Dec 23, 2017

Jim Elliot, Through Gates of Spendor, and Amazonian Beefcake

When I was growing up in the ultra-fundamentalist Nazarene church, we had no saints, no folk heroes.  We couldn't name a single famous person who was Nazarene -- of course not, Sunday school teachers said.  When you spend all your time trying to win souls, the way God wants you to, how will you have time to become famous?

But boys need heroes, so Sunday school teachers and youth ministers became creative, scouring the ranks of closely related denominations -- the Wesleyans, the Pentecostals, the Salvation Army.  And they found Jim Elliot (1927-1956), a young missionary from the Plymouth Brethren who moved to Ecuador to try to win the Quechua for Christ.

Eventually he changed his mind: he would make first contact with the savage Auca Indians (actually called Huaorani), who lived in the Amazonian region of southern Ecuador, in order to win them for Christ.

After all, the Quechua were already Catholic -- not Christian, of course, but the Bible, or at least the Gospels, were available to them.  They at least knew who Jesus was.  The Auca were completely untouched -- they had never heard of Jesus at all.

"Operation Auca" began in September 1955, with the standard "first contact" tactic of exchanging gifts.  On January 3rd, 1956, Jim and his companions established a base and had friendly encounters with some of the Auca men.  Things seemed to be going smoothly.  But on January 8th, 1956, ten Auca warriors approached and speared Jim, three other missionaries, and their pilot Nate Saint to death.

Martyred for the cause of Christ.

Nazarenes had very few martyrs -- the church only began in 1909.  So Jim Elliot and the other missionaries were a big deal.

"Would you die for Christ, if He asked you to?" our youth minister asked.

In 1957, Jim's widow Elisabeth published an account of "Operation Auca," Through Gates of Splendour.  It was adapted into a Spire Christian comic in 1974.

Later, Elisabeth, Saint's sister, and other missionaries successfully contacted the Huaorani, and won many of them for Christ, including Mincaye, one of the murderers.

Mincaye and Saint's son Steve (only five years old at the time of the murder) later became close friends, and often traveled together on missionary expeditions.

There are about 4,000 Huaorani today, mostly living in permanent settlements, their culture all but destroyed.

You're probably wondering, what's the gay connection?

1. I rather liked the idea of five men all together, with no women around.
2. Who didn't wear shirts.
3. The Huaorani were mostly naked.
4. That friendship between Mincaye and Steve.  Best friends with your father's murderer.  How romantic is that?

Dec 20, 2017

Holy Mortadella, Batman: The Boy Wonder's Beneath the Belt Bulk

Every Baby Boomer boy knows why we couldn't wait to see Batman (1966-68), with Adam West and Burt Ward as campy, corny Caped Crusaders.  It wasn't the over-the-top villains, or the "Zap! Pow!" fights, or the buddy-bonding between Batman and Robin.

It was Robin's jaw-dropping beneath-the-belt bulge.

Burt Ward is, by all accounts (including his own), massive.  He won't give his exact measurements, but I'm guessing Mortadella.

It was hard to cram him into that Robin Hood costume without his something extra showing.

Especially when he was tied up, struggling to escape from the latest diabolical trap.

Which happened in nearly every episode.

Check out these two pictures.  As the ropes get tighter, Robin gets warmer.

Well, he couldn't help it. Burt Ward was in his early 20s, and he often had to spend an hour at a time restrained, with nothing to do but wait.  Extras and guest stars often took advantage of the opportunity to play with him.

Female extras, he claims.  I'm not so sure.

Gay actor Cesar Romero, who played the Joker, claims that the show gave him many opportunities for an "accidental" grope, and at least once they went farther.  Burt didn't mind.  In fact, the younger actor looked up to Romero as a comedic mentor, and they became lifelong friends.

I also have a correspondent who claims to have hooked up with Burt right on the set.

About a dozen episodes into the first season, a "Save the Children" watchdog group complained, and the directors and crew found ways to underplay Burt's package.  Or hide it altogether.

But it remains the stuff of legend.

See also: Lane's Hookup with Batman, Robin, and the Joker.; A Hookup with Robin the Boy Wonder

Dec 19, 2017

Captain Barbell, the Filipino Superman

I never heard of Captain Barbell before, but in the Philippines he's as well-known as Superman.

Created by Mars Ravelo, he first appeared in Pinoy Komiks in 1963, and has been saving the world in Tagalog and English comics ever since.

His origin story resembles that of Captain Marvel: Tenteng (also called Teng and Eteng) is a weakling, bullied by the other kids/adults (depending on his age) and ignored by potential romantic partners.  One day he meets a genie who gives him a magic barbell (sometimes it's a mystical hermit, and sometimes it just appears by itself). 

When he lift the barbell, he is transformed into a superhero (but he doesn't have to keep holding it).

His costume consisted of a bare chest, purple pants, a belt with his initials and a cape.  Later, and in the movies, he wore a yellow shirt.

After a year of adventures (1963-64), Tenting tires of the responsibility of saving the world, and throws the barbell into the ocean.

Dario, a boy handicapped by polio, finds it and becomes the second Captain Barbell, for another year of adventures (1964-65).

Several other Captain Barbells have come and gone in Filipino comics.

There have been six movies, with the Captain played by Bob Soler, Willie Sotelo, the comedian Dolphy, Edu Manzano (pictured), and Bong Revilla.

The non-Captain form is often played by someone else.  In 2003, singer Ogie Alcasid.

More recently, the Captain has broken into television.  In 2006, Pinoy heartthrob Richard Gutierrez played Teng and Captain Barbell as a teenager (top photo)  In 2011, considerably bulked up, he reprised the roles as an adult (left).

You miss a lot when you don't speak Tagalog.

Dec 18, 2017

Danny Kaye was Gay

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, one of our traditions was watching White Christmas (1954), actually a backstage comedy about rival singing acts, with nothing to do with Christmas except the final scene.  It was my first backstage comedy, my introduction to Bing Crosby, and the only thing I've ever seen Danny Kaye in.

But when my parents were young, Danny Kaye was everywhere.  Born in New York in 1911, he was a Borscht belt and Vaudeville comedian before moving to Hollywood at the start of World War II.  He played fast-talking, mugging Russians (The Inspector General, 1949), wistful dreamers (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 1947; Hans Christian Andersen, 1952), and, of course, dopey sidekicks (White Christmas).

Plus he had his own radio program (1945-46) and cut many records with both sentimental and novelty songs: "The Woody Woodpecker Song," "I've Got a Lovely Box of Coconuts," "Tchaikovsky" (which involves saying the names of Russian composers at breakneck speed).

He had his own tv show from 1963 to 1967 (I never saw it), and appeared as himself on Laugh-In, The Tonight Show, Dick Cavett, Ed Sullivan, The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People, and The Muppet Show.

His last role was on an episode of The Cosby Show.  He died in 1987.

Comedic actors need a great deal of upper-body strength to do their pratfalls.  As this photo from Baby Jane Collectibles reveals, Danny Kaye had a respectable physique for his era.

But I understand that his stage presence was feminine, even swishy, nearly as gay-coded as Jack Benny, and he played a string of "sissies" who use their wit to triumph over muscle-men. Was he gay?

Yep.  Well, he liked ladies.  He was married to Sylvia Fine from 1940 to his death, and he had various other hetero-affairs with women ranging from Eve Arden to Shirley MacLaine,  But he was also open to same-sex activity and even romance. 

Sir Laurence Olivier is mentioned most often as his partner: they met in 1940, and saw each other off and on for the next twenty years, in plain sight of their wives and everyone in Hollywood.  The rule in those days was to pretend not to notice.
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