Jul 3, 2021

Steve Lawrence: All the Sad Young Men

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were mainstays of The Carol Burnett Show during the 1970s, appearing in 27 episodes.  He also appeared by himself on The Hollywood Palace, Ed Sullivan, Laugh-In, Here's Lucy, even Sanford and Son.

When I was a kid, I disapproved of adult music as a point of pride, so I avoided him whenever possible,  although I remember a gently anti-War song on Carol Burnett: Steve is recounting the horrors of War to his son (played by a teddy bear), who doesn't understand, and keeps asking eager questions like "Did you kill anyone?  Did you have any fun?"   Finally he says "Daddy, bring me some war," becoming a bona fide hawk (not likely for a kid during the Viet Nam era).

And "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men":

All the sad young men, sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights, and missing all the stars

All the sad young men, drifting through the town
Drinking up the night, trying not to drown

All the sad young men, choking on their youth
Trying to be brave, running from the truth

I didn't know what "gay" meant yet, but I interpreted the song as a critique of gay men who were too stupid or scared to resist heterosexist brainwashing: they kowtowed to Big Brother, dutifully seeking out women to date and marry, and never experiencing real, true, meaningful same-sex romance.

(I may have been a little off in that interpretation: it's the title of a book of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald.)

Steve had the looks and the voice, but he never tried to make it as a teen idol.  Maybe he started a few years too early, in 1952, before the teen subculture really took off with Elvis and Ricky Nelson.  Or maybe his songs were too square even for the 1950s: "The Banana Boat Song," "Autumn Leaves," "Pretty Blue Eyes."   But he was on the Adult Contemporary Charts though the 1970s.

He acted in a few movies, playing a stay-at-home husband in the "women's lib" comedy Stand Up and Be Counted (1972), and as Maury Sline, manager to The Blues Brothers (1980).  

He's 85 years old in 2021, and struggling with Alzheimer's.  I haven't been able to discover if he was gay friendly earlier in his life.  Men of that generation always kept silent.

Jul 2, 2021

"Young Royals": The Prince of Sweden Falls in Love with a Scholarship Boy

I met Carl Gustaf, the King of Sweden, 30 years ago when he visited Rock Island, and my friend Zack claims to have hooked up with his son, Prince Carl Philip, when they were both attending the ritzy Kent School. So I have a vested interest in seeing how the royal family is portrayed in the Netflix series Young Royals.    

Scene 1:  Teenage Prince Wilhelm of Sweden (Edvin Ryding, below) in the bathroom, distraught, bruised.  Flashback to him in a crowd of partygoing teens, being photographed by papperazzi, getting into a fight.  

Switch to driving in a car with a woman -- his press secretary?  She gives him the speech where he'll beg the country for forgiveness and announce his "decision" to enroll in the Hillerska Boarding School.  He scoffs, but it's all been decided.

At the palace, while getting ready for the apology video, he tells his parents that he won't go.  "I'm not even Crown Prince.  My brother will inherit the throne.  Why can't I live a normal life and go to a regular high school?"  "Nope, that didn't work out. You got into a fight."

Scene 2: 
 Establishing shot of the boarding school, which apparently doesn't get many royals: the staff is all atwitter.  Crown Prince Erik (Ivar Forsling), who just graduated a few years ago, shows Wilhelm around.  We meet their second cousin August.  Lots of handshaking and photographers saying "Could you do that again, only smile?"

Into a welcoming assembly, where everyone giggles and stares (half the royal family is going there; should they be so absurdly starstruck over Wilhelm?).  The choir starts their welcome song; Wilhelm gazes in awe at the curly-haired soloist.  The Boy of His Dreams!  

Scene 3:  Another photo shoot, on the grounds.  Wilhelm and Crown Prince Erik playfully escape. 

Meanwhile, Second Cousin August (Malte GĂ„rdinger, top photo) finds out that the secret police have scoured everything; no booze anywhere on campus!  And he promised Crown Prince Erik that he'd give Wilhelm "the wildest initiation ever."  Wait - Curly Haired Soloist lives in town; maybe he could smuggle something in.

