Dec 31, 2016


We need more disabled actors playing disabled people on tv, but it's hard for non-disabled writers and directors to make the characters authentic, .

Speechless (2016-) seems to be doing it right.

It's a nuclear family sitcom with Mom, Dad, and three kids, one of whom, the teenage JJ (Micah Fowler), is confined to a wheelchair and "speechless" due to cerebral palsy.  He uses a communication board to spell out words and phrases.

18-year old Micah Fowler has cerebral palsy but can speak.  He notes that it's difficult to adapt to a non-speaking role.  There's a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing involved. .

The rest of the family is filled in by a nebbish dad (John Ross Bowie, the bully Kripke on Big Bang Theory), a fiercely protective Mom (Minnie Driver), the conniving little brother Ray (Mason Cook), and a sarcastic sister, whose name I didn't catch (Kyla Kenedy).

Plus Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), JJ's assistant.

The A plot of each episode involves JJ's push for independence (he plays hockey, joins the choir, gets drunk at a party), with Ray's conniving in the B.

Speechless is smartly written, with few moments of gag-inducing smarm.  My only complaint is that heterosexism reigns supreme.  Plotlines involve what boy is interested in what girl.  No gay people exist, unless Kenneth happens to be gay (he hasn't mentioned any romantic interests of any sort).

No beefcake, either.  Although Cedric Yarbrough has a nice physique, it's under wraps.

There are occasionally cute guys in guest roles, like Joseph John Schirle as Ben (one episode).

The only gay connection I could find was Emerson Collins, who plays teacher Mr. Powell.  He played half of a gay couple with Jonathan Slavin (left) in The Boomerang Effect.

Dec 29, 2016

Bedtime Story Boyfriends: The Wind in the Willows

One of the favorite books of my childhood, The Wind in the Willows, was about two animal boyfriends in Edwardian England.  In the first chapter, the Water Rat is single, "messing around in boats" on the banks of a wide river (played by Lee Ingleby, in the 2006 Canadian movie).

But then he meets the timid Water Rat (gay actor Mark Gatiss), and invites him to move in. With no fanfare, they become a couple.

There are a few challenges to their relationship: Mole misses his old life underground, and Rat longs to explore the world beyond the River -- but the crises are quickly resolved, and the two men always return to the life they have built together, their romantic bond blatantly, painfully obvious.

The rest of the book involves the problems of their friends. The pompous Toad (gay actor Mark Lucas) steals a motor-car.

The reclusive Badger (Bob Hoskins) must defend his home from an invasion by juvenile-delinquent weasels (led by Radu Micu).

I knew that the gay subtext was strong and noble, but I figured it was accidental until, in graduate school at the University of Southern California (1985-1989), I read up on the life of Kenneth Grahame.  I even tried to include him in my doctoral dissertation.

Born in 1859, his parents forced him to become a banker; but he looked from afar at the glittering homoeroticism of the aesthetic and decadent movement.  He read Arnold Bennett, Max Beerbohm, and Karl Huysmans. He contributed to The Yellow Book.  He corresponded with Oscar Wilde.

In an 1895 story, "The Roman Road," a mysterious young man tells Kenneth about a distant, perhaps mythical city, where the only inhabitants are "friends."  No husbands and wives, no boyfriends and girlfriends, just "the princes in fairy tales who don't get the princess."  Kenneth eagerly makes plans to go to the "City of Friends," but then the young man vanishes, and no one else whom he asks has ever heard of it.

But Oscar Wilde's conviction for sodomy in 1895 scared Kenneth, and he distanced himself from the movement, and sublimated his same-sex desire.  He married in 1899, and had a son, Alastair, who heard bedtime stories about a Mole and a Water Rat who loved each other. They were published as  The Wind in the Willows in 1908.

See also: Saki (H.H. Monro).

Dec 25, 2016

Gay Surfers Down Under: Xavier Samuel

Speaking of the Twilight saga, Xavier Samuel, who plays muscular college-age vampire Riley Biers, has starred in many gay-positive movies and tv series back home in Australia.

2:37 (2006), a high school angst ensemble, with a gay dopehead facing homophobia (and getting a boyfriend).

Newcastle (2008), about surfing brothers Jesse (Lachlan Buchanan) and Fergus (Xavier).  Fergus has a boyfriend, Andy (Kirk Jenkins).  They frolick naked in the surf.


