Dec 30, 2014

The Gay Connection of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

I heard that Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) was a gay classic, the coming-out film of the pre-Stonewall Era, when gay men snipped "But ya are, Blanche!" at each other as gleefully as my generation said "Come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab!"

Legendary drag queen and dramatist Charles Busch, who recorded the DVD commentary, says that it's "one of those handful of movies you have to see to get your gay card."

Well, I got my gay card quite a few years ago, so I thought I'd better get around to seeing what all the fuss was about.

Previously I had seen Bette Davis only in All About Eve, Return from Witch Mountain, and Death on the Nile, and Joan Crawford in nothing (unless you count her portrayal by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest), so I was coming in fresh.

There are 3 parts.

1917: Baby Jane Hudson is a 10-year old Vaudeville star whose signature song is the maudlin "I Wrote a Letter to Daddy."  Her older sister Blanche is jealous.

1934: The young adult Jane Hudson is a flop in Hollywood, but Blanche has become a big star.  Jealous, Jane runs into Blanche with her car, crippling her.  The director cleverly avoids showing Blanche, and shows Jane only in one of Bette Davis's old movies.

1962: Jane (Davis) and Blanche (Crawford) have spent their lives in seclusion in a decaying Hollywood mansion, seeing only their housekeeper and business manager.

When Blanche's old movies are broadcast on television, gaining her a new generation of fans, Jane gets jealous again, and starts torturing her.  During a two-day period, she kills Blanche's pet bird, tries to feed her the bird and a rat, rips the phone out of the wall, ties her up, and...well, that's about it.

Blanche tries to signal to various people that she's in trouble, but Jane always intercepts the message.

Finally Jane has a complete breakdown, dragging Blanche to the beach and reverting to her child self.

Then comes the stunning reveal: Jane wasn't trying to kill Blanche the night of her accident.  Blanche was trying to kill Jane!

Ok, so that makes no sense at all.  But really, nothing about this movie makes much sense.  Like, shouldn't a wheelchair bound person get a room on the first floor?

And I still can't figure out the gay connection.

1. Buddy-bonding male friendships?  No.  There aren't any significant male characters, except in a humorous subplot about the middle-aged Jane trying to revive her child star career.  Victor Buono plays Edwin Flagg, a layabout she hires to help with the musical arrangements, who gamely asserts that her idea is genius, and even flirts with her in the interest of getting his paycheck.

2. Lesbian bonds, then?  No.  Blanche and Jane hate each other.

3. Same-sex desire of any sort, even hinted at?  Not a bit.

4. Critiques of hetero-romance?  Maybe a little.  No one is involved with anyone.  The next-door neighbors consist of a mother and daughter.  Blanche's courting of Edwin Flagg comes across as creepy and unhinged, like her incest-tinged relationship with her father.

5. Gay symbolism?  When Blanche laments, "If only I weren't in a wheelchair!" Jane replies acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"  Maybe the gay men of a certain age used to lament, "If only I weren't gay!", to which their witty friends replied acidly, "But ya are, Blanche!"

6. Gay author or director?  No.

7. Beefcake?  A little, maybe.  Victor Buono looks like he might have a nice hairy chest, and during the beach scene,  some hunks in swimsuits stare aghast at Jane's breakdown.

I guess you had to be a gay man in the pre-Stonewall era to get it.

The 1991 remake was, apparently, even more over-the-top. Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave play Blanche and Jane.  Instead of a housekeeper, there is massage therapist Dominick  (Bruce A. Young), who is probably gay, and instead of a drunken musician, Jane flirts with aspiring filmmaker, drag queen, and pedophile Billy (John Glover, top photo).

See also: All About Eve


Dec 29, 2014

Nathaniel Choate: Gay African-American Sculptor of 1960s New York

When I was living in New York, I had a friend who lived near the  Klitgord Center,  at the corner of Jay and Tilly Street in Brooklyn, the heart of the New York City College of Technology.  Every day he, and thousands of other people, walked past its gigantic 2-story mural memorializing some of the joys of college: Art, Drama, Music, Recreation, Health, and Recreation.

