Feb 14, 2019

How is Big Boy Big?

"Big Boy" is the mascot of the Big Boy Restaurant franchise, which got its start in California in 1936. Original owner Bob Wian was trying to think of a name for his new burger, when chubby six-year old Richard Woodruff walked in.  Wian said "Hello, Big Boy," and the name stuck.  Woodruff became the model for the first Big Boy statues.

As an adult, Richard Woodruff stood 6'6" and weighed 300 pounds.  He became a local celebrity, identified as "the first Big Boy" for the rest of his life.

"Hello, Big Boy" is an interesting phrase. Obviously it referenced his chubbiness, but it reflects Mae West's catchphrase, well known in the era, referencing another sort of size.  The question of "How is Big Boy big?"  would appear in dirty double entendres throughout the franchise's history.

By the 1950s, the mascot had slimmed down and was serving the burgers, not eating them.   

Statues of Big Boy, sometimes up to 7 feet tall, were a familiar sight in the 1950s and 1960s, when there were hundreds of local Big Boys competing with McDonald's, Hardees, and Burger King. Local franchise owners added their own names, so you would see Bob's Big Boy in California, Frisch's Big Boy in Ohio, Elias' Big Boy in Michigan, and so on.

My friends and I made dirty jokes about the Marc's Big Boy in Davenport.  He's obviously short, and not particularly fat, so where's the "big" part?

In the 1980s and 1990s, internal squabbles and an oversaturated burger market caused most of the Big Boys to close.  Today they are popular only in Michigan. 

But what to do with the thousands of Big Boy statues?  Sometimes other companies bought them and transformed them into new mascots.

One unique aspect of the Big Boy restaurants were comic books distributed to kids to keep them quiet while they waited for their food.  You could also just buy a copy without ordering anything.

Adventures of the Big Boy appeared several times a year from 1956 to 1996 (over 500 issues). Some issues had a distribution of over a million copies, placing them among the exalted ranks of Superman and Batman.

The books were taken seriously.  Each issue featured a few pages of gag strips, informational articles, an advice column, and at least one 6-page adventure, science fiction, and mystery story,involving Big Boy and his gang (a girlfriend, a best male friend, a dog, and an arch-nemesis).  He was a scrappy, somewhat blustery hero, similar in personality to the 1930s Mickey Mouse.  Among the artists were comic book greats Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo. 

In the 1970s there were more tv show tie ins.  Big Boy and his friends visited Battlestar Galactica, BJ and the Bear, The Muppet Show, and the Superman movie.

One doesn't expect a lot of beefcake in a comic about a fat kid.  On the rare occasions that his physique was displayed, he was rather dumpy.  But there were occasional musclemen among his friends, allies, and foes.

Not a lot of buddy-bonding, either.  But the question remains, hiding a homoeroticism beneath the spashy macho shenanigans: "How is Big Boy big?"

Feb 13, 2019

"Await Further Instructions": Await Further Beefcake

The Netflix movie Await Further Instructions (2018) stars cleancut, extremely buffed young Nick (Sam Gittins), who brings his new girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) home to meet the folks at Christmastime.  Which of us hasn't had to face that mixture of awkwardness and suspicion?

It's especially awkward when the new "friend"is not what the family expected: someone of the same sex or another race.  Annji isn't white, and the working-class Eastender family isn't exactly woke:  mousy "have a cuppa" Mom (Abigal Cruttenden), bullying, judgmental dad (Grant Masters, left), and "build the wall" Brexit-loving, Jesus-quoting Grandad (David Bradley).

I can relate.  I've brought guys home before.

Um...knowing that the folks were blathering monsters, why did  Nick invite Annji to stay with them? Maybe a dinner in a nice public restaurant would be a better idea.

Filling out the family-from-hell are Nick's very pregnant sister Kate (Holly Weston) and her boorish,  dumb-jock husband Scott (Kris Saddler), who don't really understand what's going on.

You may have noticed that three of the four male cast members are rather buffed, and they do grace us with some shirtless scenes.  Not many, but enough to keep you watching.

The gay symbolism and beefcake explosion made me wonder about the sexual orientation of the director, Johnny "The Revolution" Kevorkian.  

His previous works were self-written, directed, and produced shorts involve a missing brother, a kidnapped wife, "seizures," and a "wake," with hunks in starring roles.

Back to the inane plot: after a few run-ins with the folks, Annji can't take it anymore, and insists that they leave in the middle of the night.  But the entire house is covered by a strange impenetrable mesh.  They're trapped.  Cell phones and the internet are down, but the tv still works: one station, giving directions: "Stay inside and await further instructions."

As the family speculates about what happened -- a terrorist attack?  A ecological disaster?  further instructions appear on the screen.  They are told to inject each other with weird syringes that fall from the chimney, to quarantine one of them, and so on.  They squabble, take sides, get into physical altercations, and the instructions become more and more bizarre.  