Best friend to a gay guy (Miles Szanto) in Drowning (2009).

And even when there's no explicit gay content, there's plenty of homoromantic buddy-bonding.  And nudity

September (2007), about two teenagers, the white Ed (Xavier, left) and the black Paddy (Clarence John Ryan, right), trying to hold their friendship together during the turbulent 1960s.

A Few Best Men (2011), about a bridegroom (Xavier) who can't choose one best man from among his three mates.

Two Mothers (2013), about two women who fall in love with each other's sons (Xavier, Ben Mendehlson), who happen to be best friends.  Haven't seen it, but apparently there's some beach frolicking.

Dec 24, 2016

The Surprising Gay Origin of Pogo's "Deck Us All"

Every Christmas from 1949 to 1975, and then again in the 1980s and 1990s, the comic strip Pogo had the hayseed denizens of Okefenokee Swamp singing a mangled version of "Deck the Halls":

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
 Lullaby, Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!

Cartoonist Walt Kelly said that he chose that particular song because it was easily recognizable but not religious.  His Pogo version became extremely popular, with a life outside the comic strip, broadcast on the radio, recorded by pop artists during the Golden Age of Novelty Songs.

But what about the lyrics?  Fans clamored to know what they meant.

At first Kelly claimed that they were pure nonsense.  But fans persevered, and in 1963 Kelly published a book listing several possible explanations.

None of them the right one.

Ten years after his death, his close friend, CIA Agent Wilbur Crane Eveland, was interviewed in a Pogo-phile fan magazine, and revealed the secret:

Prison slang.

Deck us all with Boston Charlie
Hang the prison guards up on the wall, so they won't bother us.

Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo
Names of prisons

Nora's freezin' on the trolley
Nora, the subordinate partner in a same-sex prison romance, is "freezin'", in solitary confinement, according to "the trolley," the prison grapevine.

Swaller dollar cauliflower, Alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Homemade prison booze

Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.
Has facilitated the romance between Lilla Boy (another subordinate partner) and Louisville Lou.

Trolley Molly don't love Harold
But not Molly, according to the prison grapevine.

Boola, Boola, Pensacola, Hullaballoo!

I wonder how mild-mannered cartoonist Walt Kelly, who was never even arrested, knew all of this prison slang.  He was a language aficionado, so maybe he had reference books.

But why load-up his mangled Christmas carol with prison slang, including references to three same-sex prison romance?

In the 1940s, many prisoners were "prisoners of conscience," war objectors, political dissidents, gay men.  According to Eveland, this was the liberal, gay-positive Kelly's shout-out to them.

Kelly included same-sex desire all the time in Pogo.  Since his players were animals, it always slipped below the censorship radar.

In a long 1955 continuity, a male flea falls in love with Beauregard Hound Dog, and proposes marriage.  Five years later, in a commentary, Kelly wrote "I guess it would have to be a female flea.  That never occurred to me until now."

Way to cover your tracks!  But Kelly kept making the same "mistake" over and over until the day he died.

See also: Pogo, the Gay Possum of Okefenokee Swamp

Dec 21, 2016

The Real Bulges of "The Real O'Neals"

Last night I watched the December 6th episode of The Real O'Neals: Kenny, the gay kid (Noah Galvin), goes out for wrestling, and turns out to be good at it, due to his expertise in the dance numbers from West Side Story.

He wins the adulation of his conservative Catholic high school, receiving cheers, gifts, and an invitation to sit at the jock table, but infringes upon the territory of his brother, Jimmy (Matt Shively).

At first I found it only mildly entertaining.  I was waiting for some beefcake shots of Matt Shively and his teammates.

But I never expected to see anything like this on a prime time comedy.

He's an extra; I don't have his name.  I wish I did.

Ok, time for Kenny's match.  He drops his gym trunks, revealing a singlet of his own.

Doesn't he notice that his singlet is a  Doesn't the director notice?

Noah Galvin is 22 years old, by the way, so it's ok to look.

It's impossible not to look.

It gets better.

And better.

Suddenly I'm a real fan of The Real O'Neals.

See also: The Real Gay Characters of "The Real O'Neals"

Dec 20, 2016

The Eagle: When Gay Subtexts Aren't Enough

The Eagle (2011) is a gay-subtext romance set in Roman Britain in 140 AD.

