Jun 10, 2017

Phillip Van Dyke

No relation to Dick Van Dyke or the muscular Barry Van Dyke of the show biz dynasty, Phillip Van Dyke was a popular child star of the 1990s, with guest spots on Picket Fences, Baywatch, and Step by Step.  His teenage roles lasted for only a few years: he starred in Safety Patrol (1998), as the leader of the bullies who bedevil Bug Hall, and in The Modern Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1998), as a Tom Sawyer whose best buddy (Adam Dior) is named Chuck, not Huckleberry.

Nickelodeon fans will also recognize him as the voice of "football head" Arnold on the animated teencom Hey, Arnold (1997-2000).  Fourth grader Arnold and his best friend Gerald negotiate a dangerous world full of menacing teachers, crotchety grandparents, neighborhood hazards, and girls with crushes on them, notably the female bully Helga.

Phillip had his own Nickelodeon teencom, Noah Knows Best (2000), which lasted for only 13 episodes.

But he's probably most famous for his role as Luke, the goblin-turned human who assists the teenage witch sisters in Halloweentown (1998) and Halloweentown 2: Kalabar's Revenge (2002).  Except for a few feeble flirtations, Luke displays no interest in girls.

He received massive media exposure for his blond hair, blue eyes, and massive biceps, which he showed off whenever possible, even while playing a goblin.

As often happens with teen stars, when Phillip moved into adult roles, his adolescent buddy-bonding dried up.  He played some aggressively heterosexual characters on Boston Public and NYPD Blue before retiring from acting. Today he lives in San Francisco with his second wife and works in the corporate world.

  He's getting a little gray around the temples, but obviously still has an amazing physique. And he's totally a gay ally.

Jun 9, 2017

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Boldly Going Where No Heterosexual Has Gone Before

Science fiction has been notorious for promoting an exclusively heterosexual future, insisting over and over again that gay people do not exist.  The Star Trek tv series have been the worse offenders, and Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) the worst of the lot, trying over and over again to be as heteronormative as possible, ignoring countless blatant opportunities for inclusivity.

The premise: On a far-off space station (but only about a day's flight from Earth), United Federation of Planets is assisting the planet of Bajor, which has just won its independence from the brutal Cardassians.  Meanwhile a wormhole opens up to the other side of the galaxy, bringing new possibilities for exploration, plus the threat of the Dominion.

The politics get complicated, and rather boring.  And all of the characters, bar none, are heterosexual:

Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is a changeling, a liquid in his natural state, capable of adopting any form he wishes.  He usually adopts the form of a humanoid male -- who is attracted to women.

Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) is a trill: a symbiont named Dax "joined" to a humanoid host.  Dax has lived in seven hosts before; its last was Curzon, an elderly man very, very interested in ladies.  Now that it's living in a female host, however, it's very, very interested in men.

The possibility of same-sex desire intrudes in a few episodes, briefly:

1. The Ferengi, space capitalists/Jewish stereotypes, do not allow women to go to work, so Pel (Helene Udy) disguised herself as a man to become a waiter at the bar/restaurant run by Quark (Armin Shimmerman). "He" falls in love with him, and seeks the advice of Dax, who is not surprised by what she thinks is same-sex desire.

Later "he" grabs and kisses Quark.  They are interrupted in media res by aliens, who assume that they are a same-sex couple.

Quark responds to the same-sex advance by ignoring it.

Pel: "I kissed you."

Quark: "No, you didn't."

2. Dax and her boyfriend Worf (the Klingon from The Next Generation)  go to the pleasure planet Risa, which seems to be a gigantic tropical brothel, with scantily clad women walking around saying "Everything we have is yours."  Dax reunites with a woman "he" dated as Curzon.  They get altogether chummy, even though Dax is now female, and Worf suspects that they are involved.

3. In a parallel mirror universe, the counterpart of Bajoran Major Kira Nerys is slinky, seductive, and  predatory, hinting that she's bisexual.

And some gay-subtext bromances.

1. Garak (Andrew G. Robinson), the only Cardassian left on the space station, is a fey, androgynous tailor who seems to be hitting on Dr. Julian Bashir.  Then they settle in for a romantic friendship, as each pursues hetero-romances.

