Feb 3, 2018

The Legend of the Heterosexual Hercules

The ancient Greek hero Heracles (Hercules in Latin) was half-god, super-strong, and gay.  He had female lovers, too, but myth and epic laud the male:

Iolaus, his charioteer.  The three great gay couples of the ancient world were David and Jonathan, Damon and Pythias, and Heracles and Iolaus.  Edward Carpenter named his anthology of gay verse Iolaus.

Nireus, the most beautiful man in the world.  It was quite a coups for Heracles to win him.

Iphitos, whom Heracles won in an archery contest in lieu of a princess. 

Hylas, whom Heracles won by saving the king from a barbarian invasion.

The list goes on and on. 

So what do contemporary filmmakers do with the ancient hero?


In the post-peplum era:

The Adventures of Hercules (1985) stars Lou Ferrigno romancing someone named Urania. 

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-99) sends surprisingly un-buffed Kevin Sorbo out with Iolaus.  But don't get excited: they're explicitly just friends and intensely hetero-horny.

Young Hercules (1998-99) sends Ryan Gosling as a teenage Kevin Sorbo to a hero academy, where he hooks up with Iolaus, Jason, and Lilith (from Jewish folklore?).  Guess which one he romances.

The Legend of Hercules (2014) stars Kellan Lutz as a shirtless gladiator Hercules trying to "win the woman he loves."  The whole plot involves hetero-romance.  Iphitos appears as Iphicles, his brother, who betrays him.

Hercules (2014) stars Dwayne Johnson as a mercenary leader who wins a princess.  Iolaus appears as his nephew.

Feb 1, 2018

Viva Las Vegas: Elvis and Cesare Danova Find Each Other

Viva Las Vegas (1964) is a comedy-drama produced during the height of early-1960s cool, when Vegas still meant gambling, booze, and the Rat Pack.  And at the height of the 1960s Italian craze.  How could it go wrong?

Two racing enthusiasts, working-class country boy Lucky (Elvis Presley) and elite Italian Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) accidentally encounter each other at an auto garage.  They know each other by reputation, but have never met before.  Mancini offers Lucky a job driving his car in upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix, and Lucky refuses.  He will drive his own car.  They will be competitors.

The association would usually end there, but not in Lucky Las Vegas. Both guys have fallen in love at first sight with a girl named Rusty (Ann-Margret), but they don't know much about her.  They decide to join forces to try to track her down.

They spend the next several days together, hitting the Vegas nightspots, ostensibly looking for Rusty, but obviously having a wonderful time without her.

Then they find her.  They are in Mancini's hotel room, getting dressed -- wait, have they been sleeping together?  -- and Elvis says it's time to say goodbye.

Only he doesn't leave.

The two "competitors" spend the rest of the movie vaguely competing over the race and the girl, but it's obvious that they don't care much who wins, as long as they can cling together like long-lost brothers.

The final scene involves a wedding, but Mancini, Lucky, and Rusty are so tightly enclinched that one is not entirely certain who is marrying whom.

The gay subtext is blatant, yet so dependent upon intonation and gesture, that one wonders if Elvis and Cesare Danova were really into each other.  Elvis has long been rumored to be bisexual.  I haven't heard a lot of gay rumors about Cesare Danova, only that he became a born-again Christian in the 1970s, and had his tombstone inscribed with "Praise the Lord."

The music is energetic, and the dance numbers are great. Ann-Margret steals the show.  Highly recommended.

Jan 31, 2018

Fondling the Biggest Schlong in Hollywood

Hi, Boomer,

In one of your stories, you said you didn't think Jackie Coogan would be talking about the gay hookups of his youth with his 12-year old grandson, Keith Coogan.

Well, my Grandpa Sammy talked about all that, and more!  He was born in 1922, but didn't come out until 1990, when Grandma Lonny died.  After that, there was no stopping him -- he moved to Palm Springs, cruised in leather bars, went to bear parties, joined Gay and Grey clubs --  nonstop schmoozing and screwing.  And whenever my boyfriend and I drove up from West Hollywood to visit, he told us the raunchiest stories about his youth.

Here's one about Milton Berle's penis.

[Comedian Milton Berle (1908-2002) was famous for two things:

1. Being the host of Texaco Star Theater, an early comedy-variety tv show (1948-1956)  that everybody watched -- it was single-handedly responsible for selling 300,000 tv sets.

2. Having the biggest penis in Hollywood.  It was so famous, it was even mentioned at his funeral.]

Catskills, June 1939

When Sammy was in high school in Queens, many Jewish boys got summer jobs at the resorts in the Borscht Belt, Sullivan County in the Catskills.  He was an all-around athlete and a state tennis champ, so he landed a job as a tennis instructor and life guard at Grossinger's, the biggest and most elegant of the resorts.  35 buildings, indoor and outdoor pools, three restaurants, big name acts like Glenn Miller and George Burns.

And Milton Berle, the 30-year old comedian who had been playing the Borscht Belt since he was 15, plus appearing on the radio and in movies like Radio City Revels.  He had a standup comedy act involving nonstop patter, joke after joke that had the audience rolling in the aisles.  When they weren't gazing at him with that vacation-enhanced horniness -- he was goodlooking, well-built -- he filled out a swimsuit beautifully

Berle always had a girl or two on his arm, but Sammy still hoped he was queer.