Then coaxial cable tentacles start slithering out of the wall and killing them.  They try to fight, but everyone is killed except for Terry's newborn baby, who the tv monster apparently plans to raise: "Hello, Ruby," it writes on the tv screen.  "Worship me."

Um...the baby can't read....

The closing shot reveals that other houses in the neighborhood are also trapped by the cable meshes, so no doubt the tv monsters have taken over the world.  Or at least every house with cable tv.

Um...a parable on our obsession with tv?  This isn't 1973! Why not cell phones, or social media, or something from this century?

And if the tv monsters just wanted to kill all the humans except for a select few, why did they bother with the psychological manipulation?

And...and...and...well, the plot makes no sense, and everyone dies.  Here's another picture of Sam Gittins.

See also: Johnny Kevorkian

Feb 12, 2019

Gay Subtexts in "Lovecraft Country"

Although I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in literature, I don't read much literature any more.  The few times that I've picked up novels, swayed by rave reviews, I'm inevitably disappointed; homophobic slurs and a boy-meets-girl lo-ooo-ove plotline that wasn't mentioned in the plot synopsis.  So I agonized over whether to buy Lovecraft Country.  But I was intrigued by the combination of Jim Crow racism and Lovecraftian monsters.

So I started:

Atticus, a 22-year old Korean War Veteran, comes home to discover that his estranged father has vanished, leaving only the command "Go to Ardham" (that's Ardham, not Arkham). So he and his Uncle George set out on a harrowing road trip from Chicago to Ardham, Massachusetts.

Letiticia, a childhood friend, insists on coming along.  "Uh-oh," I thought, "Lo.ooo..ove approaching!"  But she and Atticus never spark; in fact, on the way home Atticus takes the back seat, away from Letiticia.

En route to Ardham, the trio faces the horrors of Jim Crow America.  For instance, they go into a "safe" restaurant, only to find that the safe one burned down, and entering the white-only replacement results in a lot of white people with guns chasing them. 

Finally they reach Ardham, and discover that Atticus is the chosen one of an ancient secret society,  the Order of the Ancient Dawn, which disapproves of his blackness but really has no choice.  Wealthy Samuel Braithwaite and his son Caleb have orchestrated the disappearance to get Atticus there to perform a ritual. 

Atticus performs it, all right, but not the way the old rich white men would like.

Later segments show Letiticia moving into a haunted house, haunted by both ghosts and the white people who don't want her in the neighborhood; 

Hippolyta (George's wife) stumbling upon a doorway to another world full of unknown horrors and a very possessive woman.

Atticus, Uncle George, and Montrose (his father) investigating the mystery of a missing lodge member.

Henry (George's son) is pursued by an evil doll.

The characters are more proactive than most horror novel protagonists, actively taking part in their situation...and...

None of them.  Not one of them falls in lo...ooo.ooove.

Plus there's substantial buddy bonding between Atticus and Uncle George. 

I also suspect that Caleb has an erotic attraction to Atticus hidden behind his manipulations.

The lack of heterosexual plotlines made me think that author Matt Ruff must be gay, but he's married to a woman, and his other novels have hetero-romances.

I understand that a new HBO tv series has been ordered from the book, with Jonathan Majors  (top photo) as Atticus, Michael Kenneth Williams (second photo) as Montrose, and Courtney Vance as Uncle George.

Caleb has been turned into a girl: Christine Braithwaite (Elizabeth Debicki).  How much do you want to bet that she and Atticus fall in...well, you know.

Daniel Boone: a Big Man

Daniel Boone was a man --
He was a big man!

Sounds good so far.  When I was seven or eight years old, I was all for watching tv shows about a man, especially a big man.  Especially a big man who was a "dream come-er true-er."  

But Batman was on the other channel.  No kid in his right mind would pick a cowboy over the Dynamic Duo.  I never saw a single episode of Daniel Boone (1965-70) when it originally aired.

I've seen one since, for research purposes. Not a lot of gay content.  Not a lot of cowboy content, either.

1. Daniel Boone (Fess Parker)  is a family man, with wife and kids.  If you have to be a cowboy, at least hang out with other guys.

2. He has a sidekick anyway, Mingo, one of the least convincing Native Americans on tv, actually played by singer Ed Ames (who, although Jewish, became famous for recording the Chrismas song "Do You Hear What I Hear").

3.  It's not even the Old West.  This is Kentucky during the Revolutionary War.

4. While other cowboys were happily displaying monumental physiques, Fess Parker is kept strictly under wraps.  The only cast member to take his shirt off is Darby Hinton, who plays Daniel's preteen son Israel, and his buddy du jour.

Prior to Daniel, Fess Parker had starred in other Disney productions, notably Davy Crockett, Old Yeller, and The Light in the Forest (ignoring the crush of James Mac Arthur).  Afterwards he retired to run a vineyard and give conservative speeches.