Scene 4: 
Crown Prince Erik helps Wilhelm move into his tiny single room.  How can he live like this?  He's used to a palace! Wait -- didn't he want to live a normal life?  "The faster you adapt, the easier your life will be," Erik suggests.  And leaves. 

Scene 5:
  Cousin August approaches Curly Haired Soloist -- Simon (Omar Rudberg) --as he leaves school at the end of the day, and introduces himself.  "We're having an initiation party for Wilhelm, and if you provide the booze, I'll make an exception to the 'no first year students' rule and invite you." Simon refuses.

 Scene 6:  In the stables, Felice is having trouble with her horse, so Sarah offers to help. Felice snippily refuses.  Later, she refuses Sarah'a offer of help rubbing the horse down.  Lots of close-ups of the horse's eyes, making me worry that we'll have an Equus situation later.   Curly-Haired Soloist Simon arrives to pick Sarah up -- his sister?

On the way to the bus stop, they discuss why Felice is being so bitchy.  "It's not a problem," Sarah says. "I'm used to no one liking me."

The bus travels into the city and picks up some kids from the regular high school who know Simon.  "Prince Wilhelm arrived today.  He seems a bit of a loser."

Meanwhile, back in her dorm room, Felice masturbates to a picture of Prince Wilhelm. WTF?  This is a bit racier than I expected!  

Her roommate Maddie interrupts to speculate about the Prince's penis.  Then she asks "Why do you like him, anyway? You're rich."  "But he's royal.  His children -- our children -- will be princes and princesses."  So being rich is not enough -- she wants to become the Queen Mum. 

Scene 7:  Dinner in Curly-Haired Soloist Simon and "Nobody Likes Me" Sarah's small apartment. Two other girls, both around 10 years old; maybe one of them is Mom (why do middle aged women always look 10 years old in Scandinavia?).

Mom asks if Sarah is making any friends at her new, ritzy private school, and she gets mad and storms off. "Leave me alone!  I don't need friends!"

Scene 8:
 Dinner time at the boarding school.  Prince Wilhelm is forced to sit at the far end of the table, with the other first-years. He is annoyed when the other guys agree with everything he says.

So far the Eton of Sweden has been disappointing, a series of nondescript classrooms, dorm rooms, and dining rooms. Prince Carl Philip attended several much more elegant-looking schools, such as the Enskilda Gymnasiet.

Later, Curly-Haired Soloist Simon calls his friend Ayub to ask for booze.  He can't provide any.  

Switch to Prince Wilhelm, in his underwear in bed, texting his Mom: "Please let me come home.  I hate it here!"

Scene 9:  Morning.  In class, the teacher announces that murder is top, followed by child abuse and rape. What about tax evasion and welfare scamming? What class is this?  Simon wants to know why when rich people do it, it's "evasion," and poor people, "a crime."   "You know who the biggest welfare scammers in the country are?  The Royal Family."  He glares at Prince Wilhelm.  Simon isn't afraid to criticize a prince!  Wilhelm is impressed!

Scene 10: Prince Wilhelm tries to sit with Simon at lunch, but Cousin August calls him away.  

After school, Simon tells Cousin August that he will provide booze, if he and his sister are both invited to the post initiation party.  He goes to the scuzzy apartment of his ne-er-do-well father, who is wearing sweat pants and a Star Trek sweater.

Simon: I know you're dealing booze.  Everyone knows.  Can you hook me up with some? I need it for a party. How strict are the liquor laws in Sweden?

I checked: you can get alcoholic drinks in bars and restaurants, but if you want alcohol to take home, you have to face the complex, expensive government-run monopoly. Many Swedes go to Norway or Finland to get their booze, and moonshine is common in rural  areas.

Dad: I remember what it was like, trying to impress a girl.

Simon: I'm gay, Dad.

