Oct 13, 2018

Super Mario Brothers

When I was a kid, we had arcade games (for which you went to an arcade), but no video games.

In college we played Asteroids, in which your space ship shoots asteroids and flying saucers.

Mario Brothers appeared in arcades in 1983, and the Nintendo home game Super Mario Brothers in 1987.  Oddly enough, my parents were fans.  I have fond memories of summer nights in the 1990s, living in West Hollywood but back in Rock Island for a visit, the screen door open to let in a breeze, hearing the theme music coming from the living room.

There was also a Super Mario Brothers All-Stars in 1993, a Super Mario Brothers Deluxe in 1999, and various games devoted to other characters in the Mario universe, but by that time my parents had lost interest.

Nearly all of the game plots are sexist.  A princess is kidnapped, and the brothers Mario and Luigi, drawn as stereotypic Italian-American plumbers, must rescue her.

They are sometimes accompanied by Yoshi, a sentient dinosaur, and Toad, a sentient mushroom who wears a turban.

The only game without a princess to rescue is Yoshi's Island (1995), in which Baby Mario, accompanied by a clan of Yoshis, must rescue Baby Luigi.

However, none of the games involve a fade-out kiss: neither Mario nor Luigi display any heterosexual interest, leaving them open to gay subtexts.  Maybe they're a gay couple, not "brothers."

Mario cosplay is common, with some muscular Marios, Luigis, and Toads strutting about.

A film version, Super Mario Bros., appeared in 1993.  It stars Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, plumbers in real-life Brooklyn who are zapped into a parallel Earth run by the descendants of dinosaurs,  They rescue Princess Daisy, as expected.

  Of course, Hollywood movies must always have a heterosexist plot, so Luigi and Daisy fall in love.

But, on the plus side, John Leguizamo has a shirtless scene (top photo), before he got all craggy and bizarre.

12 Beefcake Boys and Men of "The Fosters"

The Fosters (2013-2018) was a groundbreaking drama on ABC Family, now on Netflix, about a lesbian couple (Stef and Lena) with five children, biological, adopted, and foster (Brandon, Jesus, Jude, Callie, Mariana). Biological parents show up, and the kids have friends and romantic partners, so it gets a little crowded.

Episodes are pretty grim and angst-y.  There are drinking problems, psychological problems, incurable diseases, deaths, battles with bullies and homophobes.  But the remarkably open gay content makes it worth the gloom and doom.

Besides, there are endless teenage boys with their shirts off to draw in the gay boys and straight girls, plus a few shirtless adults thrown in for the adults in the room.

Here are the top 12 Fosters fav raves, plus one honorable mention:

1. David Lambert (left):  Brandon, the oldest son in the family. an aspiring pianist whose dreams are dashed when an injury paralyzes his hand.  He also becomes the victim of statutory rape by hooking up with his father's girlfriend.

2. Danny Nucci: Mike, Brandon's biological father, a cop who has a drinking problem, shot an unarmed suspect, and has a girlfriend who hooks up with Brandon.

3. Tom Williamson: AJ, Mike's foster son.  Where does he find the time to be a foster parent?

4. Jake T. Austin (left): Jesus, the second son, who has Attention-Deficit Disorder.

5. Brandon Quinn: Gabe, Jesus' biological father, who didn't tell Jesus because he didn't want the boy to know he's a registered sex offender.

6. Hadyn Byerly: Jude, the youngest son, who becomes mute in angst over coming out as gay (with lesbian parents?), but eventually learns to accept himself and starts dating, with probably the youngest same-sex kiss on television.

7. Gavin McIntosh (top photo): Connor, Jude's boyfriend, who has a homophobic father.

8. Tanner Buchanan (left): Jack, a shy boy with lots of angsty problems who Jude befriends.

More after the break.

Oct 12, 2018

Paralympic Muscle Men

There were special Olympic-style competitions for disabled war veterans as early as 1945, but the first Paralympics open to all disabled athletes was held in Rome in 1960.  Today thousands of athletes from over 150 countries compete.  They have cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, visual impairment, and a variety of missing and malfunctioning limbs.

There are 22 paralympic sports, everything from canoeing and badminton to wheelchair basketball.  In search of beefcake potential, I just looked at the swimmers.

Scottish swimmer Andy Mullen has won silver and bronze medals in freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly events.  Very nice hairy chest.

Josef Craig won the gold medal in men's freestyle. His pecs, abs, and basket all win gold medals, too.

Mattheus Angula from Windhoek, Namibia.The absence of legs doesn't detract from the aesthetic beauty of his arms and shoulders.

More after the break.

