Nov 26, 2016

Ron Glass: The Gay-Vague Cop at the Gym

I was saddened to hear of the death of Ron Glass on November 25th, 2016, at the age of 71.  As a kid in Rock Island, I loved Barney Miller (1975-1982),  a "hip sitcom" about the quirky cops and criminals at  New York police station.

I had a big crush on the dimwitted, muscular Wojo (Max Gail), but I loved the fussy, swishy, stylish, gay-vague Detective Ron Harris.

A glimpse of sophistication and freedom on dark, gloomy Thursday nights in a Rock Island where everyone was terrified to admit that gay people existd.

 Harris was always impeccably dressed, a shining exception to the crumpled cops around him

And, incidentally, he had a breathtaking bulge.

Later, when I was living in West Hollywood, I saw Ron often at the gym.  Not much of a physique: he went for lean and lanky, and he was extraordinarily feminine, not my type. But he could really fill out his gym trunks.  Mega-huge!

It was common knowledge in West Hollywood that Ron was gay but not out, but I don't have any celebrity dating stories about him.  Maybe he wasn't a big enough star to cause a stir at gay parties, when we could be revealing romances with Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone instead.

I heard that Tony Geary from General Hospital was his former lover.

Ron Glass grew up in Evansville, Indiana, and worked in theater before coming to Los Angeles in 1972.  Aside from Barney Miller, he was known for The New Odd Couple (1982-83), playing the fussy Felix Ungar to Demond Wilson's Oscar Madison; and the futuristic science fiction series Firefly (2002-2003), playing the religious zealot Shepherd Book (nice name).

But he had over 70 acting roles, mostly in an extraordinary array of sitcoms, from the 1970s (Maude, All in the Family, Good Times) to the 2000s (Friends).

He never lost contact with his Evansville roots, often returning to participate in the life of the community.  He was chairman of the Evansville African American Museum.

I've only found one semi-beefcake photo online.

But it wasn't about the beefcake.  It was about the glimpse of freedom for gay kids lost in the wilds of the Straight World.

Nov 24, 2016

An Interview with Spartacus: Gay Characters, Gay Subtexts, and His Wife

Spartacus (111-71 BC) was a gladiator who led a slave revolt against the Roman Republic, and became an inspiration for rebels of all sizes and shapes, from Toussaint Loverture to Bulgarian soccer teams.  He has appeared in many novels, movies, and tv series, most recently in Spartacus (2011-2013), a popular series on the STARZ network.  I heard it was the "gayest show on television," so I caught up with Spartacus to see just how gay it was.

Thank you for taking the time from your busy slave revolt to talk to me.

Happy to be here.  Give my regards to your wife.

Um...tell me about your life in Thrace before you were sold into slavery.

It was Paradise!  My wife and I spent all our days gazing into each other's eyes!  Every moment with my wife by my side was ecstasy!  Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony!  I only wish that your readers could know the ecstasy of a man and his wife!

Well, most of my readers are gay.

Oh.  Ok, that's fine, too.  To each his own, I always say.  Did I mention my wife?

Yes, five times so far.  So you were both sold into slavery.  You ended up in Capua, in the gladiator-training school run by Batiatus.  How did you like it there?

Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony, of course, but I took solace in the fact that Batiatus agreed to find my wife for me.  Every match that I won brought me closer to that moment when I would be reunited with my wife.  Did I mention my wife?

Yes, you did!  Did the Romans generally treat you well?

They gave me the honors befitting a champion.  But their customs were barbaric.  Men didn't spend every moment gazing into the eyes of their wife.  They slept with whoever they wanted, not realizing that the bond between a man and his wife is sacred.  Like my bond with my wife.  Every moment without my wife was unspeakable agony.  Did I mention my wife?

Um...I believe so.  Did you make any friends among the other gladiators?

My best friend was Varro.  He was amazing!

Strong gay-subtext buddy-bond, huh?

No, it's not that.  I respected him. He sold himself into slavery in order to support his wife and child.  Every moment without his wife was agony, of course, but he did what he had to do.  His only goal in life was to make his wife happy.  Just as it should be for all men.  What good is a man without a wife?  My wife was my reason for living! Did I mention my wife?

Any gay guys among the gladiators?

Well, there was Barca, the Beast of Carthage.  Instead of a wife, he hooked up with the young twink Pietros -- I even stumbled upon them having sex one night when I was moaning about my wife.  But then he was killed, and Pietros committed suicide.  They were nice guys.  Did I mention my wife?

Were they major characters?

Not really.  Only a few scenes, and they died rather quickly in the first season.

You were eventually reunited with your wife, but she was mortally wounded, and died in your arms.

The worst moment of my life!  Life is meaningless without a wife!

Did you move on, to concentrate on your profession, meet other women, and so on?

