Jul 14, 2018

"Open Up the Closet Door": The Theme Song of 300 Nights in a Leather Bar

In West Hollywood, gay bars always had a theme song that you would hear over and over, at least once an hour, every time you visited.

From 1985 to 1993, I went to Mugi, the Asian bar in Hollywood, almost every Saturday night, sometimes Wednesday or Friday, too.  That means that I heard "One Night in Bangkok" at least 300 times.

From 1990 to 1995, I went to the Faultline, the leather bar on Melrose, near Los Angeles City College.  There were some Asian guys there, too, of course.

I was there almost every Sunday afternoon, sometimes Friday or Saturday, too.  So I heard their theme song over 300 times.

I never heard it anywhere else. I didn't know the title or the group, and I didn't bother asking.

It seemed to be a Gay Pride anthem:

Open up the closet door, watch out, here I come.

Although some of the lyrics seemed to involve a bar pickup:

You, I don't even know your name, baby.
You, something something, baby.

With a chorus:
Round, round, round, round, something something baby, round round round round.

Years later, I heard the song again, at the gym of all places, and it brought me back to those many nights and Sunday afternoons surrounded by shirtless and leather-clad men.  When I got home, I did an internet search.

It's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", by the British band Dead or Alive, released in December 1984, peaked at #4 on the dance charts in January 1985.

Boy, did I get the lyrics wrong!  The "gay pride anthem":

Open up your lovin' arms, watch out here I come.

The bar pickup:

If I, I get to know your name, baby
Then I could trace your private number, baby

No specific gay content, although the lead singer of the bad was the fabulously feminine Peter Burns (bottom left), an androgyne in the mold of Boy George, who married a woman and then a man, but divorced him and declared in homophobic contempt that "gay marriage doesn't work.  It's better to marry a woman."

Other members were Mike Percy, Steve Coy, and Tim Lever.

I'm still trying to figure out why an androgynous dance number was the theme song in a leather bar with no androgyny and no dancing.

It doesn't really matter.  Even though I know the lyrics now, I still can hear in my head the gay pride anthem from 300 nights at the Faultline:

Open up the closet door, watch out, here I come.

See also: One Night in Bangkok

Jul 13, 2018

The Hogan Family

During the 1980s, the buzzword was "family values," which meant that only people who had heterosexual nuclear families had value. We heard again and again that the only life worth living involved husbands and wives raising horny teenager and wisecracking preteens.  That's why Married...with Children was such a big hit, immersed in a pool of Family Ties, Family Matters, Growing Pains, The Wonder Years, and The Cosby Show.  

But there was a glimmer of inclusivity in The Hogan Family (1986-91), which began as Valerie, a star vehicle for Mary Tyler Moore Show second banana Valerie Harper  She played the matriarch of a nuclear family consisting of airline pilot husband Michael Hogan (Josh Taylor, left), horny teenager David (17-year old Jason Bateman, previously of It's Your Move and Silver Spoons), and wisecracking twins who looked nothing alike Mark (15-year old Jeremy Licht) and Willie (15-year old Danny Ponce).

After a season and a half, Harper left in the midst of a salary dispute -- and proved not indispensible.  Her character was killed, Aunt Sandy (Sandy Duncan) moved in, and the renamed series got top ratings for another three years.

As is common in nuclear family sitcoms, the kids soon took over.  The twins usually had episodes involving cheating, bullies, staying out past curfew, friends (notably Andre Gower), and the "discovery of girls."  By the last season, they were as heterosexually active as David.

Jeremy Licht had soft, androgynous features, and became the darling of the teen magazines.

Danny Ponce was frequently ignored. But many gay teens preferred him to Jeremy Licht

.Especially in later seasons, when he toned up.  Here's what he looks like after Hogan.

Jason Bateman was mostly ignored, too -- there are no shirtless teen idol pix of him anywhere.  But his David got most of the serious episodes (premarital sex, drunk driving, gambling), and he had ample time for buddy-bonding, particularly with the gay-coded teen-operator Rich (Tom Hodges).

 Rich died of AIDS in a December 1990 episode.

They didn't specify how he contracted the disease, but as this was the first sitcom AIDS episode where everyone didn't yell "Blood transfusion!" over and over, the silence was more than enough to tell us that David's friend was gay.

Most of the cast members are gay allies.  Jason Bateman has played gay characters many times. Jeremy Licht and his wife Kimberly are vocal supporters of gay rights; 2012 he participated in Brice Beckham's CCOKC video (Child Celebrities Opposing Kirk Cameron).

