Feb 28, 2015

Ronnie Burns: Gay Teen of the 1950s

The comedy team George Burns and Gracie Allen spent years on Vaudeville and in movies about George being exasperated by Gracie's daffiness, but anxious to date her anyway.  They moved into radio in 1932, and onto television in 1950, playing "themselves" in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.  They were technically famous comedians who had celebrity friends and occasionally had to go down to the studio to film something, but otherwise they had "ordinary" problems like a burnt roast or a late car payment.

Attuned to growing numbers of teenagers in the potential audience, the duo added their real-life son Ronnie to the cast in October 1955, and made him gay.

Ronnie was soft, sweet, and sensitive, studying to become a serious actor at the Actor's Studio (with alumni including the gay couple  Paul Newman and James Dean). He expressed a haughty disdain for his parents' lowbrow comedy, and briefly changed his name to Cobb Cochran, a parody of the macho name changes that casting agent Henry Willson mandated for his stable of gay, bi, or gay-friendly clients (Rock Hudson, Ty Hardin, and so on).

He had an ongoing "friend," fellow actor Jim Boardman (Hart Sprager), with whom he took an apartment in the bohemian Greenwich Village.

Several plotlines involved people being shocked when they stumbled upon Ronnie kissing a girl or discussing marriage with a girl -- what's Ronnie doing with her?  He's not...you know....

It was always a misunderstanding: the two were rehearsing a play, or the girl was confiding in Ronnie about her boyfriend problems.

The gay Ronnie lasted for only about a season and a half.  In the spring of 1957, for unknown reasons, he suddenly became an ordinary college student, with a new best friend, Ralph (the very bulge-worthy Robert Ellis, also seen on Meet Cloris Archer).  Both were obsessively girl-crazy.

Maybe the network couldn't handle such a strong gay subtext.

 Trying to quash the gay rumors, George arranged for his son to become a "heterosexual" teen heart-throb like Ricky Nelson, but he only recorded one song, "She's Kinda Cute" (1958), which didn't chart.  He got little exposure in teen magazines, just this article that insists that he is a "real regular guy," not. . .um. . .you know, gay.

When the series ended, Ronnie starred in Happy (1960-61) and Anatomy of a Psycho (1961), and a few other projects.  So closely aligned were tv personalities with their characters that he was the subject of gay rumors throughout his life.  He never made any public statements, but he wasn't part of the 1950s gay Hollywood scene, and he had two long-term marriages.

See also: Robert Ellis.

Feb 26, 2015

15 More Beefcake Stars of "Fringe"

I'm still being forced to watch the paranormal sci-fi series Fringe, set in a world -- actually, two worlds -- where gay people absolutely do not exist, and the mantra of "my wife! my wife! my wife!" motivates every mad scientist.

But at least there's substantial beefcake, a never-ending parade of musclemen in guest roles.  We're up to Season 4.

1. Episode 1: Neither Here Nor There: FBI Agent Peter (read: Mulder) has saved the two parallel universes from imploding, but he's been erased from history, leaving his father, Walter, and True Love, Olivia (read: Scully), with inexplicable gaps in their lives. Meanwhile swishy gay-stereotype agent Lincoln Lane (Seth Gabel) is distraught over the death of his partner, played by the hunky Joe Flanagan.

2. Episode 2: One Night in October: Lincoln Lane joins the Fringe Team to investigate paranormal phenomena, and gets a crush on Olivia.  Not gay -- no surprise there.  They try to stop a serial killer.  Underwear model Daniel Arnold (left) plays Agent Perez.

3. Episode 3: Alone in the World.  The Fringe Team investigates yet another case of a serial killer making people die in grotesque, visually disgusting ways. Hot bear Gary Sekhon plays one of the medical technicians who is horrified by the bodies.

4. Episode 4: Subject 9 is the muscular Cameron James (Chadwick Boseman, left), who can manipulate electromagnetic energy.  Once on a date he pulled a girl's fillings out of her teeth.

5. Episode 5: Novation. Peter returns. Clayton Chitty (left) plays a police officer.

6. Episode 6: And Those We Left Behind. The mystery involves Raymond, an electrical engineer, and his wife. (Remember the "My wife! My wife! My wife!" mantra?).  But look for the muscular Chad Riley as an FBI Agent.

7, Episode 7: Wallflower. Someone is killing albinos, with Justin Breault as yet another beefcake actor hired to play an FBI Agent.

I don't have time to cover all of the underwear models and bodybuilders on the series, so let's fast forward.

8. Episode 10: Forced Perspective.  A girl can predict people's deaths, quite a useful talent in the Fringe universe. Toby Levins plays a bomb technician.

More after the break.

9. Episode 11: Making Angels. Peter and Olivia track a killer who is using a poison that hasn't been invented yet. Chin Han, a superstar in East Asia, plays Neil Chung.

