Nov 3, 2018

The Boy Who Ran Away to Manitowoc

My father was adopted by the Davis family when he was five years old.  He remembered almost nothing about his biological mother, and even less about his grandparents, only that they lived in Howe, Indiana, and his grandfather was named Nils.

Like The Wonderful Adventure of Nils, the Swedish children's book that everybody in Rock Island had to read?  Was my biological great-grandfather Swedish?

I always felt left out with a generic American heritage, among the Belgians, Greeks, Swedes, Germans, Jews, and Estonians in my class.  Maybe I had a heritage after all!

 A few more, conflicting details from my father's older sisters, and from a elderly woman at Christmas dinner one year who said she was Aunt Nora's aunt.

1. My great-grandfather was Nilsson, not Nils.  He was only 16, a cadet at the Howe Military Academy, when he met my great-grandmother Ida.  She was 17 years old, living on the Potawatomi Reservation.   Her parents disapproved of the match, and told them to break it off.  But they refused, and on day in 1897 Ida left the reservation forever.

2. Or his name was Stephens, he was 27, and Ida was 23 years old, a "spinster."  When she became pregnant in 1897, he ran away, but sent her money from Manitoba.  Ida returned to the reservation to raise her daughter.

3. Or his name was Nels. When Ida became pregnant, her father thought that she had been dishonored, and paid some thugs to get revenge.  Nels was never seen again.  Maybe he left town.  Maybe he was murdered: every year on March 3rd, the day Nel disappeared, Ida took a bouquet of flowers out into the woods.



Whatever his name was, everyone agreed that he was as as beautiful as the day, with dark wavy hair like Valentino, a voice like Caruso, and the physique of a Charles Atlas.  Most of the girls in town were in love with him, and he was in love with most of them.

I didn't see much of a gay connection in this story, but the "forbidden romance" angle is always queer -- white-Indian relations were a criminal offense in some states in the 1890s.  And I was interested in the "beautiful as the day" Nilson/Stephen.

Besides, he was my biological great-grandfather.

But when I started researching family genealogy, I came to a dead end.

First, there is no Potawatomie reservation near Howe, Indiana (it turns out that my Indian "grandmother" was one of Aunt Nora's relatives by marriage.)

Second, I found great-grandmother Ida and her parents on census rolls and gedcoms, but no combination of Nils, Nilson, Nelson, Neal, or Stephen first and last names.

Which makes sense, I suppose.  If he was a student at the military academy, his home would have been somewhere else, maybe out of state.

And I couldn't search his final destination, the entire province of Manitoba.  Dead end.

A few days ago, I decided to try again, and keyed in various combinations of Nilson, Nelson, Stephenson, and so on into Google Books, along with Manitoba.



I found  someone named Nels Stephenson building an opera house in Manitiwoc, Wisconsin in 1899, two years after my great-grandfather left town or was murdered.  The right time period, and the names are close enough to match. His business partner was William Brandt.

Could that be a gay connection?

William Brandt doesn't appear in Manitiwoc census records, or in the newspaper before 1899.  Not a Wisconsin native.

But when I checked the records of Howe, Indiana, there he was!  William Brandt, born in Lagrange County, about ten miles away, in 1870.

 William Brandt and great-grandfather Nels left town together.  Nels may not even have known that Ida was pregnant.

Imagine what happened that night in 1897:

"They're coming for you, Nels."

"Why, Billy, what do you mean?"

"Ida's father found out about your romance, and he paid some thugs to kill you.  I have a carriage waiting-- we have to run away, tonight."

"We?"

"Well, of course.  You don't think I'd let you go out to the Wild West by yourself?  And miss out on all that fun?"

"But your job at the opera house?"

"There will be other opera houses.  Now get packed -- we have to go!"

A version of this story with nude photos is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Nov 2, 2018

The Beefcake Curse of "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors"

I was never much of a fan of 1980s psycho-slasher movies, especially the Nightmare on Elm Street series.  Freddy Krueger was arrested for killing 30 kids, but got released because "someone didn't sign the dotted line."  That's idiotic. So a group of concerned parents lynched him and burned him alive.  That's uncomfortably close to the various real-life threatened kids scares of the 1980s.  And now he has a vendetta against the kids, coming at them in dreams.  Wouldn't he come after the parents?