There's a Jason Bateman story on Gay Celebrity Dating Stories.

See also: Danny Ponce

Jul 11, 2018

Bowery Billy and his Boyfriend Lulu

I knew that boys' adventure series of the 1920s (such as the Hardy Boys) usually involved teenage same-sex pairs with a passion, exclusivity, and domesticity you would never see today: gay partners in all but the name.

But I didn't know how far back the fad extended until the Scans Daily website posted some cover scans of Bowery Billy, a teen sleuth from the mean streets of New York.  His adventures appeared in Bowery Boy Weekly, one of the illustrated story papers called "penny dreadfuls" because they cost a penny, and they were "dreadful."

A precursor of the working-class East Side Kids of 1930s movies, Billy was, according to the blurb, "an adventurous little Street Arab (homeless kid.)"  He  talks like this:

"Green bananers!  So dis pair is layin' for Bernard Gildersleeve, der millionaire that's jest come, from Chicago to show der fellers in New York how to blow in their boodle!"

Billy was tied up and threatened as much as Robin the Boy Wonder and other superhero sidekicks of 1940s comics.  This contraption seems designed to zero in on his manhood.

But who was rescuing him?  Did he have a boyfriend?  A girlfriend?  An adult benefacator?

After a diligent search, I managed to track down and read a story -- really a short novel, over 50 pages long.  And it turns out that Billy lives with a boy named Lulu.

Really Louis, but Billy gave him a girl's name because he originally thought he was a sissy:  he is "pale and delicate-looking," but with an inner resourcefulness. He knows how to use his fists.

The two live together, go out on adventures together, and rescue -- and then ignore -- girls together.  Of course, Billy needs rescuing quite often as well, and here Lulu is about to be drowned by evil cultists as Billy rushes in.

At the end of the story I read, "Bowery Billy became the millionaire's guest on board of the beautiful yacht.  Lulu Drexel remained with him for the night."

I'm reminded of the line in The Well of Loneliness (1928) which caused it to be judged obscene.  The lesbians meet, talk of love, "and that night they were not parted."

A gay teenage romance in 1904.

Jul 10, 2018

Physique-Watching at the County Fair

I've been to three county fairs in the last month.  Not that I'm complaining -- they're a major source of summertime beefcake, as well as a fascinating glimpse into a different world.

Fairs originated in the Middle Ages, when most people engaged in sustenance farming, and brought their excess into town to trade for items they might need.

By the 19th century, most people were buying from professional merchants, and fairs became a place to see the latest agricultural equipment and techniques, and compete over the best produce and livestock.

There were state fairs beginning in the 1830s, and county fairs in the 1870s (international expositions of industry and commerce were called worlds' fairs in the 1880s).

Eventually there were carnival-type rides and games, musical acts, races, and other activities, and fairs became a place for fun rather than business.

Nazarenes weren't allowed to go to fairs -- places of sin and corruption -- and of course in gay neighborhoods you wouldn't be caught dead at the heteronormative nuclear-family gun-toting beer-swilling redneck fest -- so I didn't go to any until I moved to the straight world in 2005.

They are, indeed, full of nuclear families and gun-toting, beer-swilling rednecks, but don't let that dissuade you.  The opportunities for physique watching are endless.

1. Those nuclear family dads are often built, and wearing muscle shirts (it's always a hot day, and fairgrounds offer no shade).

2. The beer-swilling rednecks are often hot, too, in a seedy, rough-trade way.

3. Fair employees and volunteers, always buffed young men.  They don't take their shirts off often, but you can see some tight shirts and tighter jeans.

4. Groups of teenagers and college boys.  They don't take their shirts off, either, but they often wear those shirts with no sides, so you can get a side-glimpse of their chests.

5. Hang around the livestock exhibits to see farmboys who have won awards for their sheep, goats, cows, pigs, and horses (this is how everybody displays their goats, with face against crotch.  I don't know why).

Can you imagine what it's like to live on a farm, taking care of animals every day, taking a bus 5 miles into town to go to high school?  For city folk, it's a completely alien world.

But nowadays have smartphones and wi-fi, so they're as connected to the wide world as the rest of us.

 6. Don't forget that there are other gay guys in the straight world, who come to the county fair for physique watching.

See also: Summertime Beefcake at the County Fair

Easy Bake Ovens and Gay Identity

In response to a 13-year old boy's video that went viral, Hasbro has just announced that it will begin selling Easy-Bake Ovens in neutral colors, with ads showing boys as well as girls.  This is a victory against sexism, of course, but it is also a victory against heterosexism.

