Aug 27, 2016

Give Me a Prehistoric Man

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, my church hated "evil-lution" almost as much as Roman Catholics.  It was not only a big lie, it was the source of every modern problem from hippies to homa-sekshuls,

Adam and Eve were the first people created, about 4000 BC.  They moved directly into a technological civilization that ended with Noah's Flood, 2500 BC, and was rebuilt again in time for Abraham, 2200 BC.

So the history of Egypt, Sumeria, China, and India could not have begun before 2500 BC, and there was no prehistory.

Cave men did not exist.  No ancestors of homo sapiens existed.  Any artifacts were from the civilization before the flood.

We were forbidden to learn about, talk about, or think about evolution, lest Satan brainwash us.

I looked up Darwin's Origin of Species in the school library, but was afraid to open it.  What if just reading the words was enough to damn you for eternity?

But reading about prehistoric people was exciting.  There was a little frisson of evil, some apprehension, like an apprentice magician who picks up a book of forbidden spells.

But where else could I see so much beefcake?  Prehistoric people always went shirtless, even in the frigid glacial ice, and they often had bare butts, too.

Remember the song "Prehistoric Man" from On the Town?

Top hats, bow ties -- he simply wore no ties
Bear skin, bear skin, he just sat around in nothing but bear skin
(I really love bear skin.)

More recently I've been studying the Upper Paleolithic Era (50,000 to 10,000 years ago), when our ancestors began to use symbolic communication and live in villages larger than family units.  It's the period of the vast collections of cave art (they probably never actually lived in caves, but just used them for rituals).

Most of the cave art represents animals, but about 10% represent humans, the men with penises, often erect, a homoerotic link from their culture to ours.

They also produced representational art, like this stone phallus.  The standard texts say it's a fertility symbol with no practical use.

I disagree.

Aug 25, 2016

Spin and Marty: Summer Camp Boys in Love

In the spring of 1955, William Beaudine began casting an adaptation of the novel Marty Markham, about a wealthy mollycoddle who learns to be a regular fella at summer camp.   When buzz-cut jock Tim Considine auditioned, he was deemed too macho to play Marty, but far too charismatic to pass on, so a minor character in the novel, Spin Evans, was expanded for him.

 Marty was cast with David Stollery, a fey redhead who starred with Tim in Her Twelve Men (1954).

The Adventures of Spin and Marty premiered in November 1955 as a serial segment of Disney’s late-afternoon kiddie show The Mickey Mouse Club.

Though the original novel contains no homoromance, the tough-sissy contrast seems tailor-made for a revival of Tom Brown’s School Days or Cadets on Parade, and the series wastes no time in meeting the beefcake quota, displaying both stars' muscles and the respectable physique of an older boy (Sammy Ogg).  (Kevin Corcoran starred as tagalong annoyance Moochie.)

However, there is no instant camaraderie, no moment of falling in love.  In the first twenty episodes, Spin and Marty despise each other.  They often stare at each other, but they come face-to-face only for pranks, insults, and fights.  Late in the season, as counselors break up their latest fight by holding them upside down, Spin and Marty seem to really see each other for the first time.  Their shield of rage vanishes; they grin, and then laugh, and suddenly, inevitably, they are “together.”

In the remaining episodes, their fellow campers and the adults behave as if they have always been inseparable companions.  Intimacy appears, and passion when each tries to sacrifice himself for the other.  They even achieve homoromantic permanence: in the last scene, as the other campers prepare to go home, they are invited to stay on as ranch hands.

Viewers – grade schoolers and no doubt not a few high schoolers – were mesmerized by this hostility melting into love, and they responded with an urgency unknown in the days of Tom Brown’s School Days.  Books, comics, sheet music, and 45-rpm records flew off the shelves, continuing to evoke the homoromantic Arcadia for two years after the series ended.  Today, when the other live-action segments of The Mickey Mouse Club have faded into obscurity, many Boomers recall Spin and Marty fondly, as icons of their childhood.  Many recall them, clearly and unequivocally, as a gay couple.

