May 12, 2018

Richard Sandrak, the Strongest Boy in the World

Born in 1992 in the Ukraine, to fitness enthusiasts Pavel and Lena Sandrak, Richard Sandrak began working out at age three.  By 2000, when he was eight years old, he had a personal trainer, and was bench pressing 210 pounds -- twice his body weight.  In bodybuilding lingo, he was "ripped."  Thinking that there was money to be made from their "Little Hercules," his parents moved to California and got him a professional manager, Frank Giardini.










There were no bodybuilding competitions for children of that age, but Richard appeared as a guest poser at many adult competitions, and got to know many of the bodybuilding greats, including Schwarzenegger, Hogan, and Ferrigno.  He took to the talk-show circut, and received extensive coverage in the mainstream media.

Not all of the media attention was positive.

Some people were repelled and disgusted by the sight of "freakish" muscles on a child.

Physicians worried that the stress of heavy weights could injure the boy, resulting in health complications later. 

His parents were criticized, even accused of child abuse, for putting him on display as an object of pedophile desire, like the parents who tart-up their preteen daughters for baby beauty contests.

Especially Pavel, who was supervising the 6-hour a day regiments and preventing his son from engaging in any ordinary childhood activities, like going to school and having friends.  In 2003, When Giardini criticized his over-aggressive training, Pavel responded with death threats.  Giardinia quit, and Richard had to find a new manager.

A short time later Pavel was imprisoned for assaulting Lena, leaving her with a broken wrist and a broken nose.

Richard was only 11 year old, bu the glamour of being "The World's Strongest Boy" had dimmed.  He cut off all ties with his father, stopped working out, except when it was necessary for a part, and tried his hand at acting: Little Hercules in 3-D (2009), The Legends of Nethiah (2012), Assassin Priest (2012).








Here he meets two stars of the Disney Channel teencom The Wizards of Waverly Place.














Today Sandrak, age 27, works as a stuntman at Universal Studios Hollywood.  He has an average physique, though he is still deeply invested in fitness, doing cardio and chin-ups.  He is working on some new videos that combat childhood obesity.

See also: The Strongest Boy in England

Andrew Stevens, Teen Idol


No teen idol of the 1970s was better at re-inventing himself than Andrew Stevens.

1. A cute teenager, subtly muscular, with shaggy hair and a goofy smile, for "heartwarming" roles as cute or wounded kids in tv series like Apple's Way, Police Story, and Shazam!

















2. A late teen or young adult: goofy smile still in place, but shifted from cute to stunning to star in dramas that required lots of beefcake shots,  like The Fury, The Bastard, and The Rebels.















3. Hair straightened, muscles bulging, tanned, a suave playboy or con artist in his grown-up roles, the tv soaps Emerald Point N.A.S (1983-84) and Dallas (1988-89) and memorable guest spots on The Love Boat, Columbo, Murder She Wrote, and Hotel.


And that's not even counting his later work as writer, director, and producer.  Today he is the president of Andrew Stevens Entertainment, which has produced over 170 films.

May 11, 2018

Searching for Beefcake in the Nazarene Vatican City

I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene, a hardcore fundamentalist denomination: no movies, dancing, alcohol, eating in restaurants that served alcohol, eating out on Sunday, working on Sunday, reading newspapers on Sunday, rock music, secular literature, circuses, carnivals, theater, fraternities, sororities, or premarital kissing. 

This would have been forbidden: boys could only swim with boys.

But who had time for any of that, with two-hour long services three times a week, plus Sunday school, Young Peoples' Society, missionary society, Pioneers (like boy scouts), choir, Bible study, prayer meetings, calling (on people who had missed church last Sunday), canvassing (door-to-door evangelization),  witnessing (trying to convert your friends), and jump quiz?

Overland Park, Kansas was Nazarene Central, our Vatican City (though Nazarenes were intensely anti-Catholic, and would become irate if you called it that).  There, or in nearby suburbs, was our General Headquarters,  our Theological Seminary, and our Publishing House, plus a Nazarene college and about a hundred Nazarene churches.

Nazarenes were rare in Rock Island; I knew only three among the 2,000 students in my high school.  But in Overland Park, Kansas, we were told, they were everywhere.

Restaurants closed on Sundays due to lack of business.

The local newspaper didn't even print a Sunday edition.

The local radio station didn't play rock music.

There were no taverns or movie theaters.  It was the closest you could get to heaven on Earth!

That may have been hyperbolic.  There are theaters and taverns in Overland Park, Kansas, and Nazarenes are still in the minority.  But it's still Nazarene Central.