Dad: Oh, right, sorry.  A cute guy, then.  Sure, you can count on me to save the day.

Simon: Just don't tell anyone I've been here.  He's not allowed to visit his father?

Scene 11: 
 Prince Wilhelm is kidnapped by scary clowns, squirted with water, ridden like a horse, and forced to drink a glass of spit.  The hazing over, he pledges loyalty to Forest Hill House, and it's time for the party.  

Lots of boys and girls drinking and frolicking.  Cousin August: "Your problem was that you wanted to have normal friends, meet normal girls, go to normal parties, but the normal people will never accept you as one of them." 

On cue, two normals, Sarah and Simon, arrive. Sarah finds a drunk Felice and bonds with her.  Prince Wilhelm gazes at Simon from across the crowded room, but doesn't approach: he's busy drinking, dancing, and being gazed at by star-struck girls.  When he finally gets around to saying hello, Simon makes an excuse and leaves.  Prince Wilhelm follows.  They end up sitting outside, laughing and talking and gazing at each other.  Enough with the gazing!  Kiss, already!

Nope.  Their faces are about an inch away when the closing credits start to roll.

Beefcake: Some cute guys.  Prince Wilhelm is not at all attractive.

Other Sights: No.

Gay Characters:  Obviously Prince Wilhelm and Simon.  Maybe Sarah.  

A Gay Royal:  Sweden is one of the most gay-positive countries in the world, with 98% of the population favoring gay rights and 92% supporting same-sex marriage.  But since the job of a prince is to smile, wave, give speeches, and have sex with a princess, the Royal Family may disapprove of Prince Wilhelm and Simon dating. I assume this will be the main conflict of the series.

My Grade:  Pleasant, but a little slow (they don't kiss until the end of Episode 2). and the Wilhelm-Simon and Sarah-Felice plotlines are too similar to be of much interest.  We need something else to stir things up.   B

Jun 29, 2021

Pride Month on Disney Plus: A Boy Who Wears Pink, A Girl with Fangs, and the President of the United States


Disney+, the brand that closets everybody or brags about its inclusivity while reducing queerness to a subtext, actually has a Pride Month category.  I was curious to see what would be included.

1. High School Musical the Musical the Series: apparently at tv series based on the musical version of the movie High School Musical, which famously refused to let any of the high school drama club members be gay because "teenagers are too young to have sex."  Apparently there is a gay character (played by Joe Serafini), who actually gets to date;

2. Out: a Disney/Pixar short about a man who is afraid to come out to his visiting parents, so he changes places with his dog, and discovers that they kind of know already.

3. Howard: "the untold story" of Howard Ashman (1950-1991), the lyricist behind "some of the most well-known family films in the world," like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.

4. The Little Prince(ss):  a Disney/Pixar short.  Chinese-American Gabriel, a little boy, loves ballet, wears pink, and plays with dolls, which is fine with his parents but upsets the father of his new friend Rob. 

5. Growing Fangs: Another short. Mexican-American Val, half-vampire, attends a special monster school.  Then Jimmy (Gilberto Ortiz), her best friend from her old human school, shows up, forcing her to reveal her secret. Val also has a crush on a girl.

6. The Runaways. A Marvel universe tv series.  Six teenagers battle their parents, who run a criminal organization called Pride.  So that's the Pride Month connection?  Not exactly the same thing.

7. The Owl House: an animated tv series: a girl named Luz stumbles into a magical world, and eventually studies to become witch.  She has a subtext same-sex romance with the witch Amity, which opens slightly for a dance in Episode 16.  Apparently it took a lot of negotation to get the slight closet-opening past the Disney suits.

8. Big Shot:
John Stamos as a famous basketball coach forced to teach high school (the perennial high school teaching as punishment!  A job which apparently anybody can get, without the degree in education and student-teaching year that you need in the real world).  It's an all-girl school, but there are lots of dreamy boys around to provide "love interests" (like Dale Whibley).  Also two of the girls have a same-sex romance.