I also hated the song the tormented kids sang "Grab your crucifix."  There are other religions besides Roman Catholicism, you know.




But when I was in South Carolina, I watched Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and it wasn't awful.  The surviving girl from the first group of Freddy's victims, atrociously wooden Nancy (Heather Langencamp), is now a sleep-disorder specialist working at a psychiatric institution, where she and the hunky Neil (Craig Wasson, left) help a new group of kids being tormented in their dreams. They will do anything to avoid falling asleep, including committing suicide.






1.  The sarcastic and very hunky Philip (Bradley Gregg, top photo)
2. The kick-ass black kid Kincaid (Ken Sagoes, left)
3. Mousy Jennifer
4. Belligerent street kid Taryn











5. Extremely cute Dungeons and Dragons nerd Will, who is confined to a wheelchair (Ira Helden, left)


















6. Extremely cute Joey (Rodney Eastman), who is too traumatized to speak 

The special effects are ludicrous.  Freddy as a giant snake swallowing somebody?  

Freddy's back story is ludicrous: his mother was accidentally locked in an asylum for the criminally insane over the holiday weekend, and was raped repeatedly.  She gave birth to  "the bastard son of 100 maniacs."  Well, I guess she wasn't married, but was that really the main problem?  And you can't be the son of 100 people.  And criminality is not inherited.  

But I liked how the dream warriors came together, each using their special skills to defeat Freddy.

How "the bait," the person they're trying to save,is a boy not a girl.

How there's only the tiniest bit of hetero-desire, in the scene where Joey is accosted by a hot nurse who ludicrously strips ("do you like my body, Joey?"), kisses him, and turns out to be Freddy.   Also a moment of sexual harassment.  Otherwise no one hooks up, not even Nancy and Neil.

And the beefcake.  Other than the naked nurse, there's no female pulchritude.  But the boys (actually actors in their 20s) get underwear scenes and shirtless shots, or they're so extraordinarily cute that who cares if they take their shirts off?  

I checked to see if they've retained their incredible hunkiness after 30 years.

1. Bradley Gregg as Philip.  Yikes.


















2. Ken Sagoes as Kincaid.  He's got a sort of Uncle Fester vibe going on.

















5. Ira Helden as Will.  Wow.  I don't get it.  Many guys in their 50s are attractive.  Is the cast of Dream Warriors cursed?














6. Rodney Eastman as Joey.  OMG, the years have not been kind.

Come on, Craig Wasson, you're my last hope.

















I give up.  He's naked in this shot, but believe me, you don't want to see it.

The curse of Dream Warriors strikes again.









Nov 1, 2018

Threatened and Threatening Gay Kids

The early 1960s were all about children.  Two of three households in the United States contained children under age 18.  Entire neighborhoods were occupied by families with young children, with occasional elderly or childless couples (adults who lived alone were practically unheard of, and suspect).

31% of the U.S. population was under the age of fifteen, and 12% was under age five.   There were more elementary and high school students than ever before in history, and the number was increasing every year.  There were 1,393,000 teachers and 64,000 principals, the highest number ever.   Educational theory was big business.

The mental and emotional health of children was also a big business. Childhood was laden with infinite perils.  One false move -- a word said or left unsaid, a punishment too lenient or too severe, a hug or the lack of a hug, a school trip forbidden or allowed -- and the child would be sent careening into homicidal madness, or turn gay (which, in the mindset of the 1960s, was about the same thing).

Many movies and tv programs of the era involved kids with an aberrant sexuality being threatened or threatening the adults.

On a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone, Billy Mumy, soon to star on Lost in Space, plays a boy who can do anything.  What he does is  force people to obey his every whim.  Rebellion results in symbolic castration or death.  "You had him!" one of the townsfolk complains to his mother before trying to kill him. "You had to go and have him!"  







