Apr 5, 2013

Space Cases: Star Trek Voyager for Kids

Nickelodeon is known for naturalistic teencoms, so its sci-fi series Space Cases (1996-97) (not a comedy in spite of the pun) had trouble finding an audience, and was cancelled after 27 episodes.

The premise was similar to that of Star Trek: Voyager: some students at a space academy find an abandoned alien ship and sneak aboard. Their teacher and the academy commander follow, and everyone is accidentally zapped half-way across the galaxy, seven years from home at maximum warp. Plots involve deep-space dangers, interpersonal conflicts, and the ongoing mystery of who sent the spacecraft, and why.  Buddy-bonding but not much heterosexual intrigue ensued.

There were several attractive male crew members:

Paul Boretski (gruff-but-caring Commander Goddard)  has had a lot of experience in sci-fi and paranormal series: War of the Worlds, PSI Factor, Earth: Final Conflict.    He had a full-frontal nude scene in Perfect Timing (1986).

Walter E. Jones (Harlan Band, leader of the students) was the most famous of the cast members, well known as the Black Ranger on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1993-94).  He has also played in Malibu Shore, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Spyder Games, and The Shield.  He hasn't been the subject of many gay rumors, but this photo looks like he's reclining in a male companion's arms; it may just be a trick of the camera.

Kristian Ayre played Radu, from the planet Andromeda.   He keeps trying to bond with Harlan, who is still angry over the long war between Andromeda and Earth.

Kristian moved on to star in the series Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy (1999-2000) and the movies Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), Bang Bang You're Dead (2002), and Elf (2003).  He has been the subject of gay rumors.

Rahi Azizi, star of the buddy-bonding Demon in a Bottle (1996), played Bova, from the planet Uranus: an oddball outsider with an energy-gathering appendage and an enormous appetite.

After retiring from acting, Rahi became a lawyer.  He participated in the 2012 Lambda Legal lawsuit that challenged Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage.

Apr 4, 2013

Join the Army: Military Beefcake

When I was growing up, it was assumed implicitly that I would go to work in the factory the day after my high school graduation.  No one in my family had ever gone to college; it was simply unthinkable. So when I brought up the subject in the spring of 1976, I heard:
1. "You think we're rich?"
2. "Colleges are full of atheists and Catholics.  They'll brainwash you."
3. "Why do you want to waste your time with more schooling?  You're smart enough to work in the factory right now."
4. "If you don't want to work in the factory, why not join the army or the navy?  You get three square meals a day."

Could I embark on a military career?

The idea wasn't entirely half-baked.  The Vietnam War was over.  I wasn't aware of the existence of gay people yet, so of course I wasn't aware that they were banned from the U.S. military.  And I had seen ample military beefcake.

The Navy Way (1944): as the new recruits strip, a prissy queen gazes longingly at the muscleman beside him.  The muscleman obligingly flexes.

Sammy Jackson posed semi-nude in the gay-themed Physique Pictorial before going on to star in the tv version of No Time for Sergeants.

In 1969, the Here's Lucy gang visited the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to see about getting Craig (Desi Arnaz Jr.) admitted.  Lucy accidentally sets off a fire alarm, and a dormitory full of cute guys rushes out, wearing pajamas, bathrobes, and underwear.

Then there was Ensign Pulver, McHale's Navy, Gomer Pyle USMC, South Pacific....

The Dell comics Four-ColoCadet Gray of West Point interspliced pictures of real cadets with comics about historic battles.

But I didn't quite have the physique of those cadets, and when I took the Strong Occupational Interest Inventory during my junior year, "soldier" was at the bottom of the list, along with "police officer." I was closely matched to historian, journalist, mathematician, and lawyer, so I redoubled my efforts to convince my parents to let me go to college.

Blake Bashoff

Jeremy Lelliott is well-known for playing gay characters, but Blake Bashoff's record is almost as good. Even in his early roles, his characters engage in some buddy-bonding:

Gordon in Bushwacked (1995), one of the kids being mentored by a criminal disguised as a scout leader.

Ben in Big Bully (1996), who bullies and then makes up with Kirby (Cody McMains).

Or they display no heterosexual interest:
Todd in The New Swiss Family Robinson (1998), who lets his brother Shane (John Asher) romance the desert-island girl.

He began playing gay characters in 2001, with Eric Brown, an abused gay teen taken in by the genial judge and her family on Judging Amy (2001-2003).

Blake's jumpy nervousness and wounded expression got him cast as some murderers or arsonists, usually gay-vague, but then he jumped back into gay characters with Duncan, the only gay student at a magic academy on a 2004 episode of the paranormal Charmed.

In 2006-2008, he played the gay-vague Karl, a teenager living among the evil Others, on Lost.

He also played the gay Moritz on Broadway in Spring Awakening (with costar Kyle Rabko, left).

In 2012 he played half of a gay couple in the movie Neighbors.

Apr 3, 2013

Tim and Rick Rossovich: Beefcake on Parade

Speaking of Douglas Barr, his extremely muscular costar on the Village People knockoff When the Whistle Blows was Tim Rossovich (Hunk, left).  Born in 1946, the former pro football player enjoyed a long career playing boxers, hit men, bodyguards, anyone meant to be big and imposing (here towering over Henry Winkler in Night Shift).  

He had guest spots in dozens of tv series, from Soap (1978) through Baywatch (1992), including the gay-themed Brothers (1984), as a macho footballer who discovers that his former teammate is gay.