The rest of the story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jan 30, 2018

Searching for Beefcake in Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida is a candy-colored, sugar-coated, hetero-infested abomination, a noisy, crowded paeon to Disneyfied inanity, 2,000,000 people and 66,000,000 hetero tourists with small kids in tow crammed into 113 square miles of wall-to-wall traffic jams, endless lines, and sweltering 100% humidity heat.

12-13 gauche Disney World theme parks with admission prices beginning at $100 apiece, Universal Studios Orlando, Sea World, and an endless number of crazy "attractions" opened to catch the gullible: Madame Tussard's Wax Museum; the Holy Land Experience, the Crayola Experience (I'm not kidding).

I was there with my parents around 1972, and that was plenty.  I'm never going within 100 miles of the place again, if I can help it.  I don't think I could actually get within 100 miles of the place, since the freeways will always be clogged.

But I investigated the beefcake possibilities anyway, to see what I'm missing.

There are three public high schools, Boone, Jones, and Colonial, and the private Lake Highland Prep.  There are a lot of proprietary and diploma-mill colleges, plus Rollins College and Florida Bible College. All of them have the standard pictures of buffed guys in swimsuits smiling with their arms around each others.

And wrestling teams in very tight singlets.

Lake Highland Prep goes in for weird camera angles.

More after the break.

Jan 29, 2018

Ishmael and Hagar

You remember the story of Ishmael in the Book of Genesis:  he was Abraham's oldest son, born to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar; but Sarah wanted her own son Isaac to be heir, so she had Ishmael and Hagar cast out into the desert to die.  When they were dying of thirst, an angel appeared and made a well magically appear.  Eventually they settled in the desert of Paran, where he married and had twelve sons, the ancestors of the twelve tribes of the Arabs.

Ishmael was sixteen years old when he and his mother were cast out, an adult in ancient society, but a lot of artists like to make him a baby or a little boy, to emphasize the pathos. 

And to avoid having to draw muscular men.

Simone Cantarini (1612-1648) compromises.  Ishmael is that chubby baby in the background, dying of thirst while a naked, muscular male angel is appearing to Hagar.

Others, like Lodovico Caselli (1817-1862) have the naked, dying youth wrapped in his mother's arms, a sort of Pieta.

At least Jean Charles Cazin (1840-1901) gives us a nicely shaped bum.

As does Edward Sheffield Bartholomew (1822-1858)

Fidardo Landi (1865-1918) skips Hagar and concentrates on Ishmael.

In the 1994 movie Abraham, Ishmael is played by Giuseppe Peluso

Rory Hooks Up with Ron Howard and Tarzan's Sidekick

Remember Jai, Tarzan's tiny South American sidekick in the 1967-68 tv series?  He was Manuel Padilla Jr.  Born in 1955 in Los Angeles,  he began acting at the age of eight, playing big-eyed, pouting Mexican and Indian boys who won the hearts of Frank Sinatra, Richard Chamberlain, and about every cowboy in every Western  on tv, not to mention various Tarzans and Sally Field (Sister Bertrille) of The Flying Nun.

In 1973, the 18-year old landed a role in American Graffiti as Carlos, a member of the Pharaohs car club, who terrorize Kurt (Richard Dreyfuss) with tales of a "blood initiation,"   He reprised the role in More American Graffiti (1979).

He also played a gang member named Squirt on a 1974 episode of Happy Days, and a high schooler in the 1978 comedy Cotton Candy; which Ron Howard wrote and directed.

Manuel's acting career ended abruptly when he grew into adulthood, and no longer had big eyes and a pout.  We don't know much about his later life, except that it was "troubled."  He scrounged around to find work.  He married twice -- both marriages ended in divorce -- and had five children and a grandson.  But by the 2000s, he was unemployed, living in a spare room at his father's house.

On January 29, 2008, Manuel died unexpectedly, shortly after appearing as a celebrity guest at the Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona.  He was 52 years old. A tragic ending to a troubled life.

This is a story from happier days, told by Rory, one of Manuel's childhood friends.

Hollywood, July 1974

In Hispanic cultures in the 1970s, there was no conception of "gay" and "straight."  Every man was expected to marry and raise a family; there could be no exceptions.  But girls were usually unavailable, uninterested in sex, and anyway trying to save their virginity for the wedding bed.  Boys had to be hombres muy hombre varones, sex machines, always on the make.  That meant that they spent a lot of time seeking out each other.

Anal was out of the question, unless you were into maricones, but oral was more common than you think.  Every group of friends had at least one guy who was willing to go down on them while they thought about girls.

In Pomona in 1974, I was that guy: 17 years old, slim, bookish, with nerd glasses and a gleam in my eye. and a constant protest that "I should really be studying" as Manuel, Jorge, Roy, and Sock pushed me into their 1963 silver Camero to cruise down Towne Avenue, stop for burgers, honk at girls, and finally end up in the basement of Manuel's house to watch old movies on tv, smoke some joints, and drop their pants for me.

