Nov 2, 2013

Nicholas Cortland: Model/Actor/Gay Icon of the 1970s

Here's how I found a forgotten gay icon of my past.

1.  On February 15, 1972, the spring of sixth grade, I saw the "Wild Weekend" episode of Mod Squad, about three hippies working as undercover cops.  Pete (Michael Cole) gets kidnapped, tied up, and presented as a party gift to his ex-girlfriend.

The other guests seem to like Pete, too; he's aggressively groped and manhandled, especially by the hunky prettyboy Doug.  But later Doug helps Pete escape.  Surely they liked each other, I thought!

2. A few years later, I saw the cult horror classic Frogs (1972) on Chuck Acri's Creature Feature. I thought the character of Kenneth Martindale was cute but creepy.  I was more interested in the homoromantic buddy bonding between Pickett and Clint (Sam Elliott, Adam Roarke).

 3. Recently I was reminded of the "Wild Weekend" episode, and hunky prettyboy Doug, so I looked him up in the IMDB.  Nicholas Cortland.  He lived from 1940 to 1988.  My AIDS radar went off.

His screen credits were nondescript: 2 soap operas, 7 guest spots on tv series, and 5 movies, the first in 1965, the last in 1985, nothing I had seen except for the Mod Squad episode and Frogs.  Two gay subtext vehicles -- he must be gay!

4. I found two obituaries, in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.  Sure enough, he was gay, and died of AIDS.  He was survived by his "long time companion," Peter R. Kruzan.

In 1976, Nicholas performed the lead in three productions of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco:  Edward Albee's Tiny Alice, Michael McClure's General Gorgeous, and Tennessee Williams' This is (an Entertainment), the latter written especially for him.  Two gay playwrights.

5. I checked Google Images for pictures, and found lots of beefcake shots, but they all seem to be of Nicky Cortland, a contemporary porn star.

6. Time to check my archive of nude photography.  Jackpot!  Nicholas Cortland appeared shirtless or fully nude in After Dark (March 1972), Playgirl (November 1973), and the gay magazine In Touch (Spring 1976).  Now there was a face, and a physique, to go with my long-ago memory of the guy who liked Pete.

Hundreds of gay actors, writers, directors, and other performers were lost to AIDS during the 1980s. You may think of Nicholas Cortland as a lesser light, not as famous as Rock Hudson, Liberace, or Brad Davis.

But none of them were visible in a small town in the Midwest on a cold winter day in 1972, when the word "gay" had not yet been spoken, and the possibility of men loving men not yet dreamed of, except in hints and signals.

Cal Bolder: The End of 1960s Gay Hollywood

Kansas boy Earl Craver came to California about 1954, after college and the Marine Corps, and found work as a Highway Patrolman.  In 1959 he happened to encounter gay talent agent Henry Willson, who discovered every 1950s hunk from Rock Hudson to John Saxon -- according to Hollywood legend, by giving him a speeding ticket.

 Impressed by his, chest and biceps, Willson signed him on, gave him one of his patented name changes -- to Cal Bolder -- and got him a minor role in the Anthony Quinn-Sophia Loren Western Heller in Pink Tights (1960).

Bolder claims that he was on the force for 14 years, and left to make movies in 1960.  That would mean he got through college and the Marine Corps and became a cop by age 15.  One of the many problems with Cal's biography.

Another problem: why did Henry Willson sign him on? He didn't care for bodybuilders.  And in the 1960s, the gay subculture of Hollywood was in decline, after the accidental outing of Tab Hunter.  No more big parties with only gay and gay-friendly beefcake hunks in attendance.  No more cooperation from movie magazines to keep gay stars closeted.

Another problem: why didn't Bolder make it big?  The 1960s were all about muscles.  Maybe it was the increasing stigma of associating with Willson, but he only got some guest spots on tv,  mostly of the hulking man-mountain sort: Neanderthal Nathan on Ensign O'Toole, Alex the Assassin on Daniel Boone, Arnie the Ape on Bonanza, an alien barbarian on Star Trek.   

