickal beings, including the Scarlet Woman, the Great Beast 666, Hecate, Isis, Astarte, Osiris, and Nero, to a psychedelic orgy that mostly involves them taking off masks, leering, and laughing.  They poison and rape the beautiful boy Pan (Paul Mathison).  We get a chest shot.

Scorpio Rising (1963) is probably his most famous film, and quite homoerotic for its time.  A group of men get dressed in motorcycle fetish gear, very slowly, while reading the comics and worshipping James Dean.  There are flashes of chest and bulge, even a few quick penises.  Then, interspliced with images of Christ and his disciples from an old religious film, they desecrate a church.

Lucifer Rising (1972) is about Aleister Crowley's prediction that we have reached a new Aeon, the Age of Horus, with new Egyptian gods taking control. There's a lot of invocation and people leering at each other.  It's of interest primarily because rocker Marianne Faithfull plays Lilith, and Bobby Beausoleil, who would participate in the Manson Family murders of 1969, is shown naked in the bathtub.

I find the juxtaposition of homoeroticism with violence, blasphemy, and the occult disturbing, keying into the myth that to be gay is to be evil.  But most artists working with gay themes during the 1950s and early 1960s made the same connection.

And Kenneth Anger is to be commended as the first openly gay filmmaker, ever, and the first to openly include homoerotic imagery, no matter what the context.

Eddie Cantor: The Craziest Reason for Gay Rumors

One of the cartoons I saw on Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat as a kid in the 1960s was Billboard Frolics (1935), which spoofed contemporary radio stars.  I didn't recognize any of them at the time, of course, but I was intrigued by a big-eyed, big-eared man who clapped his hands in a feminine fashion and sang:

Merrily we roll along, Rubinoff and me; when he plays his fiddle, I just go on a spree!
It's a cinch that every time I go on the air, I just look around and find old Rubinoff there.

This guy obviously had a crush on a violinist named Rubinoff!

Years later, when I was in college, an episode of Matinee at the Bijou featured the same guy, mincing and rolling his eyes as he sang "Making Whoopee," a cynical look at marriage: women snare their "victims" to get free room and board, and men spend the rest of their lives trying desperately to escape (Johnny Weissmuller pantomimed the unhappy "victim").

Who was this guy who had a crush on Rubinoff and disapproved of heterosexual marriage?

His name was Eddie Cantor (1892-1964), known as "Banjo Eyes" for his mincing, eye-rolling song-and-dance routines.  He got his start in Vaudeville, then moved into Broadway musical reviews, and had his own radio programs in the 1930s and 1940s (Violinist David Rubinoff was a frequent guest).

Cantor became a film star with Kid Boots (1926), and went on to Whoopee (1930), Roman Scandals (1933), Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937), and many others.

He had a reasonably good physique for the 1930s (see top photo), but he was no muscleman, so he didn't provide any beefcake in his films.  However, he was often paired with muscular men, such as Paul Gregory (left) in Whoopee.

He never could resist peeking at pecs.

He probably wasn't gay, but his feminine mannerisms certainly code him as "queer."

And he was the subject of gay rumors for the craziest reason: he was the father of five daughters.  Thus drawing thirty years of gossip, speculation, jokes, and ridicule.  Why wasn't he "man" enough to have a son?  Was he gay?

Cantor turned the gossip around, and made his lack of "virility" a running gag on his radio program.

See also: Burns and Allen: Not the Marrying Kind

Jun 8, 2016

Pepe Le Pew, the Bisexual Looney Toons Skunk

We know about Bugs Bunny's forays into drag in the old Looney Toon shorts, but what about Pepe LePew?

The faux-French accented skunk was named after the Pepe Le Moko character (Charles Boyer) in Algiers (1938), who reportedly signaled his amorous intent to Hedy Lamar with the request  "Come wiz me to ze Casbah" (although the line never appears in the movie).

Charles Boyer (1899-1978) was bisexual, by the way.

In Chuck Jones' hands, Pepe LePew became an amorous but odiferous skunk who mistakes a cat with a white paint stripe for another skunk and falls madly in love.  His aggressive manner and "odor de pew" compel his intended to flee, so he's off on a wild pursuit.

