Dec 28, 2012

Spring 1980: Blood Brothers in German Class: Bravo Magazine

In college, my Second Year German class (1979-80) didn't offer the wealth of adventure boys with boyfriends (Tintin, Spirou, Corentin), nor the buffed Kaliman or the teen pop sensation of Menudo, but Dr. Kraus had a stash of back issues of the  teen magazine Bravo.  It was more risque than its American counterparts, with articles on sex (only heterosexual sex) and nude photos of teen models (both male and female).  She assured us that nudity was commonplace in Deutschland.

 The cover stories were mostly the expected Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, and John Travolta, but there were some surprises.Who was this Tashunke, the young, buffed, shirtless friend of the Indian Winnetou? Some digging (and careful translation) revealed a miniseries, Mein Freund Winnetou (1980), and a series of novels by Karl May about homoerotic "blood brothers" in the Old West.

Muscles for Siegfried!  The blond muscleman Uwe Beyer became completely nude to play the Medieval hero Siegfried fighting the dragon (we watched the 1966 movie in German class).

Roy Black was a schlager singer, specializing in soft, sentimental ballads, like Heintje.   He also starred in some lighthearted anti-establishment comedies, such as Always Trouble with the Teachers (1968) and Our Doctor is the Best (1970).

Hans Jurgen Baumler was an Olympic silver-medalist in figure skating.  He also recorded some schlager songs and appeared on tv, notably on the bulge-heavy Salto Mortale (1969-72), about a family of trapeze artists.

In my junior year, I got Death in Venice

Dec 24, 2012

The Gay South Pacific

I identified India and Australia as "good places" from tv, but the Pacific came from books, which imagined a vast ocean studded by islands, some uninhabited, some inhabited by cannibals and headhunters, some inhabited by muscular men who wore only loincloths and fell in love with each other.

Robinson Crusoe (1719), by Daniel Defoe, about a a man who is shipwrecked (actually off the coast of Brazil) and lives for many years with his native companion, Friday.  The subtext is obvious.

I had three or four juvenile versions.  My favorite was full of beefcake illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.  The only movie versions during my childhood were Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), which transports them into space, and Robby (1968), which makes them about ten years old.  And nude.

Call it Courage (1940), by Armstrong Sperry, about a boy named Mafatu (played by Evan Temarii in the 1973 movie), who is afraid of the sea, so he sets out on his own in an outrigger canoe, get shipwrecked, fights cannibals, and returns home a man.

No gay subtext, but the boy was bronze and hard-bodied, a perfect fantasy boyfriend for a preteen.

Kon-Tiki and The Ra Expeditions by Thor Heyerdahl.

Island Boy, by Robert R. Harry (1957), about another bronze, hard-bodied boy who grows up to be king, without falling in love with any girls along the way.

There were some tv shows and movies, too: Gilligan's Island, where Gilligan and the Skipper share hammocks; Danger Island, where Jan-Michael Vincent met his first boyfriends; Jules Verne's Mysterious Island; South Pacific where beefy men hang all over each other while ironically singing "There's nothing like a dame."

Not a lot of toys, but I did manage to find this hula boy bobbler that sat by my bedside.  He didn't look Hawaiian, but he had six-pack abs and a nice chest.

In college I read Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (1851), about an American whaler named Ishmael who finds a bond deeper than marriage  with the gigantic, muscular  "savage" Polynesian, Queequeg.  The professor neglected to mention the gay subtext, but I found it.

And after I moved to Los Angeles, I found this edition of Cruising the South Seas (1987), a collection originally published by gay author Charles Warren Stoddard in 1905. They were remarkably open for 1905, and even for 1987, touching expressions of love between Europeans and Polynesians.

Dec 23, 2012

Axl in Underwear: Raising Hope/The Middle

I hate to be one of those guys who complain that "things were much better in my day."  But just look at muscle on network television 30 years ago, in 1982-83:

Programs to watch for the beefcake: Voyagers (Jon-Erik Hexum), Chips (Erik Estrada), Trapper John MD (Gregory Harrison), Taxi (Tony Danza), The Dukes of Hazard (John Schneider and Tom Wopat), Fame (lots)

Programs to watch for the teen idols: Alice (Philip McKeon), Family Ties (Michael J. Fox), Happy Days (Billy Warlock), One Day at a Time (lots).

