Apr 15, 2017

Maurice Deriaz: The Bodybuilder Who Submitted to the Artist

Maurice Deriaz, born in 1885 in Baulmes, Switzerland, was one of seven famous athletic brothers who performed weight lifting and gymnastic feats,

He also performed by himself.  Called le lion suisse and roi de la beauté plastique, he drew crowds all over Europe.

In 1907, he found himself in the Paris of the Belle Epoque, the Paris of  gay authors like Gide, Proust, Huysmans, and Collete.  The Paris of Impressionism, Fauvism, and Art Noveau.   And of 55-year old painter Gustave Courtois (1852-1923), who shared a studio with his roommate and partner since their art school days, Pascal Dagnan Bouveret (1852-1929).

Courtois was a painter of the "academic style": vast, grandiose,  pompous, with allegorical or historical subjects, rather old fashioned and outdated for the Belle Epoque.  Yet somehow he convinced the ultra-modern Deriaz to model for him.

One assumes that he offered more than monetary compensation.

Portrait de l'athlete Maurice Deriaz  appeared in 1907.

Deriaz returned in 1912 to model for Hercule au pied d'Omphale (Hercules at the feet of Omphale 1912), below, and Persée délivrant Andromède (Perseus rescuing Andromeda, 1913).

Both represent myths of dominant-submissive relationships. Did Deriaz have a dominant-submissive relationship with the older Courtois that got coded into the paintings?

But these paintings were never for sale.  They were gifts to Deriaz.

When Deriaz retired from bodybuilding, he opened a factory that made reeds for musical instruments.  He died in  in 1975.

The three paintings that he modeled were hanging in his house.  He donated them to the city of Baulmes.

Why did the artist convince Deriaz to model for three paintings, and then not try to sell them?  Were they too personal, embedding, a secret language that only they could interpret?

This sketch, dating from 1913, is captioned "Se faire un chemin par la force," making a way through force, a quote from Virgil's Aeneid.

There are hints and glimmers of a gay relationship, perhaps one with BDSM as a theme.  But the details are lost to history.

Apr 14, 2017

The French Moroccan on my Sausage List

I used to go to Europe every year.  A spring break jaunt beginning at the Louvre and ending with the Horseman's Club in Amsterdam, or a more extensive summer tour of France, Germany, or Estonia.

But Visiting Assistant Professors are on the job market a lot, and after 10 interviews involving 40 flights nearly every spring, I didn't have the stomach for more long lines, sardine-packed cabins, delays, cancellations, and putting my toiletries into baggies.  Besides, I had to save my money for the 6-hour drive to the nearest gay neighborhood.

My last trip was in the summer of 2007: three days visiting Yuri in London, three days in Paris, and then a quest for Breton men.

Breton is a Celtic language, similar to Welsh and Irish.  Denigrated by the French government for centuries, it was losing speakers fast, down from a million in 1950 to about 300,000, mostly elderly and rural.  You could see it in street and metro signs in Rennes, but I had never heard it spoken.

So I rented a car and drove four hours to Saint-Brieuc, where I spent the night.  The next day, up the coast to Plouzec, Paimpol, and Treguier.  Overnight again.  Then to Rennes, Paris, back to London, and home.

It was a bust.  A lot of cute guys, but all speaking French.  I even tried saying "Mat an traou!" to shopkeepers and gas station attendants and a teenager on the beach, but they responded in French.

But I did get cruised at the Ernest Renan House.

In addition to being the heart of Brittany, Treguier is the birthplace of philosopher Ernest Renan, who caused a scandal by writing The Life of Jesus (1863), asserting that Jesus was not a divine being.

There's a statue of him in the town square, being lauded by the Goddess Athena.  When it was first installed in 1903, townsfolk rioted, thinking that it was criticizing Catholicism.

When I was touring the Renan House, a short, studious looking guy in his twenties, dark skinned, bearded, kept looking at me with obvious "cruisy" intent.  Finally I approached him.

He looked North African, not Breton, but hoping, I said "Mat an traou!"

"The Jews are a cancer eating away at other nations," he replied in French.