Robinson later stated that he played the character as bisexual and in love with Bashir, but it was "a family show," so he couldn't be open about it -- can't let those kids know that gay or bi people exist!

2. Jake, son of the station commander (Cirroq Lofton), and Nog, Quark's nephew (Aron Eisenberg), are teenage best buds who have a quasi-romantic relationship.

By the way, after Nog joins Star Fleet, take a look at him in his uniform.  You'll soon find out why they generally film him from the waist up.

Beefcake is practically non-existent.  None of the main cast are ever shown shirtless.  Occasionally one of the women hooks up with a muscle man.

Lieutenant Manuele Atoa (Sidney Liufau) performs a Hawaiian fire-dance at Dax's pre-marital party.

Of all the Star Trek series, I like Deep Space 9 the least.  Instead of exploring strange new worlds, it's internecene politics.  Instead of boldly going where no man has gone before, it retreads the same old tired "no gays in space" mantra.

Jun 7, 2017

PaJaMa: The Gay Painter-Lovers of 1940s Fire Island

Back before we started acting like heterosexuals, organizing our love lives in monogamous same-sex, same-age pairs, gay men established all sorts of curious and creative "adhesive friendships": trios, groups, lovers far older or younger, women who were their platonic pals or benefactors.

In the 1930s and 1940s, a domestic-erotic collective of artists lived in the gay capitals of Provincetown, Fire Island, and Hartland, Vermont:

Paul Cadmus (1904-1999)
His young lover George Tooker (1920-2011)
His ex-lover Jared French (1905-1988)
Jared's boyfriend Jose Martinez.
And Jared's wife Margaret Hoening (1889-1973).

Their group was called PaJaMa: Paul, Jared, and either Margaret or Martinez, depending on who you ask (George was left out, since no one wanted PaJaMaGe).

They all used the medium of egg tempura, which gave their work a shimmering, otherworldly effect, enhanced by their use of surrealist images and symbols.  And beefcake, of course.

The Double (Jared French) shows a man and a woman gazing at the pale, muscular figure as he walks out of the surf like a newborn god.

Murder (Jared French, 1942) shows a murderer with bloody hands and a mask-like face standing proudly over his victim, while men argue for and against his case.

What I Believe (Paul Cadmus, 1947-48) shows a new world of people building, creating, reading, and lying in each other's arms, gay men, lesbians, and heterosexuals working together, while the old, dying world (not shown) devolves into an orgy of intolerance and hate.

Sleepers (George Tooker, 1951) shows three men sleep on the desolate beach of the subconscious.  The third lies on his purple cloak, looking up, bemused by the images he sees in his dream.

George Tooker painted many Windows, with men staring out, sometimes with male lovers, sometimes with wives, sometimes alone.  In Windows XI, painted in 1999, near the end of his life, Tooker's youthful self looks back at the artist, satisfied with the pleasures he's known, awed with the wonder of it all.

Trauma, Terror, and Beefcake of Junior High Shop Class

I read somewhere that the number of shop classes in elementary and high schools has dropped 75% during the last 20 years.

This is a cause for celebration.  Shop class was the biggest trauma of junior high.

Washington Junior High was segregated by gender.  All girls had to take home economics, to prepare them for their future as housewives, and all boys had to take woodshop, to prepare them for their future as...um...carpenters?

It was horrible.  The "teacher," Mr. Worse Than Hitler, was the nastiest, meanest, most despicable martinet who ever lived.  You tried to be as quiet and inobtrusive as possible: if he noticed you, he would criticize you, call you stupid, berate you for having a "smart mouth."  And God forbid those times he walked around the class.

Head down, hands at your side, no eye contact.

Like being in prison.  No, worse.

And what, exactly, did Mr. Worse Than Hitler teach?

If I taught a shop class, I would start off by explaining what the various tools were called and what they were used for.  Maybe some safety tips.

Then the types of wood, what each was used for.

Demonstrate some simple projects.

Explain how this stuff would be useful to us in the future.

Nope -- he just let us loose: "The tools are over there -- the wood is over there.  Go to it."

I had no idea what to do, and I didn't dare ask Mr. Worse Than Hitler.  He would glare at me, call me stupid, or give me detention for having a "smart mouth."

