Aug 22, 2020


I remember reading William Mayne’s Earthfasts (1966) on a summer day in the mid-1970s, sitting a lawnchair in the back yard, the air thick and heavy with the scent of lilacs from our backyard bush, while my brother kept rushing in and out and asking “is that all you’re going to do all summer?” But I couldn’t put the book down.

David (the blond) and Keith, two teenagers in the north of England, are investigating a tapping sound in an old tumulus, when suddenly a boy emerges, costumed as an 18th century redcoat, carrying a candle and a drum. He is Nellie Jack John, a drummer boy in King George’s army, and he entered the tumulus to look for buried treasure “an hour ago,” in 1742!  (Pictures are from the British miniseries

Eventually the sad, confused Nellie Jack John realizes that he has become lost in time, but he reasons that the tumulus might send him home. David, however, is obsessed with keeping the boy in the twentieth century: he grabs him, tries to hug him, tries to talk him into staying. But Nellie Jack John shakes him off, rushes back to the tumulus, and vanishes.

David is disconsolate. He spends hours staring at the candle Nellie Jack John left behind (which burns but doesn’t go out), and says “It’s as if the world has vanished, not the boy. . .nothing in the world is quite touching me."  

Meanwhile, weird things are happening: the earthfasts (standing stones) move by themselves; giants roam the countryside; ghostly soldiers attack passersby. Keith and David theorize that instead of returning to his own time, Nellie Jack “jammed” the time flow so that the past is intermingling with the present. They return to the tumulus to effect a rescue, but this time David vanishes!

Later Keith finds a way to enter the tumulus, find his two friends, and rescue them both from the jammed time stream. Back in 20th century England, Nellie Jack John finally understands that he can never go home. He becomes hysterical with fear and loss and tries to run away several times, but each time David grabs him and holds him tightly like a lover. Eventually he calms down and allows himself to be held. His new situation can’t be helped, after all, and the future might be rather fun. He agrees to go home with David.

There's a remarkably intimate scene near the end of the book (not in the miniseries) where David puts the Nellie Jack John into a hot bath, admires his naked body, and begins scrubbing his back.

I was mesmerized by David’s passion for Nellie Jack John. It begins as suddenly and mysteriously as love at first sight, a passion too profound for words, and compels David to risk everything for a boy he only just met. Nellie Jack John at first wants nothing to do with David, for he represents the loss of his entire world; but finally he acquiesces, allowing himself to be touched, held, and loved.  It was a remarkable evocation of a gay romance.

Spellbinder: Shirtless Boys in a Polish-Australian Fantasy

ISpellbinder (1995) which aired on the Disney Channel in 1996, one of the imported Australian series (others included Ocean Girl and Round the Twist) that would eventually be supplainted by the home-grown Even Stevens, Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Hannah Montana.  It's nondescript (and it really should be plural).
keep forgetting the name of

But the series was unique: Australian-Polish science fiction-fantasy series about alternative realities.  It starred Zybch Trofimiuk as Paul Reynolds, an Australian boy who somehow finds himself in a Medieval world.  Everyone is terrified of the powerful Spellbinders, who look and chew up the scenery like villains out of Power Rangers.

Paul meets a girl, Riana (Gosia Piatrowska) and together they find a way back to his world.  But now the Spellbinders know that the other world exists, and they want to invade it.

The plotline sounds heterosexist.  Except Paul and Riana never fall in love; indeed, when they return to Earth, he introduces her as a "cousin from Iceland."  And he has a best friend, Alex (Brian Rooney).  When Paul vanishes, Alex is distraught.  When he returns, Alex grabs him with an enormous hug, treating him precisely as a lover.

There is also a substantial amount of beefcake.

The sequel, Spellbinder 2: Land of the Dragon Lord (1996), aired on the Fox Family Channel in 1998. It  sends a girl named Kathy (Lauren Hewitt), into a Medieval East Asian world.  She doesn't fall in love with anyone; however, her older brother, Josh (Ryan Kwanten), tags along, fulfills the heterosexism quota by falling in love with a girl.

A lot of beefcake here, too.

Ryan Kwanten went on to star on the Australian soap Home and Away (1997-2002), then True Blood (2008-present) on American tv.  He has become one of the more muscular of the Hollywood hunks. 

The Jacoby Boys

There were three Jacoby boys in Hollywood during the Boomer generation, half-brothers (plus their two sisters).

