Dec 24, 2015

"The Crazies": A Gay-Free Hollywood Iowa

In order to get my mind off Christmas, last night I watched The Crazies (2010), which at least has nothing to do with egg nog, wrapping paper, or Saint Nick.

That's the only good thing I can say about it.

Picture it: a small town in Iowa as only Hollywood can imagine it, where everyone drives tractors and goes to the dime store downtown, where all the women are young blond supermodels and all the men are middle aged, bald, and scuzzy-looking, except for the young, hot sheriff, (Tim Olyphant) who happens to be married to the young blond supermodel town doctor.

Really, really married.  I mean, wedding rings gleaming in every single shot, "I love you" every five seconds, announcements to everybody in earshot about how they can't live without each other.

The young blond supermodel wife is barely pregnant, not showing yet, but they have already furnished an elaborate nursery, so eager are they to demonstrate that they have reproduced.

Got it?

Ok, here's what happens: at an idyllic small-town high school baseball team, one of the middle aged, bald, scuzzy looking men pulls out a shotgun.  Another middle aged, bald, scuzzy looking man kills his young blond supermodel wife and son.  More people turn into homicidal maniacs, but mostly off-camera.

Just as the Sheriff and the Doctor figure out that a virus has infected the town water supply, the military marches in, blocks off the town, and separates the sick and the well.  The well are taken to the bus station to be sent to Cedar Rapids, and the sick to isolation. The Doctor is identified as sick, along with most of the young blond supermodel wives, while the Sheriff and most of the bald middle-aged scuzzy-looking guys are identified as well.




But the Sheriff can't live without his wife, remember?  After roiling with condemnation at a friend who doesn't love his wife adequately, he breaks into the isolation facility and breaks out the Doctor.  They join up with the Deputy (Joe Anderson) and the Deputy's girlfriend, and try to escape.

After some trials and tribulations, including a murder attempt in the nursery, the Girlfriend dies, the Deputy sacrifices himself to save the married couple, and the Sheriff and the Deputy rush out of town just as the military drops an atom bomb on it.

You're probably wondering about the gay content.

None.  Zilch.  Zero.  Everybody is heterosexual -- this is Hollywood Iowa, after all -- but, apparently, only two are heterosexual enough to escape together.

No beefcake either.  These shirtless shots are from elsewhere.


Boy, do I hate this movie.

It's a remake of a 1973 George Romero stinker, with the location changed from Pennsylvania to Iowa, and a new cast of young blond supermodels and bald middle-aged scuzzy-looking men added.

And an endless paeon to heterosexual marriage.




Dec 23, 2015

Noah Fleiss: 1990s Child Star Homophobia

Gay teens in the 1990s liked teenage Noah Fleiss for the beefcake: he appeared in his underwear in nearly every movie, often in the midst of autoerotic activity.

They disliked him for his roles as troubled, wounded, and abused kids in depressing, usually homophobic movies.

Josh and S.A.M. (1993).  Concerned about "accusations" that he is gay, Josh (Jacob Tierney) concocts a wild scheme to prove his straightness, including convincing his brother Sam (Noah Fleiss) that he is a cyborg (S.A.M.).

It's not a comedy.


Chasing the Dragon (1996): A woman becomes addicted to heroin, and her son suffers.

Bad Day on the Block (1997): A deranged firefighter terrorizes his family, including his son.

Joe the King (1999): An abused kid commits crime and slips in and out of reality (left)

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her (2000).  A woman is shocked to discover that her son  is sexually active (top photo)






Double Parked (2000): A mother is concerned when her asthmatic son (Fleiss) becomes friends with the son of her abusive ex-husband.

Storytelling (2001): Brady (Fleiss) worries about the gay rumors concerning his older brother Scooby (Mark Livingston).





Brick (2005): While searching for his missing girlfriend, Brandon encounters the sleazy, gay-vague drug dealer Tugger (Fleiss, left).

Ok, but has he done any gay-positive roles?

Two of them:

The Favor (2001):  straight teen Steve (Fleiss) agrees to buy gay porn for his closeted friend Boomer (Jared Hillman).

The Laramie Project (2002): he plays Shannon, one of the friends of homophobic killer Aaron McKinley, who thinks it's all a big joke.

Dec 22, 2015

The Naked Ghost of Hylton Castle: A Gay Murder Mystery

Hylton Castle in Sunderland, near the Scottish border, is closed now, but for centuries staff and visitors reported seeing a naked teenage boy wandering the hallways.

When they approached him, he moaned "I'm cauld"(cold),  and vanished.

Dubbed "The Cauld Lad of Hylton," the ghost had a helpful side.  He lit fires that had gone out, and tidied rooms that had been left in disarray.

But he also had a mischievous side.  He would slam doors, knock books over, blow candles out, and move objects around.

Besides, what could be scarier than a naked teenager complaining about the cold?

According to legend, the ghost was Robert Skelton, a stableboy in the employ of the young Baron Robert Hyland during the age of Shakespeare.  On the morning of July 3rd, 1609, he overslept and didn't have the Baron's horse ready for a trip.  The enraged Baron killed him.

Some versions say that he chopped the boy's head off; others, that he stabbed him with a pitchfork, or hit him with a riding crop. 

Historical records do mention that a Robert Hylton was tried for the murder of Robert Skelton in the fall of 1609.  He claimed that the murder was an accident, and was pardoned by James I.

