Dec 9, 2013

Ted Wass: Bare-Chested Comedy

    Why was Ted Wass never a teen idol?  Soap (1977-1981) was an iconic 1970s soap opera spoof about a dysfunctional extended family -- including Jodie (Billy Crystal), the first gay character in a starring role on tv (also bisexual and transgender, depending on the plot arc).  Jimmy Baio, who played Jodie's "normal" cousin, became a teen idol.  But not 25-year old Ted Wass, who played Jodie's brother Danny, a lovable but dimwitted hunk: "How can a woman be gay?  They would cancel each other out."   His centric plot arcs included a mob connection and an interracial marriage.       In the 1980s Ted made use of his hunkiness and his comedic talent to star in a series of sex comedies, including I Was a Mail Order Bride (1982), Baby Sister (1983), and Sheena, a remake of the jungle girl serial (1984).  He also appeared in "straight" comedies, such as Oh God, You Devil (1984)  and The Longshot (1986), before landing his second iconic role on Blossom (1991-1995).          He played Nick Russo, dad of the unconventional teenager (Mayim Bialik) and her dimwitted brother Joey (future heartthrob and gay ally  Joey Lawrence).  As the stable center of the lunacy, he didn't have much of an opportunity to show off his comedic talent -- or his chest.  After Blossom, Ted retired from acting to become a director, including some gay-friendly movies and tv series such as Crumbs, with Fred Savage as a gay writer.          Ted posed nude in Playgirl in 1979.  No frontal shots, but these white rubber jeans leave little to the imagination.             

Dec 8, 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

My partner is making me watch the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) on DVD, in order, for the second time. And I already saw many episodes when it originally aired, so the third time. That's a record broken only by Seinfeld and maybe Gilligan's Island when I was a kid.

The premise: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar), an ordinary teenager at Sunnydale High, discovers that she is The Slayer, one girl out of all the world given the super powers necessary to kill vampires and other demonic beings.  She and her allies make wisecracks and discuss trivial home-and-school issues as they fight the monster of the week.

Every season has a story arc with an Apocalyptic threat by the "the worst enemy we have ever encountered" (by the later seasons, the hyperbole becomes tedious).  Also lots of romantic entanglements.

Her team, facetiously called the Scooby Gang, includes (not all at the same time):
1.-3. "Regular guy" Xander (Nicholas Brendon, top photo), who dates snobbish Cordelia, and then Anya, a 1000-year old vengeance demon
4.-6.  Computer whiz/witch Willow, who dates the sardonic werewolf Oz (Seth Green), and then the mousy Wiccan Tara.
7.-8. Watchers (professional Slayer mentors) Giles and Wesley
9-11. Buffy's boyfriends, reformed vampires Angel and Spike and military vampire-hunter Riley (Marc Blucas, below)
12,  Her sister Dawn.

Beefcake: Quite a lot.  The boyfriend characters don't seem to own shirts, Oz is always naked when he finishes "wolfing out," and Xander displays a respectable physique.

Male bonding: Not much.  The primarily relationships are always male-female or female-female.  The male Scoobies treat each other as cordial coworkers.

Gay characters: Two minor gay male:
1. Larry, a football star, originally accused of being a werewolf in Season 2.  Xander discovers his "real" secret, and freaks out.  He reappears several times, out and proud, during Season 3.

2. Andrew, the only survivor of a trio of nerd-villains in the last season, becomes the gang's gay-vague hostage-mascot.  No one ever says that he's gay, but it seems obvious that that's how Tom Lenk is playing the character.

He appears in the spinoff Angel with a blatant crush on reformed vampire Spike (James Marsters, left).  But later, he appears surrounded by beautiful women and comments: "People change." Creator Joss Whedon explains that Andrew wasn't supposed to say the line -- it was to go to a female character, who was supposed to be surrounded by beautiful people.

Three major lesbian:

1.-3. Willow (Allison Hannigan, left) spent three seasons hot for guys, notably her werewolf-boyfriend Oz.  Then at the beginning of Season 4, she meets Tara, something clicks, and she's a lesbian.  But she hasn't discovered her true sexual identity; she states repeatedly that she has "turned" lesbian.  They're a couple through Season 6, when Tara is killed (I know, the gay person always dies).

In Season 7, Willow gets a new girlfriend, streetwise Slayer-in-training Kennedy.

Fall 1971: Cousin George: Only Fools Wear Pajamas

My Cousin George, son of my father's older brother, was just my age, tall and blond, with a hard chest, a thin belly, and a Southern drawl.  He lived in Walterboro, South Carolina, a thousand miles from Rock Island, so I only saw him twice during my childhood:

1. We drove out to visit in the summer of 1967, when I was six years old.
2. Grandma Davis took me down on the train in the summer of 1971, when I was ten.

And once as a teenager, when he drove up for my Grandma Davis's funeral in October 1975.

What I remember most about my visits was the sizzling heat, the humidity,
and the beefcake.  No one in South Carolina owned a shirt. I had never seen so many sleek muscular bodies.

We went swimming in the warm salty Atlantic Ocean.

At night Cousin George and I took our baths together together in scalding-hot water, and then slept naked together under thin sheets -- "only fools wear pajamas," he insisted.

 It was not erotic, like seeing my older Cousin Joe naked.  It was warm and soft and sensual, like falling asleep in the arms of my boyfriend Bill, back home in Rock Island.

The rest of the story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

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