Feb 28, 2014

Time Tunnel, 2006: Ruining the Best Gay Couple of My Childhood

I don't remember any tv programs before the 1966-67 tv season, when I was five-six years old, but then the memories come in with amazing clarity, program after program "good beyond hope," opening a whole world of beefcake and buddy bonding: It's About Time, Run Buddy Run, Gilligan's Island, The Monkees, The Invaders, Batman, Lost in Space, That Girl, My Three Sons, Flipper, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible...

And especially Time Tunnel, about two scientists accidentally zapping through history: young, impetuous Tony (James Darren) and older, level-headed Doug (Robert Colbert), protecting each other from danger, rescuing each other over and over, falling into each other's arms at the end of each episode. It would be two years before I got my first boyfriend, and ten years before I learned what "gay" meant, but Doug and Tony remained in my memory forever as what a same-sex romance looked like.

Fast forward 40 years, to the summer of 2006.  I know what gay means.  I have a Ph.D. with a concentration in Gay Studies, I've published books and articles on gay studies, I've seen lots and lots of gay couples and gay-subtext couples in books, movies, and television.

I see a tv movie advertised: The Time Tunnel, a pilot for a potentially updated series (it was actually produced in 2002, and is airing now just to "burn it off.")

Do I really want to see what havoc they wreak on my cherished childhood memory?

But I check it out.

1. New plot: a "hot fusion" experiment goes awry, causing a "time storm" that changes reality, and a team of scientists is sent back to fix it.
2. Tony is now a woman, Toni (Andrea Roth).
3. Doug (David Conrad, left) is morose, but when he discovers that after the time storm, he has a wife and kids, he perks right up.

4. He is recruited for the mission by Flynn (Kavan Smith, top photo), who dies before they can do much buddy bonding.
5. Their team also includes J.D. (Tawny Cypress) and Wix (Bob Koherr).
6. There's hetero-romance everywhere.

If you're curious, it's on youtube.

This happens all the time: gay subtext tv of the past gets a remake, with all of the characters carefully heterosexualized.

Audiences are more aware of gay people now, so it takes more time and energy to reassure them that, in the world of your movie, only heterosexuals exist.

Dag Hammarskjold: Gay Isolation at the United Nations

Augustana College, my alma mater, was founded by Swedish Lutherans, and most of the students were still Swedish Lutherans, so there was an obsession with all things Scandinavian.

So everyone read Markings (1963), by Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish economist, diplomat, and finally Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953 to his death in a plane crash in 1961.

Discovered and published after his death, Markings contains no references to Hammarskjold's illustrious career; instead, it talks about his spiritual journey, his search for God, his loneliness and isolation and existential dread.  His desperate search for a love that he never found.

Why was this famous public figure, surrounded by people all the time, so overcome by loneliness?   I noted that he never married, and there were a few glimpses of masculine beauty in the brief poems and phrases.

When he told me that he had many friends, could easily make new ones, it struck hard like a blow which had been very carefully aimed. A question had become meaningless.

Narcissus leant over the spring, enthralled by the only man in whose eyes he had ever dared -- or been given the chance -- to forget himself.

In the Stone Age night
A church spire, erect on the plain
Like a phallus.

I had no doubt that he was gay.

 There were a few biographies in the Augustana library: Dag Hammarskjold: Soldier of Peace (1961), Hammarskjold: A Pictorial Biography (1962), and Dag Hammarskjold: Strictly Personal (1969).  None of them mentioned him being gay, of course.

Even the most recent biography, Hammarskjold: A Life (2013), by Roger Lipsey, argues that he may have experienced same-sex desire, but he certainly never engaged in any of that yucky sex stuff.  Besides, it was a trivial thing, utterly irrelevant to the qualities that made him great.

But Noble Lives (2005), by Marc E. Vargo, argues that 1. Yes, he was in fact gay; and 2. It was not trivial; it played an important role in his career.

In 2011, the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York featured Borders, an exhibition of 26 life-sized androgynous statues by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir.

Though representing "cultural diversity," the statues do not interact, as they do in the Norwegian Penis Park; they are sitting, standing, facing each other but not touching, isolated and lonely.  Like Hammarskjold himself.  (They are currently on display at Chicago's Park District).