"Health" was a muscular man on the parallel bars, naked or wearing a skimpy jockstrap.

The Klitgord Center was demolished in 2013.

Recently I investigated the mural, and tried to find out something about the artists.








Sculptor Nathaniel Choate (1899-1965) was one of the few African-American men to graduate from Harvard in the 1920s.  Afterwards he studied in France, and traveled extensively in Morocco and Sudan, perhaps looking for the "good place" that drew dozens of gay men to North Africa.  He returned to the U.S. in the 1930s, and taught in Pennsylvania and New York.  He never married.

His subjects were usually muscular African men, such as "Alligator Bender" at Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.




Tile artist Francis Von Tury (1901-1992) was born in Hungary, had a studio in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and was a leading proponent of ceramics as both an art form and an industrial tool.  He never married, either.

Most of his work is stylized, but there are some interesting male figures, like this fisherman on a blue tile.

I don't know if the two men were friends, or lovers, before they began their collaboration.

See also: Myrtle Beach.

Dec 27, 2014

Fan Art 5: Gay Crossover Romances between Jake, Danny, and Ron

Usually fan artists prefer to stay within the universe of a single tv program, envisioning their hero in a romantic or sexual bond with one of his antagonists.  For instance, teen ghost Danny Phantom (Nickelodeon, 2004-2007) is approached by the bully Dash in the locker room, while their team mates look on in shock.












A more serious enemy, Vlad Plasmius, threatens to destroy both Danny and the world, but here they have acknowledged their mutual attraction.


















But sometimes there are no appropriate antagonists or buddies to be found, so fan artists must resort to crossovers, pairs of characters from different series. Here two characters from Disney channel animated series, teen spy Ron Stoppable (Kim Possible (2002-2007) and Chinese-American dragon-in-training Jake Long (2005-2007) share an intimate moment.













Ron and Jake stand close together in gym trunks, Ron's hand on Jake's thigh.

For some reason, I was unable to find any Danny-Jake pairings.  Danny and Jake are both serious, morose characters, so maybe they aren't compatible.  They need Ron Stoppable's goofiness and good humor.






You might expect a lot of trios, but there aren't many, and they never portray the act itself. Here Ron and Jake are aggressively cruising Danny Phantom, who is rather perplexed at the attention.










A Japanese-infused Ron and Danny wonder if classmate Jake Long wears boxers or briefs.  They are highly stylized, but Ron is wearing a "Save the molerats" t-shirt, referencing his pet mole rat, and Danny's t-shirt has a ghost on it.

(All pictures borrowed from the original artists on deviantart.com)

See also: Gay Fan Art #4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Dec 26, 2014

Gay Fan Art 4: Cartoon Kids Grow Up

Fan artists enjoy depicting their favorite cartoon characters involved in same-sex romances or explicit sexual situations.

But there's a problem with many of the more popular characters.  Regardless of how much you may envision them as adults, Bart Simpson and Nelson the Bully are still children, and depicting them having a romantic encounter would look rather silly.  And, if you depict them in an erotic situation, you're facing a 10-year prison sentence in the U.S.

Better to age them into teenagers into adults.

Ben Tennyson (Ben 10), who found a device that allows him to shapeshift into aliens, has appeared in four tv series (2005-2014) and several movies. But he never shapeshifted into this super-bodybuilder before fan artists discovered him.


T. J. Detweiler of the Disney Channel's Recess (2000-2003) was the leader of a band of 3rd grade buddies.  Here he's grown up and beefed up so much that he's unrecognizeable except for the signature red hat.  I don't know why he's tied to a tree in his underwear.














