Jul 21, 2018

Lance Kerwin

Born in 1960, the sandy-haired, scruffy Lance Kerwin was very busy in the early 1970s playing in After School Specials and "problem of the week" tv moves such as The Loneliest Runner (about a teenager who still wets his bed), The Boy Who Drank Too Much (with Scott Baio) and The Death of Richie (with Robby Benson).

But gay kids took notice when his tv movie James at 15 (1977) began with an extended shot of the teenager getting up in the morning, wearing only white briefs (or maybe they were pajamas).

For the intro to the tv series (1977-79), he wore a t-shirt.  Still, James was a swimming champ, so there were ample swimsuit and locker room scenes to ameliorate the teen-angst plotlines.  Though James becomes the first television teen to openly have sex -- he beds a Swedish exchange student on his sixteenth birthday, whereupon the title of the series changes to James at 16 -- most of the plotlines involve buddy-bonding with his jive-talking best friend Sly.

Critics loved the "realistic depiction of modern high school life," a "welcome change from sitcom hijinks," but teenagers tuned in for the shirtless scenes and then switched the channel to Welcome Back, Kotter.  

After James, Lance starred in a few more teen-angst movies, as well as several movies featuring same-sex romance, including Salem's Lot (1979) and The Mysterious Stranger (1982), with Chris Makepeace.

His transition to adulthood was difficult.  After years of drug and alcohol abuse, arrests, and rehab, he became an evangelical Christian minister.  But that didn't end his problems; in 2010 he was placed on probation for falsifying documents to obtain food stamps.

Your Grandfather's Beefcake: Circus Strongmen

Today every gym is crowded with guys with 60-inch chests and 20-inch biceps, but 130 years ago, they were rare. Poor nutrition, poor hygiene, and a lack of understanding of kinesiology limited the average man's ability to build  muscle.

Those few who developed muscular physiques found themselves in demand in carnivals and circuses as 'strong men," celebrated for their raw strength rather than for their size and symmetry.

But they certainly provided an erotic thrill.  Contemporary accounts often praise their masculine beauty.

The most famous of the strongmen was Apollon (the Greek god Apollo), born as Louis Uni (1862-1928), who joined the circus at the age of 14 and eventually became a headliner, appearing in music halls throughout Europe.  His act involved such feats as bending the iron bars of a cage, lifting 300-pound train wheels over his head, and holding two cars back with chains.

Donald Dinnie (1837-1916) appeared in 11,000 sports competitions, including 16 Scottish Highland Games, where he excelled in wrestling, hurdling, cable-throwing, and hammer-throwing.  He became the equivalent of a millionaire through his exhibitions in the United States and Europe, where he was advertised as "The Strong Man of the Age." In an early advertising tie-in, his likeness was put on bottles of Iron Brew, a soft drink aimed at athletes.

Interestingly, he was 6'1" with a 48 inch chest and 15 inch biceps.

At my peak condition, I had a 51 inch chest and 17 inch biceps, and I was nowhere near "The Strong Man of the Age."  Not even "The Strong Man of the Hollywood Spa.

Edward Aston was a boxer, wrestler, and finally a competitive weight-lifter.  In 1910, he won the World Middle-Weight-Lifting Championship, and in 1911 he was named Britain's Strongest Man with such feats as a clean and jerk of 282 pounds

Not bad for someone who weighted 160 pounds.  Schwarzenegger, who weighed 235 pounds, just managed a 298 pound clean-and-jerk.

He wrote an early weight-training manual, Modern Weight Lifting; and How to Gain Strength.  

Sig Klein (1902-1987) grew up in Cleveland, in the early days of physical culture.  He performed feats of strength on stage and in competitions, and in 1927 was named the world's greatest athlete by Le Culture Physique magazine.  He was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not 10 times.

Later he moved to New York and Attila Studio, which trained athletes, bodybuilders, stuntmen, and actors, among them Zero Mostel, Montgomery Clift, Ben Gazzara, David Carradine, Joel Grey, and Karl Malden.

I don't know who this guy is, but he has quite a physique, and he has quite substantial beneath-the-belt gifts.

Thomas Inch (1881-1963), "Britain's Strongest Man," is known for lifting the "Thomas Inch Dumbbell."  It was specially designed, weighing 172 pounds (the heaviest dumbbells you can get today weigh about 80 pounds).

See also: Circus World

Jul 18, 2018

"Rick and Morty": More Homophobic than"Family Guy"?

I watched part of the first episode of the Cartoon Network's Rick and Morty (2013-) a couple of years ago, and turned it off, bored.  But people kept telling me how great it was, so I bought the entire Season 2 and binge watched.

