Jan 16, 2016

10 Reasons Why "Kiss Me, Kate" is a Gay Classic

1. It's a musical about the backstage antics during a performance of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, which has a gay subtext.  The dissolute Petruchio comes to Padua to marry a woman for her money -- her looks are meaningless to him, as he spends a lot of time...a lot of time..with his male friends.

 2. As with most musicals, there are two romantic plots.  The "serious" one involves director/star Fred Graham and his costar Lilli Vanessi.  But their bickering romance is so ludicrously over-the-top that it's not serious at all:

Gazing down on the Jungfrau, from our secret chalet for two

The Jungfrau is the highest mountain in Europe. You can't gaze down on it from anything but an airplane.

3. The humorous plot involves gold-digging Lois Lane (silly name, but the elitist Porter had apparently never heard of Superman's girlfriend) and Bill, who would rather be gambling than spend time with her.

4. Author Cole Porter was gay, and infused his lyrics with coded -- and not so coded -- gay references for those "in the know."  For instance,  in"Too Darn Hot," among the various couples for whom the hot weather is impeding sexual activity:  The Marine for his Queen is not.

Marines were notorious for thinking of themselves as heterosexual as long as they were active partners in their relationships with the passive, gay-coded "queens."

5. Even when the lyrics aren't gay-coded, they're humorously  risque. For instance, in "Always True to You (In My Fashion)," Lois explains to Bill why she has sex for money:
I could never curl my lip
To a dazzlin' diamond clip,
Though the clip meant "let 'er rip," I'd not say "Nay!"

6. The 1953 movie features several famous beefcake stars, including Howard Keel (Fred, left), Bobby Van (Gremio), Tommy Rall (Bill), and Bob Fosse (Hortensio).

7. Two gangsters, Lippy and Slug, appear on stage to collect on a loan.  They sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," about using Shakespearean quotes to get girls:

If she says you're behavior is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus.

But their demeanor and body language makes it clear that they are a couple.

8. In the 1953 movie, one of the gangsters is played by Keenan Wynn, who was gay.

9. Watch the big dance number, "From This Moment On," for the superb choreography.  Then go back and watch it again.  In slow-motion.  You'll be in for a surprise.  Bob Fosse was quite gifted beneath the belt.

10. The other actors wear Elizabethan tights that are perfect for accentuate beneath-the-belt gifts, so you'll get several more surprises if you watch carefully.  Try it at your local community theater, too.

See also: All that JazzMy Fair Lady.

Francois Goeske: Searching for Gay Subtexts

Robert Louis Stevenson's books are sacred, memories of childhoods past where boys conjured up lavish adventures with each other.  Especially Treasure Island, written specifically upon a request from his stepson Lloyd Osbourne that there be "no girls in it."  And there aren't, except for Jim Hawkin's mother.

So I was quite disappointed with the 2007 German miniseries, in which Jim Hawkins (Francois Goeske) not only has sex with a prostitute, he falls in love with a female stowaway, Sheila (Diane Willems)!

Ok, I thought, but maybe Goeske's other work will redeem him.  Some gay characters, or some substantial gay subtexts?

His first starring role was in a 2003 remake of the children's classic Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer (The Flying Classroom), set in a boys' school.  Only this one had girls and girlfriends.

In French for Beginners (2006), Henrick (Goeske) goes to France as part of a student exchange program, where he meets the Girl of His Dreams.  A reviewer on amazon.com suggests that this "charming" move be used in French language classes.

Grimm's Finest Fairy Tales: The Farmer's Daughter (2008).  I'm not familiar with that particular fairy tale, but I imagine it involves Goeske kissing some girls.

Summertime Blues (2009), based on the juvenile novel by Julia Clarke: Alex (Goeske) goes to the countryside with his mother, and meets a girl.

Dornroschen (2009): The fairy tale of Sleeping  Beauty.  Guess who wakes her with a kiss?

Schlaflos in Schwabing (Sleepless in Schwabing 2012): Consultant investigates a proposed deal with a Chinese company, and her nephew (Goeske) romances the boss's daughter.

Come on, I'm getting nervous.  There must be something.  How can you star in over 25 vehicles over a period of 10 years, and not have a single gay character or gay subtexts.