Darby Hinton apparently was the first crush of some gay boys of the Boomer Generation, but he didn't have much of a teen idol career (this photo is from Getty Images, not from a teen magazine).

Post-Daniel, he's best known for the sexploitation Malibu Express (1985), as a Magnum P.I. clone who keeps encountering nude women and swishy gay stereotypes while trying to solve a murder.  At least he looks good semi-nude.

Feb 10, 2019

Falcon Beach: Canadian Teen Soap About Bare Chests

Falcon Beach (2006-07) is a Canadian teen soap, available on youtube and Amazon, about bare chests and kissing.

1. The central bare chest belongs to Steve Byers as Jason Tanner, a shirtless golden boy who lives with his widowed mom on a beach in Manitoba.  He spends his days taking his shirt off, flirting with girls, and hanging out with his nerdish best friend....

Bare Chest #2, belonging to Jughead...um, I mean Danny (Ephraim Ellis).

Then rich girl Veronica Lodge...um, I mean Paige Bradshaw (Jennifer Kydd) shows up with her wealthy industrialist father, who wants to tear down Pop Tate's....um, I mean turn the beach into condos or something.  Anyway, he's evil. 

Paige brings along Bare Chest #3, belonging to another shirtless golden boy, a Jason Tanner lookalike named Lane (Morgan Kelly).

Saving the beach, deciding which girl to kiss, and drug addiction are three main plotlines of the series. 

Saving the beach, a lot more than we need: bankrupcies, annuities, foreclosures, tax shelters, compound interest loans...this is escapeism?  Bring on the bare chests!

#4. A reasonably hirsute bare chest belonging Peter Mooney as Dr. Adrian Keeper, who prescribes opioids and other drugs to the athletes.

#5. An even more hirsute chest belonging to Stephen Lobo as Nathan Rai.

#6. An ab-worthy chest belonging to soap stud Shawn Roberts as Hurst.

#7. The sculpted chest of Yannick Bisson as Michael Prescott.

8. The ripped chest of Geoff Banjavich as...well, who cares?

If only they could have limited the kissing....

Russian Doll: Skip the Last Episode

The Netflix series Russian Doll stars Natasha (Nadia Vulvokov), a  New Yorker.  Rather, she is New York, the city personified: big, brash, flashy, sarcastic, irreverent, gravel-voiced, with frizzy hair and lots of rings. 

She's Nicky from Orange is the New Black, Elaine Boosler, the scary, scanky woman that George Costanza thought was faking it on Seinfeld,   She has some sort of job with computers and a large pansexual, multicultural group of friends who talk about art, film, and sex while eating avant-garde hors d'oeuvres and taking designer drugs.

She stares at herself in the bathroom mirror at her 36th birthday party, commiserates with her friends on being over the hill, spars with her ugly ex-boyfriend John (Yul Vazquezl left), and flirts with the uglyMike (Jeremy Bobb, below) (apparently she has a thing for ugly guys).  She takes Mike home to screw. Later she goes out again, sees her lost cat, and rushes across the street to fetch him, whereupon she is hit by a car...

And appears at the bathroom mirror again, at the start of her 36th birthday party.  Natasha interrogates her friends on whether they gave her a weird drug, tells John about the weird experience, sees Oatmeal and fetches him, avoiding the car.  Then she trips and falls...

And appears at the bathroom again.

Life is fragile.A trip on a staircase, a chicken bone, a moment of inattention while crossing the street, a gas leak, a friend who mistakes you for a burglar, and it's over in an instant.  And return to the moment of your 36th birthday party.

Natasha interrogates her drug dealer, investigates the house where the party was held, buddy-bonds with the homeless Horse  (they sleep together but don't screw, at least not on camera)...

Then she meets Alan (Charlie Barnett), who is also reliving a pivotal day in his life: the day he asked his girlfriend to marry him.  She rejected him because she was screwing her literature professor...Mike, the ugly guy Natasha hooked up with!

He openly admits to screwing other co-eds, but the girlfriend doesn't care. 

Natasha and Alan are connected in other ways:  They ran into each other the night of their first deaths.  And they always die at the same moment in time.

To the director's credit,they don't fall in love (although they do screw).  They buddy-bond as they try to unravel the mystery, and either die permanently or go on.

The premise falls apart at at the end -- the last episode makes no sense.  But it's interesting to see Natasha grow from amorality, and Alan from frozen with indecision (think Eleanor and Chidi from The Good Place)

Gay characters:  Half of Eleanors friends are lesbians, although the morning after the party, they awaken in a multisexual pile.  No gay men exist.  '

Beefcake:  Alan always wakes up in his underwear.  The other male characters don't show their physiques, but most of them are startlingly ugly anyway  Brendan Sextan III, who plays Horse, is rather cute, but unrecognizable under the homeless guy makeup.
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