Sep 2, 2017

Arabian Nights on Stage: Bare Chests and Turbans

I knew I'd find beefcake in The Arabian Nights eventually.  A dramatic adaption by Dominic Cooke, first performed in 1997, is making the rounds of high school and college drama departments.  It goes back to the original  Persian frame story, with Shahrazad telling stories to King Shahrayar so he won't have her executed in the morning.  She tells six, so each actor plays several parts:

1. Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves
2. Es-Sindbad the Sailor
3. The Little Beggar
4. How Abu Hassan Broke Wind
5. The Wife Who Wouldn't Eat
6. The Envious Sisters

I hadn't heard of 4-6 either.  I suspect that they were put in place to give female performers something to do in the male-heavy traditional opus.

A 2005 version by Adam Forde and David Perkins gives Shahrazad a sister-confidant, and includes the stories of Ali Baba, The Fisherman and the Genie, The Ass and His Ass, Sindbad, and the Little Beggar.

And there have been many other more local adaptions, thrusting lots of guys into turban and golden robes, or tunics with no shirt beneath, or topless, their chests and biceps golden in the stage light.

Brad Ogden performed as Shahrayar at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

More after the break.

Sep 1, 2017

"The Arabian Nights" Beefcake Fantasies

European artists constantly draw on ancient Greek mythology and the Bible for their beefcake, but what about The Arabian Nights?

The Arabian Nights, aka The Thousand and One Nights, is an Arabic story collection from the Middle Ages, first translated into a European language in the 18th century.

 It contains some classic tales that have become as essential to Western culture as Ulysses, the Trojan War, and Daniel in the Lion's Den: Aladdin's Lamp, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves; the Voyages of Sinbad?

So how about some paintings of a nude Aladdin or a muscular Sinbad?

I looked.  I didn't find much.

An Arabian Nights Fantasy by contemporary artist Nona Hytinnen

Marc Chagall, an illustration from a 1948 Arabian Nights book.  That's the story of "Abdullah the Fisherman," who catches a male mermaid.

Maxfield Parrish, the great 19th century illustrator, gives us a little beefcake with this dozing giant.

And the Classics Illustrated comic book version has a genie in a loincloth, although a bit too feminine for my tastes.

And that's it, unless ycu count fan pics of Disney's Aladdin (like this one from Nippy13 on

I don't know why The Arabian Nights seems to have inspired very few male nudes.

Oh, well, back to real-life Arab men.

Aug 31, 2017

You'd Be Perfect for My Grandson: Inner Sanctum

Authorial intent is not necessary for a gay subtext, but since about 1980, subtexts have usually been the result of actors, directors, or writers recognizing the gay potential in ostensibly heterosexual characters, and playing into it.  Before 1980, subtexts were usually the result of of actors, directors, or writers being unaware that same-sex desire, behavior, or romance existed.  Sometimes they were so utterly ignorant that it is mind-boggling.

Inner Sanctum (1948) is a thriller about an ordinary man, Harold Dunlap (Charles Russell), who accidentally kills his fiancee during an argument at a train station, then goes on the lam in a small town.  He ends up at a boarding house run by the elderly Thelma Mitchell (Nana Bryant) and occupied by the usual colorful small-town characters: a drunk, a failed doctor, a busybody, a sultry seductress -- and Thelma's daughter and grandson. Mike (Dale Belding) is a teenager who desperately wants to escape his small town hell -- and looks heavily embarrassed at being forced to wear a little kid's whirly-top beanie.

When Harold arrives, Thelma aggressively tries to push him into having sex with her grandson: "Oh, you must meet Mike!  Oh, you're just the kind of man he needs!  You must stay in his room tonight!"  Apprised that Mike's room has only a small single bed, she grins knowingly: "Oh, they'll manage!"

But she relents and permits a second rollaway bed to be installed.

I can't think of a good "real" explanation for Thelma's giddy match-making. A masculine role model?

Once they are in the bedroom, Harold undresses, giving us chest and basket shots unusual in film noir.  Mike stares wide-eyed.

"You want to see me with my shirt off?" Harold asks. Mike nods. "Well, come on, have a look."  Mike moves across the room, sits next to the underwear-clad Harold, and examines his muscles.

Ok, maybe Mike saw the accident earlier, and he wants to examine Harold's muscles to see if there's a telltale scar. But it looks very much like a gay teenager negotiating a crush on an older man.

