Mar 26, 2014

Ross Lynch's Top 10 Hunks

Austin & Ally has become the Disney Channel's most popular teencom, due primarily to the charm and charisma of Ross Lynch as aspiring singer Austin Moon, and his chemistry with Calum Worthy as goofy sidekick Dez.

But they aren't alone.  Disney has done a good job of filling the screen with models, beefcake actors, muscular physiques of all sizes and shapes.  Here are the top 10 Austin & Ally hunks:

1. Noah Centineo (left) as Ally's crush Dallas. The actor has also appeared on Jessie, Shake It Up, and Marvin Marvin, and he will be starring in the upcoming How to Build a Better Boy (2014).

2. Cameron Deane Stewart (left), who starred in the gay-themed Geography Club (2013), as Jace, boyfriend of the exuberant Trish.

3. Gabriel Benitez as a keyboard player in the episode "Secrets & Songbooks."

4. Singer/songwriter Trevor Jackson as Trent, Trish's ex-boyfriend.

5. Gregory Marcel (left), star of the gay-themed Sun-Kissed (2006), as Austin & Ally's Stage Manager.

6. Little Person actor/comedian Nic Novicki as "Larry" in the episode "Mixups & Mistletoes"

7. Troy Osterberg (left) as Ethan, a boy who flirts with Trish in "Costumes & Courage."

8. Greg Worswick as Bill, who works at the Surf Shop.

9. Travis Wong as a Ninja in the episode "Real Life and Reel Life" and a dancer in "Viral Videos and Very Bad Dancing."  He also had a recurring role as Yamato the Fighting Robot on Supah Ninjas.

10. Cody Allen Christian, Mike Montgomery on Pretty Little Liars, as Ally's old friend Elliot.

Mar 25, 2014

A Gay Scandal on London's Museum Circuit

London is the City of Museums, with 240, including some that top every tourist's to-do list: The British Museum, the Victoria & Albert, the Tate Modern, the Museum of London.  But leave some time for the Soane Museum, site of a major gay scandal.

Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a famous architect who designed or renovated many London landmarks, including the Bank of London, Freemason's Hall, the New Law Courts, and the Palace of Westminster.  He was an antiquarian, a neoclassicist, a traditionalist in a world rocked by revolution and changing sexual mores.

 He designed his own home at 13 Lincoln Inn Fields, filled it with a huge collection of art and antiquities, and turned it into a mausoleum, a memory of a long-dead world.

He hoped that his sons would follow him into architecture, but John (born 1786) was sickly and artistic, and George (born 1789) preferred literature and the theater.  Their relationship was so strained that Soane insisted that he was a "changeling," not his real son at all.

After he left home, George published two anonymous articles savaging his father's architectural style.  But the last straw was the revelation that George was living in sin with his wife Agnes and her sister.  Scandalized, Soane cut off all contact.

Then Agnes wrote, complaining that George was violently abusive to her and her young son Frederick (born in 1816).  At first Soane ignored her, but then it occurred to him that Frederick might yet become an architect and carry on his name.  So he encouraged Agnes to leave George, and sent her 200 pounds per year to pay for Frederick's education.

When Frederic graduated in 1834, Soane got him an apprenticeship with his friend, architect John Tarring.

But 1835 Tarring complained that Frederick was involved in the gay demimonde, carousing with a Captain Wentworth (whose military career had been cut short in a scandal involving the suicide of a young officer rumored to be his lover).

Scandalized again, Soane sent one of his clerks to follow Frederick and report back on any "inappropriate behavior."

In Soane's youth gay men and transvestites patronized clandestine Molly Houses (top photo from the Mark Ravenhill play Mother Clap's Molly House), but in 1835 London they could choose from private parties, drag bars, and all-gay brothels.

Evidently the clerk found something, since Soane cut off Frederick's "per annum" and cut off all contact, "for motives which it does not become me to explain," Frederick wrote later.  He also refused to "article" Frederick, so he could never work as an architect; by 1837, when Soane died, he was living in poverty in a single room with his pregnant wife.

Soane bequeathed his house and its contents, valued at 150,000 pounds, to the British Nation as a museum.  Frederick begged to be appointed curator, but was denied.  Finally his cousin Frederick Chamier petitioned the Prime Minister, and got him appointed to a post at the Stamp and Tax Office.  He died in 1880.

You can visit the Soane Museum from 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. There are no statues of naked men.  Or portraits of Frederick.

John Davidson: Hollywood White Bread with a Gay Twist

Everyone was shocked in 1974  to see John Davidson nude in the centerfold of Cosmo.

First, he had quite a nice physique (his privates were coyly hidden).

Second, he was John Davidson.

Hollywood Nice, wholesome, white bread, son of a Baptist minister, star of Broadway musicals like I Do, I Do!, The Music Man, and Camelot.  

Star of two Disney movies: The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968).

A singer whose first album, The Young Warm Sound of John Davidson (1964) featured such easy-listening non-classics as "Once in a Lifetime" and "Love Me Forever."  Later he moved on to covers of "Let It Be," "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," and "Easy Come, Easy Go."

