Sep 17, 2016

Toddler TV

Adults think that gayness is something that "happens" to you late in life, after a childhood of girls mooning over teen idols and boys grinning at the girl next door. But we know that they are wrong.  In every kindergarten classroom, in every preschool classroom, there are some boys who gaze at girls, and some boys who gaze at boys.

But what are they looking at?  Is their desire erotic, romantic, or something else entirely, something that we have forgotten as adults?  When gay boys watched Blue's Clues (1996-2006), did they think of Steve Burns as a cool big brother, or as a hot fantasy boyfriend with killer biceps?

Or Donovan Patton, who took over for Steve in later seasons?

When they watched Barney and Friends (1992-2010), did they want to hug and kiss Michael (Brian Eppes), or did physical intimacy never enter their minds?

When I was three or four years old, there wasn't a lot of toddler tv. On Saturday morning I probably watched what the older kids watched: The Alvin Show, Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog, Beany and Cecil.  On weekday mornings I probably watched Romper Room, with a female host, and Captain Kangaroo, with an elderly male host.  And in the early evening, there was probably Yogi Bear and The Flintstones.

I was drawn to the homodomesticity (same-sex partners living together) and to the same-sex rescues. But did I think anyone was hot?
I have very vague memories of liking The Magical Land of Allakazam (1960-64), a live action series featuring a magician (Mark Wilson actually one of the most renowned magicians of the twentieth century), his wife, and a clown. There was no homodomesticity, no rescuing.  In fact, it was somewhat heterosexist, Wilson constantly referring to his "lovely assistant."

I remember not liking the magic tricks.  You could see lots better on any tv cartoon.

But Mark Wilson was cute.

See also: Burr Tillstrom, the gay puppeteer behind Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

Sep 15, 2016

Cleonike: Gay Illustrator of the Jazz Age

Cleo Damianakes, aka Cleo Wilkins, aka Cleonike, aka Cleon (1895-1979) was an artist and illustrator of the Jazz Age.  Born in Berkeley, she studied at the University of California, and then moved to Hollywood.

During the 1920s, she was consigned to illustrating the covers of many jazz age classics, including 3 Hemingways, an F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Zelda Fitzgerald, and 2 Conrad Aikens.  Later she moved to New York.

90% of her works feature butch, muscular women with biceps and abs.  Even where they are out of place, as in this cover of The Sun Also Rises, which has nothing to do with ancient Greek women in togas.

 A few butch muscular men appear alongside the buffed women.

You probably know Conrad Aiken only from the horrible short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," but he also wrote horrible novels.

Occasionally Cleonike gives us some androgynous characters that could go either way, as in this cover to Saturday Afternoon by Marion Strobel (a famous poet of the day).

But Cleonike's interest definitely resides in big, butch, muscular women.

Why does this person not appear on the list of great lesbian artists?   She was married twice, to Richard Oliver and then to Richard Wilkins, but how is that relevant?  She liked what she liked.

The Homophobia of "American Horror Story," Season Five

I've been watching American Horror Story since the beginning.  The anthology series, using a troop of actors to play different characters in different historical settings, has always had a strong gay presence.

In Season 5, however, I have to wonder where the gay characters are.

There are queer characters.  Lots of bisexual hanky-panky.  But gay -- characters interested only in their own sex, establishing only same-sex relationships.

There aren't any.  The show goes out of its way to tell us that, over and over again.

The setting: The Cortez Hotel, a fading icon of art deco glamor in downtown Los Angeles, where the Countess (Lady Gaga) holds court in a world of ghosts, vampires, and boy toys.  The boys are so identical that even I, an expert on male beauty, had difficulty telling them apart.

But one thing is certain: none of them are gay.

1. Donovan (Matt Bomer, who is gay in real life): a heroin addict who was vampirized by the Countess 20 years ago.  He became her main squeeze.  When she rejects him for newcomer Tristan, he formulates a revenge plan.  "Not gay."

2. Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock), a male model who flirts with men to get what he wants, but repeatedly announces that he is "not gay."

He falls in love with the pre-op transgender Liz Taylor, but she re-iterates that their relationship is heterosexual: "I'm not gay.  You're not gay for being with me.  I'm a heterosexual woman.  Thank you for seeing my femininity."

3. Rudolph Valentino (also Finn Wittrock), the legendary screen star, vampirized in 1926, and then trapped inside an abandoned wing in the Cortez Hotel for 89 years.  Heterosexual, although he experiences a symbolic "seduction" by F.W. Murnaw (the director of Nosferatu).

4.Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson),  the new owner of the Cortez Hotel, who seems to be gay by default: he likes women, but he never can perform adequately when in bed with one (his son must be adopted).  But the Countess clears up his sexual inadequacy, and he begins announcing that he is bisexual.