Harold realizes that Mike knows too much, and decides to kill him.  As they struggle, the tenants downstairs hear curious bumping noises from the bedroom, and wonder what's going on.  "Oh, I'm sure they're all right," Thelma says with her knowing grin.

I have no "real" explanation for what she thinks is going on.

The movie ends with Mike saved and Harold turning himself in, and viewers scratching their heads, asking "Was it possible for anyone to be so completely unaware, even in 1948?"

Maybe not.  There's not much information on Charles Russell or Dale Belding, but Nana Bryant, a seasoned theatrical actress, was certainly aware of the existence of gay people, and director Lew Landers often made movies with homoerotic subtexts.

You can watch the entire movie on youtube.

Aug 28, 2017

Fons Ianelli: Photographer of World War II Beefcake

Son of renowned sculptor Alfonso Ianelli, Fons Ianelli (1917-1988) grew up in Chicago, and opened a photographic studio in 1940.

I don't know if it's Ianelli or Iannelli -- it's spelled both ways in books and on websites.

During World War II, Fons worked for the Navy Aviation Photography Unit during World War II, charged with photographing the daily lives of the sailors.

Mostly he photographed strikingly beautiful men, often half-naked.

After the war, he continued to photograph everyday life, especially places where the American Dream of endless prosperity had fallen short, such as a well-received study of Kentucky coal miners.   He still managed to find strikingly beautiful men.

He also did physique photography, such as a series about bodybuilder John Grimek.  It was a private session, never published.

Yes, Grimek was nude.

Fons worked on cinema verite in the 1950s, filming Emergency Ward and The Young Fighter,  about a boxer who has decided to give up the ring.

He was a renowned photojournalist, with stories in McCall’s, Life, Fortune, Collier’s, and The Saturday Evening Post.

I don't know if he was gay or not, but according to his obituary, he was survived by a son.

Aug 27, 2017

Josh Zuckerman: No Gay Men Exist

Josh Zuckerman spend his adolescence in buddy-bonding roles, mostly with other men.  For instance, in the Disney Channel movie Twas the Night (2001), irresponsible Nick Wrigley (Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle), fleeing from gansters, takes refuge at his brother's house.  While delivering presents, Santa gets clocked on the head, and the gangsters steal the time-dilation device that allows him to visit 1.3 billion households in a single night.

So Nick and his mischievous 14-year old nephew Danny (Josh Zuckerman) must deliver all of the presents and subdue the gangsters.

It differs from the standard "saving Christmas" plot in the real peril, and in Nick and Danny, who move from stereotyped uncle and nephew to classic 1930s Adventure Boy and adult companion.

So far, so good.  But that same year, Josh starred in "Four Eyes," an episode of Nightmare Room about a boy who discovers that alien monsters are trying to take over the world, and rushes to save his girlfriend.

Then he landed a star vehicle, I was a Teenage Faust (2002), about a 15-year old boy (Josh) who sells his soul to the devil in order to win The Girl of His Dreams.  Heterosexist tripe.

I didn't have the stomach to see him in anything else for a few years, but evidently he starred with Ben Affleck in Surviving Christmas (2004) and Balthazar Getty in Feast (2005), and had recurring roles in Kyle XY (2008-09) and Desperate Housewives (2009-2010).

But the sex comedy Sex Drive (2008) is all shot through with homophobia and gay stereotypes. It's got Seth Green in it, so you know there's going to be trouble.  Ian (Josh) goes on a road trip in search of the Girl of His Dreams, Ms. Tasty (her stage name), who lives in Chattanooga. He borrows the car from his "fag" and "homo"-spouting brother Rex (James Marsden): "All guys have fantasies about guys, but this is America!"

When he gets to Chattanooga, Rex appears and refuses to let him seal the deal, so he pretends to be gay so Rex will relent -- maybe having sex with a girl will "change him back."  In the end, Ian marries The Girl, and Rex is revealed to be gay (but he doesn't get a boyfriend). There's also a subplot about the Amish.

At least there's plenty of nudity.

Josh's next project: Acid Girls (2013).  According to the imdb:
"Every man's dream becomes every man's nightmare when a recently-single 20-something picks up three cam girls in a bar and welcomes them into his home."

EVERY man's dream?  Are we still so utterly, utterly certain that there is not a single gay man alive anywhere on the face of the Earth?

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