Did I mention that the Nazarenes hated "homa-sekshuls"?  Around the mid-1970s, preachers began yelling that they were the depth of absolute evil, responsible for every social ill, from drugs to rock music to unmarried mothers, who couldn't be saved even if they repented.  Plus God kept punishing us for being too tolerant of them, with earthquaks, floods, hurricanes, and airplane crashes.

So, in honor of the Nazarene horror of homa-sekshuls, here is some beefcake from Nazarene Central..

Overland Park has six high schools: Shawnee Mission Shawnee Mission North, South, East, Center, Northeast, and West.  Not a lot of originality there. There's also a Catholic school, Bishop Miege.













They all have active swim teams.















You're not supposed to go swimming when it's cloudy out.  You could get hit by lightning.










There's a lot of wrestling, too.












There are also five gyms in Overland Park that offer personal trainers.  This is Kevin Doss of the Hitch Fit Gym.
























I might prefer Kurtis McLellan to show me the proper bench pressing procedure.


There are also lots of men who submit shirtless photos to dating sites.

May 10, 2018

Black Lightning is Back

Black Lightning is back.

That's the premise of the new Netflix series based on an obscure DC comics character from the 1970s.  The only problem is, Black Lightning has never appeared on screen before, so the constant references to past incidents and situations are all immensely confusing.  It's like coming in during the third act of a play, except there were no first two acts.

But apparently about ten years ago, mild-mannered school principal Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) became Black Lightning, lowering his voice and putting on an electricity-funneling suit, in order to kill a bad guy who killed his father. Being a superhero caused too much tension in his family (and family is everything), so he retired.  But now he's back, a superhero vigilante who literally does nothing but beat up bad guys and people he thinks are bad guys.

As principal, Jeff promotes a "respect yourself" and "make positive life decisions" philosophy to help his students overcome the drugs, crime, and racism of their society, especially police targeting of young black men (this is definitely the Black Lives Matter era).

But as Black Lightning, he's a throwback to the 1970s "violent thug" era:  all of these problems are caused by a gang, the 100, led by big bad Lala (William Katlett, seen here in the play Heat and Hostility, about two porn stars comparing endowments).








No, Lala has a boss, Tobias (Marvin "Krondon" Jones), the "albino" big bad who Black Lightning thought he had killed.  An albino in real life, Krondon tries to ensure that the show gives factual information about albinism, and doesn't suggest that it is responsible for Tobias being evil.

But it turns out that Tobias has a boss, Lady Eve (Jill Scott).

And Lady Eve has a boss, Martin Proctor (Greg Henry).

And there are probably a few more big bads in the hierarchy.  I haven't gotten to the end of the series yet, but who wants to bet that the Biggest Bad is the school lunch lady?

Anyone can see that Black Lighting is Jeff in a mask, yet he manages to keep his identity secret from all of his friends, allies, and family.    The only two people who know are:

1. Elderly tailor Peter Gambi (James Remar; photo from a few years ago), who designed the suit and has a secret connection to the hierarchy of evil;

2. Ex-wife Christine (Lynn Stewart), who divorced him a few years ago for no apparent reason other than to reconcile now.

Other characters include:

1. Anissa (Natessa Williams), Jeff's daughter, a medical student and high school science teacher, a lesbian, and a superhero named Thunder.  She's out to her parents as a lesbian but not as a superhero, which leads to her father thinking she's a villain and beating her up.

2. Jennifer (China Anne McClain), Jeff's other daughter, a high school student and party girl, who has superpowers of her own but hasn't settled on a superhero identity yet.

3. Jennifer's ex-boyfriend Khalil Payne, who is paralyzed by a bullet meant for Black Lightning and becomes a cyborg super-villain named Painkiller.
















Well, basically everyone is wandering around with superpowers, except for Billy (Damon Gupton), Jeff's friend on the police force, and I'm sure he'll get some soon.




42: Shower Scenes and Gay Symbolism, but No Doug Adams

I was drawn to a movie entitled 42, because it's the answer to "life, the universe, and everything" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  I figured it was new adaption of Hitchhiker's Guide, or a biopic of Douglas Adams.

Turns out that it's a biopic of a baseball player named Jackie Robinson.

Who?

I had vaguely heard of him, but I didn't know in what context.

Maybe in the phrase "Before you can say Jackie Robinson," meaning "quickly"?

No -- that phrase has been around since the 18th century.

I find all sports incredibly dull, especially baseball, but I watched anyway. Maybe there would be some nude locker room scenes.

Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) was the first black baseball player to break the color barrier, playing for previously all-white teams, first the Montreal Royals, and then the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The movie doesn't cover his whole life, just the period between 1945 and around 1948, when he first joined the Dodgers.  He experiences significant resistance: hotels refuse to house the team, ball parks refuse to let them play, some of his own teammates quit, there are racial slurs and death threats.

The recreation of racial segregation in late 1940s America is interesting, but I have to fast-forward past the recreation of all the baseball games.

