Jun 23, 2018

The Detour

The Detour starts with a dream family -- Dad Nate, Mom Robin, 12-year old Delilah, 11-year old Jared --  heterosexual but gay-friendly, white but conscious of white privilege, middle class but not at all classist, so liberal that if there weren't any injustices left in the world, they would have to invent new ones.  They set out from their home in Syracuse, New York for a vacation in Florida.  For some reason they must drive instead of fly.  And then things start to fall apart.

In addition to the usual road trip stalled cars and colorful small town residents (no one ever takes the Interstate), many of their mishaps involve misunderstandings that make the group appear racist, sexist, classist, or homophobic, their worst nightmare.

At a medieval-themed restaurant, if you're fighting a guy wearing armour, you want to aim at a "chink in the armor," right?

Or their attempt to fight injustice backfire.



In a small Southern town, they think they are fighting against anti-Semitism by helping a Jewish doctor marry his Gentile girlfriend.  But they don't realize that he's actually planning to marry the woman's 15-year old daughter.

Plus we gradually realize that this "perfect" family is not so perfect after all.

Nate (Jason Jones) isn't on vacation, he's been fired.  And he has stolen one of his company's secret inventions, which he intends to sell in Florida.

Robin has a dozen aliases.

They aren't actually married.  The kids may or may not be theirs.

Jared (Liam Carroll) is actually named Jareb (don't ask).

Flash-forward scenes show Nate being interrogated by the FBI.

The first season (2016) is great.  It is lot of fun watching well-meaning intentions blow up in their faces, and watching their "perfect" lives unravel. 

No identified gay characters,but gay people are mentioned.

A substantial amount of beefcake.  Jason Jones has quite a physique, and various guest stars are shown shirtless.

My only quibbles are:

1. Too much hetero kissing.  Nate and Robin are all over each other all the time.
2. Too much gross-out humor.
3. Too much attention paid to Jared's body parts.  He gets as many shirtless and semi-nude scenes as Nate.  Leave the kid alone; he's 11.


In the second season (2017), the group moves to New York, so the "road trip" dynamic is lost, and the mystery in a mystery in a mystery becomes tedious.  This isn't Lost: give us some answers!

Jun 22, 2018

Don Grady/Robbie Douglas


When I was a kid in the 1960s, a trio of teenage legs signified my bedtime on Thursday nights.  Mom and Dad refused all pleas to stay up longer and investigate, though later, in our basement room, my brother and I heard teenage voices and sitcom laughter.  In November 1966, I was finally old enough.

I found My Three Sons (1960-72), a sitcom about two men who were married: Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray), who read the newspaper on a reclining chair, and Uncle Charlie (William Demarest), who puttered around with sack lunches and vacuum cleaners.

Their three sons: college boy Robbie (Don Grady), sleepy teenager Chip (Stanley Livingston), and little kid Ernie (Barrie Livingston).  I later discovered that another son, Mike (Disney regular Tim Considine) had been written out.



All of the boys were cute, but I liked Robbie best.

He was not a jock yet trim and energetic, innocent and even naïve yet self-assured; his dark-eyed dreamy expression, shy half-smile, and endless supply of cool varsity sweaters made him seem distant but attainable, a perfect fantasy boyfriend.

And most importantly, he liked boys, not girls!  I watched week after week, as Robbie fell for a cute bullfighter, an Italian exchange student, a hunky college boy named Kerwin, even a gay pal (played by Sal Mineo).  Sometimes he pretended to like girls, too; but it was all an act, to get something he wanted (like a passing grade in chemistry).  When he grew up, he would certainly marry a boy, like his Dad.





One day in 3rd grade, my boyfriend Bill and I were sorting through his older sister's record collection, and we were amazed to find two Canterbury singles by Robbie Douglas, Don Grady.  "Impressions with Syvonne" had Robbie shirtless, displaying warm tanned arms and shoulders, smiling his shy yet knowing smile, but it was too scratched to play.

