Feb 10, 2018

Les Darcy, the Australian Boxer and Folk Hero

In the U.S. we may not have heard of Les Darcy, but in Australia he's a national hero. His story has been told in books, magazines, and tv programs.  A biography, The Ballad of Les Darcy, by Peter Fitzsimons, "Australia's leading non-fiction writer," is being made into a movie starring former teen star Zachary Garred.  There's an opera, The Flight of Les Darcy.

Born on October 31st, 1895,near Maitland, New South Wales, Darcy had to leave school at an early age to help support his family (his father was a day-laborer, often unemployed, and he had eight brothers and sisters, one handicapped).  He was apprenticed to a blacksmith, but began boxing at age 14, and soon was winning every competition.  He won 22 consecutive fight - during his entire career, he lost only four. 

By the age of 18 he was making a good living with a combination of fights, exhibition matches, and starring in a film.  Soon became the World Heavyweight Champion.

In October 1916, at the start of World War I, Darcy was pressured to enlist in the army, but instead he chose to move to America(passports were being denied to men of draft age, so he stowed away on a ship).  He claimed that he was only interested in continuing his boxing career so he could help support hs family back home, but he was condemned in the press as a coward and "shirker," Australian for "draft-dodger."

His fights in America were cancelled; he did some exhibition matches, then decided to become an American citizen so he could enlist in the American army.  But before he had the chance, he was hospitalized with septicaemia and endocarditis.  He died on May 24, 1917, at the age of 21.

He had funeral processions in San Francisco, Sydney (where 125,000 people lined the streets), and in his home town of Maitland.

There are memorials to Les Darcy all over Maitland today, including this life-sized statue, unveilled in 2000.

I see that the sculptor kept his physique intact.

Feb 5, 2018

Frasier: The Gayest Show on TV, or the Most Homophobic?

In 1993, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), the stuffy, elitist psychiatrist who hung out at Cheers (1982-93), moved back to his hometown of Seattle, Washington, where he hosted his own radio program, offering psychiatric help to callers.

Very few episodes of Frasier (1993-2004) involved the wacky mental problems of callers -- the producers thought that concentrating on the radio station would make it too much like WKRP in Cincinnati -- although producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) became a regular, and there were occasional appearances by leering, hetero-horny sports show host Bulldog (Dan Butler) and swishy food show host Gil (Edward Hibbert).

Most episodes were about Frasier's home life, conflicts with his macho, working class father, Martin (John Mahoney) and his even more elitist younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

It had a huge gay fanbase.  Many gay men could relate to conflicts with their macho, working-class fathers over their interest in fine art, show tunes, wine-tasting, and chick flicks.

Plus Frasier featured the most intense, passionate, and open gay romance on tv during the period.

Frasier and Niles were boyfriends.  Ok, they were scripted as heterosexual brothers, but come on...brothers simply do not act like that.

Their relationship was deliberately written as quasi-romantic.  Even other characters commented on it.

But, to keep it from crossing over the boundary into over romance, the writers gave Frasier any number of hetero-romantic conquests, and Niles a wife plus an ongoing crush on Daphne (Jane Laneves), Martin's live-in physical therapist, who remained oblivious (or pretended to be).

And they drew pitiably few gay plotlines, and all of the most simplistic, 1970s type.

In the fifth season, Niles and Daphne are mistaken for gay, and Frasier is embarrassed when his friends discover him in bed with a man, and conclude that he is...you know (shades of Three's Company!).

In the seventh season, Martin pretends to be gay to get out of dating a woman he dislikes, only to have her set him up with a gay man (he ends up going through with the date).

The most substantial gay plotline involved Gil the Food Critic, who was assumed gay throughout, and often ridiculed for his effeminacy,

In the ninth season, he reveals that he is actually heterosexual, married to a butch woman named Bev, and is rather offended by the gay rumors: "honestly, just because a man dresses well and knows how to use a pastry bag, people jump to wild conclusions!"

The retro, borderline homophobic storylines are particularly surprising when one realizes that David Hyde Pierce, Dan Butler (left), John Mahoney and Edward Hibbert were all gay.  That's the entire male cast, except for Kelsey Grammer.

To recap: an entire cast full of gay men playing heterosexuals, the focus character involved in a same-sex romance barely hidden under the "brothers" label, and no gay references except for a few retro "mistaken for gay" excursions.

Was it the gayest show on tv, or the most homophobic?

See also: Cheers, Where Nobody Knows Your Name; and WKRP in Cincinnati

Dinka: The Nude Tribe of South Sudan

There are 4.5 million Dinka (they call themselves Muonyjang).  Their traditional home is along the White Nile in South Sudan, near the border of Uganda. Mostly pastoralists, they raise long-horned cattle for the milk (rarely the meat).  They speak a Sudanic language, similar to several others in the upper Nile region.

The Dinka have long been a favorite with anthropologists, who enjoy investigating their beliefs, rituals, and physiques.  They are reputedly the tallest ethnic group in Africa, and superb athletes.  

For the last 30 years, Sudan has been involved in a massive civil war and many other internal conflicts.  As a result, millions of Dinka have fled the country. There are sizeable refugee populations in the United States, especially in Des Moines, Iowa, Jacksonville, Florida, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The well-received movie The Lost Boys of Sudan is about the Dinka.

Since many Dinka tend to be tall, they are often recruited to play basketball.  Peter Jok plays for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The other thing you should know about the Dinka is that their traditional costume consists of necklaces.  No clothes.  I can't show you here, of course, but they aren't just the tallest ethnic group in Africa.

A simple google image search should provide you with ample examples of Dinka men in the buff.

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