Jun 12, 2021

Fall 1977: A Gay Romance on "Barnaby Jones"

October 27, 1977, the cold, windy Thursday night four days before Halloween, during my senior year in high school.

The family has gathered in front of the tv set, as usual: the tv is on every night from dinnertime to bedtime, a backdrop to all of our other activities.

7:00: Welcome Back, Kotter.  I look up briefly to see Horshak (Ron Pallilo) explain, yet again, that his name means "The cattle are dying."

7:30: What's Happening!. I look up briefly to check out Haywood Nelson's butt and bulge.

At 8:00, my parents want to watch Barney Miller, but I'm anxious to see James at Fifteen, starring teen idol Lance Kerwin.  So I watch on my small portable set upstairs.

At 9:00, I turn off the tv and start doing homework.  A few moments later, my brother Ken comes clomping up the stairs.  "You'll never guess what they're watching down there!" he exclaims.  "Barnaby Jones!"

"You're kidding -- Jed Clampett as a private eye?"  The oldster detective is played by the star of the Beverly Hillbillies.

"And Catwoman is his secretary!"  Lee Meriwether, who plays Barnaby's daughter-in-law, was Catwoman on Batman.

"Gross!  Next they'll have Scooby-Doo!"

Ken laughs.  "Don't take my word for it -- you have to watch to see how terrible it is."

"Come on!" I complain.  "Old people tv?"  My friends would rib me unmercifully if they found out I had watched something as lame as Barnaby Jones!

Ignoring me, he flips the tv on, and clicks the dial to CBS.

No Jed Clampett, no Catwoman.  Two cute young guys, one in a muscle shirt that displays baseball-sized biceps, the other in skin-tight jeans that reveal an enormous bulge.  They are standing so close together that they seem about to kiss.

"You're the man for me!" Muscle Shirt says.

"Let's not get carried away!" Tight-Jeans protests.

"This looks good...I mean, awful."  I stammer.

Looking back, I'm surprised that I didn't come out at that moment.  But no, I absolutely did not connect I want to see those guys kiss!  with gay.

"What did I tell you?"  Ken flips the tv set off, flops down on his bed, and opens a math textbook.

The next week I pretend to be immersed in a book in order to watch Barnaby Jones with my parents.  Tight-Jeans is Mark Shera, playing Barnaby's nephew, a law school student.  But he definitely likes girls.

What about Muscle Shirt, with his baseball-sized biceps and the romantic plaint of "You're the man for me?"  He must have been a guest star.

Before the days of the internet, there is no way to track down the episode.  I'll have to wait for summer reruns.

But during the summer, I am working at the mall on Thursday nights.  The scene of gay romance is lost forever.


Until a few days ago, when I found a photo of the scene on ebay, which led to the entire episode on youtube: "Gang War," starring 31-year old Asher Brauner.  My memory changed the dialogue a bit: he's not in love with Mark Shera, he's about to kidnap him.

Asher Brauner has been in a few movies of gay interest: he  played "Buddy" in Alexander: the Other Side of Dawn (1977), about a teenage runaway who becomes a hustler, and "Ted," in the gay-themed Making Love.  

He played the hero in the Indiana Jones spoof Treasure of the Moon Goddess (1987), and a man-mountain who takes out entire countries in American Eagle (1989) and Merchants of War (1989).

And he was the hero of a gay romance that I misread 30 years ago on Barnaby Jones.

"The Jane Austin Book Club": Worth Including in Pride Month?

 


The LGBTQ PRIDE section on Amazon Prime included The Jane Austin Book Club, but the trailer just shows a lot of men and women kissing, so I checked out a plot synopsis to see what Amazon thinks makes this movie gay.

The premise: Monthly meetings of a book club devoted to Jane Austin's novels.  Or... here's a thought...you could turn off the computer and pick up a book.  The members are all ladies, except for a man railroaded in to become a love interest.

1. Bernadette, multiple divorcee "of a certain age," ends up getting married and divorced again.


2. Prudie,
 young high school French teacher and "prude," who dislikes her husband Dean: Marc Blucas, top photo, best known as Riley in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Back in the day, there were rumors that he was gay.  I see that he's married to someone named Ryan; maybe a boy, or maybe a girl with a boy's name.  I'm not going to bother checking.

Prudie is also attracted to one of her students, Trey (1990s teen idol Kevin Zegers).  She decides to skip the jail bait and stick it out with hubbie.



3. Sylvia,
  middle-aged librarian separated from her husband Daniel: 1980s hunk Jimmy Smits, who starred in L.A. Law and got his shirt ripped off in some action-adventure movies. 

 They, of course, reconcile with a little help from Jane Austin. He even joins the book club -- except by that time they've read all of six of the novels.  Better switch to Charles Dickens, who wrote around 20 (depending on how you count them).

4. Jocelyn, single,  invited Grigg (#6) so he would hook up with Sylvia, but ends up being attracted to him instead, but denies her feelings until the end of the movie. Well, why wouldn't she just date Grigg in the first place?

5. Allegra, a lesbian.  Aha, she makes this a gay movie!  She gets upset because her girlfriend Corinne is writing stories based on her life (not at all like Jane Austin), and dumps her for somebody else.  Aww, everyone stays with their partners except for the lesbian, but I guess in 2007 just having a lesbian character was significant.


6. Grigg: 
Hugh Darcy.  Whoops, I mean Dancy.  But wouldn't that have been a cool casting call? (Mr. Darcy is a main character in Pride and Prejudice).  

