Jun 2, 2017

Beefcake in Socialist and Communist Posters

In the first years of the 20th century, socialism was not the anathema it is today.  You could be a card-carrying socialist without getting ostracized.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) ran for president five times as a candidate for the Socialist Party of America.  In 1912, he received 6% of the popular votes, an all-time high for a Socialist candidate (in 1956, the last time the Socialist Party ran a candidate, 0.7% of the votes, as many as the Prohibitionist Party)

This is his 1904 campaign poster.  It shows various icons of "American progress": cowboys, miners, factories, railroads, a barber pole, and, at the top, two men voting for Debs and his vice president Ben Hanford.

I was interested in the buffed, shirtless guy on the right.  I wondered if Socialists and Communists produced any more beefcake posters.

Jackpot!  This poster from the Swedish Worker's Party shows a buffed guy trying to push the time ahead as he advises us to "Continue the Welfare Policy."

May 1st is International Workers' Day, a big holiday in the Communist world, but I guess this shirtless guy didn't get the day off.  I think it's Latvian.

My Russian isn't very good, especially cursive, but I think it's saying "conserve water -- shower with a friend."

Um..in just seven days, I can make you a man?

More after the break

A Wrinkle in Time

When I read Madeleine L'Engel's A Wrinkle in Time (1962) in grade school, I identified with Charles Wallace Murry, a shy, intelligent boy who  sees things other kids can't.  He seems to have a crush on misunderstood high schooler Calvin (played by David Dorfman and Gregory Smith in the 2003 movie).

Charles Wallace, his older sister Meg, and Calvin are drawn into a cosmic battle against the Black Thing, which is devouring entire solar systems and transforming them into suburbs, "houses made of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same."

Just as Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes and the tripods in The White Mountains, the Black Thing brings conventionality, constraint, and heterosexism.  I found it a powerful critique of the mind-control chants of "What girl do you like?  What girl...what girl...what girl."

I thought it was a self-contained story.  But then, in the mid-1980s, I stumbled across a sequel, Many Waters. Charles Wallace and Meg are minor characters.  Their brothers, twins Sandy and Denys, are swept away into the world of Noah just before the Flood.

They are fifteen years old in the novel, but the cover illustration pictures them as much older, with amazing bodybuilder physiques.

Here's another edition that shows them at the proper age, with feminine teen-idol faces, but with their muscles and phallic symbols still emphasized.

More digging revealed that Madeleine L'Engel wrote four science fiction-y young adult novels with Calvin and Meg falling in love as a major plot arc (Calvin and Meg were the primary couple?).  Then they marry and have 7 kids.  Their eldest daughter Polly stars in four novels of her own, mostly involving falling in love with a rich college boy named Zachary.

Meanwhile, Vicky Austin is featured in eight novels, sometimes with crossovers with the Calvin-Meg brood.  She has a troubled, on-off romance with marine biologist Adam Eddington (played by Ryan Merriman in the 2002 Ring of Endless Light).  

You get the idea: heterosexism rules.  You can be as unconventional as you want, as long as you obey the "fade out kiss" mandate.

The beefcake covers were apparently designed only for heterosexual girls.

And that's not all.  L'Engel doesn't mention gay people often, but when she does, homophobia oozes from every pore.

In A House Like a Lotus, Polly fights off a predatory lesbian.  Her parents, Calvin and Meg, are jubilant to discover that she isn't a pervert.

In A Severed Wasp, there are evil, predatory gays (not to mention casual antisemitism).

In The Small Rain, Katherine is an intelligent, sophisticated woman who has been raised in an unconventional household.  Nevertheless, when she see a lesbian:

Katherine stared at the creature again and realized that it was indeed a woman, or perhaps once had been a woman. Now it wore a man's suit, shirt,and tie; its hair was cut short; out of a dead-white face glared a pair of despairing eyes. Feeling Katherine's gaze, the creature turned and looked at her, and that look was branded into Katherine's body; it was as though it left a physical mark.