12 Forgotten Beefcake Boys of the 1980s

When I was living in West Hollywood during the 1980s, we didn't go to movies much, due to the rampant homophobia. Nearly every movie featured a discussion of how much the main characters hated gay people.  In Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox protests that he's not a "fag."  In American Werewolf in London, David Naughton calls Prince Charles "a fag."  In Breakfast Club, Judd Nelson writes a warning on his school locker: "Keep out, fags."

But in spite of the homophobia, there was a lot of beefcake.  Men took off their shirts regularly, in frat houses, swimming pools, locker rooms, on wilderness treks.  Some famous, others obscure.  Here are 10 forgotten beefcake boys, actors who surprised us by displaying impressive physiques in one or two movies, and and then vanished.

Or at least never took off their clothes again.

1. Dan Shor talking to his dad nude in Strange Behavior (1981).

2. Anthony Edwards (above) stripped down to his rather impressive underwear by customs agents in Gotcha (1985).

3, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, now a history professor, in underwear in Weird Science (1985).  Also starring a semi-nude Michael Anthony Hall and a bare-butt Bill Paxton.

4. Kevin Van Hentenryck running down the street naked in Basket Case (1982).

5. Don Michael Paul (left) in The Brotherhood of Justice (1986). 

6. Jsu Garcia, killed while naked in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

7. Robert Bryan Wilson as a muscular, naked killer in Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

8. The super-muscular Anthony Starke in Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988).  You heard me.

9. Keith Gordon (right) as a college swimmer embarrassed by his dad, Rodney Dangerfield, in Back to School (1986).  

10. William Zabka (left) as Chas in Back to School.  He also played a shirtless bully in Karate Kid (1984, 1986)

11-12. Tom Hodges and Jeremy Piven as locker-room bullies in Lucas (1986), the guys Corey Haim refers to as "fags." 

See also: Gay Nerds of the 1980s

Oct 11, 2018

The Homoerotic Horror of Edgar Allan Poe

When I was a kid in the 1970s, Chuck Acri's Creature Feature broadcast a lot of very loose adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories: The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia.  They were all terribly cheesy.

I loved them.

And the original short stories, which I first encountered in a Scholastic Book Club edition of Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Groff Conklin, with a drawing of a naked man (by Irv Doktor) illustrating "Metzengerstein."

It's about a man killed by a ghost horse. The nudity was completely unnecessary, but certainly welcome.

Even without the nudity, the stories were amazingly homoerotic, male narrators visiting male friends to hear their tales of murder and madness, with few or no women around, except for a few husbands who hate their wives.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838).  Pym and his boyfriend Augustus stow away about a whaling ship and have adventures.  After Augustus dies, Pym hooks up with Richard Parker.  The two have more adventures.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839).  Roderick Usher and his sister are killed by the evil house.  His sister, not his wife!

 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841). The narrator and his buddy solve a murder.

 "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842). The narrator is tortured by the pit and the pendulum, but rescued by the strong arm of a French soldier.

(Left: New ABC series with Edgar Allan Poe as a paranormal investigator.)

"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843).   The narrator (played on film by Stephen Brockway) "loves the old man," but kills him anyway.

"The Gold-Bug." (1843). The narrator, his buddy, and their servant search for buried treasure.

"The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)  Montresor gets revenge on Fortunato by walling him up.  But why is he so upset?

No wonder he was not mentioned in my class in American Renaissance Literature at Augustana, though he lived at the same time as Melville, Hawthorne, and Emerson.

But why was so much of Poe's poetry -- "Annabel Lane," "To Helen," "Lenore," "The Raven" -- about men mourning dead girlfriends?  (Left, Jeremy Renner in The Raven).

Maybe because if the women are dead, the men don't have to worry about any of that icky hetero-romance. 

Poe certainly spent a lot of time courting women through his life, but usually they were sickly or dying, like his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, whom he married in 1836, when he was 27.

Maybe he found some solace in glimmers of same-sex desire.

See also: The Gay American Renaissance.

Oct 10, 2018

The Mighty Hercules

Before He-Man, there was The Mighty Hercules, part of the 1960s sword-and-sandal fad. He appeared on Saturday morning and sometimes Sunday morning tv from 1963 to 1966, and occasionally afterwards, in five-minute segments with stiff animation that seemed amateurish even to little kids.  With his square jaw, expressionless face, and black curlicue hairstyle, he  looked exactly like the Filmation Superman, but in a toga so his muscles would be visible.

Unlike the Hercules of Greek mythology, this Hercules ruled the kingdom of Caledon along with his two sidekicks: a teenage centaur boy who repeated everything twice ("Be careful, Herc!" "Be careful, Herc!"), and a young satyr boy who only tooted his panpipes. Some commentators have found a romantic subtext in the interactions between Hercules and the centaur-boy, but I don't remember enough episodes to be sure.

