Sep 19, 2020

Les on the Ledge

May 1979: the end of my first year at Augustana College.  I'm working on the college radio station, WVIK, broadcasting "The International Pop Hour" on Monday nights: Lorenzo Santamaria (Spanish), Claude Francois (French), Roy Black (German, left), Heintje (Dutch), whatever I can find.

Jim, the station manager, is praising a new tv show: WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82), a hip, urban workplace comedy about the misadventures of the new dj at a struggling radio station.

So when my program ends for the summer, I watch a few episodes.  

It's pleasant enough, but not very interesting: no beefcake, no bonding, no subtexts, just Dr. Johnny Fever head-butting with the conservative radio station owner.

Then comes a rerun of "Les on the Ledge," actually the third episode of the series, originally broadcast last October.

Mousy reporter Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) is banned from interviewing athletes in locker rooms, because they think he's gay.  

When Les finds out, he is so traumatized that he rushes out onto a window ledge, intending to jump.  He is not actually gay, but the rumor is so humiliating that he wants to die.   

The reaction of his coworkers is mixed. 

Station manager Andy Travis freaks out just hearing the word "gay."

Jennifer Marlowe, the receptionist, says "So what if Les is gay?  His sex life is nobody's business."  

Advertising manager Herb Tarlek ruminates, and finally says "It's ok if you're gay."  

However, they all agree that being "falsely accused" of being gay is the worst thing in the world, and they understand why Les is on the ledge.

But in 1979 using the word "gay" on the air at all, in any context, is a triumph.  Suddenly I am a big fan of WKRP in Cincinnati.

The Devil All the Time: 20 Terrible Things and a Glimmer of Homoerotic Hope

The Devil All the Time: "
Sinister figures converge on a young man in a rundown postwar town as he tries to save the ones he loves."

Sinister sounds paranormal -- devil, maybe demon possession?  And "the ones he loves," not "his wife an dkids" or "the girl of his dreams."  Maybe some buddy-bonding.

Scene 1: Establishing shot of the rusty, decrepit town of Knckenmstiff.  Really?  It's 1957, but everybody dresses and acts like it's the 1930s -- kerosine lamps are more common than electric lights, and no one has heard of television.  

Haunted, hollow-eyed Willard (Bill Skarsgard) has a cross in the woods, where he fights "the devil all the time."  Today he brings his 9-year old son Arvin along.  Uh-oh, I feel the sacrifice of Isaac coming up.

Flashback to another cross, in the Solomon Islands during World War II, where a young Willard comes across an American soldier skinned and bloody but still alive.  He puts him out of his misery, and is haunted by the experience forever. 

Scene 2:
Down in the diner, waitress Sandy flirts with a photographer named Carl (Jason Clarke, left).  The narrator tells us that in the future, they will be known as the Bait and the Shooter, and they will call their victims "models."

Flashback to the same diner in 1947. Willard stops in Knockturn Alley on his way home from the War.  He sees  the waitress bring a sandwich to a homeless guy, and flirts with her. 

Scene 3: Young Willard arrives at home.  His Mom hugs him and then criticizes him for drinking (he just now got back from the War!)  

He announces that he's in love with the waitress.  Too bad he never learned her name. (That didn't bother Charlie in Always Sunny in Philadelphia).  Mom suggests a girl from church instead, but Willard can't go to church-- too many crosses!

Scene 4: 
But there he is, in the rural Pentecostal Church, getting fixed up.  Mom promised God that if He brought Willard home safe, she would marry him to Helen, who lost her family in a fire.  Geez, everybody has a tragic story!

Today there are special guest preachers: Roy (Harry Melling) and Theodore (in a wheelchair because he drank antifreeze to prove his faith. The Bible says that poison won't hurt God's people).  They perform "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" (an old Nazarene standby!).  

Then Roy demonstrates that he is filled with the Holy Ghost because he is no longer afraid of spiders by -- you know.   I love this movie!

