Jul 6, 2017

Sean Flynn: Was the Son of the Legendary Actor Gay?

Born in 1941, Sean Flynn was the son of infamous bisexual superstar Errol Flynn (and uncle of his namesake Sean Flynn, star of the Nickelodeon teencom Zoey 101).

Handsome, muscular, and the son of a superstar, he was naturally pushed into acting, and in 1962 appeared in the swashbuckling Son of Captain Blood, a sequel to his father's Captain Blood (1935).  

Some other actioners followed, with Sean playing Zorro (Duel at the Rio Grande, 1963), a man-mountain of Colonial India (Temple of the White Elephant, 1964), and a James Bond-style secret agent (Mission to Venice, 1964).  But there were lots of better movies with similar characters, and audiences stayed away.

Besides, Sean didn't care for acting.  He wanted to be a real-life adventurer, like Richard Halliburton and Michael Rockefeller.   He moved to Africa to become a hunter and game warden. Then he became a photojournalist, covering the Vietnam War and the 1967 Egypt-Israeli War for Paris-Match.  

In April 1970, while traveling near the Cambodian border, he and colleague Dana Stone (left) disappeared.

His mother spent years searching for him, and eventually found evidence that the two were captured by the Khmer Rouge or Viet Cong, imprisoned for a few months, and then executed.

A tragic end to a fascinating life.

Of course, you're wondering: was he gay or bisexual?

Sean's friend Perry Deane Young (left, the one with the bulge) doesn't say anything about Sean's same-sex interests in his memoir of their Vietnam experiences (published in 1975).  But then, one wouldn't expect him to.

However, it is compelling to note that Sean spent his life surrounded by attractive men.

See also: The Disappearance of Michael Rockefeller; The Disappearance of Richard Halliburton.

Jul 5, 2017

J. Allen St. John: The Beefcake and Phallic Images of Tarzan

In spite of his aristocratic name, J. Allen St. John was born in Chicago in 1872, when it was still a small town, and lived there throughout his life, except for studying in New York and Paris.

But his imagination went far afield beginning in 1916, when he was offered the cover and interior illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Beasts of Tarzan

An opportunity to draw muscular, half-naked men?  He had found his dream job!

One that lasted for the next thirty years, through dozens of Tarzan books, plus some of the Venus and Mars series.

St. John's extremely-muscular, mostly-naked men and blatant phallic imagery also enlivened the covers of Weird Tales, The Blue Book, and Amazing Stories.

He influenced a generation of beefcake science fiction and fantasy artists, such as Frank Franzetta.

He only wrote one novel of his own, The Face in the Pool: A Faerie Tale (1905).  It's a standard Medieval "boy meets girl" fantasy: "He came to the tower where the Princess Astrella's golden head at the window served as a gleaming beacon to those who would rescue here."

So her head revolves, or what?

Better stick to illustrations.

St. John always tried to get his male figures as naked as possible, negotiating as many phallic images as possible.  Is this a giant snake or a penis come to life?

But not his female figures.  Here the titular Cave Girl, fully clothed, rescues her semi-naked boyfriend from a semi-naked Neanderthal.

St. John was hired to do the cover art for Weird Tales, but fired after a few issues when he refused to provide enough female t. and a. to titilate the straight male audience.  Who wanted to look at naked men?

This is a cover of Mystic Magazine, November 1953, probably to illustrate the article "The Secret Kingdom: Secret Rules of Earth and the Coming Armageddon!"  Armageddon is presaged by a naked redhead with a scythe, his penis cleverly hidden by Father Time's head.

But that didn't stop him from including THREE phallic images

St. John was married to a woman named Ellen from 1904 to his death in 1957, but his interest in the male physique and the penis is obvious.  I'd be surprised if he wasn't gay.

Jul 4, 2017

South Pacific: A High School Music

I don't care much for musicals, but I've had a soft spot for South Pacific (1949), the Rogers and Hammerstein musical adaption of James A. Michener's Tales of the South Pacific (1948), ever since I saw it performed live 8 times in high school.

I was in the orchestra pit, so I had no choice.  But anything that required my male classmates to parade around with their shirts off was fine with me, even if they were singing the heterosexist "There's Nothing like a Dame."

Over the years I've seen four more live versions, at my nephew's high school, Augustana College, a community theater in Ohio, and a gay synagogue in West Hollywood.  But until recently, I never saw the 1958 movie with Ray Walston (later on My Favorite Martian), Jack Mullaney (later on It's About Time), and Ken Clark (the bodybuilder with something extra). (Gay icon Robert Goulet starred in the original.)

Most musical comedies have two hetero-romantic plots, one romantic and the other humorous.  In South Pacific, the romantic plot is handled by Lt. Joe Cable (in this case, Anderson Davis in a 2008 Baltimore production).  A soldier stationed on a small island in the Pacific during World War II, he falls in love with the native girl Liat, but his family's prejudices keep them from marrying.  Then he dies on a secret mission.

Here's another Jim (Matthew Morrison, who plays Will Schuester on Glee) from the 2008 Broadway revival.

The humorous plot is handled by Nellie Forbush, one of musical theater's big-voiced, gutsy broads, who falls in love with Emile, a fey, sophisticated, gay-coded plantation owner -- they perform a gender-bending number in drag -- but rejects him because he has mixed-race children.  He goes on the secret mission, too, but returns alive just in time for Nellie to overcome her prejudice and marry him.

The prejudice theme, plus the gender-bending romance between the gay-coded guy and girl, provides adequate gay symbolism.  But you hardly need any, with all the muscles to look at.
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