"Children of St. Monica" was hard to hear, but one line stood out: two children, no doubt boys,  hiding in a church, holding hands among the candles.

An evocation of same-sex romance!




Bill's older brother obligingly took us to the Record Barn every couple of weeks, but we found no more Robbie Douglas records until one day I saw The Yellow Balloon (1969), the cover displaying a hard-muscled young man sullen on a beach.

To my surprise, one of the performers, “Luke R. Yoo,” turned out to be Don Grady in a wig and dark glasses, Robbie Douglas leading a secret life!

Most of the lyrics were heterosexist, but “A Good Man to Have Around the House,” hinted at hidden knowledge.  Robbie argues that he should move in with someone -- I assumed a boy -- because he could help out with the chores: take out the trash, and so on. Then he adds with a lascivious laugh, “I know how to do some things your father just can’t do.”

What things could a boyfriend do that a father couldn't?  In a couple of years, I would know what he meant, but I didn't then.  It had something to do with the boys holding hands among the candles.

The gay-vague Robbie didn't last.  He fell in love with a girl, Katie (Tina Cole),  and married her, and became a nuclear family dad before vanishing from the show. But the image of Robbie Douglas remained with me, the promise of hidden knowledge, of boys holding hands, of men married to each other.

I saw Don Grady many years later, during the late 1980s, in the crowd at a gay sports event in Los Angeles, shirtless, toned and handsome. He saw me looking and smiled shyly. You see heterosexual celebrities at gay events all the time, but still, I was afraid to go over and talk to him.

It was enough to know that he had been a friend all along.

Don Grady died on June 28, 2012.

Jun 21, 2018

People of Earth: Gay Subtexts, Gay Characters, and Grays

I love alien abduction stories.  I read all of the greats: Intruders, Communion, Secret Life, The Interrupted Journey.  The problem is, they're from the 1970s and 1980s, with a few from the 1990s.  Since about 2000, there haven't been any.  So a sitcom about alien abductions seems rather anachronistic.

Still, it's fun in a nostalgic way.  Reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) travels to Beacon, New York to do a human interest piece on an alien abduction support group, and begins remembering his own abduction experience. So he moves to town, gets a job on the local newspaper, and joins the group.









Other members include the standard template of who Hollywood thinks gets abducted: the mousy widow; the sexually frustrated housewife; the taciturn farmer; the obsessed alien researcher; the sassy black woman who thinks this just happens to white people.









We discover that the aliens actually exist.  A bickering trio is orbiting above Beacon, in charge of the abductions: the blond Nordic Don (Bjorn Gustafsson); the classic bug-eyed gray Jeff (Ken Hall), and the reptilian Kurt (Drew Nelson).







Ozzie's boss, Jonathan (Michael Cassidy), is also a reptilian, and has been supervising him since he was abducted as a child.  The reptilians are working toward the goal of taking over the Earth, but it's a 200-year project, nowhere near completed.

Beefcake:  Michael Cassidy (left) is very attractive, and Bjorn Gustafsson (top photo) has a Nordic androgynous look.  The other characters are mostly nondescript.


Bonding:

The connection between being an abductee and being gay is made often: a secret that you're afraid to tell your family and friends.  The group even hosts a "coming out" night where you must bring a family member and tell them about your abduction.  The farmer Ennis (Daniel Stewart Sherman) brings his son, who complains "First you tell me you're gay, and now this?"


There are various gay-subtext buddy-bonding relationships:

1. Between Ozzie and obssessed alien researcher Gerry (Luka Jones), who is desperate to become his best friend.

2. Between Ozzie and Jonathan (Michael Cassidy), a reptilian who has been supervising him since his abduction as a child.  Ozzie gets suspicious and asks "Are you in love with me?"  Jonathan denies it. Apparently interspecies relations are taboo in their society.  Gay and straight, not a problem.

3. When Jonathan goes rogue (leaving the reptilians to side with the humans), he moves in with Officer Glimmer (H. Jon Benjamin), a police officer "in the know."  Everyone assumes that it's a gay relationship.