Here he plays "muscular thug" Ingo Lindstrum on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

His most significant movie role was in Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), #8 on my list of Top Beefcake Horror Movies of the 1960s a gay subtext-camp classic that gives you what it advertises: legendary outlaw Jesse James (John Lupton) and his wounded buddy Hank (Cal Bolder) go to the spooky castle of Maria Frankenstein, the Baron's daughter or granddaughter. She finds Hank the perfect subject for her experiments, and turns him into a zombie named Igor (get it?).

After playing a trapper on a January 1968 episode of Cimarron Strip, Bolder retired and moved to Royal City, in rural eastern Washington.

A final problem: was he gay, other than the casting couch?
His internet biographies don't mention anything about a wife or kids, but I doubt that a gay man would leave Los Angeles for the wilderness.  I found an obituary for a "Billie R. Craver" of Royal City, Washington (1931-2006).  Maybe his wife?  And a Dain Craver, who runs an orchard, CraveOrganics.  Maybe his son?

Oct 30, 2013

After Romeo: Gay-Positive Boy Band

Boy bands are usually oppressively heterosexist, littering their lyrics with "Girl! Girl! Girl!," sending their fans the message that gay people most emphatically do not exist.  But not After Romeo.  Their debut song, "Free Fall," is about starting something new:

I'm standing to the edge and I'm looking to the ground
I got trapped inside of the madness and I can't stand run around

It's a new day, new day
It's a rat race, rat race
I'm in no shape, no place
To just walk away, walk away

And "Save Some Snow for Me":
I need you to save some snow for me
You know that your where I want to be
No it's not Christmas, Christmas at all
without you

Notice the resounding absence of "Save some snow for me, girl!"

The group consists of:
1. Devin Fox (top photo)
2. T.C. Carter (left)

3. Jayk Purdy (left)
4. Drew Ryan Scott (below)
5. Blake English
6. Bobby Edner was a member, but recently quit.

My gaydar goes off for most of them, but I don't know if any are gay in real life.

They are gay-positive, though.

This year they will be performing on the BullyProof tour, spreading the anti-bullying message, which is often an anti-homophobia message, to  junior highs, high schools, and malls across the U.S.  in conjunction with Defeat the Label.  Here's a link to their anti-bullying PSA.

Paul Lekakis: No More Invitations to his Room

The music of the Disco Era was about sex or dancing.  Or both.  Or actually the same thing, both opportunities to "shake your grove thing."  But by April 1987, that "age of innocence" was long gone, and the top songs all praised monogamy and abstinence: "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," "Let's Wait Awhile," "Walking Down Your Street."  So it was quite a shock to hear:

Boom boom boom
Let's go back to my room
So we can do it all night
And you can make me feel right

"Boom Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)" hit #1 in Australia and Japan, but only #14 in the U.S., where people were afraid of going back to the rooms of strangers.  Especially gay men during the height of the AIDS crisis.

It was the debut song of 21-year old Paul Lekakis, a Greek-American physique model turned singer. And "openly" gay, quite a courageous act in the 1980s.

 During the next few years, he released several singles and an album.  Usually his lyrics dropped pronouns, and when they were specific, they were homoerotic.

 "My House" became a hit on the dance circuit, but "You Blow Me Away," "Let It Out," and "Are You Man Enough" did not.  Paul found himself partying heavily, using alcohol and drugs, and hustling.  He became HIV positive around 1989.  The next few years are a blur.

In 1997, he joined a 12-Step Program, stopped using drugs and hustling, and began recording again.  He also became an actor, mostly in roles that allowed him to display his still-impressive physique: Circuit (2001), about the sex-and-drugs-infused circuit parties of the gay 1990s; Just Can't Get Enough (2002), about the rise of the Chippendales Dancers; the gay Halloween thriller Hellbent (2004).

He wrote and directed the short film Don't Tell, Don't Ask, which made the gay film festival circuit in 2006.

