Aug 14, 2021

What's Gay about Beany and Cecil?

Beany, a grinning 10-year old boy with blond hair, freckles, and a magic beanie that allowed him to fly, first appeared as a puppet on the local Los Angeles tv series Time for Beany (1949-1954). 

 A 26-episode animated version appeared on prime time (1962-63), and on Saturday mornings (1962-67). There were also books, toys, games, and comics.

This screencapt is from the short-lived 1988 remake, drawn by John Kricfalusi.

The plots involved Beany; his adult companion "Uncle Captain" Horatio Huffenpuff; and the giant green phallic symbol Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent.  There were a lot of puns which I didn't understand at the time: Hungry I-Land, "Malice in Wonderland," "Phantom of the Horse Opera," Cyrano de Bugs-R-Back (ok, that one is a bit of a stretch).

Their main antagonist was Dishonest John, a silent movie melodrama villain with a handlebar moustache and a sinister "Nya-ha-ha" catchphrase.  He often captured and threatened to torture or kill Beany, whereupon Beany would cry "Help, Cecil, help!" and Cecil would rush to the rescue.

When I was a kid, I didn't notice the heterosexism.  It was far more pervasive than in the Hanna Barbera cartoons (Yogi Bear, The Flintstones).  The crew explores No Bikini Atoll, an island that looks like a reclining woman.  The Captain is in love with a husky woman named Ida, Cecil is dating a female sea serpent named Cecilia, and even Beany has a girlfriend, Baby Ruth. 

I just noticed a boy who needed lots of rescues.  Beany and Cecil didn't have a romantic bond, but the inversion of the standard female damsel-in-distress plotline paved the way for more overt gay partners, boys who faded-out in each other's arms -- Jonny and Hadji, the Hardy Boys, the Adventure Boys in the Green Library.

The first childhood toy that I remember is a huge, cuddly Beany doll wearing a red turtleneck sweater and blue overalls (I didn't check to see if he was intact underneath, like I did a few years later with my G.I. Joe and my sister's Donny Osmond). When you pulled the string in back, he said random things:  "I'm Beany Boy!"; "Let's go explore!"; "Gee, this is fun!"; and "Help, Cecil, help!" 

He got rescued a lot.

"A Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce": A Gay Brother, a Surreal Bordello, and No Screeching


After the horror of  half an episode of The Valley, with its shrieking, nastiness, and straight drag queen, I want a nice, normal sitcom where people are likeable,  speak in a normal tone, and act like human beings, not Daffy Duck and Pepe LePew. I don't even care if there are any gay characters.  Just give my eardrums a rest.  

The first normal-sounding sitcom I found on Netflix was Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.  One of my pet peeves is the use of "girlfriend" to mean a straight woman's female friend, with its sexist presumption that women can't be friends with men and heterosexist presumption that no lesbians exist.  

And how did a show that premiered in 2019 get five seasons? 

Good enough.  I'm in.  

Episode 1: "Rule 23: Never Lie to the Kids"

Scene 1: Exterior shot of Los Angeles, night (I feel better already!)  Abby McCarthy, author of the bestselling Girlfriends' Guide book series ("real advice from a real mom!"), lies in bed, watching herself being interviewed on tv.  Husband Jake (Paul Adelstein, top photo) arrives.  Abby: "You smell like sex."  Jake: "Screw you."  

Scene 2: Morning.  An adorable little girl, whom Abby calls Bun-Bun, comes into the bedroom.  They kiss, hug, rub noses, and discuss how much they love each other (sickening, but at least they're not being nasty).  Meanwhile Jake kisses the top of the head of the teen daughter.

Down to breakfast. Whoa, gorgeous kitchen.  This lady is rich!  Teen Daughter wants to go to a sleepover in London. Bun-Bun needs help with her "special person board" (a school project?). Jake and Abbey text mean things to each other.