Being imposing doesn't allow much room for homoerotic subtexts, but at least he got a lot of shirtless and semi-nude shots.

Younger brother Rick Rossovich (born in 1956) got all of the homoerotic subtexts -- but he was no slouch in the muscle department, either.  His first major role was the brawny Italian Pig Pignetti in the homoerotic-subtext boarding-school drama Lords of Discipline (1983).

He was killed by Arnold Schwarzenegger while wearing only bikini-brief underwear in The Terminator (1984). 

He also did some buddy-bonding in Top Gun and Let's Get Harry, and triangulated with Steve Martin in Roxanne.

 Then he settled down to some man-mountain and "falling in love with a woman who may be the killer" roles.

From 1996-98, Rick starred in Pacific Blue, as the commander of a crew of bike cops on patrol on the Santa Monica beach, who wear short pants and get involved in homoerotic situations.

Apr 2, 2013

10 Things I Dislike about "Modern Family"

Modern Family is a multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom about an extended family in modern Los Angeles: Jay Pritchett, a gruff, macho, affluent closet manufacturer (yes, people have closets built), his adult children Claire and Mitchell, and their various partners and children.  Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, left) is gay, and lives with his partner Cam (Eric Stonestreet, right).  They have an adopted daughter, a Vietnamese orphan named Lily.

It's an ensemble program, usually with three plotlines per episode (one for each family), usually with the same theme (something on the lines of "families stick together").  I don't hate it as much as Will and Grace, but I have some problems with the portrayal of the gay characters:

1. Mitchell is an effeminate gay stereotype.  His father first realized that he was gay because he kept singing the female parts on the cast album of South Pacific. 

2. Ok, Mitchell is a stereotype, but at least he's played by a gay actor.  Cam is most offensive, limp-wristed, mincing, sashaying, histrionic caricature of a gay man that I have seen any heterosexual actor portray since Mel Gibson in Birds on a Wire.  Cam has a few macho traits -- he's a football fan, and he loved sports in school -- but that doesn't detract from his unbelievable Stephen Fetchit.

3. Mitchell is a lawyer, and Cam is a retired entertainer. Their gay friends are all affluent, upper-middle class sophisticates with weird names who drink fancy wines and go to the opera.  Does coming out automatically make you rich?  In real life, LGBT people have substantially lower mean incomes than heterosexuals, primarily due to their exclusion from the high-income moneymaking occupations that require "family man" status.

4. Mitchell and Cam refer to each other as "boyfriends," as if they're sharing a soda at the malt shop.  They've been together for a very long time, probably about 20 years.  Why the trivialization?

5. Like the gay guys on Will and Grace, Mitchell and Cam are obsessed with heterosexual sex.  Years ago Mitchell had sex with a woman, just to prove that he was capable of it (does having heterosexual sex mean you're not as gay?).  Cam flirts with a woman, and accepts a date with her (even though he has a partner at home), just to prove that he can incite heterosexual interest.

6. They encounter not a speck of homophobia.  They are completely accepted by everyone, everywhere, without any question. In fact, they often get special privileges for being gay. I know that it's Los Angeles, and they're wealthy and all, but come on!  Is that realistic?

7. There is no gay culture in Los Angeles, no gay bars, bookstores, community centers, organizations, pride festivals, nothing.When Mitchell, Cam, and their friends get together for an evening, they go to a straight bar.

8. Cam and Mitchell are terrible parents, flighty, irresponsible, in turns overprotective and neglectful, and their child is growing up to be a self-centered, demanding, manipulative brat.

9. They had a semi-nude beefcake mural of themselves painted over Lily's bed.  Can you imagine anything creepier for a kid to see while growing up?

10. It gets even more cringe-inducing.  Lily wants to play wedding, so Cam obliges.  He marries his own daughter.  Not the best parenting decision.

11. Andy the Male Nanny, jaw-droppingly muscular, but played by an actor with a homophobic past.

Not to worry, there are also 10 Things I Like about Modern Family.

Mar 31, 2013

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

A decade before Escape from New York transformed him into action hero beefcake, Kurt Russell played a hunky, fresh-faced teenager in eight Disney movies, from The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) to The Strongest Man in the World (1975).  Only The Secret of Boyne Castle (1968) was an adventure, designed to demonstrate the masculinity of American youth during the Cold War.

The others were comedies with a far different goal, to mollify adult fears of hippies during the era of Woodstock and Kent State by presenting a harmless, good-natured youth rebellion (and one limited to white, middle class, hetero kids).

So there are plenty of muscular male actors, but no beefcake shots, and lots of buddies, but not a lot of gay subtexts.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is the first of Kurt's three forays as Dexter Riley, a mild-mannered misfit vaguely studying science at Medfield College -- essentially the same role that Tommy Kirk played as "scrambled egghead" Merlin Jones a few years before.  Tommy, recently out and outed, was obviously miserable and struggling, and his co-stars hysterically overacted to keep him in line. Kurt and his costars are relaxed and confident, having fun with the goofy plot (something about Dexter being struck by lightning, turning into a human computer, and thus helping his friends win an all-important academic competition).

Dexter's friends are played by former teen idol John Provost (top photo); Frank Webb, who enjoyed a few years of teen idol stardom but died tragically at age 26 (center photo); and cute redheaded Michael McGreevey, who specialized in goofball characters.  There's also a girl, but she doesn't have much to do besides say "Be careful!"

Gay actor Caesar Romero played the mob boss who kidnaps Dexter so his friends can mount a daring rescue.

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