And in 2012-13, just three.

1. Suburgatory.

2. Raising Hope, about the buffed but nerdy Jimmy (Lucas Neff) raising his infant daughter in an unspecified Southern city. He lives with his working-class parents and senile great-grandmother (played by comedy legend Cloris Leachman).

Although buffed, Jimmy rarely appears shirtless on screen, lest his muscles detract from his nerdiness.

Cousin Mike (Skyler Stone), who my friend David claimed to have hooked up with, appeared in four episodes, usually in his undewear.

His dad, Burt (Garret Dillahunt), works as a pool cleaner and landscaper.  He offers more shirtless and underwear shots.

3. The Middle, about a working-class family in Middle America, whose teenage son Axl (Charlie McDermott) somehow manages to make surly and self-possessed endearing.  Though his preference for lounging around in his underwear is presented as slovenly rather than hot, his physique has garnered him a huge fanbase among gay boys and straight girls.

Hollywood believes that all gay people are affluent lawyers living in New York or Los Angeles, so of course there are no gay people in either of these programs, but they appear in allusions:

On Raising Hope, Jimmy's boss mentions that he grew up with two moms.

On The Middle, Axl's sister Sue has a flamboyantly feminine "boyfriend" that has her parents exchanging worried looks (but no one ever says the word, and Sue remains oblivious).

However, the knowing subtexts are frequent.

On Raising Hope, Burt shows off his physique to get tips from both male and female customers.

On The Middle, Axl's friends, played by John Gammon and Beau Wirrick, are muscular jocks, and rather obviously into each other.  They even dance together at a wedding.

See also: Brock Ciarlelli, the Uncle Tom of "The Middle" and  Why No Gay People in "The Middle"?

Dec 21, 2012

Spotting Celebrities: Merritt Butrick

Someone asked for a complete list of all the celebrities I met in Los Angeles from 1985 to 1990.

It depends on who counts as a celebrity.  A lot of my friends in L.A. had done something, Teen #2 on Family Ties or Party Guest #1 in The Coca Cola Kid. 

And what counts as "met."  I saw Don Grady at Gay Pride, became a "bookstore friend" of Richard Dreyfuss, bought a love seat from Cesar Romero, worked out in the same gym as Max Gail, had lunch with Michael J. Fox, and talked to Nate Richert at the Gold Coast without realizing who he was.   Does that count?

But several celebrities made a lasting impression.  We dated, or they dated my friends, or we ran into each other a lot, or maybe we just walked together for a mile or so at an AIDS Walk.  We found points of common interest.  They became people, not just images on a screen.

I met Merritt Butrick in 1988, when he was playing a muscular hustler who wreaks havoc on an older man's life in the theatrical play Kingfish.

I didn't know at the time that Merritt was famous as gay-vague slacker Johnny Slash on the high school sitcom Square Pegs (1982-83).

And as Captain Kirk's son David in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1986). Or that he had a vast range of tv and movie roles, from cowboy to vampire.

I had  never seen any of them (I still haven't).  But I knew that Merritt was quiet, intelligent, driven, serious about his craft.  And that he wouldn't have time to reach his star potential.

He died on March 17th, 1989, of AIDS-related pneumonia.

Dec 19, 2012

Jonny Quest Gets a Girlfriend

An adventure series with distinctively realistic animation,Jonny Quest first appeared on prime time in 1965-65, and then on Saturday morning through the 1970s. Renowned scientist Dr. Benton Quest (Don Messick), with a reddish-brown beard and a white lab coat, and his white-haired, hard-muscled boyfriend Race Bannon, investigate weird mysteries in the Andes, the Artic, the Sargasso Sea, or most commonly in steamy jungles full of dragon-like lizards and headhunters.

 Tagging along, either to figure out the mystery or get abducted by bad guys, are Dr. Quest’s 11-year old son, Jonny (Tim Matheson) and his companion Hadji (Danny Bravo), who met them in Calcutta and then tagged along for no logical reason except that he rather liked Jonny.

Dr. Quest and Race Bannon were quite obviously gay partners, as modern "parodies" on the Cartoon Network have recognized. Neither displayed the slightest interest in women.

 Race was often drawn in a swimsuit so his massive muscles were visible.  Here he stains himself with purple berry juice to convince the savage Po-Po Indians that he is a god.

