Sep 12, 2014

Dore Alley: the San Francisco Fetish Festival

When I was living in West Hollywood, many people made the six-hour trek north to San Francisco often, once a month, even once a week.  West Hollywood might be a gay mecca, but San Francisco was Gay Heaven, with constant crowd-drawing events and activities.  I went up once or twice a year, whenever a friend invited me, and for awhile we even managed to live there.

So I've been to my share of film festivals, art exhibitions, bar nights, and benefits.  I've been to Gay Pride, Folsom Street, and the Castro Street Fair.  I've been to Dore Alley.


Dore Alley is a leather-fetish fair held on Dore Street between Howard and Folsom -- the historical heart of SOMA (South of Market), and the center of the gay leather-fetish community.

The neighborhood used to be very run-down and sleazy, but it has undergone a renaissance in the years since I was there last.  .

Dore Alley is a place to let it all hang out.  Lead your slave on a leash on all fours, with doggy ears and a tail.  Practice BDSM on a nude model.  Demonstrate golden showers.  Put beer bottles places where they ordinarily don't go.  Walk around naked and fully aroused.  Be as sleazy as you wanna be.

The participants are mostly gay men, the fetishes on display all same-sex, but gay, bi, and straight participants are apparently welcome.  Drag is just as good as leather.  A combination of the two, even better.

I only went once.  It scared me.

My problem was: for 40 years we've been telling the heteros, "Gay is not about sex. It's about a shared history and culture, about fighting oppression, about finding a community."

Dore Alley is definitely, aggressively about sex in all of its variations, all of its fetishes.

And the heterosexuals know it.  They come, take horrified pictures, and rush back to their homophobic churches to report.

A few weeks after Dore Alley, every homophobic church in the country sees a film of gay men urinating on each other and leading each other around on leashes, and preachers yell "Do not be deceived by the liberal Hollywood agenda.  This is what homa-sekshuls are really like!  This is what they want to teach in school, and force your kids to do!!"

And when a gay rights bill comes before the city council, they show the film and yell "If the bill passes, this is what homa-sekshuls will be doing openly on the street!  They are already doing it in San Francisco!"

And the Gay Rights Movement is set back a few years.

 See also: Why San Francisco is Gay Heaven.; and Sean and the World of Gay Leathermen

Sep 11, 2014

Beefcake, Bonding, and a Movie Called "She"

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) wrote adventure novels about swashbuckling, devil-may-care heroes exploring lost civilizations in Africa, precursors of both the Tarzan books and the Indiana Jones movie series.

The Rock Island Bookmobile had three of them.  I rather liked King Solomon's Mines (1885), but couldn't slog through Alan Quartermain (1887), and I wouldn't touch the novel called simply She (1886).

For obvious heteronormative reasons, it's his most popular novel, a "classic of imaginative literature" according to wikipedia.

The heteronormative, racist, imperialist plot:  Professor Horace Holly, his young ward Leo, and their servant are shipwrecked in East Africa, and journey to the interior, where they run afoul of a lost civilization ruled by Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed (or "She" for short).   

She is immortal, and so beautiful, naturally, that any man who sees her is driven mad with desire.

She becomes convinced that Leo is the reincarnation of her long-dead lover, Kallikrates.  He is in love with someone else, but Ayesha kills his girlfriend, hypnotizes him with her beauty and takes him to a volcano, where he will bathe in hot lava and thereby become immortal.  But at the last minute he refuses.  She reverts to her true age and dies.

See any gay subtexts yet?

Holly is hypnotized by Ayesha's beauty, like everyone else, but otherwise he displays no heterosexual interest. He has an avuncular interest in Leo that can often pass over into the homoerotic.

Leo is not really interested in Ayesha.  In the end he chooses Holly over her.

There is no heterosexist boy-girl fade-out ending.

It has been filmed about a dozen times, including a silent version (1925) with the buffed Carlyle Blackwell as an Egyptian-clad Leo.

The most famous version (1965) starred Peter Cushing as Holly, John Richardson (top photo) as Leo, and Ursula Andress as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

A homophobic 1982 version was set in a Road Warrior post-apocalyptic world, with Man-Mountain brothers (David Goss, Harrison Muller) and She (Sandahl Bergman) questing to rescue their kidnapped sister.

En route they run afoul of a giant transvestite, effeminate Pretty Boy, who hosts a party for dancing werewolves, a gay-vague mad scientist, and a chair made of loincloth-clad men.

In the 2001 version, the clueless Leo (Ian Duncan) brings his girlfriend Roxanne along, and she and She fight it out to win his affection.

Sep 8, 2014

Charlie's Angels

You've got to be kidding.  What interest would gay boys or men have in the 1976-81 drama about three women (originally Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith) who graduated from the police academy, found their talents underutilized by a patriarchal system, and went to work as private detectives?

Who use their brains to solve the murders and their brawn to knock out the bad guy?

Who go undercover in health clubs, spas, cruise ships, and other places crowded with men wearing only towels and swimsuits?

That's why.

1. There was quite a lot of jiggling, of course, but there was also an immense amount of beefcake.

Where else could you see game show host Bert Convy in a speedo?

Or Dirk Benedict take off his Battlestar Galactica uniform?

Nearly every hunk in Hollywood guest starred, and usually took off his shirt: Timothy Dalton, Bo Hopkins, Tab Hunter, Randolph Mantooth, Vic Morrow, Dack Rambo, Tom Selleck, Robert Ulrich, and Lyle Waggoner.

Even Norman Fell, Mr. Roper of Three's Company.

2. Several episodes featured predatory lesbians, swishy-queen gay men, or demented transvestites.  But that was the way LGBT people were nearly universally portrayed in 1970s detective and cop shows.  And the homophobia was diluted by the gay-vague Bosley (David Doyle), the Angels' longsuffering assistant.

3. In the end Charlie's Angels was about empowerment, saving the day in spite of people assuming that you were weak, flamboyant, feminine.

4. And, like The Golden Girls,  it was about the friendship.

Most of the Angels are gay allies. Kate Jackson starred in Making Love (1982), which featured the first positive portrayal of gay men in a Hollywood film.

Farrah Fawcett, who died in 2009, was unfailingly gracious to her gay fans.

Jaclyn Smith played the mother of a gay son in Family Album (1994).  Incidentally, her husband was played by Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson's husband in Making Love. 

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