Jul 21, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale (1997) is difficult to watch now, when there are so many parallels between its near-future dystopia and the real society that the U.S. is becoming.  Our own Orange Fuhrer and his cronies might start ordering the round-up of "gender traitors" at any moment.

The Republic of Gilead, in what used to be the Northeastern United States, is run on strictly Protestant fundamentalist principles.  If the Bible says to stone adulterers to death, that's what we're going to do.  Adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, Catholics, and Jews are all executed, unless they are fertile women who can become handmaidens, given the job of getting pregnant in the place of their owner's wife.

June (Elisabeth Moss) was a book editor before, but women are no longer permitted to have jobs, or even to read -- if they are caught reading, their hand gets chopped off.  Because she was married to a divorced man, she is an adulterer, sentenced to become the handmaiden to Commander Fred Waterhouse and his wife, Serena Joy.  Her name was changed to Offred (Of-Fred) to designate that she was his property.

Serena Joy is not altogether happy with the world she helped to create.  She was once a conservative Christian activist who wrote books and held rallies on why women should stay home, and now she is cut off from all decision making ("we have men working on it").

Male infertility doesn't exist.  If Offred doesn't get pregnant, she will be sent to the Colonies for a quick, painful death handling radioactive waste.

Although these are fundamentalists, they don't follow any of the rules I knew as a Nazarene.  They smoke and drink.  There is no religious music.  There don't seem to be any church services.  One gets the impression that they're Protestant fundamentalists without religion.

There are no gay male characters -- they've all been killed.  There are several lesbian characters, including June's best friend from before, Moira (Samira Wiley), and Emily (Alexis Bleidel), married with a child before, now forced to become a handmaiden, first Ofglen, then Ofwarren. When she is found in a relationship with a Martha (a household servant), the Martha is executed, and she is "fixed" through genital mutilation.

Although there are parallels with today's facist society, there are significant differences.  Racism doesn't exist in Gilead.  There are black and Asian Commanders and wives.  Nor is anyone screaming about illegal aliens.  One assumes that the society is anti-Muslim as well as anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic, but this is never mentioned.  The main injustice is that of women, "restored to their rightful place" in the household, with men in charge.

You don't watch The Handmaid's Tale for beefcake.  It's about women's thoughts, women's lives, women's bodies.  There are very few men around, except for soldiers with guns, and only three men in the main cast:

1. O.T. Fagbenle, who is gay in real life and a star of Looking, as Luke, Ofred's husband, who managed to escape and helps runs a resistance force called Mayday.  He appears mostly in flashbacks.

2. Joseph Fiennes, who played a gay character in Running with Scissors, as the singularly unattractive Fred, who has a fetishistic interest in watching Offred do forbidden things like play Scrabble and read fashion magazines.  He's always fully clothed, even in the scenes where he has to have sex with Offred.

3. Max Minghella, who played a gay character in The Mindy Project, as Nick, the Commander's chauffeur, also an Eye of God (informer) and possibly a member of the resistance.  He begins an illicit romance with Offred.   He's the only one to appear shirtless, and we even get a shot of his butt.

See also: The Handmaid's Tale, Season 2

The Boys of Lassie 2: Tommy Rettig

A major child star of the 1950s era, Tommy Rettig appeared alongside some of the greats of cinema, including Jimmy Stuart (Jackpot), Mickey Rooney (The Strip), Eve Arden (The Lady Wants Mink), Marilyn Monroe (The River of No Return), and Van Heflin (The Raid). His heroism and frequent shirtless shots made him the first crush of many gay Boomer boys. Boomer boys.

Years before Jon Provost created the iconic Lassie image of cherubic blond boy in need of constant saving, 14-year old Tommy started hanging out with the collie (1954-57).  Jeff Miller (Tommy) was a slim, handsome teenager who didn't fall into many wells; instead, his plotlines often involved school, friends, and sports. He was the first crush of many gay Boomer boys.

Other than  was most famous for the surreal 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), in which evil piano teacher Dr. T (Hans Conreid) plans to marry the unsuspecting mom of Bartholomew Collins (Tommy), and has the ultimate plot of forcing 500 boys to play his gigantic piano.  Bartholomew and the heroic plumber, Mr. Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes) work together to save them both.  It was an early protest against conformity, including heterosexist marriage-and-children.