Feb 27, 2014

The World Dwarf Games

If you are attracted to shorter guys, and my story about the Worst Date in West Hollywood History hasn't dissuaded you from their pursuit, check out the World Dwarf Games, held every four years by the International Dwarf Athletic Federation and the Dwarf Athletic Association of America.
In 2013, they were held on the campus of Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI).  395 athletes from 17 countries competed in 15 sports, including archery, badminton, basketball, powerlifting, swimming, track & field, and volleyball.

Milan  Grahovac (left),  the founder of the Serbian Little People's Association, won a gold medal in swimming.

Athletes have different body types, so they are categorized by leg length and arm span.  Both men and women compete, and there is a junior division.  But still, there are more than enough muscular adult men.

18-year old Vivek Bhagria, who won in the adult soccer division, also plays soccer for his college team in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  And ultimate frisbee.

3'5" Joby Mathews, from Kerala, India, won five gold medals, including powerlifting.  A competitive armwrestler, he won the gold medal for India at the 29th World Armwrestling Championship in 2007.

The IDAA forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, so gay athletes and spectators are welcome.

It hasn't announced the location of the 2017 World Dwarf Games yet, but keep checking the website.

Feb 25, 2014

Gay Tales from Junior High English Class

When I was going to Washington Junior High, I read science fiction, heroic fantasy, and maybe some jungle adventures.  Unfortunately, my English teachers -- Miss Dunn, Miss Sunstrom, and Mrs. Wood -- invariably believed that such stories were bad for kids, infantile trash that warped your brain.

Miss Dunn, at least, assigned some Westerns, boring but with muscular, shirtless boys on the cover:

The Pearl (John Steinbeck, 1947).  Pearl fisherman finds a pearl.

The Mallory Burn (Pete Pomeroy, 1971).  I didn't get past the front cover, so I still don't know what a "mallory burn" is.

The Legend of Billy Bluesage (Johnreid Laurentzen, 1961): Boy befriends Billy and warns the villagers about an Indian attack.

Stolen by the Indians (Dorothy Heiderstadt, 1968).  12 stories of kids stolen by Indians.  Most like Indian society better.  I guess -- I only got through a few.

Miss Sunstrom and Mrs. Wood condemned Westerns, too.  You should be reading about real kids with the same problems you have.  Sort of.

A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich: a boy in the ghetto becomes a drug addict.

Go Ask Alice: a girl in a sanitarium struggles to become sane.

To Kill a Mockingbird: a girl in the rural South learns about prejudice.

Or...I could read about a space cadet exploring Venus, or a quest to find a magic sword and defeat the Dark Lord!

Even worse: those "real kids" invariably "discovered" the opposite sex, agonized over dates, went steady, fell in love.

West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet: packaged together so we could see the parallels between the heterosexual loves from rival gangs.

Mr and Mrs Bo Jo Jones: A teenage boy gets his girlfriend pregnant, and marries her, to resultant conflict.

But occasionally, in spite of the teachers' concerted effort, a Realistic Novel had some gay subtexts.

Golden Gloves Challenger.  A boy joins the Golden Gloves boxing club, and clobbers his former bully.  They become friends.  He starts winning competitions, with his friend to cheer him on.  Lots of buddy-bonding and descriptions of sleek hard muscles.

And one that I can't remember the title or the author:

A boy is blinded in an accident.  He goes to a School for the Blind, where he meets a boy who has been blind since birth.  He starts swimming and begins winning competitions, with his friend to cheer him on.  Lots of buddy-bonding and descriptions of sleek hard muscles.

I've looked everywhere, on Google Books, Amazon, and WorldCat.  But the book that was the biggest evocation of same-sex desire in my childhood remains a mystery.

Feb 24, 2014

The Gay Anthropologist and the Cannibals

Michael Rockefeller, the "secretly" gay son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, heir to one of the wealthiest families in the world, graduated from Harvard in 1960.  He was interested in anthropology, especially "primitive art," he embarked on an expedition to to New Guinea.

He fell in love with the Asmat men, with their muscular bodies and laissez-faire attitude toward sexual identity, and returned over and over again.