My mouth dropped in shock.  Had I understood him properly?  What kind of pick-up line was that?  "Les juifs...quoi....?" I began.  "My French isn't good...."

Grinning, he switched to English.  "That's what Renan taught.  Also, that the Jews of the Bible are not related to the Jews of modern Europe.  Isn't it a tragedy that a national hero of France was so anti-Semitic?"

"I had no idea..."

"What a pity that many Frenchmen are still prejudiced against Jews."  He held out his hand.  "I'm Farshad." (Not his real name.)

The rest of the story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

10 Things You Should Know About Scottish Kilts

1. The kilt was not part of ancient Scottish Highland dress; it developed during the 16th century from an earlier cloak worn over one's tunic.

2. Kilts have no pockets.  You put your personal items in the sporran, a pouch that hangs down in front.  The sporran also serves to symbolize your sex organs.

3. Scottish soldiers would remove their kilts and charge wearing only their shirts. This tactic was meant to shock the enemy.

4. In 1746, King George II outlawed "Scottish dress," fearing that it would lead to insurrection.  The penalty was six months in prison.  The ban was lifted in 1782.

5. Today many men wear kilts to demonstrate Celtic pride, whether or not they are Scottish.

6. And rainbow kilts for gay pride festivals.

7. The kilt is becoming increasingly popular as everyday wear in Scotland.

8.  Many movies and tv shows have depicted men trying to peek under Scotsmen's kilts to see if they wear anything underneath.

A man trying to get a glimpse of another man's penis makes for quite a homoerotic spectacle.

9. In fact, the kilt was designed to be worn without underwear.  Most men still don't wear anything underneath.

10. You can buy "Official Kilt Inspector" t-shirts at the tourist shops in Scotland.

There are sausage sightings of men in kilts on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Celtic Festivals; and Why Every Gay Man Should Have a Pair of Lederhosen.

Apr 13, 2017

The Demolish Boys Get Naked and Kiss

Rock Island, June 1975

One Saturday in June of ninth grade, we were driving through Moline, the next town over from Rock Island, and we passed a building I had never seen before: a three-story tall tombstone, all skeleton-white, with sinister black windows and odd symbols on the roof.  The sign said "Scottish Rite Cathedral."

"Rite" meant "ritual," and "Cathedral" sounded Catholic, which to Nazarenes meant the epitome of degradation, debauchery, and unbrindled evil.

"Is that a Catholic church?" I asked breathlessly.

"Worse than that," Dad said.  "It's a Masonic Temple.  A secret society, like a club for men.  They go in there to get naked and drink human blood and worship Satan.  And they especially like to drink boys' blood, so be sure to stay far away."

"Secret societies" were on the list of things forbidden to Nazarenes.  But they were near the end of a very long list, and preachers and Sunday school teachers usually devoted their time to more immediate sins, like going to movies or eating out on Sunday.  And I wanted to know more about men getting naked.

This was before the internet, and there were no books on the Masons in the school library, so the only way to get more information was to ask two older boys in NYPS (the Nazarene Young People's Society).

The next afternoon, during the down time between youth choir and NYPS, they were playing basketball in the church parking lot.  I approached.

"Think fast!" Dave yelled, throwing the basketball at me.  I dodged it -- I hated sports.

"What a dork!"  Terry exclaimed as he ran to retrieve it.  They ignored me to continue their game.

"Um...I was wondering...what do you know about the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Moline?  Dad said they kidnap and torture kids inside."

Dave stopped playing, and grew quiet and solemn.  "Oh, your Dad's right.  You don't want to go near that place.  Terry was trapped by them for awhile, before he got saved."

"The Masons have a special cult for boys called the DeMolay," Terry said.  "That's short for demolish."

"What do they do to the boys?" I asked.

"Oh, all sorts of weird, disgusting things.  Like...they make them drink blood."

"And eat human eyeballs!" Terry said.  "Don't forget the eyeballs."

Dave nodded.  "And they make the Demolish boys run across hot coals. And take off their clothes so everybody can see their wieners."

Terry wrapped his arm around my shoulders and leaned in conspiratorily.  "Then they make the poor scared boys kiss each other on the lips!"

