Sep 22, 2018

Why the Hell Did I Buy "What the Hell did I Just Read"?

Earlier this week, while I was looking for a book on Scandinavian languages, I came across a loud, blaring ad for What the Hell Did I Just Read?

At first I thought it was a book of literary reviews, but the blurb instead said that it was a "wildly inventive, mind-bending, hilarious horror comedy," Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets The Walking Dead.

Well, I like both Hitchhiker's Guide and The Walking Dead, and it was half price on Amazon, so why not?

While it was bouncing over on 2-day Amazon Prime, I discovered that the author was David Wong, whose earlier book inspired the movie John Dies at the End (2012): a horror-sci fi comedy about two buddies, David and John (Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes), who become reluctant heroes in a world of nonsensical paranormal danger.

There's no actual same-sex kissing in the movie,and no actual gay characters, but there is a strong gay subtext.  The Girl turns out to be a ghost, John doesn't die at the end, and the two buddies walk off into the sunset together.

Both Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes have played gay characters in the past.

Sounds great.  I couldn't wait to read the novel.

In What the Hell, John, David, and Amy have become sort of X-File Private Eyes, starting their own paranormal investigation agency.  David starts off with some snarky but actually useful advice about paranormal experiences, such as:

To distinguish a supernatural visitor from a hallucination, ask it a question that you don't know the answer to, but can verify later, such as "Who is the current president of Peru?"

Then it went downhill.  It was not  at all funny, David's abrasive tone was annoying, and there were no  zombies (or Scandinavian languages), but ok.

Then it went even further downhill. Their case involved Mister Nymph, a mincing, lisping fruitcake who "acts like a fag" and preys on little girls.

I get it.  All gay men lisp and mince.  All gay men are pedophiles, with a particular interest in little girls, for some reason.

Fiction has been portraying child predators as lisping, mincing fags since Peter Lorre starred in M.

I stop reading at Page 38, and toss the book across the room.  It will go into the garbage tomorrow.

Surprisingly, the writer responsible for this mess is not Seth McFarland of the uber-homophobic Family Guy.

It's Jason Pargill, the head editor of Cracked.  He states that he is "not very liberal" (no kiddng?).  He didn't "come around" on gay rights until he met some gay people in his 20s.  But now he won't publish an article against gay marriage, as he perceives it as an attack on his friends.

But he doesn't mind writing a novel that attacks his friends.

Sep 19, 2018

Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller: Duelling Tarzans

In 1931, MGM was auditioning musclemen with exceptional swimming ability for a new movie about Tarzan, the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp hero.  It would be a big deal, the first Tarzan talkie, with real location shots.

Two Olympic gold medalists auditioned: 23-year old Buster Crabbe and 27 year old Johnny Weissmuller.  Weissmuller won, and starred in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), one of the top box office draws of the year.

Apparently being muscular and bulgeworthy was not a consideration.

Undaunted, Buster was cast as the Tarzan clone Kaspa the Lion Man in King of the Jungle (1933).

And Tarzan the Fearless (1933), which sank like a stone and was quickly forgotten.

Johnny continued his juggernaut in Tarzan and his Mate (1934), Tarzan Escapes (1936), and Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939), 12 movies in all, becoming the iconic Tarzan for generations of moviegoers, finally retiring to become Jungle Jim in 1948.  Watch his Cannibal Attack (1954)  for some major gay subtexts.

He doesn't have a lot of gay rumors, though some people suggested that when his movie son, Johnny Sheffield, grew up, they became an item.

Buster had a much more versatile career, playing many action heroes, including Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and many Western heroes, including Billy the Kid and Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion (1955-57).  He even played another Tarzan clone at the age of 44, Thunda, in the movie serial King of the Congo (1952). 

He has more gay rumors than Johnny.  In Full Service, the tell-all memoir of a Hollywood hustler, he's listed as one of Scotty Bowers' clients.

Close friends in real life, Buster and Johnny competed for a girl in the non-jungle drama Swamp Fire (1946), set in the Louisiana bayou.

Sep 17, 2018

The Hollywood Legacy of Zane Danton

In "The End," the first episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, high schooler Timothy Campbell finds out that he has received a prestigious college scholarship.  A moment later, the sirens go off.  The bombs are going to start falling.  Representatives of the mysterious Collective arrive, tell him that he has been chosen to survive due to his superior DNA, and whisk him away.  The rest of the family vanishes from the story..for now.  Maybe they'll return in flashbacks.

Timothy's dad is played by Travis Schuldt, born in 1974 in Topeka, Kansas, best known as Ben in Always Sunny in Philadelphia  and Keith on Scrubs.

Timothy's brother Edward is played by Zane Danton in his first acting role.  His appearance on screen was short but memorable -- I especially liked the full-body hug, as Edward realizes that his brother is going away forever (and that he's going to be dead in an hour).

Zane certainly has what it takes to become a teen idol.

He's a National Honors Student in math.

He does modeling, represented by the Young Artist's Studio.

He won the long jump competition at an event sponsored by the Pacific Palisades YMCA.

No social media presence; I couldn't find a facebook, instagram, or twitter account; this is someone with the same name.

But Zane has the most important criterion for becoming a teen idol: connections.  A Hollywood legacy extending back three generations.