A science fiction  fan, he hopes to convince the ladies to make the switch from Jane Austin to Ursula K. Leguin.  He apparently doesn't realize that there have been some science fiction novels written since The Left Hand of Darkness (1969).  He also shows up with a gigantic leatherbound copy of a Jane Austin novel, apparently not realizing that paperback versions are plentiful.

My verdict: One LGBTQ story out of six does not make for a movie about LGBTQ lives.  Five out of six, ok.  Maybe four out of six.  But not one of six. 

But at least I got to reunite with some of the hunks of my past, and the plot synopsis has me interested in picking up Pride and Prejudice again.  I have a paperback copy.

Jun 11, 2021

"Life's Rewards": Try to Convince Me that Dan is Not Gay

 


It occurs to me that I post a lot more reviews of tv series with D and F ratings than with A and B.  There's a good reason for that: when I dislike a series, I stop after one episode or less.  When I like it, I'm busy watching, and the reviews stop.  

Plus it depends on which streaming service I'm concentrating on.  Netflix has the most As and Bs:  I liked 9 of the last 15 series reviewed: Ragnarok, Move to Heaven, Girl from Nowhere, Luis Miguel, Who Killed Sarah, Summertime. The Upshaws, Family Reunion

Amazon Prime has mostly Ds and Fs: I liked only 2 of the last 15 series reviewed there: Cougar Town and Columbo.

So here goes: Amazon Prime's recommendation of Life's Rewards: "Privileged son of a high-profile wealth manager, Dan had it easy until he waged (sic) everything on a big gamble and lost.  Stranded, Dan is forced to live on the only two assets he has left: his unquestionable charisma and a massive cache of hotel points."

No girlfriends are mentioned in the episode synopses, but one is about Dan and Jared's friendship "continuing to grow," and in another, he helps a woman resolve her marital problems.  Neither of the trailers show him kissing a girl (except a kiss on the cheek).  Dan must be gay!  I'll watch Episode 5, the "Dan and Jared friendship" episode, to find out.


Scene 1: Dan in a bar -- a very minimalist bar, all blank walls, flashing lights, and extras.  Two guys walk by, then a drag queen.  This is a gay bar! 

He is talking to a bald guy in a glittery shirt: "We need to resolve the situation with the SEC.  They think you committed financial fraud during that meeting."  

Dan: Uh-oh.

Flashback to the office.  Dan tells coworker Joel that he's leaving for the Hamptons. "I'm skipping the meeting, but tell everyone that I was there. What's the worst that can happen?"

Back to the bar.  Glittery guy: "If you can prove that you weren't there, I can get the SEC off your back, and your Dad will take you back."

Scene 2: Dan walks out of the bar, hand in hand with a girl. So what?  Lots of gay guys have girl BFFs.   He kisses her on the cheek and says "I thought I had it all -- the money, the girls, the cash, the parties....."

The girls? So what? He's come out as gay, so he's not trying to pretend to be heterosexual by hanging out wijth a lot of girls anymore.  Not a problem.


Scene 3:
  Dan and Jared boxing shirtless on the beach, discussing his financial problems: "I lost half a billion dollars for my company, and most of my own, because I skipped a meeting."  So what?  Lots of gay couples go boxing on their first date.  Prove me wrong.

Scene 4: Dan and the Girl on beach chairs, texting and discussing his financial problems, which caused a major rift with his Dad.

Scene 5:  Dan buys a bottled water at the hotel gift shop, and sees his credit points go down.  

Cut to boxing on the beach.  Not to worry, Jared says, he'll pay for dinner.  If one of the guys is paying, it's definitely a date.  No question.  None at all.

Scene 6:  The big dinner.  Jared and Dan gazing into each other's eyes.  Jared says that what Dan needs is The Blues (the musical style).   

Scene 7: Jared takes Dan to the Hideaway Cafe, with "music for your soul."  Dan obviously cruises the bouncer.  He is obviously gay.

Sitting in the bar, Jared tells about his career as an army medic.  Whoa, Dan, lay off the touching the shoulder bit.  It's getting a little excessive.  You think he's hot, I got it.

The concert: a lady blues singer with a guitar: "Walkin' alone, finding my way, my troubles are gone..."  We hear the whole song, which is actually quite good, but slows down the action.  I want to see more of Jared and Dan gazing into each other's eyes.


Scene 8: 
A week later.  At the hotel, Maria the housekeeper rushes to tell Jared that Dan is acting weird.  He spends all day lying on the bed in hotel rooms that have been vacated, stealing food from room-service trays and listening to music.

Jared goes up to see what the trouble is.  Dan: "My life sucks and I have no future.  And no money."

Jared:  "Don't worry, we're going to comp you a room here at the hotel.  And get some help."  

Scene 9:  The "help" turns out to be the girl from Scene 1.   So Jared asked the Girl to pull Dan out of his depression, instead of doing it himself.  He probably thinks that the Girl knows Dan better.  It means nothing.

Girl: "What's the trouble?"

Dan: "Everything that has happened is my fault. I deserve to be shunned."

Girl: "I don't want to shun you.  Maybe I want to spend the night with you, but not like this."  So what?  She said she was attracted to him; Dan never said that he was interested.  

Scene 10:  Cleaned-up, no longer depressed, Dan heads down to the cabana.  Jared, working, asks what turned him around.   He sits down next to the Girl.

