Jan 6, 2018

The Gay Connection of Three Radio Tarzans

By 1930, radio was the most popular medium in the United States.  Over 50% of urban and 30% of rural households had radios at home, and you could also listen at bars, nightclubs, restaurants.  Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan had already made a splash in fiction and the movies; it was time to break into radio.

1. The first series premiered in September 1932, with Joan Burroughs (daughter of ERB) as Jane and James Pierce as Tarzan. Broadcast for 15 minutes three times a week, it was aimed heavily at the kiddie market, with a special Tarzan Club that soon grew to 400,000 members.

James Pierce (1900-1983) was a struggling actor and football coach at Glendale High School when he went to a party hosted by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The 50 year old writer, Burroughs took one look at the tall, handsome, muscular athlete and asked him to star in the next Tarzan picture, Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927).  The two remained close friends for the rest of Burroughs' life, and eventually Pierce married Joan.

Pierce continued to work on radio through the 1940s, and took minor roles in movies as guards, henchmen, police officers, and characters with names like "Big Man" and "Burly Man."  When Burroughs died in 1950, Pierce and his wife left Hollywood and moved to Shelbyville, Indiana.  He died in 1983; his tombstone reads "Tarzan."

2. Two radio serials aired in 1934 and 1936: Tarzan and the Diamonds of Ashur and Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr, starring Carlton Kadell (aka Karlton KaDell). Born in 1905 in Indiana, he moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where he appeared on such programs as Amos and Andy, The Edgar Bergen Show, Jack Armstrong All American Boy, Red Ryder, and Big Town.   

Kadell was gay.  In 1949 he was arrested on a morals charge after asking an undercover officer if he wanted "to have a good time" and making additional "lewd propositions."  He denied the charge, but still had to leave Hollywood and move to Chicago, where he became the announcer for the program Classical Kaleidoscope.  He died in 1975.

3. In 1951-1952, Tarzan returned to radio with a half-hour show, portrayed by Lamont Johnson (1922-2010).   75 weekly episodes aired.  Johnson later became a tv actor and director, with credits including That Certain Summer (1972), about a boy discovering that his dad is gay, and Paul's Case (1980), about a young gay man who steals money so he can run away to the city.

Movie Tarzan Gordon Scott was reputedly gay, and Johnny Weissmuller bisexual. That makes for a substantial gay connection for the Lord of the Apes.

See also: The Sons of Two Famous Actors Hook Up with Tarzan; Johnny Sheffield Almost Becomes Tarzan's Lover

Jan 5, 2018

Jackie Coogan's Boyfriend

When I met Keith Coogan in 2013, nearly the first thing I asked was, "Whose idea was the underwear scene in Toy Soldiers? (1991).

You're making a movie about the boys at an elite boarding school being held hostage by terrorists.  Whose idea was it to have the cast, composed entirely of teenage hunks, in their underwear all the time?

Not that I minded. I especially didn't mind getting an eyeful of Keith's bulge.

Keith insisted that there was no homoerotic intent.  Those scenes took place at night, when they were stripped down for bed.  They got to choose their own underwear, so he wore his regular "tighty whities."

Not that he minds the attention from gay fans: he's been a gay ally his whole life.  He learned all about gay people a long time ago, from his grandfather, Jackie Coogan

Famous to Baby Boomers as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family, Jackie Coogan was one of Hollywood's first child stars, co-starring with Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1924) at the age of 7.

He went on to play Peck's Bad Boy, Oliver Twist, Toby Tyler, and Huckleberry Finn before moving into a long career as an adult character actor, appearing in everything from College Swing (1938) to Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977).  He had four wives, including World War II pin-up girl Betty Grable.  He struggled with heart and kidney disease through his life, and finally died of heart failure in 1984, at the age of 69.

Daughter Leslie Diane, born in 1953, left home at age 15, and married, had Keith, and divorced within the next year.  Keith grew up in poverty, his mother working odd jobs and getting government assistance; for awhile they lived in a changing room on the tennis court outside the Malibu mansion where Leslie worked as a housekeeper.

