Dec 4, 2015

The Wiz: Gay Manhattan in the 1970s

Dorothy is a 24-year old kindergarten teacher  living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in 1978 Harlem, New York.  They were happy to raise her, but now they're dropping broad hints: "You're grown up, practically middle aged.  Move out!"

But Dorothy is paralyzed by fear.  She's never been south of 125th Street, which means that she's never been to the Museum of Modern Art, about a mile away, or the Empire State Building, or to the gay village of Chelsea.  Like everyone in America in the 1970s, she has heard horrible things about Manhattan: skyrocketing crime, economic decline, a failing infrastructure.  It's a cesspool of corruption, misery, and perversion.  There are gay people there.

Then she follows her dog Toto out into a snowstorm, and gets lost in Manhattan -- which she calls Oz.

She encounters raw racism -- taxis invariably refuse to take her fare -- and  many of the urban evils that 1970s critics bemoaned: graffiti, prostitutes, gangs, drugs, gay people.

But she still visits sites that are both beautiful and powerful -- the New York Public Library, the World Trade Center, Cony Island, and the glittering emerald fantasy of Park Avenue.

She makes more friends than she ever had before in her life: a Tin Man, a Scarecrow (played by Michael Jackson), a Lion.

And she is surrounded by beefcake.  Cute "numbers runners."  Munckins frozen in graffiti.  Sweat-shop workers who escape their masks and uniforms to reveal muscular bodies, naked except for jockstraps. Many, if not most, are gay-coded.

In the end she defeats the evil Evilene, debunks the shyster Wizard, and goes back home to Harlem.

But she is no longer afraid. She knows now that for all its dangers, squalor, and decay, Manhattan is a beautiful, magical place, where you can find friends, where difference is accepted, where you can be free to be who you are.  Where being gay is ok.

The Wiz is not a great movie.  It's way too long, the acting is awful, and paralyzing fear is not the best attribute for a heroine -- Dorothy has none of the resourcefulness of her counterpart in the Baum books, none of the courage of the Judy Garland version. One gets the impression that she should be talking to a therapist rather than going on a heroic quest.

But I liked the fantasy versions of New York landmarks, the soul-inspired score, the black/urban adaption of  the all-white Oz of Frank L. Baum and Judy Garland.  The utter-lack of hetero-romance. The beefcake.

And the gay symbolism.

When I saw The Wiz in the fall of 1978, during my freshman year in college, I had visited 17 U.S. states and 5 foreign countries, but still, my world felt as constrained as Dorothy's.  Faced with constant heterosexist pronouncements about my future wife and kids, I felt, like Michael Jackson's Scarecrow, that:

You can't win, you can't break even
And you can't get out of the game

The Wiz suggested that home might be a "good place" after all.  All you needed was a copy of the Gayellow Pages.

Dec 2, 2015

15 Simple Rules for Cruising Straight Guys

In West Hollywood many people believed that there was no such thing as a straight man.  Exclusive same-sex desire was a universal of human experience. Men who called themselves straight were just too weak or cowardly to resist the heterosexist chant of "what girl do you like?  what girl do you like? what girl do you like?"

Today we know that some men are, in fact, heterosexual, with no conscious same-sex attraction.

But others, a much larger proportion of the male population, are heterosexual with occasional glimmers of same-sex attraction, strong enough for them to want a man in their bed, but only occasionally amid their endless pursuits of the feminine.

And still others are heterosexual, but willing to "settle" for a man if no woman is available.

The last two categories are open for cruising, and in small towns with a limited gay population, tremendously increase your chances of success.  But you have to be careful.  Cruising a straight man requires a whole new set of skills, and a whole new set of rules:

1. Cruise online. Straight men rarely go to gay venues, lest they be seen, and in public places they are always with women or with straight male friends who don't "know."

2. Find out how straight he is.  How occasional is his interest in men?  If he meets guys once a month or less, ok.  If he's always seeking out guys, then he's a traitor, enjoying all of the privileges that come with heterosexual identity, hoping to enjoy sexual freedom while letting "real" gay people do all the work of fighting homophobic injustice.  He's a pathetic loser.  Move on.

3. Find out how homophobic he is.  Many straight guys with occasional same-sex interests overcompensate by denigrating gay people, especially those who are open.  "I don't shout it from the housetops!" he yells.  "Marching in parades, broadcasting your sexual preferences!"  Move on.

4. Skip the first-timers.  "I've never done this before.  I've thought about it, but I've never had the nerve..."  Yeah, right.  He's been saying that for the last five years, enjoying the thought of a same-sex liaison, but always losing his nerve.  And if he does actually show up, there's no way the reality can live up to his fantasy.