Flashback to Dan and the Girl hanging out.  Apparently they were an item, back in the day. 

So what?  Lots of gay guys have ex-girlfriends.  

She says that she's joined Alcoholics Anonymous, where you make amends to people you've wronged in the past.  Dan should try that, too.  

See?  She's here to make amends, not to rekindle their old romance.

Until there's an actual boy-girl kiss in real time in the present, I'm going to keep on reading Dan as gay.  You can't change my mind.

By the way, the series was funded by the Florida State Tourism Board and Visit St. Petersburg, so every episode has Dan spending a lot of time at a local tourist attraction (in Episode 5, the famous blues club).  I might watch the episode where he visits the Dali Museum.

Suddenly Susan: Biceps, Brooke Shields, and Pete the Gay Mail Boy

In the fall of 1997, when I moved to New York to work on my Ph.D., you had four main tv choices on Monday nights: America's Funniest Home Videos, the hundredth series starring Bill Cosby, the uber-religious Seventh Heaven, and Suddenly Susan (1996-2000).  Guess which won?

It was one of many workplace sitcoms about Young Female Journalists with Big Ideas who butt heads with stick-in-the-mud magazine or newspaper editors, in this case Susan (Brooke Shields, best known for Blue Lagoon nearly twenty years before) and Jack (Judd Nelson, the homophobic bigot best known from the execrable Breakfast Club nearly twenty years before).

Suddenly single after a long engagement, Susan is assigned to write a column about what it's like to be...um...single in contemporary San Francisco.  But she, naturally, wants to do more.  And, of course, she and Jack have a "You're so arrogant!" Sam-and-Diane romance going on.

Her main coworkers included:
1. Photographer Luis (Nestor Carbonell, top photo), a Latino hunk ("Today is the day I work on my biceps.")
2. Sardonic restaurant critic Vickie (gay-positive comedian Kathy Griffin, right)
3. Susan's arch-nemesis, tough-as-nails reporter Maddy (Andrea Bendewald).
4. Pete (Billy Stevenson), the mail boy.





5. Hip music reporter Todd (David Strickland, left).

Two things made Suddenly Susan memorable (excluding Nestor Carbonell's biceps).

1. On March 22, 1999, David Strickland committed suicide.  Instead of replacing him without comment, the producers decided to incorporate his death into the series.

When Todd fails to report for work and doesn't respond to his pager, his coworkers spend the day searching for him and worrying.  Finally they congregate in his apartment.  The episode ends with the telephone ringing.  Everyone looks around, afraid to answer, knowing what news is coming.  It gave me goosebumps. Very effective.



2. Pete the Mail Boy.  Although he appeared in only 15 of the 93 episodes, he was still memorable as just about the only gay character on television who wasn't portrayed as a swishy stereotype.  In fact, he was dimwitted and rather a nerd.

When he married his boyfriend, the equally nerdish Hank (Fred Stoller, left), he talked the homophobic Jack into participating -- quite a memorable accomplishment for the 1990s.

See also: Just Shoot Me



Jun 10, 2021

Billions: Hedge Funds, Hard Decks, Bang-Bang Plays, Bondage, and a Nonbinary CEO.


 Amazon Prime has a new category, "Celebrate Pride!", with a lot of movies and tv shows, some obvious (RuPaul's Drag Race), some not so obvious.  What about Billions?  All I know for sure is that there's a nonbinary character, and I surmise that it's about extremely rich people. So maybe some nice scenery.  

I check out Season 1, Episode 1:

Scene 1: Chuck (Paul Giamatti), a chubby, bearded guy, is shirtless, bound and gagged.  Sounds like my usual Saturday night.  No, a dominatrix enters and puts out her cigarette on his chest, then urinates on him.  I guess not.  A little advanced for me, and no ladies, please.  


Cut to New York, the U.S. Attorney General's Office.  Lots of desks and people running around.   A lady is reprimanding an underling: "This is a no f*-up zone.  No Tinder at the f* office."   She and another guy, Bryan (Toby Leonard Moore), are called into the Attorney General's Office: Surprise: the BDSM bottom! 

(According to AusCaps, this is Toby Leonard Moore, so don't complain to me if they are wrong.)  

Suddenly a third guy bursts in with a big case: "One of my grunts riding the Midas spotted a days-long buying spike."  What does any of that mean?  I looked it up: inside trading, which I've never understood.  And the guy responsible is Bobby F** Axelrod.


Scene 2:
Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis) in a sweatshirt, eating pizza.  A blond lady asks him why he's so happy.  He explains that the pizza here is "f*** good."  But the pizza place is about to close due to financial difficulties, so Bobby offers to partner-up with the Italian stereotype owner.  Nope: he yells "I don't want no f* charity."  Why is it necessary to use that f*** word in every f*** sentence?

But Bobby insists: "Twenty year lease, and I'll cover the overage." I have no idea what overage is, and I don't really care.



Scene 4:
Bobby at work: Axe Capital.  His assistants, Ben and Mick (Daniel K. Isaac, left, Nathan Darrow) give him some boring, incomprehensible intel: "Electric Sun is controlled by Kazawitz, who also owns 19.3% of LumeTherme, backdoored through his stake in Southern Wind.  You see that Block Trade last Thursday? That was Fortress cashing out their shorts." Huh?  I was an English and Modern Languages major. Could we talk about Chaucer?

Heck with this.  I'm fast forwarding, looking for beefcake or LGBT+ characters.

