Jan 21, 2017

David Labiosa: the Biggest Bulge on Seinfeld

Seinfeld was not well known for its beefcake. There was a parade of spongeworthy guest stars, such as Anthony Starke in "The Jimmy" (1995), but they were rarely displayed shirtless or in swimsuits. But in "The Busboy" (June 26, 1991), fans saw "all that and more."

The most gigantic beneath-the-belt bulge in history.

George accidentally gets a busboy named Antonio fired, and goes to his apartment to apologize. Antonio is angry, taciturn -- and a Greek god. Viewers wanted to know, who is this Michelangelo's David come to life? This Apollo masquerading as a mortal? And why did the producers squeeze him into jeans so tight that his superheroic endowment was so completely and obviously visible?

 Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Were they trying to make him look more threatening?  If so, it didn't work.

He was 29-year old David Labiosa, who had been appearing on tv and in movies for a decade. His credits included The White Shadow, Hill Street Blues, T. J. Hooker, and the movies Private Sessions, A Sinful Life, and Uncaged.

He had never had such a revealing role before. Or such a gender-transgressive role. Hispanic actors generally are cast as super-macho gang members, thugs, and streetwise detectives, but Labiosa's Antonio resists gender expectations by having a pet cat named Pequita, and by effusively hugging George at the end of the episode.

Maybe that was the point: the stereotyped super-macho Hispanic guy turns out to be sensitive and sweet, i.e., gay.

David has been acting steadily after Seinfeld, also, with recurring roles in Walker, Texas Ranger and 24. and leads in a number of films. His war hero Juan Medina in An American Story (1992) won him an Emmy nomination. He's also active in many social causes, including gang intervention.

Hopefully he won't be remembered solely for the gigantic bulge on Seinfeld.

Jan 19, 2017

The Disney Channel's Gay Programming Blocks

Like Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel airs its teencoms in programming blocks interspliced with short segments: reviews of Disney movies (always thumbs up!), interviews with Disney Channel stars, exhortations to eat right or lend a "helping hand," and some fictional segments.  But whereas the Nickelodeon segments are hosted by adults, the Disney Channel segments are hosted by teenagers, giving gay kids hunky peers to crush on.

Movie Surfers (1997-) has teenage hosts, one boy and one girl, reviewing children's movies, and sometimes interviewing the stars, touring the sets, and so on.  The current male host is Drew Osborne (left), who is gay or gay-friendly, seeing hanging out at Gay Pride events.  There is a long list of former hosts, including Drake Kemper (a Disney Channel regular), Matt Kubacki, and Andrew Eiden (of Complete Savages).

Disney 365 (2006-) sticks with the Disney Channel, going behind the scenes of its movies and tv series. Its current hosts are Mikie Beattie and Chester See (who sings a song called "Bromance": "Nothing gay about it -- not that there's anything wrong with being gay).

Previous hosts included Jared Hernandez (of One Warm Night), Sterling Suleiman (left, of the gay-themed New Normal), Noah Schnacky, and Kean Eli.

Mike's Super Short Show (2005-2007), Disney's Really Short Report (2007-2009), and Leo Little's Big Show (2009-2011) plugged Disney DVD releases.  They were hosted by "really short" kids, including Mike Johnson, Jacob Hays, and Leo Howard (now #9 on my list of the 10 Unexpected Disney Channel Teen Hunks, and star of gay-subtext Kickin' It).

As the Bell Rings (2007-2009) was a very short teencom, 5 minute sketches about school adventures, mostly heterosexist stuff about who's crushing on who.  The male cast included Collin Cole, Seth Ginsberg, and Tony Oller, star of the teen thriller Beneath the Darkness (2012), who tweeted "I'm NOT GAY, people!  My ass of a friend decided to tweet that!"  A somewhat homophobic reaction.

Jan 18, 2017

13 Things I Hate About Will and Grace

Will and Grace (1998-2005) was a multiple-Emmy award winning sitcom about a gay man, Will (Eric McCormack), his best friend Jack (Sean Hayes), and their heterosexual female life partners, Grace (Debra Messing) and Karen (Megan Mullaley).

I hated it.  I still hate it.  I can't watch an episode without seething with rage and trying to kill my tv set.

Here are the top 10 things I hate about it.