Sometimes fan artists choose rather obscure subjects.  The Backyardigans (2003-2006), for preschoolers on CBS, featured a group of toddler anthropomorphic animals: a penguin, a hippopotamus, a kangaroo, and so on.  This is Tyrone, the red-headed moose, turned into a buffed, morose human teenager.













Timmy Turner of Fairly Oddparents (2001-2014) is "an average kid," ten years old and drawn in a stylized, nondescript fashion.  But here a grown up, buffed up version towels himself off after a shower.

 More after the break.











Dec 24, 2014

Prison Beefcake

Researching prisons has some advantages over researching Chaucer and Cervantes.





Your interview subjects are quite an eyeful.


















Try putting this picture on a powerpoint presentation for Chaucer class.



There's even beefcake art, friezes, murals, and paintings produced by or for the inmates.

The most famous is a statue of two naked guys called "Elmira: Builder of Men," installed outside Elmira Reformatory in New York in 1951.

Here sculptor Ernfred Anderson poses with one of his inmate models.










Unfortunately, the finished statue got the fig-leaf treatment.

Ernfred Anderson, by the way, was born in Sweden but moved to America in 1931, where he taught at Elmira College and ran an art gallery with his partner Lars Hoftrup.  Since neither he nor Hoftrup have wives listed in their bios, I assume they were a gay couple.




Dec 23, 2014

The Eastwood Insurance Cowboy: Cruising in the Shower

Insurance companies go to great lengths to produce clever, memorable commercials, but they rarely venture into the realm of beefcake.  That's why the Eastwood Insurance cowboy was so memorable.

In California in the early 1990s, a series of tv commercials showed a Cowboy riding up to a befuddled car owner who was paying too much for car insurance, and "saved the day" with Eastwood's low, low prices.

The best commercial had him in the shower, naked except for his white cowboy hat, cruising...um, I mean talking about insurance to another naked guy, who seems more interested in his physique than his insurance policies.





In retrospect the Cowboy wasn't particularly muscular, especially for gym-crazy California -- the guy he was cruising had better pecs.  But nudity in unexpected places is always stunning.

Besides, he had quite a smile.












The Cowboy was played by actor Jason Bradley Jacobs, who has put on a lot of muscle since his Eastwood days.  He has a few screen credits, but mostly he does modeling and voice work, specializing in country accents.














Last summer he went to Kentucky to provide the voice and artists' model for a character in an upcoming animated series, Plowman in the Cornmeal Universe.  It will be set in the Appalachia of 1978, the era of Jimmy Carter, Hee-Haw, and The Dukes of Hazzard.  Look for lots of good old boys riding pick-up trucks with their shirts off.

See also: Hi, Guy! Cruising in a Right Guard Commercial.

Dec 20, 2014

Gay Fan Art 2: Invader Zim


Invader Zim lasted for only a season and a half on Nickelodeon (2001-2002) before it was cancelled due to low ratings.  But it got a new life through internet downloads and DVD sales, and later it was successfully rebroadcast on Nicktoons.

The premise: Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) is an incompetent alien warrior sent, as punishment, to scout out the inconsequential backwater of Earth.  Since he is a child, he enrolls in elementary school, where the outcast human boy Dib (Andy Berman) suspects his secret.

One would suspect that the two antagonists would eventually learn to trust and support each other, but in fact that never happens.  Zim never waivers in his bombastic "We will enslave you all!" contempt of humans.  He forms alliances with Dib only when it is essential for his purposes, and then quickly and easily betrays him.  And Dib never grows to like or respect the alien; in fact, he takes great pains to torment him.

Thus, no gay subtexts between the two.  No beefcake.  No nothing.

Still, fans went wild, conjuring image after image of the duo (usually aged to adolescence or adulthood) hugging, kissing, cuddling on a couch, sharing an apartment.

In the top picture, a fully-nude Dib opens his bedroom door to display Zib sleeping peacefully after a night of passion.  It originally featured a very nice full frontal shot.

Here they just hug.











