Apr 23, 2016

Adrian Zmed After Dark

On an episode of The Simpsons, the family goes to a review featuring the once-famous:
     We are the stars that you thought were dead,
     Like Bonnie Franklin and Adrian Zmed.

People who weren't watching television or going to moves during the early 1980s probably thought "I didn't think Adrian Zmed was dead, I never heard of him."  But during that brief few years, the sultry black-haired Romanian-American actor -- and his amazingly ripped physique -- was everywhere.

He sang and danced as a John Travolta clone in Grease 2 (1982), also starring Maxwell Caulfield.

He partied with Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party (1984).

He bonded with William Shatner in the police drama T.J. Hooker (1982-85).

He hosted Dance Fever
He guest starred on Bosom Buddies, Love Boat, Hotel, Glitter, and Empty Nest.

He appeared in Battle of the Network Stars (a reality series that was really an excuse to get male tv stars into speedos).  He didn't win any awards, but he got to hug Scott Baio.

His full-body speedo shots were more than enough to draw the attention of gay fans, but his characters always had a blatant interest in same-sex chums, regardless of whether they got the girl in the end.

In Grease 2, for instance, the plot revolves around an "opposites attract" between greaser Johnny (Zmed) and uptight British newcomer Michael (Maxwell Caulfield).

And, unlike most beefcake stars of the 1980s, he was aware of his gay fans, and actually played to them.  He remains a strong gay ally, like his "bosom buddy" Tom Hanks.

By the late 1980s, the Adrian Zmed train had stalled, perhaps overloaded by overexposure.  Though he has never stopped acting -- in 2007 he appeared in the soap Passions and in Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Special -- the era of speedo shots is long gone.

Apr 21, 2016

When Doves Cry

The summer of 1984 was the summer of "When Doves Cry," by androgynous musician Prince.   I don't usually like sad songs, but there was something so wistful about the self-rencrimination, something so poignant about the fear of being abandoned in cold, cruel world:

How can you just leave me standing,
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just too demanding.
Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold.
Maybe you're just like my mother,
She was never satisfied 

It was especially evocative because I heard it constantly as I drove south from Rock Island toward Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas, a cold, dark, perilous realm bereft of light and hope, where I would spend the worst year of my life.

This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

Of course we all thought that Prince  was gay.  He was so svelte, so androgynous, so downright feminine.  He wore make up and women's high heels, and purple.   In his 1981 "Controversy," he himself seemed to be unsure:

I just can't believe all the things people say
Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?

In "I Would Die for You" (1984), he announced himself as genderqueer:

I'm not a woman, I'm not a man.
I am something that you'll never understand.

He was a breath of fresh air amid the ultra-macho cowboy Reagan years.

But "Cream" (1991) eliminated all speculation, with lyrics that are too dirty to reprint here, and an utterly disgusting music video.  Let's just say that he was proclaiming his heterosexuality, big time.

After that I didn't pay much attention to Prince.  I was vaguely aware that in 1993 he changed his name to a combination of the male and female symbols, again announcing his androgyny, then in 2000 back to Prince again.

And in 2001, that he had become a Jehovah's Witness, a hard-core fundamentalist church that flly embraces that ancient Hebrew text about ritual purity as evidence of God's hatred of non-heteros.

In 2008, he compared gay marriage to the horrible abominations that caused God to destroy all of humanity with the Great Flood: "God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough."

He then clarified that he meant gay marriage, gestured at his Bible, and said "It ain't right."

Later he said that he had been misquoted, but when asked again about his opinion concerning gay marriage, he refused to answer.

In 2013, his song "Da Bourgeosie" describes his disgust over a girlfriend who claimed to have left "the dirty world," but was still having sex with women.

Prince died earlier today at his home near Minneapolis.

I feel strangely melancholic, like I'm 23 years old again, driving down Interstate 55 south of St. Louis in my Dodge Dart, staring into a bleak, desolate future as everything I know and love recedes into the past.

How can you just leave me standing,
Alone in a world that's so cold?
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