Ok, let's try his tv work:

On an episode of the German police procedural SOKO Stutgart (2011): Johannes (Goeske) comes out to his father, a conservative politician.

And on an episode of SOKO 5113 (2012): Julian (Goeske) is a gay concert pianist who suffers a homophobic attack.

I knew there had to be some somewhere.

Jan 13, 2016

December 1979: Topped for the First Time

Davenport, Iowa, December 1979

There are a practically infinite number of bedroom acts you might want to engage in during a date with this guy, but for most gay men, the Big Four are, in the terms we used in the 1980s:

French active/passive
Greek active/passive

French was the mainstay.  You didn't even need to ask; you could just assume that any guy you met was up for it.  It's just what you expected to happen in the bedroom.

It's the only major activity that I knew about for 1 1/2 years after figuring "it" out.

Well, where was I supposed to learn about Greek?

There was no gay porn then, at least none that I had access to.

The Joy of Gay Sex had been published but wasn't on the shelves at the Waldenbooks in the Mall.

None of the guys I was intimate with suggested Greek, or even mentioned it.

Then, on December 16, 1979, during my sophomore year in college, Fred the Ministerial Student asked me for a date.

The rest of the story is too explicit for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood

Contemporary Graphic Novels: Heterosexism, Homophobia, and Gore

I grew up on comic books -- all of the Gold Key jungle adventures, Uncle Scrooge, Little Lulu, the Harvey ghosts and witches, Archie, an occasional Batman or Superman.

And comic strips -- Peanuts, B.C., the Wizard of Id, Beetle Bailey, Doonesbury.  More recently I've been buying complete runs of classic comic strips like Popeye, Li'l Abner, and Pogo.

So I want to like modern graphic novels.  I really do.

I keep buying them off Amazon, after careful researching plot summaries and reviews.  They must have a male protagonist, no wife or girlfriend mentioned, and no "homophobia" in any keyword search.  I also search for "gay" and the author's name, to see if there are any casually homophobic comments.

I rejected The Goon because the muscular lug believes that he's too ugly for "any woman" to want him,  The Sandman because Morpheus, the God of Sleep, goes to the underworld to rescue a woman he once loved, and Stormboy because the cover had a naked woman on the cover.

Still, after all that research, I'm usually disappointment.  Heterosexist boy-gets-girl plotlines are everywhere, just not mentioned in plot summaries, and homophobic comments are more common than in 1980s Brat Pack movies.

My latest haul:

1. Kill Shakespeare, by Connor McCreary and Anthony Del Col.

"A fantastic concept, cleverly executed with style and smarts"
"Lke the best of Shakespeare himself."

In a weird fantasy world where all of Shakespeare's characters are alive and co-existing, Hamlet joins Falstaff and Juliet to seek out their Creator.  Othello and Iago have a bit of a subtext, but Falstaff wenches outrageously, and Hamlet falls in love with...you guessed it.

2.Deadly Class, by Rick Remender and Wes Craig.

"Enough good things cannot be said about Deadly Class.  It' a book that can make people fall in love with comics."

 A homeless boy enrolls in a private school for teenage assassins, and learns the art of murder, in dialogue peppered with homophobic statements, including a liberal assortment of "fags" and "c*ksuckers."  Oh, and he has sex with an assortment of naked ladies.

3. Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory

"Overflowing with big imaginative ideas."
"An entertaining and surprisingly compelling bit of storytelling that almost defies description."

In a future dystopia, detective Tony Chu is cibopathic: when he eats meat, he can see the animal's final moments.  Good with murder investigation, if you don't mind eating parts of a human corpse. He has a partner, who is killed before any buddy-bonding can occur.  And -- wait for it -- he falls in love with a woman.

4. Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities, by Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz.

"Six-shootin' satisfaction."
"This is one crazy book -- well-written and worthy of your hard-earned cash."

Billy the Kid joins a traveling "freak" show to search for a mystical object called "the Golem's Heart."  It turns out to be the Heart of Frankenstein.   On the way, he litters his speech with homophobic epithets, from "sissy" to "daisy pickin', knob-polishing', pickle-swallowing, effeminate sack of mule crap."

I'll admit, that is one of the more colorful ways that someone has expressed how much they hate gay people.

5. Manifest Destiny, by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni.

"The monsters of the western frontier in the adventure of a lifetime."