But the 20-year old Hylton wasn't the Baron yet.  His older brother, Henry, was.



In English Fairy Tales (1890), the famous anthology by Joseph Jacobs, the Cauld Lad is turned into a monster.





Most modern illustrations make him human, but  much younger than a real stableboy of the era, and not nearly as naked.

This leads us to a question:  Ghosts usually appear in the outfit they died in.  Why was Robert Skelton naked?

Elizabethans didn't sleep naked, even in the summer time.   Unless they had thrown off their clothes in the heat of passion.

So Robert Skelton must have been having sex on the night of July 2nd.  Who was is partner?

Some legends give him a forbidden romance with the Baron's daughter, but in 1609 Robert was too young to have a teenage daughter.



Robert Hylton himself, then?  But why would Hylton then be surprised at Skelton's oversleeping?


Maybe his brother,  24-year old Baron Henry Hylton? Shortly after the murder, Henry went to live with his cousin Nathaniel Hylton, and stayed for 30 years. He never consummated his arranged marriage.  He was characterized as reclusive, eccentric, and "mad."

Picture it: Robert finds his older brother and the stableboy in the midst of a sexual encounter and, outraged at the breach of etiquette, grabs a pitchfork.  Robert is able to use his social position to get a pardon.  Henry never recovers.

And Robert Skelton wanders the hallways, moaning "I'm cauld..."

See also: The Gay Ghost of Davenport House.

Dec 21, 2015

The Jackson 5: Beefcake Brothers of 1970s Soul

In 1964, the Jackson Brothers, consisting of  Jackie (age 13), Tito (11), and Jermaine (10), began performing r&b and soul in their hometown of Gary, Indiana.  Five years later, they added younger brothers Marlon and Michael to the group, changed their emphasis to soul-enhanced bubblegum pop, and, with some savvy promotion from Motown Records and Miss Diana Ross, burst onto the teen idol scene.





They had four #1 hits in 1969: "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," and "I'll Be There."

The lyrics were incessantly heterosexist, always about dating and romance, with "girl" every other word, so gay kids weren't impressed.


You went to school to learn, girl, things you never knew before
Girl, since you been away
Goody girl, let down those curls.


But they were impressed by the semi-nude and beefcake shots splashed across the teen magazines, almost unheard of for African-American performers in the era.  Jackie had the most impressive physique.

The Jackson Five appeared on such white-centric series as The Andy Williams Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Jim Nabors Hour, not to mention their own razzle-dazzle pop show.

I watched their Saturday-morning cartoon series (1971-73).  Michael was the star, involved with pirates, mad scientists, fairy tales, and even a Wizard of Oz parody that presaged his role as the Scarecrow in The Wiz a few years alter.

Their popularity peaked in 1971,  but never waned.  In 1975, after Michael had struck out on his own, they continued to perform as "The Jacksons."  Later Jermaine left the group, and younger brother Randy joined.  Sisters Janet and LaToya have careers of their own.

Raised in the extremely homophobic Jehovah's Witnesses sect, The Jackson family varies in their levels of homophobia.  Jermaine made the nasty comment "We're not faggots."  Marlon said "There's nothing wrong with it. I have gay friends." Janet supports gay marriage.

Tom Cruise: All the Wrong Moves



If I were to compile a list of the gay community's biggest enemies, it would include the usual suspects, the preachers who want gays killed, the politicians who want them classified as subhuman, the producers who litter their movies or tv programs with offensive stereotypes.  But near the top of the list, I would place an actor who hasn't said or done any of those things: Tom Cruise.

In 40 movies over a period of 30 years, we find few, if any offensive stereotypes.  In innumerable public appearances, we find few, if any complaints that gay people are plotting the destruction of civilization.  Yet by suing anyone who suggests that he might be gay -- for huge sums -- Tom Cruise continually broadcasts the message that gay people are unspeakably vile.  He is not merely correcting misinformation, he is defending himself against allegations that he is a monster.

Was there ever a time when gay people could find even a moment of hope in any of his vehicles?

Not in the gay-free Mission: Impossible franchise.  Not in his alien-fighting family man in War of the Worlds (2005), heterosexual lives in ruins in Magnolia (1999), or "show me the money" Jerry Maguire (1996).  

But before that, there are many gay subtexts:

Interview with the Vampire (1994): the vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) bites Louis (Brad Pitt), and they form an alternate family.

Days of Thunder (1990): race car drivers Cole (Tom Cruise) and Rowdy (Michael Rooker) move from enemies to buddies.






Cocktail (1988): novice bartender Brian buddy-bonds with his mentor, bartending pro Doug (Bryan Brown).

The Color of Money (1986): novice pool hustler Vincent (Tom Cruise) buddy-bonds with his mentor, pool hustler pro Fast Eddie (Paul Newman).

Top Gun (1986): a homoromance between air force pilots Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards).

All the Right Moves (1983): up and coming football player Stefen (Tom Cruise) buddy-bonds with his mentor, coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson).




What happened after 1994 to end Tom Cruise's buddy-bonding roles and transform him into an enemy?  His marriage to Nicole Kidman?  His conversion to the Church of Scientology?  His friendship with John Travolta (who is also quick to "defend" himself against allegations)?

His first lawsuit for a "gay allegation" came in 1996.  Maybe he suddenly realized that gay people existed, that subtexts were possible.
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