Oct 3, 2020

The Bay City Rollers

During the mid-1970s, I occasionally saw pictures of the Bay City Rollers in teen magazines, but I knew nothing about them, except that Ian Mitchell got the lion's share of semi-nude and bulging swimsuit photos, even though he was a member of the band for only about seven months.

I figured they were from Bay City, Michigan and performed on roller skates.

No, they were Scottish, trying to capitalize on American chic by throwing a dart at a map of the U.S. and naming themselves after wherever it hit.

And "roller" meant "rock and roll."

Consisting of Alan and Derek Longmuir, Eric Faulkner, Stuart Wood, Les McKeown, and for awhile Ian Mitchell (with Tam Paton as their manager), they were so big in Britain that they were compared to the Beatles.  There were also big stars in Australia, Canada, and Japan.  They established an entire "Bay City Rollers" lifestyle, complete with costumes and slang terms.

In the U.S., they charted in 1975 and 1976, but had only one #1 hit: "Saturday Night," which I remember only vaguely:

Gonna dance with my baby till the night is thru
On Saturday Night, Saturday Night
Tell her all the little things I'm gonna do
On Saturday night, Saturday Night

Maybe that's why I don't remember it; incessantly heterosexist.

In 1978, they appeared on The Krofft Superstar Hour on Saturday morning tv, along with such Krofft superstars as Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf (which had been off the air for years).

The program was even renamed, briefly, to The Bay City Rollers Show, making it one of the famous short-lived 1970s variety shows, along with The Brady Bunch Variety Show and The Hudson Brothers Show.

By the end of 1978, Les McKeown and Tam Paton left the group, and the remaining guys renamed themselves The Rollers, and then the New Bay City Rollers. Their last official concert was in 2000.  But today there are two competing groups: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers, plus The Bay City Rollers Featuring Ian Mitchell.

In spite of their largely heterosexist lyrics, there are some gay connections. Tam Paton was gay.  In 2009 he faced charges of child sexual abuse for alleged incidents with under-aged boys. He was cleared, but the stress weakened his health, and he died shortly thereafter.  

Les McKeown came out as gay on tv in 2009.  He states that no one knew, not even his wife of 25 years.

Pufnstuf: The Dragon and the Witch Compete over Jimmy's Flute

H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-70) was by far the most popular of the Krofft Saturday morning tv shows about boys trapped far from home (others included Lidsville and Land of the Lost)Today I can’t watch H. R. Pufnstuf anymore. The lightning-quick takes, psychedelic colors, lame wise-cracks, and aggressive laugh-track are annoying. But in 1969 I looked forward to it all week.

In the opening segment, a cute, androgynous sixteen-year old named Jimmy (Jack Wild, fomerly of Oliver), with a Beatles moptop and a cowboy hat, is prancing through a bucolic mountain countryside, playing with his golden flute (it is not really gold in color but dark bronze, thicker and blockier than real flutes, and extremely phallic later, as it peeps out of Jimmy’s pocket).

 A “kooky old witch” named Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), passing by on her supersonic Vroom-Broom, spies Jimmy and decides that her drafty old castle could use his youthful vitality – and his ten inches of flute. She instructs a sentient boat to lure Jimmy aboard with the promise of a pleasant journey to Living Island. But when the trip commences, the boat develops arms and claws to hold Jimmy securely in place, while the witch laughs maniacally, and:

The sky grew dark
The sea grew rough
And the boat sailed on and on and on and on

In a scene that is still frightening today, Jimmy manages to free himself from the grasping claws, and dives into the dark, choppy sea. He crawls onto a distant, desolate beach and collapses, half-drowned and exhausted. Then – somewhat too late – help arrives. A tall green-and-yellow dragon named H. R. Pufnstuf resuscitates Jimmy, moves him into his cave, and dresses him in a garish Fab Four outfit (one wonders where the dragon got human clothes. Have there been other Jimmies, lost boys washing up on the beach over and over forever?). Then Pufnstuf introduces Jimmy to the citizens of Living Island, various animals, plants, and inanimate objects, all sentient and wise-cracking, almost all male.

