Dec 31, 2017

Sandy Baron's "God Save the Queens": The First Gay-Positive Comedy Album

I knew Sandy Baron as the hot, shirtless, allergic-to-women John Marino in If This is Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969), and, thirty years later, as the irascible next-door-neighbor of Jerry's parents on Seinfeld (1991-1997).














But he had a long career: starting as a Borscht Belt comedian, performing with the legendary Lenny Bruce, appearing on the parody news program That Was The Week That Was (1962-63), starring with Will Hutchins in the sitcom Hey, Landlord (1966-67), and appearing in dozens of movies, game shows, and talk shows in the 1970s and 1980s.  He appeared on hundreds of college campuses

Like many comedians of the era, Baron released comedy albums, mostly recordings of his stand up-routines: The Sickniks, Out of the Mouth of Babes, I Never Let School Interfere with my Education.










In 1972 Baron and Methodist minister James R. McGraw  released"God Save the Queens."  The cover art parodied Disney's Snow White:  a muscular, shirtless prince leaves a tree-house after an unspecified encounter, while forest animals look on.  The person inside calls "Chow [ciao]."

It represents one of the first times in modern history where gay people appeared in mass media as anything but limp-wristed pansies.   The target of most of the jokes is an oblivious or homophobic straight person who cannot adapt to the gay people in his life:

1. It Happened One Night: A man reveals to his wife that he once had a same-sex experience.

2. Do You Take This Man: at a gay wedding, the father of the "bride or whatever" objects.  Because he doesn't approve of interracial marriage..

3. That Was Your Life: The #1 Male Box Office Star in the World, Stone St. Lawrence, is outed during a parody of the biography show This is Your Life.

4. Awe in the Family.  A gay man tries to come out to his parents, who misunderstand and think he's gotten a girl pregnant.  His father reveals that he had a similar "problem" in his youth.

5. Clockwork Pink.  Electroshock therapy used to "cure" gay men.

6. The Plot. A man rants about how gays are "taking over," controlling our toilet paper and dogs.

7. Buy Gay. A man planning to open a gay boutique seeks advice from an elderly Jewish merchant, who misunderstands "gay" as "goy."

8. The Politician.  A politician tries to court gay voters with laughably homophobic statements: "As long as there are no children around, a homo should be able to live anywhere he wants to."

9. The Counselor and the Hustler.  A "gay for pay" hustler goes to a gay employment service.

10. A Fairy Tale: The Queen Came Out of the Closet.  About Prince Different, who lives in a closet in the Land of Normal, but is encouraged to come out through the power of "pride."

Three years later, in an interview in The Advocate, Baron revealed that he cut the album in order to strike a blow for social equality for a minority group.  And for the money.

You can listen to the entire album on Queer Musical Heritage.

Dec 30, 2017

The Gay Content of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"

The View Askew peeps, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, and their friends, tend to make movies with a lot of subtle or not-so-subtle homophobia.  I try to avoid them whenever possible, and when I can't, I go in bracing myself for the onslaught.

In Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), the slacker buds(Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks) go to their 10-year high school reunion, where Miri aggressively propositions her old crush Bobby (Brandon Routh), without realizing that he is "gay now." Has he just, like, switched teams or something?

Bobby gets into an argument with his boyfriend, porn actor Brandon St. Randy (Justin Long).  Zack looks on in amusement, commenting "They fight just like real people."

After that brief scene, the gay people disappear, but they give Zack the idea of making some money by producing a straight porn movie.



His friend Delaney (View Askew regular Craig Robinson) agrees to bankroll it, and Zack and Miri hire a ragtag band of amateurs to perform.

Such as Lester (Jason Mewes, the perennial Jay to Silent Bob), whose talent is getting aroused very quickly.

Yes, we do see his butt, his rather impressive penis, and his rather scrawny body.

The dimwitted Lester mistakenly believes that there will be gay sex in the film, and remarks "I'll make it with a guy if I have to, but I'd rather make it with a girl."

Delaney exclaims "What the hell is wrong with you?" in homophobic contempt.  Obviously any guy who would do something as disgusting as engage in same-sex activity must have something wrong with them.