When I was a kid, boys weren't allowed anywhere near the kitchen (this book was published in 2006).  Girls were carefully instructed in the art of boiling, baking, sauteeing, and simmering, in order to prepare them for their futures as housewives, but boys were expected to have no use for such skills, since they would all have wives to cook for them.

On the tests of adequate masculinity that they kept forcing us to take in school, one of the questions was: "What does fricassee mean?" If a boy knew, he got a visit from the school nurse.

The only boy you ever saw cooking was Jughead in the Archie comics, and he was a "woman hater" (that is, gay).

Thus, any interest in or aptitude for cooking in boys was viewed as a rebellion against our heterosexual destiny: "If you learn to cook, you won't need a wife, so you'll never get married."

Or: "If you enjoy cooking, you must want to become a wife! "

The Easy-Bake oven was the most rebellious of toys you could put on your Christmas list: all pink and pastel, with only girls in the commercials, and the print ads talking about how much "she" will enjoy practicing for her future as someone's wife.

At Christmas 1969, when I was nine years old, I asked for one,  and caused my parents a lot of anxious conversations behind closed doors.  When they emerged, they smiled fearfully like the parents of the demonic kid on The Twilight Zone, and asked "Um...do you think you might like to play pee-wee football next spring?"

Santa brought me a football.

In the fall of 1970, I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for my birthday.  More anxious conversations, and afterwards my parents signed me up for Judo.

Jul 9, 2018

14 Beefcake Stars of "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23"

Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 premiered in April 2012, oddly following the family-friendly Modern Family.  After 7 episodes, it was renewed for a second season, but episodes were shown out of sequence, leaving viewers confused.  In January 2013, it was abruptly cancelled, leaving 8 episodes of 26 unaired.  But you can see the whole series on Logo and Netflix (unfortunately, still not in the right order).

It's a buddy comedy about a wholesome, idealistic girl from hayseed-stereotyped Indiana, June Colburn (Dreama Walker) and her apartment mate, the fun, glamorous, and utterly amoral Chloe (Krysten Ritter), who makes her living through scams and frauds (but this is the New York of Friends, not Seinfeld, so even the evil are rather nice).  Through a constant stream of mishaps, crises, and long-cons, June learns to be more spontaneous, and Chloe develops a conscience, of sorts.

Their partner-in-hijinks is James Van Der Beek of Dawson's Creek, playing "himself" as obsessed with his dwindling fanbase and trying to make a comeback on Dancing with the Stars.  Celebrity competitors and colleagues often appear: Dean Cain, Frankie Muniz, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Richard Dean Anderson.

There's not much gay presence, except for screaming-queen Luther (Ray Ford), James' assistant, and some gay-subtext vibe between James and Mark (Eric Andre), the manager of the coffee shop where June works.

But the beefcake is constant.  The 26 episodes feature at least 14 hunks, mostly with their shirts off.

1. and 2. James Van Der Beek and Eric Andre (above).

3. Michael Blaiklock  (left) as Eli, the "pervert" who openly spies on them through the open window and offers friendly advice.

4. Michael Landes as Scott, Chloe's father.  She sets June up with him, without mentioning that parental thing.  Personally, I don't have any problems with dating guys old enough to be my father, or young enough to be my son, but June freaks out.

5. Ben Lawson as Benjamin, an Australian director who becomes part of Chloe's Halloween scam: she always makes someone's worst fear's come true.  But Chloe doesn't realize that Ben is scamming her, too, making her worst fear come true: the fear that she will genuinely care for someone.

6. Kyle Howard as Daniel, a "regular guy" that Chloe and June compete over in a bizarre dating game orchestrated by James -- without telling Daniel.

7. Hartley Sawyer as Charles, a dumb guy with amazing abs who June hooks up with to demonstrate that she's not a prude.  Unfortunately, she is then conned into becoming his girlfriend.

8. Ryan Windish as Beckett Everett, the owner of a shop where Chloe gets a job to enact her latest scam.

More after the break.

Jul 8, 2018

Mat Botuchis

Born in 1983, Mat Botuchis got his start in one of the martial-arts -craze vehicles of the 1990s, High Noon at Mega Mountain, where he had to flex his muscles and get a girlfriend (1998).  He had the look and style to become one of the top teen idols of the 1990s, but he was more interested in serious acting.

He's appeared in MTV's Undressed, The Amanda Show, the gay movie Ten Attitudes (2001), and on the gay-themed tv series Will and Grace (2005-2006).  He played the only straight guy working at the Out TV network.

Name recognition still eludes Mat, but hopefully his incipient movie career will change that.

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