Aug 10, 2018

Gay Symbolism in Chicago

I went to high school in the midst of the disco era, when everyone was carrying around boom boxes, practicing complicated dance moves, and listening to songs about the night life:
I love the night life, I want to boogie on the disco floor.
Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're staying alive
I should be dancing

And the groups we listened to were all flash and glitter, with bare chests and bulges, promising crazy nights of sexual excess, flirting with androgyny, asking us to wonder "Could he be gay?"

Except for Chicago, some guys with guitars and drums, wearing regular  shirts and jeans -- no bare chests, no bulges.

No androgyny, all married to women and following sports.

 Their no-nonsense, hetero manly albums (mostly entitled Chicago) had a subdued beat impossible to dance to and lyrics that you actually had to listen to in order to understand, mostly stories about pain and loss.

And, paradoxically, obviously without their intention, full of gay subtexts.  Girls rarely mentioned.  The lost love could be male or female.

April 1975, just after Dan and I broke up, "Old Days":
Take me back to the world gone away
Seem like yesterda

August 1975, the beginning of my sophomore year at a new high school,  "Brand New Love Affair":
It's no good to be all alone
When you hurt a friend
And you both feel empty
What I'd give to erase the pain
Will we ever make friends

June 1976, just after my date with the King of Sweden, "Another Rainy Day in New York City"

Another rainy day in New York City
Softly sweet, so silently it falls
As crosstown traffic crawls
Memories in my way in New York City,

July 1976, just after my first sexual experience, "If You Leave Me Now"

If you leave me now, you take away the biggest part of me.

September 1977, the beginning of my senior year"Baby, What a Big Surprise"
, Yesterday it seemed to me
My life was nothing more than wasted time
But here today you've softly changed my mind

May 1978, during the angst-filled month before I figured "it" out, "Take Me Back to Chicago"

Take me back to Chicago
Lay my soul to rest
Where my life was free and easy
Remember me at my best

See also: My Date with the King of Sweden; The Best Day of the Best Month of the Best Year Ever.

Aug 8, 2018

Andrew Keegan Breaks Boys' Hearts

Andrew Keegan was one of the more popular teen stars of the 1990s. He played mostly operators, rebels, and scallawags, Zack Dell in Camp Nowhere (1994), and "bad boy" guest roles on TGIF sitcoms like  Full House, Moesha, Step by Step, and Boy Meets World.

By the late 1990s, he was starting to bulk up, and the teen magazines started going wild.  They specialized in shots of his bare chest peeking out from his shirt, as if he had been caught in the midst of getting dressed (or undressed).

Lots of gay content:

1. Gay-vague  "not into girls" roles on Party of Five (1997-98) and Seventh Heaven (1997-2004)/

2. Broken Hearts Club (2000): Andrew played Kevin, one of a group of gay friends who hang out in West Hollywood (others include Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and Zach Branff).

3. O (2001), an updating of Othello.  His Michael Cassio, a high school basketball player,  buddy-bonds with Odin (Mekhi James).

Aug 7, 2018

Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors may be forever remembered as the taciturn, loving, and endlessly shirtless Lucas McCain,  Johnny Crawford's dad on The Rifleman, but he had a long career before and after as a screen hunk.  Born in 1920, he started out as a pro ball player -- both baseball and basketball -- before a talent scout spotted him and cast him in Pat and Mike (1952).  Dozens of Westerns, spy movies, and war movies followed, with an occasional comedy thrown in, like the tv series Hey Jeannie (1958) and Love That Jill (1958).

The Rifleman brought him fame, of course, both for his shirtless shots and for the frequency with which he kills bad guys -- two or three per episode.  Fortunately, the kids who grew up on a diet of nonstop violence turned out fine -- the 10 year olds of 1958 grew into the 20-year old anti-war protesters of the Summer of Love.

Immediately after The Rifleman, Chuck moved back to the 20th century to play Porter Ricks in the movie version of the boy-and-pet-dolphin movie Flipper (1963), with Luke Halpin as Sandy; it later became a popular, beefcake heavy tv series.

In the Doris Day comedy Move Over, Darling (1963), Ellen (Doris) is lost at sea and presumed dead, so after five years her husband Nick (James Garner) moves on.  But Ellen resurfaces during his honeymoon.  Hijinks ensue. Chuck plays Steven Burkett, the handsome, athletic, leopard-skin swimsuit-clad man she shared a desert island with for five years.  Nothing happened, however.

Some dramas and Westerns followed, including Synanon (1965), with Alex CordBranded (1966-67), about a man unjustly drummed out of the army for cowardice ("what do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a ma-aa-n?"; and Cowboy in Africa (1967-68), which I never saw, but appeared to be about a same-sex couple (Chuck Connors, Tom Nardini) who run a ranch in Kenya and adopt a native boy.  It was based on the movie Africa: Texas Style, starring Hugh O'Brian.