[Sex scene censored]

But I wanted more than some dark fumbling sex with my buddies. For as long as I could remember, I had a special fetish for kissing and what they call "body worship," especially with white boys: white muscled bodies like marble statues, rubia (red or blond hair), little or no body hair, Apollo or Zeus out of some ancient myth who swooped into maidens' bedrooms at night and ravished them.

My special, special fetish was for Ron Howard.  I loved him even when I was a kid, and he was playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show.  Opie was only two or three years older than me, but his life was so different, so exotic -- fishing, swimming, going to county fairs and church socials with Sheriff Andy.

I knew that Manuel had been in some movies and tv shows -- I saw him as Jai in the old Tarzan movies -- but I didn't know that he was friends with Ron Howard until one day in July 1974, when he said "I can't go.  I have to drive up to L.A. to have lunch with Ron Howard.  He wants to talk about bringing me back to Happy Days.  Not playing another gang member, I hope."

"Ron Howard!  Lucky!" I exclaimed without thinking.

Manuel grinned.  "You would like him, ese.  He's got a serpiente down there, almost as big as me.  And he likes brown boys.  Nicest guy in the world, but muy maricon."

"Como?  How do you know that?"

Manuel told me that Ron Howard was about "girls! girls! girls!" on the surface, but in the wee hours of the morning, after you'd spent six hours watching old movies on tv and eating pizza and drinking beer, and everything was musty and slo-mo, he'd drop the girls! girls! girls! and take a brown boy to bed. Mamiendo, cojiendo, even besando...kissing..

Kissing Ron Howard!  I had to meet him!

The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jan 28, 2018

Steve Cochran: All Man

The Internet Movie Database tells us that Steve Cochran (1917-1965) was "all man," by which they mean "not gay." As evidence:
1. He grew up in Wyoming
2. He was kicked off his college basketball team for hanging out with  ladies.
3. He worked as a cowboy before getting his start in Hollywood.
4. He had a very, very, very hairy chest.
5. He had a very, very, very large penis (ok, that one's not from the IMDB).
6. He mostly played villains and gangsters.
7. He had sex with lots of  ladies.

8. He was married three times.
9. He died while on a boating trip with an all-girl crew.

#1-9 don't necessarily require heterosexual identity. And there's more:

The Chase (1945). He plays Eddie Roman, a gangster who is betrayed by his chauffeur/gunsel Chuck Scott (Bob Cummings).

White Heat (1949): He plays Big Ed, the sidekick/gunsel who betrays volatile boyfriend Cody (James Cagney).

Private Hell 36 (1954): detective buddies (Steve, Howard Duff, top photo) steal money, and count it while shirtless. The headless lady is Ida Lupino.

I haven't seen any of Steve's other films, but film noir often included a hint of homoerotic desire between the gangsters.

Then there's The Beat Generation (1959), which has nothing to do with the literary movement of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; in search of a serial rapist, detective Steve immerses himself in the seedy, decadent, gay-vague world of the Beatniks.  Sort of like Al Pacino's descent into the "gay world" in  Cruising twenty years later.

Even someone who is "all man" invariably has a gay subtext or two somewhere in his career.

The Gay Artist for the Catholic Schoolboy Comic Book

A Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact was a Catholic comic book, published every two weeks during the school year from 1946 to 1972, meant to be given away at parochial schools.  Its main emphasis was religion and patriotism (since American Catholics in those days were often stereotyped as anti-American, in the pocket of the Pope).

But there were lots of humor and adventure stories, too -- sports, jungle adventures, pirates -- which made for some odd juxtapositions:

"Get to Know the Sacraments" oddly juxtaposed with "El Vaquero the Cowpunching Bear."

The history of the Canadian Mounted Police juxtaposed with "But Aunt Eileen, does modern life help to destroy true values?"

My favorite juxtaposition is from the November 19, 1959 issue.  "Tarcisius Protects the Holy of Holies," an adaption of the novel Fabiola by Cardinal Wiseman.  Tarcisius was a twelve-year old boy who was trying to save the Blessed Sacrament from desecration, when an irate crowd beat him to death.

How'd you like to read that over your Corn Flakes in the morning?

Next was a humorous story about ice hockey.

Many stories were drawn by Reed Crandall (1917-1982), a Golden Age comic book artist who also drew such superheroes as the Ray, Dollman, Blackhawk and Ka'anga Lord of the Jungle, and invented Firebrand, a muscleman in an invisible shirt.

Why invisible?  So you can perv on his pecs, duh!

He also drew E.C. Horror, the Flash Gordon comic strip, and a series of illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books.

 His beautifully detailed drawings of muscular men inspired a generation of beefcake artists, including Frank Franzetta and Boris Vallejo.

After Crandall graduated from the Cleveland School of Art in 1939, he moved to New York with his mother and sister to seek work in the fledgling comic industry.  Eventually they moved back to Wichita, and Crandall lived by himself, a "confirmed bachelor," for many years.  He died in 1982.

"Confirmed bachelor," right.

I imagine that George A. Pflaum, the publisher of the Treasure Chest, never realized that one of his chief contributors was a gay man.

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