1. I know that some gay men (and straight men) have feminine mannerisms, but every gay male character on the program, except for a few famous guest stars, prances.  They wear face cream and listen to show tunes and call each other "Mary."  Will goes even farther.  He believes that he is a girl, literally.  In one episode, Will's visiting cousin states that he needs "a woman's opinon" about something, and Will immediately chirps "Sure, I'll be glad to help."

3. Every gay stereotype you ever heard is absolutely true.  Grace or Karen frequently make astonishingly homophobic statements, and Will has to admit that they are correct.  In one episode, a gay man has to pretend to be interested in a woman, but he doesn't know how.  Grace says: "Treat her like your mother."  Will protests, "That's homophobic!  All gay men aren't in love with their mothers. . .um. . .ok, ok, treat her like your mother."

4. Gay men like sex with women.  A lot.  Will/Grace and Jack/Karen are always cuddling, smooching, pawing at each other.  Will and Jack occasionally kiss other women, too.

5. But they like sex with men more.  That's right, gayness is a sexual preference.  You have to try both sexes, and decide which one you prefer, like deciding between strawberry and chocolate ice cream.  In one episode, Will admits that he had sex with a woman in order to "be sure."

6. They like sex with men, but relationships are heterosexual. Will gets married to his cop beau in the last episode, but before that he had 3,000 episodes paired with Grace.  And the last episode fast-forwards to reveal Jack and Karen living together for 20 years.  Same-sex bonds come and go, but heterosexual bonds are forever.

7. There is no gay culture.  Will and Jack must spend all of their time among heterosexuals, because there are no gay political groups, social groups, sports groups, churches, or community centers.  Just a lot of gay bars, and in one episode a bookstore.

8. All gay men are affluent sophisticated lawyers who live in Manhattan and have gym-toned physiques and listen to show tunes and are utterly self-absorbed.  Of course, the straight women are the same.

9. There are no lesbians.  Will is constantly telling people that he is gay, but Grace only states that she is a woman. She doesn't have to mention that she's heterosexual, because lesbians don't exist.  Except in one episode, where they were portrayed as butch, predatory, and "confused."  One "changes back" into heterosexual after kissing Will.

10. Sean Hayes utterly refused to acknowledge that he was gay during the entire run of the show.  I can't imagine how much internalized homophobia and self-hatred it takes to do that.  Of course, if he actually believed all of the contemptible things his character was saying about gay people, I can understand why he would hate himself.

11. Leslie Jordan plays a flamboyantly feminine gay man -- even more feminine than the other characters, so much that Karen's homophobia changes from ridicule to hatred.  But he insists that he is straight.

12. Grace and Karen throw around "fags" and "homos" with utter abandon, and instead of calling them out for their homophobia, Will and Jack meekly accept the abuse.

13.  Sorry, I couldn't confine myself to 10.  But this is the last one: Will doesn't know that gay men exist.
In one episode, Will is going on a blind date.  As he sits in a restaurant waiting for his date, he strikes up a conversation with the man at the next table.  He states that he, too, is waiting for a blind date. 

At this point, what would you conclude?


But Will doesn't. He says: "You know how women are, they always like to make an entrance." He is gay, and yet he is absolutely certain that every man on Earth is straight.

Postscript:  I just heard some horrible news.  After 12 blissfully gay-free years, self-hating Willa nd Jack -- and their fag-hating  life partners Grace and Karen --are returning for another season of homophobic hijinks.  Somehow, with the new fascist regime and the throwback of gay rights to the 1950s, it seems fitting.

Jan 17, 2017

On the Road: The Gay Beat Generation

On June 21st, 1985, I drove cross-country 1860 miles from my parents' house in Rock Island, Illinois to West Hollywood, my 10-year old Dodge Dart packed with bedding, dishes, clothes, and mementos.  There was only room for one box of books, so I took an Italian-English dictionary, a world atlas, Death in Venice, Les fleurs du mal, EarthfastsAlice in Wonderland, The Gayellow Pages, Pidgin to da Maxa complete Edgar Allen Poe, a guide to old movies, three Alix and Enak comics, three books from the Green LibraryThe Lord of the Rings trilogy -- and On the Road, by Jack Kerouac.

My heterosexist Modern American Literature professor mentioned the Beat Generation, briefly, as a literary movement that rebelled against 1950s conformity with drugs, jazz music, Eastern mysticism, and free love.  He didn't mention that the "free love" was often gay.  In fact, the main poem he assigned was: "Woman woman woman woman woman woman woman woman woman woman."