But I was more interested in Jonny and Hadji. Jonny, blond in a tough guy’s black turtleneck, rushes double-fisted into danger, while Hadji, slim and brown with petite hands, wearing a turban with a ruby in it all the time (even when swimming), is skittish and emotional, shouting “Be careful!” from the sidelines as he waits for an opportunity to assist with his mystical arts.

Hadji, by the way, was just one in a line of South Asian boy-adventurers such as Sabu, Kim in the Corentin series, Gunga Andy's Gangand Raji on  Maya .We see in him the feminization of the Colonial Other as dark, mysterious, intuitive, and sensual, and a none-too-subtle masculine-feminine dynamic in his interaction with Jonny. The intensity, physicality, and sheer heat of their interactions make them seem more lovers than foster brothers.  At playtime nobody wanted to be Hadji, but everyone wanted to rescue him from bad guys and carry him off in their arms. 

The comic book series wasn't successful, but there were novelizations, toys, and games, including a record, a version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

In 1996, a new series appeared, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.  Jonny and Hadji were now teenagers, considerably more buffed than in the original series.  Unfortunately, to address the strong homoerotic subtext of the original, they were heterosexualized.  Dr. Quest got a wife.  Race Bannon got a daughter, Jessie, who became Jonny's girlfriend.

No word on whether Hadji resented being replaced.

See also: The Venture Brothers.

Dec 17, 2012

Sword and Sandal

Steve Reeves didn't invent the genre of Italian peplum ("toga")  or sword-and-sandal, about a toga-clad demigod fighting oppression in a vaguely ancient Greek or Roman setting.  But he introduced it to the world.  Between 1957 and 1967, peplum was the most popular Italian movie export, even more popular than the artistic masterworks of Fellini and Antonioni.  

The hero was always a legendary muscleman: Goliath and Samson from the Bible, Hercules from Greek myth; Maciste from ancient Rome; Ursus from the movie Quo Vadis (1951).  Alan Steel (right) played both Samson and Hercules. Samson Burke was a rare bodybuilder who played mostly villains.

  But the plots didn't worry about historical accuracy.  Hercules fought the Mongols; Maciste found his way to the 16th century Aztec Empire; another Hercules (Giuliano Gemma) visited the Incas; an Arabian Nights setting involved Samson, who was born 1500 years before Mohammed.  There were even science fiction and horror movies; the hero fought vampires and moon men.

Many Mr. Universes (such as Ed Fury, right) were hired to play the mythic hero, giving bodybuilders their first roles other than self-absorbed beach-bunnies, and giving millions of gay boys their first crushes.

Kirk Morris (left), discovered while working as a gondalier in Venice, played Hercules, Maciste, and Anthar.  His villains included headhunters and the Tzar of Russia.

The peplum hero was a man-mountain, able to destroy entire enemy armies by flexing his superheroic biceps.  He was usually tied up and tortured two or three times, so he could struggle, his muscles glistening in the firelight of the Tzar's dungeon.  Sometimes other parts were clearly visible, as when Gordon Scott, a future Tarzan, played Maciste.

But buddy-bonding was conspicuously absent.  Men were sometimes comrades, but more usually competitors and back-stabbers.  Plots rarely involved rescuing men or sailing into the sunset with men.  Instead, there were always two women: an evil brunette (whom the hero spurned) and a virtuous blonde (whom he fell in love with).

The heroes were nice to look at, but they offered no glimpse of a "good place."

The very informative Peplum blog gives a rundown of many of the movies.

Dec 16, 2012

Sherlock Holmes, Gay Icon

As a kid I liked science fiction, fantasy, and jungle adventures, but not detective fiction, except for Michel (because he was cute, and in French), The Hardy Boys (because they were in love), and Sherlock Holmes: "The Red-Headed League", "The Five Orange Pips," "The Musgrave Ritual," and many other stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

They were short enough to read quickly, exciting but not scary, mysterious but always realistic (no ghosts or monsters).  Sherlock Holmes' power of logical deduction was appealing to a boy just starting to tease out the patterns, conventions, and constraints of adult life.

And he was gay.

