Feb 21, 2020

Leif Garrett

Even in the glam-rock 1970’s, when swishy postures were sexy and the androgynous became superstars, Leif was so absolutely girlish in every word and gesture, polarized so far into the feminine, that only the pronouns of “he” and “him” gave any indication that this person should be taken as male. And, in spite of a recurring role on Family as the “boyfriend” of aggressively masculine tomboy Buddy (Kristy McNichol), it was impossible to imagine Leif ever sleeping with a girl.  Even the teen magazines made quite a mystery of Leif’s romantic interests. One 1977 article, promising “99 Fax About Leif,” divulged only that he enjoyed playing Monopoly, he preferred being shirtless, and he had never told a girl “I love you.” Perhaps he had told a boy, as they lounged around the house shirtless, playing Monopoly?

Leif seemed conflicted about how epicene his public persona should be. At first he was adamantly, defiantly girlish, but when fans began complaining that parents wouldn’t allow his pinups because he looked too much like a girl, he adopted a new persona, sullen and inarticulate, and, he hoped, masculine. Instead he became androgynous, a Caravaggio youth, or the blond feminine Tadzio who leads Aschenbach to his doom in Death in Venice. The teen magazines did their part: an article in Tiger Beat announced that his first love was skateboarding “next to music and girls, of course,”  and another assured readers that “Leif is a He-Man,” detailing his enthusiasm for jogging, swimming, and horseback riding (still, nary a macho sport in the lot).

Leif released his first album, entitled Leif Garrett, in the fall of 1977, before he was old enough to drive a car; the cover shows him in a maroon shirt, again unbuttoned all the way down to his navel, revealing a smooth, firm, but undefined chest, shoulder-length blond hair, and a round androgynous face. The overt eroticism of the cover art belies the romantic innocence of the tracks, mostly covers of rock classics such as “Johnny B. Goode,” “California Girls,” and “Surfin’ USA.” Nevertheless, several tracks manage to avoid the “girl” filler, making Leif a possible successor to gay-friendly Shaun Cassidy

In Feel the Need, released during the summer of 1978, Leif rebels against both androgyny and feel-good country constraints; in a red blouse, wide-lapelled leather jacket, and grenadier-belt, with a full Farrah Faucett blow-dried hairdo, he could almost be a drag queen. Now the songs stray far from the heteronormative “Runaround Sue” to “I Was Made or Dancing” and “Without You,” which omit pronouns and girls’ names, suggesting that the pain of love could apply equally to boys and girls. Indeed, “Livin’ Without Your Love,” about walking through an empty house after his lover is gone, seems to favor the boy-reading. Leif sings:

Time is such a lonely friend, and the time on my hands is showin'
Nothin' is worse than finally knowin', and livin' without your love.

In real life, Leif apparently enjoys the company of women; he was married once, and was heartbroken when a long-term girlfriend died.  He has never made a public statement acknowledging his gay fans.

Feb 19, 2020

The Van Patten Brothers

Speaking of show biz dynasties, Dick Van Patten's three sons and his younger brother all began appearing on screen at the same time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, producing a quadruple-threat of sandy-haired hunks.

Jimmy Van Patten, born in 1956, played a surfer in the beefcake-heavy Lifeguard (1976), and had guest spots on Gunsmoke, Three for the Road with his brother Vince, Happy Days, and Eight is Enough with his Dad.

Here he is displaying his assets in Roller Boogie (1979), standing next to androgynous romantic lead, Jim Bray.

 Jimmy also starred in the buddy-bonding Lunch Wagon (1981) with his brother Nels, and the actioner High Powder (1982) with Dick, Tim, Nels, and Ralph Macchio. Today he is a writer, director, and producer.

Vince Van Patten, born in 1957, began acting as a kid in 1970, and starred in the warm family comedy Apple's Way (1974-75), Three for the Road (1975) with up-and-coming teen idol Leif Garrett, and Rock and Roll High School (1979).

He hung out in his underwear in the homoerotic horror movie Hell Night (1981), and posed for Playgirl before becoming a professional tennis player and a semi-pro poker player. More recently, he produced and starred in The Break (1995), about a washed-up tennis pro who coaches a rookie (Ben Jorgensen).

