Aug 17, 2019

The 1970s Debacle of "Mrs. Columbo"

Columbo (1971-1979, and many movies thereafter) turned the whodunit on its head.  Instead of a two-fisted man's man detective, Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) is frumpy, disheveled, disorganized.  And the viewer knows who the murderer is; the fun is seeing Columbo outwit them with his scatterbrained persona ("Just one more thing...I can't understand how...")

Columbo often mentions his wife, a frumpy, disheveled, middle-aged housewife cooking pasta fazool in the kitchen and saying "Bring your sweater, it's cold outside."

So, the suits at NBC thought, wouldn't it be fun to have Mr.s Columbo solving some murders of her own?

Who did they cast as the frumpy, disheveled, middle-aged housewife cooking pasta fazool in the kitchen?  Glamorous, elegantly-attired  24-year old soap star Kate Mulgrew, later to become Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and Red on Orange is the New Black

WTF?  There is no way on Earth that Kate Mulgrew could be the Mrs. Columbo described in the series. Al Molinaro from Happy Days would make more sense, and have a lot more chemistry with Peter Falk.

Fortunately, Mr. Columbo never appeared in the series.  That would have been a painful interaction.

Mrs. Columbo premiered on February 28, 1979, a Thursday night, up against Barnaby Jones (an old person solves crimes) and Family (angst).

The plot was hackneyed: Kate overhears her neighbor plotting to murder his wife (Didn't I Love Lucy it, and before that My Favorite Wife on radio?  )

Next episode: the author of a book on perfect murders is accused of murder.  Why is Kate investigating this?  Why not call her husband, who, you know, is like a real detective?

After two episodes of horrible ratings, the suits realized that they had made a mistake, and tried to divest Mrs. Columbo from Columbo.

On March 15th, 1979, the show was suddenly called Kate Columbo, and a line added to the script explaining that Kate was divorced from Lt. Columbo.  That was fast! 

The plot: A ventriloquist's dummy is commiting murder.  Seen it!

The ventriloquist is played by Jay Johnson, who starred in Soap.

Two more episodes of atrocious ratings (a caterer plans to murder her husband, a psychic is accused of murdering her husband), and the show was yanked.

The suits reasoned that the problem couldn't be the cliched plots and horrible writing.  It must be Columbo. 

So when the show returned on October 18. 1979, it was called Kate the Detective.  No mention of Columbo, and Kate has a new ex-husband. Philip.  She works for a newspaper, which gives her an opportunity to actually investigate cases rather than overhearing someone plotting murder.  And 1970s hunk Don Stroud joins the cast as Lt. Varick, a police officer for Kate to bat ideas off of.

Did that help the ratings?  Nope.  Maybe the fact that Kate wasn't actually a detective?

After five episodes, the show was retooled again, and appeared on November 22nd (Thanksgiving Day) as Kate Loves a Mystery. Better -- maybe a sort of Murder, She Wrote?

Nope.  A candidate for Congress is accused of murder, but didn't do it.  A psychologist conducting sensitivity training classes is accused of murder, but didn't do it.

How about we just call the whole thing off?

Three more episodes of Kate Loves a Mystery aired.  13 episodes total under 4 titles.  That's got to be a record.

Kate Mulgrew is a gay ally: "I'm flattered to be a lesbian pin-up," she says in 2017.  "Lesbians loved Janeway."

No other gay connection that I can find.  But wasn't the whole debacle wacky?

See also: Peter Falk: When Columbo Played Gay

Justin Morrit, the Guy Who Shared Rob Lowe

Have you seen the famous Rob Lowe sex tape?  It depicts then-Brat Pack star Rob Lowe and a friend having sex with two women in a hotel room in Atlanta in 1988, on the night before the Democratic National Convention.

Only one of the women appears on the tape, plus Rob Lowe and his friend.

I didn't know that heterosexuals had the West Hollywood custom of "sharing."

They don't do anything specifically with each other, but one assumes that they did off-cameras.

Unfortunately, the tape doesn't show much of the second guy other than a muscular silhouette.  This is a better picture.

Not a bad boyfriend candidate.  I can see why Rob invited him to Atlanta.

His name is Justin Moritt.  He doesn't have any credits on IMDB before 1988, so I don't know how he and Rob met.  Since then he's worked as a production assistant, then a production manager, and finally a producer, of films like Ghost (1990), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), and Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).