The plot is rather convoluted, but it seems to be about a young Roman soldier, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum), whose father disappeared on an expedition north of Hadrian's Wall many years ago, along with his entire Legion, plus the bronze eagle that represents "the honor of Rome."

Marcus hears a rumor that the Eagle has survived, so he sets out in search of it.  He brings along his slave Esca (Jamie Bell), who is from northern Britain and can speak the Pictish language (Gaelic is used as a stand-in).

After many scenes of the two riding through desolate wilderness, they are captured by the Seal People, the most barbaric of the Pictish tribes.  Esca buddy-bonds with their Prince (Tahar Rahim) and settles among them, explaining that Marcus is his slave.

Marcus believes that he has been tricked.

But at the proper moment, Esca reveals that he has tricked the Sea People.  They retrieve the Eagle and head back to Roman territory.  They even find the lost Ninth Legion in the process.

All of the classic gay-subtext elements are here:
1. Minimal or no heterosexual interest.
2. Men who rescue each other from danger.
3. And who walk off into the final fade-out side by side.

I still didn't like it.  It was dull and plodding, with scenes of gore juxtaposed with scenes of...well, talking.  And no attempt to provide a standard English to stand in for Latin.  Hearing Roman soldiers speark colloquial American really grates on the ears, particularly after hearing the superbly done Latinate English of Spartacus.

Plus there's no chemistry between Marcus and Esca.  They're supposed to be in love with each other.  There should be glances, gestures.  But I don't even see much of a friendship.  Esca accompanies Marcus to the north because he has no choice, he's a slave; and Marcus uses Esca for his language skills.

At the end of the movie, as they're walking off together, Esca asks "What now?"  Marcus says "You decide."

It's a cute line, but it doesn't seem deserved.  Based on what we've seen, we expect them to say "Well, thanks for your help" and part.

There's actually more chemistry between Esca and the Seal People prince (Tahur Rahim).

The director and actors insist that the movie has no gay subtexts.  Channing Tatum states that there's love in the relationship, like in any relationship, but that doesn't mean that Marcus and Esca are a couple (even though, he jokes, he and Jamie Bell have been having sex for years).

Except in 2011, writers and directors usually take pains to ensure that their characters must be read as heterosexual by adding hetero-romance or at least some longing glances here and there.  If they weren't intending gay subtexts, why not add hetero-romance?

Maybe because the movie is based on a children's novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, published by Rosemary Sutclif in 1954, the glory era of gay subtexts, where men without women was an accepted literary convention, especially in juvenile fiction.

Sutclif wrote over 100 children's novels, many about two boys or two men together.

Dec 18, 2016

The Kid from "A Christmas Story"

Even  though 30 years have passed, Peter Billingsley is still know as the kid from A Christmas Story (1983).  You know -- the bespectacled 9-year old whose only Christmas wish is "a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass and this thing that tells time."  Hardly anyone saw it in theaters in 1983, but it has become a TV tradition -- TBS usually mounts a 24-hour marathon -- so you've probably seen A Christmas Story as often as the much gayer White Christmas or It's a Wonderful Life.

I don't like it.  There's a creepy lamp shaped like a lady's leg (that turns Ralphie on), a nasty bully, a borderline-abusive Dad, a gun as a major plot point, and no cute guys or discernible homoerotic subplots (although some of the cast has gay connections).

And Peter Billingsley has made up for it since.

In The Dirt Bike Kid (1985), a modern retelling of "Jack and the Beanstalk," the 14-year old Jack (Peter) is sent to buy groceries, but gets a magic dirtbike instead.  He uses it to clean up the corrupt town, save a struggling hot dog stand, and become a town hero. He expresses no heterosexual interest; his main emotional bond is with Mike (Patrick Collins), the owner of the hot dog stand, though it falls short of homoromance.

 In Russkies (1987), it's the heart of the Cold War, Danny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his friends Adam (Peter) and Jason (Stefan DeSalle) find a a Russian sailor, Mischa (Whip Hubley), washed up on the shore. Adam  is obviously entranced by the beefy, bulge-laden Mischa, especially after he takes off his shirt at the doctor's office.