Scene 5: On the way home, Mom asks why Willard didn't pay any attention to that nice girl (If I had a nickel for every time I had that after-church conversation!)  The Narrator tells us that Helen married Preacher Roy instead,

Cut to Willard going back to the diner in KnockMyBalls and flirting with the waitress again -- this time he gets her name, Charlotte.  A year or two later, they are married, with baby Arbuckle, looking to move into the house from Scene 1.  Willard writes a postcard to his Mom about how everything is going great.

Scene 6: Mom and family reading the postcard.  A horn honks; Helen who is apparently living with them, hands over her baby, and goes out to meet Preacher Roy and two others. The Narrator tells us that her body will be found buried in the woods.

Cut to a reprise of Scene 1, where Willard advises his son Artwad to pray about the bullies pestering him (of course there are bullies -- the devil all the time).  They bring the dog Jack along to pray with them (10 to 1 that dog doesn't make it out alive.)

Two hillbillies with guns approach.  I didn't get their names, but I hope they are Tommy (Drew Starkey, left) and Tater (Douglas Hodge).  A boy named Tater! They discuss raping the father and son, but decide against it.  (no Deliverance?)  

Scene 7: Armbruster lying on the couch reading comic books while Mom sings and makes a cake (aww, nuclear family bliss) . 

Dad drives him to a house with several men outside, and beats up one and suffocates him in the dirt. The Narrator tells us that Aardvark would often look back on that day as the best he ever spent with his father. The devil all the time.  I love this movie.

But I'm not going to watch anymore.  Sure, the over-the-top brutality is ludicrous -- "what other terrible things can we pile onto this kid?"  -- but I don't watch deathbeds, rapes, or the shooting of dogs.  I'll just go on wikipedia and list the terrible things that happen to the sweaty folk of KnockedUp.  We've already had the crucifixion, the fire that killed Helen's family, the antifreeze, the spiders, the bullies who pester Artwangle, and the bullies that Willard beats up. 

7. Mom Charlotte tries to kill herself because she is dying of cancer.

8. Willard crucifies the dog as a sacrifice so God will let Charlotte live.

9. It doesn't work.  Charlotte dies.  

10. Willard kills himself.

11. Meanwhile, Preacher Roy kills Helen to demonstrate that he can raise the dead. It doesn't work.

12. He hooks up with Bait and the Shooter from Scene 2, now a backwoods Bonnie and Clyde who kill men and then have sex with them. (Jeffrey Dahmer, anyone?)  Preacher Roy is their next victim.

AnkleBone goes to live iwth his grandma, Uncle Fester, and Helen and Preacher Roy's daughter Leonora in Coal Country, West Virginia, which is just as rundown and archaic as KnockemSockemRobots. About eight years pass, and it's the Swinging Sixties, but everybody still dresses and acts like it's the 1930s, and no one has heard of the Beatles.

13. The teenage Leonora gets bullied.

14. Which ArmandHammer (grown up into Tom Holland) doesn't cotton to, so he beats up the bullies. 

15. Then poor Leonora is raped by Preacher Preston (Robert Pattinson).

16. And gets pregnant.  When Preacher Preston refuses to acknowledge that he is the father, Leonora kills herself. 

17. ArtGarfunkle kills Preacher Preston.

18. He decides to leave town, and...wouldn't you know it...hitches a ride with the Bait and the Shooter.  But he guesses that they plan to kill him and have sex with his body, so he shoots them.

19. AlvinandtheChipmunks goes back to Knockstuffup to tell Sheriff Lee (Sebastian Stan) about the serial killing, but wouldn't you know it, the Sheriff is the Bait's brother, and wants to kill Arvid and frame him.

20. Alkali shoots the Sheriff (but he did not shoot the Deputy).

Whew.  The Devil all the time.

But the last scene offers some hope, and a moment of homoromantic buddy-bonding.  On the way out of town, Arvid hitches a ride with a friendly hippie (Teddy Cole) -- not haunted, not a snake handler, not a serial killer -- and the two drive off toward the groovy psychedelic paradise, Cincinnati.  It is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius....

I still love this movie.

Sep 18, 2020

"Family Business": Gay Jewish Romance in Paris. Or Not. You Decide.