 He was married to actress Krista Allen from 1996 to 1999.

They have a son, Jake Moritt, born in 1997, now working as a production assistant.

According to his Facebook page, Justin likes Tim Allen, Radiohead, bodybuilder Casa Wilson, and the Marani Hair Salon in L.A.

When you search Google Images for "Justin Morrit," this picture pops up of a tall guy with a tattooed nipple and his pants falling off.  Obviously not our Justin Morrit, but maybe a relation.

And some pictures from one of Rob Lowe's many on-screen homoerotic relationships, this one with Doug Savant in Masquerade (1988).

Is this what was going on in the hotel room in Atlanta that night?

See also: Mario's Date with Rob Lowe

Aug 15, 2019

Twelve Forever: The First Gay Protagonist of Any American Children's Program

In Twelve Forever, a 12-year old girl named Reggie is terrified by the prospect of growing up, so she creates a fantasy world called Endless Island, and populates it with interesting characters like Flower Woman (with flowers for eyes), Brown Roger (a small, hairy thing), and Guy Pleasant (half rock star, half dog).

For antagonists, she conjures up the Butt Witch and her henchman Big Deal, who try to force her to grow up.  She convinces two of her real-life friends, Todd and Esther, to come along.

Sounds like H.R. Pufnstuf meets Peter Pan, except those islands were real.   I'm not so sure about Endless Island. It sounds very much like a psychotic delusion.

I became interested due to an episode in which the Butt Witch tries to break up the romance between two burly wrestlers, Mack and Beefhouse.  Two burly male wrestlers!

The other characters are completely nonchalant about their gender, saying things like "I can't wait to find my soulmate," and so on.

This is definitely a gay -positive show.  Reggie herself gets a crush on a girl named Connelly.

Unfortunately, Reggie is such a self-centered jerk that she's impossible to watch.  When Connelly displays interest, she makes an excuse and runs away.  Repeatedly.

Imagine: you're 12 years old, you find a girl you like, and she makes it very clear that she wants nothing to do with you.   How's that for a crushing childhood trauma?

Later, at the school dance (4 male-female couples and Reggie), Connelly shows up, and a flustered Reggie forces her friends to leave, even though they are having fun.

Isn't it always the way: you find a gay-positive character, and they're unpleasant and possiblypsychotic?

Oh,well, who am I to nit-pick?  This is the first gay protagonist of any American children's tv program, cause for celebration.

Aug 14, 2019

The Gay Tease of "Sinfonia"

I don't know what Sintonia is about -- the title means "Tune" in Portuguese -- but Netflix keeps recommending it to me with a picture of a stunningly beautiful teen idol type with frosted hair and a lot of feminine jewelry -- obviously gay.  So I go through it on fast forward to see if the character is actually gay.

Episode #1:  Two friends from a poor neighborhood of São Paulo have Big Dreams: Nando wants to become a singer, and Doni, to become a drug dealer.  That's right, both are presented as honorable professions.  They sit across a table and give each other longing looks.

A gay couple?  So far, so good.

Their other friend is Rita.

Episode 2:  Nando gets upset when someone steals his music, and Doni gets in trouble with the police.  Who would have guessed?  Meanwhile Rita finds religion.

Episode 3: Nando becomes a success, and it goes to his head, and Doni defends a fellow drug dealer.  Rita is still religious, saying things like "God has a plan for you."

No sex scenes yet, no hetero-romance of any sort -- a good sign.

And we get the first scene of Nando in a swimsuit, in a pool with his boyfriend (I assume) and no one else.  Unfortunately, Netflix will not permit me to take a screen shot.

Episode 4: Nando overcommits to singing gigs, and Doni fears for his life after a drug deal goes badly.  We see him with his shirt off, briefly.

Still no sex scenes or hetero-romance. But Nando and Doni have only a few scenes together, like two friends catching up on the latest gossip: "And then he I told him...."

Episode 5: Doni  has sex with a girl backstage.

 Wait -- he's straight?   And they wait until the 5th of 6th episodes to let viewers know?   What a tease!

But at least he doesn't perform the sex scene convincingly.  It looks like they're trying to eat each other.  Not much experience in kissing girls, Doni?

Meanwhile  Nando is in trouble, and Rita is still religious.