But I do remember the thrilling theme song (sung by gay-friendly Johnny Nash).  It was a tad risque, and it summed up all of the characteristics gay boys in the 1960s were looking for in boyfriends.

Softness in his eyes,
Iron in his thighs,
Virtue in his heart,
Fire in every part,
Of the Mighty Hercules.

Oct 9, 2018

Two Boys and an Elephant: Jay North on Maya

In the movie Maya (1966), Terry (15-year old Jay North,  formerly Dennis the Menace) travels to India with his father, runs away after an argument, and meets Raji (14-year old Sajid Khan) and his elephant, Maya.  Not for the first time.  The white European or American paired with the Indian jungle boy is commonplace in post-War movies and tv, probably deriving from the work of Sabu in the 1940s.

After many adventures, nude shots, and buddy-bonding moments, including a scene in which the two literally hold hands, Terry and Raji  are reunited with Terry's father and go back to America together.

When the beefcake-heavy Flipper ended in 1966, its Saturday night timeslot was filled by a tv version of Maya  (1967-68).  It was retconned a little: now Terry goes to India in search of his missing father, and though he never displays a bare backside, he apparently forgot to pack any shirts.  He meets the androgynous, gay-coded Raji, who also owns no shirts, and they spend the next 18 episodes caring for each other, rescuing each other from danger, and gazing deeply into each other's eyes.

Gay kids were ecstatic -- it was like Jonny Quest and Hadji come to life, or Andy's Gang in color!  But producers must have found the homoerotic romance a little too overt.  In the next season, the time slot was taken over by the macho cops of Adam-12.

Sajid Khan looked like my friend Bobby in Rock Island: brown and firm-bodied, with soulful black eyes and full lips.  There hadn't been a South Asian in teen culture since Gunga Ram of Andy's Gang (and even he was played by a Caucasian), so Sajid got some play in the teen magazines.

After Maya, he tried his hand at singing, performing on It's Happening in 1968 and releasing a teen idol album in 1969.

He returned to India during the 1970s, starred in a few films there, and then retired from show business.

India is not known for being gay friendly, so Sajid was surprised to discover that there were rumors that he was gay.  In an 2011 interview with The Times of India, he acknowledged the rumors and said "I have not gone out and tried to change people's perceptions.  I have never done things to try to win brownie points in my life."

Jay North, tall, thin, and blond, didn't get much attention from the teen magazines -- they already had Dean Paul Martin, Davy Jones, and the Cowsills.  But gay boys still liked him.

After Maya, he moved into voice work, live theater, and The Teacher (1974), in which he seduces his older teacher (and if you look closely, you can see him getting into the scene).

Today he works with Paul Petersen on A Minor Consideration.  He has been married to women twice, but remains a gay ally.

There's a Jay North hookup story on Tales of West Hollywood.

Oct 8, 2018

Finding Small Town Gay Men on Grindr

In the book Familiar Faces, Hidden Lives: The Story of Homosexual Men in America Today (1976), Howard Brown expresses horror over a gay friend's decision to move away from Baltimore to a small town: "How could a 35 year old, well-educated [gay man] put himself in such a position?  Didn't he know that he was choosing a life that would afford no chance of love?"

 In the 1980s and 1990s,  the moment you figured out that you were gay, you made plans to move to a big city. Small towns and even medium-sized cities were sites of lies, secrets, and silence, where gay people were assumed not to exist, and probably didn't.

There might be one or gay people left in Crawfordsville, Indiana, or Danville, Illinois.  They were deeply closeted, living in constant fear, isolated, lonely, desperate.

Yesterday I was traveling with my brother and sister-in-law on I-74 through the desolate nowheres of Indiana and Illinois, past Crawfordsville and Danville, Veedersburg and Westville, Mahomet and Farmer City and Leroy.  I turned on Grindr, and watched the names and faces come and go, and listened the voices of gay men.  Were they still isolated, lonely, desperate?

Here are 14 of their profiles.  Decide for yourself.

1. Gaymer.  Weirdo book lover.  I don't drive.  Sometimes mean, sometimes boring, but if I'm on here, I'm horny, so send some men.

2. Mystic.  Running, animals, anime, gaming, having fun, stargazing. Passing time on Earth, making friends along the way.  I'm an old soul in a modern age, dreaming of things that might never be.  Hookups ok.

3. Tonka.  Like the toy trucks, I have big wheels.  Other things are big, too.  I try to laugh at whatever life brings: conversation, cuddling, sex.  Can host.  Hablo Espanol.

4. Funfun.  Living life at level 10.  Hit me up for a night of Netflix and pizza. If you have holes in your ears big enough to see through, no thanks.  No one over 26.