5. James Patrick March (Evan Peters), the extremely effeminate, cultured, aristocratic ghost of the serial killer who originally built the Cortez Hotel as his private playground.  Kills men and women indiscriminately, but is only sexually involved with women, and seems rather homophobic.

6. Detective John Lowe (a very craggy Wes Bentley).  A "family man" haunted by the disappearance of his son.  It turns out that a pedophile didn't take him, the Countess did, to save him from his horrible home life.  John is March's protege, a heterosexual serial killer.

In fact, I can only find one actual, real, honest to goodness gay person in the cast:

The ghost of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel).

Plus Gabriel (Max Greenfield), an extremely feminine heroin junkie who checks
 into the hotel room to shoot up.  He is raped by the Addiction Demon until Sally shows up and sews him into a mattress.  We're probably supposed to think of him as gay, his rape a punishment for his "sin."

So much for gay-friendly.

Well, at least it's bi- and trans-friendly.

See also: What Seth Gabel Looks Like Naked; American Horror Story: Gay World

Sep 14, 2016

The 13 Saddest Songs of the 1970s

People who weren't there think of the 1970s as a nonstop party before the deprivation of the 1980s, with everyone doing weird drugs, having sex with everything that moved, and dancing all night long.  But there was a lot of angst going on: Watergate, the recession, gas lines, Son of Sam, Anita Bryant.  And for every lively, upbeat song about dancing queens, there was a depressing one.

And not just the usual lost-love depression.  Life is meaningless depression.  Death, despair, and agonized crying.

Here are the 13 worst, most depressing songs of the 1970s.

1. "Suicide is Painless" (Johnny Mandel, 1970).   The theme song to M*A*S*H.  Or the way you feel after watching an episode.

2. "Alone Again, Naturally" (Gilbert O'Sullivan, 1972).  Ok, this is a lost-love song at least to start off with.  His fiancee has left him at the altar, and he's planning to kill himself -- but it gets worse.  Mom and Dad die, too.

Oh, if [God]  really does exist, why did he desert me
In my hour of need
I truly am indeed, alone again, naturally

Why are you smiling, Gilbert?

3. "I Shot the Sheriff" (Eric Clapton, 1973).  He shot the sheriff, and now he's going to be executed.

4. "Mr. Bojangles" (Bob Dylan, 1973).  An old drunk has been grieving for his dead dog for 15 years.  And it gets worse.

5. "Billy Don't Be a Hero" (Paper Lace. 1974).  But Billy joins the military anyway (apparently the Civil War, not Vietnam).  He dies, of course.

Paper Lace also sang "The Night Chicago Died (1974), about his cop daddy going after gangsters.  Chicago might die, but Dad doesn't.

Why has no one heard of these guys, before or after?

6. "Seasons in the Sun" (Terry Jacks, 1974).  A guy about to die reflects on his lost innocence with a girl.

Goodbye my friend, it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere.

Depressing and heterosexist!

By the way, this isn't the same Terry Jacks, but I couldn't resist the photo..

7. "Cat's in the Cradle" (Harry Chapin, 1974).  Dad neglects son, so son grows up and gets revenge by neglecting Dad.

When you coming home, son?  I don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad.

1974 was a rough year.  But it gets worse.

8. "Rocky" (Dickey Lee, 1975).  I literally cannot tell you what this song is about.  Every time I try to type up a description, I start crying and can't hit the keyboard.

Instead, I'll give you some of the lyrics to "Patches" (1962), which is much less depressing:

I hear a neighbor telling my father
He says, a girl name of Patches was found floating face down
In that dirty old river that flows by the coal yards
In old Shantytown

Ok, he's hot, but who cares?  It's impossible to listen to his songs.

9. "Wildfire" (Michael Martin Murphy, 1975).  Her beloved horse dies, its owner dies, flowers die, and the singer dies.  Fun.

This is not the same Michael Martin Murphy, of course, but who wants to see a picture of the guy singing about everybody dying.

10. "Shannon" (Henry Gross, 1976).  His beloved dog dies.

I'm not kidding.  These songs actually exist, and were played on the radio.

11. "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (Gordon Lightfoot, 1976).  The Edmund Fitzgerald was a real ship that sank during a storm on Lake Superior.  The entire crew of 29 drowned.  Why sing about this horrible tragedy?  

12. "Dust in the Wind" (Kansas, 1977).  Everything is dust in the wind.

13. "Baker Street" (Gerry Rafferty, 1978):

You used to think that it was so easy, you used to say that it was so easy
But you're trying, you're trying now.
Another year and then you'd be happy, just one more year and then you'd be happy
But you're crying, you're crying now

Thank God the sad song craze was over by 1979, when the top hit was "I Will Survive"

I've got all my life to live, and I've got all my love to give, and I will survive!

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