Episode 6: Who cares what Doni the Gay Tease does?

Nando is rewarded by his drug cartel, and Rita is still religious.

Sinfonia turns out to be a dud.

Doni, the stunningly beautiful Gay Tease, is played by MC JottaPê  (João Pedro Carvalho), a 19-year old telenovela star turned singer, known for "Sentou e gostou" ("I sat down and liked it").

His music videos mostly show him dancing with lots of scantily-clad girls, drinking champaign, and showing us money.

His Instagram contains a lot of photos of girls, plus a couple of shirtless pics.

Here he sticks out his tongue for the camera (I forget what it means, but it's common in selfies).  The caption reads "I am from Tommy, my girl of Oakley."

I'm guessing he's heterosexual.

Nando is played by 19-year old actor Christian Malheiros, who has done a lot of stage work and starred in Socrates (2018), about a gay teen left alone after his mother's death.  He can't stay with his homophobic father, so he tries living on his own, and ends up in a romance with his boss.

His instagram doesn't have any photos of girls, but here's one of his biceps and bulge.

I'm guessing gay.

Aug 13, 2019

"No Good Nick": The Gay Kid Comes Out

Kamala Epstein played a gay kid on The Fosters, so naturally I was going to watch his new Netflix sitcom, No Good Nick (2019-) Even though it also stars former Sabrina the Teenage Witch Melissa Joan Hart, who is a conservative Christian and reputedly homophobic.

The premise: Nick is a 13-year old girl (Siena Adugong) who shows up on the doorstep of a nuclear family claiming to be a long-lost relative.  Mom and Dad (Sean Astin,  Melissa) immediately drop everything and welcome Nick into the family, and their 13-year old daughter Molly is delighted at the prospect of a new sister, but 15-year old Jeremy (Kamala) is suspicious.

And for good reason.  Nick is a con artist, running various scams for her father in prison (Eddie McClintock), with  the ultimate goal of destroying her new foster family.  Dad, in turn, has a secret agenda of his own, so basically it's scammers all the way down.

As I began watching, I noticed something unusual about Jeremy.  Most teenage boys on sitcoms talk like this:  "Good morning, Mom. Girls!  Good morning, Dad. Girls!  What's for breakfast?  Girls!  I have a test in school today. Girls!  It will help me get girls. Girls!"

Jeremy didn't mention Girls, didn't gaze at the It-Girl from across the hall, didn't scheme to meet any or win any.  Nothing.  Not a glimmer of heterosexual interest.    His main plot in the first season invloved running for Student Council President against the ultra-popular Lisa Hadad (transgender actress Josie Totah), who also didn't have any hetero-romantic interests.  Or same-sex interests, for that matter.

Ultra-popular, but no boyfriend or girlfriend?  What kind of high school is this?

At first I concluded that Jeremy must be asexual.  Surely he couldn't be gay, not in a series starring Melissa Joan Hart!  But in the second season, third episode, Nick catches him kissing a boy!

"I want to come out my own way," he admonishes her.

Nick, who is full of secrets, agrees to keep his.

In Episode 8, Jeremy plans a complex coming-out performance, with powerpoint presentation, and Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out," which of course turns into a disaster.  But he manages to convey the main idea.

The word "gay" is never spoken, and there are no more references to Jeremy's gayness.  It has a 1990s "problem of the week" feel.

But there are so few gay teenage characters on tv -- so few gay men of any age -- that I'll take what I can get.

Especially in a tv series starring Melissa Joan Hart.

"The Boys": Superheroes, Homophobia, and the Girl of His Dreams

The Boys, on Amazon Prime, has been promoted and double-promoted a theatrical experience far superior to anything you have ever experienced before, the best tv series of all time -- no, the greatest work of art ever created in the entire history of humankind.

After all that, if it's just the best thing I've ever seen, it will be a letdown.

But it's free with your Prime membership, and maybe some of the Boys are hot, so...

It starts off promising, with two teenage boys discussing penises, then grabbing at each other when they are nearly killed by a runaway truck and taken hostage, saved by superheroes.

But then we get down to the main plot, about electronics-store nebbish Hughie (Jack Quaid, left) and The Girl of His Dreams, who is killed to provide character motivation.