4. After Kurt is killed in an auto accident, Jeff is heartbroken, and vows vengeance.  Other characters suggest that he was in love with Kurt, but he denies it.

Overall, worth the trip.

Update:  I just binge-watched the second season.  It does get considerably darker.

See also: The Interrupted Journey of Betty and Barney Hill.


The Gay World of Pablo Picasso

When I visited the Pablo Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I saw many portraits of women, but only a few of men, and they were all fully clothed.  I concluded that the artist (1881-1973), well known for his many wives and girlfriends, was simply not interested in the male form.

But it turns out that the museum was keeping some of his works under wraps.  Such as this Cubist fragment of a man who is all eyes and penis.








In fact, during his years as a student in Barcelona, Picasso produced many realistic paintings and drawings of nude men, such as this model from 1897.



















During his Blue Period (1901-1904), when he fell into a deep depression after the death of his friend Carlos Casagemas, Picasso consoled himself with a number of nude images.


















He was in a cheerier mood during his Rose Period (1904-1906), when he was living in Paris.  He continued to produce male nudes, but specialized in adolescents, such as Boy Leading a Horse.

Picasso was very prolific during his long life, producing thousands of paintings and drawings. But, except for a few adolescent boys, his male portraits are often censored, left out of books, not displayed in museums, to give us the impression that he only ever used female models, and perhaps to erase the awareness of same-sex desire from the world.





Did Picasso have any same-sex interests of his own?  Probably -- he wanted to try everything in life, so he must have taken time out from his pursuit of the feminine for some same-sex dalliances.  His biography uncovers an affair with a gypsy boy when he was 17, and suggests that he and Casamegas were romantic partners.

We know that he was nonchalant about gay identity.  He had many gay friends, including Gertrudge Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Sergei Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, art dealer Paul Rosenberg, and collector John Richardson.  He enjoyed surrounding himself with gay men, if only because they adored him for reasons other than his art.

Jun 20, 2018

Summer 1981: Male Nudity in German Class

After the 1978 of Grease, my favorite Boomer summer was the summer of 1981. I went to an Italian Film Festival, moved into my own apartment, learned about the Canterbury Tales and the Beat Generation, and saw a dozen movies: Clash of the Titans, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Wolfen, Arthur, American Werewolf in London, Hell Night, The Chosen.  Not to mention TV: One Day at a Time, Alice, Taxi, Soap, Barney Miller. And  subtext songs on the radio.

Every morning I worked in the college library, checking out books and scouring the shelves for works that my American, British, and French literature professors left out. Everyafternoon, I took summer school classes: Chaucer in June-July and Culture and Civilization of Modern Germany in July-August.

When I took Introduction to German Literature a few months before, Dr. Weber tried hard to prove that Death in Venice had nothing to do with gay people.  But now the gloves were off: Homosexualität 'absolutely, emphatically, did not exist in 20th century Germany.

Photographer Wilhelm van Gloeden (1856-1931) moved to Taormina,, Sicily, where he specialized in placing local men and boys in classical settings with pillars and laurel leaves, usually nude, channeling the homoerotic glory of ancient Rome. According to Dr. Weber, he was trying to evoke the military might of ancient Rome as a model for Germany's future. No Homosexualität 










What about Stefan George (1868-1933), who became obsessed with an adolescent named Maximilian Kronberger?   When the boy died of meningitis on the day after his sixteenth birthday in 1904, George wrote a series of poems, The Seventh Ring (1907)which described their encounter as that of a mortal meeting a god (in Dante's Inferno, the seventh "ring" of hell  is inhabited by sodomites).  Eventually the "Cult of Maximin" drew a circle of gay artists and writers.

According to Dr. Weber, Maximin represented the symbolist quest for beauty for its own sake.  No Homosexualität 





What about the physical culture movement, a celebration of the male body, often nude, a fascination with gymnastics, boxing, and track and field, arguably the origin of modern athletics?  (Franz Kafka, author of The Metamorphosis, was a devotee).