The original stories, published between 1881 and 1927, give Holmes a rather sexist disapproval of women's "weakness," and a dislike of heterosexual romance: "he never spoke of the softer passions, except for a gibe and a sneer."  He admires Irene Adler, the heroine of "A Scandal in Bohemia," but has no romantic interest in her.  However, he quite enjoys the company of men, especially his roommate, assistant, and life partner, Dr. Watson.

Watson did express heterosexual interest; in The Sign of Four (1890), he falls in love and marries.  But marriage always puts a damper on adventure, so soon Mrs. Watson was written out with a brief reference to her death, and Holmes and Watson were together again.

Many movie versions of Holmes appeared during my childhood and adolescence:
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)
Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)
The Seven Percent Solution (1976)
Murder by Decree (1979)

But none offered any beefcake -- Sherlock started displaying a bare chest only in the 2000s.

And only The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) openly alluded to the homoromantic relationship between Holmes and Watson, and then only as a joke.  Some kept the buddy-bonding, but most presented Holmes as avidly heterosexual, leering at women, dancing with them, falling in love with Irene Adler.

Another Hollywood attempt to erase the existence of gay people from the world.

Not to worry -- Jeremy Brett played him as rather more gay-vague in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Dec 13, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons

When I was in college in the early 1980s, every boy was expected to spend the early part of every week screwing up his courage to ask out The Girl, the one who walked in slow motion across the quad, her hair blowing in the wind.  If she agreed, he would spend Friday or Saturday night with her, dancing to Depeche Mode, watching Cannonball Run, and having sex.  This was his goal in life, all he could ever want or hope for or dream of.

If she refused, he would be forced to endure the humiliation of hanging out with other boys, eating take-out pizza and playing Dungeons and Dragons and waiting to try again iwith a new girl.

No one understood that many boys liked to eat pizza and play Dungeons and Dragons.  Especially those whose goal in life was to spend time with boys, not girls.

Gary Gygax invented the fantasy role-playing game in 1974, and by 1978 it was a phenomenon, being played in high school and college dorm rooms all over the world.  You developed a character (Elf, Dwarf, Wizard, Barbarian, and so on), endowed him with abilities (Strength, Charisma, Intelligence) and trekked with other characters through a heroic fantasy world, solving dilemmas and fighting enemies as you searched for a fabulous treasure.  

My character was usually a titan.

Six hours in a dim room with that cute chemistry major on one side and that hunky fratboy on the other, sitting so close that your legs sometimes brushed together and an occasional smooth bare chest was visible through buttons that had come undone.  Channeling the worlds of Conan the Barbarian or The Lord of the Rings. Pretending to be Boris Vallejo musclemen, without the nude ladies.  Plus you got pizza.  What's not to like?

The adults disapproved, of course, thinking D&D players were abandoning the real world, turning psychotic, or worshipping the Devil.  Several movies in the early 1980s featured teenagers turned catatonic or suicidal by the insidious board game.  For instance, in Mazes and Monsters (1982), some college kids (including Tom Hanks and Chris Makepeace) play in creepy caverns, and Robbie (Tom) gets so lost in the game that attacks his friends with a sword.

But we were just engaging in a little male bonding.  And sometimes Dungeons and Dragons games developed into something involving unzipping, nudity, and sausage sightings.

See also: 6 Naked Men in a Dorm Room

Dec 11, 2012

The 24 Months of Jon-Erik Hexum

In the early 1980s, we were holding out for a hero.  As the song goes,

He's gotta be sure, and it's gotta be soon,
And he's gotta be bigger than life.

We got Jon-Erik Hexum.  But he was a gift to the world for only 24 months.

Born in New Jersey to Norwegian parents, Jon-Erik hit the L.A. scene days after he graduated from Michigan State in 1980.  He had a number of failed auditions, mostly because casting agents didn't know what to do with him.  He couldn't be a New Sensitive Man: he was massive, with a swoon-inducing hairy chest, massive shoulders, and biceps like baseballs.  But his dark blue eyes, pretty face, and well-groomed hair disqualified him from roles as man-mountains who fight off enemy armies with their fists.

In the fall of 1982, they cast him in the science fiction series Voyagers!: he and his young ward (Meeno Peluce) traveled through time, making sure that historical events turned out right.