Since Jimmy is well protected, Witchiepoo turns her attention to the flute, now sentient and named Freddy. Most episodes involve Witchiepoo’s grandiose, impractical schemes to steal Freddy, or, when she succeeds, Jimmy and company’s equally grandiose, impractical schemes to retrieve him. Jimmy also mounts a few half-hearted escape attempts, but it is obvious that he has no real desire to leave Living Island. Witchiepoo is more cranky than evil, promising excitement more than threat, and Jimmy is having the time of his life, dancing, singing, putting on plays with a group of caring, attentive friends who tolerate all of his many gender transgressions.

The feature film Pufnstuf appeared in July 1970. In a new back story, Jimmy has recently moved from England to a resort town (Big Bear Lake, California), where he plays the flute in the school band (rather a fairy choice of instrument, I thought). During a practice session on the front lawn of a gaudy, baroque junior high school, the other boys insult him, mock his accent, and finally trip him, and he knocks over some music stands. True to junior high form, the teacher concludes that Jimmy is the troublemaker, and kicks him out of the band. Jimmy runs away, through a town of small brown cabins and autumn-orange trees that, for all its beauty, promises nothing but brutality and viciousness. Eventually he stops by the lake to rest. Suddenly his flute grows longer and thicker, changes from gold to brown, and starts to move of its own accord – an awkward moment for Jimmy to enter puberty!

Witchiepoo happens to be flying overhead, and the plot proceeds as in the series. But now she has a homosocial motive for her designs. She believes that Freddy the Flute will be a perfect trinket to impress the other witches, especially Witch Hazel (Mama Cass Eliot of The Mamas and the Papas), with whom she has a sort of Auntie Mame/Vera Charles rivalry.

All of the many witches we meet in the film are female, and all are aggressively heterosexual. Witchiepoo tries to sneak into Pufnstuf’s cave by flirting with him as vampish dance instructor Benita Bugaloo, and when she telephones Witch Hazel, their conversation consists mostly of gossip about which female witch is dating which man. The film makes Living Island, conversely, a veritable Fire Island, inhabited by ten men (or male beings) and only two women, Pufnstuf’s sister and Judy the Frog (a parody of gay icon Judy Garland).

 None of them is married or involved with the other sex, nor do any of the male residents “boing” with lust over Witchiepoo in her bodacious disguise. It was not unusual for children’s films a generation ago to omit heterosexual content, but quite unusual to place it squarely in the laps of evil witches while infusing the hero and his friends with a blatantly gay sensibility.

Certainly Jimmy’s cherubic cuteness and sexy Cockney accent made the show a must-see for me in 1969, but there is more. The crux of the action is a competition between the female Witchiepoo and the male Pufnstuf over control of Jimmy’s phallus ( Freddy the Flute), and it ends unequivocally in the male camp. Witchiepoo lives in a dark, sinister castle dug-through with dungeons and pits, and Pufnstuf in a gaudy psychedelic Arcadia, with living trees and flowers. Witchiepoo barks out orders to cowering servants, Pufnstuf offers advice to dear friends. Who would disagree that the Dragon is far superior to the Witch?

There's a gay hookup story about Jack Wild on Tales of West Hollywood.

Oct 2, 2020

Clinton-Massie: Sometimes the Beefcake is Enough


I can start the research for articles on this website with an interesting city, and then look for physique photos of local residents to illustrate it, or I can start with photos of small-town guys, and hope that their town has something interesting about it.

In this case, I found some photos of the hunkitudinal wrestlers from "Clinton-Massie."

Some extraordinary physiques on display.

The rest of the extraordinary physiques are on A Gay Guide to Small Town Beefcake

Oct 1, 2020

Jay and Silent Bob are Still Alive, Still Life Partners, and Gay-Positive


Clerks (1994) was  a simple, grainy black-and-white indie movie about slackers working in and hanging out at a convenience store in urban-wasteland New Jersey, written, produced, and directed by 24-year old film student Kevin Smith (who happened to be working at a convenience store at the time). That minimalist beginning spun into the Askewniverse, a complex, interconnected, endlessly self-referential series of movies, tv shows, comic books,video games, and everything else imaginable, starring the same group of actors mostly playing the same characters.