Minute 15: Bobby briefly in the pool.

Minute 23: Scenes of Bobby and Chuck with their heterosexual nuclear families: wives and cute preteen kids saying things like "Hey, Dad, do you want to throw the baseball around?"

And that's all.  No major beefcake, no gay or nonbinary character.  

Maybe they are introduced later.  I'll check on Season 3, Episode 1.

Scene 1: The new Attorney General, a southern-fried good old boy, talking to Chuck (the chubby former Attorney General from Season 1).  He recounts, that, when you're breeding horses, you send in a "teaser" to get the mare ready, then the "stud" to actually do the job.  "You're the teaser with Dake prosecuting Axelrod.  You're doing all the work, he's getting all the credit."  Chuck says he doesn't care "as long as justice is served."

He switches to baseball metaphors: "If it's a bang-bang play, don't call out a man on a whim."  I don't know what that means, so I look it up: a bang-bang play is a close call, in which a runner is barely thrown out.  I don't know what that means, either, so I look it up: you've hit the ball and are running around the bases, but someone catches the ball, so you're out.  I guess he wants Chuck to work on important cases and skip over the trivial ones.  They exit into a room crowded with hundreds of suits.


Scene 2:
Downtown.  The nonbinary character, Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon), enters the snazzy offices of Axe Capital. Everyone is pissed that they called a meeting without Axe.  A muscle guy not mentioned on Amazon X-Ray is especially pissed, yelling that "I f*** humped my f*** ass for one and a half f** hours into this f*** city, and we can't even do any f*** work, because the f*** assets are still f*** frozen." Well, that's one way to do an exposition dump.  "And where the f**** is f*** Axe?"

Cut to Bobby Axelrod in a glassy upscale apartment the size of an airport terminal.  A woman approaches. "Guys like you head to the City when their marriages fall apart.  Are you planning to do any f*** work today?  Because this is a f*** disaster."  Geez, if I had a dollar for every f***...

Back to the meeting.  Taylor tries to quiet the mob: "I get it. Every day you're on the sidelines, it's harder to make your numbers.  But I guarantee that you won't fall below the hard deck."  I don't know what that means, so I look it up: in flight training, the hard deck represents the ground level, so if you go below it, you've "crashed." How on Earth does Taylor expect audiences who haven't gone to flight school to understand that?

They give the group today's assignment: a Platinum Idea Dinner tonight, where hedge fund managers from across the City will be ready for...whatever it is these people do.  I don't know what a hedge fund is, so I look it up:  investors who specialize in high-risk deals in the hopes of getting huge payoffs.  

If you have a choice of watching hedge fund managers or zombies, which will you choose?   After all, economics is called "the dismal science" for a reason. I'm fast forwarding through this episode, too, see if there's any beefcake or same-sex romance.

Minute 35: The Russian and Turkish Baths (since 1892).  Taylor and  I think Todd (Danny Strong) getting slapped with willow branches.  Todd asks: "Are you shopping offers on the Street?"  I don't think this is a hookup. 

Nope: cut to an apartment balcony, where Todd serves Taylor tea and says he needs someone to steward his firm while he's at the Treasury Department.  Interested?


Cut back to the bathhouse, where a fat guy, cast on IMDB as Russian Bully (Damian Muziani), complains about Taylor sitting with their "tits" hanging out."  Todd comes to the rescue, pretending that Fat Guy was talking to him, and suggesting "Maybe they turn you on." Fat Guy retreats.

Minute 52: Chuck from Scene 1 shirtless in a dungeon, being whipped by a dominatrix.

Holy f*, this was f*ing unwatchable. The endless boring conversations about finance laced with baseball and poker metaphors.  The utter lack of same-sex desire or practice (being nonbinary is cool, but how about if they date someone?).  

And the f**ing profanity! Are they keeping a tally?  The one who says it most often in an episode gets a bonus?

Jun 9, 2021

"Summertime": An Italian Teen Romance that Hates Summer as Much as I Do


 I hate summer.  The campus empties out, the theater and tv seasons end, it's too hot to jog, it's daylight at bedtime, you have to eat...ugh...outside, and you have to drive crosscountry for 18 hours to visit relatives that you see just once a year (and once is plenty!).  But this summer it's even worse; after having been basically in the house for the last year, I can finally go places, and there's nowhere to go

So I definitely was planning to skip the Italian tv series Summertime, in spite of the beefcake jock on the icon, until I saw the first episode: "I Hate Summer!"

 I'm in!

Scene 1: A girl watches the sunrise over the ocean, then skateboards past establishing shots of people going about their affairs in a seaside resort (cute guy diving into the water).  Two elderly guys stare menacingly, maybe because she's black, which is unusual in Italy.  A striking shot of 60,000 empty beach chairs makes me think that this is post-Apocalyptic, but it's probably just off-season.

She arrives at her apartment, groans at the mess, and makes breakfast.  Hot albeit feminine guy named Edo (Giovanni Maini) appears, worried that he didn't tell his dad that he was staying over.  "Now he'll think we're together, and I'll never hear the end of it."  Maybe he's a gay best friend?

The Girl's androgynous younger sister, Blue, appears.  She doesn't want to go to school because today they're ranking the girls by attractiveness (this is an authorized school activity?).  The Girl forces her.

The Girl's Mom is starting work today, so summer has officially begun.  God help us all!   