 But it is Danny who acts as his friend and protector.  He hatches a scheme to smuggle Mischa to Cuba, whence he could get back home.  When the baddies shoot Danny down over the water, Mischa rushes to the rescue. Later, Danny rescues Mischa.  Though the movie ends with Mischa going  home, the experience changes Danny forever; it is his Summer of '42.

An anti-gay slur (this was the 1980s, after all), but no girls thought of or spoken of.

In Beverly Hills Brats (1989), Scooter (18-year old Peter) is ignored by his rich father (Martin Sheen) and bullied by his siblings, so he fakes his own kidnapping, hiring the bumbling thugs Clive (Burt Young) and Elmo (George Kirby).  The thugs are hostile at first, but soon come to feel sympathy for the lonely Scooter.  Again, an anti-gay slur, but no expressed interest in girls.  Instead, Scooter tries to reach out to the thugs for emotional support.

By this point, Peter was starting to muscle up; in fact, he later played a high school athlete abusing steroids on an Afterschool Special.
Peter's characters didn't start ogling girls until Arcade (1993).  By that time, his acting roles were becoming scarcer as he moved into production.  He hasn't been involved in many gay-friendly projects, but he received a special thanks in the credits of the gay-angst Mysterious Skin (2004). For what, I don't know.

Dec 16, 2016

300 Naked Men Before Breakfast

I looked at over 300 pictures of naked men this morning before breakfast.

Old and young, big and small, flaccid and aroused, all ages (18+), shapes, and sizes.

And, if I had the time and inclination, I could easily look at 300 more.

When I was growing up in Rock Island, and even through my years in West Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s, you might see ten pictures of naked men per month, if you were lucky.

They were glossy photos of professional models in expensive magazines.

Nude photos of amateurs were extremely rare.  Photo labs wouldn't develop them, so you had to have your own darkroom.

Even shirtless photos were rare.  Occasionally a shirtless celebrity would show up in a movie magazine.  Or you could look at the underwear ads in clothes catalogs.

Beginning around 1990, you could buy cameras that developed the pictures on the spot, so you didn't need a photo lab.  Suddenly you could get nude photos.

But only of your friends, who you had seen naked in real life.  There wasn't much point.

The full story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Dec 14, 2016

Alan Thicke and his "Unusually Thicke" Family

Alan Thicke, who died on December 13th, was best known as the conservative psychiatrist dad on the Reagan Era warmedy Growing Pains (1985-1992), but he was most at ease as a mc.

He got his start as a talk show host, with The Alan Thicke Show (1980-82), renamed Thicke of the Night (1983-84), and through his career he hosted many specials, from the Emmies and the Golden Globes to The Barry Gibb Love and Hope Festival, and narrated many documentaries, from When Mom and Dad Break Up to How Canada Invented Hollywood.

Most recently he starred in a family reality series, Unusually Thicke (2014-2015), along with his wife, his sons and their spouses, and celebrity guest stars like David Hasselhof, Bill Maher, John Stamos, Lance Bass....

And his nephew Creighton Thicke-Rattray (second from left), a college swimming star.

Handsome but not muscular, Alan was a more of a lady's man than a gay fave rave.  He did get a photo shoot in Playgirl.   No nude shots.

And you could see a bulge here and there, leading to lots of jokes about just how thick Alan was.

Today we might make the same speculation about his sons.

Brennan (born 1974) briefly followed his father into show biz. As a child star, he voiced Scott Tracker in the cartoon MASK (1985-85) and Dennis in Dennis the Menace (1986-88).  He now runs a nonprofit marijuana dispensary in California and works for his wife's wedding dress business, Dolly Couture.

Robin (born 1977) is a singer/songwriter who has written and produced several R&B hits, such as "Sex Therapy."  He is best friends with gay singer Usher.

He has obviously inherited his father's looks things.

Carter (born 1997) has appeared with his father in Celebrity Wife Swap, Celebrity Family Feud, Unusually Thicke, and the movie It's Not My Fault and I Don' Care Anymore (2015).

He is active in social media, where he has expressed strong support of the LGBT community.

See also: Growing Pains

Dec 13, 2016

10 Things You Should Know about Dating Teenagers

Teenagers are everywhere.  They're delivering your pizzas, mowing your lawn, working out next to you at the gym, reading depressing poetry at the coffee house, texting furiously while sitting six-to-a-booth at the diner.