Dr. Weber: the glorification of male bodies was a remedy to the feminization of German culture among the symbolists.  No Homosexualität 



At least he Said the Word several times.

He positively refused to discuss the gay symbolism of Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse, or Der Eigene, the first gay magazine in the world, published from 1896 to 1932.  An offshoot of the physical culture movement, it had over 1500 subscribers and contributors like Thomas Mann and Wilhelm von Gloeden.

See also: The Gay Werewolf of Steppenwolf; and Death in Venice.




Jun 19, 2018

The Shea Brothers and Charlie Brown

In the 1970s, American mass media couldn't get enough of blond preteen boys.  Not toddlers, but boys in late childhood, old enough to be cast as adventurous, daring, and mischievous in "boys will be boys" roles.  And too young for the pubescent growth spurt that would turn them into yucky androgynous teenagers.









Christopher Shea, born  in 1958, is best remembered as the voice of the wise-beyond-his-years Linus in the animated Peanuts specials, especially It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).













Linus has always been my favorite Peanuts character: witty, intellectual, rejecting Sally's advances (although he dates a lot of girls in later strips), a good friend to Charlie Brown.  And no other voice artist comes closer to capturing his inner beauty than Christopher Shea.

Christopher also did some television work, with guest spots on The Invaders, Green Acres, The Odd Couple, and Here Come the Brides, and a few movies.  His last credited role is A Little Game (1971), about a teenager (Mark Gruner) who plots to kill his stepfather.

He moved to Humbolt County, in northern California, where he died in 2010, leaving a wife and two daughters.
His brother Eric, born in 1960, did the usual tv guest spots: Batman, Here Come the Brides, Gunsmoke, The Flying Nun, Room 222 -- but he snared some more substantial movie roles, such as Lucille Ball's son  in the big-family comedy Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968) (top photo, the one in the pajamas.  The other one is Tim Matheson).

The younger brother of Ben Harvey (Beau Bridges), who gets involved with a clan of prostitutes in Gaily, Gaily (1969).

Kid kid genius Alvin, who solves Cooperstownes with the help of his buddy Shooie (Clay O'Brien) in two Whiz Kids movies (1974, 1976).   He also played the Spunky Kid in The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

His last credited role was in When Every Day was the Fourth of July (1978), about a lawyer (Dean Jones) defending a deaf man who has been accused of murder.

Eric has retired from acting and, according to the imdb, works as an electrical contractor in Los Angeles.

I have no pictures of Stephen, born in 1961, since he has only one live screen credit: "Small Boy" on a 1968 episode of Adam-12.  But he took on his brother's mantle and voiced Linus in all of the Peanuts animated specials from Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971) to Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975).

So I'll give you a pic of one of the many other voice artists who has played Linus over the years, Corey Padnos

See also: Tim Matheson; and The Fabulous Bridges Boys.

Jun 17, 2018

Batman and the Boy Wonder


The Batman tv series (1966-68), like The Adventures of Superman and  The Green Hornet (1966-67) was based on a long-standing comic book series.  But only loosely. The characters were the same -- superhero with no superpowers Batman/Bruce Wayne (Adam West), his teen sidekick Robin/Dick Grayson (Burt Ward), butler Alfred, police chief Gordon, even some of the villains -- Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Louie the Lilac (played by comedy legend Milton Berle). But they infused their characters with a "gee-gosh" earnestness that the hippie generation found hilarious.

Playing along, the producers came up with crazier and crazier villains, as famous actors lined up for guest villain spots -- Cliff Robertson as "Shame," Vincent Price as "Egghead," Roddy McDowell as "Bookworm," William Smith as "Adonis."  Boxer Jerry Quarry played a boxer.





And the predicaments that the Dynamic Duo got into during their weekly cliffhangers became more and more ludicrous.  But what gay kid noticed, or cared?  They were tied up and struggling, muscles were straining, and you had to wait a whole 24 hours to see what clever -- or exceptionally lucky -- strategy they would use to escape.