It was put on Sunday nights opposite 60 Minutes, which the oldsters liked, and just before Chips: obviously aimed at an audience of kids, especially gay boys, who couldn't forget the sight of Jon-Erik in a brown vest and a white shirt unbuttoned to his navel.

Voyagers! wrapped up after 20 episodes, and Jon-Erik spent the next year being courted as the Next Big Thing.

He starred with super-famous Joan Collins in a tv-movie, The Making of a Male Model (1983).

He played a Prince on an episode of Hotel (1984).

He co-starred with Gary Busey in the football drama The Bear (1984).

There were rumors of destructive behavior, fast cars, all-night clubbing, orgies, drugs.  Maybe they were just rumors.  Or maybe Jon-Erik was becoming too famous, too fast.

He was often seen dancing in gay clubs, so maybe he was gay in real life.  Or maybe he just liked the adoration of both male and female fans.

Later in 1984 he landed the starring role in Cover-Up, a tv series about a male model and a female photographer who go undercover in exotic locations to solve crimes. He filmed six episodes.

While filming the seventh, on October 12th, 1984, he was playing Russian roulette with a gun loaded with blanks. Or maybe he was just joking around.  Apparently he didn't know that at close range, blanks can kill.

Cover-Up tried to slog on without him, but after 22 episodes it was cancelled.

The world tried to slog on without him, too.

The Last Boy on Earth: Kamandi and his buddy Ben

In 1972, Marvel began to publish two comic book series about gay-vague teenage boys: Werewolf by Night, about a teenage werewolf, and Kamandi, about the last human boy on Earth.

An attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The Planet of the Apes franchise (1968, 1970, 1971, 1972), it is set an a post-Apocalyptic world where sentient animals rule (everything from apes to rats), and humans are extinct.

Except for Kamandi, the last of the human survivors bunkered in Command-D (thus his name), who is raised by his elderly grandfather and emerges into chaos, hunted for sport, imprisoned in a zoo, experimented on by scientists who want to know how a human could be sentient.

Though described as "a boy" and "a tyke," Kamadi is drawn as an extremely muscular teenage with long blond hippie-hair, naked except for tight cut-off jeans.

He is captured a lot, muscles taught and struggling.  Or he fights with high kicks that display his bulging pecs and 8-pack abs almost as well.

Just as the werewolf, Jack Russell, had a middle-aged boyfriend, Kamandi soon meets other humans (he's the last boy on Earth, not the last man). He is rescued by Ben Boxer, leader of an underground human-resistance movement, and his colleagues, Steve and Renzi, who are not shy about physical displays of affection.

For the next 30 issues, Ben and Kamandi fight together, rescue each other, search the ruined cities for each other.  Kamandi occasionally meets girls, momentary dalliances that mean nothing.  And there is no question for Ben: he has eyes only for the blond muscle god.

See also: Jim Steranko; and DC Comics Muscle.

Dec 9, 2012

Clint Eastwood: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

During the 1970s, Clint Eastwood killed gay villains.
In 1997, he directed the queer-friendly Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 
He campaigned for John McCain in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2008.
And he supports gay marriage.

Eastwood starred in the conventional Western series Rawhide (1959-65) before revitalizing the genre with his Italian-American "man with no name" trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  He's a gruff, taciturn outsider who sweeps into a corrupt town, restores order --with lots of casualties -- and then moves on.  He is no man-mountain -- he has the taunt, lean muscles of an outdoorsman, displayed in frequent shirtless, towel, and bathtub shots.  He has more common with kung fu legends like Bruce Lee, except instead of martial arts expertise, he uses a gun.

More unconventional Westerns followed, including a musical, Paint Your Wagon (1969).  And "Dirty Harry" series -- Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), and so on, about a gruff, taciturn cop who restores order by shooting the perp (I haven't seen them, but apparently gay stereotypes abound).

But there was buddy-bonding, too.  In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Eastwood's gruff, taciturn bank robber Thunderfoot hooks up with the irreverent young hunk Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), who courts him openly and aggressively.  "I don't want your watch!" he exclaims.  "I want your friendship!"

The relationship ends in tragedy, like many other homoerotic buddy movies, such as  Thelma and Louise or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Apparently you can fall in love -- covertly -- but you must be punished.

In Every Which Way But Loose (1978), an entry into the mid-1970s trucker craze, fist-fighting trucker Philo (Eastwood) pursues a dame, along with his two friends, one human (Geoffrey Lewis), one orangutan, channeling BJ and the Bear. 