Rick Sanchez is a foul-mouthed, misanthropic, drunken mad scientist who drags his squeamish grandson Morty (both voiced by series co-creator Justin Roiland) on complex, blood-and-puke filled adventures in the multiverse.

Morty is a whiny "that's not a good idea" superego.  Also hetero-horny.  He has a crush on The Girl of His Dreams back at school, and in most parts of the multiverse, he finds a cute alien babe and "lets his penis do the talking."

Sometimes other relatives (forceful daughter Beth, her sitcom-inept husband Jerry, self-involved teenage granddaughter Summer) tag along.

Example: when his spaceship battery goes dead, Rick reveals that he has created an entire microverse inside the battery and populated it with beings who generate the electricity by stomping on foot-generators.

  But a scientist in the microverse has created his own mini-microverse, and populated it with beings who generate the electricty for his world, so they no longer feel the need to run Rick's generators.  And in the mini-microverse, another scientist....sort of like Inception, with more blood and puke.

Example: alien parasites have infested the house, pretending to be family members and friends, and inducing complete sets of memories, so you think you've known them forever, remember all the good times, their help over the years. So how can they distinguish real people from the parasites?

 They know that there are five people in the house.  Well, six, including Sleepy Gary, who is actually married to Beth.  Ok, seven: Frankenstein has been a close friend for years.  Ok, eight, including the Raptor.  Ten...ten people have always lived in the house.  No, twelve...

I have to admit, the plotlines are interesting, with effusively creative universe inside of universe.  The blood and puke, not so much.

And Rick's habit of ending every sentence with "Morty" gets annoying.

"We got to get out of here, Morty.  Hand me that cosmic defrazzler, Morty.  This should do the trick, Morty.  But there's no telling what universe we'll end up in, Morty.  We'll just have to wait and see, Morty."

Then there's the homophobia.

Fans point to the episode "Auto Erotic Assimilation" as evidence that Rick Sanchez is pansexual.  Not so: Rick is a grungy, sleasy, grab-their-tits, two-dollar hooker hetero horndog.  In that episode, he has sex with a being  named Unity, who has taken over the bodies of everyone on a planet.

Unity talks to him through male and female beings, but when they have sex, he specifies that he wants a stadium filled with attractive women, and the bleachers filled with men to be amazed at his sexual proficiency.  That's heterosexual to the nth degree.

Rick doesn't even like gay people.  His favorite slur is "cocksucker!"  It's not just a denigration of oral sex; although men and women both can engage in that activity, Rick only uses it to demean men, by implying that they are gay.  For instance, in "The Wedding Squanchers," he denigrates his son-in-law:  "My name is Jerry, and I love to suck big hairy boners and lick disgusting testicle sacks."

I happened to watch the episode about an hour after doing just that.

Obviously the show expects us to find gay sex disgusting.

"Gay" is also used as an all-purpose put-down: "That's gay."

According to the fan wiki, there have been several actual LGBT characters on the show.  Let's take a look at them:

1.The alien parasite pretending to be Sleepy Gary has introduced memories of a secret gay romance with Jerry.  They keep it closeted.

2. Father Bob, the priest at the town church, has gay desires that he must hide, because, of course, God hates gays. When a ray makes everyone's "toxicity"(negative traits) emerge, Father Bob declares "There is no God" and starts having sex with a guy.  It doesn't get more clear than this: being gay is a negative trait.

3. An alternate universe version of Summer is a lesbian, who is dating the alternate universe version of her nemesis, Christina LaCroix.  She is attacked by other alternate versions of herself.  Can't have those lesbians around!

4. An alien tv commercial tells us about Trunk People, men who have elephant trunks on their faces, which allows them to have sex with both men and women.

Silly me -- I thought there were people right here on Earth who had sex with men and women both.  Apparently the writers believe that bisexuality is physically impossible.

Or did they mean sex with men and women at the same time is physically impossible?

News flash: you have a penis or a vagina, a mouth, a butt, and two hands.  That's five partners, of whatever gender configuration you want.  Try a cisgender man, a cisgender woman, a transman, a transwoman, and someone who is intersexed.

5. Bisexual actress Kristen Stewart has a cameo, having sex with an alternate universe Jerry.  See -- she's actually straight.

6. The partially mechanical humanoid Revolio Clockberg Jr. (aka Gearface) tries to pick up college girls, but he also reads a magazine called Queer Gear, which appears to show a mechanical humanoid having sex with a machine.  It's in the background of a scene; you have to freeze-frame and blow it up to see it.

7. King Jellybean, a giant anthropomorphic jellybean, tries to molest 14-year old Morty in the bathroom: "Stop being such a fucking tease, you sweet little vaginal potato!"  Morty beats him to death.

Yep, all gay men are sexual predators and pedophiles.  Teenage boys better be careful in public restrooms!