Sometimes Robin was tied up alone, and Batman had to rush to the rescue, providing a "my hero" moment and the only buddy-bonding.  Otherwise Dick and Bruce were aggressively portrayed as adopted father and son, not as boyfriends, as they had been in the original comic stories (why, precisely, do they sleep in the same bed in a 100-room mansion, or need a cold shower afterwards)?


But what gay kid was paying attention?  Both Adam West and Burt Ward were pleasantly muscular.


















And both Burt Ward and Frank Gorshin, who played the Riddler, had extra advantages -- jaw-droppingly obvious even to kids -- that rivaled the enormity of Rupert Grint, 30 years later.  After the first season, complaints from the Catholic League of Decency forced them to tape it down.



Burt's  autobiography, Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights, describes his endowment in intimate detail, and it's also discussed in the Batman biopic starring Jason Marsden, but gay men who had grown up with him were already quite aware.  They had missed the plot details of any number of episodes because it took up the entire tv screen.

See also: Lane's Celebrity Date

Beefcake Dads of 1950s Sitcoms

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a fad of nuclear family sitcoms, set in small town Mayfields, with a pipe-smoking Dad, a Mom who did housework in high heels, groovy teenagers, and wise-cracking preteens.  They actually weren't very popular at the time; adults preferred Westerns, swinging detectives, and musical-variety shows.  But the first generation of Boomers remembers getting their first glimpses of what family life was like -- or what they thought it should be like -- from the nuclear family sitcoms.

They generally identified with and/or mooned over the teenage boys: the muscular physiques of Bud (Billy Gray) of Father Knows Best and Wally (Tony Dow) of Leave it to Beaver, the blatant bulges of Ricky and David Nelson (Ozzie and Harriet), the teen idol cuteness of Jeff (Paul Petersen) of Donna Reed.  But there's a lot to be said for the dads, too.

Unfortunately, they weren't always as gay-friendly as their tv sons.

1. Born in 1906, bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his wife, former dancer Harriet, started The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet on the radio in 1944. They transitioned to television in 1952, and lasted until 1966, making Ozzie and Harriet the longest-running fictional program on radio/tv.  Still not satisfied, he tried a spin-off, Ozzie's Girls, in 1976 (in which Ozzie takes in three college girls as boarders).

Ozzie and Harriet had many gay friends in real life, although no openly gay characters appeared on their show (that would have been impossible in the 1950s).





2. Robert Young (here apparently informing us of his size) was not only less than adequate physically, he was homophobic.

After his tenure on Father Knows Best ended, he starred in Marcus Welby, M.D., one of the most homophobic tv series of the 1970s.  In one episode, Dr. Welby diagnoses a man with "homosexual tendencies," but assures him that with the proper counseling, he can overcome his affliction.  In another, he treats a gay pedophile, with the implication that all gay men are pedophiles.  Gay activists protested, but the network -- and Dr. Welby -- wouldn't budge.

3. Born in 1909, Hugh Beaumont started out as a minister, but moved into acting during World War II.  Although a devout Methodist, he played his share of scoundrels, in Apology for Murder (1945) and The Blue Dahlia (1946), plus hard-boiled detective Mike Shayne.  Leave It to Beaver was meant to be a change of pace, but he was so typecast as Ward Cleaver that he took only a few roles afterwards, and ended up retiring to grow Christmas trees.

No data on whether he was a gay ally or not, but apparently his tv wife, Barbara Billingsley, was nonchalant about gay people.






4. The youngest of the 1950s sitcom Dads, ex-football star Carl Betz was only 36 when he was cast as Dr. Alex Stone, husband of the practically-perfect Donna Reed.  He had been making the rounds of tv adventure series, with guest parts on The Big Story, Waterfront, Sheriff of Colchise, Panic!, and Perry Mason, and he continued to be a sought-after performer throughout his life.

While he was playing the titular lawyer in Judd for the Defense (1967-69), one of his clients was a father who thinks that his son's friend is "recruiting" him into the "homosexual lifestyle."  Judd assures him that there's no cause for believing such a scandalous rumor.

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