Finally I figured it out -- I was already supposed to know all about working with tools.  All boys were.  It was part of our DNA.

Claiming ignorance about something that was innate?  You might as well claim that you didn't like sports, or girls.

There were no tests, quizzes, or graded projects.  But still, I got a D- for the semester.

Plus detention four times.
1. Not keeping my eyes lowered when Mr. Worse Than Hitler walked by.
2. Hammering a nail wrong.
3.-4.  Just because he felt like it.

But there was a bright side.

Washington Junior High was also segregated by social class.  Middle class kids, got college-preparatory science, math, English, and foreign languages.

Working class kids were channeled into remedial English, bonehead science, and "business math."

The only time we saw each other was in the classes required for everyone: gym, woodshop, and metal shop.

Wild, surly boys from the "wrong side" of 18th Avenue, wearing tight jeans and shirts with three buttons unbuttoned, smelling of their older brothers' cologne.

Italians and Greeks with thick biceps and big hands and dark slick-backed hair.

The only black kid at Washington, tall, lithe, with an enormous Afro that he combed constantly.

Catholic boys, future priests wearing scapulars.  

Hints of transgression, lawbreaking, sexual profligacy.

It was almost worth the daily trauma of Mr. Worse Than Hitler.

But I still run fast in the opposite direction whenever I am asked to do something involving hammers, nails, or screwdrivers.

See also: What is Gym Class For?

Jun 6, 2017

Four Bacon Beefcake Artists

John Bacon (1740-1799) was a British sculptor, one of the first to work in marble.  He infused his public art with an appreciation of male beauty.  Like this "Father Thames," a beefy sea god.

His son, John Bacon Jr. (1777-1859), continued in his father's artistic tradition.   This is his monument to Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore (1761-1809).

John Henry Bacon (1868-1914) was an illustrator and portraitist.  Here he illustrates the story of Beowulf.  If you overlook the guy with his arm torn off, there are some nicely drawn nude male physiques.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992), who was gay, was interested in grotesque permutations of the human form, as in "Aperture 2."

Tony Dow/Wally Cleaver

I was born too late to catch the first generation of Boomer sitcoms -- Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver -- and the teen idols they created -- Ricky Nelson, Billy Gray, Paul Peterson, Tony Dow.  But the gay kids who were old enough had a hunkfest, especially with Tony Dow of Beaver (1957-63).  Hired at age 12 to play older brother Wally and offer sage advice to the rapscalion Beaver (Jerry Mathers),

Tony blossomed into a dreamboat by around the third season, and while network censorship kept him under wraps, wearing nothing more revealing than a sleeveless t-shirt, the teen magazines were privy to dozens of shirtless pinups.

And dozens and dozens.  They just keep coming, all through the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Tony was already a Junior Olympics diver when hired, and his muscles grew bigger every year.

Wally didn't do a lot of male bonding; most of the homoromantic subtext comes from Beaver and his friend Gilbert.

After Beaver, Tony  -- or rather, his biceps -- landed a starring role on the teen soap Never Too Young (1965-66).  After so many years of censorship, Tony must have been surprised to discover that his character was to be shirtless or semi-nude in every scene, even at a fancy dinner party. Tommy Rettig of Lassie played his buddy JoJo.

A rather fascinating career followed, as actor, writer, and director.  Tony was active in the hippie counterculture and appeared in the underground classic,  Kentucky Fried Move (1977).  He reprised his role of Wally in Still the Beaver (1985-89).  He parodied Wally  innumerable times.  He is also an accomplished sculptor, with a piece on exhibit in the Louvre in 2008.

There are more beefcake photos of Tony Dow here.

Peter Pan

I'm fine with drag now, but in 1966, I was freaked out by Mary Martin's portrayal of Peter Pan, a monstrous conflation of male/female and child/adult (Peter is traditionally played by an older woman, in the tradition of the British Christmas pantomime).

Three years later, in 1969, my uncle took me to the theatrical re-release of the Disney version (1953), with 15-year old Bobby Driscoll voicing Peter Pan. Although I was older, I was still freaked out by the dog wearing the nanny cap and the Lost Boys in bear, wolf, and skunk costumes, monstrous conflations of the human and the animal.