 I'm walking through the living room.  On the tv screen, two guys are in bed together, one in his underwear.  The partner says: "It would have been awkward to tell them we were together."

"What's this?" I ask Bob.  "Gay romance?"

"I don't know," he says, eyes on cell phone. "I'm not watching.  It's just on."

"How do you not watch something deliberately on Netflix?"

In the midst of texting furiously, he says: "Like I watched a tenth of an episode three years ago, so it showed up on that annoying 'continue watching' list....So I turned on an episode.

"Look up."

But the scene with the gay lovers discussing "telling them we're together" is gone.

The series is Family Business, a French comedy-drama about the black-sheep son of a Jewish butcher in Paris who converts the "family business" into a marijuana coffee house.  The one on the right must be the son, Joseph (Jonathan Cohen), and the other is either Ali (Ali Marhyar) or Olivier (Olivier Rosemberg).  

An internet search yields no gay references for any of them, except for Jonathan Cohen telling someone that "I'm not gay at all."  Searching on Family Business "gay" yields: "A New York City grad student moonlighting as a dominatrix enlists her gay BFF from high school," which is another tv series altogether.  

So we have no choice but to rewind and watch the episode. 

Scene 1: The guys, Olivier and Jonathan, knock on Clementine's door, and are surprised to find that she is rich enough to have servants.  She disgustingly files her feet while they hold hands and ask about "what you said last night."  They want her help in opening the cannabis shop.  She agrees to invest 20,000 Euros.  They press their heads together as if they are about to kiss!

While Olivier is in the bathroom, Clementine tells Jonathan that in exchange for her help, she wants to sleep with his boyfriend.  He agrees to arrange it.  Olivier returns, but Jonathan is too nervous to tell him about the deal.

Scene 2: Jonathan goes to work at the butcher shop.  His Dad is angry about "last night," but Jonathan apologizes.  Dad has sold the shop to Waldman., so no cannabis coffee house.  

Scene 3:
Jonathan visits Olivier at the clothing store where he works.  Uncle Youssef (Oussame Kheddam, left) has just gotten out of prison, and is shopping for a new suit.  Jonathan is a little afraid of him.

Another main character, Ali (Ali Marhyar) is there with his son, JP.  The ex-wife and her new boyfriend, who also happens to be Ali's boss, arrive to pick up the kid.  Boss complains that Ali is not doing airport pickups anymore.  This must be some secondary plot stuff.

Scene 4:  Uncle Youssef pays for the suit and invites the guys to a getting-out-of-prison celebration tonight: "There will be pussy!"

"Um...we' in relationships," Jonathan says. " girls. We're in love."

Apparently Uncle Youssef doesn't know that they're a couple.

They start to come out by asking if Uncle Youssef had sex in prison.  He's disgusted by the implication, and walks out.  Maybe don't tell him.

Scene 5:
The guys are having dinner at the favorite restaurant of Enrico Macias, a famous Algerian  Jewish singer (playing himself).  If they can get him to agree to the weed shop, Dad will change his mind. But they end up with a bill of 229 Euros, and Enrico doesn't show up.  I'm not sure what this scene is for.

Scene 6:  The next day.  While Olivier orders clothes for his business, Jonathan loses at video poker. A women comes in to his apartment.  He explains how the toilet works and asks for six months' rent in advance.  Oh, she's subletting his place.

Scene 7: Another woman, who I think is Jonathan's sister Aure, is talking to her Grandmother.  She is moving to Japan tomorrow.  She already met someone there.  Grandma is thrilled; "I'm Ashkenazi (Jewish), but I like sausages.  Aure admits that she doesn't like sausages.  Wait -- two gay siblings in the family?  Grandma is fine with it: "Cherries are good, too."

Scene 8: Jonathan is showing off his new suit, while a woman sets the table.  "I saw your brother at the shop today."  She hates him -- "He's dead to me!"  He saw Uncle Youssef earlier -- so she's his aunt?

Whoops, a passioante kiss.  Not his aunt!    Maybe it's Ali's sister.  And Jonathan is straight!  Not possible!  Maybe bi, and having an affair with Olivier?  I'm totally confused!