But when I looked more closely into the movement during the famous summer of 1981, I discovered lots of gay content:

William S. Burroughs, who wrote weird impenetrable "cut up" novel (where he tore the pages up and reassembled them at random), but the heroes were gay junkie outsiders.

Paul Bowles (right), who moved to Morocco in 1947, drawn by the Muslim nonchalance to same-sex practices.  In 1960 he met a young Berber named Mohammed Mrabet (left), and translated his autobiographical novel about rent-boys, Love with a Few Hairs. 

By the way, the 1959 movie The Beat Generation, with Steve Cochran, has nothing to do with the Beat Generation.

Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco, top photo, in 2010), whose long poem Howl (1957) was about his alienation from materialist, heterosexist American society. It was tried for obscenity due to the overt references to gay sex.

Ginsberg's long-time lover Peter Orlovsky (right, with his brother), whose poetry was even more overtly homoerotic.

My friend Fangorn claimed that his first sexual experience was a three-way with Ginsberg and Orlovsky.

Leroi Jones, later Amiri Baraka, who renounced his gay identity to proclaim that gay men were devils.

And the counterculture classic that every hipster at Augustana College read, or claimed to: On the Road (1957), by bisexual Beat Generation guru Jack Kerouac (right), about his mostly unrequited love for Neal Cassidy.  In the novel, Sal Paradise is in love with Dean Moriarity (played by Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund in the 2012 movie), who keeps talking him into leaving The Girl for wild homerotic jaunts across American.

They like sex with both men and women (they disapprove of "fags," who like only men), but are suspicious of women, who lead to marriage, settling down, domesticity, and conformity, a loss of something essential and noble.  Men represent freedom, adventure, nonconformity, being true to yourself.  In the end Sal chooses domesticity and rejects homoromance as "selfishness."

But on the way they are obviously lovers, and that in itself was freedom enough in the dull furrowed Midwest in 1981.

See also: Fangorn's Hookup with Allen Ginsberg.

Jan 15, 2017

The Netflix Unfortunate Events Series: Transphobic as Ever

In case you haven't read the originals Series of Unfortunate Events, the lachrymose Lemony Snicket narrates the adventures of the three newly-orphaned Baudelaire children, 14-year old Violet, 12-year old Klaus, and 1-year old Sunny (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith), as they encounter one horribly inappropriate guardian after another.

At first the Big Bad is thespian Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), whose goal is purely mercenary -- getting his hands on their vast fortune -- but gradually, through a series of 13 books (1999-2006), a vast conspiracy is revealed, with battling secret societies, complex motivations, and strange back stories.

The new Netflix adaption is far superior to the 2004 film version, and in some ways better than the original books themselves.

1. The books keep annoying me with anachronisms. They feel like they are set in the 1930s, but suddenly there's a reference to "a computer store."  In the tv series, the costumes and sets are big, brash, glittering, and unquestionably 1930s.  There are still a few anachronistic references to "the internet" and "streaming media," but you can take them as jokes.

2. The books became tedious with so many horrible things happening to the children page after page after page, with no relief.  In the tv series, adults have a far greater role.  Even the parents are still alive (well, somebody's parents are still alive).

(Luke Camilleri, left, plays a secret society agent who is monitoring the children while trying not to interfere with the events).

This serves a practical purpose, of course -- child actors can't work many hours.  But it also dilutes the "unfortunate events," making them more palatable.

3. The books reveal the secret societies so gradually that it becomes tedious.  In the series, they're present from the start.

4. The tv series is wonderfully inclusive, with black and Indian actors playing pivotal roles.

5. Count Olaf's henchmen are humanized, not figures of pure evil, as in the books.  The Hook-Handed Man, played by comedian Usman Ally (right), seems actually rather nice.

6. The intensely annoying heterosexism of the books has been toned down.  Sure, heterosexual romances abound, and when someone mentions "relationship," it always means men and women together, but at least there  is sort of a gay couple, Sir and his "partner," plus a few characters around who aren't boy-girl romance-obsessed.  When Count Olaf is ruminating about marrying Violet to get his hands on her money, the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender (real name: Orlando) complains that marriage is a patriarchal system that constrains personal liberty...

But that Orlando (Matty Cardarpole in bad drag): transphobia at its worst, or rather fear of androgyny, designed to make us queasy and uncomfortable.   Can't go around breaking gender norms!
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