It's usually a female cat, but in 4 of his 17 cartoon appearances between 1945 and 1962, it's a male.

In Odor-Able Kitty (1945), it's a male cat.  Pepe is not dissuaded.

In Scent-imental Over You (1947), it's a male dog.

In Scentimental Romeo (1951), Pepe follows the female cat into a Tunnel of Love, where he makes out with a human male by mistake.

In Dog Pounded (1954), Pepe pursues fellow Looney Toons star Sylvester.

That's 23%.  Pepe is definitely bisexual.

In his later appearances, Pepe has occasionally noted an indifference to the gender of his romantic partners:

On an episode of The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries (1995-2000), Sylvester gets a white stripe down his back again, and is amorously pursued by a male skunk, who explains that he is Pepe's fourth cousin: "What can I say?  It runs in the family."

Sylvester and the female cat Penelope both get white-striped in the direct-to-video Tweety's High Flying Adventure (2000).  Pepe pursues them both.

Sylvester tries to explain that he is an inappropriate partner, not because of his gender, because of his species:

 "You've got it all wrong. I'm not a skunk!"

Pepe responds: "Love can never be wrong."

Shock Treatment: Romance is Not a Children's Game

In the summer of 1981, I went to see Shock Treatment, which was widely advertised as "the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show!"  

Ok, so it starred Brad and Janet from the original movie, played by different actors (Cliff de Young, Jessica Harper).

No other characters from Rocky Horror, no references to Rocky Horror, no sweet transvestites, no gay relationships, no references to gay people except for a racist/homophobic anecdote!

But once you get over your initial disappointment, Shock Treatment presents an interesting conceit: the world is a tv studio, and everyone a player (shades of Shakespeare).  Everyone is under surveillance, everyone is acting in a show within a show within a show.  There are no private moments; everyone is always being observed, commented on, controlled.

And they're trapped.  Like many stories with gay symbolism, there is no way out.  This is the whole universe.

The story is a heterosexist fable: studio owner Farley Flavors is in love with Janet, so he hires Drs. Cosmo and Nations McKinley to institutionalize Brad in their psychiatric-hospital Faith Factory program.  To make Janet forget about Brad, they groom her to star in her own show.

Jessica Harper has a much stronger voice than Susan Sarendon, the original Janet.  Shock Treatment is worth watching just to hear her paeon to egotism, "The Me of Me"

Deep in the heart of me, I love every part of me
All I can see in me is danger and ecstasy
I'm willing to die for me.
One thing there couldn't be is any more me in me

Or to feel the throbbing sexual energy as she walks through red-draped hallways and cruises "young blood."

Janet:  I want some young blood, I want some young blood, and I'm going to get it somehow!
Brad: I'm looking for love....
Janet: I'm looking for trade!

The gay symbolism comes when the various couples prepare to bed down for the night.  Cosmo and Nation begin an SM game, with evocations of the danger of the "jump to the left" that comes with acknowledging one's same-sex desire.

Nation: What a joke.
Cosmo: What a joke!
Nation:  You feel like choking, you play for broke.
Cosmo: Romance is not a children's game.
Nation: But you keep going back just the same.

But even more evocative is "Look What I Did to My Id," in which the cast is in the dressing room, preparing for Janet's big debut, and hoping in vain that it will allow them the freedom to escape:

Cosmo and Nation: With neurosis in profusion, and psychosis in your soul.
Eliminate confusion, and hide inside a brand new role.

Ralph: This could take us to a new town nowhere near here.

I've used that line many times over the years.

The key to escape is not power, not love, but as in Rocky Horror Picture Show, desire, a passion that vitalizes, sets priorities, and makes life clear.

Judge Oliver Wright and Betty Hapschatt, suspecting a nefarious purpose behind the studio, hide in the rafters all night to investigate without being observed.  When they discover that Brad and Farley are twin brothers separated at birth, they break Brad out of the asylum, take him to confront Farley Flavors, and reunite him with Janet.  Then the four find a way out and exit into glorious sunlight while singing about sex:

Some people do it for enjoyment.
Some people do it for employment.
But we're going to do it anyhow, anyhow
No matter how the wind is blowing.
We just gotta keep going.