Scene 3:
Abby drops off the kids at the ultra-elite school. Shots of Beverly Boulevard, the Miracle Mile, the Pacific Design Center (home!  I used to live five blocks away!).  

I think Bun-Bun's real name is Charlie.

Abby asks Lyla (Janeane Garofalo), another ultra-elite mother, if she told anyone about the d.i.v.o.r.c.e.  Meanwhile, Lyla is having problems with her ex: when it's his night with the kids, he leaves them with a sitter to go out with some floozie.

Scene 4: The two talk to some divorced moms, three blonde, one black,  at an ultra-elite cafe (exterior shot -- I'm not complaining!).  Abby's brother Max (Patrick Heusinger, left) is also there.  They want to know why, if Abby and Max are so close, she hasn't told him about the d.i.v.o.r.c.e.  "He's incredibly traditional about some things."  But, because she's hanging out with the Divorced Crowd, he's bound to suspect....

She hasn't told the kids, either.  Jake has moved out, but he is always home in bed when they get up, so they won't suspect.

Scene 5: 
 Lyla's mansion.  Her ex-husband, Dan (Michael Weaver), drops off the kids.  He tells her that he's met someone new.  Has he given up his BDSM excursions?  No, he loves being humiliated, like when they were together.  

Cut to Lyla and Dan having sex (not BDSM) and drinking. When he leaves, she immediately calls the police and reports him as a drunk driver.  (To humiliate him?)

Scene 6: Morning.  All of the parents congeal at the school for "special person" day.  Including Abby's brother Max and his husband (a gay couple! and they kiss and everything!).  Abby tells him: "Jake and I are taking a break.  We're keeping it secret."  Max disapproves: "You guys can work it out.  Just don't hang out with the Divorced Crowd.  They're encouraging you."

Scene 7:  Time for Bun-Bun's "special person" presentation about her Mommy, who writes books that help people.  Afterwards, Abby calls someone she calls Mama and says "You win. Get me laid."

Scene 8: Mama (I think her real name is Phoebe) and Abby at a red-draped bordello with women dancing in cages and a lady in a 1920s costume at the bar.  The owner asks a hustler named Will to open the "special door," which I assumed would lead to a bedroom.  In fact, it opens into a gigantic disco.  Shouldn't that be the other way around?  

Abby asks what's up with Ralf.  Mama states that although they are divorced, he still wants sex, so she charges him for it. "Now, how about getting Abby laid?  Lots of hot guys here -- pick one.  Are they all hustlers?  Or we could just do it."  She kisses Abby, who is shocked.

Scene 9:
Abby goes out onto the terrace, with a spectacular view of downtown L.A. and a gay couple on a couch.  Will approaches to see if she's just into girls, or...  no, she likes boys.  They kiss.

Apparently he's a waiter, not a hustler.  I don't know why you get to the disco through a "special door" in a bordello. Aren't hundreds of people traipsing through every nighit?

Scene 10: Back to Will's house, where three guys and a girl are playing video games. Into the bedroom. Abby is nervous: she hasn't been with anyone but Jake for a long time, and never with someone so much younger. But Will is into cougars, so....they have sex.  Nice chest shot.

Afterwards, Will wants her to spend the night and have breakfast in the morning, but Abby hurriedly dresses and leaves without giving him her phone number, while the roommates stare (harsh, dude).

Scene 11: Back home, Abby and Jake argue about their mutual infidelities and  keeping the divorce a secret. Finally the older daughter, having been awakened by the ruckus, comes in and yells at them.  

Scene 12: Morning.  After dropping off the kids at ultra-elite school, Abby chats with her brother Max about the d.i.v.o.r.c.e.:  "It's done.  He's gone.  He's banging some actress from the CW.  And I have a book signing today.  How will it sell when people realize that I'm a fraud?"  

Traditionalist Max advises her to not give up: "You made a commitment.  You have to stick with it.  Unless he hit you or is an alcoholic, you have no excuse for a divorce."  Abby storms off.