Scene 9:
Jonathan and Olivier at the restaurant, trying to meet Enrico again. They convince him to have dinner with them.  Olivier keeps his arm around Jonathan through the whole evening.  They're  a gay couple!  Meanwhile Aida the Girlfriend is entertaining her parents, and texting "Where are you?"

Scene 10: Jonathan finally gets home, apologizes for being late, sits down at the dinner table, and starts farting.  Aida is embarrassed.  

Scene 11: Later, in bed, Jonathan explains to Olivier that he farted in front of her parents.  "It would have been complicated to tell them we were together after that."  They hold hands.

We? Jonathan and Aida?  But surely the parents already knew that.  Jonathan and Olivier?  Why would Aida's parents need to know?

Olivier: "She loves you.  She'll get over it."

Weird think to say about your boyfriend's girlfriend!  I'm totally confused.

Scene 12: Enrico comes into the shop to convince Dad not to sell it.  They get high.  The end.

What did I just watch?  A gay couple, a guy with a boyfriend and a girlfriend, or what?

I fast-forwarded through the rest of Season 1.  There's a scene where Olivier awkwardly tries to have sex with Clementine -- he's obviously not into girls.  Olivier and Jonathan are together in every episode.  They hug and hold hands, but no kissing, and they are  never in bed again.  Jonathan is in a couple of scenes with Aida, and they hug once, but they never kiss again, either.

Does that help?

Sep 17, 2020

Cubby: Autistic Gay Man Discovers the Joy of Love, Family, Leather, and the Diverse Musicality of New York

 I have a very low tolerance for treacly, saccharine-laced, smarmy movies involving kids, dogs, new attitudes, the magic of everyday life, hugging, feeling, and dancing in the streets.  I want intriguing premises, surprising plot twists, and hot guys.  So I'm not going to watch Cubby (2019) -- going through the trailer with the sound off was smarmy enough.  But it is gay-themed, and for once it's not about a svelte, sophisticated, fey Manhattan lawyer and his fey clubbing friends.

The central character, Mark (Mark Blane), who I assume is also Cubby, is not svelte, not sophisticated, not fey, and not a lawyer.  He's sort of chunky, masculine-coded, and autistic.  

When he dccides to move out on his own,  his mom and friend or caseworker Charles (Peter Kim, left) object.  He doesn't have the social skills.  And to move across the country, to New York! 

But Mark/Cubby goes anyway.  He gets a job as a nanny to a six-year old boy (whose name I can't find on the imdb).  They bond over coloring books, glitter, and getting their faces dirty.

The trailer also shows arguments/hugging with the boy's mother, who apparently helps Mark/Cubby adjust to living on his own.

Meanwhile Mark/Cubby stalks a mysterious masculine figure he calls The Leatherman (Christian Patrick), who may be a hallucination.  Although they do have a conversation in a bar.

He also starts dating Russell (Rodney Richardson, probably the top photo).

There are a lot of hugging, dancing in the streets, and  "magic of everyday life" scenes.  Not my cup of tea, but at least it breaks stereotypes.

Mark Blane, the writer, director, producer, and star, has produced several gay-themed documentaries, such as The Death and Life of Marsha P. Jones and Stonewall: The Making of a Monument.  Also the tv series Hell in the Heartland: What Happened to Ashley and Lauria?  Um...let me guess.  Homophobic hate crime?

Not a lot of acting credits.  Just Cubby, two shorts, and a tv series, Little Voices, "A love letter to the diverse musicality of New York.  It explores the universal journey of finding your authentic voice in your early 20s."  

Did someone really think it was a good idea to post that?  The pretentiousness makes my eyes hurt.

Sep 15, 2020

Maximillian Acevedo: From Tragic Childhood to Bodybuilder Bae


Maximilian Acevedo,  who plays the killer babysitter's boyfriend in the schlockfest Baby Sitter Killer Queen, seems to think that his character is nice.  He posts this photo of Jimmy insulting Cole with the caption: "Don't worry, Bro.  Jimmy will take care of everything."

Or maybe Jimmy turned out to be a good guy while I was fast forwarding.