So according to Kevin Smith, gay people are mentally ill? Not a big revelation.  Most of his movies make similar statements.

Later Lester demonstrates a way for two guys to have sex without doing anything gay.



They also hire Barry (Ricky Mabe), a chubby actor in young-adult theater.  He doesn't mind being an anal bottom, as long as the top is a woman.  In one scene his testicles are on display, probably (they could be a prop).

Deacon (View Askew regular Jeff Anderson) agrees to direct.
















Naturally the group becomes a family, and work together to help Zack and Miri in their hour of need.











The porno is started but never finished.  Instead, Zack and Miri fall in love.

I'll bet you didn't see that plot twist coming.

So, to sum up, the gay content consists of: two gay characters who vanish after the first ten minutes, three homophobic statements, Ricky Mabe's testicles, and Jason Mewes' penis.

Not a bad way to spend 90 minutes.

Dec 29, 2017

Dan Shor Takes Off His Pants and Changes the World

Sometime in the 1990s we rented Strange Behavior (1981), mainly because the cover blurb said something about Galesburg, Illinois, which is near the Quad Cities. 

We weren't aware that it was written by a gay man, it stars a gay man, and it features the first "real" male butt shot.

Actually, no local Galesburg sites are mentioned; the writer apparently just picked a town at random on a map of "the flyover," the vast empty expanse that everyone flies over en route from L.A. to NYC and back.  It was actually filmed in New Zealand.









Strange Behavior is only the U.S. title.  In Australia it's called Dead Kids, in the U.K.Human Experiments, and in West Germany Blutige Schrie (Bloody Scream). 

It's about a mad scientist named Dr. Le Sange (Dr. Blood), who turns the teenagers of a small town into blood-crazed monsters, but that's not important right now.  What's important is the main teenager, Pete Brady (like the guy on The Brady Bunch).  He's a tow-headed, long-in-the-tooth high school senior played by 23-year old Dan Shor.









Born in New York in 1956, Dan Shor studied acting in England, then moved to Hollywood, where he landed roles in Studs Lonigan, Friendly Fire, and other dramas.  He would go on to an impressive career as actor, writer, and director.  An interview I read as research for this post mentions a wife, but I'm sure I read a lot of interviews in the 1990s where he stated that he was gay. Maybe he's bisexual.








The co-writer, Bill Condon, was also gay, a year older than Dan Shor, a recent graduate of Columbia University.  This was his first job in Hollywood.  He would go on to direct such gay-themed classics as Gods and Monsters and Kinsey.

The other co-writer and director, Michael Laughlin, had produced a few long-forgotten horror movies and dramas, such as The Whisperers (1967) and The Christian Licorice Store (1971).  This was his first directing job.







In an early scene, Pete and his father have just gotten up in the morning.  As dad shaves, Pete approaches him to discuss something.  Naked.  He then moves toward the shower.  We get an extended shot of his butt as he walks away.

It wasn't the first nude butt on film, but it was the first extended butt shot that wasn't for a comedic purpose.

There is no other nudity, male or female, in the film, not even a shirtless shot.  What was the directorial decision to film Dan Shor nude?

The most obvious reason is that the writers and director liked looking at naked men, and Shor was happy to oblige.  But, in an interview I read in the 1990s, he also said that it was a political act, an acknowledgement of gay potential in the homophobic 1980s. It disrupted the heterosexual male gaze, giving primacy to the love of men for men.

And it was hot.

I can't post the shot here, of course.  You can see it on Gay Celebrity Stories.



Dec 28, 2017

Sausage Sighting of Prince Harry

The second son of Prince Charles, fifth in line to the British throne, Prince Harry was born on September 15, 1984, and educated at Eton (1998-2003) and Sandhurst (2005-2006) before serving in the British army.  Rather a hellraiser in his youth, as younger brothers are apt to be, he was a darling of the tabloids:  "Prince Harry at a Pot Party!"  "Carousing Naked with a Young Lady!"  "Wearing a Nazi Uniform!"  "Using a Racist Slur!"