1.  Scott (born in 1956) was the serious actor, specializing in weird, quirky movies, such as Bad Ronald (1974), in which a boy hides in the crawlspaces of his house after his mother dies and terrorizes the new family that moves in (including the hunky Ted Eccles), or The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), in which a handicapped boy befriends a girl (Jodie Foster) who lives all by herself after her father's death.

He played a teenager who discovers that his father is gay in That Certain Summer (1973).  Hal Holbrook played his father, and Martin Sheen his father's lover.

In spite of the quirkiness, there was plenty of room for shirtless and underwear shots.

His characters were always heterosexual, but the "quirky romance" still had queer resonances that appealed to gay teens.

Scott  still acts occasionally, and he owns a recording studio in Hollywood.

2. Billy born in 1969, was the hunk.  After a few horror films, he played girl-crazy teenagers who don't seem to own shirts in Just One of the Guys (1985) and Party Camp (1987).  His characters were heterosexual, too, but -- odd for 1980s teen movies -- not homophobic.

He also played Blanche's grandson on The Golden Girls.

Billy was probably best known for his role as wannabe thug Mikey, who wore a leather jacket and skin-tight jeans on the tv series Parker Lewis Can't Lose (1990-1993).

Today, as Billy Jayne, he is well-known in the business as a commercial director.  

3. The baby of the family, Bobby (born in 1973), was the wise-guy.  He started out in tear-jerker movies of the week, then moved into thrillers like Tremors (1990) and Night of the Demons 2 (1994).  He was also busy in television, starring on Knots Landing (1980-85) and, as a young adult, on MTV's Undressed (2000-2001).  Not a lot of beefcake shots, except on Undressed, which apparently existed solely to film attractive young people in their underwear.

Today, as Robert Jayne, he works as a professional gambler, specializing in black jack.

Aug 21, 2020

The Top 10 Hunks of "The Umbrella Academy," Season 2

At the end of Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, the superpowered siblings are unsuccessful at preventing the Apocalypse, so Five zaps them into the past to try again.  They appear in Dallas, in different years of the early 1960s. Each assumes that they are stranded alone, and starts a new life. Mostly with mega-hunks:

1. Allison marries civil rights activist Raymond (Yusuf Greenwood, left). Better not have kids, Allison -- you could become your own grandmother.

2. Luther becomes a bouncer for Jack Ruby (John Kapelos), the nightclub owner who killed Lee Harvey Oswald (who, by the way, didn't assassinate President Kennedy -- someone else was standing on the Grassy Knoll).

3. Vanya, who has lost her memory, becomes the nanny to farmer Carl Cooper (Stephen Bogaert), who has an autistic son, and starts a romance with his wife Sissy.  Wow, even before the Daughters of Bilitis.  I'm surprised Sissy even knows what a lesbian is.

Sissy Cooper looks a lot like Mary Cooper on Young Sheldon, who lives in Texas in 1989. Of course, no connection is intended -- Mary's maiden name is Tucker -- it's just a weird coincidence.

4. Klaus and tagalong ghost brother Ben start a religious cult that looks rather too psychedelic for the early 1960s.  This is before Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters started passing out free LSD, after all.  Their biggest disciple is Keechie (Dov Tiefenbach)

5. Klaus also looks up future boyfriend Dave (Calem MacDonald), still a teenager working in a hardware store, to try to convince him not to enlist in the army, so he won't be killed in action later in the decade.  But he's killed because of Klaus, so if the timeline changes and Klaus isn't there...

Diego ends up in a mental hospital, where he gets a girlfriend.

6. Five ends up 10 days before the Kennedy Assassination and, coincidentally, a new Apocalypse.  Trying to find everyone so he can prevent it, he hooks up with conspiracy theorist Elliott (Kevin Rankin)

7. Meanwhile The Three Swedes, led by Kris Holden-Ried (left), are sent by the time-travel Commission to kill the siblings so they won't prevent theApocalypse.

Well, they already got the 2019 Apocalypse.  Why do they want a 1963 Apocalypse, too?  Wouldn't one preclude the other?

I've only seen three episodes, so I don't know who these other hunks are playing:

8. Dewshane Williams as Miles

9. Jonathan Malen as Ned.

10. Ryan Taerk as "White Man #1"

Well, a job is a job.  And it got him a starring role in the upcoming Communist's Daughter.

See also: The Umbrella Academy

Aug 20, 2020

The Boys of Earthfasts

Speaking of Earthfasts, Keith, David, and Nellie Jack John in the 1994 television adaptation have all gone on to exciting careers.