I didn't seem much of Chuck during the 1970s; he appeared mostly in Westerns, which I didn't care for.  But he appeared again in Werewolf (1987-88), which starred hunky Eric (John J. York), a college student bitten by a werewolf; Chuck played evil head werewolf Janos Skorzeny, the object of Eric's quest to free himself from his curse.

Chuck Connors died in 1992.  He was married three times and had four children.  Recently there was a rumor circulating that he did some gay porn during his pro-ball days.  I doubt it; he wasn't part of the Physique Pictorial or Henry Willson crowd, and the footage doesn't really look like him.

But here's a censored full-frontal.  It looks a lot like him.

The uncensored photo is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Aug 6, 2018

Shenendehowa Languages and Beefcake

When I saw this photo captioned "Shenendehowa wrestler ranked nationally," of course I had to find out what sort of town was named Shenendehowa.  Related to Shenandoah, perhaps?

It's not a town, it's a high school in Clifton Park, New York, a suburb of Albany, from the Mohawk word for "great plains."

It's often called Shen for short.

Here are the Shen senior swimmers.

Not to be confused with Shen, the common Chinese surname.  This is Parry Shen and Derek Thaler in a scene from the soap opera General Hospital.

Shenendehowa has no connection to the horrible Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, known for its horrific Civil War battles and homophobic small towns.

Other schools in the Shenendehowah district also have Mohawk names: Gowana (great), Koda (friend), Orenda (great spirit), Acadia (place of plenty).

This is a swimmer from Acadia.

No connection to Acadia, the colony of New France that lent its name to Acadia National Park, the Acadia River, and Acadia University.  That's from the French "Acadie," a 16th century misprint of "Arcadie," the region of ancient Greece that inspired so many pastoral romances.

This is Guy Harrison-Murray, a paraplegic swimmer from that other Acadia.

Why so many Mohawk names?

The Mohawk were a tribe in the Iroquois Confederacy, based in upstate New York and southern Ontario.  Today there around 30,000 members of the Mohawk nations in the U.S. and Canada.  The Mohawk language has about 4,000 native speakers.

Bojack Horseman: Anthropomorphic Angst and Queer Characters

In a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals interact, Bojack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett)  is a washed-up celebrity, the star of a 1980s TGIF sitcom, Horsin' Around, which people still remember fondly.  But he hasn't worked in years.  Finally he lands the role of a lifetime, playing the famous racehorse Secretariat, but it turns out to be a disaster.

Bojack's private life is a disaster, also.  He tries various romances, first with his assistant Diane (Alison Brie), then with Wanda, an owl who has just awoken from a 30-year long coma, and finally with his agent, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), but none of them work.

He has no friends except his cheerful housemate/couch potato, Todd (Aaron Paul) and the dog actor Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), another star of a TGIF sitcom who has managed to continue working by cheerfully taking any role, however demeaning.

Eventually Mr. Peanutbutter (that's his first name) marries Diane, an angst-ridden relationship that each tries hard to pretend is making them happy, and we learn about the abusive parents who pushed Bojack into self-destructive behavior.

Bojack: Are you punishing me for smoking, Mother?
Mother: No, I'm punishing you for existing.

The anthropomorphic animals make for some clever bits.  Russell Crowe's last name is crow, but he's actually a raven.

 There are sometimes humorous subplots.  I sort of like "Vincent Adultman," who Princess Carolyn dates.  No one but Bojack realizes that he's actually three young boys in an overcoat, in spite of statements like "I went to the Stock Market today and did a business."

 But overall the stories are sad, about broken, incomplete people struggling with their inner demons.

But there is considerable gay content.

Bojack took Todd in because his parents disapproved of his "lifestyle" and kicked him out of the house.  He thought he was helping a gay teen, but it turns out that the "lifestyle" Todd's parents disapproved of was laziness.

Bojack and Todd crash a lesbian wedding.

Bojack kisses Diane, Mr. Peanutbutter's wife, so the only way to restore their friendship is to have him kiss Mr. Peanutbutter, too.

When Bojack was on Horsin' Around, his close friend and producer, Herb Kazzazz,was fired after rumors emerged of a same-sex relationship.  Bojack refused to defend his friend, and as a result Herb doesn't speak to him again for 20 years, until he is dying of cancer.

Bojack's long-lost daughter has been adopted by a polyamorous group of eight men, of varying personalities and species.

Todd  eventually comes out as asexual and joins an Ace support group.  He's probably the only openly asexual character on tv.

All four seasons are on Netflix. I recommend skipping the first few episodes, produced before the show found its way, and starting with Episode 8, "The Telescope."
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