Jan 12, 2018

The Strongest Boy in England

Kids of all ages can benefit from strength training, and can compete in amateur bodybuilding events.  Teenage division of bodybuilding competitions are open to anyone aged 13 to 19.   

My second cousin Mike Prater (left), age 16, won first place at the INBA Bodybuilding Contest in 2009, and Baron Beaver (right), age 17, took second place.

So I was wondering about the authenticity of a series of photographs floating around the internet that purport to show "The Boy Sampson" and "The Strongest Boy in Britain," aka 14-year old Charles Highfield of  Coventry, England.

In a series of photographs dated February 13, 1932, Charles lifts a  100-pound globe barbell over his head.  

Lots of high-school age boys can do a 100-pound deadlift, but probably none with such skinny arms.  Still, it's possible.

Next, Charles' father stands on his neck.  This was a common strength stunt of the side-show strong man, hopefully accomplished without crushing the larynx.  

Three months later, in a photo dated May 28, 1932, Charles supports a 200-pound motorcycle and driver with his hands and knees.

Oddly enough, he's wearing the same clothes, even the same socks.  So is his Dad.

On the same day, in the same position, but in a different location, Charles supports four men weighing a total of 476 pounds.  You can support more weight than you can lift,, so it's possible.

Charles is not a bodybuilder.  He looks distracted, even frightened in these photos. One wonders if he actually wanted to be the "Boy Samson" and "The Strongest Boy in England."

I haven't been able to discover anything about Charles' later life, but on a family tree website, I read about his father: William Highfield,, Gold and Silver Medalist Champion Strong Man, instructor in the Wolstanton Weight Lifting and Physical Culture School.

So Dad was trying to mold Charles in his own image, regardless of whether the boy was interested.

We've all been there.

See also: Richard Sandrak, the Strongest Boy in the World

Jan 10, 2018

Who Was Gay on "Perry Mason"? Everyone, Apparently.

To my parents' generation, Perry Mason was The Lawyer, what lawyers were all about: stern but caring, eminently professional (with no social life to speak of), defending clients on trial for murder, using logic and luck to uncover the real murderer, who is usually sitting right in the court room:  "I had to do it!  He would have ruined me, don't you understand?"

Created by Earle Stanley Gardner, in 1933, Perry Mason appeared in over 80 novels and short stories, becoming one of the best-known fictional characters of all time.  Movie adaptions began almost immediately, in 1934.  A radio series began in 1943.

The iconic tv series began in 1957, and ran for nine seasons.  Years later, tv movies began to air, three or four per year, thirty in all (1985-93).

In the original series, there were five main characters:

1. Perry,  played by busy character actor Raymond Burr.  Burr was gay, but invented a heterosexual back story for himself, and refused to be seen in public with lover Robert Benevides. He never came out to the rest of the cast; they knew, sort of, but they didn't know.

2. His secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale), with whom Perry did not have a "will they or won't they" sparring romance, like every pair of male-female coworkers on every tv show since.

Barbara Hale's husband, Bill Williams, was rumored to be gay.

They had one son, William Katt (The Greatest American Hero)

3. Private investigator Paul Drake.  Played by William Hopper (gossip columnist Hedda Hopper's son), who was rumored to be gay.  He was married twice, and had a son.

4. District attorney Hamilton Burger (William Talman), who must hate going to trial against Perry Mason, since he will invariably lose.

Talman was also rumored to be gay, although he was married three times.  He was fired in 1960, after the police raided a party he was attending, and found the guests (both men and women) nude and  "high on marijuana."  Burr and other cast members intervened, and got him re-hired.

5. Homicide detective Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins).  He was probably straight.

Jan 8, 2018

The Windsors: Royal Gossip and Beefcake

I rather like The Windsors (2016-).  It's raunchy and silly, but endearing, an exaggeration of the foibles of the British royal family, told as a soap opera.