Sometimes the antagonism is retained. One captures and tortures or sexually assaults the other.

















But even that is usually cast as a consensual S&M scene, willingly giving and taking power.

I'm not sure why, but antagonists always inspire much more gay fan art than buddies.

(Original pictures from the artists on deviantart.com.)

See also: Gay Fan Art #1: Max Goof.; and Gay Fan Art #3: Beast Boy

Dec 18, 2014

American Horror Story: Gay World

The anthology series American Horror Story is a hit in gay communities.  It's stylish, witty, adequately creepy -- and gay inclusive, a rarity in horror tv.   Here's my rating of the gay content of the first four seasons: beefcake, buddy-bonding, gay characters, and gay symbolism.  Scale of 1 (terrible) to 5 (excellent).

Season 1: Murder House (2011)

A family moves into a house overrun by the ghosts of previous residents.  Interesting twist: ghosts can become corporeal, with bodies indistinguishable from those of the living.
Beefcake: lots of muscular chests and backsides.  These ghosts get naked a lot.
Buddy Bonding: Troubled teen Tate (Evan Peters) seems to have a little thing for the troubled psychiatrist (Dylan McDermott).
Gay Characters: Zachary Quinto and Teddy Sears play a bickering gay couple who were planning to split up.  Then they were murdered in the house, and now they are stuck together for all eternity.  The other ghosts and humans are generally nonchalant about them.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****



Season 2: Asylum (2012)

An evil nun runs a creepy asylum for the criminally insane in the 1960s.  With demons, Anne Frank, and alien abductions.
Beefcake:  Not much.  Evan Peters as an alien abductee.
Buddy Bonding: None.  Again, all of the significant friendships are male-female.
Gay Characters: Sarah Paulson as Lana Winters, a lesbian reporter committed to the asylum and forced to undergo a homophobic "treatment" regiment.  In the present, she's a famous writer, out-and-proud.
Gay Symbolism: None.
Overall Rating: ****


Season 3: Coven (2013)

A school for teen witches, a voodoo queen, and the re-animated corpse of 19th century murderess Delphine LaLaurie.  What more could you ask for?  Maybe some gay characters?
Beefcake: Lots.  Madame LaLaurie had a thing for torturing hunky male slaves, and the teen witches build themselves a Frankenstein-monster boyfriend (Evan Peters again).
Buddy Bonding: Some female bonding going on.
Gay Characters: None, except for a fruity Truman Capote-esque member of the Witches Council, who appears briefly in two episodes.
Gay Symbolism:  Witches hiding in the shadows, afraid to let anyone know their true identity, etc., etc.
Overall Rating: ***


Season 4: Freak Show (2014)
A financially-strapped freak show in 1950s Florida, with a murderous clown and his dapper young apprentice wandering around.
Beefcake:  Evan Peters again, the bare buns of a Viking Hustler, a circus strongman, and an amazing bodybuilding little person (his name is Kyle Pacek).
Buddy Bonding: Men are mostly competitors.
Gay Characters: Several.  But for a change, Dandy, the ultra-feminine murderer, is not.
Gay Symbolism: Freaks hiding in the shadows, et., etc.
Overall Rating: *****


Dec 17, 2014

Fetish 101: The Truth About Being into Feet, Feathers, Balloons, or Cake

What do you find most attractive about this guy?
A. His basket
B. His biceps
C. His shoes

If you said B, you have partialism, an erotic interest in parts of the human body other than the sex organs.

Like biceps, feet, elbows, shoulders, backsides, and women's breasts.

If you said C, you have a fetish, an erotic interest in an object other than the human body.

Like shoes, boots, leather jackets, baseball caps, cigars, feathers,  underwear, crutches, balloons, cake, jello, mud, urine, and bubbles.

The list is endless.  Nearly everybody has some partialism and fetishes.

And some paraphilias, erotic interest in activities that don't necessarily involve contact with the sex organs.