Even Family Guy never went that far.

I won't be watching any more episodes.

Jul 17, 2018

"Play by Play": Girls are the Meaning of Life, Yet Again

We've had nostalgia-trip tv series about the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, so I guess it's about time for a "coming of age" tv series about a heterosexual guy looking back on his childhood in the wonder years of the 1990s.

Play by Play (2017-), available on go90sports and the Complex Network, follows the adventures of  ESPN sportscaster Pete Hickey (voiced by series creator Kevin Jakubowski) as he looks back on his adolescent self (Reid Miller), a freshman at St. Roman High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

  He's got a former athletic superstar big brother (Tyler Emerson Crim), a doltish dad (Jonathan Bray), a best bud (Max Amor), The Girl of His Dreams (Elle Jo Trowbridge), and various friends, enemies, and teammates.

Plots include trying to get on the team, being bullied, getting his own room, joining crazy clubs to impress girls, trying to draw girls away from the crude jocks they're dating, first date, first kiss, girls! girls! girls!.  Which, as you know, is all every adolescent boy thinks of, every minute of every day.

The series shouts, loudly, that heterosexual desire and behavior is universal human experience, a boy's "coming of age" means becoming interested in girls, gay people absolutely, emphatically do not exist.

Pete enters his freshman year at a previously all-boy school, but now it admits girls.  So, according to a synopsis, "every sophomore, junior and senior at his school — all dudes — are gunning for the girls in his grade."

Every one, with no exceptions.  Not one boy in a hundred, not one in a thousand, not one in a million is gay.

In an interview, Jakubowski states that he had a similar experience when attending Fenwick High School, a selective Catholic school in ritzy Oak Park, Illinois:  the freshman class was the first to admit girls, so "every" older boy in the school was trying to date the freshmen girls, leaving "all" of the freshman boys in the dust.

Not one of them was gay.

Um...Kevin, your heterosexism is showing.  I know for a fact that there were gay people in Oak Park, Illinois in the 1990s.  And today Fenwick High School has an Equality Club, "empowering marginalized groups of people such as women, the LGBTQ community, African Americans, and other minorities."

For a show about sports, there's surprisingly little beefcake: no locker room scenes, everyone wears uniforms to class, big brother wears a bathrobe at all times. I could find beefcake photos of only two minor cast members, Aiden Alexander (above) and Ben Getz (left).

But I wasn't looking very hard. I was busy thinking back to my high school experience in the 1970s, where preachers, teachers, parents, and peers were constantly screaming at me "What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?  What girl?  What girl?  What girl?"

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même.

Jul 16, 2018

Martin Spanjers: 8 Simple Rules for Playing Gay

In case you're wondering who this boy is who showers wearing a towel and seems very happy to be looking at the muscular adult hunk, his name is Martin Spanjers, and he was playing the teenage Rory on the TGIF sitcom Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2002-2005), about an overprotective Dad.  It wasn't as heterosexist as it sounds

1. Dad was played by the gay-friendly John Ritter, who originated the "straight pretending to be gay" bit on Three's Company (1977-84).
2. Mom was played by the gay ally Katey Sagal, star of Married with Children and Futurama.
3. The teenage daughter takes a girl to the prom in order to make a stand for gay rights.
4. At the same prom, Rory's date turns out to be a lesbian.

5. Grandpa (James Garner), brought in after the tragic death of John Ritter, thinks the school principal is hitting on Rory.
6. James Garner originated the "attracted to a guy who's really a girl"  in Victor/Victoria (1982).
7. Rory is one of the standard gay-vague sitcom kids, soft, shy, pretty, and struggling valiantly to act girl-crazy.

After Eight Simple Rules, Martin did the usual guest star bit, on 90210, Family Guy, and Good Luck Charlie.  Then he got a starring role on the vampire drama True Blood, with Joe Manganiello. When his parents discover that the teenage Sam Merlotte is a shapeshifter, they abandon him -- he comes home from school to find the house deserted.  A lot of gay kids could relate to parents unable to accept their true identity.  He drifted for a long time, through a series of failed relationships, unable to find a home anywhere, not even among werewolves.  Finally he grew up (into Sam Trammel), and opened a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, where he dated women but had erotic dreams about men.

Martin also made some quirky black comedies, such as Sassy Pants (2012), in which a teen (Ashley Ricards) runs away from her oppressive mother to live with her deadbeat Dad, and bonds with her Dad's much younger boyfriend (Haley Joe Osment).  Martin plays her younger brother, who is also gay.

More recently he has appeared in tv series such as Larry and Lucy, Angel from Hell, and Hot Girl Walks By.   He lives in L.A., but I don't know if he is gay or not.
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