9. Diary of a Future President. The President of the U.S. reminisces to when she was in sixth grade.  I'm out of time, so I'll have to review it separately.

Jun 28, 2021

"The Seventh Day": Gay Priest Saves the Day, the Movie Gets an A

 The trailer of The Seventh Day, on Netflix, appeared to show a hot guy being rescued from a zombie -- by a priest invoking the Power of Christ.  Turns out to be an exorcism movie: the hot guy is another priest, and the zombie is a possessed woman.  Demon possession turns you into a zombie nowadays?  But movies about priests by definition can't have hetero-romance, so I'm in.

Scene 1: Baltimore, 1995.  The tv shows Pope John Paul II visiting; parade, mass in a giant stadium, close-ups of grinning kids. Mega-hot beach stud Peter (Chris Galust) and elderly Father Louis prepare for an exorcism by hugging and praying 

It's a scary possessed boy.  The demon taunts them a la The Exorcist, invites Peter to come over to the dark side, and kills Father Louis before burning the boy to death.

Scene 2: 
New Orleans, 2021.  While the tv provides plot exposition (12 year old Charlie Giroux is accused of murdering his parents and sister), the Captain -- um, I mean Archbishop -- introduces mega hot beach stud Daniel (Vadher Derbez, top photo) to his new partner, the 50-something Father Peter (Guy Pearce).  I'd date him if he got rid of the stupid 1970s porn stache.

Father Peter sneers at the new recruit -- eager, idealistic, top of his class at the Exorcism Academy, but with no field experience. He'll be eaten by a demon within a week.  

But like it or not, Father Peter is getting a partner -- the number of demon possessions has risen "precipitously," so the Church needs all the demon-slayers...um, exorcists...it can get.

Father Peter: "Fine.  Newbie, go get me some coffee."  Har-har.

Scene 3: In the squad car.  Father Peter is drinking beer and singing along to rock music, while Daniel tries to pretend that he's not shocked.   Daniel: "I was top of my class!" Father Peter: "Did they give you a gold star for being adorable, Newbie? This isn't playtime!  People get hurt!"

First assignment: a homeless camp under the freeway.  Father Peter invites Daniel to identify the possessed person -- first lesson at the Exorcism Academy, right?  He chooses the crazy guy who yells for "you and your creepy-ass friend to get out!" Nope: it's the saintly elderly volunteer, Helen!  (This is the saved-from-a-zombie scene.)

Scene 4: 
 On to the next case: The house where 12-year old Charlie (Brady Jennes) killed his family.  Daniel uses his spidey senses to look back at the past: Creepy Dad and Mom and Sis (in Amish outfits?) berating Charlie for not liking football and hanging out with "filthy, disgusting children."; the neighborhood pedophile priest feeling him up Hey, why can these reflections of the past notice Daniel standing there?; Charlie whacking his Mom; Charlie hiding under the bed. 

Scene 5:  They still have to prove that Charlie is possessed, not just a heavily abused boy who snapped, so they go to the juvenile detention center and use their credentials as employees of a "titan of influence and corruption" to get an interview. Still-sarcastic Father Peter stays behind: "If you're so smart, newbie, interview him all by yourself"   

Charlie recognizes Daniel from those moments when he was looking into the past!  He tells the story: while he was at Skate City with his old friends, he saw a strange man.  Later the man appeared in his room, crawled into his bed and...Oh God, another pedophile...said "You've got to help me."  The demon comes out before he can finish: "We're taking over.  You can't fight it, so why not let us in?"

Scene 6: In the lounge, Daniel announces that the boy is indeed possessed.  Father Peter: "What's the demon's name?  Surely you asked, Top of the Class?"  Ok, then, they have to find the doorway, something that showed Charlie how to "get to the other side." Wait -- I thought the demon came to you.

