Feb 1, 2020

Fall 1985: Watching Brothers in the Hollywood Hills

When I first moved to West Hollywood in 1985, every Wednesday night my friend Mark, who introduced me to Michael J. Fox,  drove me up to a house in the Hollywood Hills, where there were about twenty gay men, most involved in the film industry, drinking wine, eating fancy hors d'oeuvres, and waiting until 10:00.

To watch tv.

What was all the fuss about?

Brothers (1984-89), a sitcom on the premium cable network Showtime, about three grown-up brothers who run a bar.

1. Macho ex-football player Joe (Robert Walden, left, formerly the roving reporter on Lou Grant).

2. Macho construction worker Lou (Brandon Maggart, left).

3. Cliff (Paul Regina, right), who, in the first episode, dumps his fiance on his wedding day and tells his brothers that he is...gay!

A gay character on tv!

In 1984, gay characters appeared on network tv very rarely, usually in "old high school buddy comes out" episodes of sitcoms. There were no gay characters in starring roles.  There were no tv series about gay people.

Brothers was revolutionary.

Cliff knows nothing about the gay world, so he and his brothers work together to explore cruising, dating and romance, gay organizations, gay rights, AIDS, and homophobia of various types.  Their tour guide is Donald (Philip Charles Mackenzie), a stereotypic swishy queen who is loud and proud.

Both are actually shown dating men, getting involved in relationships, and even kissing guest stars like Charles Van Eman, Jay Louden, Matthias Hues, and John Furey (right, the one with the basket).

Other gay characters in the 1980s were portrayed as completely sexless, announcing that they are gay but never doing anything about it.  Revolutionary again!

As the show progressed, episodes increasingly focused on non-gay topics, like machinations at the bar, Joe's dating and eventual marriage, or Lou's wife and kids, including a seminary student (John Putch) and a teenage prodigy (Yeardley Smith, later the voice of Lisa on The Simpsons).  

In the fall of 1986, I enrolled in a Wednesday night class at USC, and couldn't go up to the Hollywood Hills anymore. Brothers aired until 1989.

You can watch episodes on youtube, but I don't think I will.  I prefer to keep it part of my memories of those first months in West Hollywood, when everything was exciting and fresh and new.

Jan 31, 2020

AJ and the Queen: 12 Course Meal Doesn't Digest Well

Back in the days when all small-town gay bars were drag bars, I went to a lot of drag shows.  I've seen Victor, Victoria, To Wong Foo, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Pose.  But I was unprepared for the world of AJ and the Queen.

RuPaul plays Robert Lee, aka Ruby Red, a drag queen so popular that she is showered with money at every performance, and has managed to save $100,000 to fulfill her lifelong dream of opening her own club (assuming a 20-year career, that's $96 per week, barely enough to keep a girl in eye liner).   But first she will take a cross-country drag tour of Trump Country, culminating in the Miss Drag America contest in Dallas.

But before he can leave (pronouns are interchangeable), Robert makes the mistake of depositing the entire $100,000 into a joint account shared by his new boyfriend Damien (Josh Segarra), who...well, you know.  He turns out to be a con artist who preys only on drag queens, assisted by his cartoon villain sidekick, Lady Danger.  When Robert calls the police on them, they start chasing him across the country to get revenge, but Damien developed real feelings for Robert, and wants to help or reconcile or something.

Feeling bloated yet?  It gets worse:  Tagging along is the adorable street-smart scamp AJ (Izzy G), homeless since her addict mother abandoned her, and trying to get to her grandfather's ranch in Texas (is that like the farm upstate where your parents send your aging pets?).  But AJ's mom is all rehabilitated and looking for her.

Got that?  Each episode consists of:
1. Ruby fairy-godmothering locals in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, east Texas, and other godforsaken places, none of whom expresses the slightest homophobia or transphobia.  AJ is the only homophobe in the entire cast, and she comes around quickly.

2. Ruby reuniting with friends in the drag world whom she  "helped when no one else would" (lots of these) and snarking at enemies who are jealous of her success.  Then she performs, to ecstatic adulation.

 3. AJ conning people or stealing something.

4. Damien and Lady Danger conniving.

5. Ruby's roommate back home, Leon, aka Cocoa Butter (Michael-Leon Worley), whom she "helped when no one else would," making jokes about being blind and trying to find AJ's mother or track down Damien, with the help of her police-officer boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Wilkas), one of several gay cops. Ok, all the cops in the series are gay.

6. AJ and Robert having long heart-to-heart discussions about self-actualization or "painful memories" or something that I skipped over.

In Dallas, the various plotlines come together in about the way you'd expect.  The only surprise is: Cocoa Butter performs in Ruby's place, as she is off handling a family emergency.