Eldest brother Nels (born in 1955) starred mostly in his brothers' vehicles, but he can also be seen in Summer School (1987) with Mark Harmon and Grotesque (1988) with Tab Hunter.  And he appears as Farrah Fawcett's tennis instructor in the reality series Chasing Farrah (2005).

The youngest of the group, Tim Van Patten (born in 1959) is Dick's younger brother, so technically the uncle to Jimmy, Vince, and Nels.  He starred as a high school basketball player named Salami in The White Shadow (1978-81) and the actioner High Powder (1982). More recently he's had roles on St. Elsewhere and True Blue, and he's directed episodes of Sex and the City, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire.

See also: Timothy Van Patten, Tony Danza, and Robert Wagner on a Cold Winter Night; Duke Van Patten

Feb 16, 2020

"Merlin": Is There Enough Beefcake to Make Up for the Not-Gay Couple?

I'm interested in the Grail legend, because of its origin in ancient Celtic mythology, but the rest of the Arthurian mythos leaves me flat.  It's mythology in mythology, symbolism that leads to deeper symbolism, but no one will say for sure what the symbolism is.  The Castle Perilous, the Sangreal, the Green Knight, the Dark Tower, the Lady in the Lake.  It gives you a headache.

So I went into Merlin (2008-2012, but newly arrived on Netflix) with low expectations.

In this rendition, Arthur (Bradley James, top photo) is a teenage Once and Future King (although the title makes no sense if he hasn't become king yet),a sort of Prince Harry, rabble-rousing under the disapproving eye of the snarling, villainous King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head).

Enter country boy and magical adept Merlin (Colin Morgon, much younger looking without the moustache).  He has a meet-cute with Arthur, after posturing for a bit about whose penis is bigger, the two settle into a gay-subtext friendship.

Just subtext, although fans are shipping like mad. The producers adamantly deny that any gay reading is intended.  No gay people existed in the Middle Ages, right?

So they both meet girls.  Merlin hangs out with Gwen (Angel Coulby), a "lowly servant girl" who of course will become Queen Guinevere, while Arthur favors Morgana (Katie McGrath), who will become Merlin's nemesis Morgana Le Fay).  I see a future of mixing and matching.

Magic is strictly forbidden in Camelot (in spite of the dragon downstairs who keeps telling Merlin he's the Chosen One).  The first three episodes all had plots borrowed from Bewitched: Merlin uses magic to save the day, then lets Arthur take the credit.

The Once-and-Future-King business will unravel slowly, as episode-of-the-week features "a mysterious stranger comes to town who is not what he seems."  But I read through the cast list to see if I recognized any characters from the mythos.

1. Sir Gwaine (Eoin Marken) is probably Sir Gawain, who will meet the Green Knight.

2. In the mythos, Sir Percival (Tom Hopper) finds the Holy Grail.  But these people don't have a religion, so what can he find?

As long as he takes off his shirt while finding it, who cares?

3.Sir Elyan (Tomiwa Edun, left), Gwen's brother, is a new character. 

4. Agravaine (Nathaniel Parker), who will reveal Lancelot's affair with Guinevere and bring down the kingdom.

Does it seem fair that a king gets dethroned just because his wife schtups some beach hunk?

5. Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera) only appears in six episodes.  I guess he hits it off with Guinevere very quickly, though I can't see why.  I'd take Arthur any day.

5. The evil Mordred is played by Alexander Vlahos (left), who usually plays gay characters.  I hope he's not going to be a stereotyped queer-feminine villain.

6. Fintan Mckeown plays King Odin. Apparently they'll be delving into Norse mythology; there's also a Freya in the cast list.  But no Thor.

7. Taliesin (Karl Johnson), the legendary Welsh bard.

8. Tindr (Paul McNeilly).  What, no Grindr?

9. Sir Pellinore (Sean Francis, left).  In the mythos, he is endlessly chasing the mysterious Questing Beast.

10. The Fisher King (Donald Sumpter), whose kingdom is barren because he is suffering from a mysterious groin injury.

Plus Druids, Queen Mab, Helios the Sun God, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, who first wrote down the Arthurian legends.  But no Beowulf.

Pudge and Bum, the Beefcake Buddies of Yale University

I saw the name Pudge Heffelfinger online the other day.

Ok, "pudge" means fat, and a "heffelfinger" is a sex act, so..surely this was a made-up name, from a humorous story or satire.