Scene 2:
  Another Hot Guy  (Ludovico Tersigni) awakens in bed next to a naked girl (chest shot almost obscured by girl arms).  He disentangles himself, sneaks out, and rides his scooter through town.

Cut to a class at school.  What's with the closeups of hands writing?  The Girl - her name seems to be Summer, even in Italian -- passes a note to her friend Sofi.  

Hot Guy #2 arrives at an enormous bunker and greets some guys who are going to practice motorcycle racing.  

He changes into racing gear and zooms around the track, while a guy in a control booth evaluates him: "You're going too slow on the second.  You brake too early.  Your heart rate is too high.  We should hit the gym and lower it."  I would mind seeing them at the gym.

"I can't help it.  I've been injured.  My shoulder still hurts."

"Our next race is in ten days.  We have to push up the training. Or hold a press conference."  Oh boy, the trainer puts his arm around him as they walk back to the bunker, and then kisses him on the cheek.  Is this usual in Italy?

Scene 3:  The beach.  Hot Guy Edo, Summer, and BFF Sofi are all cuddling in a mass, discussing how they cleverly cheated on their exam.  All of the school's glitterati are going to a party tonight; maybe they should go, too, to make fun of them.  

Summer has a job interview tomorrow.  She hates summer, and working will make it go by quicker (hey, I should try that!  This show is already giving me tips on how to survive the dreaded season)


Switch to Hot Guy #2, who is named Ale, working on a motorcycle with his mechanic, Dario (Andrea Lattanzi).  Ale slept with his ex-girlfirend last night, even though they've broken up.  Now she thinks they're back together.  He asks Dario to talk to her after the party, make an excuse or something.

Scene 3:  Summer is called to the headmaster's office: her androgynous younger sister attacked the girl who won the "prettiest" contest.  

Cut to Ale and Dario motoring to the docks, where they hook up with some other guys and high-five each other over the endless acres of "conchas" they're going to acquire at the party tonight (sorry, the English subtitles stopped working, so I'm going with the Spanish).  Sexist jerks!  Ale brings drinks to two people with conchas,  and begins his attempt to acquire them.

Cut to Summer, practicing for her interview with Edo and Sofi.  She has to speak fluent English and French (cool -- I'm listening to someone speak French with Spanish subtitles in an Italian tv series).

While Edo and Sofi frolic in the water, Summer tries to talk to her Mom (a waitress at a seaside cafe) about Blue getting into fights, but she rushes off. Whoa, neglectful parent!

Scene 4: Ale visiting his Mom (see how nicely parallel their lives are?).  He feels guilty that they had to move to this seaside resort community for his racing. and asks if she likes it: "Winter here is tough, but summers are beautiful"  I love winter!

Meanwhile, Summer and Blue are cooking dinner.  Mom arrives.  They argue about Dad, always too busy "on the road" to come home. Summer thinks he's having an affair with Mom's sister.  Mom dismisses the idea, and Summer storms out, just as Hot Guy Edo arrives with dessert.

Text from Sofi: "I found the password for the party.  And bring Edo.  Maybe we can find him a girl!"  Boo!  I thought Edo was obviously being portrayed as gay!

Scene 5: Edo refused to go (not interested in meeting a girl, dude?). so Summer and Sofi head toward the party alone.  

Whoa, it's like spring break in Miami!  16,000 guys and girls in swimsuits, with Ale and two bikini girls orchestrating events on a giant podium.  Some quick beefcake shots.  

Ale sees Summer from afar .  His jaw drops.  He gazes awestricken.  The most beautiful girl in the universe!  But by the time he rushes through the crowd, she's gone. 

They have wandered into the indoor party, where Sofi approaches DJ Dario: "I have boobs.  Want to do it?"  Surprisingly, he would rather discuss music. Not interested in boobs -- maybe he's gay.

Summer heads to the bathroom and runs into Ale and his girl arguing.  They gaze awestricken at each other, but the girl insults her and pulls him away.  Darn, when are they going to meet?

Finally, a meet-cute -- Ale accidentally pushes Summer in the pool.  They gaze awestricken at each other, but she rejects his apologies and "need a towel?" and rushes off to text Edo to "rescue her."  He runs behind her with a dry sweater (a far shot for changing clothes! No girl parts, for a nice change of pace!).  

Ale (Gazing awestricken): "Um....um...(darn, how to you talk to the most beautiful woman in the world)....Let me..um.... give you a ride home."  

Summer (Gazing awestricken): "Um...um...(he's the most beautiful guy I've ever seen, but I have to reject him for a couple of episodes)...No!  My friend is coming to pick me up.  Besides, I hate you and everything about you!"

Ale: "Hear that?  It's the mating call of the flamingo."  Not the best pick-up line!  He moves in for a kiss, but at that moment Edo arrives.

Scene 6:  Summer and Edo skateboard through town.  Edo asks if she's ok.  She's fine...it's just...that guy..true-love, and I have to reject him...uh-oh, if I didn't know that Edo was gay, I'd think he was about to confess his love to her.


Scene 7:
The next morning.  Ale awakens naked amid the ruins of his party (penis and butt, but in a long shot).  He goes to the track, and gets yelled at by his trainer -- Dad ( I think Maio Sgueglia)! That explains the kiss.   

Dad: "You keep losing races because you're too stupid to follow simple instructions! I'm big and important!  Listen to me!" 

Ale: I'm injured!   I need the summer off!

