Mar 8, 2013

Johnny Dangerously

 I spent 1984-85 teaching at Lone Star College, aka Hell-fer-Sartain State
College.  A student took off his clothes in my class, I got some nice visits from Bruce and Viju, but otherwise it was miserable.

I read a lot of science fiction and went to a lot of movies.  The one I remember most was not based on a novel by a gay writer, like The Razor's Edge and A Passage to India; it didn't have extensive beefcake or bonding, like  Terminator, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Nightmare on Elm Street; it didn't even have an extraordinary amount of homophobia, like Dune and The Breakfast Club.

The movie I remember most clearly from my year in Texas is Johnny Dangerously.

It's a spoof of those 1930s crime dramas like Dead Endwith two men on opposite sides of the law: Johnny (Michael Keaton)  and his brother Tommy (Griffin Dunne of American Werewolf in London).  Originally a good kid, circumstances force Johnny to go to "the dark side," where he becomes a successful gangster, even paying for Tommy's law school tuition. 

Meanwhile rival gang leader, the flamboyantly gay-vague Danny Vermin (Steve Piscopo), exhibits a love-hate attraction for the dashing young gangster. 

Later, Tommy disapproves of Johnny's gang activities, so Johnny agrees to "go straight."  He's framed for murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair.  Then Tommy is captured by Danny Vermin, so Johnny escapes and mounts a daring nick-of-time rescue. 

There isn't a lot of beefcake, though Joe Piscopo (top) and Michael Keaton (left) have displayed their muscles elsewhere.  There are some of the standard 1980s homophobic slurs. Johnny and Tommy get girls -- Johnny's is played by Marilu Henner of Taxi.  Not a lot of gay connections in the actors' other works.

But sometimes a classic gay subtext, complete with a same-sex rescue, is enough, especially on a bleak January afternoon when you're playing hookey from your job at Hell-fer-Sartain State College.

Mar 6, 2013

Travis Turner: A Prince for Christmas

Kids who are keeping track of the live-action versions of The Fairly Oddparents probably noticed Travis Turner as a surly elf in Nickelodeon's Fairly Odd Christmas.  And he looks so much like teen idol Chace Crawford (left) that even Nickelodeon can't tell them apart, misidentifying him on its "Teen Nick" website.

They may not know that the diminuitive, elfish 23-year old has a large following in his native Vancouver as a rapper and dj.  He has released an album under the name Little T: Back to Basics.

Travis is an accomplished actor, performing in Midsummer Night's Dream and Lord of the Flies on stage, and in a number of tv series and movies in the comedy, drama, and teen gore genres.  Often as threatened kids:

Chased by a serial killer dressed as the Easter Bunny in Easter Bunny Bloodbath (2010)

A boy imprisoned in a basement in Confined (2010).

Or gay-vague threatening kids:

A boy who turns an entire town into demons (with a little help from his brother) on Supernatural (2011).

Or sometimes just gay vague:

In Marley and Me: The Puppy Years (2011), Travis plays Bodi Grogan, the owner of a talking dog who causes mayhem at a dog show, but apparently breaks with "family movie" tradition by not getting a girlfriend.

In A Princess for Christmas (2011), Travis plays Milo Huntington, a teenage orphan who travels to Europe with his legal guardian, the 20-ish Jules.  They meet the Duke's son, Ashton (Sam Heughan, right, seen here getting ready for action in the gay-themed A Plague over England).  Ashton falls in love with Jules, but also buddy-bonds with Travis and draws him out of his depression, making him smile for the first time since his parents died.

He is currently starring as the gay-coded Astor in the Canadian teencom Some Assembly Required.

Mar 4, 2013

Blackpool: Gay Musical Comedy Murder Mystery

Blackpool is a resort town in the industrial north of England with a tawdry reputation, sort of like Atlantic City in the U.S.  The British tv miniseries Blackpool is a musical/comedy/drama about a run-down arcade in Blackpool where a young man is found murdered.  Detective Peter Carlisle (David Tennant, right) is sent to investigate.

He finds himself immediately at loggerheads with Ripley Holden (David Morrissey, left), the arcade's somewhat seedy owner -- and prime suspect; eventually he falls in love with Ripley's depressed, neglected wife.

A major plot twist comes when Ripley's awkward teenage son, Danny (Thomas Morrison), confesses to the murder.  But of course he's not really the murderer.  And in a big reveal, he turns out to be gay.

I could do without the big reveal -- why not have everyone know he is gay throughout, rather than having us endure another long, boring "I'm tired of hiding" speech? But  I like Danny being a rather dim working-class lout rather than a Hollywood gay stereotype.  And I liked Ripley's reaction. He gains a new insight into his son, the two become closer than before, and in the end -- after the murder is solved -- he gives Danny the arcade.

David Tennant, named "Sexiest Man in the Universe" by the British gay magazine The Pink Paper, has been a familiar face on tv and the British stage for years. He played Doctor Who as probably bisexual, along with John Barrowman as the bisexual Jack Harkness.  David Morrissey, also a former Doctor Who, currently plays the sinister Governor on the post-Apocalyptic series The Walking Dead.  They've both appeared nude in other projets.

Blackpool was 21-year old Thomas Morrison's professional acting job.  Afterwards he had guest spots on Holby City, The Doctors, Casualty, and Any Human Head, and played Hooper (Ryder's platoon commander)  in the 2008 adaption of the gay classic Brideshead Revisited.  

In 2011-2012 he starred in the medical drama Monroe as an unconventional hospital porter.  He hasn't appeared nude elsewhere.

Mar 3, 2013

Spring 1983: The Other Victorians

When I was in high school, no teacher would ever Say the Word.  In college, my professors would Say the Word only to "prove" that no author in the history of the world had ever been gay.  But when I started grad school in Bloomington, Indiana, in 1982, one of my professors, Dr. Harcourt, a tall, thin, sprightly lady with a trilling voice, would Say the Word with zestful abandon.

It was in my seminar in Victorian Literature, roughly 1830 to 1900.  In her attempt to "epater la bourgeoisie," Dr. Harcourt would chirp about every scandal and debauchery of every writer we covered-- and she believed being gay to be the most scandalous and debauched, so she always put it at the end, with a little twitter.

A.E. Housman, who wrote lushly romantic descriptions of young athletes: "He liked going to brothels and getting spanked, and he was (twitter) a homosexual!"

Walter Pater, who wrote the scholarly study The Renaissance, as well as more lushly romantic descriptions of young athletes: "He was a pederast and (twitter) a homosexual!"

Richard Burton, who translated The Arabian Nights: "He was an opium-addict, and (twitter) a homosexual!"

Algernon Charles Swinburne, who wrote poems in praise of Sappho: "He was an alcoholic, an atheist, and "(twitter) a homosexual!"

And so on through James M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan), Saki, illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, Edward Fitzgerald, John Stuart Mill (author of On Liberty), Gerard Manley Hopkins, half of the famous operetta team Gilbert and Sullivan, and of course Oscar Wilde.

Strangely, she didn't mention the gay couple in Julia Horatia Ewing's Jackanapes, perhaps because the author was heterosexual. And poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson didn't rate a twitter and a "He was a homosexual!", even though he wrote the long eulogy In Memoriam A.H.H. to his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died young.  It is famous today for the lines "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."  Maybe because Tennyson liked ladies, too?
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