Dec 10, 2016

Peter Koch, Forgotten Muscleman of the 1980s

The other night I was watching A Different World on Netflix, a "very special episode" where Dwayne rehabilitates two juvenile gang-bangers (played by preteen rap duo Kriss Kross).  The police officer who brings them in for mentoring was striking -- tall, blond, buffed.  He had only one line, but maybe he was in other things....

I found Peter Koch, a forgotten muscleman of the 1980s.

Born in 1962, he played professional football for five seasons while doing modeling and some acting.  His first tv role was "Harry the Bodyguard" on a 1986 episode of Dallas.








He showed some chest as Swede Johanson in the war movie Hearbreak Ridge (1986)



Why do musclemen never get to be romantic leads?  If they're not rescuing POWs from behind enemy lines, they're grunting and flexing to threaten the lead -- here Peter's character roughs up Patrick Dempsey in Loverboy (1988).

It's as if Hollywood thinks of muscles and by definition violent rather than sexy.












He was very busy in the 1990s, playing football players, cops, bodyguards, soldiers, and miscellaneous hunks.  No starring roles, but he played himself in the thriller Sweet Evil (1996), and he had a substantial part as the Fire Captain in Conspiracy Theory (1997), starring Mel Gibson.
















Not a lot of roles in the 2000s, but he kept busy as a fitness trainer.

















According to his facebook page, he lives in Santa Monica, he's single, and this photo is prominently posted.

My gaydar was triggered until I read more: it's not the boyfriend, it's Toby Maguire.

And Pete's Facebook likes: Brett Easton Ellis, George W. Bush, and Mike Pence.

Ok, not gay, not gay friendly, but still a hunk.

Dec 9, 2016

Beetle Bailey's Boyfriend

In 1950 Mort Walker started the newspaper comic strip Beetle Bailey, about a lazy, inept student at Rockview University.  The large cast of characters included students, faculty, and Beetle's longsuffering family (his sister eventually married and spun off into her own strip, Hi and Lois).

College humor didn't attract many reader, so on March 13, 1951, Walker had Beetle join the army.  He was stationed at Camp Swampy in South Carolina, where he has stayed ever since, still lazy and inept, still surrounded by a colorful characters: girl-crazy Killer, intellectual Plato, dimwitted Zero.

And Sarge -- Sergeant Orville P. Snorkle, Beetle's platoon leader.

Their relationship was antagonistic -- Sarge often yelled at Beetle and pounded him into a pulp -- but affectionate.  They were often shown hanging out together as friends.

Or more than friends.

As the years passed, and especially after Mort Walker's sons, Neal, Brian, and Greg, took over the writing in the 1980s, the homoromantic subtext became increasingly important to the plotlines.

Many gags involved Sarge's total lack of interest in women.

Beetle dated girls, but less and less frequently, as strips hinted that his main interest lay in the masculine as well.


Beetle exhibited a freedom of speech and action that no other soldier had, relishing his special place in Sarge's life.

They used blatantly romantic vocabulary and themes.












A number of strips hinted that Beetle regularly shared Sarge's room, or his bed.

Other characters treated them as a couple.



Their fights became the standard squabbles of comic-strip couples, where physical violence demonstrates affection rather than hatred.

The question is, were Mort Walker and his sons aware of the subtexts?












Doubtful -- bickering buddies are a comic strip staple.

Still, we have to wonder about the August 19, 2013 strip, with Beetle looking for the blue skies over the rainbow.  Sounds like he's coming out.







Dec 6, 2016

Slapsie Maxie and Mad Max: Boxers with a Hint of Lavender

I've heard the phrase Slapsie Maxie many times, usually applied in derision to a guy who fights with open-hand slaps rather than closed-fist punches.   It's supposed to suggest that you're a sissy, potentially gay. But only recently did I discover that the phrase originated with a potential landsman.










Born in 1907, Jewish boxer Maxie Rosenbloom (left) had a weak, open-glove punching style that earned him the nickname "Slapsie Maxie."

It was effective: he won 222 of his 298 fights.  But he was hit in the head so often that he lost some motor functioning and reasoning skills, becoming what they called "punch drunk."  












Forced into retirement in 1937, Slapsie Maxie began a new career in the movies, playing "himself" or other big, tough,  slow-witted, "punch drunk" characters.

He also capitalized on the association of "slapping" with effeminancy, playing characters with "a touch of lavender," such as a powder puff salesman in The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942),  a gangster named "Trixie Belle" in Here Comes Kelly (1943), or a Hopalong Cassidy parody named Skipalong Rosenbloom (1951).  

The humor came from seeing someone big and tough who might be gay, or who was too "stupid" to realize that his acts were gender-transgressive.

 In real life, he was married for a few years (1937-45), but he seemed to prefer the company of men, such as trainer and manager Frank Bachmann (left).  And he was not averse to gender-transgressions: apparently a young Davis Hopper saw him in drag at the premiere of Dodge City (1939).


Slapsie Maxie also opened a popular nightclub, Slapsie Maxie's, and made a dent in radio and on tv, playing "himself" in an ongoing role on The Fred Allen Show, and appearing on episodes of The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Donna Reed Show.

In 1950, he teamed up with his lifelong friend, another boxer-turned-actor, Max Baer (known as Mad Max, top photo and left), playing the "stooge" who bedevils "straight man" Baer.  They starred "as themselves" in four comedy shorts and toured as the comedy team "The Two Maxies."

They remained close friends until Baer's death in 1959.  Slapsie Maxie died in 1976.

Max Baer's son, Max Baer Jr. (born in 1937) made his own splash in Hollywood as Jethro Bodine, dimwitted backwood Adonis on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71).  Later he contributed to gay history by producing Ode to Billy Joe (1976), starring Robby Benson as a gay teenager who commits suicide.

Dec 5, 2016

Amazing Man

Amazing Man was published by Centaur Comics, one of the many comic book companies that sprang up during World War II to capitalize on the popularity of Superman.  26 issues appeared from 1939 to 1942.
















Amazing Man has a teen sidekick named Tommy, and a coterie of equally muscled heroes who often need rescue.

This very busy cover shows some of his coterie about to be blasted off into space, while Amazing Man tangles with the hooded baddie's pet panther.













I don't know what he's doing here.  Overturning a wheelbarrow of coal onto the baddies?

His origin story is similar to that of several other mystical superheroes: born John Amman, he was raised in Tibet by the Council of Seven, each of whom endowed him with a superheroic power.  The oddest was an ability to turn into a green mist.

That should strike terror in the hearts of criminals.








The benefit of Amazing Man was that he was bare-chested and rather muscular, in an era when even Conan the Barbarian was portrayed as rather skinny.










He's now public domain, so he has appeared in several modern comic book universes, including Gallant Comics, Marvel (where he's known as the Prince of Orphans) and Malibu Comics (where he has joined the superhero team The Protectors).
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