Dad: Championships, working hard, I'm important, yada yada yada

Scene 8: Ale goes to the Grand Hotel to talk to his Mom, the manager, about taking the summer off.  There's a knock on the door -- it's Summer, there for her big job interview.  What a coincidence! They gaze awestricken at each other for about ten minutes, and then Mom begins the intervew.  The end.


Beefcake: 
Ale cock and butt, shirtless a lot.  A lot of shirtless guys at the party.  Several hunks haven't appeared yet, or at least I couldn't distinguish them. like Thomas Camorani (left)

Other Sights: Beautifully shot Italian resort community.

Heterosexism:  Well, the whole series is about the romance between Summer and Ale, who will probably experience some obstacles later on.  Otherwise be really boring story.  At this point, I can't see why they couldn't date.

Black Actress: There are less than 500,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa in Italy (0.6% of the population), so Summer having a black father should be important.  Maybe Summer encounters racism.  Maybe she deals with a disconnect between her traditions and Italian culture.  Nope, it's not mentioned.   

Bad Directing:  There must be some way to indicate sexual attraction other than stopping the action to have the two actors gaze awestricken at each other for ten minutes.

Gay Characters:  Hey, all those "gay best friend" tropes were a tease!  Edo is heterosexual!  

I thought Dario might be gay, since he and Sofi turn out to be friends, and he reveals to her "who is real crush is."  But no, he's straight.

Guess what?  Sofi is gay, and has a crush on Summer that drives a wedge between her and Ale.  Uh-oh, gay people exist only as problems that the heterosexuals must deal with.

Will I Keep Watching: Heck, no.  I hate summer.

Jun 8, 2021

Boomerang: Queer Inclusivity and Tequan's Pecs

Eddie Murphy is a major homophobe, so I haven't seen many of his movies, and I never heard of Boomerang (1992). It sounds dreadful: a player gets his comeuppance when he falls for a female version of himself.

But the new tv version on BET (available on Vudu and Amazon Prime) stars Tequan Richmond, the dreamy teen idol from Everybody Hates Chris, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to run through a few episodes on fast-forward, just in case he takes his shirt off.


He plays Bryson, son of the female player, a successful music executive (at age 26?) into hooking up.  Except this is 2019, and hooking up is no longer considered a character flaw; in fact, it's a common pastime among his cohort of coworkers/buddies:




1. Simone  (Tetona Jackson), daughter of  Eddie Murphy character, co-owner the company, and Bryson's on-off girlfriend.

2. Ari (Leland B. Martin, left), his best friend

3. Tia (Lala Milan), a singer.

4. David (RJ Walker), who runs a storefront church.

5. Crystal (Brittany Inge), his ex-wife

Plots involve helping each other out of the crisis du jour rather than punishing players.

And guess what?  In the nearly thirty years since the original movie, times have changed.  Homophobia is no longer considered funny (except in movies aimed at teenage boys), and inclusivity is in.  Tia is a lesbian  dating a woman named Rocky, and Ari is bisexual.  Not just "bisexual but only dating women at this moment," actually kissing guys.

In the episode PRIDE, they all attend the Atlanta Black Pride Festival (which for some reason takes place in the wintertime) to film Tia's new music video, and Ari gets schooled by an ex-girlfriend "You like both?  That means you gay!"  But he keeps his bi flag unfurled.  Meanwhile David shows up as a street preacher, but instead of the usual "Y'all going to hell!' screaming, he says "Y'all are all beautiful!"

You're probably wondering if Tequan shows his physique.

Not often.  But after all that queer inclusivity, who cares?

See also: Everybody Hates Chris



"Halston": Gay Fashion Designer Thinks He's Better than Jesus


I alternate between the same three shirts and two pairs of jeans every day (long sleeve in winter, short sleeve in summer). My favorite sweater is over 20 years old.  I can't remember the last time I wore dress shoes.  So maybe I'm not exactly the intended audience for Halston, a 2021 mini-series on Netflix. starring Ewan McGregor.

Halston (1932-1990) was a fashion designer who dressed celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Ford,  as well as ordinary women.  He designed the uniforms for the Girl Scouts, Braniff Airlines, and Avis Rent-a-Car, and started a line of Halston clothes especially for  theJ. P. Penney department stores.  In the 1970s he traveled in the circles of the gliteratti, doing disco and drugs with Liza Minelli, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Burt Reynolds, and Bella Abzug, throwing money around like he was Richie Rich.  His career came crashing down during the 1980s due to bad business decisions, excessive partying, and not doing any work.  He died of AIDS in 1990.

I learned all of this from wikipedia and the mini-series.  Previously, I had only heard the name, and I got it mixed up with the gay porn director who gave us the 1980s classic A Night at Halston's.  

So I went into the tv series fresh.  

I was surprised by the lack of recognizeable 1970s faces.  Basically just Liza Minelli.  Betty Ford in one episode.  Where were Burt Reynolds, Joe Namath, Bella Abzug, Andy Warhol? 

I was surprised by the lack of 1970s glitz.  Two very brief scenes set at the infamous Studio 54 nightclub.  90% of the scenes are set in Halston's workroom, where he's either screaming at his workers or coming up with a stroke of genius which I didn't understand: "You can't make a trench coat out of suede, but what about ultra suede?  Darling, bring me the chinois silk...."


I was surprised by the lack of beefcake.  Halston has a boyfriend in the first episode, and an on-off relationship with a rent boy/aspiring artist named Victor Hugo (Gian Franco Rodriguez, top photo), who ends up blackmailing him ("I have tapes of what we did.").  Halston vastly preferred to hang out with women, reserving men for behind-the-scenes sex.  