It's not far from Frank-n-Furter's "Don't Dream It, Be It."

Not a lot of beefcake, although Gary Shail, who played the lead singer of Oscar Drill and the Bits (Janet's opening act), was somewhat attractive.  He also appeared in Quadrophenia (1979). 

See also: The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Jun 7, 2016

Top 10 Public Penises of Munich

Munich has one of the biggest, most vibrant gay communities in the world, centered around the classic gay neighborhood, Glockenbachviertel.  You can dance, cruise, and hook up around the clock at bathhouses (Deutsche Eche, Schwabinger), dark-room bars (Camp, Ocsengarten), sex clubs (Duplexx), private clubs (Underground), and sex shops (Bruno's).

It also is one of the best cities in Europe for museum aficionados:
The Alte Pinakothek and the Neue Pinakothek (paintings).
The Residenz (the palace of the Bavarian kings)
The Glyptothek (ancient Greek and Roman)
Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst (Egyptian)
The Museum Funf Continente (non-Western)
The Bavarian National Museum (decorative arts)
The Lenbachhaus (a new museum of modern art)

And, while you're browsing for beefcake and paintings, don't forget to check out some of the best public penises in Europe.  They're all in the same area, within a few minute's walk of the Residenz.

1. Hermann Hahn (1868-1945) sculpted a lot of Munich's public art, but he's most famous for the nude Rossebändiger (Horse Trainer) in the Beeldenpark sculpture garden, near the Alte Pinakotheken

2. Julius Troschel (1806-1863), a neoclassical artist, sculpted a soft, nude Death of Adonis somewhere between 1840 and 1850.

3. Also Zethus and Amphion, the buffed twin brothers who founded Thebes   They're both on display in the Neue Pinakothek

4. Bernhard Bleeker (1881-1968) also has a Rossebandiger outside the Neue Pinakothek, and a Speerträger (Spear Carrier), a young man with a penis but no spear, in Lietzensee Park.

5. Harmlos (Harmless), in the park of Prinz Carl Palais, reflects the myth of Antinous, the brash, violent suitor of Penelope who tried to kill Telemachus in The Odyssey.  Franz Jakob Schwanthaler recasts him as a soft, "harmless" youth.

6. Hans Wimmer (1907-1992) cast another soft, harmless youth, or Jungling (1952), in the garden of the Lenbachhaus.

7. The Kuenstlerhaus on Lembachplatz offers us this buffed centaur.

8. Luitpoldbrücke, a stone arch bridge over the Isar River, has four figures, representing a hunter (Bavaria), a woman with a sword (Swabia), a fisherman (Franconia), and and a woman with grapes (the Palantine).  Bavaria, by Hahn, is nude, but I think Franconia, by Balthasar Schmitt, is cuter.

9. The Friedensengel (Angel of Peace), a 1899 monument in Maximilian Park in Bogenhausen, just on the other side of the Isar, contains allegorical murals depicting war and peace.  This one, unfortunately, is war.

10. Reichenbachbrucke, another bridge over the Isar, contains another nude statue, and, in the summer, a steady stream of swimmers and splashers.

Jun 6, 2016

Gather the Faces of Men: Homophobia in American Literature Class

When I was a junior in college, I took courses in "The Modern British Novel", "The American Renaissance," and  "Modern American Literature," plus German, French, and Spanish Literature.  And I forever afterwards restricted my literature consumption to the pre-modern (I should have known from my freshman-year class in Fiction Writing).  The professor of the Amer Lit class chose the texts that most jubilantly proclaimed the absence of gay people from the world.

1. John Updike, "A&P." A teenage boy is working in small-town supermarket: “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.” He goes on to describe their bodies in detail. Why do men never walk in with their shirts off?

2. Alan Dugan, "Tribute to Kafka for Someone Taken." He is at a party, when the police arrive. “I take one last drink,” he writes, “A last puff on a cigarette, a last kiss at a girl. . . .”   Why is there never a last kiss at a boy?