It's also interesting to note that the arguments used to justify banning black players are identical to arguments used against gay athletes today.  Bad for morale!  Fans won't show up!  They'll be sharing our locker rooms, showering with us!



There are lots of wives and kids in the movie, and gay people are not mentioned, but there is an interesting scene with a gay reference:  Jackie doesn't shower with the other players, to avoid causing problems.  But one of his teammates, played by Hamish Linklater,  isn't having it:  "Come on," he says, "Take a shower with me. That didn't come out right.  I mean, let's all shower together."









There's also a gay subtext relationship between Jackie Robinson and Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), a reporter who is following his career, and breaking a color line of his own by being admitted to the press box.  They have such strong chemistry and are shown hanging out so often that at one point I said "Are you guys going to kiss, or what?"





Most of the cast consists of recognizable stars, with substantial beefcake:

Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher (teammate who gets involved in a scandal)

Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman (racist teammate)

Ryan Merriman  (left) as Dixie Walker (racist teammate)





Jesse Luken (left) as Eddie Stanky (non-racist teammate).   I looked it up; there really was a person named Eddie Stanky!

His parents shortened it from Stankiewicz.  They must not have realized what it meant.















Lucas Black (left) as Pee Wee Reese (non-racist teammate)

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (the head of the Dodgers)

Max Gail as Burt Shotten (another head of the Dodgers.  Apparently baseball has a lot of bosses).


Ok, so why is this movie called "42"?

Turns out it's Jackie Robinson's team number.

What an obscure reference!   There's no one on the face of the Earth who will see the title "42" and think "A movie about a baseball player!"  How about "Jackie Robinson"?

See also: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

May 9, 2018

American Werewolf in London

There have been many gay-coded werewolves  on tv and in comics, but not a lot in movies.  David Kessler (David Naughton) in An American Werewolf in London  (1981) is the most famous, and the most evocative.

















Born in 1951, David Naughton became famous in the late 1970s for dancing, singing, and bulging in a series of energetic, well-choreographed tv commercials for the soft drink Dr. Pepper.  In the spring of 1979, he starred in Makin' It, an adaption of the hit Saturday Night Fever (1977).  Although the sitcom aired for only 8 weeks, David's rendition of the theme song became a Top 40 hit, and resulted in a teen idol
album.






In American Werewolf,  American college students David and Jack (Griffin Dunne, son of Hollywood novelist Dominic Dunne) are hiking through the moors of Britain, when they're attacked by a wolf. Jack is killed, and David turns into a werewolf, destined to kill innocent people at every full moon.  Furthermore, Jack -- along with every werewolf victim --  is trapped in a limbo state, unable to go on to the afterlife until the last werewolf, David dies.  "Kill yourself, David!"  Jack pleads.

David is hesitant -- he has fallen in love with a girl, Alex (Jenny Agutter), so according to the myth of the "fade out kiss," his life now has meaning.  Besides, he reasons, maybe her love can tame the beast with in.  But after a killing spree, he is cornered by the police, shot, and killed.  He dies as Alex murmurs "I love you."

Sounds enormously heterosexist so far.  The same-sex bond represents death, and the heterosexual bond, life.  David himself is homophobic: trying to get arrested, he stands in Trafalgar Square and yells insults, like "Prince Charles is a faggot!"

So why was it so evocative for gay teenagers in 1981?

1. An enormous amount of beefcake.  Everyone in the movie is obsessed with David's body.  He's fully nude for an extended sequence, with both frontal and rear shots.

There's a graphic werewolf transformation scene, with David rolling around nude.

He's naked in a hospital bed, where the nurses all gawk at him, and one states "He's Jewish -- I've had a look."





The last scene zeros in on David's body, tastefully posed like a Medieval martyr, with the bullet wounds carefully placed to not detract from his beauty.







2. Jack is rather obviously in love with David.  He is jealous of "the girl"; he wants David to kill himself so that they can "be together."  In one scene, he berates David: "We had a good thing going, and you ruined it." David wasn't responsible for his death, so Jack must be referring to something else, like David abandoning their same-sex bond to go chasing after some girl.


After American Werewolf, David Naughton found himself famous for appearing fully nude on film.  He worked primarily in horror (Amityville: A New Generation, Body Bags, The Ice Cream Man).  Griffin Dunne went on to star in After Hours (1985).

There was a sequel, American Werewolf in Paris, 16 years later.

May 8, 2018

In Search of Greek Men

My semester of New Testament Greek 30 years ago didn't help me much in my search for modern Greek beefcake.  I looked with the key words ομάδα κολύμβησης, κολύμπι  κλαμπ, γυμναστήριο, and so on, and came up with some pictures, but no idea where in Greece most of these guys are from.  Or if they're from a Greek article about sports elsewhere in the world.