Can I still read A Wrinkle in Time as offering hope to kids who are struggling with being different?  Critiquing the iron cage of heterosexism?

Of course.  Authorial intention is irrelevant.  In the words of Alice Walker, "You are your own best hope."  Find belonging wherever you can, even in words intended to exclude you.
Find love wherever you can, even in words intended to express hate.
Find hope wherever you can, even in words intended to make you despair.

Jun 1, 2017

Nat Bor, the Bulging Boxer of New Bedford

This rather bulgeworthy boxer is Nat Bor (1913-1972), born in Fall River, Massachusetts, d, where Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother were murdered in 1892.  He was a short, slim boy, Jewish in an era where there were few Jewish boxers.  But when his friends talked him into participating in an amateur boxing tournament, he surprised everyone with three wins, including two knockouts

His parents weren't happy wit his career choice, but his older brother Eddie agreed to manage his career.

He won the Massachusetts State Lightweight Championship in 1930, and moved on to state, regional, and national titles.  In 1932, he beat Jimmy McCarron at Madison Square Garden in New York, winning the National Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship.

In August 1932, he won a bronze medal in the Summer Olympics.  He was only 19 years old.  By the way, Thure Alqvist (Sweden) won the silver, and Lawrence Stevens (South Africa) won the gold.

Here are some of the other 1932 boxing champs.

Nat's amateur career lasted through the 1930s.  After serving in World War II, he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he opened a dry-cleaning business, Olympic Cleaning.  He became a community leader and local legend.

When he died on June 13, 1972, he had a wife, two daughters, and two grandsons, Benjamin and  Steven Topor.

There's a Ben Topor on Facebook.  He lives in Israel.

That's all I know about Nat Bor.  I can't find a whole lot of gay connection.

But isn't that physique and that bulge enough?

Antoine and Pierre Bourdelle: Father-Son Beefcake Artists

Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) was a French sculptor known for sharing a studio with Rodin, and for his large-scale monuments, like the "Monument aux Combattants et Défenseurs du Tarn-et-Garonne de 1870–71, a battle in the Franco-Prussian War.

But he also had time for some male nudes, like "Heracles the Archer"  There are versions in France, Sweden, and the U.S.

The beefy Great Warrior of Montauban was taken from the Franco-Prussian War Memorial.  It's now in the sculpture garden at the Smithsonian.

His Apollo, receiving inspiration from theMuses, is a bas-relief on the exterior of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

His son Pierre (1901-1966) became an American citizen in 1927.  He was responsible for more large-scale monuments, like this nude art deco athlete at the Dallas Fair Pavilion.

This is Pierre's exotic South Pacific Orpheus (Eurydice is next to him), a wooden panel rescued from a theater in northern California.

Pierre was married twice, but divorced his wife within a few years both times.  Maybe ladies weren't his cup of tea.

Chris and Patrick Petersen: 1970s Ninja Kids

During the late 1970s, as networks scrambled to find enough child actors to fill their "after school special" kid-angst movies, Brothers Chris and Pat Petersen (no relation to the 1950s teen idol Paul Petersen) were important players.

Chris, the oldest (born in 1963), was everywhere in 1978 and 1979, on tv (Little House on the Prairie, The Incredible Hulk, The Baxters) and in movies (When Every Day was the Fourth of July, The Swarm).   His roles often  involved buddy-bonds:

1. Playing baseball with Larry B. Scott in The Rag-Tag Champs, an ABC Afterschool Special (1978)

2. Lost in the Colorado Rockies with Guillermo San Juan in Joey and Redhawk on CBS Afternoon Playhouse.  This one had a "boys alone" gay subtext.

3. Karate-kicking with younger brother Pat in the precursor to the 1990s ninja kid craze, The Little Dragons (1979).

4. Fighting racism with Moosie Drier in The House at 12 Rose Street (1980).

When Chris hit his teen years, the roles dried up, and he retired from acting.