5. Arrange for a daytime meeting, at your place.  Chances are these will be required anyway, since he's busy with women at night, and there are people at his place who "can't find out."

6. But not for "right now."  Anybody willing to come over "right now," without finding out a little bit about where he's going and who he's meeting, is bound to be a dud.

7. A face photo is a must.  Not necessarily to determine his degree of hotness -- it's probably 20 years old, and photoshopped.  To determine his degree of openness.  No face photo: very skittish, probably a no-show.

8. Get contact information.  A last name, a working cell phone number, an email address.  And use it to make sure it's not fake.  It might come in handy later.

9. Give him the geographic layout of your place.  He believes that passersby will see him and infer somehow that he is having a same-sex hookup.  That's ridiculous, of course, but a pedestrian on the street outside your house, or a neighbor in the hallway of your building, could make him bail.  So warn him in advance if it's apartment, if there are other houses close by, if its a well-traveled pedestrian area, and so on.

10. He gets only two chances to show up.  You wait half an hour for him to show up.  Later that day you get an email: "Sorry, the wife asked where I was going" or "Sorry, I saw somebody who looked like somebody I work with."  Set up another meeting -- we all have scheduling problems.  But if he doesn't show up the second time, move on.

11. Have a friend present.  Hopefully you've screened out the straight guys with malicious intent, and the ones who are so skittish that they might freak out over their "sordid act" and attack.  But just in case, have a friend present.

You can also protect yourself by telling your friend about the meeting, and sending him the straight guy's complete contact information.

12. ID all Cute Young Things.  14, 15, and 16 year olds lie about their age and background all the time, and saying "He told me he was 18!" is not an excuse.  If there's any doubt, ask for an ID.

13. Don't be afraid to tell him "stop talking about women."  Straight guys love to talk about women, especially during a same-sex hookup.  It reassures them that they're "really" straight.  They'll tell you all about their wives and girlfriends, discuss the attractiveness of various actresses, ask about your heterosexual dalliances, bemoan the refusal of most women to engage in their favorite sexual activities.

Don't say "Women!  Gross!"  Say something like "This is a men-only zone. For the next hour, we celebrate the masculine!"

14. Don't be afraid to give him a Gay 101 lecture.  A surprising number of straight guys have had no connection whatever to gay history and culture.  They don't know that there are gay organizations.  They don't know about Stonewall.  They are unaware of contemporary battles over workplace discrimination, religious harassment, and marriage equality.  Enlighten him, either during the online chat, or during the meeting.

15. If you see him in public afterwards, let him lead.  Straight guys are often worried that talking to a gay person in public, in any capacity, identifies them as gay.  Or they might not want their wives and straight male friends asking "So, where did you meet him?"  If he says hello first, stop to chat.  If he pretends not to know you, give him your best Attitude.

See also: 15 Rules of Gay Cruising; and 14 Simple Steps for Turning a Straight Guy Gay; and 10 Easy Steps for Getting Any Guy

Dec 1, 2015

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Between 1996 and 2000, the TGIF adaption of the Archie Comics character Sabrina the Teenage Witch was the most gay-friendly of the 1990s teencoms, and not just because of the gay symbolism of outsider-with-a-secret, such as we see in that other witch sitcom, Bewitched.

It featured a surprising number of gay-friendly actors.  I met Nate Richert (Sabrina's on-off boyfriend, Harvey) at a gay club in West Hollywood, and Jenna Leigh Green (her evil nemesis, Libby) spoke at UCLA during National Coming Out Week in 2000.

And references to gay people.  In the first episode, Sabrina's aunts explain that they are "sisters, not an alternate couple."  In "Dream Date," Sabrina is wandering the hallways looking for a boy to date.  She casually asks "I wonder if that guy is taken?" Harvey says "Yeah, by that guy," thus making history by marking the first gay romantic couple in any teencom.

In "Sabrina the Teenage Boy," Sabrina transforms herself into a boy named Jack to find out what guys talk about.  Jack has retained Sabrina's desire for boys.  When he accidentally exclaims that a baseball player is "hot," Harvey stares in shock,so he quickly redeems himself by claiming that he meant the player's athletic prowess.  But when the spell starts to fail, giving Jack makeup, Harvey says: "Your mascara is running.  It doesn't bother me, but the guys will razz you."  Apparently he has gotten used to the idea that his new friend might be gay.

Sabrina had no homoromantic couples in the tradition of Saved by the Bell or Boy Meets World, but in the fall of 1999, muscle jock Brad (Jon Huertas, who has played gay several times) moves to town, and falls into love-at-first-sight with Harvey. Their sizzling on-screen chemistry leaves little doubt that their attraction is both physical and romantic.  They spend the rest of the season joyously making plans to be together tonight, tomorrow night, every night, while Brad and Sabrina jealously snipe at each other, and each devises schemes to get the Harvey out of the other's clutches.