But no, there really is a Heffelfinger family, with a member named Pudge.

Obviously I have to write a post about him.  Someone with such a distinctive name must have some gay connection.

Pudge Heffelfinger (1867-1951) played baseball and football in high school in Minnesota, then went to Yale, where he became all-American three times in a row (I don't know what that means).

I couldn't find any shirtless pics, but he fills out this Yale sweater well.  He was 6'3 and 200 lbs, a giant in his era.

After graduation, he played for the Chicago and Allegheny Leagues, where, in 1892, he was paid $500 for a game against Pittsburgh,  becoming the first professional football player in history.

Later he coached the California Golden Bears, the Lehigh Brown and White, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, plus returning to Yale as a guest player and coach.  He appeared in exhibition games through his life -- the last time he played was in 1930, when he was 63).

Meanwhile, he published sales booklets for sports equipment and an annual book, Pudge Hefferfinger's Football Facts.  

He produced a sports quiz radio program, plus a spy show, Secret Agent K-7.

For a career, Pudge worked in the shoe business and real estate, and spent twenty years as the Hennepin County, Minnesota Commissioner.  In 1930 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

He died in Blessing, Texas in 1954, leaving a wife and four children.

But being married with children doesn't necessarily mean that Pudge was straight.  What about this intimate pose in a cabinet photo from his Yale days?

The moustached guy with feminine hand thing and his wrist an inch or so from Pudge's crotch is Bum McClung, aka Thomas Lee McClung (1870-1914), three years younger, a "frosh" who became a football star in his own right, and, like Pudge, returned to Yale  to coach throughout his life.

After graduation, Bum became the treasurer of Yale University, and in 1909 the United States Treasurer under President Taft.

When he died unexpectedly from an illness in 1914, an obituary called him "a remarkable athlete, a wonderful football player, a lovable classmate, a diligent student, a manly man–a type Yale men idealize for emulation."

You'd never make it to a high office in the U.S. today without being married, but Bum managed.

The late 19th century was the "era of the bachelor," when many men who liked women feared the loss of freedom that came with marriage, as well as the debilitating effect of the sex act itself.  Being unmarried doesn't necessarily mean that Bum was gay.


Maybe he and Pudge....

Here's another picture of Bum McClung with an unidentified friend.  He's doing that feminine hand thing again.


Parikkala Patsaspuisto: The Forest of Gay Dreams and Nightmares

When we traveled from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg in 1998, the train went north to Lahti and then east, entering Russia at Vainikkala.  But if you follow the border for another 75 miles, you will reach the small town of Parikkala, population 6,000, and a short distance outside, the Forest of Gay Nightmares, aka the Parikkala Sculpture Park (Patsaspuisto)

Veijo Rönkkönen (1944-2010) lived all his life in Parikkala.  He worked in the paper mill for 40 years. He was a recluse, with few friends; he never traveled.  In his spare time, he read, practiced yoga, and molded statues in concrete.

Nearly 500 of them.  Some women, animals, and abstract shapes, but mostly men. Mostly naked, or in underwear with explicit bulges.

Realistic, painted, with the haunting, blank expressions, carnivore-teeth (some with real dentures), and rubbery limbs.

Creepy like the underwater drowned-people sculptures in Grenada.

They are scattered randomly around his property, sitting, standing, working, singing, praying, meditating, chasing each other, hugging, doing acrobats, or marching, ghostly armies.

Some are half-hidden by the undergrowth, and jump out at you as if in surprise.  Others are covered in moss, relics of a decaying world.

Moment by moment, the figures become whimsical, mundane, homoerotic, surreal, and disturbing.

During his life, Rönkkönen adamantly refused to turn his sculpture garden into a tourist destination: it was private, a glimpse into his soul.  However, he was gracious to the visitors who stopped by, and as word got out, he won the Finland Prize from the Ministry of Education in 2007 and the Travel Journalists Guild Award in 2008.

Today the site receives 30,000 visitors per year.

It's always open.  Go at night, and then imagine trying to fall asleep in that cottage in the middle of the woods, surrounded by concrete images of your dreams, desires, terrors, and obsessions.

See also: Top Public Penises of Finland and The Gay Surrealism of Kalervo Palsa
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