Jun 6, 2015

Shocking the Nazarenes with C. S. Lewis

When I was growing up, the Nazarene church disapproved of reading almost anything except the Bible and some religious books.

Beliefs that Matter Most, by the Nazarene W. T. Purkiser?  Ok.

The Late Great Planet Earth, by the evangelical Hal Lindsey?  Ok, but be careful.  Some false teachings might creep in.

The Gospel According to Peanuts, by the Presbyterian Robert L. Short?  Maybe, if it doesn't try to brainwash you into believing in secular humanism and evil-lution.  Better let your Sunday school teacher review it first, to be sure.

Mere Christianity, by the Anglican C.S. Lewis?  Are you crazy?  Anglicans are like Catholics!

But the Campus Crusade for Christ crowd at Rocky High was all agog over C.S. Lewis.

Besides, I knew that he and J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, were friends, all members of a literary club called the Inklings.  I imagined intense afternoon buddy-bonding over discussions of Beowulf.

So with some trepidation, I started reading his books.

The Chronicles of Narnia was great, if a little too preachy.

Out of the Silent Planet was ok.  No hetero-romance, but not a lot of gay subtexts, and the weird alien planet that Ransom goes to sounds very allegorical.

Perelandra was awful.  Adam and Eve on Venus.

That Hideous Strength: I didn't get farther than the first few pages, when the protagonist's young wife Jane is in the hospital and requests a copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and mulls over an arcane passage in Love's Alchemie for her doctoral dissertation.  Yawn.

The Screwtape Letters: Letters from the senior demon Screwtape to his inexperienced nephew, Wormwood, explaining how to tempt his human subject.  Ok, if a little preachy.

The Great Divorce: I always liked the word "divorce," from when  I thought it was a loophole in the "find the right girl" litany of the adults.  But there's actually no divorce.  A guy is trapped in a weird gray city with ghosts.

Till We Have Faces: it said "a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche."  I knew that was all about hetero-romance, so I avoided it.

Overall a disappointment.  But it was still fun to say "I've been reading The Screwtape Letters" in Nazarene Young People's Society or Afterglow, and watch everyone's jaws drop, as if I said I had been reading the Satanic Bible, or the letters of Pope Paul.

See also: The Chronicles of Narnia

Jun 2, 2015

Breakfast of Champions

Gay kids in the 1960s had to get their beefcake wherever they could, even at breakfast. Whenever Mom asked "What cereal do you want?", you had to decide between the cereal that tasted good or the one with the muscular guy on the box? (In this case, Bruce Jenner, now Caitlin Jenner after coming out as transgender in 2015.)

Did you ask Mom to bring home the cereal that stays crunchy even in milk, or the one with the picture of a Scotsman flexing an enormous bicep?

Although I did like both Cheerios Cereal and the Cheerios Kid, and Sugar Bear, who wore a blue turtleneck sweater and talked like Elvis Presley, was kind of cute.

 Quaker Oats even played into the conundrum with the competing ceeals Quisp and Quake.  Introduced in 1965, Quisp was an alien who looked like a Martian out of Rocky and Bullwinkle (because both were created by Jay Ward).  He sold corn "saucers."  Quake was a muscular miner with a purple cape who sold corn "boulders."  They both offered toys and premiums, and appeared in tv commercials competing over their products.

There was really no contest.  Quisp Cereal was sweet, sort of like Captain Crunch; Quake Cereal was awful.  Besides, who would pick a miner over a cool alien, muscles or not?  In 1969, Quake was transformed into a slim Australian cowboy, but it didn't help.  When Quaker Oats held an "election" to see who would be discontinued, Quake got his walking papers. Quisp was available through the 1970s .

See also: Mikey Likes It

Jun 1, 2015

Bobby Sherman Gets With Wes Stern

In the spring of 1971, Bobby Sherman was probably the #1 teen idol in the country,or maybe #2 to David Cassidy of The Partridge Family.  He had a dozen hit singles, including "Easy Come Easy Go" and "Julie Do Ya Love Me."  His shirtless photos were plastered all over the teen magazines, actually more often than David Cassidy's.  And he had displayed acting talent as the "allergic to girls" beach movie star Frankie Catalina on an episode of The Monkees, plus two seasons as Troy Bolt on Here Come the Brides (1968-70).

The minds of ABC executives started churning.  Why not give him his own tv series?  He could play "himself," and sing a different number every week.  Surefire hit, right?

They based the premise on the singer/songwriter team Boyce and Hart.  Bobby would play Bobby Conway, a struggling singer, and Wes Stern would provide the comic relief and tight jeans as his lyricist/best friend Lionel Poindexter.

23-year old Wes Stern was a cute, likeable guy, a veteran of the Groundlings comedy troupe, who specialized in self-effacing heterosexual roles.  He passed on the role of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate to star in The First Time (1969), about three guys trying to lose their virginity.

 In Up in the Cellar (1970), he played a college student who gets even with the president by seducing his wife (Joan Collins), daughter, and mistress.

He tried to seduce Mary Richards on an episode of Mary Tyler Moore, and kissed any number of women on episodes of Love, American Style.

But Getting Together would minimize heterosexual hijinks to concentrate on the deep friendship (read: romance) between Bobby and Lionel.  They would become an alternative family, charged with raising Bobby's preteen sister Jenny.  And they would work in an antique shop while waiting for their big break.

They couldn't be more gay-coded if they plastered their bedroom with pictures of Steve Reeves.  Hey, Wes, don't be bashful, just kiss him.

Tie-in novels and comic books were ordered, gushing teen magazine articles were written, and after a trial run on an episode of The Partridge Family, Getting Together premiered. But not on ABC's Friday night block of kid-friendly programs -- on September 18, 1971, a Saturday.  Opposite the second season premiere of the blockbuster All in the Family.

I watched -- my parents didn't allow me to see All in the Family -- but no one else did, and Getting Together failed to make a dent in the juggernaut of Archie, Edith, and the Meathead.  14 episodes aired through January 1972, and then the duo disbanded.

Giving teen idols their own tv series, even when they have acting talent, is risky business, as David Cassidy discovered a few years later.
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