They are generally attractive, with fresh, eager faces, and tight smooth bodies that haven't yet gone to fat, even if they aren't particularly buffed.

And they're available.  I estimate that about 75% of gay and bi teenage boys are into older guys (a category that includes everyone from age 25 to death), and the others aren't usually, but they'll make an exception if you know your way around a gym.

They are drawn to five things that their peers lack, but daddies have in abundance:  an apartment, a car, a college degree, a hairy chest, and sexual experience.

But before you make a date with that cute guy who is cruising you, there are 10 things you should know:

1. You will have to card him.  Adolescent development occurs at different rates, so the guy who looks like an adult, with hard muscles and hair on his chest, might be only 14 or 15.  Don't take his word for it -- check his id to make sure he's of legal age.

2. He may bring a friend. Teenagers don't actually "date" anymore: they hang out.  They may pair off later for sexual activity, but the social part of the evening takes place in a group.  He won't understand your desire for one-on-one conversation.

Of course, that may work out to your advantage, if the friend wants to share your bed, too.

3. He will be texting constantly.  In his world, it's not rude. His friends expect him to be constantly narrating his life events, and commenting on theirs, no matter what he's doing.

The full list is on Tales of Wet Hollywood.

Jay R. Ferguson, Teen Idol

Born in 1974, Jay R. Ferguson first received gay teens' attention in the short-lived tv adaption of The Outsiders, about boys falling in love with each other.  He had a lengthier tenure on tv series Evening Shade (1990-1994), with Burt Reynolds as Wood Newton, a high school football coach in one of those quirky small town that popped up everywhere in the 1990s.  Jay played his teenage son, Taylor, who was star quarterback, and as aggressively girl-crazy as most other teenagers on prime time in the 1990s.  But for many teens, being "dreamy" was enough.

Jay redeemed himself with The Price of Love (1995): he plays a gay hustler who shows the ropes to the "gay for pay" Bret (Peter Facinelli).

His dreaminess quotient decreased when he got a reputation as a hard partier.  Even tearing off his shirt during a party at Fox didn't help.  Kids like their teen idols wholesome and innocent.

During the late 1990s, Jay did a few buddy-bonding movies.

Blue Ridge Falls (1999), about four friends bonding over a murder. His Shane buddy-bonds with Danny (Peter Facinelli).

Hollywood Palms (2000), about the interconnected lives of residents in the Hollywood Palms apartment complex.  Jay plays rocker Riley, who buddy bonds with Dexter (Jeff Russo).  Together they try to prevent a murder.

But when he graduated to adult romantic leads, the buddy bonding dried up.  All I could find was a 2005 episode of Medium: Jay plays Tommy Lehane, best buddy of the medium's brother Michael (Ryan Hurst), who might be a murderer.

More recently Jay has played Stan Rizzo, the homophobic art director at the 1960s ad agency on Mad Men (2010-2012), the non-homophobic dad of a gay teen on The Real O'Neals (2016-), and a guy who tries to "Live Biblically."

He's still quite muscular, and not averse to stripping down to his underwear, in spite of his huge bulge.

See also: Living Biblically

Dec 11, 2016

Kirk Douglas and his Show Biz Dynasty

Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas celebrated his 100th birthday on December 9th.  He's had a career that spanned six decades.  In the 1950s and 1960s he often starred in beefcake-heavy movies as Ulysses (1954), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Vikings (1958), and Spartacus (1960).

His four sons and grandsons have followed in his footsteps.

Michael (born 1944) was a New Sensitive Man of the 1970s, starring in The Streets of San Francisco (1972-77), Romancing the Stone (1984), and The Jewel of the Nile (1985) before moving on to roles as middle-aged businessmen, cops, and lawyers.  He's played gay characters several times, notably as Liberace (2013).

Joel (born 1947) is a film producer, mostly working on productions with his father and brother.

Peter (left, born 1955) is a tv producer with credits such as The Final Countdown (1980) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Eric (1958-2004) was an actor and comedian.  He died of an accidental drug overdose.

Michael's son Cameron (born 1978)  has appeared in four films, including It Runs in the Family (2003).  He spent five years in prison for drug dealing.  Released in 2016, he is anxious to continue his acting career.

Here are two more Douglases.  I don't know if they fit into the family or not.



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