Jun 30, 2016

Jimmy McNichol and the Gay Coach

Many gay teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s were more familiar with Jimmy McNichol's body than the bodies of their real-life friends.  They saw it more often, tanned and pleasantly muscular, splashed over dozens of pin-ups and photo spreads in teen magazines, and during his dozens of tv and movie appearances.

Born in 1961, Jimmy began acting as a child along with his sister Kristy.  But he didn't hit teen idol mania until the Eight is Enough clone The Fitzpatricks (1977-78).  It only lasted for 13 episodes, but teen magazines were ecstatic about his taciturn Irish Catholic teenager and his buddy bonds with Clark Brandon.  They got even more ecstatic over California Fever (1979), which lasted for only 10 episodes, but showed Jimmy and costar Lorenzo Lamas in swimsuits.

Jimmy may have had bad luck on tv series, but he gave well-received performances in Champions: A Love Story (1979), in which he falls in love with a girl and figure-skates in a revealing leotard, and in Blinded by the Light (1980), in which he is brainwashed by an evil cult and rescued by his sister.

In Night Warning (1982), he plays a shy, sensitive heterosexual teenager who is subjected to homophobic harassment by the evil sheriff  (in addition to being nearly smothered to death by his crazy aunt). And there is a positive portrayal of a gay person, the high school gym coach who is trying to help (and gets killed by the crazy aunt).

Then there was Escape from El Diablo (1983), also released as California Cowboys, which gave Jimmy a buddy-bond with Vincent Van Patten and a truckload of hot male friends, including John Wayne's son Ethan, trying to break him out of a Mexican prison. An added attraction for gay fans: Patricia Quinn, Magenta of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has a small role as Rosa.

Jimmy's teen idol star faded by the mid-1980s, in spite of his friendships with Hollywood hunks like Michael Damian and Byron Cherry.  I haven't been able to discover much about what he's doing today, except that he lives in Colorado and is involved with environmental activism.

See also: Peter MacNicol


  1. I vaguely remember the Jimmy and Kristy McNichol album and that he always seemed to be displaying a nice meaty bulge in those tight jeans he always wore in his teen pinups. I remember coming across some online blog years ago that had dubbed him a "gay" teen idol (not saying that he was necessarily gay but that he was a big teen idol for gay boys of the time) and did a pretty good job explaining why. It's been years, but I remember them citing some of the reasons you did (they apparently read quite a bit more gay subtext into "Night Warning" than you did) as well as his musical career (performing such songs as "My Boyfriend's Back", etc, with Kristy). Kristy came out last year and I've heard rumors for years that Jimmy is also gay, but I don't think he's ever "come out".

  2. I can tell you when I and Jimmy were both 14 we started to " experiment" with each other. It never did progress to anal sex but there was lots of feeling, making out and BJ's. It all stopped about 10 months after it started when Jimmy started to focus his attention on girls.

  3. Night Warning was originally released as Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker. (1981) It is one of the first teen exploitation slasher films. It's both a marvel and a masterpiece. Jimmy's physique is on full display in all of its late teen splendor throughout the film and this includes backside nudity. The story is pure camp but the sober intensity of McNichol's performance together with the over top characters played by Bo Svenson, Susan Tyrell and others makes this a thoroughly enjoyable experience no matter how many times I've watched it. Code Red put out a Blu-ray version that I bought for 30.00, a straight master tape to digital copy, that was worth every penny. I've also seen the film posted on Youtube from time to time. By far this is his best performance with Champions: A Love Story being a close second. There is something to be said for Smokey Bites The Dust and Escape From El Diablo which are two typical teen-age romp offerings. I've also come across a couple of episodes of California Fever and a 1970's Carpenter's Christmas special featuring him and Kristy. Too bad that there isn't a larger body of film from him back in the day. Like Leif Garrett, these guys were just pure eye candy on the screen but for whatever reasons they didn't find their niche. Otherwise, hubba hubba!

  4. I just purchased the blu-ray of Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker and watched the film and on-camera interviews. "Over-the-top" is a generous way to describe Susan Tyrell's performance, and her interview 25 years later reveals her to be a truly wacky person (someone like Karen Black would have been a better choice for this role). But Jimmy definitely makes this film worth watching, and I am interested to hear his commentary (also on the blu-ray version).


No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...