Paul Nicholls (David) moved on to play a troubled teen in the longrunning soap East Enders, then had starring roles in a lot of tv series, including City Central, A Thing Called Love, Harley Street, The Fear, and CSI: UK. 

Also a lot of movies, including the critically acclaimed Clapham Junction (2007), about a day in the lives of a group of gay men.

Chris Downs (Keith) didn't do much acting after Earthfasts, but apparently he has become a model.  (Doesn't really look like him, but that's what the Internet Movie Database says.)

Bryan Dick (Nellie Jack John) worked in music for awhile and then returned to acting, with many guest roles in tv programs like Clocking Off, Blackpool, and Torchwood.  He has played several gay characters.

Greg Evigan: The Trucker and his Chimp

During the late 1970s, there was a trucker fad. The truck driver (or sometimes any driver, as in Dukes of Hazzardbecame the new cowboy, a loner who followed his own rules and thumbed his nose at the establishment.  People started throwing around terms like  "smokey" for cop and phrases like "10-4, Good Buddy" for "Goodbye."

Maybe the gas crisis made people long for the freedom of gas-guzzling semis.

On tv, the quintessential trucker-hero drama was BJ and the Bear (1979-81).  B.J. McKay, played by Greg Evigan, ran a freelance truck-driving business, got harassed by the smokies (especially Southern-fried Sheriff Lobo, who eventually spun off into his own series, starring gay ally Brian Kerwin).  As is usual in road tv, the plots involved BJ fixing the problems of the people he met along the way.  After resolving the crisis, he would head out into the sunset with his "best friend Bear," a chimpanzee named after the University of Alabama football coach.

I knew Greg Evigan from A Year at the Top (1977-78), a sitcom about two musicians who sell their soul to the devil in exchange for a year of fame.  It offered lots of bonding.

Unfortunately, BJ and the Bear didn't seem to.  I never watched the show, but the tv promos invariably showed B.J. picking up a semi-clad female supermodel who was hitchhiking or had car trouble en route to the Swedish Bikini Team tryouts.  As if that superfluous cheesecake wasn't sufficient, in the second season B.J. became the owner of a trucking company, and hired several female drivers with large breasts, including one named "Stacks."

But my friends and I often joked about the producers naming their character after a sexual act.

And Greg Evigan was nice to look at.  His semi-clad pictures soon flooded the teen magazines, even though he wasn't a teenager and he didn't sing.

A decade later, Evigan returned to television in My Two Dads (1987-1990), which wasn't about gay marriage. But he did play a gay doctor on Melrose Place.

Aug 19, 2020

"Britannia" Naked Celts and Romans Form Alliances and Have Hidden Agendas

I have seen the first three episodes of Britannia (2017-):

In 56 BC, Julius Caesar set out to invade Britain, but turned around and ran away when he found the island full of ghosts, demons, and monsters.  In 43 AD, Emperor Claudius tries again, sending the driven, "I don't believe in ghosts" career soldier Aulus Platius (David Morrissey) and 20,000 troops.

He doesn't find any monsters, but he finds the Druids, chthonic beings living amid towers of skulls,  who know how to bend minds and send you on journeys to the undeworld.  They kidnap soldier Antonius (Aaron Pierre), brainwash him, and send him back to camp with a message of doom.  The Romans execute him, but that makes no difference; they send him back with a new message, inviting Aulus on a tour of the underworld to see how futile the Roman cause is.

The Outcast (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), ejected from the Druids when he became possessed by the god Pwka (the origin of Shakespeare's Puck), believes that he is the only one who can stop the Roman invasion. We are not sure if he actually has the power, or if he's just crazy, but he provides comic relief in what is often a grim story.

The Romans must contend with two warring Celtic tribes.

More after the break

The Canti, led by King Pellenor (no connection to the Pellenor who chases the Questing Beast in the Arthurian Mythos}, whose children are struggling for control:
1. Kerra, who had a  Roman grandfather, and tries to negotiate with the Romans.
2. Phelan, married to
3. Amena, who is also married to
4. Gaulish prince Lindon (Stanley Weber) on the Druids' order.

The Regni, led by Queen Antedia, who hates the Cantii after an alliance went wrong.  The Druids ordered her to marry her son Gildas (Joe Armstrong) to Kerra, daughter of the Cantii king, but in their wedding bed Kerra castrated him.

There are several other subplots running around, involving Cait, a refugee from a destroyed Cantii village; Ania, a captured Regni who claims to be a goddess who needs impregnation from Phelan; and Brutus and Philo,, Roman deserters who the Outcast uses for his own ends.