Max has an instagram page with 18,000 followers, where he posts a lot of pictures with his shirt off and gets comments like "Shit!" and falling-in-love emojis.

And a youtube channel comprised mostly of workout videos.  "A Day in the Life" is sort of interesting.  He spends the whole day running and working out amid iconic L.A. landmarks.

According to his biography on IMDB, Max grew up in poverty in Las Vegas. At age 14, he decided to overcome adversity by "turning his body into a work of art."   

An interview on the podcast "Belly of the Beast" goes into more detail about his traumatic and scary childhood:

Looking at his dad through the glass window when he visited him in jail.

Hit, insulted, locked in a room, and "touched" by his mom's boyfriends.

Bullied in school due to his preference for bright colors and rainbows.

Being homeless; wondering why he was even alive.  

Like many bullied and abused kids, Max found salvation at the gym, and then on the stage.

He moved to L.A. in 2019, did some fitness promos and modeling, and then got an agent and started going on auditions for films and tv.

Maximilian has been on screen five times, which is quite a lot for someone who has had an agent for only about a year, during a pandemic where most productions were shut down.

1. The short "Super Hero Last Day of School,"  in which Batman, Spiderman, Deadpool, and others are high school students.  He plays the shirtless superhero Winter Soldier.

2. The tv pilot I Am, about a high school student's "thirst for power."

3. Lawn Ranger, an incompetent supervillain "here to cut your grass and kick your ass," on the Nickleodeon superhero spoof Henry Danger.

4. Also on Henry Danger, Mr. Nice Guy, a smiley-face-masked vigilante who punishes people for being rude.

5. The schlockfest Baby Sitter thing

According to his biography, Max also done a "true crime" show for the Oxygen Network, and he plays himself on the animated Thumpy on Cruise TV, but I can find no other references to these projects. Cruise TV was a British channel advertising holiday cruises.

Max doesn't mention dating anyone in any of his extensive biographies or interviews, or in the extensive comments on his instagram page, except for the caption to a photo of him in Santa Monica: "Bae Watch" (a bae is a romantic partner of any gender).  

Plus there's that rainbows and bright colors thing.

So I assume that he's gay.

Sep 14, 2020

Babysitter Killer Queen: No Queens, Just Hetero Porn and Devil Worship


Since "queen" is slang for "feminine gay man." I assumed that the Netflix movie Babysitter Killer Queen would be about a gay teenager who babysits and kills. The boy in the trailer certainly is feminine! So I didn't even bother to research it. Maybe I should have.

Prologue: A bloody boy leaves a house and tells his astonished parents, "I don't need a babysitter anymore."  Flashcard: Two years later.  Weird way to start a movie.

Scene 1: Cole(Judah Lewis in a psycho-killer outfit) is walking through a high school, complaining: "Everybody thinks I made it up -- that I'm crazy."  Made what up? He gets bullied and ridiculed by guffawing students. pointed at, and called a "pussy."  Clearly this isn't a high school from the 21st century, with anti-bullying programs part of the curriculum, so I  suggest not wearing a psycho-killer outfit.

Does he look like Cole Sprouse on purpose?

Scene 2: 
Cole is in his psychiatrist's office, on a cliche couch that hasn't been used for psychotherapy since the 1920s, describing whatever happened 2 years ago: "dead guy, blood, guy with his shirt off for no reason."  Let's hear more about the shirt off. 

Shrink suggests a solution: "We gotta get you laid."  Dude, not appropriate!

Scene 3:  At school, more ridicule. A jck laughs and points, but his girl turns and smiles.  Geez, this is one of those 1980s movies where The Girl of His Dreams is dating an obnoxious jock that nobody in real life could stand to be with for a second, just so the nerd can "win" her.  How horribly heterosexist and cliched!  Where's the killer queen?

In class, teacher is lecturing on Faust (the guy who sold his soul to the devil) when a half-naked girl sashays in (in slow motion, naturally).  The principal introduces her as a new student, Phoebe.  She's mean, sarcastic, demanding, and as the teacher says, "a crazy beach."  