Yawn.  Haven't I heard this a thousand times before? Action heroes ALWAYS have dead wives, or else estranged wives to reconcile with.  It's disgustingly heterosexist.

Since a superhero killed The Girl, Hughie becomes an anti-superhero vigilante, teaming up with Billie Butcher (Karl Urban, left), whose  -- you guessed it --was also killed by supes.

Wait -- two dead Girls of Their Dreams?  That's two too many.  I give up and read the plot synopsis instead.

 They start a vigilante band, The Boys.

1. Hughie
2. Butcher

3. Mother's Milk (Laz Alonzo, left)
4. Frenchie (Tomer Capon)
5. The Female (Karen Fukuhara), the only Boy who has super powers.  The others get by with paralyzing gas and computer bugs.

The superheroes, created by an evil corporation when they were babies, are all arrogant, self-serving, and corrupt, not above causing the disasters they save people from.  The main group is called The Seven for merchandising purposes:

1. Homelander (Antony Starr, left)
2. Starlight (Erin Moriarty)
3. Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), who is a lesbian ("The first canonical gay superhero!").

Note: I am told that she's not a lesbian at all.  Apparently the Wikipedia article naming another character as her ex-girlfriend was in error.

4. A-Train (Jesse T. Usher, left)
5. The Deep (Chace Crawford)
6. Black Noir (Nathan Miller)

7. Translucent (Alex Hassel, left).

Well, at least the show is equipped in the hunkoid department

Other superheroes of interest are:

8. Mesmer (Haley Joel Osment, who often plays gay characters).

9. The evil Ezekial (Shaun Benson), "a closeted homosexual."  Is this the 1950s?  When did we go back to the term "homosexual" to describe a gay person?  Are we going to start using old, offensive terms for racial minorities, too?

The episode plot summaries are extremely complex, but there seems to be a lot of sex and violence.  Both the Boys and the Supes are morally suspect; not a "truth and justice" type among them.

I'm not willing to find out.  The origin story about the death of not one but two Girls of Their Dreams turned me off, and the  homophobic "closeted homosexual" slur sealed the deal.

If only they had stuck to the gay-subtext buddy-bonding boys in the first scene.

Aug 11, 2019

Dave Draper Doesn't Get the Girl

Dave Draper, "The Blond Bomber," was the go-to guy for movie bodybuilders during the 1960s, when most of the bulkers had moved to Italy to do sword-and-sandal flicks.

He never appeared in the gay-vague Physique Pictorial or similar physique magazines; in fact, some of his magazine covers are rather heterosexist, sandwiching him between two women, who are lusting after his biceps.  Inside, however, we see some homoerotic subtexts, as when fellow bodybuilder William Smith gazes at Dave's biceps.

After a minor role as a guy who takes his shirt off in Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed (1963), he capitalized on the sword-and-sandal crazy anyway, showing old Steve Reeve movies as Dave the Gladiator on local L.A. TV (1964-65).

In 1966 he landed a starring role in Lord Love a Duck, a comedy about a gay-vague Mephistophiles, Alan Musgrave (gay actor Roddy McDowall), who concocts wild schemes, including murder, to grant the wishes of his friend Barbara (Tuesday Weld).  Dave was one of her wishes, but not the man she married. Alan is supposed to find him intimidating, but instead approaches him with barely-restrained eye-bulging desire.

After more minor roles as guys who take their shirts off and scare people in Three on a Couch and Walk Don't Run, Dave starred in Don't Make Waves (1967), about New Yorker Carlo Cofield (Tony Curtis), who moves to Southern California to "Turn on!  Stay loose!  Make out!"  and romance a skydiving model named Malibu (Sharon Tate).  Dave played her boyfriend, Harry Holland, who also befriends Carlo.  There's a significant gay subtext, as in most of Tony Curtis's movies.

In 1967, Dave appeared as musclemen on episodes of The Monkees and The Beverly Hillbillies.  No significant gay subtexts, though it is interesting to watch the lesbian actress Nancy Kulp pretend that she is swooning over his physique.

Disillusioned at always been cast as bullies, objects of derision, and guys who don't get the girl, as if the bodybuilder was somehow inadequately masculine, Dave retired from acting to concentrate on bodybuilding and writing, and on managing World's Gym in Santa Cruz.  His personal website features many interesting articles on the history of bodybuilding, but doesn't mention gay people.
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