In Let’s Kill Uncle (1966), oddball outsider (that is, gay) Barnaby Harrison (Pat Cardi, who would go on to star on It's About Time) is heir to the family fortune, so his evil uncle tries to kill him.  Since no adults believe him, he fights back in the only way he can think of: he and a gal pal try to kill Uncle back.










The Gay Rights Movement didn't change the myth of the evil gay kid.  By the 1970s, threatening or threatened aberrant sexuality was everywhere. Lee H. Montgomery and Mark Lester made their careers playing sexual outsiders who plot murder or are murder victims.

In Bad Ronald (1974) Scott Jacoby plays a mother-obsessed (that is, gay) sexual outsider who wants a girlfriend, but nevertheless kidnaps and fondles the hunky Duane (Teddy Eccles).




In The Kid and the Killers (1974), oddball outsider (that is, gay) Miguel (Gerry Ross) wants revenge on the men who killed his sister, so he approaches a bounty hunter named Roper (Jon Cypher). After torturing and trying to kill him, Roper agrees to help, but his disgust at Miguel's increasingly overt displays of homoerotic interest almost compels him to abandon the mission.




Oct 31, 2018

Sage Northcutt

I'm sure you are wondering about Sage Northcutt, who played the martial arts-expert bud of the androgynous Moises Arias on his 2009-2010 reality series Moises Rules.













He just graduated from high school in Katy, Texas (near Houston), with a roomful of trophies and a series of magazine covers .

But not for acting -- for fitness, martial arts, and kickboxing -- Texas Teen, Philadelphia Health Classic, the Europa Super Show.  Actually, he's won every competition he has participated in.










But his true love is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts Fighting).  He's been an amateur so far, but now that he's a high school graduate, he can go pro.

His sister Colbey is also a MMA fighter.

So, is he gay or straight?

He took a girl to his Homecoming Dance, and in his spare time he cooks chili and lassos snakes.  I'd have to guess straight.

Gay-positive?

Probably.

See also: Moises Arias.

Oct 28, 2018

The Top 10 Hunks of "The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"

I'm about halfway throuth The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the Netflix series revamping Sabrina the Teenage Witch from Archie Comics, although I must admit to fast-forwarding past the many smarmy scenes where Sabrina and her boyfriend Harvey discuss how much they love each other, care about each other, can't live without each other, would die for each other, etc., etc., etc.

The setting is beautifully realized.  Everybody in town lives in a creepy old house; teachers have offices full of heavy furniture and antique books; it's an antique horror movie bathed in sepia light.

I like the witches' religion, an over-the-top Satanism complete with Black Masses, names signed in blood, cannibalism, human sacrifices, and a grunting, goat-hoofed Dark Lord.  But it comes with many realistic, mundane touches, like casually saying "Praise Satan" the way fundamentalist Christians say "Praise the Lord."

I like the over-the-top acting, especially Sabrina's aunts, the dour "what will the other witches think?" Zelda and the cheery "have a cuppa" Hilda, who seems too nice to be evil.  I guess that's the point? 

Sabrina's Scoobies are also drawn with a very broad brush. There's Roz, the freethinking intellectual, who happens to be the daughter of the town minister (except everybody is Catholic); Suzie, the gender-fluid women's rights activist, who happens to be the daughter of a conservative farmer; and Harvey, a working-class jock whose father is downright abusive.  Daddy issues, anyone?

I'm not a big fan of Sabrina,  however: 16 years old, half mortal, half witch, torn between two worlds, gleefully using her magic to right the wrongs of her high school, while scheming to take down the Dark Lord himself.   Really?  Granted, she is the prophesied Chosen One.  Everyone has a vested interest her witchcraft success; Madame Satan, an Archie comics character from the 1950s, returns from oblivion to guide her; but still, that's a staggering amount of hubris.  Even Luke Skywalker waited until he was old enough to vote.

I really disliked a homophobic scene in which Sabrina and her allies get revenge on some bullying jocks (led by Ty Wood, left) by casting a spell to make them hug and kiss each other, then blackmailing them with the photographs.  Threatening to reveal that someone is gay?  Is being gay that shameful?

