Feb 13, 2015

Why Gay Men Read "Dykes to Watch Out For"

In the 1980s and 1990s, gay men and lesbians both called West Hollywood home, but it was two different West Hollywoods that rarely interacted, with different bars, restaurants, gyms, bookstores, parties, and organizations.  We came together for a few causes of common interest, like Gay Pride, but we rarely became friends.

If you did become friends, it was hard to find a place to hang out.  Lesbian bars charged men exhorbitant covers to keep them out, and the various womyn's spaces in town didn't allow men inside at all.
But we all read Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in the local gay newspapers, and collected the small paperback reprint books: New Improved Dykes, Unnatural Dykes, Invasion of the Dykes, Split-Level Dykes.  

They gave an interesting glimpse into lesbian experience, so close to our own: growing up amid a "what boy do you like?" brainwashing,  being told that same-sex desire does not exist, escaping to a gay haven, looking for love in a paradise of feminine beauty.

But also so different.  And, perhaps, with lessons we could learn.

1. Gay men paid little attention to events taking place outside West Hollywood, except for homophobes plotting our destruction.  We barely knew that the Gulf War was happening, but Mo, the central character, was devastated by it.  Ecology, big business, politics, poverty, patriarchy -- the Dykes to Watch Out For seemed less insular, ready to fight for many causes in the wider world.

2. Gay men knew other gay men, period.  You might know heterosexuals at work, but you didn't number them among your friends.  You could easily go for weeks without speaking to a woman. But the Dykes to Watch Out For sometimes had children from heterosexual marriages before they came out.  That meant ex-husbands and the current partners of those ex-husbands, and so on, and so on, until their address books swelled with names of friends from every gender and sexual orientation.

3. The acronym LGBT had not yet caught on; gay men recognized same-sex desire, period.  Even vague statements like "what a beautiful woman!" were likely to get you laughed at, if not branded a "traitor."  But early on, Dykes to Watch Out For began to explore the fluidity of desire, with transwomen, bisexuals, and a woman who insists that she's a lesbian, not bisexual, even though she's in a relationship with a man.

See also: The Princess: Sometimes Boys Are Girls.

Feb 11, 2015

Parry Glasspool: Naked and Proud on Hollyoaks

Parry Glasspool has been making his mark on the British stage in comedies and dramas of gay interest:

Proud (2012): Lewis, an 18-year old Olympic boxing hopeful with a 40-ish boyfriend who comes out to his homophobic coach at a birthday party thrown by his parents (bottom photo).

Festen (2012): Christian, a boy who accuses his father of sexual abuse while everyone is gathered for a family dinner.

The Pillowman (2013): Ariel, survivor of a child murderer.

What the Butler Saw (2013): Nick, who is having an affair with Mrs. Prentice, and spends about half the production fully nude.

The 21 year old actor, who graduated from the University of West London in 2013, has also done some tv commercials and music videos, and he's a gifted gymnast.  This is a really difficult stunt.

He recently landed a role on Hollyoaks Later, the edgier, "sexier" spin-off of the long-running teen soap.  He plays Harry, estranged son of main character Tony Thompson, who joins his father for a wedding in Spain and becomes involved in a feud with a mysterious stranger.

There have been gay characters on Hollyoaks Later throughout its six-year history.  Maybe Harry is another.


When I was an undergrad at Augustana College in the early 1980s, the Bookstore Gang was all wild over Elfquest, a comic book series created by Richard and Wendy Pini in 1978, and still going on in various incarnations.  It is popular for cosplay today.

Combining heroic fantasy with science fiction, it was set on an alien planet with two moons, where spacefaring Elves settled thousands of years ago.  They now co-exist, sort of, with tribes of evil Trolls, insect-like Preservers, and humans.

The main character in the beginning was a Wolfrider Elf named Cutter, son of tribal chiefs Bearclaw and Joyleaf, who must lead his people to safety when their home is destroyed.  He also finds a "Partner in Recognition" in Letah of the Sun Folk,   Later other characters took center stage, a cast of thousands in stories extending over tens of thousands of years.  It became very complicated, and I lost track.

All of the Elves were drawn as pretty and androgynous -- you could distinguish the men only by their bare chests, with the muscular pecs of teen idols.  And they had sex a lot -- a tumble on the grass at the drop of a kilt became a mainstay of the series.  But, at least in the comics I read in college, all of the tumbling and romance were strictly heterosexual.

I hear that some later storylines included same-sex romances, and Wendy Pini stated that "all of the Elves are bisexual."  But Augustana, they only contributed to the erasure of gay people from the world.

Feb 10, 2015

The Mystery Man of the Little River Band

I happened upon this picture on the internet.  A shirtless hippie, short, beautifully sculpted, standing in a group of his mates. The caption read: "Russ Johnson, Mississippi."

Ok, I figured it was some guys from Mississippi, one of them named Russ Johnson.

Turns that an Australian rock band got its start as Allison Gros in 1970, changed its name to Mississippi in 1972, and broke up in 1975.

They released an album and five singles, most not particularly heterosexist.  Like "Kings of the World," which reached #7 on Australian charts in 1972: 

Robbers on the highway, beggars in the street
Everyone is lonely, no one is tryin' to meet

But wait -- here's another picture of the same guy, except it's captioned Derek Pellicci.

When Mississippi split up in 1975, he became one of the founders of the Little River Band.

They hit #3 on U.S. charts in 1978 with "Reminiscing", about growing old together:

When we're old, we'll go dancing in the dark, 
Walking through the park, and reminiscing

I was around in 1978, but I don't remember any of their other hits.

Here's the Little River Band in 1978, taken directly from Glen Horrock's website.  Derek Pellicci is in the middle.   Definitely not the muscular hippie in the top photo: his hair is too dark, and he has a hairy chest.

So who is the mystery man of the Little River Band?
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