By the way, Victor Hugo was a real person, but his relationship with Halston was somewhat exaggerated.  He spent most of his career at Andy Warhol's Factory, posing for erotic photos and licking people and things.


There are a few cute guys scattered around the cast, like Jack Mikesell as John David Ridge, hired to take over the designing when Halston's partying keeps him from meeting deadlines, and Eli Perdew as Mark Benecke, a young designer with a drug problem soon eclipsed by Halston's. (Both real people.)

But none of them interact with Halston in any significant way.

I was surprised by the constant smoking.  Sure, people in the 1970s smoked, but was it necessary for Halston to take a drag on a cigarette before every single sentence?  It really slows down the story.

Finally, I was surprised that Halston is such an unsympathetic character.  He treats his staff like dirt.  He treats his business associates like dirt.  He treats his boyfriends like dirt.  He's egotistical, monomaniacal, narcissistic, rude, and...well, he has no redeeming qualities at all, except for his genius.


About that genius: Halston pulls out a dress and says "let's put this strap up here, and move this over there," and everyone gasps "Magnificent!  Incredible!  The greatest work of art since Michelangelo's David.  This will make revolutionize the fashion industry!"   Two scenes later, he pulls out another dress, makes some minor changes, and everyone falls to their knees to worship him again.  (To be fair, they know they have to say he's better than Jesus, or he'll shriek at them.)  To me, one dress looks like another, so I can't see how this one is so much better than everything else on the rack.  It's not enough to redeem the pompous jerk.


I did like Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minelli, performing snippets of "Liza with a Z" and  "Bonjour Paris,"  But we never get to hear the whole song.  I'd rather watch Rodriguez doing a full-length Liza Minelli homage. Or better yet, stream Cabaret.

Jun 7, 2021

Andy Warhol: Gay without Pride

I've been reading the Diaries of Andy Warhol, where the famous pop artist spends about a thousand pages recording how much he spent on cabs during the last ten years of his life (1977-87).  It's tough going.  He knows everybody, and lists them by their first names, so it's hard to figure out who's who.  He spends a lot of time on boring things ("had lunch") and gives promising events a line ("Got a death threat").  He goes to church every day.  He takes a lot of phone calls.

If I didn't know already, I'd have no idea that Warhol was gay.  He mentions attractive men and women both, but he doesn't seem to like gay people.  He complains that a first-name celebrity took him to a benefit, and it turned out to be for fags and lesbians.  He complains about bars being full of fags.  In a restaurant, he discovers that a gay chef made his dinner, and refuses to eat it for fear of contracting AIDS.  He thinks Gay Pride Day is ridiculous (although he doesn't mind photographing the parade).

With all that homophobia going on, what's gay about Andy Warhol?

Homoerotic art, especially early in his career, and films like Blow Job (1964) and Trash (1970).

A homoerotic painting by Jamie Wyeth.

The Factory, where he made his pop art in the 1960s, was a gathering place for bohemians, including drag queens, transgender folk of various types, and rent boys.  That was a lot of visibility for the pre-Stonewall era.

But after Stonewall, Warhol seems to have mostly ran Interview magazine, had lunch with Liza Minelli and Paul Getty Jr., photographed attractive men in their underwear, and complained about fags.

Makes you wonder what the Factory was all about.

Maybe he stopped caring about gays when they stopped think of themselves as sexual outsiders and started fighting for full human dignity?

Gay men and lesbians who think they're just as good as heterosexuals!  How boring!




All accounts state that he was attracted primarily or exclusively to men, but never had a boyfriend, or even a sexual partner.  He preferred to watch rather than touch.

I Meet the Nazarene Teen Idol

When I was growing up in the Nazarene Church, twice a year, in the fall and the spring, we had a "revival": a full week of screeching, foot-stomping, Bible-thumping sermons by an evangelist who made his living going from revival to revival, getting people saved and sanctified.

You were encouraged to bring your friends who went to other churches, and thus might not be amenable to visiting on a Sunday morning.  But on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night, they were free, right?

We did get a few converts during every revival, but not nearly enough for the evangelist, who stomped and shouted with more and more urgency as the week wore on and nearly everyone who needed to get saved was already saved and only a few people came down at the altar call.

The only bright spot of the whole ordeal was the gospel group that accompanied the evangelist. During the fall revival in 1976, my junior year in high school, the evangelist was the young, muscular but bellowing Brother Jonathan, and the musical group was the Smith Family (not to be confused with the punk rock group the Smiths, which I have several times).

They sang fast, upbeat songs which I assumed they wrote -- there were records for sale in the lobby.  Church oldsters used to old Salvation Army-style ballads like "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" were scandalized by their country-inflected lyrics, not to mention their guitars, drums, and tambourines.  One of their songs goes through my head intermittently to this day:

I've got confidence, God is going to see me through
Whatever the case may be, I know He's gonna fix it for me.

(I just discovered that "I've Got Confidence" was not a Smith Family original: it was composed by Andre Crouch and popularized by Elvis Presley.)


I haven't been able to find any photos -- too much interference from other Smiths on the internet -- but they looked something like this: middle-aged husband and young-adult daughter as the lead singers (baritone and soprano), teenage son on the guitar, preteen son on the drums, and wife on the tambourine.