Zane's father is Steve Danton.  He appeared in a few 1980s movies, such as Fever Pitch and Trouble in Mind, but his main career has been in directing.  A lot of rom-coms and female buddy movies: Thelma and Louise, When a Man Loves a Woman, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.   Also Seventh Son, The Fantastic Four, and The Originals.

His mother, Darragh Danton (born Croyle), was a production assistant on Boys on the Side, The Edge, and some other movies.

At the beginning of The Edge (1997), Anthony Hopkins is seen reading a book about wilderness survival by D. Croyle, an in-joke by the prop department.

Zane also has an uncle in show biz. Mitchell Danton has appeared on screen a few times, but he is primarily known as an Emmy-winning film editor, with credits including Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's CreekSurvivor, and The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce. a book on the topic, Cutting it in Hollywood.

Steve and Mitchell's father, Zane's grandfather, was Ray Danton (1931-1992), suave leading man of the 1950s; a biography is entitled The Epitome of Cool.   He appeared in many Westerns and cop shows through the 1970s, and directed episodes of Quincy, Fame, Cagney and Lacey, and Dynasty.  

He also produced, wrote, and directed the two-fisted New Mike Hammer (1984-89), starring Stacey Keach, a muscle hunk of the day.

I haven't heard any gay rumors about Ray Danton, but most of the beefcake stars of the 1950s were at least open to the idea of gay-for-pay.

Ray's ex-wife, Zane's grandmother, is Julie Adams (1928-), not to be confused with Julie Andrews.  She was terrorized in a swimsuit in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and had a long career in dramas, Westerns, and the occasional comedy.   You may recognize her as Amelia, a member of the wacky book club run by the Others on Lost (2008), hinted to be the long-lost Amelia Earhart.

With such an illustrious Hollywood heritage, how can you refuse to become a star?

See also: The Hunk from the Black Lagoon.

Sep 16, 2018

"Bojack Horseman": Hetero-Romantic Aces, but No Gay Men

Bojack Horseman, the animated tv biz parody about the washed-up star of a 1980s TGIF sitcom, is back for Season 5, and heterosexist as ever.  Bojack is now starring in a bad detective series, Philbert, which surprisingly gets good ratings.  After he complains that a scene involving female nudity is too "male-gazey," his director, Flip (voiced by Rami Malik, left), orders a scene with male nudity "for the ladies."

You can't really blame him for forgetting that gay men exist.  The series itself does, frequently.  We're told frequently that all men desire women, and as proof, we're surrounded by heterosexual couplings.  Bojack is dating/having booty calls with Gina.  Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane get a divorce and start seeing other people.

This looks like two men, but in fact it's Mr. Peanutbutter and his new girlfriend, Pickles.

There are no gay men in Bojack's world.

Remember Todd (Aaron Paul), Bojack's not-gay slacker/housemate whose crazy antics provide the comic relief of the series?  Last season he came out as asexual, not sexually attracted to anyone.

But he's hetero-romantic, attracted to women as romantic partners.  So he  starts dating Yolanda (Natalie Morales), a female hetero-romantic axolotl.

Axolotls are Mexican salamanders.  Apparently "asexual axolotl" is a meme.

So they're a hetero-couple in everything but what they do in bed.

Nothing special about that.  Many of the hetero couples you see on the street are not sexually active.  They are waiting for marriage, or they have incompatible sexual interests, or one or both have low libidos.

Or one or both is gay.  There are plenty of reasons why a gay person would engage in a hetero marriage.

Or one or both is a hetero-romantic ace.

Except in those states where a marriage must be "consummated" to be legal, who's going to ask? Who's going to care?  Hetero-coupling is a social relationship, not a sexual relationship.

Turns out that Yolanda's family will.They are highly sex-positive.  Her father (John Leguizamo) writes erotic novels; her mother (Eva Longoria) is a former porn star; and her twin sister Mindy runs a sex advice column. Her grandmother has left them a family heirloom, a barrel of antique lube worth $100,000.

Yolanda hasn't come out to them as asexual -- would you?  So she asks Todd to pretend that they are sexually active, when the family asks.

They do ask.  They are thrilled that Yolanda has finally found someone to have sex with, and interrogate him on how often he puts his penis inside her.

 He draws some suspicion by his lack of familiarity with heterosexual sex -- he can't even get the phrase "hubba-hubba" right.

Then the family insists that Yolanda "honor them" by spending the night and having sex with Todd in her old room.

They can pretend to do that, right?

But then Yolanda's mother tries to seduce Todd, and when he fails to respond adequately to her naked body ("any normal man would have been aroused," she says, forgetting that gay men exist), she concludes that he is asexual.  That doesn't dissuade her -- she wants to Todd to show her what asexual sex is like.

Yolanda' sister tries to seduce him, too.

Her father doesn't, but when the antique barrel of lube bursts, he asks Todd to plug the hole with his erect penis, which he would have if he was a "normal man," having sex with Yolanda.

For people making their living through sex, they show a surprising lack of awareness of the existence of gay men.

In a later episode, Diane tells Bojack about media normalization, which is sometimes good, as in the case of LGBT people, and sometimes bad.

So no one on the show is homophobic.  They just omit the G from LGBT.

A later episode shows Bojack's therapist, Dr. Endira (Issa Rae) having dinner with her wife, Mary-Beth (Wanda Sykes).

I've forgotten how many lesbian couples there are on the show.  Lots.

But no gay men.

See also: Bojack Horseman: Anthropomorphic Angst.

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