The central figures, Wills and Kate (Hugh Skinner, Louise Ford), are rather nice, except Wills doesn't want to be king.  The problem is, Wills doesn't know how the outside world works, like you have to pay for things and open doors for yourself.

Hugh Skinner is attractive, in a square-jawed fairy-tale prince way.   He's done a lot of British tv, including Our Zoo, W1A (About the inner workings of the BBC), and Poldark  

He's played a gay character at least once, in the stage version of American Psycho.

Harry (Richard Goulding) is a good-natured dolt, mega-stupid, working at odd jobs like apprentice window washer.  He's in love with Kate's sister Pippa (Morgana Robinson), who is trying to weasel her way into becoming queen by seducing Wills or Harry or both.

Richard Goulding is primarily a stage actor, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company beginning in 2007. He played Prince Harry in the stage play King Charles III, which was adapted into a 2017 tv movie.

Charles (Harry Enfield) is obsessed with "being king first," while his wife Camilla (Hadyn Gwynne) is a scheming soap opera villain, trying to sabotage the lives of his children.

Meanwhile Fergie (Katy Wix), persona non grata since her divorce, schemes to get back into the family.  Her daughters Eugenie and Beatrice (Ellie White, Celeste Dring) are forced to get jobs ("I couldn't stand the 12-3 Tuesday-Thursday rat race!).   Prince Edward (Matthew Cottle, seen here with his son Devon) keeps trying to make a few quid at odd jobs.

Meanwhile the ghosts of past kings keep appearing to offer Wills advice.  Look for "anarchist drag performer" Dickie Beau as the gay James I.  Otherwise not a lot of gay references, but the beefcake is ample.

Jan 7, 2018

Mikel Murfi: Intellectual, Avant-Garde Bulge

Speaking of Irish men that I want to see a lot more of:

I saw the movie The Last September (1999) because Elizabeth Bowen, who wrote the 1929 novel, often included gay-coded characters.  So I figured there would be gay subtexts.

It was set during the Irish War of Independence in 1920, when a wealthy Anglo-Irish family go through romantic intrigues against the backdrop of the political crisis. I didn't see much gay subtext.

But there's a three-scene minor character, Sergeant Wilson, who terrorizes and humiliates the Irish villagers.

They get revenge by kidnapping him, stripping him naked, and sexually assaulting him (off camera).  But there's a frontal nude shot.

You have to freeze frame to see it, but his beneath-the-belt gift is astounding. Easily Mortadella+.  Definitely deserving a place on my Sausage List.

Sergeant Wilson was played by Mikel Murfi (great name!).  The Internet Movie Database lists some screen appearances, mostly in Irish movies that I haven't seen: After Midnight (1990),  Guiltrip (1995), The Butcher Boy (1997).  

In 2014 he starred in Edwart and Arlette, a gender-bending take on the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box."

Most of his work has been on stage, a lot of avant-garde theater, with some gay subtext potential:

The Man in Woman's Shoes: about a man walking to town to deliver a pair of shoes in rural Ireland in 1978.

Sick Dying Dead Buried Out: the relationship between two clowns who are dying.

Ballyturk: Two men (Mikel Murfi, Cilian Murphy) trapped in a room, don't know how they got there or how to get out..

Murfi has also produced and directed a lot of avant garde plays through his theater company, Barabbas.  He's particularly interested in works that invoke the spirit of playwright Samuel Beckett.

And, apparently, have gay subtext potential.

The Country Girls: two girls from the west of Ireland in the 1950s have a relationship.

The Last Days of Ollie Deasey: a man searches through Ireland for his long-lost father.

Penelope: four men at the bottom of a swimming pool wait to die.

Knowing that he's done so much intellectual creative work, it's rather embarrassing to be thinking about something so mundane as Murfi's package.

But it was a magnificent sight.

See also: Bachelor Weekend: Six Irish Guys Get Naked.; and My Sausage List.
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