In 2007, he performed with Scott Douglas Cunningham in the gay-themed play 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night, about a one-night stand that turns into something more.

He has started to release new songs, with "I Need a Vacation" in 2011.  His latest, "Meet Me on the Dance Floor" is available on itunes.  But tonight it will just be dancing. There will be no invitations to his room until you've dated for awhile.


Oct 29, 2013

Matthew G. Taylor, aka Zack O'Tool

On a 2001 episode of Queer as Folk , Emmett (Peter Paige) decides that he wants to become "ex-gay."  To dissuade him from this crazy idea, his friends arrange for him to be visited by gay adult video performer Zack O'Tool, played by the super-sized-in-every-way Matthew G. Taylor.

The huge man-mountain, formerly a police officer and martial artists, has been working steadily on screen since 1998.  Not in gay porn, unfortunately, but in many roles that make good use of his stunning physique.

A thug named Chongo in Detroit Rock City (1999).

Nemesis, a "huge, overpowering monster" in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004).

The boxer Primo Carnera in Cinderella Man (2005).

Shackles, an "uncontrollable monster with freakish strength" on the teen adventure series Aaron Stone (2010).

A character called "Man Mountain Guard" on Lost Girl (2011).

An immortal in The Immortals (2011).

These "freakishly huge monsters" aren't cast as gay, of course -- Hollywood prefers lithe, wispy things to promote its homophobic stereotypes --  but they also don't express any heterosexual interest, and they spend a lot of time hanging out with or threatening men.  So we can find lots of subtexts.

Spring 1980: Malcolm Boyd, the Fighting Priest Who Can Talk to Kids

Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson
When Fred the Ministerial Student and I visited Des Moines in the spring of 1980, we went to Drake University to hear an Episcopalian priest named Malcolm Boyd speak on social justice.  Thomas, the priest with three boyfriends, knew him, so the next day we all had lunch (no, Malcolm wasn't one of the boyfriends).

 All I knew about Malcolm was his book, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? (1965), a series of brief prayers about contemporary concerns, such as political injustice, racial inequality, sexual freedom, and gay people:

This is a gay bar, Jesus....Quite a few of the men here belong to the church as well as this bar. If they knew how, a number of them would ask you to be with them in both places.  Some of them wouldn't, but won't you be with them, too, Jesus?

Still, I was shocked to discover that Malcolm Boyd was gay himself -- and out, the first openly gay cleric in any mainstream religious body in the world.  He came out in a newspaper interview in 1977, and in 1978 he wrote Take Off the Masks, suggesting that Christianity should not only be tolerant, but gay-positive.

Born in 1923, Malcolm began his career as a movie producer, but felt the call to the clergy and graduated from seminary in 1954.  During the 1960s, he was famous his work in the Civil Rights movement, and for his hip religious poetry at the Hungry I nightclub in San Francisco.  He was the inspiration for the Doonesbury character Rev. Scott Sloane, "the fighting priest who can talk to kids."

In 1982 he moved to Los Angeles to become the priest at St.-Augustine-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica.   He has written over 30 books, including Gay Priest: An Inner Journey (1987).

Mark Thompson, his partner of over 30 years, has written many books on gay spirituality, including The Fire in the Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries, about the group that Sparky T. Rabbit helped to found.  They believe that gay people have a unique spiritual role as gatekeepers to the other world.

A Touch of Pink: Whiny Gay Guy, Free-Spirit Bisexual, and Cougar Mom

In A Touch of Pink (2004), Pakistani-Canadian Alim (Jimi Mistry) is living in London, with some kind of behind-the-scenes job in the movies.  He is morose, depressed, and quirky, always having conversations with his imaginary friend, Cary Grant (Kyle MacLachlan).  But he still manages to land a partner, bisexual free-spirit economist Giles (Kris Holden-Ried).

There are free-spirit economists?

Then Alim's bitter, fault-finding Mom, Nuru (Suleka Mathew), arrives from Canada for a visit.