A perennial guest star on "square" tv shows that kids wouldn't be caught dead watching: Hollywood Palace, Joey Bishop, Carol Burnette -- not to mention long tenures on game shows (Hollywood Squares), reality tv (That's Incredible) and two versions of his own John Davidson Show.

But Hollywood Nice had a mischievous side.

He starred in the sex comedy Coffee, Tea, or Me (1973), about a stewardess with a husband and a lover.

Here he appears to be the bottom of a four-way encounter with the Hudson Brothers.  Notice that he's obviously being groped.

He was never averse to gay content. The tv pilot Roger & Harry: The Mitera Target (1977), about two buddies (John Davidson, Barry Primus) who solve crimes, may have some gay subtexts.

 And in a 1974 episode of The Streets of San Francisco, he played a drag queen whose female "alter ego" is a vicious killer.

In his 2008 two-man play, "Father/Son and Holy Ghost," he goes back to his childhood, where he and his Baptist-minister dad butted heads over religious doubts and homophobia (John's older brother Porter was gay).

Today Davidson is playing The Wizard in a national touring company of Wicked.

Mar 24, 2014

Top 10 Beefcake Horror Movies: The 1960s

Horror movies in the 1950s were simple: two guys compete over a girl; a monster kidnaps her; they work together to rescue her; one is killed, and the other sweeps her off to a fade-out kiss. All very linear, very serious, very black-and-white.

In the 1960s, horror movies were more likely to contain satire, parody, self-referential humor, Vincent Price, William Castle, and, as the Hayes Code faded away, naked ladies.  Not to worry, though, there was still ample beefcake. Here are the Top 10 Beefcake Horror Movies of the 1960s (some with gay subtexts, too):

1. Tormented (1960): The beefy Richard Carlson of Creature from the Black Lagoon strips again, tormented on the beach by the ghost of his ex-girlfriend, whom he murdered.

2. Mr. Sardonicus (1961): A nice scene of handsome Ronald Lewis scrubbing down in the bathtub before he is is forced to treat the evil Baron Sardonicus, whose face is contorted into an evil mask.

3. Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961). A crazy horror comedy about a mobster trying to get his hands on Cuban treasure, a secret agent out to stop him, and a sea monster that looks like a muppet. Robert Towne as the secret agent spends about half the movie in a swimsuit.

4. Eegah! (1962).  Elvis wannabe Arch Hall Jr., left, plays the guitar at poolside before clashing with hefty Richard Kiel's kind-hearted cave man. In color!

5.I Eat Your Skin (1964).  The muscular Bill Joyce, left, strips down at poolside before jetting off to a remote Caribbean island to fight zombies. Unfortunately, this was his only starring role.

6. The Horror of Party Beach (1964)/The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965); These are nearly the same movie, attempts to cash in on the popularity of the beach genre with girls in bikinis, guys with biceps, rock music, and a monster. In Party Beach, look for John Scott in his only starring role buddy-bonding with his girlfriend's father. In Beach Girls, look for beach buddies Arnold Lessing and Walker Edmiston.

7. Bloody Pit of Horror (1965).  A book publisher and his models go to an old castle to shoot cheesecake photos, and run afoul of bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, left.

8. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966): horror-Western pastiche with a strong gay subtext between John Lupton's Jesse James and his sidekick, man-mountain Cal Bolder (last of the discoveries of gay talent agent Henry Willson).

9. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968: Dracula rises from the grave and begins biting naked girls on the neck, until the shirtless Barry Andrews, one of the victims' boyfriends, decides to intervene (top photo). He gets the assistance of renegade priest Ewan Hopper.

10. Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969): Count Dracula and his wife move into a vacant castle in Arizona and begin biting naked girls on the neck, until the pajama-clad owner (Gene O'Shayne, left) and his serial-killer friend (Robert Dix) show up.

11. Eye of the Cat (1969): Often nude counterculture icon Michael Sarrazin and his girlfriend go to an old mansion intending to rob an elderly woman.  Instead he takes a shower, gets cruised by her nephew Tim Henry, and runs afoul of some cats.

See also: Top 10 Beefcake Horror Movies: The 1950s.

Caligula: Drag as Pure Evil

Everybody's heard of Caligula, the Roman Emperor who ascended to the throne in 37 AD and pursued an aggressive program of reforms, granting pardons to political prisoners, requiring corrupt highway commissioners to pay back taxes, restoring democratic elections, and admitting new members into the elite nobility and equestrian orders of the Senate.  These acts caused him to make many enemies in the Senate, and he was assassinated in 41 AD.

Oh, you haven't heard about his reforms?  Maybe you heard about his insanity, his cruelty, and his sexual appetite: wild orgies, multiple partners, sex with goats, sex with his sisters.

Most scholars think that these stories were invented by his enemies to discredit him.

The original Roman sources don't say a lot about crossdressing or gay sex, since they were not particularly scandalous in Roman times, but modern films have tended to portray a flamboyantly feminine Caligula who demonstrates the depths of his sexual perversion by wearing women's clothes and casting lecherous eyes on men.