In November 1956, Tim Considine and David Stollery returned for The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty.  Now Spin has an impressively tight, hard-lined chest and stomach, while Marty is lean and lanky (and decidedly feminine).  They are on display often and earnestly, as are all of the boys, presented in swimsuit and underwear shots as often as in Toy Soldiers decades later. But their homoromantic idyll is threatened: a girl’s camp has just opened up across the lake, and after some initial hesitation, they spend the series posturing, competing, and arguing over who gets to date Annette Funicello.  Then, when Marty is drowning, Spin rushes to the rescue.  The crisis makes them realize how much they care for each other and they renew their commitment, swearing off trivial distractions like girls.  Homoromance has triumphed.

But not for long.  In The New Adventures of Spin and Marty (November 1958), seventeen-year old Spin is dating Annette, and Marty is dating her fellow Mousketeer Darlene Gillespie.  Whatever passion they once felt for each other has been forgotten; they are not now, nor ever have been, more than buddies.

A fourth season of Spin and Marty was scripted, but never filmed.  Instead Tim Considine went on to star as in a Hardy Boys adaption with Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcorran. and as the eldest of My Three Sons on television before retiring, and David Stollery left Disneyland to become an automobile designer, and marry once. They still run into each other from time to time, at fan conventions, but they have not stayed in touch.

Aug 22, 2016

Samson, the Biblical Muscleman

The famous muscleman Samson appears in the Hebrew Bible in Judges 13-16.  His long hair is the source of superhuman strength, allowing him to wreak all sorts of mischief on the evil Philistines.  But Delilah teases the secret out of him and cuts his hair.  The Philistines blind him and put him to work on a giant millstone.  But he regains his strength long enough to pull down the pillars in the Temple of Dagon, killing himself and 3,000 worshippers.

Sounds similar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Several incidents from Samson's life have inspired artists. Leon Bonnat's Samson's Youth (1891) portrays a young, naked Samson killing a lion with his bare hands.  He will later use the lion's jaw to make up a riddle for the Phillistines.

At Yale University you can see a statue by John Cheere (1709-1787) of Samson getting a...I mean Samson slaying a Phillistine (he really hated them)

Probably the most common subject for artists is the betrayal by Delilah.

Giovanni Francesco Guercino's Samson Captured by the Phillistines (1619) emphasizes his muscular backside, and pushes Delilah over to the side in insignificance.

Samson and Delilah (1609-10), by Peter-Paul Rubens, shows the sleeping muscleman about to get cropped.

Paul-Albert Rouffio, Samson and Delilah (1874) by Paul-Albert Rouffio, shows a long-haired Samson with a smoking body reclining at the feat of Delilah.

Another popular theme is Samson pulling down the pillars at the Temple of Dagon. This statue is in Portugal.

This stylized depiction, with Samson as massive and square-edged as the pillars themselves, is in Ashdod, Israel.

Guido Renni's The Victorious Samson (1609) doesn't show any temples being destroyed.  A rather young, naked Samson is removing the blindfold from his eyes.

The Physique Photographs of Bruce of L.A.

Everyone's heard of Physique Pictorial, the groundbreaking magazine that displayed male semi-nudes in the desolate years before Stonewall.

But Bob Mizer wasn't the only physique photographer selling semi-nudes to gay men.  There was also the legendary Bruce of L.A.

Born Bruce Bellas in Nebraska, he was a high school chemistry teacher in Nebraska before moving to L.A. in 1947.  During the 1950s he began photographing singlet-clad muscle men, publishing first in Physique Pictorial and then his own Today's Man.  His photos were also available by mail order.

Some of his models adopt the standard bodybuilder's flex, but there are also relaxed informal poses, like this older hunk reclining on a table.

He died in 1974, but his influence lives on in the work of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Weber.
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