What I came away with:
1. Homophobia does not exist, anywhere, not even in the deepest of the deepest South.  Even the gun-toting redneck who Ruby meets in an east Texas trailer park is fine with gay men. He doesn't want his son to wear a dress, but Ruby turns him around.

Cocoa Butter tells us that she went blind when she finally decided to tell her "very Christian father" that she was a drag queen. He was fine with it,but she had a stroke.

2. All gay men are super-attracted to drag queens.  For instance, Officer Patrick just hooks up with Jordan (Constantine Rousouli, top photo),but with Cocoa Butter, it's "real."

3. Ruby knows everybody and helps everybody, and fixes everything but global warming (maybe next season).  I know this is RuPaul's vanity project,but come on, putting on a dress doesn't make you the Second Coming.

4. Constantine's bare butt is worth the price of admission.

5. I'm over-stuffed, like I ate too much and can't digest it all.  I'm glad I fast-forwarded past the heart-to-hearts, or I would explode.

Jan 29, 2020

"Looped":: Retro-Homophobia in Middle School

And you thought this was a golden age of gay representation in children's cartoons, with gay characters (both kid and adult), open same-sex crushes, same-sex pairs dancing at parties, and minimal "girl walking in slow motion across the schoolyard" heterosexual brainwashing.

Well, think again.

Looped, on Amazon Prime, is a Canadian cartoon series about two middle-school boys trapped in a time loop, reliving the same Monday over and over.  No explanation of how they got in the time loop, no attempt to escape, even though their parents are absent (endlessly out of town), they will neve experience Christmas, summertime, or puberty, and they have to take the same classes ove and over.  For over four years!

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Instead of going crazy, the mischievous Luc (Lyon Smith) and the responsible Theo (Kevin Duhaney) make the best of their situation by thinking of new ways to have fun, get even with their enemies, and impress The Girl.

That's right, Theo and Luc are both interested in girls. 

Strike 1.

No characters identified as gay, bi, trans, nonbinary, ace, or anything other than cisgender heterosexual.

Strike 2.

In the first episode, the boys' arch-nemesis controls their bodies and forces them to kiss.  They struggle desperately, writhing in terror, before the kiss happens.

Off camera.  Apparently the animator thought that seeing boys kiss would corrupt the kids in the audience.

Strike 3

We don't see it, but the kids in the schoolyard do, and react with blatant disgust.  Boys kissing!  Gross!

Strike 4.  I'm outta here.

Jan 27, 2020

The Top 11 Hunks of "Sabrina," Season 3

I have seen the first episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Season 3.  It's about hot guys with their shirts off and lame literary references.

As you recall, we ended last season with Satan deposed and trapped in the body of Sabrina's boyfriend:

1. Nicholas (Gavin Leatherwood).

Plus Lilith (Miss Wardwell) has taken over as Queen of Hell, and the Church of Satan is in disarray (who do you pray to when your god is deposed?).

Sabrina wants to go to hell to rescue Nicholas, so she asks Dorian Gray (yes, that Dorian Gray) for a portal.  He'll help, but only if she brings back the Fleur du Mal, which he needs to cure his acne (or he could just buy some Clearasil at the CVS).  Um...you know that Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal is not really about flowers, right?

For some reason Sabrina drags her three friends, Roz, Theo, and Harvey, away from their performance of "My Sharona" to tag along, I guess so they'll have something to do this episode.

2. The preparation requires Ross Lynch to take his shirt AND  pants off, so I'm not complaining.

The portal opens with the famous "Abandon hope, all who enter here" line from Dante's Inferno, and voila, Sabrina and company are on a desolate beach, where they encounter:

3. The mysterious Caliban (Sam Corlett), a male-model type with his half-blown-off shirt revealing an amazing hard, pale physique.

If all the residents of Hell look like that, count me in.

After that, it's all The Wizard of Oz.  Sabrina and Company follow the Blood Road to:

The Fleur du Mal, which is acquired very easily.  They just have to be careful to not get pricked by the thorns, and no one thought to bring gloves.

A murderous Tin Man who turns out to be Harvey's dead brother.  "That was a trick -- it wasn't really Tommy!" Harvey's friends assure him.

Crows that eat the scarecrows, one of whom is Theo's dead Uncle Jesse.  But this time it's not a trick -- that's the real Uncle Jesse.  Does that make sense?

A schoolhouse where Roz's dead grandmother tortures her.  Real or a trick, I don't know.

Meanwhile Lilith/The Wicked Witch of the West sits on her throne, with a semi-nude Nicholas/Satan kneeling at her feet like a flying monkey (why semi-nude?  Presumably she's having kinky sex with him/them).