It gets very soap-opera-like, difficult to distinguish between the characters and figure out who is on which side.  Does every Celtic woman have to have a name beginning with A?

Beefcake:  Constant. The Romans tend to have bodybuilder physiques.  The Celts are more scrawny and scraggly, with tattoos everywere.

Other Sights:  It's all forest all the time.

Gore:  Lots.  You get to see people being blinded, flayed alive, buried alive, burned, crucified.  Celts and Romans compete to see who can be the most bloody disgusting.

Gay Characters:  Nothing specified. The Outcast has Brutus and Philo hold hands, but that may be just a requirement for a spell.  The way the head druid grabs at his spirit-journey and mind-control subjects, touches their faces, and straddles them may suggest some homoertic intent, but I think it's just supposed to be creepy.

Heterosexism:  The Romans don't do a lot of male-female canoodling, but the Celts are grabbing on each other all the time.  They don't seem to have the concept of marital fidelity.

Is It Worth The Trip?  The  Druids are interesting, but there are so many characters with so little development that one has a hard time paying attention to the alliances, betrayals, hidden agendas, and miscellaneous schtupping.

Besides, I can't spell

Anyway: spoiler alert: the Romans win.  They control the island for the next 400 years.

Aug 18, 2020

"Monday at 11:01 AM": A Bloated "Twilight Zone" Episode with a Hot Bellhop

It's Monday at 11:01 am.  The obnoxious Michael (Charles Agron, below) channeling Jack Nicholson, and his blond bimbette "Can I have some more money" girlfriend Jenn drive into a small town in Australia.  They stop into an antique shop, where he insults the owner.

While Jenn is maxing out his Super-Extra-Special Platinum Plus card, he stops in at a bar, where he flirts a lot of local girls, including the ridiculously out of place Olivia, who is channeling Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.  

Then Michael and Jenn stop in at the local hotel, where he belittles the staff and bullies his way into the presidential suite.  The intensely beautiful bellhop (Sam Clark, left) warns them to stay inside at night" " are bears."

Funny, it was 11:01 am at the antique shop, and it's still 11:01 am at the hotel.  Plus, a  lot of the townsfolk seem familiar,but Michael is sure he's never been to Bodunk, Australia or Kansas before.

In the middle of the night, he is awakened to the sound of screams and a struggle in a room down the hall.  He rushes to the rescue, but the room is empty, and the staff all think he's crazy. And it's 11:01 am again.

And there are scary robed beings walking around outside.

I figured out the he's dead about 20 minutes ago.  No doubt killed in the skirmish he overhears, and doomed to endlessly repeat it.

But I keep watchng the story torn from about a dozen episodes of The Twilight Zone and then bloated out to two hours, because I can't stop looking at the intensely beautiful bellhop -- maybe he'll take his shirt off.-- and  I want to see this jerk  Michael get his comeuppance.

People in the town start to vanish.  "It's our off season,' the bartender explains.

There's a mysterious door in the restaurant that he's afraid to open.

He continues to be bullying and obnoxious, yelling at people, demanding answers.

The next night, when he runs into the screaming room, the Uma Thurman lookalike is there.

In the morning, Jenn has vanished.  "You checked in by yourself," the intensely beautiful bellhop tells him.

Michael demands more answers.  I've seen this plot a hundred times before. , but -- did I mention how intensely beautiful the bellhop is?

After more bloat, Michael finally finds Jenn in the Screaming Room, stabbed to death. "I killed her," Uma Lookalike tells him, "So we can be together."  Then she kills herself.

Michael is arrested by an obnoxious Southern sheriff.  who says things like "We don't cotton to city boys in these parts."  So now it's the American South, not Australia?

He grabs the sheriff's gun and shoots him, the other cop, a passerby, the intensely beautiful bellhop, and the hotel manager.  Then he stops for a drink at the bar and gets 15 minutes of explanations, in case you're too dumb to have figured it out in the first scene:
1. This is a limbo where you relive the last moments of your life.
2. Michael didn't kill Uma and Jenn,but he killed the five people in the hotel, so he's still a bad dude, but no one can die here.
3. The black robed figures plan to take Michael to hell, but then Jenn arrives to lead him into the light, where "your mother is waiting."  That sounds like the other place.

Charles Agron, the star and writer, has nothing on IMDB except a credit for writing, producing, and starring in the horror movie Dark House (2014).  So basically I've been watching an amateur rehash of a thousand Twilight Zone episodes, just to see Sam Clark in a bellhop costume.  And he didn't even take his shirt off.

It was worth it.

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