His father, Prince Charles, was the subject of many rumors and hookup stories.  In West Hollywood we speculated that his marriage to Diana was a screen, ordered by his mother to "protect the royal name."  But I have not heard any about Prince Harry.

He is entirely gay-friendly, however.  James Wharton, who served with him in the army, notes that he intervened when Wharton was targeted by a homophobic attack. 

He also told Wharton that he was a "gay icon," with a large following among gay men.

No doubt because he has worked with many HIV organizations and the Mermaids, a transgender children's charity.

And because of his bulge.



















Those with insider knowledge of such things swear that Windsor men are generally not impressive beneath the belt. Prince William and Peter Phillips (Princess Anne's son)  are both on the small side.  But Harry goes against tradition.

The full story, with nude photos, is on Gay Celebrity Stories

Dec 25, 2017

Gay Connections of the "Christmas Story" Kids

A Christmas Story (1983) is not just about Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) lusting after a rifle and a lady-leg lamp.  There are other plots and gag bits, other actors who are forever known as for their parts in this long-ago movie, no matter what else they've done.  Many have a gay connection.


1. Zack Ward (the bully Farkus) has become an accomplished actor and beefcake hunk, with many credits on tv and in movies, including Just for Fun (1993), "a story of homophobia and gay-bashing," according to the IMDB.

Look for him as Dave, brother of the titular Titus (2000-2002) and slacker college student Murray in The Pink House (2003).


2. Yano Anaya (his crony, Grover) is, according to Linkedin, a personal trainer at the Atlanta School of Massage.














3. R.D. Robb (Schwartz, Ralphie's buddy) continued his acting career into adulthood (including a role in The Brady Bunch Movie as a nerd who kisses Marcia).  He is also involved in directing.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire agreed to star in his Don's Plum (2001), which includes a gay teenager, only on the condition that it not be shown in the U.S.













4. Ian Petrilla (Randy, Ralphie's kid brother) continued acting as a teen and later studied the art of puppeteering. He has worked with the Henson Company, and currently owns an animation company in L.A.

5. Scott Schwartz (Flick, who got his tongue stuck to a flag pole) later starred as The Toy, and then used his Flick notoriety to land roles in some heterosexual porn films (mostly in non-sexual roles).  Now he still does some non-porn acting, and runs a baseball card and nostalgia shop in California.  He's heterosexual.



Dec 24, 2017

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Beefcake and Homophobia in the Worst Movie Ever Made

Long before he became nationally famous with Sneak Previews and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, back when he was still a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert collaborated with schlockmeister Russ Meyer on what is probably the worst movie of all time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).

I've known about this movie for years, as a conundrum: how does a film critic produce such a bomb?  But last night I watched it for the first time.

And probably the last time.

It really is a horror, full of pretentious dialogue, ponderous moralizing, jerky jump-cuts, an infinite number of characters who look and sound alike, and a lot of homophobia.

Oh, and it's a Russ Meyer movie, so there are women nonchalantly walking around naked all the time, and closeups of their breasts instead of their faces when they talk.

As best as I could make out, the nonsensical plot follows the fortunes of Josie and the Pussycats or some such teenage all-girl rock group.

They all go to California to stay with lead singer Kelly's rich aunt Susan, in spite of the objections of their manager, Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) -- he thinks there are too many "perverts and fruits" in L.A.





They begin playing at the wild Laugh-In-style parties of the indescribably wealthy, ultra-flamboyant, ridiculously theatrical Z-Man (John LaZar).  There are both gay and straight couples hooking up in the various rooms of his mansion.

Z-Man becomes the group's new manager and pushes them into fame.  I think.  It looks like the same party, but I think time passes.


Everybody starts hooking up, in hetero-sex scenes with the naked woman atop the man, so most of his body is hidden.

1. Kelly starts dating hustler Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett).

2. Harris is seduced by an aggressive female porn star, who calls him "gay" when he is unable to perform adequately.  He tries to commit suicide, and becomes paraplegic.  Kelly dumps Lance to devote herself to caring for him.






3. The black girl starts dating law school student Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page), then boxer Randy Black (James Inglehart).  But she dumps him when his violent temper comes out.