In 1804, Lewis and Clark set out to find the Northwest Passage.  But their real task is to find monsters.  They do: Buffalo minotaurs, fairies, a telepathnic carnivorous flower, and disgusting plant-zombies.

Still, sure fire buddy bonding, right?

Wrong.  They meet any number of shapely young ladies, dream of them nude, and discuss the special characteristics of Native American women's pubic hair.  Nauseating.

Well, we'll keep on keeping on.  I just ordered:

1. Incidents in the Night, by B. David.  The hero goes on a tour of Parisian bookshops and uncovers a plot to change history.

2. Birthright, by Joshua Williamson.  When a boy is swept away to a parallel universe, his father must join forces with a man from the world to save him.

3. Battling Boy, by Paul Pope.  A boy is swept away to a crazy alien world, where he is hailed as a superhero.

4. Top 10, by Alan Moore. A cop patrols the streets of Neopolis, inhabited entirely by superheroes.

5. Age of Bronze, by Eric Shanower.  A graphic novel retelling of the Trojan War.  How can you go wrong with half-naked Greek heroes?

Jan 12, 2016

Dylan and Cole Sprouse after The Suite Life

In 2004, child actors Dylan and Cole Sprouse became the teen stars of one of the biggest hits -- and biggest gay subtext series -- in the history of the Disney Channel, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (2004-2008). 

 It was about two twins, the scheming teen operator Zack (Dylan) and the bookish intellectual Cody (Cole) who move into the posh Tipton Hotel, where their mother works as a singer. In an unprecedented 83 episodes, no one Said the Word, but gay subtexts were everywhere, from the gay-vague hotel manager Mr. Moseby to Zack's "date" with a popular boy to two boys obviously dancing together at a party.

In 2008, the twins, now 16, spun off onto The Suite Life on Deck (2008-2011), taking their shenanigans (and the gay subtexts) to a luxury cruise ship.  They wanted more control over the writing and direction, but Disney refused, so after 3 seasons and 71 episodes, they had had enough of Zack and Cody.

They also left the world of acting behind.  They enrolled in New York University, where Cole is studying archaeology, and is also an accomplished photographer.  Dylan is studying video game design and fine arts, and sells his artwork online.

In 2013, they toured Japan with Shin Koyamada as International Ambassadors on the U.S.-Japan Discovery Tour.

Both brothers are rumored to be gay, and Dylan, the more feminine of the two, has been linked with Jake T. Austin, but they haven't made any public statements.  Cole's tweets avoid any discussion of relationships.  Dylan mentions men and women both.  Cole states, in jest, that he's not attracted to either, just to cookies.

Dylan uploaded a nude selfie to attract someone.  I don't know who.

My friend Michael in West Hollywood claims to have hooked up with one of them.  He doesn't remember which.

The fully nude pic is on Tales of West Hollywood

See also: A Hookup with Cole or Dylan Sprouse.

Jan 11, 2016

Gidget and Her Boys

During the early 1960s, there was a surfing craze. The Beach Boys were singing "Surfing Sarfari" (1962) and  "Surfing U.S.A." (1963). The documentary Endless Summer (1966) followed buff young men around the world in search of the perfect wave. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello starred in seven surf-and-sun movies: Muscle Beach Party (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).

And in the fall of 1965, the 19-year old Sally Field, soon to become one of the most accomplished and successful actors in Hollywood, played Gidget, the "girl midget" who dares enter the male-only surfing world  (a role originated by Sandra Dee in 1959, and based on a novel by Frederick Kohner).

It aired on Wednesday nights after teen fave rave The Patty Duke Show, and was expected to draw a similar audience.  It was hip, in color, with a modern soundtrack and lots of exterior shots -- almost unheard of for a sitcom.  But in 1965 there was usually just one tv set per household, and the grown-ups all wanted to watch The Beverly Hillbillies or The Virginian,  so it wiped out after only 32 episodes.

Too bad.  It had a lot for gay kids to like.  Fortunately, it's available on DVD.

1. Although Gidget and her best friend Larue both have boyfriends, they seem more social necessities and objects of competition than conduits of desire.  The main emotional bond comes between the two girls.

2. And for the gay boys in the audience, there is an endless parade of beefcake.  In color.

Gidget's main boyfriend, played by Peter Duel (who would go on to Alias Smith and Jones).