Like Jon Provost, Tommy found his post-Lassie acting career complicated by type-casting.  He guest-starred in many tv series, including Wagon Train, Death Valley Days, Mr. Novak, The Fugitive, and The Little Hobo.  He starred in the teen soap Never Too Young as Tony Dow's best friend JoJo (1966). But by the late 1960s, even bit parts dried up.

In the 1970s he tried several careers, including marijuana farming, before finding his niche as a computer database specialist, creating important innovations in DBase and FoxPro.
He was reputedly bisexual; there's a gay dating story on Tales of West Hollywood.

He died in 1996.

Jul 20, 2017

The Bad Boys of Boston

When you think of Boston, you think of Harvard, Boston Commons, the elegant shops and restaurants of the Back Bay, the gay bars and bathhouses on Tremont and Boylston.  Most traveler never get any farther west than the Museum of Fine Arts.

But there's another Boston: Jamaica Plain, out past Brookline,  Mattapan.  Hyde Park.  And "The Combat Zone," east of Washington and south of Boylston, near the Tufts Medical Center.  Neighborhoods of unmown lawns and broken windows, unemployment, poverty, and battling gangs, where kids grow up fast and tough, where fun, friends, work, and school are equally dangerous.

Several photographers have taken the train south and west to document these bad boys, their games and sports, their fights, their gay and heterosexual loves.

Here John Goodman (the photographer, not the actor) shows a carload of cute guys in the Combat Zone in th 1970s, driving with their Saturday night entertainment, a six pack of Schlitz beer.

Jules Aarons (1921-2008) spent his career investigating Boston street life.  Here two boys in the 1950s chat beside their car.

A muscular South End boy in the 1970s offers his friend a light.

Jerry Berndt (1943-2013) taught at the Art Institute and photographed Boston street boys from 1955 through 1985.  These smoking boys look like they're from the 1980s.

Jack Lueders-Booth (1935-) taught at Harvard and, in the 1980s, photographed the Neighborhoods of the Orange Line.  He found this father and son working on their car in Jamaica Plain.

 Sally Mann (1951-) specializes in images of decay and death, although she mad an exception for this very muscular Boston boy.

Who is Tony Dow's Boyfriend?

This photo is causing a bit of speculation.

It looks like Venice Beach in Los Angeles (the cabana in the background says "Charter 0").

The guy on the right is Tony Dow, the teen hunk of Leave It to Beaver, shirtless, in his standard white shorts. Sometime in the early 1960s.

He's with a guy who is about his height and age, buffed, with a severe military haircut, wearing a dark t-shirt and cut-off jeans. They're both barefoot, and they both bulge to the left.

Tony is looking at the photographer, while the other guy is facing away, not sure what to do.  It's not a posed photo, it's a candid, two guys caught in an informal moment.  Hanging out together, or on a date.

But who is Tony's boyfriend?

I cropped the photo, but the original doesn't display any more information.  There are three guys sitting on the left, and there's a partial watermark: eart.ltd edit

Three possibilities have been suggested:

1. In "Wally the Lifeguard," a episode of Leave It to Beaver that aired on October 22, 1960, Wally thinks he has been hired as a lifeguard, and is embarrassed to discover that he will be selling hot dogs in a ridiculous outfit instead.  Some scenes are set at the beach, where the real life guard is played by 25-year old Dick Gering. Maybe he and Tony Dow bonded.

Severe military haircut, but the guy in the photo doesn't look like him.

2. Tommy Rettig, the star of Lassie, four years older than Tony Dow, became one of his closest friends during the early 1960s, and starred with him in Never Too Young (1965-66)

The guy in the photo is definitely not Tommy Rettig.

3. John "Butchie" Davidson.  Not the actor, the physique model. He was in Los Angeles for only a few months in the spring of 1965 before shipping out to Vietnam (he died tragically en route).  But during those months, he starred in several Athletic Model Guild films and got the cover of Physique Pictorial.  

Same haircut, same hands, same face.

Tony Dow never appeared in Physique Pictorial, but he mostly likely knew about it.  It's not inconceivable that he met Butchie, and was showing him the sights that day when an anonymous photographer snapped his picture.

There are nude photos of John Davidson on Tales of West Hollywood.