Leslie wasn't happy about Keith's decision to become an actor, but she agreed to drive him around for auditions; he began doing commercials at age 5, got his first movie role at age 8, and landed a recurring spot on The Waltons at age 9.

Grandpa Jackie was a constant presence in his life, visiting every summer,  advising him on his acting career ("always know exactly where your money is going"), telling him stories of Old Hollywood.  Raunchy stories about men caught with their pants down in actresses' dressing rooms, all male parties where the guy with the biggest penis won a prize (Ramon Novarro always won.)   One of his favorite stories was about his teenage boyfriend, Junior Durkin:

Jan 2, 2018

Adam Mastrelli Reveals "Untold Secrets"

Watching tv on the treadmill at the gym during the daytime is usually awful. 

Endless reruns of Friends.  I get it: Joey is stupid, Chandler is neurotic, Phoebe is judgmental, and none of them are funny.

The Loud Family 35 times a day on Nickelodeon.

Austin and Allie on the Disney Channel (still?). 

Reality tv programs about pawn shops and interior design. 

The last 5 minutes of a movie.

. Sports, sports, sports, sports, and sports. 

And when you do hit something interesting, it will end in a few seconds to make way for a 5-minute commercial break (1/6th of my run!).

So it was quite a pleasant surprise the other day, when I came across a program about George Washington as a Mason.  I'm interested in the paranormal and secret societies, so I kept watching.

It turned out to be Untold Secrets a Travel Channel program about "a multitude of secrets, revealing amazing facts and stranger-than-fiction anecdotes that are destined to fuel water cooler conversations for days to come."  I happened to stumble across the first, and so far, only episode, "George Washington."

The "historical investigator" is 42-year old Adam Mastrelli, "a modern day Renaissance man," an actor with credits on General Hospital, Rescue Me, and a number of Broadway shows, including Yo, Alice (a hiphop version of Alice in Wonderland)

He also does something with IBM, and he is involved with Grassroots Soccer, an organization founded by former soccer pro Ethan Zohn (top photo),  dedicated to using soccer for AIDS prevention.

Adam has no wife listed on IMDB, so he's probably gay.  I'm not sure about his history credentials: he has a B.A. in sociology from Duke.  But he has quite a nice physique.

Beats watching Joey, Ross, and Phoebe for the umpteenth time.

Jan 1, 2018

A World War II Photographer Finds Beefcake in Japanese Internment Camps

You know that 120,000 Japanese-Americans were "evacuated" from their homes and placed in internment camps during World War II. You may not know that the Farm Security Administration confiscated over 10,000 farms owned by Japanese-Americans in four states, took bids on what white people would become the new "overseers," rounded up the farmers and their families, and put them in special camps where they could continue to work the land.   

In July 1942, the Farm Security Administration sent Russell Lee (1903-1986) to document life in the Minidoka Camp near Rupert, Idaho, perhaps to ease the guilty conscience of the American people by insisting that life in the camps was quite nice.

He photographs the inmates at work growing beans and potatoes, taking down the American flag at night, playing pingpong, going swimming. 

A chef carves meat for the communal dinner -- no ration stamps or meatless Tuesdayshere!

This inmate is writing a letter by the light of a kerosine lamp.  See, the barracks have all the comforts of home!

Inmates, who Lee calls "farm workers," playing a board game.

A large number of the photos show shirtless. muscular men.  Of course, it was hot in Rupert, Idaho in July 1942, and many inmates did take their shirts off, but perhaps Lee wanted to capture the beauty of Japanese men for people who were used to seeing only grotesque stereotypes.

After taking photos of the internment camp, Lee went into town and photographed some white boys going swimming, as if to signify that local residents welcomed the Japanese-Americans.  As if they lived together in harmony.

Or at least side by side.  No Japanese-Americans appear in the photos of the white boys swimming.
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