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 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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