See also: Tony Dow Dating and Hookup Stories

Jul 19, 2017

Tony Dow Stars in the Teen Soap "Never Too Young"

Never Too Young (1965-1966) is famous as the first teenage soap opera, an attempt to draw the Beatles crowd into daytime tv.

It was set in Malibu, where Alfy (David Watson) ran the High Dive, the local teen hangout, and negotiated the angst-ridden lives of three high school girls, Joy, Rhoda, and Susan, and their boys:

Dack Rambo, who would go on to star in All My Children and Dallas, played all-around good guy Tim (shown here with his twin brother Dirk Rambo).  Both were bisexual in real life.

John Lupton (shown here with Michael Ansara and, apparently, their child) played rich kid Frank.

Tony Dow of Leave It to Beaver appeared in 10 episodes as brooding, always shirtless race car driver Chet.  Then he joined the California National Guard and temporarily retired from acting.

Tommy Rettig of Lassie played his boyfriend Jojo.

Michael Blodgett, a beefcake star of the 1960s, played injured football star Tad.

Never Too Young ran daily at 3:00 in the afternoon from September 27, 1965 through June 24, 1966.

That's a pitiable short life span for a soap; apparently teenagers were staying away in droves.  But not to worry, they grooved on the vampires and werewolves of its replacement, Dark Shadows

Only five episodes have survived  You can sometimes find them on Ebay.  But be warned, the reproduction is not very good.  Check out John Lupton's bulge, if you can.

Jul 16, 2017

Detective Adventurers of the 1980s

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a fad for sly, antiheroic, self-referential adventurers.  We saw them on BJ and the Bear, The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I., Vegas, and even in science fiction like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Man-mountains like Stallone and Schwartzeneggar were not yet in style, so they had lean, muscular bodies, hairy chests, thick wind-blown 1970s hair, 1970s gold chains, and sometimes a moustache.  They mostly looked alike; I dare you to distinguish between Gil Gerard and Robert Ulrich at a distance.

They lived in glamorous locations like Hawaii and Las Vegas, had unlimited incomes, and solved crimes.  But unlike the suave gay couples of the early 1960s, they didn't come in pairs.  Indeed, the premises seemed deliberately designed to eliminate homoerotic buddy-bonding.    

Buck (Gil Gerard) of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81) hung out with a woman, Col. Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) and a robot (who began every sentence with "Bleep..bleep..bleep").

Private detective Dan Tanna (Robert Ulrich) of Vega$ (1979-81) had a female assistant, Beatrice (Phyllis Davis).  His main client was casino owner Slick (Tony Curtis), but Slick was older and slightly seedy, and they never buddy-bonded.

Trucker BJ (Greg Evigan) of BJ and the Bear (1979-81) hung out with a chimpanzee.

Private detective Magnum (Tom Selleck) of Magnum, PI (1980-88) lived on an estate in Hawaii with the prissy, gay-coded  Higgins (John Hillerman).  But no subtext -- they hated each other.  He also had two buddies, TC (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick (Larry Manetti), but never expressed any particular fondness for either.

There's a Tom Selleck hookup story on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jim Rockford (James Garner) was an exception, an antihero who lived in a ramshackle trailer.

Stunt man/bounty hunter Colt Seavers (Lee Majors) of The Fall Guy (1981-86) had an apprentice, Howie (former beefcake model Douglas Barr).  But the homoerotic potential was minimized by making Howie a comic relief character, and adding a stunt woman buddy, Jody (Heather Thomas), to the mix.

There was some beefcake, of course, but it was overwhelmed by the endless scenes of women with enormous breasts.

A couple of episodes involving homicidal drag queens (one tries to kill the British Prime Minister on Magnum, and on Vega$, she tries to kill her own "male side," however that would work).  Otherwise no gay characters.

It's no wonder that most gay teens watched Laverne and Shirley instead of Buck Rogers, Barney Miller instead of Magnum, and ran whenever Lee Majors came on the screen.

The actors have a spotty record concerning gay people.  Tom Selleck has been denouncing gay rumors, loudly and angrily, for 30 years.  Gil Gerard came out in support of Chick-Fil-A's homophobia. Lee Majors has been mostly silent, although he did play Grace's Dad on Will and Grace.

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