He's usually played by actors who specialize in gender ambiguity: Ralph Bates (The Caesars, 1968), John Hurt (in the tv adaption of Robert Graves' I Claudius, 1976), Malcolm McDowell (Caligula, 1979), John McEnery (A.D., 1985), 

Malcolm McDowell's Caligula is probably the most famous, in the one of the first movies to involve  both mainstream actors and hardcore porn (what do you expect when Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine is the producer?).  Most of the sex acts are heterosexual or human-animal, but same-sex acts and eye shadow are thrown in as indicators of just how depraved Caligula's orgies had become.

The play Caligula, by existentialist philosopher Albert Camus (1944), has the Emperor torn with grief over the death of his sister-lover Drusilla, so he vows to engage in every form of cruelty and sexual perversion imaginable.  He exclaims: "I want ugliness to become beauty; I want to make suffering funny."  So he engages in lots of murders and lots of heterosexual rapes, but just one same-sex act (except in this all-male version at the Teatro Cubana).

But the rapes and murders don't symbolize the depth of his decadence.  What does?  Crossdressing: he dons feminine attire to impersonate the Goddess Venus.

Apparently drag is the epitome of pure evil.

Mar 23, 2014

Camp Lakebottom: Gay-Positive Summer Camp for Monsters

While tv series aimed at juveniles are always heavily scrutinized to censor all references to gay people, writers often sneak in gay subtexts.  Especially animated series.  Some of the most obvious examples are: Dexter's Laboratory, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Phineas and Ferb, Fairly Oddparents, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Adventure Time, and Regular Show

 So I try to catch at least one or two episodes of every new animated series, to see what I can find.

I hit the jackpot with Camp Lakebottom (2013), a Canadian animated cartoon series appearing in the U.S. on Disney XD.

The premise: A boy named McGee (voiced by Scott McCord, left) boards the wrong summer camp bus and ends up at Camp Lakebottom, for monsters.

He befriends two other human kids, the sweet, lovable Squirt (Darren Frost) and tough girl Gretchen (Melissa Altro), to face such dangers as toxic underwear, monstrous marshmallows, a were-chicken, a cursed Frankenstein monster, and the bullying Buttsquat (Carter Hayden), whose family owns rival Camp Sunny Smiles.

To date there have been no episodes about heterosexual dating, crushes, or romances, but several gay-coded characters, including Squirt and:

1. Camp counselor Armand (Adrian Truss), a muscular sasquatch in a purple scarf who is artistic, dramatic, and theatrical

2. Camp handyman Sawyer (Cliff Saunders), a vegetarian zombie whose Mom keeps trying to pressure him into eating brains.  Certainly some gay symbolism there.

The creators are ex-Disney Imagineer and Muppet handler Eric Jacobson, who appeared in a Disney "It Gets Better" video in 2011, and Betsy McGowen, previously Senior Vice President and General manager of Kids WB, who introduced gay subtext shows like Johnny Test and Monster Allergy.

And there are some other gay or gay-positive voices in the cast.

Darren Frost (top photo) is a stand-up comedian whose material is raunchy but always pro-gay.  His routine includes having a gay son. 

Jonathan Wilson (the voice of martinet camp cook Rosebud), is known for his play My Own Private Oshawa, about growing up gay in Ontario.  It was made into a tv movie in 2005.

Ted Shawn: A Life Devoted to Muscles in Motion

Speaking of modern dance, one of its innovators was Ted Shawn (1891-1972).

He grew up in a conservative Methodist church where dancing was forbidden, and attended the University of Denver, intending to become a minister.  But after a bout of diptheria, he was prescribed dancing to restore his strength, and liked it so much that he continued, in spite of being expelled from college in 1911.

Dancing was not a viable profession for men in the early days of the 20th century. Sergei Diaghilev had just founded the Ballet Russe in 1909.

Determined to do something about the absence of male dancers, Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis opened the Denishawn Dance School in Los Angeles in 1914, and choreographed both male and female dancers.  One of their students was dance great Martha Graham.

Soon Shawn was touring with dances inspired by classical, Egyptian, and Native American traditions, such as Xochitl and  Les Mysteres Dionysiaques.

In 1929, Shawn and Ruth St. Denis divorced, and he established his own all-male troupe, "Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers."

They toured throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe for the next 11 years, with patently homoerotic dances derived from tribal cultures:  The Hopi Indian Dance, The Dyak Spear Dance, The Sinhalese Devil Dance.

Although he wrote a book entitled 10,000 One-Night Stands, Shawn was actually monogamous, with two gay romantic partners: dance great Burton Murnau, left (1931 to 1948) and stage manager John Christian (1949 to his death in 1972).

Shawn also founded the Jacob's Pillow dance school, theater, and library in Beckett, western Massachusetts. It hosts over 80 dance-related events every year, including an annual Dance Festival.

He devoted his life to mentoring male dancers, starting male dance programs in colleges across the United States, and increasing the visibility of the male form.
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