On November 17th, 1961, his boat overturned about 12 miles from shore, and he decided to swim for it.  He was never seen again.  Extensive searches of the area -- the Rockefellers could afford very extensive searches -- revealed no clue to his fate.

Sounds like a tragic but easily explainable event: Rockefeller drowned, or was eaten by a shark, during the 12-mile swim.  

But paranormal authors latched onto the story.  He was abducted by aliens, or swam through a time vortex, or was living as the god-king of a lost tribe, or was living incognito in Hollywood.  The fact that Rockefeller was "secretly gay" increased the aura of scandal.

A more plausible theory has him reaching the shore, where he was killed and eaten by the Asmat.  They weren't usually cannibals, but the play The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller (2010) suggests that Michael (Aaron Strand, top photo) represented a sexual threat.  

His barely-contained homoerotic interest in Designing Man (Daniel Morgan Shelley, left) threatens his lover, Plentiful Bliss (Tracey Jack), who happens to be his best friend's wife.  So Michael must die.

The book Savage Harvest, by anthropologist Carl Hoffman (2014), documents the murder theory with eyewitness testimonies from villagers.  But he minimizes the sexual-threat angle, suggesting that the Asmat killed Michael in retaliation for some murders of their people by Dutch traders a few years earlier.

See also: The Disappearance of Sean Flynn; He Walked Around the Horses.

Spring 1979: Why I'm Not a Novelist

When I was in high school, I thought of becoming a writer.  After all, my friend Darry and I wrote a heroic fantasy novel back in junior high, I was the editor of our literary magazine, and I published an article in the Rock Island Argus.  

What changed my mind: Well, several things, but mostly a class in Fiction Writing, my freshman year at Augustana.  We met once a week to analyze a "model" short story or novel, and then we criticized student writing (you had to submit three times).
Bernard Malamud, “Black is My Favorite Color."  “Charity Quietness sits in the toilet eating her two hard-boiled eggs.”  If you still have the stomach to continue after such a disgusting opening, it's about an old Jewish guy in love with a black girl, who won’t marry him because he’s Jewish.  And old.

Student Submission: "Temperature Inversion."  A man and a woman gripe because it's too hot to have sex.

Me: "Werewolf Planet."  Two anthropologists in the future discover that a “primitive” species actually has developed intergalactic travel.  Kind of interesting, right?

Wrong.  “Terrible!  Awful!  Don't demean yourself with that sci-fi trash!”

Rule #1: Modern Literature must be about the dull, boring lives of people living in New York.

Flannery O'Connor, “Good Country People."  A Southern woman is depressed because she lost a leg as a child, so she majors in philosophy.  A traveling Bible salesman convinces her to climb up to the hayloft for a romantic evening, but instead he steals her artificial leg. Disgusting!

Student Submission: "Chicken T***s"  An adult woman has an affair with her uncle, who dumps her over fried chicken. (By the way, birds don't have t***s; "breast" is an old word for "chest").

Me: "The Island in the Sky." A boy befriends a grade-school bully, and they fall asleep reading comic books. Kind of touching, right?

Wrong!  "Terrible!  Awful! There's a happy ending!  Where's the misery?  Where's the tragedy?"  

Rule #2: Modern Literature must always be depressing, preferably with death at the end.

J.D. Salinger (left), "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."  A man kisses a five-year old girl  and then kills himself while his wife waits.  Disgusting!.

Student submission: "Hand Sandwiches." A guy's wife is cheating with his best friend, so he assaults the friend and cuts off his "hand."  

Me: "The Letter."  In the 1930s, a guy dies of polio, and his best friend keeps his last letter in his pocket at all times.  Forty years later, the friend is dying, and the ink on the letter is so faded that a nurse in the hospital thinks it's a blank piece of paper, and throws it away. .

It's about a dull, boring life, and it's depressing. A sure-fire hit, right?

Wrong!  "Terrible!  Awful!  Where's the emotion?  Where's the men longing for women?"

Rule #3: Modern Literature must always be about heterosexual desire or romance.

I went on to major in literature, get a M.A., and almost a Ph.D.  But, except for unavoidable required classes, I never read or write Modern Literature.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...