Scene 4:  Dad is juggling while Mom does the dishes.  Dad admits that he's creeped out by his kid, not realizing that Cole is lurking at the door.  They hem and haw and stumble.  Geez, does he have eerie powers or something?  What are they afraid of?

Scene 5: Later, Cole takes his pills while staring into the mirror like a psycho.  A half-naked girl named Melanie face=times him to discuss the Faust assignment.  He happens to pick up his masturbation lotion.  Dad bursts in and  thinks they are having cybersex.  Har-har.  

Dad talks to Mom:  "We're going to do this, right?  After lunch tomorrow?"  Hey, Cole seems fully functional, except for living in a 1980s teen nerd movie.  No need for institutionalization!  And if he does need to be institutionalized, maybe talk it over with him?

Scene 6:  Cole finds the brochure from the psychiatric hospital, and his appointment for 1:00 today!  He goes to school and tells Melanie, who suggests "we're all going to the lake this weekend.  Come with us."  Will that help?  And if they're good friends, why wasn't he invited before?

Scene 7:
In class, Cole stares at Phoebe.  Teacher calls on him, he stands up to answer, then stumbles and falls, so the class can laugh and point some more (instead of asking if he's sick?  I get it, everybody in the school except for The Girl is an obnoxious jerk.  Shall we advance the plot?

Scene 8:  Coles' parents are here to take him to the psychiatric hospital.  He ditches them to get into a car with Melanie and some bullies, and they drive off.

Looking for him, the parents visit Juan, the stoner next door, who also happens to be Melanie's Dad.  He tells them that Melanie and her boyfriend Jimmy usually ditch school on Fridays and go to the lake.  Cole probably went with them. 

Scene 9: Snack and gas stop.  While the bullies whoop and holler and vandalize, Melanie gets all gooey around Cole.  She's clearly in love with him, she just doesn't realize it for plot contrivance reasons.  The half-naked attendant tries to sell him condoms.

How often have you been to a gas station where the attendant  is wearing a black leather outfit with a bare midriff and most of her breasts hanging out? 

They reach the lake.  Establishing shot of 3,000 girls in bikinis gyrating, and a few guys in the background.  It's like an X-rated Frankie and Annette beach movie.

My original belief that Cole is gay has long since been quashed.  So have my hopes that this movie would be gay-inclusive, or that the writers would be aware that our culture has changed since 1985, or that the director would be aware that this is not supposed to be heterosexual porn.  I'm fast-forwarding.

Turns out that Melanie and the bullies plan to sacrifice Cole to the devil.  That's the point of the Faust references.  I thought Goethe was a little advanced for high schoolers.

Also they could be the ghosts of the kids who died two years ago, in the event that everyone thinks Cole imagined.  Or some living Satanists, some ghosts.

Phoebe, who they also invited, isn't into the whole human-sacrifice thing.  She saves Cole, or Cole saves her, or something.  Dad sees the bullies or ghosts bursting into flame, and realizes that Cole is not crazy.  Cole kisses Phoebe to demonstrate that he's also heterosexual.

Last Scene: Cole, now dressed in 1980s Tom Cruise cool, is relaxed and confident, telling his shrink that it was all a hallucination.  Shrink is thrilled. "You got some pussy, didn't you?"

Yep, he had sex with a girl.  That's the cure to every psychiatric problem, isn't it?

Ok, I checked: this movie came out in 2020, not 1985.  It has five writers, none of whom have ever written anything else. They also haven't seen a movie in 30 years.  The director is someone named McG, who is oddly not a rapper; his previous credits are mostly in music videos: Barenaked Ladies, Pussycat Dolls, and so on.

That explains the half-naked girls.  He thought he was filming a music video.

But why the title?  Turns out that this is a sequel to an obscure movie about a boy whose babysitter tries to kill him.  It's two years later....

The Only Redeeming Characteristics of This Insulting Schlock Fest: Boyfriend Jimmy (Maximillian Acevedo, above) and one of the ghost-bullies (Robbie Amell, left) display their physiques But wouldn't you know, the photos on IMDB only show boobacious girls.

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