Oh, no!  I moaned about the memory of my lost wife in every episode, and I would never consider looking at another woman.  The bond between a man and his wife is eternal!  I just wish that you readers could know the ecstasy a man feels when he gazes into the eyes of his wife!  It is the reason for existing!  It is Paradise! It is...

Um...remember, most of my readers are gay?

Oh, right.  Whatever turns you on!  Barca had a boyfriend before Pietros, you know.  I wasn't around, but you hear about it in the second season, a prequel, set before I was sold into slavery, when I was still gazing into the eyes of my wife!   A man and his wife....

Got it!  So, is there any other gay content in the ludus?  Any beefcake?

Sure, lots.  We all have bodybuilder physiques, and we work out in posing straps with gigantic bulges -- the ladies in the audience really like it, you see.  And some of the gladiators who don't know the infinite joy of having a wife are assigned to sleep with Roman women.  You see full frontal nudity as they are inspected.

So there's nudity, but only in the context of women's desire for men?

Right.  I mean, it's not the infinite joy of having a wife, but it's what men and women do.  What man would give up the opportunity to sleep with a beautiful woman, except those who have wives?

Gay men generally aren't interested in women

Oh, right, your readers.  I keep forgetting.  The topic just never comes up in the ludus.  Most of the men spend all their time talking about the beautiful women they've been with, or want to be with.  I, of course, moan over the loss of my wife.  My wife!  My wife!  My wife!

Ok, calm down.  So I take it there's a lot of heteronormativity in the series?

Of course not! We don't discriminate!  There are several gay characters.  Agron, one of my top aides in the rebellion, is in love with Nasir.  They last until the end of the series. There's Castus, Nasir's friend. And...and...well, that's about all.  But more than you'll see on 300.  

Besides, isn't every good tv series really about a man and his wife? The only thing that gives life meaning is a man gazing into the eyes of his wife! Without a wife, you're nothing! My wife!  My wife!  My wife!  My wife!

Um...ok, that's all we have time for today.  Thanks for coming in. 

My pleasure. Give my regards to your wife.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of Spartacus

Nov 22, 2016

Hunt Bowman, the Conan Clone of Planet Comics

During the 1940s and 1950s, a Flash Gordon-Conan clone named Hunt Bowman appeared in Fiction House's Planet Comics series.  In a ruined post-Apocalyptic Earth control;ed by evil Voltamen from the Planet Volta (where else would they come from), one "brawny barbarian" leads the fight for freedom.

 His associates are the Martian Princess Lyssa and Bruce, a human who happens to be inhabiting a Voltaman's body (coincidentally the body of the king's son).

So far so good.  Sounds like a lot of opportunities for beefcake and buddy-bonding, if not outright gay sumbolism.  Hunt Bowman sounds like a male stripper's name, and look at his weird short-shorts and leather-fetish harness that leaves his nipples free for the clamps.

And his best friend is named Bruce.

But Planet Comics was not known for its beefcake.  Quite the opposite.

Here are two panels from a story about Hunt and Lyssa escaping from a Voltamen craft to the ruins of New York City.

In the first, Hunt's arm and shoulder get a quarter of the space, and Lyssa's breasts about half.

In th second, Hunt's body is completely covered by Lyssa's bare legs.

The covers are even worse.  Every single one shows Lyssa or some other half-naked babe being menaced by a monster, with Hunt absent.  In the one cover where he's present, he looks like a midget dwarfed by the gigantic Lyssa.  Actually, he's far, far away.

This is the only cover giving Hunt substantial space without blocking him with girls' legs, although he's stil pushed off to the side, while a girl's body occupies the center stage.

There's a Hunt Bowman on Facebook.  Somebody named their kid after the barbarian hero.

Nov 21, 2016

Three Terrible, Horrible, No Good Days of Cruising in Chicago

Chicago, November 2016

I'm in Chicago for a conference.  I've been here many times, but not recently, and never to the heart of downtown, across the street from the Art Institute.

Day 1

It's a rough neighborhood.  The streets are packed.  There are a dozen panhandlers at every corner, lots of homeless veterans saying "please help," men singing loudly and yelling at no one in particular, and no way to avoid them without hitting the thousands of other scurrying pedestrians.

And even though the streets are arranged on a grid, I can't find anything.  I have to pull out the GPS on my cell phone just to go a block.

There are no decent restaurants around, just ultra-expensive fusion cuisine and scary dives.  No Asian restaurants in walking distance, if we consider "walking" "go outside, get lost, check GPS, get lost again, check GPS, literally trace your steps on the GPS while you are walking."

The hotel is just as bad, a maze of corridors and hallways, half-floors, rotundas, verandas, buildings inside buildings, with a map too small to read and contradictory information on directories.   It charges $240 a night for a "basic room," the size of a closet, looking out on a fire escape, with wifi $20 per day, then offers you a "business upgrade."

Maybe I can assuage this lousy day by going on Grindr  or to the bathhouses in Boystown.

The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.
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