Askewniverse mainstays Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith) began as standard stoners, smoking or selling marijuana, hitting on ladies, and being idiots.  As the movies, animated tv series, comic books, music videos, and cameos multiplied, they moved into more bizarre terrain: they avert Armageddon and meet God, become the prophets of God, try to sabotage a film that depicted their characters badly, become the comic book characters Bluntman and Chronic, sit on the Jedi Council in the Star Wars universe, and help Santa Claus make toys.

They were intensely homophobic, littering their speech with "that's gay, dude," insulting guys by suggesting that they have gay sex, rejecting ladies who have had lesbian sex, being attacked by gangs of evil lesbians, starting gay rumors to humiliate their enemies.  They even subdued a villain by tricking him into going into a gay bar, where he would be gang-raped by the evil gays.  Granted, Jay sometimes mentioned an attraction to men, but Silent Bob's look of utter disgust silenced him.

Kevin Smith always claimed that he was parodying homophobia, not promoting it.  I didn't agree.  So I've seen only a few of his movies, not enough to really understand most of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019).

It's been 20 years since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), and the stoner dude couple is way old -- "the oldest guys I've ever met," still hanging out at the long-boarded up convenience store, selling weed.  When they discover that their characters are being co-opted in a new Kevin Smith movie, they decide to go to a Bluntman and Chronic fan convention in Hollywood to stop it.  On the way, they discover that Jay has an 18-year old daughter, Millenium Faulkon (a Star Wars reference).  They join her deliberately diverse girl-power posse (a Syrian refugee, a deaf African-American, and a Chinese podcaster), who have reasons of their own for going to the convention.

The adventures, by turns touching and ludicrous, probably reflect scenes from the previous movies.  

On the way, Jay learns what it means to be a Dad (and Silent Bob learns what it means to be a Dad's heterosexual life partner).  There are two speeches about how family is everything: "When you have a child, your story ends and theirs begins."  Or, as Jay says during the final crisis, "I don't mind dying today, because I know a little piece of me will live on in my daughter."

The guys don't chase any ladies -- that part of their lives is over (although the female manager of a fast-food joint drags Silent Bob into the restroom for sex).  The gangs of evil gays have vanished, and so have the homophobic slurs, except for an occasional suggestion that an enemy "sit on a dick."   There are many suggestions that Jay and Silent Bob are having sex, but they deny it, "except for that one time," and of course masturbating together.  They meet two lesbian couples without recoiling in horror, and Justin Long's character seems to be gay -- he gives them his Grindr screen name.

There are cameos from nearly everyone in the Askewniverse, playing either their characters or themselves, or both, plus some recognizable 1990s tv stars: Brian O' Halleran, Jason Lee, Val Kilmer, Tommy Chong, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon (top photo), Jason Biggs, Keith Coogan (who is looking more and more like his grandfather, Jackie Coogan, Uncle Fester on The Addams Family)

All of them are shockingly old, grizzled, chunky, not at all the teen hunks and muscular leading men we remember from the 1990s.  Their world is gone; their stories are over; it's time for the next generation to take over.

No doubt the new Askewniverse will be more diverse and gay-positive. 

Sep 28, 2020

Mad Magazine: Cynicism, Guilt, and Homophobia

When I was a kid in the 1960s, we were expected to never question teachers, parents, the church, or the government.  Their answers were always right, their decisions always fair. To suggest the tiniest fallibility meant grounding, detention, or hellfire.

We were expected to never question the fact that America was the best of all possible worlds, an Arcadia threatened only by the evil empire of Communism and the long-haired hippie freaks.  To point out a problem invited swift retribution.

Satire was rare; a parody of big business in an Uncle Scrooge comic, a snarky sketch on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, an occasional novelty song like "They're Coming to Take Me Away."  And Mad Magazine, bought by an older kid and passed around surreptitiously, like pornography.