But, on the plus side, Cousin Ambrose gets a boyfriend, not a girlfriend.

And there's nearly as much beefcake as on Sabrina's sister show, Riverdale.

1. Longtime shirtless aficionado Ross Lynch as Harvey (top photo, right)

2. Ty Wood as the bully.

3. Chance Perdomo as Cousin Ambrose.

4. Darren Mann (left) as the boyfriend.










5. Peter Bundic as Carl, another bully.


















6. Justin Dobies as Harvey's older brother (seen here rafting down the Mississippi with his brother Jackson in 2012)














7. Alessandro Juliani as Dr. Cee (Cerberus), owner of the coffee shop/bookstore where Hilda works, and eventually her boyfriend.
















8. Gavin Leatherwood (great witch name!) as Nicholas Scratch, a student who befriends Sabrina at the witches' academy.




















9. Richard Coyle as Father Blackwood, the high priest of the coven (which is either a local witch congregation or all witches everywhere).
















10. Moses Thiessen as Ben the Pizza Boy, who had an affair with Ms. Grundy on Riverdale.  He shows up to deliver a pizza to Ms. Wardwell, who is actually the reincarnation of Madame Satan. It ends badly.

See also: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; The Top 10 Hunks of "Sabrina," Season 2.

Bob's Burgers: The Most Gay-Positive Sitcom on TV

Since 2011, Bob's Burgers has been airing on Sunday night, in the company of Family Guy and American Dad.  But it is quite different from those programs.

1. The father and mother in the nuclear family are not insensitive jerks.
2. They accept their children's idiosyncracies, instead of berating and belittling them (on American Dad) or maiming and murdering them (on Family Guy)
3. There are no sociopaths (like Roger Smith and Stewie Griffin), who kill, maim, and express same-sex interests all in the same scene, as if they are all equally disgusting.
4. There are few if any jokes involving menstruation, masturbation, vomiting, golden showers, diarrhea, or body fluids in general.
5. No one ever collapses in a pool of blood.
6. No one ever expresses hatred of blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Jews, Muslims, women, gay men, lesbians, or transgender persons.


In short, you never think you're watching a Nazi recruitment film scripted by potty-mouthed third graders.

It's about a small, struggling burger joint in a resort town in New Jersey, run by aspiring chef Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, top photo) and his New York accented wife, Linda (John Roberts).  Plotlines generally involve restaurant problems, such a visit from the health inspector, competition with the pizza place across the street, or buying a food truck -- and the problems of the three kids:



1. Shy, socially-awkward teenager Tina (Dan Mintz).
2. Chubby preteen Gene (Eugene Merman), an exuberant nonconformist who may be gay.
3. Preteen rebel Louise (Kristin Schaal), who always wears bunny ears (no one in the family seems to care).

Heterosexism appears on occasion.  A boy band has only female fans, and when Gene gets a secret admirer, everyone assumes that it must be a girl.  But not often.  Usually same-sex desire and relationships are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Bob gets a part-time job as a taxi driver, and finds himself driving a group of drag queens home from the bars.  Does he:
a. Freak out, but learn tolerance.
b. Rescue the drag queens from homophobic harassment.
c. Invite them to the restaurant.

Answer: C.  Invite them to the restaurant.

At Christmastime, Bob decides to reconcile with his estranged Dad, Big Bob.  They meet in a gay bar called the Junkyard.  Why?
a. Neither of them realize that it's a gay bar until they get hit on; then they freak out but learn tolerance.
b. Big Bob tells Bob that he's gay and closeted; that's why he withdrew from the family.
c. Big Bob likes hanging out there with his gay friends.

Answer: C.  Big Bob just likes hanging out there.



Gene announces that he is gay.  What happens?

a. The family freaks out but learns tolerance.
b. The family goes overboard with acceptance,
c.  Nothing.

Actually, this episode hasn't appeared yet, and it's not likely to, because stories require conflict and, at least on Bob's Burgers, there wouldn't be any.  Being gay is perfectly ordinary; the family wouldn't have a reaction to it.

By the way, John Roberts, the voice actor who plays Linda, is gay.
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