1.  Niced tanned physique, rare in swimmers who mostly work out inside.









2. A buffed guy in the crowd.  The backpack draws attention to his pecs.


















3. The caption says kortsilas-sixroniki, which are not Greek words or Greek name.  I can do without the jazz hands.


















4. Giannis Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece to Nigerian immigrant parents in 1994, and began playing professional basketball in 2012.  Currently he's playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.










5. A Greek swim club.  I like the one guy who is not wearing team speedos.

More after the break.


















May 7, 2018

Fright Night


In the summer of 1985, I was too busy exploring my new home, West Hollywood, to bother much with movies, so I missed a lot: The Goonies, D.A.R.Y.L., Back to the Future (with Michael J. Fox), Explorers (with River Phoenix), The Heavenly Kid (with Jason Gedrick), Weird Science, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.  In fact, I only saw one movie in a theater that summer: Fright Night, about a vampire who moves in next door.  It had one of the most profound homoerotic subtexts of the 1980s, second only to Hell Night.

I didn't notice any significant homoerotic interaction between fresh-faced young horror movie buff Charley (William Ragsdale, left) and his Peter Lorre-like friend, Evil Eddie (Stephen Geoffreys, right), unless one counts an obsession with criticizing the size of each others' penises.  Nor is the vampire, Jerry (Chris Sarendon) explicitly gay; he bites lots of women, and tries to transform Amanda Bearse (center, of Married...with Children).  



But when Jerry decides to bite Eddie, he seems to intuit the boy's implicit gayness and couches the invitation in undeniably homoerotic terms: "You don't have to be afraid of me.  I know what it's like to be different.  They won't pick on you anymore, or beat you up -- I'll see to that.  All you have to do is take my hand."

Sobbing, obviously thinking that he has found a boyfriend, Eddie throws himself against Jerry's chest.  But instead of a kiss, he gets bitten (a clear parallel with Barnabas and Willie of Dark Shadows).

Later, a vampire himself, Eddie tries to bite the gay-vague host of a tv horror movie series (played by gay actor Roddy McDowell).  He is staked instead, and transforms from vampire to an amazingly muscular nude teenager.


Stephen Geoffries starred in 976-Evil (1988), The Road Raiders (1989), and a handful of other mainstream movies, and was nominated for a Tony for William Saroyan's Human Comedy on Broadway.  During the 1990s, he put his physique to work in gay porn under the name Sam Ritter: Virtual Stud (1995), Hunk Hotel (1996), Buff and Gay (1997).


May 6, 2018

The Top 10 Hunks of "Malcolm in the Middle"

We're in the midst of a Malcolm in the Middle marathon, and I must admit that the dysfunctional family sitcom (2000-2006) was not particularly gay-positive.  There were some gay references here and there; Francis, the bad boy sent to military school, pretends to be gay to get girls; Reese tells a girl "Sorry, I'm gay" to dissuade her.  But overall, this was an aggressively heterosexist world.

But what it lost in gay potential, it made up for in beefcake.

1. Over the course of the series, Reese (Justin Berfield, left) bulked up, becoming a veritable muscleman.
















2. Gifted child Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) was a little scrawny, but a few years later, in Extreme Movie, he displayed biceps and a bulge while being tormented by a S&M dominatrix.















3. Francis (Christopher Masterson) had a respectable physique which he displayed a few times.

4. He was in military school, surrounded by muscular cadets, such as Eric (Eric Nenninger, top photo)

5. Drew (Drew Powell, left)

6. And Stanley (Karim Prince), who didn't own a shirt.








7. Dewey, the youngest boy, had a never-ending procession of weirdo boy friends, some of whom grew up to become teen hunks, like Chad (Cameron Monaghan), star of Shameless.








8. But the real revelation was in Frankie's gifted-student classmates, the Krelboynes.  According to Hollywood myth, high intelligence goes hand-in-hand with social phobia, lack of fashion sense, glasses, buck teeth, and multiple allergies, so they were drawn as unattractive as possible.  As if to make up for the stereotyping, they have blossomed.

Remember Lloyd, aka Evan Matthew Cohen?  Unfortunately, he's retired from acting, but not from modeling. (Be careful -- there's another Mathew Cohen wandering around the internet, and Google Image Search may have mixed them up.)

9. Eraserhead, aka Will Jennings, is now a tall, imposing ginger giant.



10. And Stevie, Malcolm's wheezing, wheelchair-bound bff?  Craig Lamar Traylor spent his childhood explaining to people that he wasn't really disabled.  His acting career hasn't been doing too well, but he certainly presents a striking figure.


See also: Christopher Masterson in the Middle; Frankie and Erik in the Middle: Justin Berfield's Very Special Episode.
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