Mad began as a comic book, but was changed to a magazine in 1955 to avoid the strictures of the Comics Code Authority.  It cost twice as much as a comic book, and at Schneider's Drug Store, it was placed among the adult magazines like Argosy and Esquire.  

I didn't dare buy a copy, and the passed-around copies I read at friends' houses always made me feel guilty.  There was no way you could justify them as uplifting, insightful, or beautiful.  They were pure trash.

That was part of the fun.

The art was grotesque and unpleasant, though occasionally you saw nudity or muscle.  In Issue #202 (October 1978), you even got to see bare butts, as Alfred E. Neumann is stared at for tanning the "wrong" body part (top photo). 

 In Issue #207 (June 1979), he displays a muscular physique in a toga to parody Animal House (yes, I still read Mad Magazine in college.  We all did)

The writing was crude, scabrous, and cynical, with a clear message: everyone is a hypocrite; self-serving greed lies behind every pious platitude.  Revolutionary for a for a high schooler (or college student) in the 1970s.

But there was one platitude that no one at Mad ever thought to critique: the universality of heterosexual desire.  Every boy liked girls, every girl liked boys, same-sex desire did not exist, gay people were ridiculous.  I don't remember any gay people in the issues I read, but  according to the blog Street Laughter, they appeared 5 or 6  times during the years I read the magazine.

September 1971: "To a Gay Liberationist," illustrated by effeminate guys carrying signs that say "Gay Power," "Freedom for Fags," and "Pansy Yokum is a Misnomer.":

 "You shout that you're victimized by bigoted attacks; forgive us if we're more concerned with Indians and Blacks!"

July 1973: A swishy basketball player grabs his teammate's butt (notice the limp wrist and the frilly underwear peeking out from his shorts).  The straight guy seems to be saying "WTF?" as the caption reads "You know you've really got a problem..."

April 1974: A fold-in feature in which couples at a maternity ward turn into limp-wristed gays to "solve the overpopulation problem."

You get the idea.

Maybe it's a good thing that I missed those issues.

See also: R. Crumb's Underground Comix

Confusing Children and Angels: Laugh-In

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, my  friends and I hated variety shows: Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton, Carol Burnette, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell (left).  They were old, square, has-beens.  And what could be more boring than someone standing in front of a microphone, singing?

But Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968-73) was for us: not exactly variety, or even sketch comedy, but comedic slogans zapped across the screen at lightning speed.

1. Judy Carne yells "Sock it to me!" and gets socked.

2. Rowan and Martin give the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" award.

3. Zsa Zsa Gabor gets big  laughs by saying the word "bippy."

4. A Nazi spy peers from the undergrowth ("Verry interesting")

5. A spaced-out Goldie Hawn forgets her line and giggles.

6. Flip Wilson's drag persona Geraldine offers herself to all comers: "What you see is what you get."

7. Pigmeat Martin struts across the stage, jive-talking "Here come da judge!"

8. A dirty old man makes mumbling propositions to a purse-wielding spinster.

9. Gary Owens as a baritone-voiced announcer makes nonsequiter announcements.

10. Jo Anne Worley says "Blow in my ear, and I'll follow you anywhere," and giggles.

I can't watch the old episodes broadcast on Amazon Prime.  The lightning speed gives me a headache, and the jokes are sophomoric; only children would think it hilarious to say "Look that up in your Funk and Wagnells."  The cast members are just big kids, saying things that sound dirty on the playground.

But between 1968 and 1973, the jokes were bright and fresh, and risque and cool.  Most importantly, they were ours.

No beefcake, except for an occasional hot guest star, like Davy Jones of The Monkees.  
Not much bonding, not even from hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, a comedy team since 1952.
No one ever acknowledged the existence of gay people.

But there was lots of gender nonconformity.  Years later we remembered it fondly, as the first hint of gay potential.

1. Alan Sues played Big Al, a feminine sports announcer who had an obsession with a bell he called his "tinkle."

Gay but never out, Alan Sues also played a fey grown-up Peter Pan on peanut butter commercials.