His brother Patrick (born in 1966) had a longer career, starting with the tv series The Kallikas (1977), How the West was Won (1979), and Shirley (1980), plus some gay-subtext after school specials of his own:

1. The Ransom of Red Chief (1977, 1979), an ABC Schoolbreak Special about a boy terrorizing his kidnappers.

2. The Contest Kid (1978, 1979), an ABC Schoolbreak Special about a boy who enters contests, and his best friend (Ronnie Scribner).

In 1979, he landed the role of Michael Fairgate on the evening soap Knot's Landing.  Michael provided shirtless teen-idol photos and tight jeans as the teenage son of Sid and Karen Fairgate, who worked in an auto garage and kept getting dumped by girls.

When Knot's Landing ended in 1991, Pat retired from acting and opened a health food store.

May 29, 2017

Lucas Neff: Beefcake and Gay Characters after "Raising Hope"

Raising Hope (2010-2014)  was about a wacky working-class family whose son, Jimmy (Lucas Neff) became a single dad after a one-night stand with a serial killer.  There were no gay characters, except for an occasional walk-on, but there were ample buddy-bonding subtexts, including a father-son subtext so obvious it looks intentional.

Plus the beefcake was constant.

Jimmy has a surprisingly buffed, hirsute chest and nicely shaped biceps.

Lucas Neff grew up in Chicago and received a BFA in theater from the University of Illinois in 2008.

He moved to Hollywood almost immediately, with a role in the buddy-bonding war movie Angelo (2010), followed by Raising Hope. 

What has he been up to since 2014?  And more importantly, has he taken off his shirt for the camera since?

According to the imdb, he's been in some indie, horror, and comedy movies, including:

There are Ghosts (2015), about a "closeted homosexual with a death wish."

I Love You Both (2016), about a brother and a sister both dating the same guy.

Slash (2016), about a gay teen (slash means the pairing of heterosexual media characters).

Cock N Bull 2 (2017), about a gay couple who decide to have an open relationship.

That's a lot of gay content.

Plus he's dating Caitlin Stasey, who is an out lesbian (who says lesbians can't date men without having to classify themselves as bisexual?).

He's let his hair grow out just a bit.

See also: Axl in Underwear

May 28, 2017

Bob Hover/ Richard Harrison: Muscle Buddies

During the 1950s, when Muscle Beach bodybuilders were being snapped up by the Athletic Model Guild to pose in the burgeoning gay-vague physique magazines industry, buddies Bob Hover (right) and Richard Harrison (left) sometimes posed together.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1936, Richard Harrison hit the beaches of Southern California in 1954, just after he graduated from high school.  Bob Hover was two years older, but he arrived that same year, after a stint in military (he was a boxer in the Marines).  They became close friends, and maybe lovers (if you believe the sly hints that the muscle mags used to sell copies).

Soon Hollywood came calling.  Bob had several small movie roles in 1956-58, usually with some of the other gay or gay-friendly actors of the 1950s, such as Lafayette Escadrille (1958) with Tab Hunter, and No Time for Sargeants (1958), with Nick Adams.

During the 1970s he starred on several soap operas, including Another World and As the World Turns.  He retired from acting in 1985, and died in 2013.

Richard first appeared on screen in 1957, and in 1961 moved to Italy to become one of the sword and sorcery peplum heroes.  Between 1961 and 1965, he donned the toga nine times, growing a beard in the process.  When the peplum craze ended, he stayed in Italy to make spaghetti Westerns and spy dramas.

In the 1980s Richard returned to the U.S. just in time for the man-muscle craze: Golden Ninja Warrior, Ninja Hunter, The Ninja Squad, Ninja Dragon.  He was over 50 years old, but age never kept a true bodybuilder from flexing and taking out enemy squadrons.   He also moved into writing, directing, and production.

Both Bob and Richard married and had children, but they made an indelible impression on gay men of the first Boomer generation.
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