3. Carl Sandburg, "Stars, Songs, Faces": "Gather the faces of women" through our lives, and then, as we prepare to die, “Loosen your hands, let go and say goodbye.” Why are men's faces not worth gathering, or letting go?

Was there no glimpse of same-sex desire or love in these authors?

Not much. Carl Sandburg  evokes "the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of youth, half-naked, sweating," but his world is overwhelmingly that of “slender supple girls with shapely legs."

Men are described only in their connection to women: the Shovel-Man, who dreamed of by “a dark-eyed woman in the old country,” or Jack, who “married a tough woman and they had eight children,” or a Polish boy, “out with his best girl” on a Saturday night. Men only and always long for women.

John Updike writes endlessly about men noticing women, kissing women, and marrying women.   “We are all Solomons lusting for Sheba’s salvation,” says the narrator of “Lifeguard.”

There is a drag queen in "A Bar in Charlotte Amelie," but he is a lonely, pathetic creature, and he never expresses any same-sex interest.

In Updike's magnum opus about alienated suburban heterosexuals, Rabbit Run (1960),  Rabbit (played by James Caan in the movie version) wonders why his friend Tothero likes to watch him undress.  Could he be queer?  He wonders in horror.  No -- it's a nostalgic pleasure, a memory of all the times he used to watch boys undress in the locker room when he was young.

Um...so that means Tothero isn't gay?

Alan Dugan was “the poet of masturbation,” endlessly describing his straight desires and exploits, with no mention of men except for barroom cronies. His “Night Song for a Boy” is not about a boy, but about his depression over his failure to get enough women.

In old age, Dugan has a homoerotic dream about a dead friend, but in perhaps the most homophobic line in any poem since Catullus, he is horrified at the thought that his dream self might be “an impotent homosexual necrophiliac,” and longs for the “right” sort of dreams, dreams about women, again.

Every selection on the syllabus of that long-ago class came from an author who obsessed over heterosexual passion and erased nearly every trace of same-sex love from the world.  Their descriptions of men are bare and lifeless, as if too trivial to mention amid the endless paragraphs devoted to girls’ legs.

There were gay writers in mid-20th century America to choose from: Truman Capote, John Cheever, Robert Duncan, Thom Gunn, Allen Ginsburg, Amiri Baraka, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal. But I never heard of any of them in Modern American Literature class.

See also: Carl Sandburg's Two Gay References

Jun 5, 2016

It's Raining Men

Humidity's rising, barometer's getting low
According to all sources, the street's the place to go.
Cause tonight for the first time, just about half past ten
For the first time in history, it's gonna start raining men

"It's Raining Men" was written in 1979, by gay composer Paul Jabara ("Disco Queen," "Last Dance") and Paul Shaffer, then a member of the house band of Saturday Night Live.  They offered it to many vocalists, including Barbra Streisand, Cher, and Donna Summer, But they all refused.  Even Two Tons O'Fun (Izora Armstead and Martha Walsh), then performing as backup group for pop star Sylvester, balked, thinking the song too weird to chart.

 Finally they agreed and released "It's Raining Men" on their third album, Success, in 1982.  They then released it as a single and performed in the music video as the Weather Girls.

In October 1982, it hit #1 on the U.S. Dance Club Chart but only #46 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It also charted well in Europe.

There have been covers from everyone from RuPaul to Geri Halliwell to the Vamps to Miss Piggy.

Of course, you can't perform it without backup dancers.  The bigger, the better.

In 2014, after a British politician blamed the UK's recent floods on gay marriage, a Facebook campaign was launched to get the song on the British charts again.  It hit #21.

Why is this a gay anthem?  It has nothing to do with liberation, and it's strictly heteronormative.  The men are raining down upon women.

God bless Mother Nature -- she's a single woman too
She took over heaven, and she did what she had to do

She taught every angel to rearrange the sky
So that each and every woman could find the perfect guy

Maybe because it's fun for gay men to think of being deluged by men, especially after growing up in a desert where same-sex desire was assumed not to exist.

It's raining men, hallelujah!
It's raining men, amen! 
I'm gonna go out, I'm I'm gonna let myself get
Absolutely soaking wet!

See also: Ocho Rios


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