The full post, with nude photos and sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood

Oct 7, 2018

Bunks: A Disney Channel Summer Camp-Zombie Movie with a Gay Subtext

Bunks appeared on Disney XD Canada in 2013, but has just made it to Netflix.  It stars  teen idols Dylan Schmid (left) and Aiden Shipley (below) as troublemaking brothers Dylan and Dane masquerading as counselors at Camp Bushwack.

They are assigned a cabin of non-athletic, intellectual, bullied boys who they bond with, Meatballs-style.

There is a Revenge of the Nerds-style competition with the Golden Boy cabin.

Plus there is a book of urban legends that come to life when you read them.  I don't remember which movie or tv show had this plotline.  Maybe Are You Afraid of the Dark?

They accidentally read a story about zombies, who begin to lumber about, Walking Dead-style, infecting counselors, until they are cured by either an electronic slave collar or a dose of orange juice.

The zombie-camper battle effectively resolves the other plotlines.

Sounds like a terrible pastiche, but somehow it manages to work.

Especially for gay viewers:

1. Hetero-romance is minimal.  Dylan briefly chats with someone who I expected to become The Girl, the goal of his journey,but no romance occurred.  The nerd campers discuss going to visit the cheerleaders in the camp next door, a plan which Dane fully approves of.

And that's it.  The main pair is definitely Dylan and Dane.

2. There are no shirtless scenes in the movie itself, but most of the counselors are played by very cute actors who have spent last five years taking their shirts off.

Dylan Schmid has starred in Shuteye and Beyond.

Aiden Shipley has appeared in Clusterf*k and Edging (which is not about what you think).

Chief zombie Atticus Mitchell (left), known for My Babysitter is a Vampire on the Disney Channel, has also appeared in Young Drunk Punks, Stonewall, and Killjoys

Markian Tarasiuk, who plays the rival counselor, has appeared in The Magicians, Status Update, and Shuteye

Why We Watched "The Nanny" in West Hollywood

We didn't watch a lot of tv in West Hollywood, but we did manage to watch The Nanny (1993-1999), part of the  "servant brings joie de vivre to a dysfunctional family" sitcoms that extends back to Hazel , "Somebody bellow for Beulah?", and probably back to ancient Roman comedy.

Here a  "flashy girl from Flushing",  the loud-mouthed, low-brow working-class Jewish Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) has no education or experience in childcare, but somehow manages to becomes the nanny for the children of the ultra-sophisticated, ultra-elite Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy):

1. Teenage Maggie (Lauren Tom)
2. Tween Brighton (Benjamin Salisbury. left)
3. Preteen Grace (Madeline Zima)

Filling out the main cast are Maxwell's business partner C.C. Babcock (Lauren Lane), who has an unrequited crush on him, and sarcastic butler Niles (Daniel Davis).

Episodes involve Fran's wild I Love Lucy-style schemes, Maxwell's play production problems,  occasionally caring for the kids, and of course the ongoing question of "Will they or won't they?"

Of course they will, but it seems to take forever.  Maxwell is concerned that, coming from different social classes, they are incompatible  (has he never seen, like, every romance movie ever?).

Meanwhile the Sheffields get along swimmingly with Fran's family:  stereotypic Jewish mother Sylvia, generally unseen father Morty, and grandma Yetta.

And Maxwell has an endless stream of relatives who demonstrate that it's ok to romance your servants.  His sister marries her chauffeur. His brother even romances Fran.

Yet Maxwell proposes and takes it back, says the "L" word and takes it back, kisses her and takes it back, yada yada yada.

I would have told him, "show me a ring or I'm outta here," like 35 episodes ago.

Not a lot of beefcake.  This is a distaff show, about women talking, scheming, commiserating, bonding.  The few men around are seen from the perspective of the female gaze, desired for their charm, sophistication, and power, not for their physiques.  They rarely if ever take their clothes off.

Not a lot of gay references.  When a very occasional gay person does appear, everyone is surprised.  Apparently the world of Broadway draws only straight people.

Then why was it such a hit among gay men in West Hollywood?

1.  We were envious of New York.  It was bigger, more sophisticated, more serious, the birthplace of Gay Rights.

2. It was unremittingly cheery, with few of the depressing "problem of the week" episodes that spoiled other 1990s sitcoms.

3. Fran is a flamboyant fashionista, a campy, corny drag queen.

4. Since Maxwell is a Broadway producer, every Broadway star, singer, and actor you ever heard of makes a cameo: Ray Charles, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme,  Eartha Kitt, Carol Channing, Patti LaBelle, Rita Moreno, Billy Ray Cyrus, Ben Vereen, Celine Dion, Lynne Redgrave, Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John,

And many you never heard of, famous at the time but now long forgotten: Joe Lando (left), Leslie Moonves, Donald Trump.
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