You know what that means: hid all the gay books and beefcake photos, move Giles to the guest bedroom, and pretend that you're engaged to his sister.  You've only seen that a few dozen times before.

But you haven't seen what happens next.

 Giles flirts openly with Nuru, calling her "beautiful," and taking her out for a romantic day of sightseeing and dancing cheek-to-cheek.  At this point, I assumed that the Giles would end up dumping Alim for Nuru.  But that's not the direction the movie takes.

Roiling with jealousy over the Giles-Mom romance, Alim decides to come out in stupidest way possible -- by showing Mom a nude photo of Giles.

Wait -- that's supposed to put the kibosh on her romantic interest?

All hell breaks loose. Nuru returns to Canada, and Giles is so upset over the loss of his cougar girlfriend that he breaks up with Alim and starts dating an Olympic Gold Medalist.

Right, whenever you break up with a guy, Olympic Gold Medalists are always waiting to zoom in.

But not to worry, Nuru switches from homophobe to gay-rights activist overnight, and finds a new beau, a poetic janitor.  Giles and Alim reconcile. Deciding that he doesn't need an imaginary friend anymore, Alim dismisses Cary Grant.  Cue the fade-out kiss.

There were a few interesting bits:
1. Cary Grant behaves exactly like what you would expect: "Hide everything!"
2. Alim's cousin is gay but intends to marry anyway to "keep up appearances.
3. The Nuru-Alim-Giles love triangle
4. Nuru's conflicting attitudes toward the West.  She grew up watching old Cary Grant movies,  discovered that the real London was nothing like that, and now hates all things Western.  But not really.

But that's not enough to overcome the tired, contrived ending,  or the whiny, unpleasant character of Alim.

By the way, the title is a parody of That Touch of Mink (1962), a Cary Grant-Doris Day romantic comedy that no one except movie buffs has ever heard of

Oct 27, 2013

The Go-Between: Desire is Always Dangerous

"The past is a foreign country.  They do things differently there."

This is the beginning of the 1953 novel The Go Between, by gay novelist L. P. Hartley, which was adapted into a  film by Harold Pinter.  It's about the long-ago year of 1900, where the conventions and traumas of everyday life seemed utterly alien by 1953, and even moreso today.

1. Same-sex desire and behavior are literally unthinkable, not recognized even among the people who experience them.
2. Sexual experience is bizarre, unsettling, and dangerous. One night of passion can lead to insanity or death.
3. Class boundaries are obvious, rigid, and inflexible.

In this alien world,  middle-class Leo (child star Dominic Guard, who would later play in Picnic at Hanging Rock) goes to visit his upper-class school chum Marcus (Robert Gibson) for the holidays.  There he meets the farmer Ted Burgess (bisexual actor Alan Bates).

Leo has never met someone of the lower class before: rough, sweaty, savage, leering, hinting at erotic potential.  He seems Ted shirtless and feels the first stirrings of desire.

In a parallel story of transcending class boundaries, sophisticated Marcus is in love with the rough, uncultured Leo, but Leo is oblivious to the fact, and mostly ignores his school chum.

Ted is involved in an illicit, forbidden romance with Marcus' older sister, Marian (Julie Christie), on whom Leo also has a crush.  Leo finds himself in the awkward role of go-between, delivering messages between two people that he desires.  He is so naive that at first he doesn't understand why they are meeting, or why their meetings are forbidden.

When he does understand that their relationship is sexual, Leo becomes morally outraged, jealous, depressed, scandalized.  He tries to end his service, but the lovers coolly manipulate him to continue.

The film, like the novel, is rather depressing.   Ted commits suicide. Marcus dies in World War I.  Marian marries someone of her station and has children and grandchildren, but to the end of her life pines for her dead lover.  Leo is gay, but so traumatized by the events of 1900 that as the years and decades pass, he is unable to establish any intimate relationship at all.

Desire is always forbidden, dangerous, and destructive, but a life without desire is no life at all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...