 Scott, the teenage son, was a year younger than me, tall and buffed with big hands, a round face, short blond hair, and dreamy blue eyes.  The Nazarene equivalent of a teen idol, our own Shaun Cassidy!  I was desperate to become his friend, or at least feel a warm strong handshake, but I didn't have a chance.  He was mobbed.

Girls were swooning, batting their eyes at him, writing him love notes under the guise of prayer requests.  Old people (anyone over 30) were pushing to tell him what a "fine Christian boy" he was and getting them to autograph any piece of paper they could find, even the "notes" page of their study Bibles.  Boys were rushing to kneel at the altar in the hopes that Scott would come down from the podium and put his arm around them as they moaned and cried and "prayed through to victory."

Unfortunately, I couldn't join them at the altar, because I had made a major tactical error.  You could go down only to get saved (forgiven of the sins you had committed), sanctified (made holy, so you would be incapable of future sins), or to help someone else pray through.   And, not knowing that Scott would be there, I got sanctified just a few weeks ago!

Going down again so soon would be admitting that I had never been sanctified at all -- that I had been deceived by Satan into rising from the altar without praying through. Or that I was lying to get the praise and prestige.  A major faux pas. a major humiliation!

Every night I sat in my pew during Brother Jonathan's altar call, counting the boys who went up, calculating whether the chance of Scott choosing me to pray with was worth a public humiliation. Every night I decided against it, even on Friday and Saturday, when only one or two boys went down.

On Sunday morning, instead of rehearsing, the Smith Family "set a good example" by going to Sunday school.  Scott came to my high school class, but I couldn't even maneuver to sit next to him.  When the starstruck teacher, Sister Ruth, asked him to give his testimony, the class turned it into a Tiger Beat fave rave interview, complete with a q and a:


The complete story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

"Panic": "Dawson's Creek" Meets "The Hunger Games," with Gay Characters


"In the forgotten town of Carp, Texas, Panic is the only way out. Every summer graduating seniors risk their lives competing in a series of challenges for the chance to win life-changing money."  

A scripted series about a reality-tv show based on The Hunger Games?  You have got to be kidding.  And I know that being desperate to escape small towns has been a standard trope for generations, but why not just get on a bus?  Is there like a wall around the town?  Who decided to subject their kids to life-threatening challenges instead of just funding a scholarship?  Why do the parents go along with it?  Why do the kids?  

The wikipedia page mentions heterosexual love interests and a boy who "gets the girl."  The icon shows a boy and a girl about to kiss; the trailer shows another boy-girl couple kissing."  Looks very, very heterosexist.  But just in case they sneaked a gay character in without telling us, I went through Episode 4 on fast-forward. 


Minute 8:
Tyler (Jordan Elsass), who has been injured, is sitting in a pickup truck with Ray (Ray Nicholson, top photo, shown with his father, legendary actor Jack Nicholson).  Ray is wearing pink sunglasses.  Tyler reveals that he got into some trouble with his drug suppliers down in Galveston, and they beat him up.  But he wants back in the Panic Game.

Ray: "You're in a lot of trouble.  Lucky for you, I know you so well.  I sent in your proof."  He shows him a picture on his cell phone.

Tyler: "Looks like a dick."

Maybe they are a gay couple?



Minute 14:
At the lake.  Bad Boy Ray grabs and hugs a cute guy...his boyfriend?  Nope, his brother, Luke Hall (Walker Babbington).

Luke: Did you miss me? 

Ray: No.   I missed borrowing your car, though.

Luke: The only way your dumb ass could get laid.  (Only straight people say "get laid," ergo Ray is straight.).


Minute 30: The "Players' Ball."  All the teens in town are there, dancing, smoking crack (or something out of clay pipes), and pouring beer on each other.  I don't see any couples dancing together.

A fat guy, Drew (Cosme Flores), is playing cards with two girls and a long-haired boy (Troy, played by Stephen Dieh, left).  Could they be LGBTQ?  They don't say anything specific.







Dodge (Mike Faist) in the hot tub.  The girl on the other side of the tub asks "How come you never laugh?"  Constantly depressed is a gay trope, so maybe...

She says: "I think you're afraid."  Afraid to come out, maybe?

Nope, they start grabbing at each other.

Tyler, the drug dealer from Minute 8, is sitting with between two guys. Could they be the gay crew?  Nope, they double-take at a passing babe.

Troy, the long-haired guy from the card game, grabs Bad Boy Ray from behind.  They start dancing together.  Ok, these two have to be gay.  Wait -- is that Ray kissing a girl?  I'm confused.

Drew the Fat Guy gives central character Heather boyfriend advice.  Ok, he's gay.

Heather and Ray spend five minutes chatting and smooching.  The end.


Beefcake:
  Just Dodge in the hot tub.  There are some buffed cast members, including Enrique Murciano (left) as the sheriff and David W. Thompson as a rich kid (wait -- why would a rich kid compete for prize money to escape from his small town?).

Gay Characters:  I'm guessing Drew and Troy, with his dance partner Bad Boy Ray as just nonchalant: "A gay guy flirting with me?  That's cool."  

Racial Diversity:  I saw black, Hispanic, Asian, and South Asian teens.

Cliches: Lots of pickup trucks, cowboy hats, small-town diners, and dusty streets.

The Game: I was fast forwarding, but I didn't really see anything life-threatening going on.  This seems to be mostly a teen angst soap opera.

Will I Keep Watching: Maybe on fast-forward, to see if Troy or Drew get boyfriends.

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