4. Somebody else gets pregnant and starts a lesbian affair.








5. Aunt Susan re-connects with an old flame, I think (Charles Napier, seen here as a space hippie on Star Trek)

There's also some generation-gap pontificating and a muddled plotline about Kelly's inheritance.












One night Z-Man invites Lance and two women (I don't know who) to his house for a private drug party.  The women go off to be lesbians, and Z-Man tries to seduce Lance.  When Lance rejects him, Z-Man reveals that he is actually a woman, with breast and everything!

Lance still rejects him, so he kills everyone in the house in a psychotic rage.

Including his servant, who has become a Nazi, for some reason.

The three conventional heterosexual couples rush over and subdue Z-Man -- a little too late, but it took time to get Harris's wheelchair into the Scooby-Mobile..

Then there's a long, pretentious, moralistic voice-over about what was wrong with each character, including the minor ones, followed by a triple wedding (Aunt Susan-old flame, Harris-Kelly, the two black characters).

 Got all that?

Ebert hadn't originally intended this as a standard "transvestite killer" movie, with the twist that it's a female transvestite.  He thought of it at the last minute, after the filming was over -- the actors themselves had no idea. I guess he wanted to get in one last homophobic dig.

This is by no means the most homophobic movie ever made -- that honor goes to Chuck and Buck.  But it's an interesting example of the homophobia that formed an ongoing backdrop to Ebert's reviews throughout his career.

Dec 23, 2017

Jim Elliot, Through Gates of Spendor, and Amazonian Beefcake

When I was growing up in the ultra-fundamentalist Nazarene church, we had no saints, no folk heroes.  We couldn't name a single famous person who was Nazarene -- of course not, Sunday school teachers said.  When you spend all your time trying to win souls, the way God wants you to, how will you have time to become famous?

But boys need heroes, so Sunday school teachers and youth ministers became creative, scouring the ranks of closely related denominations -- the Wesleyans, the Pentecostals, the Salvation Army.  And they found Jim Elliot (1927-1956), a young missionary from the Plymouth Brethren who moved to Ecuador to try to win the Quechua for Christ.

Eventually he changed his mind: he would make first contact with the savage Auca Indians (actually called Huaorani), who lived in the Amazonian region of southern Ecuador, in order to win them for Christ.

After all, the Quechua were already Catholic -- not Christian, of course, but the Bible, or at least the Gospels, were available to them.  They at least knew who Jesus was.  The Auca were completely untouched -- they had never heard of Jesus at all.

"Operation Auca" began in September 1955, with the standard "first contact" tactic of exchanging gifts.  On January 3rd, 1956, Jim and his companions established a base and had friendly encounters with some of the Auca men.  Things seemed to be going smoothly.  But on January 8th, 1956, ten Auca warriors approached and speared Jim, three other missionaries, and their pilot Nate Saint to death.



Martyred for the cause of Christ.

Nazarenes had very few martyrs -- the church only began in 1909.  So Jim Elliot and the other missionaries were a big deal.

"Would you die for Christ, if He asked you to?" our youth minister asked.

In 1957, Jim's widow Elisabeth published an account of "Operation Auca," Through Gates of Splendour.  It was adapted into a Spire Christian comic in 1974.







Later, Elisabeth, Saint's sister, and other missionaries successfully contacted the Huaorani, and won many of them for Christ, including Mincaye, one of the murderers.











Mincaye and Saint's son Steve (only five years old at the time of the murder) later became close friends, and often traveled together on missionary expeditions.

There are about 4,000 Huaorani today, mostly living in permanent settlements, their culture all but destroyed.













You're probably wondering, what's the gay connection?

1. I rather liked the idea of five men all together, with no women around.
2. Who didn't wear shirts.
3. The Huaorani were mostly naked.
4. That friendship between Mincaye and Steve.  Best friends with your father's murderer.  How romantic is that?















Dec 20, 2017

Holy Mortadella, Batman: The Boy Wonder's Beneath the Belt Bulk

Every Baby Boomer boy knows why we couldn't wait to see Batman (1966-68), with Adam West and Burt Ward as campy, corny Caped Crusaders.  It wasn't the over-the-top villains, or the "Zap! Pow!" fights, or the buddy-bonding between Batman and Robin.