And so on through dozens of movies, plust production, direction, composition, and politics, becoming an American legend several times over.  Most recently Eastwood directed J. Edgar (2011), a biopic of FBI director  J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).  Commentators feared that the conservative Eastwood would closet Hoover and Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), but in fact their romance was central; Eastwood didn't even censor the crossdressing.

Dec 7, 2012

Gary Conway: Art, Wine, and Bodybuilding

 In I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), #5 on my list of the Top Horror Movies of the 1950s, Whit Bissell plays an obviously gay Dr. Frankenstein who reads of a high school track team dying in a plane crash, exclaims with homoerotic ardor, "All those fine athletic bodies gone to waste," and hustles out to the cemetery to collect the choicest parts.

The resulting creature is not the groaning, green-faced slug of the Universal picture, but a teenage hunk with the "hands of a wrestler" and the "legs of a football player."

Producer Herman Cohen denies that there was anything special about Gary Conway, hired to play the monster; they just went down to Muscle Beach and grabbed the nearest hunk.  But surely it is no coincidence that Gary was studying art at UCLA (a gay-coded major) and posing for the proto-gay magazine Physique Pictorial.

Gary was actually heterosexual (he married in 1958), or, according to the rumor mills, bisexual, but being an art student, a model in publications aimed at at gay men, and a bodybuilder marked him as "gay."

His Monster has a hideously disfigured face but a beautifully sculpted body, displayed as he lift weights, shirtless (Dr. Frankenstein insists that "our main concern is your physique!").  But when he discovers that he has been constructed out of the stray body parts of dead athletes, he begins to cry.  The doctor muses, "We have a very sensitive teenager on our hands.

 Sensitive, code for gay, was not part of the master plan, and comes as an unwelcome surprise.

To remedy the problem of his deformed face, the boy monster and the doctor go shopping for a new one.  They park at a lover's lane, an oddly incongruent same-sex couple amid the heterosexual teens necking to big-band music.  One wonders why they don't just grab a teen hunk from the locker room.  Evidently, they need someone who has engaged in heterosexual practice to give the monster a heterosexual face."  So they unglue a blond prettyboy from his girlfriend's lips and take him back to the lab to become a face donor.

But even after the operation, the boy monster is not a man: he can't stop staring at his image in the mirror and stroking his cheeks.  "Quite handsome!" Dr. Frankenstein agrees.  "Quite, quite handsome!"  Of course, he is not really looking at his own face; he is admiring the beauty of the blond they harvested, that is, expressing homoerotic desire.

He is still a monster, not because he is violent or disfigured, but because he has failed to express the heterosexual desire necessary to become a real boy.  The film ends quickly and ludicrously when Dr. Frankenstein decides to disassemble the boy, ship the parts to England, and reassemble them there.  The boy naturally disapproves, and feeds Dr. Frankenstein to the alligators that conveniently live in a pit beneath the house.  Then he is accidentally electrocuted,dying because he cannot live.  There is no place for a "sensitive" teenager who admires male beauty in the 1950s.

During the 1960s, Gary had guest spots on nearly every Swinging Bachelor Detective drama and starred in Burke's Law (1963-65), as the assistant (but apparently not the boyfriend) of debonair detective Burke (Gene Barry).

In the late 1960s, he appeared on one of my favorite sci-fi programs, Land of the Giants (1968-70), as Steve Burton, pilot of a spaceship that crash-lands on a planet where everybody is. . .well, a giant.  Steve never took his shirt off, but at least he didn't display any heterosexual interest, and he sometimes buddy-bonded with one of the male castaways, Mark (Don Matheson), who became a close friend in real life.

During the 1970s and 1980s, he continued to act, as well as write (three covertly homoerotic Man-Mountain movies, including American Ninja and Over the Top), but he was increasingly involved in his first passion, art.  He also studied architecture and became an accomplished violinist, performing at the Hollywood Bowl.  And, lest anyone forget that he still had a spectacular physique, he posed nude for Playgirl.

If that wasn't enough to keep the multitalented performer busy, he bought a ranch in California, converted it to a vineyard, and developed his own wines.  And he wrote and illustrated The Art of the Vineyard. 

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