Scene 7:
Skate City, the run-down roller skating rink where Charlie said the man first appeared. It's deserted except for a girl named Jazzy skating, then playing video games with Aaron and Carson (Bjorgvin Anarson)  The boys are black -- that's why Charlie's Mom didn't want him hanging out with them.  Racist and abusive!

By the way, Bjorgvin Anarson is, according to his modeling profile, "the most interesting kid in the world," born in the U.S., raised in Japan, with an Icelandic name, and his favorite food is escargot.

The kids take the fathers to a storeroom they use as a secret hideout, and show them the ouija board Charlie played with. 99% of ouija boards are harmless, so Daniel tries this one to see if it can really summon demons. 

It can. It gives him a bloody flashback of the murders, with Daniel holding the axe.

Scene 8: The Archbishop tells the fathers that the higher-ups have already been decided.  Charlie will go to trial.  "No!  He's not guilty due to demonic possession!" Daniel shouts.  "You have to let me prove it!"  Buzz buzz rules are rules.  If you can convince the psychiatrist doing the evaluation....

Out in the office, Daniel is waiting for Father Peter when suddenly, with no buildup, the Archbishop's secretary gives him the phone number of her nephew, Kevin, "a lovely boy."  Um...setting up the father on a date?  Aren't priests supposed to be celibate? And how did she know he was gay?  Daniel: "How big is he?  Um...I mean, thanks.  Maybe I'll give him a call."  

Scene 9:  The fathers observing Charlie's psychiatric evaluation.  They have to act fast -- he's almost entirely gone.  Daniel asks Charlie to describe the man that visited him.  "He was tall, with long hair, a beard, and sandals.  He had holes in his hands and feet" The demon demonstrates by making a pencil stab the psychiatrist and floating in the air like Jesus on the cross.  

I'm not going to give away the rest of the story, but I was shocked by who the Man turns out to be (not Jesus).  And the other unexpected plot twists.

It was nice to see a gay guy rescuing a young boy for a change, instead of being a threat.

The movie ends with Daniel setting out to meet with Kevin.  Not for a date, but still, a major gay subtext.

I don't understand the negative reviews.  I found this fresh, exciting, suspenseful, and gay-positive.  Oh, maybe that's why.

My Grade: A

Jun 27, 2021

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

I don't care for rap music, but who in 1991 wasn't paying attention to rapper Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, whose "Good Vibration" reached #1 on the US Pop Charts?

We really weren't paying attention to the song; we were watching the music video, which showed Marky working out with his shirt off (and, unfortunately, having sex with a girl).

In live performances, he also took his shirt off, revealing an astounding bodybuilder's physique, and during the number he dropped his pants and grabbed his crotch, obviously aware that fans weren't paying attention to his musical talent.

Born in 1971, Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) was the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block (and a member himself for a few months).  A young gang-banger,he was  always getting into trouble. At age sixteen he was charged with attempted murder for a hate crime perpetrated against a Vietnamese youth that left him blind in one eye.  While in juvenile detention, Mark "got his act together" and moved into music.

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch didn't last long.  Their first album, Music for the People (1991) went platinum, but their second, You Gotta Believe (1992), peaked at #63.  The group disbanded in 1993.

His biography on the IMDB claims that his decline and fall came when he was being interviewed on a British talk show, and fellow rapper Shabba Ranks called for the extermination of gay people.  His failure to comment was taken as agreement, and ended his career (I doubt it; aren't lots of rap fans homophobic?).

Mark then capitalized on his underwear notoriety by modeling for Calvin Klein (often hugging a girl).

Then he moved into acting, playing lots of muscular but dangerous/violent characters, or any role that capitalized on his physique and penis, such as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights (1997).

No gay roles.  No gay-friendly roles.  Now over 40, the actor has distanced himself from the racism of his youth, but he continues to make homophobic comments -- such as the script to Brokeback Mountain freaked him out -- although he claims that a closeted gay uncle taught him "tolerance."

See also: Looking for Beefcake on MTV.

"Dancing Queens": Not Enough Drag Queens. Or Disco. Or Hunks. Or Gay People.