It was Robin's jaw-dropping beneath-the-belt bulge.

Burt Ward is, by all accounts (including his own), massive.  He won't give his exact measurements, but I'm guessing Mortadella.

It was hard to cram him into that Robin Hood costume without his something extra showing.






Especially when he was tied up, struggling to escape from the latest diabolical trap.

Which happened in nearly every episode.












Check out these two pictures.  As the ropes get tighter, Robin gets warmer.









Well, he couldn't help it. Burt Ward was in his early 20s, and he often had to spend an hour at a time restrained, with nothing to do but wait.  Extras and guest stars often took advantage of the opportunity to play with him.





Female extras, he claims.  I'm not so sure.













Gay actor Cesar Romero, who played the Joker, claims that the show gave him many opportunities for an "accidental" grope, and at least once they went farther.  Burt didn't mind.  In fact, the younger actor looked up to Romero as a comedic mentor, and they became lifelong friends.

I also have a correspondent who claims to have hooked up with Burt right on the set.













About a dozen episodes into the first season, a "Save the Children" watchdog group complained, and the directors and crew found ways to underplay Burt's package.  Or hide it altogether.

But it remains the stuff of legend.

See also: Lane's Hookup with Batman, Robin, and the Joker.; A Hookup with Robin the Boy Wonder

Dec 19, 2017

Captain Barbell, the Filipino Superman

I never heard of Captain Barbell before, but in the Philippines he's as well-known as Superman.

Created by Mars Ravelo, he first appeared in Pinoy Komiks in 1963, and has been saving the world in Tagalog and English comics ever since.

His origin story resembles that of Captain Marvel: Tenteng (also called Teng and Eteng) is a weakling, bullied by the other kids/adults (depending on his age) and ignored by potential romantic partners.  One day he meets a genie who gives him a magic barbell (sometimes it's a mystical hermit, and sometimes it just appears by itself). 

When he lift the barbell, he is transformed into a superhero (but he doesn't have to keep holding it).








His costume consisted of a bare chest, purple pants, a belt with his initials and a cape.  Later, and in the movies, he wore a yellow shirt.

After a year of adventures (1963-64), Tenting tires of the responsibility of saving the world, and throws the barbell into the ocean.

Dario, a boy handicapped by polio, finds it and becomes the second Captain Barbell, for another year of adventures (1964-65).



Several other Captain Barbells have come and gone in Filipino comics.


















There have been six movies, with the Captain played by Bob Soler, Willie Sotelo, the comedian Dolphy, Edu Manzano (pictured), and Bong Revilla.




The non-Captain form is often played by someone else.  In 2003, singer Ogie Alcasid.















More recently, the Captain has broken into television.  In 2006, Pinoy heartthrob Richard Gutierrez played Teng and Captain Barbell as a teenager (top photo)  In 2011, considerably bulked up, he reprised the roles as an adult (left).

You miss a lot when you don't speak Tagalog.


Dec 18, 2017

Spring 1983: Reading Faulkner: Redneck Muscle and Boys in Drag

Nothing brings back my memories of college literature classes more than William Faulkner.  Other authors I can return to with respect, even with pleasure, but Faulkner is mostly incomprehensible, and the parts I understand fill me with disgust.

In the spring of 1983, I took a horrible class in turgid, heterosexist "classics."  First Ulysses (by James Joyce), and then The Waste Land (by T.S. Eliot).  Then...shudder, gasp... The Sound and the Fury (1929), by William Faulkner.

"Marvelous!" the Professor chirped. "Stupendous!  A masterpiece!  The greatest novel ever written!"

I doubt he has ever read it.  I doubt anyone has.  It is literally impossible to understand even a word.  Check out the first two sentences:

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.  They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence.

Benjy the Idiot is standing on the other side of a fence from a golf course.  I looked it up -- no way to ever figure it out from the cryptic text.

As I understand it from extensive research, The Sound and the Fury is about three brothers in the dying, decrepit, depressed Compson family of Mississipi: Benjy, Quentin, and Jason.  I imagine they look like this.