10. Episode 13: A Better Human Being.  Peter and Olivia investigate a mental patient who appears to be orchestrating murders. Stuntman and caveman Colby Chatard (left) plays Silbiger.

11. Episode 15: A Short Story About Love. A killer is targeting couples, dehydrating the husband and smothering the wife (all couples in this world consist of a husband and a wife). Hunky actor and director Paul Andrich gets a role as Man in Park.

12. Episode 16: Nothing As It Seems.  Lincoln (remember him?) is infected with a mysterious virus. At least this one doesn't make your head explode. Daniel Cudmore (left) plays Daniel Hicks.

13-14. Episode 17: Everything in its Place.  A Lincoln-centric excellent adventure, with Zahl Paroo (left) as Bill and Biski Gugushe as Ted.

15. Episode 19: I haven't gotten that far, but IMDB says that "in the future, Observers rule, and the humans that survived the Purge serve them."  Weird turn of events. Bradley Stryker (left) plays Rick.

It almost makes the disgusting head-explosions of the Serial Killer of the Week worthwhile.

But not the incessant chant of "aren't you glad gay people don't exist?"

See also: 12 Beefcake Stars of "Fringe"; Comparing "Fringe" and "How I Met Your Mother"; and Prime-Time Dramas Think You Don't Exist.

Feb 23, 2015

The Coca Cola Kid

I don't drink anything alcoholic,  I hate tea, lemon-lime sodas make me gag, and orange juice is for sick people. My only beverages are water and Diet Coke.

Two or three 12-ounce cans or one 20-ounce bottle per day.

That doesn't strike me as much.  But:

1. Every time I am invited to dinner at someone's house, I have to bring my own.  Nobody else that I know drinks it.

2. Every person I have ever met, without exception, has informed me that I shouldn't drink it because aspertame causes cancer in lab rats. Usually they say this the first time they see me with a can.  I always say "Really?  I had no idea!  This is the first time I've ever been told this -- today!"

By the way, that's an urban legend.  Aspertame does nothing to lab rats, or to humans.  Your stomach breaks it down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, which we consume all the time in organic foods such as meat and milk.

Those friends who are a little less intolerant concerning my vice think that Coca-Cola memorabilia would make a good birthday or Christmas present.

The problem is, Coke advertising overwhelmingly features attractive young ladies, trying to draw in straight men with the promise that "If you drink Coke, you'll get laid."

The only time you see guys alone are in humorous ads.  Or creepy ones.  The psychotic Sprite Boy was introduced in 1941 to force people to use the four-syllable "Coca-Cola" instead of their preferred "Coke."

Or in some of the bonding ads of the 1970s, with people of various races holding hands on hilltops and singing "I'd like to buy the world a Coke."  Here they're alternating black and white to demonstrate that Coke is "the real thing."

But their knees are touching, anyway.

This ad from the 1940s shows a father and his wife and son, or maybe his daughter and son (who has a target on his muscle shirt).  As they raise bottles to their frozen plastic faces, we are told that Coke is "a family affair."

Even this series of tv commercials from the 1990s, featuring Lucky Vanous ripping off his shirt to chug Diet Coke, puts him in the sight of the lustful ladies gazing from the office next door.

But during the Super Bowl, Coke broadcast a new commercial showing people of various races and religions engaging in wholesome activities while drinking Coke.  Among them were gay dads teaching their daughter to bowl.

See also: Lucky Vanous, the Diet Coke Guy.

The Mystery of Cavelo

When I was in grad school at Indiana University, the only place you could get gay books and magazines was in the adult bookstore.  Of course, they had porn, too.

I was particularly drawn to two albums from Zeus Studios featuring wordless comics drawn by someone named Cavelo:

The Cavelo Portfolio (1979).
Hercules (1981).

He drew buffed, fully nude men in mild bondage and S&M situations, usually in the historic past: ancient Rome, the old West, the French foreign legion.

The models had amazingly ripped physiques, drawn darker and with much more contrast than the characters around them.

There was no sex, no activity of any sort.  Cavelo always depicted the men in the moment before.

He published three albums, plus cartoons and illustrations in six issues of Drummer magazine, all between 1978 and 1985.  A limited repertoire, compared to his contemporaries, Sean and Tom of Finland.

Then his work ended, leaving fans to wonder: where did this spectacular beefcake artist come from?  Where did he go?

Thirty years later, they are still wondering.

Recently many of the great gay artists who published anonymously during the 1970s and 1980s have been identified, their stories told, their contributions lauded.  But Cavelo remains a mystery.

We know only that he lived in Los Angeles, and his real name was Leon Carvalho.

There's a Leon Carvalho living in Los Angeles today, a marine recruiter.  Probably not the same one.

See also: Tom of Finland; Sean and the World of Gay Leathermen

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