And the heterosexism, nearly as intense as in the Disney live action adventures like Light in the Forest with James MacArthur.

There's a story about Bobby Driscoll's date with Joe Dallesandro on Tales of West Hollywood.

Peter is subjected to the amorous flirtations of Tinker Bell and the mermaids, all of whom try to kill his current gal pal, Wendy. He goes beyond flirting with Princess Tiger Lily, whose kisses make him redden and tremble with erotic ecstasy.  Meanwhile, the Indian men explain how they "became red": they're all reddened with erotic ecstasy after being kissed by Indian women.

Captain Hook, one of Disney's standard gay-vague sophisticated villains, dislikes women and has an arguably erotic interest in Peter Pan.  He stays in Neverland year after year, in spite of the advice and near-mutiny of his crew, with only one goal: to "get" the boy.

Homoerotic desire is evil, unwholesome, and destructive.  Heterosexual desire inflames you.  A monstrous perversion of the original novels and plays by J. M. Barrie (who was gay in real life), where Peter Pan inhabits a homoerotic Eden, free from the constraint of "growing up" into heterosexual marriage.

But it gets worse.

In Hook (1991), Robin Williams plays a Peter Pan who grew up, forgot his identity, graduated from law school, and married Wendy's granddaughter.  When his children are kidnapped by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) appears to restore his memory and his powers so he can rescue them.  She accomplishes this task by reminding Peter of the hetero-erotic Eden he abandoned:
"You know that place between sleep and awake?  The place where you still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you."

In Peter Pan (2003), Peter (13-year old Jeremy Sumpter, top photo and left) is dressed in wisps of leaves that lay bare unexpected bits of his body, like a prepubescent strip tease, as he struts about, emblematic of heterosexual eroticism.

He doesn't just flirt -- he desires Wendy, and the stories she tells, which all end with a kiss. He wrests her from her parents ("Sorry, we both can't have her), and their prepubscent passion ignites into a power that can defeat Captain Hook (who, by the way, is no longer gay-vague)

Let's not even mention the depressing Death of Peter Pan (1988),  about the "impossible love" of J.M. Barrie's adopted son Michael and his schoolmate Rupert Buxton.

See also: Jeremy Sumpter: A Normal Kid

Jun 4, 2017

Sylvester Stallone

During the 1970s, the New Sensitive Man was soft, cuddly, and sensitive, but during the 1980s Reagan-Thatcher conservative retrenchment, man-mountains came into style.  The first, and the best, was the uber-muscular Sylvester Stallone.

One of the original Boomers, Stallone began his career in 1970, at age 23, in the hardcore porn Party at Kitty and Stud's. Repackaged as The Italian Stallion during the 1990s, it became the bestselling porn dvd of all time.

Stallone was in a number of films during the early 1970s, including Lords of Flatbush, but he hit it big as the underdog boxer in Rocky (1976). Many starring roles followed, some straight policers (Nighthawks), some comedies (Rhinestone), one trucker-arm wrestler (Over the Top, with David Mendenhall),  but Stallone was at his best as a man-mountain who grunts, snarls, flexes, and saves the day.

Movies by other man-mountains -- Schwarzeneggar, Lundgren, Norris, Van Damme -- drew the crowds with their reactionary political agenda,  heterosexist girl-rescues, and climaxes where the effeminate gay-coded villain gets his just deserts, so there wasn't much for gay fans to watch except the beefcake.  But Stallone was different.

His characters  were macho, aggressively violent, and heterosexist, but they were not at all homophobic. They even did some homoerotic buddy-bonding -- with Kurt Russell in Tango & Cash (1986), for instance.

Even his beefcake was different.  Other man-mountains were rarely nude -- you don't need nudity to demonstrate that you are strong enough to lift a small country.  But Stallone never shied away from frontal and rear nudity.  His muscles were objects of utility but also of beauty, offered to both male and female fans.

Nor is Stallone homophobic in real life.  He is so gay friendly that when his son Sage Stallone died tragically in the summer of 2012, the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church picketed his funeral, "accusing" the elder actor of teaching him tolerance.

There are nude photos of Stallone in the story of his hookup with the Satyr on Tales of West Hollywood


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