How hard is it to get in a drag show?  The ones I've been to are open anyone who wants to slap on a wig and a dress and lip-synch Madonna.  They're for small-town queens to express their inner campiness, not star vehicles for the pros.

But that's the premise of Dancing Queens: a dancer who has a job cleaning up in a drag bar dreams of making it in the show.  

I thought it was the hot black guy on the icon, but apparently he's just there to draw in viewers; the dancer with dreams of drag stardom is actually a little girl named Dylan (Molly Nutley, who is playing 23 but looks around 10).  Dylan lives on an island in  Sweden, spending her time mourning her mother's death, caring for her sick father, and delivering boxes of groceries to needy townfolks (piling on the sainthood rather thick, innit?).  Grandma suggests that she return to her dream of becoming a dancer, but she will have none of it: life is too depressing to dance!  

Her personal life is rather depressing, too.  Sebbe (Max Ulveson), a hot guy who has fifteen jobs in town,  invites her to a wrestling match "to see sweaty guys grabbing each other," but she refuses: "Only guys like watching that."  Don't be hetero-phobic, girlfriend -- lots of women like men.  Later he tries to kiss her, but she rejects him. What part of "Not interested in men" don't you understand?

One day Dylan succumbs to her Grandma's pressure and goes to Stockholm to audition for a dancing role at the Grand Theater (which doesn't look very grand).  "Too late -- auditions were last month.  But how about a job cleaning the place?  At least you'll be able to watch the dancers, pick up a few tips."

Turns out to be a drag queen revue.  As Dylan watches, head queen Tommy La Diva (Claes Malmberg) complains that the choreography is too advanced.  Drag is about sashaying, not piroutting.  The outfits, not the moves.  He calls for the choreographer - the young, hip, art-moderne Victor (Fredrik Quinones, top photo), hired just because he's the director's boyfriend.

"You have to change with the times," Victor explains.  "Be avant-garde. Challenge people."

"Drag isn't about challenge!" Tommy yells.  "It's comforting!  It's inspiring!  'I Will Survive' in a homophobic society."

Tommy runs back to the dressing room to have a tantrum, and talks to his dead boyfriend. Gosh, it's dead loved ones all the way down.  The director wants to know what's wrong.  "We used to be a family -- a community.  Coming here was like coming home.  The young queens never suffered.  This is just a game to them."

Meanwhile, Victor considers giving Tommy some retro numbers, and having the other queens do the modern stuff.  When did we move from Dylan to an omniscient point of view?

While cleaning, Dylan stumbles upon Victor rehearsing a complex ballet number.  Uh-oh, he gives her a look. The pansexual diva is going to find hetero-love!  She ends up helping him work on a hetero-erotic pas-de-deux (lots of gyrating atop each other). This will definitely not work for a drag queen revue!  

Dylan is so good that Victor asks her to join the show, to help with the modern numbers.  He has to Victor/Victoria her, introducing her as a gay boy from Australis who is new to drag.  Yawn.  A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.  Julie Andrews did it better in 1982. 

Dylan, of course, saves the show.  We close to the queens in the audience, watching Victor and Dylan's hetero-erotic pas-de-deux, awe-stricken about how great she is.    The closing credits show two other hetero couples hooking up, and no gay couples.

So this is a cisgender heterosexual story, with the gay people relegated to props.  Ugh!  

Four questions:

1. You stream a movie called Dancing Queens in order to see drag performers. Why aren't there any drag performances?  The queens barely even appear in drag. 

2. The movie starts out being about the clash between old drag culture, born out of oppression, and the modern queers who grew up in a (mostly) non-homophobic society. That would be interesting.  Why is it dropped in favor of a cliche "girl follows her dream" storyline?

3.  Dylan says that her main dance speciality is disco, and Dancing Queens is a reference to the 1976 Abba song.  Why are there no disco numbers?

4. What happened to the hot black guy on the icon? 

My grade: D

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