Like bondage, BDSM, voyeurism (watching other people), exhibitionism (having other people watch you), wearing diapers, smoking, coughing, being lifted, being tickled, saying bad words...

Again, the list is endless.

There are four main theories about how we got our fetishes.

1. Imprinting.  Our earliest erotic thoughts are indelibly linked with the situation they occurred in.  Even incidental details become erotic.  If, for instance, you first liked a guy who happened to be smoking a cigar, you'll have an erotic interest in cigars forever.

Or cigar boxes.  Or just the tips of cigars.  Or having smoke blown into your face.

2. Gender Symbolism.  The object or situation is aggressively masculine or feminine, distilling the "essence" of what it means to be male or female.  You don't just like shoes in general, you like black leather boots or red stiletto heels.  You don't like just any article of clothing, you like gym socks and jock straps or brassieres and red lace panties.

3. Dirty/Forbidden. We grow up being told that sex acts are unclean, that erotic books and magazines are "dirty."  So we associate the erotic with acts or objects regarded as unclean, like feet, mud, urine, and bad words.

4. Power/Control.  Sex acts are always about getting or giving up control, one partner submitting to the other.  So we associate the erotic with acts or objects that involve explicit control, like police uniforms or daddy-son scenes.

Pop quiz:  Why do people find it erotic to get or give wedgies?
A. First experience
B. Gender symbolism
C. Dirty/forbidden
D. Power/control

Answer: Could be any or all of the above.

Psychiatrists used to think that fetishes, paraphilias, and partialism were invariably destructive, perversions of the "sexual instinct."

The psychiatric consensus now is that they're fine, as long as they aren't your only erotic interest, so you should enjoy "real sex" too.

But really, I don't see why anyone should care.  If you are happy with erotic acts involving feet or feathers, or being called bad names, or getting soda spilled on you, how will switching to penises make you happier, more fulfilled, or a better person?

There are only two problems with fetishes and paraphilias:

1. They're very specific.  You don't just want to be tied up, you want to be tied to a tree with gold-colored ropes, with your hands over your head, and a gold scarf used as a gag.

It;s difficult to orchestrate such precise situations, so you might have to settle for almost right, or resign yourself to many nights without passion.

2. It's hard to find Mr. Right.  Potential partners are usually either attractive but not into it, or into it but not attractive.  I suggest going with the latter.  Nothing is more boring than a partner who is just "putting up" with your fetish.

And if he is actually into having stir-fried vegetables eaten off his stomach while he's wearing a Ninja Turtle costume, who cares if he has muscles?


See also: Finding Larry's Fetish; and The Secretary: The Bottom Always Calls the Shots


Dec 16, 2014

What's the Gay Connection in "The Sound of Music"?

When I was living in West Hollywood, people kept saying things like:
"I can't go out tonight -- The Sound of Music is on!"
"Which Sound of Music character are you?"
"The Sound of Music is playing at the community theater.  We have to go!"

I have never seen it all the way through.  It gives me bad vibes.

It's my fourth grade teacher's fault.  She told us about Anne Frank and The Sound of Music at the same time, and I got them mixed up, thinking that the musical ended with everyone dying in a concentration camp.

When I used to hear the songs, they gave me a frisson of dread, since I thought they were being sung by the prisoners at Auschwitz.

But even without the horror, they made no sense.  Look at "Do, Re, Mi":

Far, a long, long way to run.  It's  pronounced far, not fahhhh.


Ti, a drink with jam and bread.  Who drinks tea with jam and bread?  For that matter, what the heck is jam?

Or "My Favorite Things"
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels.  Ponies don't come in cream colors, and strudel is a soft pastry, not crisp.

When the dog bites -- when the bee stings.  If a dog bites you, thinking of "favorite things" wouldn't help -- you need a rabies shot. And why would you feel sad when bitten or stung?  It's not sad, it's painful.