Inside his mind, Nicholas and:

4. Lucifer (Luke Cook) are locked in a semi-nude wrestling match (why semi-nude?  Presumably they're having kinky sex with each other).

Hell is apparently a kingdom like any other, and Lilith usurping the throne is causing dissent.  She summons Sabrina, the rightful heir, to legitimate her authority (but she didn't know that Sabrina was coming..oh, well).  Sabrina decides to become Queen herself, and make Lilith her regent.  They all return to Earth, and tie Nicholas up in the mausoleum.

Tied up on a cold, hard mausoleum floor is better than being Lilith's flying monkey?  Sure, he had to do kinky sex stuff with a middle-aged lady demon, but at least it was warm, and he could move around.


5. Cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), who is now apparently straight, and girlfriend Prudence are searching for the deposed Father Blackwood.  They use stereotyped voodoo hoodoo magic to locate him in Loch Ness, Scotland (come on, that's idiotic.  But the ceremony requires Chance to be semi-nude, so I'm not complaining.)

My verdict: Come for the ridiculously campy plotline, stay for the beefcake.   Let's see who'll be taking his shirt off in future episodes:

6. Jonathan Whitesell (sigh) as Robin Goodfellow.  If they can have a Caliban, why not a Puck?

7. Will Svenson as Pan.  You have Shakespeare, why not Greek gods?

8. Marcello Ranieri as Sade.  As in the Marquis de Sade, author of the 120 Days of Sodom.  I've read it; it's not as salacious as you might think.  Most of the "passions" involve blasphemy or murder.

9. Daniel Nemes as Pontius Pilate.  Now we're digging into the New Testament.  There are also credits for Judas (a cute African-American teenager with no shirtless pics on his instagram),  Barrabas, and:

10. King Herod, played by Ian Rozylo, whose day job is a mixed martial arts instructor at a dojo in Vancouver.

11. Mike Antonakos as Vlad.  Who knew that Dracula had a chest?

By the way, I had a date/hookup/bar grope/something with Nate Richert, the original Harvey.  See Nate Richert's Kielbasa.

Jan 26, 2020

"VIctor and Valentino": Gay Half-Brothers Fight Mayan Monsters

14% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. 48 million people speak Spanish as their first language.  So we need lots more animated tv shows based on Latin American folklore.  Legend Quest: Masters of Myth stars paranormal investigators from Mexico and Spain, but they travel all around the world  Victor and Valentino stays firmly entrenched in Mesoamerica, with forays into Aztec and Mayan mythology (including Xbalanque and Hunapu, the hero twins of the Popul Vuh).

Vic and Val are preteen half-brothers living in the town of Monte Macabre, where half the population has mystical powers and ancient gods and monsters are lurking everywhere.   Vic is young, dumb, fiery, and mischievous, the one who  says "Let's borrow Abuela's magic gourd to summon a spirit to do our chores!" while Val, older, portly, intellectual, complains "But we promised not to!"

Other than the ubiquitous paranormal, most plotlines are pedestrian and rather moralistic:  some minor bit of mischief, disobedience, or shortcut-taking unleashes a monster.  There is no plot arc from episode to episode, no building toward a final confrontation with ultimate evil.  Instead, the boys learn a series of Valuable Lessons.

The supporting characters are somewhat more interesting.

1. Grandma Chata, who may be a supernatural being, and knows more than she is telling.
2. The boys' nemesis, Charlene, who has mystical powers, and her big, lumbering but soft-hearted sidekick Pineapple.
3.  Guillermo, an autistic boy who refers to himself in the third person and can see things other people can't.
4. Dreamy Andres, a teenager who Vic and Val are in love with.
5. Xochi, the boys' babysitter, who is canonically lesbian.

But the real reason I keep watching: Vic and Val are always competing over cute boys.  

1. Val tries to win a soccer game by inviting Juan, the ghost of a famous soccer player, to possess him.

2. The boys are desperate to go to Andres' pool party, but Grandma's fifth quinceaƱera (75th birthday) is scheduled at the same time, so they use a magic flute to travel between the two parties.

3. The boys find a hidden skate park occupied by adult-less Lord of the Flies children.  Jauvier, their leader, bonds with Vic but leaves Val behind.

4. Val tries to impress Baker, the snooty head of the photography club, by getting a photo of the legendary chupacabra.

Plus neither Val, Victor, or any of the boys they like express any heterosexual interest, except in two episodes:

1. Val falls for a girl who turns out to be a malazihua, an evil succubus who seduces and eats her victims, so that hardly counts.

2. Victor disparages the Dia de Amor, until Charlene tricks him into going on a date with her. Then he admits that dating might not be so bad -- it's like hanging out with a friend.

Rather a gay way of framing boy-girl dates, isn't it?

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