2. Tiny Tim, who looked like a long-haired Dracula, played the ukelele and sang "Tiptoe through the Tulips" in a fey falsetto.  He proved he was heterosexual by marrying a woman named Miss Vicky on The Tonight Show.

3. Flower child Henry Gibson appeared with a gigantic artificial flower and recited nonsequiter poems.  He was often assumed gay, although he was married to a woman for 40 years.

In his last role of note, Magnolia (1999), he played a cranky older gay man named Thurston Howell (after the millionaire on Gilligan's Islandd), competing with another guy for the attention of hunky Brad the Bartender.  He advises: "It's a dangerous thing to confuse children with angels!"

Between 1968 and 1973, we often confused children with angels.

Sep 27, 2020

"Enola Holmes": Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Sister Searches for Her Missing Mother/Girlfriend

Enola Holmes
 is the most watched flick on Netflix, a family-friendly, teen-friendly, girl-empowerment tale with Sherlock Holmes taking a tangential and completely unnecessary role.  

I was creeped out by it.

15-year old Enola Holmes (Millie Bobbie Brown) has been raised in Foxworth Manor by her free-spirited mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter),  who taught her all sorts of things unfitting for proper Victorian girls, like archery, martial arts, playing tennis indoors, and...gasp...feminism.  Nothing wrong with that, but there is no one else in their lives.  At least Mom has secret meetings of her mysterious women's club, but Enola has no friends her own age, or of any age.  "We don't need anyone else -- we have each other."  They are constantly holding each other, hugging each other, sleeping together.  Good God, they are lovers!    

On the morning of Enola's sixteenth birthday, Eudoria disappears.  No note, no explanation, no sign that she was taken against her will, just gone.  

Enola's two older brothers arrive to take charge.  They have not visited since they fled to London many years ago, when she was a toddler (Why? Was Smother...um, I mean Mother trying to turn them into lovers, too?  I guess they figured that she was just interested in boys, so it would be safe to leave Enola alone with her.  They were wrong!).

The oldest brother, Mycroft (Sam Claflin), actually owns the house, and has been sending Eudoria money to pay for renovations that never happened and staff who were never hired.  (So Mom has basically spent ten years grifting her son.  Incest and fraud!  Nice lady!).  

He wants to send Enola to a boarding school, where she can meet some kids her own age, and maybe get over her creepy Electra complex.  But Enola considers the idea of meeting people besides her Mother/Girlfriend a fate worse than death.  "No!  Let me stay alone and be happy!  I don't need anybody else!  I have myself!"  Geez, she creeps me out.

To be fair, Mycroft is intent on the boarding school run by his "old friend" Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), obviously an ex-girlfriend, who teaches girls to be proper Victorian ladies and find husbands.  So it will constrain Enola's free spirit.  Still, there will be other girls there, not just Mom/Girlfriend and the housekeeper!

In order to search for Mom/Girlfriend, who left some cryptic clues to her whereabouts, Enola runs away.  On the train to London, she accidentally becomes involved in another story: someone is trying to kill the dreamy but utterly inept 17-year old Lord Tewksberry (Louis Partridge).  His father has just died, so he stands to inherit Dad's seat in the House of Lords, and cast the deciding vote on a controversial Reform Bill.  So now he has a target painted on his back.

Enola helps Tewksberry survive, and they have a few sparking moments of romance.  Uh-oh, Mom/Girlfriend will be jealous.  Then Enola sleuths out  who has been paying the hit men (it's not Mycroft).  And that's the story.  

Wait!  What about the mysterious disappearance of Mom/Girlfriend? Enola was supposed to use her sleuthing skills to unravel the clues and find her!  

Oh, she returns on her own.  But...then what's the point of all the setup?

Oh, and Enola's second brother is the famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill, top photo), who doesn't do anything.  He is apparently in the movie so that Enola can drop his name.

And there is no Dr. Watson.  But at least Sherlock doesn't express any heterosexual interest.

My grade: I didn't like the bait-and-switch plotline, and the mother/daughter incest is just creepy. But the sets are pleasant, and there was some racial diversity -- some black extras in the background, and Lestrade is South Asian.  C
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