Sep 2, 2017

The Beefcake of Chaffee, Missouri

Chaffee, Missouri, is in southeastern Missouri, 130 miles from the nearest big city, St. Louis.  The nearest town with a gay bar is Carbondale, Illinois, 60 miles away.  It's isolated!

There's a Circle Park in the center of town, where the main street, Yoakum, meets 3rd.  The high school is 3 blocks west, at the western edge of town, and the main retail area is two blocks east.  There are 2 pizza places and a Mexican restaurant.  The nearest Chinese restaurant is in Cape Girardeaux.

For shopping, there's a Food Giant and a Dollar General Store.

There are 7 churches, mostly Baptist.

The city is 97% white.  The per capita income is $20,000.  In 1996, when the textile plant closed, 60% of the town's workers lost their jobs.  Even today, 22% of the population is living in poverty.

It received severe flooding in 2009.

All in all, not a great place to live, especially if you are gay.

But even the smallest, most isolated of towns can be a paradise of male beauty.  Let's see what Chaffee has.  First, some dating sites.

Nice abs.

I found more shirtless dating profiles, but let's go on to other beefcake possibilities.

Wrestling singlets.  This is actually a wrestler from Meadow Hills, an opposing team.

Swim teams.

More after the break.

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.

Huck and Jim on the Raft

I don't remember a time when I didn't know Huckleberry Finn.  He was everywhere in my childhood: in a tv series starring Michael Shea, in movies starring Eddie Hodges, Mickey Rooney, Jeff EastElijah Wood, Anthony Michael Hall, and Brad Renfro, in the musical Big River (left).

One Saturday afternoon in the mid-1970s, I saw a weird prepubscent version that reminded me of  Journey to the Beginning of Time . Later I discovered that it was a Russian adaption called Hopelessly Lost (1972).

By the time I was 10 or 11, I began accumulating editions of the novel at garage sales and library book sales, mostly those with cover art emphasizing physicality, broad shoulders and muscular arms gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. 

I already imagined Huck and Jim escaping from their bondage like Will fleeing the Tripods, and now -- in an eternal now -- rafting slowly, lazily down the Mississippi, free from the pressures of school and "after school sports" and "someday you'll find a girl." The raft became their good place, where Huck and Jim could gaze into each other's eyes, hug, kiss, alone with each other forever. 

But the novel wasn't really about that.  Huck doesn't have any romantic interest in Jim -- he thinks of the escaped slave as a child who needs protection.

He does spend a lot of time evaluating masculine beauty: "Tall, beautiful men with very broad shoulders and brown faces";"men just in their drawers and undershirts, and resting their hands on their thighs easy and comfortable...I never seen anything so lovely."

And he tries to find a lasting romance,  twice.

First he meets and buddy-bonds with Buck, a boy involved in a Hatfield-McCoy feud. They sleep together and smile at each other, and Huck is adopted into his family.  But then he is killed in a feud, and Huck cries and moves on.

Then Tom Sawyer, his old friend from Hannibal. Huck invites Tom to  "come here and feel me."  He does, and "he was that glad to see me again he didn't know what to do."

But when Huck discovers that Tom's Aunt Sally intends to adopt him, he rebels, and decides to "light out for the Territory." It is unclear why  he accepts adoption by Buck's family but not by Tom's. Maybe because he finds Tom immature and annoying.  Or maybe because Aunt Sally wants to "sivilize" him, like Daisy Duck civilizes Donald and Poil civilizes Spooky,  teaching him poetry and etiquette and how to open a checking account.  Love, even homoromantic love, domesticates a man, ends his story with "and they lived happily ever after," and Huck's story must continue.  Or not a story, an image, an eternal now to hang onto when we are overwhelmed by the problems and constraints of life.

We must not remember anything that came before or after, just Huck and Jim, muscular bodies glistening in the sunlight,  as they raft lazily down the river.

Aug 29, 2017

Fernando Pessoa, the Gay Poet, Novelist, and Flaneur of 1920s Lisbon

If you're like me, you know Spanish literature inside-and-out, but Portuguese is an undiscovered country.

Maybe you've heard of Jorge Amado, and  Luis de Camoes, who wrote the first epic poem in Portuguese.  But not Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), even though he is lauded as the greatest novelist in modern Portugal.

Born in Lisbon, Pessoa grew up in South Africa, where his stepfather was a diplomat.  He began writing poetry at age six ("To My Beloved Mother"), and published short stories in English while still in high school.

In 1905 he returned to Lisbon and immersed himself in the modernist movement, the new world of literary and artistic experimentation spearheaded by James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ruben Dario, and Miguel de Unamuno.  He published literary magazines and literary criticism, translated English novels and poetry, and produced 25,000 pages of his own creative work.

A short, slight, sickly-looking person who didn't draw much attention in the gay bars and bathhouses of 1920s Lisbon, Pessoa had no romantic relationships during his life, and may not have had sex with anyone; a friend noted that he was embarrassed by the smallness of his penis.  Yet he immersed himself in the gay subculture; he had many gay friends, and published the works of two of them, Raul Leal and Antonio Botto (author of the first explicit homoerotic verse in Portuguese).

And he created a lively interior world of men, mostly gay men, who established strong same-sex bonds through art.

Heteronoms are fictional characters who write their own stories, poems, and essays, using their distinctive backgrounds and voices, and who interact with each other and comment each other's works.  By the end of his life, Pessoa had developed more than 70 characters with complicated geneologies and relationships to each other:

Albert Caiero, author of O guardador de Rebanhos, is critiqued by Ricardo Reis, whose brother Federico writes about him.

Claude Pasteur comments on Cadernos de reconstrução pagã, written by Antonio Mora, a student of Caiero.

Pero Botelho creates a character, Abilio Quaresma, who writes stories of his own.

Dr. Gaudencio Turnips edits a journal, O Palrador, which publishes the work of José Rodrigues do Valle, Dr. Caloiro, Gabriel Keene, and Diablo Azul.

A mysterious being named Ibis accompanied Pessoa through his life, and published poems of its own.

The voluminous interrelations of the many different people living in his head were mostly for the benefit of Pessoa and his friends; during his lifetime he published only four books in English and one in Portuguese, a symbolist poetic epic called Mensagem (The Message).

Many more books have been gleaned from his manuscripts since. The Book of Disquiet (Livro do Desassossego), published in 1985 (English translation 1991), is a semi-autobiographical novel/diary/ commonplace book by heteronom Bernardo Soares, a compendium of life in 1920s Lisbon by a gay man writing in the voice of another gay man.

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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