Part 1: Narrated by Benjy, an "idiot" who has no conception of time, and jumps back and forth at random between events that he didn't understand in the first place.  He cries a lot, and he's obsessed with his sister Caddy's muddy underwear.

Gay subtext: The elderly "Negro" servant Dilsey warns her grandson Luster to stay away from the Man with the Red Tie.  Wearing red is probably a gay symbol, like wearing lavender today.  Maybe they're having a gay affair.  And hopefully Luster looks like this.

Part 2: Narrated by Quentin, a Harvard freshman who's crazy, and whose mind jumps back and forth at random just like Benjy's. He's obviously gay, in love with his roommate, Shreve, who responds by grabbing his knee.  Someone even calls Shreve his "husband."

He claims to have committed incest with his sister Caddy, but he's lying to hide a worse shame -- she had sex with someone else.

Wait -- aren't you supposed to have sex with someone other than your brother?

This part is also completely incomprehensible.  Not even a single sentence makes any sense. I understand Quentin commits suicide.

Part 3: Narrated by Jason, the third brother, the only one who thinks normally and writes normally.  This part is sort of comprehensible, except for references to events from the first part that we don't know about because they were both written in gibberish, and the fact that a different Quentin shows up -- this one Caddy's daughter.  Calling a girl by a boy's name always leads to gay subtexts, but it also compounds the confusion in what is already an incomprehensible book.

Jason's story is about stealing money from Quentin #2.  I think.


Part 4: No narrator. Miss Quentin has taken the money Jason stole from her, plus some of his own, and run off with the Man with a Red Tie (the one Luster is having an affair with in Part 1).  So maybe Miss Quentin is a boy in drag.  Jason does get awfully upset when he sees "her" in a bathrobe.

The homophobic Jason looks for Miss Quentin, to get his money back, but finally gives up.  The end.

It took a lot of creativity and endless Cliff's Notes to get through!

And beefcake photos.  Here's a semi-nude William Faulkner, thinking up new and better ways to torture English majors.

I didn't know it at the time, but a year later I would be cruising in Faulkner country, Oxford, Mississippi.

There's a gay dating story about William Faulkner on Tales of West Hollywood.

Danny Kaye was Gay

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, one of our traditions was watching White Christmas (1954), actually a backstage comedy about rival singing acts, with nothing to do with Christmas except the final scene.  It was my first backstage comedy, my introduction to Bing Crosby, and the only thing I've ever seen Danny Kaye in.

But when my parents were young, Danny Kaye was everywhere.  Born in New York in 1911, he was a Borscht belt and Vaudeville comedian before moving to Hollywood at the start of World War II.  He played fast-talking, mugging Russians (The Inspector General, 1949), wistful dreamers (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 1947; Hans Christian Andersen, 1952), and, of course, dopey sidekicks (White Christmas).


Plus he had his own radio program (1945-46) and cut many records with both sentimental and novelty songs: "The Woody Woodpecker Song," "I've Got a Lovely Box of Coconuts," "Tchaikovsky" (which involves saying the names of Russian composers at breakneck speed).

He had his own tv show from 1963 to 1967 (I never saw it), and appeared as himself on Laugh-In, The Tonight Show, Dick Cavett, Ed Sullivan, The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People, and The Muppet Show.

His last role was on an episode of The Cosby Show.  He died in 1987.





Comedic actors need a great deal of upper-body strength to do their pratfalls.  As this photo from Baby Jane Collectibles reveals, Danny Kaye had a respectable physique for his era.

But I understand that his stage presence was feminine, even swishy, nearly as gay-coded as Jack Benny, and he played a string of "sissies" who use their wit to triumph over muscle-men. Was he gay?












Yep.  Well, he liked ladies.  He was married to Sylvia Fine from 1940 to his death, and he had various other hetero-affairs with women ranging from Eve Arden to Shirley MacLaine,  But he was also open to same-sex activity and even romance. 

Sir Laurence Olivier is mentioned most often as his partner: they met in 1940, and saw each other off and on for the next twenty years, in plain sight of their wives and everyone in Hollywood.  The rule in those days was to pretend not to notice.
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