"Oh, no," everyone kept telling me.  "It's the greatest musical of all time!  And the gayest!"

So I've been looking for the gay connection.

Not in the plot: it's just a "servant inspires joie de vivre in disfunctional family" story, done to death on tv: Hazel, Charles in Charge, Mr. Belvedere, Give me a Break, The Nanny.  Here the nanny is future nun Maria (Julie Andrews), and the family belongs to the stern Captain Von Trapp of the Austrian army (Christopher Plummer).  After they learn joie de vivre, the family hits it big as professional singers, and finally they escape from the Nazis by climbing over the hillside into Switzerland.



There is no beefcake or buddy-bonding.

There are no gay or gay-vague characters, except maybe Max Detweiler, who becomes the children's agent.

 In 1965 he was played by Richard Haydn, who was gay in real life.  This scene does not appear in the movie.

Maybe there's a gay connection in the cast?

Julie Andrews, of course, went on to play a woman disguised as a drag queen in Victor/Victoria (1982).


Christopher Plummer  won an Academy Award at the age of 82, for playing a gay man who comes out after retirement in Beginners (2010).  In the top photo, he seems to be having a little loincloth malfunction in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969).

Nicholas Hammond (left), one of the two boys in Von Trapp's mostly female family, played Spider-Man on tv (1977-78), where he displayed a respectable bulge.  He was married for only four years, and is rumored to be gay.

Not a lot of gay connection there.

What about the real life Von Trapp Family, lead by patriarch Georg Ritter Von Trapp (1888-1947)?  Ok, they were professional singers long before they met Maria, and they were Italian citizens who didn't need to escape Germany -- they just bought train tickets.  After the War, they opened a lodge in Stowe, Vermont.  

Most of the kids eventually married, although Agathe may have been gay: she ran a kindergarten with her "friend of 50 years," Mary Louise Kane.

Still not a lot of gay connection.

The Sound of Music Live! (2013) starred Carrie Underwood as Maria and Stephen Moyer (left) as Captain Von Trapp, Christian Borle (second photo), who plays a lot of gay characters, made his Max Detweiler as gay-vague as possible.

Not much there, either.

So the gay connection of The Sound of Music consists mostly of bulges?

See also: Charles in Charge; Mr. Belvedere; My Fair Lady.

Dec 15, 2014

Jose Pablo Cantilo: Walking Dead Beefcake

We've been watching The Walking Dead, a postapocalyptic zombie tv series.  It's aggressively heterosexist, eliminating or "straightening out" characters who were gay in the original comic book series, forcing you to depend on subtexts.

It also eliminates every romance between characters who are over 40, and almost every interracial romance.  What is this, Lost?

But it does offer a lot of beefcake.  Like this stunning sight, a muscleman fighting as a form of evening entertainment in colony of survivors.

He's Martinez, one of the allies of the mysterious Governor, who later becomes the leader of his own band of refugees.  No heterosexual romances during his 13-episode run, so maybe he's gay.


The actor is Jose Pablo Cantilo, born in 1979 in Marshfield, Wisconsin, on screen since 2003, mostly playing gangsters and thugs.

This seems to be the fate of most Hispanic actors in Hollywood; according to one study, over 60% of Hispanic tv characters are "immoral" or "despicable," as opposed to 33% of black and 12% of white characters.

But Cantilo has managed to break out of the mold a few times.  He played Marco, who has a one-night stand with a hooker in the relationship comedy After Sex (2007).  


And in Virtuality (2009), a tv movie about a killer loose on a deep-space probe, he played Manny, half of a gay couple, with Gene Farber's Val.   As far as I can recall, they were the first gay non-villains in any American science fiction movie.

It was a pilot for a tv series that didn't get picked up.





Today Cantilo spends most of his time going to Walking Dead fan conventions.  He is a gay ally, and an ally of Emma Watson's "He for She" campaign for gender equality.

See also: The Walking Dead
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