Her boy pals, played by Rickie Sorenson and Michael Nader, left (nephew of gay actor George Nader)

Martin Milner of Route 66 and Adam-12 as the surfing great Kahuna.

Lots of muscular guest stars lounged in swimsuits on the beach,  included Dick Gautier, Walter Koenig (Star Trek), Daniel J. Travanti (left), and Tim Rooney (Village of the Giants).

Sally Field went on to star in The Flying Nun and become one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, but she still has a soft spot in her heart for Gidget and her boys. 

Jan 10, 2016

Why We Should Keep the T in LGBT, and Add More Letters

Have you heard about the movement to remove the T from LGBT, making us gay, lesbian, and bisexual only?

The problem is, we've never been gay, lesbian, and bisexual only.  We've always been open to everybody.

Granted, in West Hollywood in the 1980s, you were expected to be  gay/lesbian or straight.

But I don't think we were deliberately being exclusionary.  We just grew up hearing that "all guys like girls," "same-sex desire does not exist."  So for a guy to admit that he did, in fact, like girls and boys sounded a lot like heterosexist brainwashing kicking in.

And we heard constantly that "gay men are really women."  So for a guy to admit that he was, in fact, a woman sounded like more heterosexist brainwashing.

By the 1990s, we were confident enough to admit that there were bisexuals and transpeople among us.

We became LGBT.

Queer came next, either as an all-purpose term for LGBT.

Or for people who didn't want to identify as gay, bi, or straight, who wanted to acknowledge the fluidity of desire.

So we became LGBTQ.

For many years, physicians have known about people whose chromosomes or sex organs don't fall into the male or female categories.  But they were always pushed into one or the other category, sometimes with surgery.

Then intersexed people began to assert that they are fine the way they are, that you don't need to look male or female.  Why shouldn't they join the rest of us who are fighting for an end to "you must look like a man, act like a man, and like women"?

So we became LGBTQI.

For many years, psychiatrists and physicians assumed that sexual desire was universal.  Everyone who ever lived desired men, women, or both.  If you didn't, you were prescribed medication or psychotherapy to get to the root of your "problem."

Then asexual people began to push for acknowledgement that they are fine the way they are, that warm, caring friendships are more than enough to fill a lifetime. Why shouldn't they join a group that has been fighting psychiatrists and doctors who want to "cure" us?

So we became LGBTQIA

We are still pushed incessantly into gender-polarized heterosexual desiring boxes.  So trying to define yourself can be tricky.  Some people, especially during adolescence, aren't sure where they belong.  But we want them to feel comfortable among us.  So we welcomed questioning people.

Now we were LGBTQQIA.

Wait -- what about cisgendered heterosexual people who aren't homophobic or transphobic, who want to support us?

They can come in, too.  We'll call them Allies.

So we have become LGBTQQIAA.

Everybody is welcome.

The original nude photos are on Tales of West Hollywood.

Sean Astin

Speaking of John Astin, his adopted son Sean, born in 1971, was a reliable teen idol through the 1980s, with iconic roles in The Goonies (1985), White Water Summer (1987), and The War of the Roses (1989). (Meanwhile his brother Mackenzie was starring in The Facts of Life).

But Sean's gay subtexts began in earnest with starring roles in Memphis Belle (1990), a "boys alone" movie about a World War II airforce squadron (with Matthew Modine, Tate Donovan, and D. B. Sweeney).

 In the beefcake-heavy Toy Soldiers (1991), about boys alone in a private school.

In Where the Day Takes You (1992), as homeless drug addict Greg, who is partnered with Little J (Balthazar Getty).

And in Encino Man (1992), about college student Dave (Sean) and his slacker buddy Stony (Paulie Shore) unfreezing a cave man (Brendan Frasier) trapped in the ice.

In the late 1990s, Sean was mostly involved in boy-meets-girl-comedies and heterosexist actioners, but he returned to gay subtexts in a big way in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003): his Sam Gamgee was achingly in love with Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), in spite of the marrying-a-girl conclusion.

Today he is a little beefy, but he can still fill out a Speedo.

Although he is a supporter of gay marriage, Sean's only gay character, in  Stay Cool (2009), was a homophobic stereotype, a swishy hairdresser named Big Girl.
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