"Bogus!" I exclaimed, although I didn't really think it was bogus at all.

Dave wrapped his arm around my shoulders also.  "That's not the worst of it.  While they're kissing, the Demolish boys have to touch each other down there!"


"They're having a Demolish Boy meeting Wednesday night," Dave said.  "We may be able to arrange a little sneak and peek, if you're interested."

"If you have a strong stomach," Terry added.  "It's intense."

 The full story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Apr 12, 2017

The Gong Show

During the late 1970s, every commentator who wanted an illustration of the end of civilization and the rise of barbarism used The Gong Show (1976-80).

Actually, similar contests were performed as early as Vaudeville, where performers tried to avoid getting "the hook" and being dragged offstage.

Here performers tried to win the approval of the three celebrity judges and avoid getting "gonged" (told to leave).  The performer with the most points at the end of the episode won a trophy and a prize.

Some performers who later became famous include Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman), Danny Elfman, and Andrea McCartle.  Stanley Williams, founder of the Crips gang, who was later executed for murdering four people, did a bodybuilding act.

But the fun was in watching the bad acts, in the same way that today, we prefer watching the horrifyingly bad performances to good performances on American Idol. 

Remember, this was the late 1970s, an era of recreational sex, casual drug use, disco dancing, and silly jokes, an era of fun and frivolity.  What was the harm in laughing at bad performances?

There were also recurring features, such as appearances by the Unknown Comedian, aka Murray Langston, who appeared with a bag over his head (in the top photo, he also has a bag over his penis).

The Gong Show Movie (1980) purports to be a week in the life of the Gong Show, with Chuck Barris playing himself, negotiating with outrageous contestants, censored acts, and miscellaneous craziness.

Many recognizable faces of the 1970s appeared, including Ed Marinaro, Rosie Grier, Tony Randall, and Danny DeVito.   There was female nudity, of course, but also ample beefcake.

Apr 11, 2017

Aida: Nubian Beefcake Musical

Aida is a favorite musical in high school and college drama departments.  With music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, a  source in an opera by Giuseppe Verdi, and a setting in ancient Egypt that begs for beefcake, where can you go wrong?

A lot of places.

First, the heterosexism is unrelenting.  Hetero-love is the guiding principle of the universe, the meaning of life, able to transcend time and space, etc., etc., yawn.

Second, the plot is staggeringly complex.  Everybody is in love with several people at once (all male-female, of course).

Aida is a Nubian princess captured and sent into slavery, where she becomes the servant of the Egyptian princess Amneris, and draws the attention of Amneris' fiance Radames. Meanwhile, the Nubian servant Mereb catches her attention.

Aida become the leader of a Nubian slave revolt, and also uncovers a secret plot to poison the Pharaoh.

Third, everybody dies.  I hate movies where everybody dies, and I hate musicals where everybody dies even more.  Mereb is stabbed to death.  Aida and Radames are buried alive; ok, they return four thousand years later in a modern-day man and woman looking at exhibits at an Egyptian museum, but still....

Fourth, the lyrics are awful.  Listen to Mereb singing "How I Know You":
I grew up in your hometown, at least began to grow
I hadn't got to my first shave before the body blow
Egyptians in the courtyard, my family in chains
You witnessed our abduction, which possibly explains
How I know you, how I know you
Before that fateful morning, my family enjoyed
A privileged existence, for my father was employed
As advisor to the King no less, which surely rings a bell
For as your are his daughter, you probably can tell

What's a body blow?  What kind of dumb rhyme is chains/explains?   Give me a break

That leaves the beefcake.  Egyptians and Nubians have to be shirtless, right?

Yes, but only the guards and other extras.  The main cast of high-caste Egyptian royalty wear bicep and pec-covering robes.

Still, Nubians were black, so in the U.S., there's a great deal of African-American beefcake among those extras.

And Mereb, the Nubian slave boy, sometimes gets to show some chest.

Or not.  I know this Mereb is fully clothed, but Joel Miller has a nice chest and a handsome face, and when are you ever going to see him again?

Maybe at an Egyptian museum in your next life.

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