In the fall of 2000, Sabrina moved from ABC to the WB Network, the writers were replaced, along with most of the cast, and Sabrina becomes aggressively homophobic. She goes to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and is disgusted by a man in the audience wearing garters!

 Her friend tells about how he met a girl and discovered while they were kissing that he was really a dude.  He thinks it's a funny story, but Sabrina grimaces in disgust.  Kissing a dude?  She was never so homophobic in high school.

The addition of David Lascher and Trevor Lissauer (right, in the gay-themed Eden's Curve) didn't help.

The homophobia has continued.  Today Melissa Joan Hart is infamous for her homophobic (and otherwise nasty) jibes.  In 2009 she complained about someone else taking credit for her husband Mark's song: "Mark fully wrote every bit of that song except the new lyrics in the chorus... which are gay anyhow. They turned it into a fairy love song."

She is currently paired with Joey Lawrence in the sitcom Melissa and Joey. 

See also: Nate Richert's Kielbasa.

Nov 30, 2015

Gay Fan Art 3: Beast Boy in love with Robin, Aqualad, Cyborg...

I have never seen Teen Titans (2003-2006, 2012-), the cartoon series based on the DC comic books, so I don't know much about the shapeshifting Beast Boy.  But according to Wikipedia, he is portrayed as a lighthearted jokester (voiced by Greg Cipes, left).  He is best friends with Cyborg, and has a love-hate romance going on with a female titan named Raven.

Fan artists usually limit the Beast Boy -Cyborg bond to depictions of friendship.  For sex and romance, they prefer pairing him with Robin and Aqualad.

Robin gets the more explicit sexual acts, sometimes unwillingly.  Here they're being pushed together and assaulted by purple tentacles (a Japanese erotic tradition).

Fan artists like envisioning Beast Boy and Robin in intimate situations. This is about as G-rated as their pairings get.

For more romantic relationships, Beast Boy is usually paired with Aqualad, who appeared in the first season as his rival (another pair of antagonists in love).

Even while he's in love, Beast Boy's irreverent, fun-loving nature shines throughout.  Here, dressed up for the Old West, he makes a risque joke about "poking dogies," while embarrassed boyfriend Aqualad, asks him to put on pants under his chaps (so his bare backside doesn't show).

(Original pictures from the artists on

See also: Batman and the Boy WonderGay Fan Art #2: Invader Zim

Nov 29, 2015

Danny Nucci: Some of My Best Friends

During the early 2000s, the success of Will and Grace prompted producers to flood the market with clones like Some of My Best Friends (2001), about an upper-class Anglo gay guy (Jason Bateman) living in Manhattan (aren't all gay people affluent, Anglo Manhattanites?) who accidently gets a straight, homophobic, working-class, Italian roommate (Danny Nucci, left).  Sounds more like Joey and Chandler of Friends than Will and Grace.

Only five episodes aired during the spring of 2001.  I saw half of one. Stereotypes were abundant.

The Advocate heavily promoted the show (before it aired).  It even gave Jason Bateman and Danny Nucci a test to see who knew the most about gay people.  Danny won.

No wonder.  Jason Bateman hasn't had a lot of experience in gay and gay-friendly roles, but Danny Nucci has. As a teenager in the 1980s, he played a lot of buddy-bonding roles, and in the 1990s he transitioned to gay, bisexual, or "best buddy of the gay guy" roles.  Plus he provides ample beefcake with numerous shirtless and nude scenes.

The Brotherhood of Justice (1986): a group of teenagers become violent vigilantes. Danny's character cuddles with brother Keanu Reeves.

An Enemy Among Us (1987). A CBS Schoolbreak Special.  Danny plays a boy who contracts AIDS from a blood transfusion.  But everybody thinks he's. . .you know.

Titanic (1997): Danny plays Fabrizio, Leonardo DiCaprio's buddy in the only gay subtext in the interminable movie.

The Unknown Cyclist (1998): a man dying of AIDS gets his gay and straight friends to participate in a charity bike race.  Danny plays the bisexual Gaetano, who is HIV positive.

Friends and Lovers (1999): a group of friends hits the ski slopes.  Danny plays a gay guy who gets his first boyfriend.

More recently, on "Mob Rules," an episode of House (2005): Danny plays a mobster who discovers that his brother is gay (he's going to become a witness so he can enter the Witness Protection Program and avoid harassment by his homophobic family).
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