This is refreshing.  When was the last time you saw a conservative gay character on tv?

Scene 13:
The book signing.  Abby reveals that her book is "a pile of horseshit."  Happy marriage, indeed!  It was all a lie!  ", there's still some good advice in who wants their book signed?"  She slinks out.  Friends: "Well, she's screwed."

The end.

It wasn't exactly a sitcom; more like a dramedy version of Cougar Town.  But there was ample beefcake, a gay main character (conservative, yet!), a bisexual character, some spectacular sets, and a surreal bordello out of Twin Peaks.   And best of all, no screeching.  

By the way, Charlie is apparently a boy, not a girl, and in the last episode (when he's around 12), it is implied that he is gay.  That might make me forgive him for being named Bun-Bun

Bobby Boris Pickett and the Gay Monster Mash

Born in 1938, Robert Pickett was a minor tv star, with roles in Dr. Kildare, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza, and Petticoat Junction.  He displayed a respectable physique opposite gay teen icon Tommy Kirk in the beach movie It's a Bikini World (1967).  

(Left:  more respectable physique from Bikini World).

He recorded many songs, mostly  horror parodies: "The Werewolf Watusi," "Monster Man Jam," "Monsters on the Prairie."  But his biggest claim to fame was the novelty-horror song "The Monster Mash" by "Boris" Bobby Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, which sprang to the top of the charts in 1962, 1970, and 1973.

 It has been covered by everyone from Boris Karloff to Alvin and the Chipmunks, heard on every tv series from Cheers to The Office.  

There isn't a lot of specifically gay or heterosexist content. Dr. Frankenstein is "working in the lab, late one night," when his Monster rises from the slab and wants to dance. Other Universal monsters appear and join in. The only conflict comes when Dracula prefers "The Transylvania Twist."  Nobody expresses any heterosexual interest, though Dracula has a son.

There's a video on youtube starring more explicitly gay versions of the monsters: they hug, hold hands, and collapse into each other's arms.

The 1995 Monster Mash: The Movie channels The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with two teenagers dressed as Romeo and Juliet (including Ian Bohan, left, later photo) trapped in a castle with the monsters, who want to use them for various nefarious purposes. Gay actor Adam Shankman plays a gay Wolfie, who wants to eat them.  It's not on DVD, but there are VHS tapes out there, and there's a trailer on youtube.

Bobby Pickett died in 2007.

See also: Jozin z Bazin, the Czech Swamp Monster.

Aug 13, 2021

Top 10 Beefcake Horror Movies: the 1950s

My brother and I spent many Saturday nights in the 1970s in our attic room, watching old horror and sci-fi movies on Chuck Acri's Creature Feature on our portable black & white tv set (it was past our bedtime, so we kept the sound low, so our parents wouldn't hear).

Although nearly all of them had a heterosexist "fade-out kiss" ending, there were plenty of buddy-bonding scenes as two guys compete over a girl, and then work together when the monster kidnaps her.

And everyone knew that you didn't watch a monster movie just for the plot.  The guys took their clothes off.  A lot.

Here are the most beefcake-heavy horror movies of the 1950s.  Most of them have been parodied on MST3K, but try to get the originals, so Joel and the Bots don't interfere with your view of the biceps.

1. Robot Monster (1952).  An alien that looks like a gorilla in a space helmet destroys the world, then terrorizes the survivors, including gay actor George Nader, who forgot to pack a shirt.

2. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Richard Carlson displaying his beefy, hirsute chest in a swimsuit, chasing the monster and buddy-bonding with fellow ichythologist Richard Denning.  (See also Richard Carlson;s chest in Tormented.)

3. Revenge of the Creature (1955).  In the sequel to Creature from the Black Lagoon, John Bromfield, right (who was apparently gay) provides the revealing swimsuit and boyfriend John Agar, left, provides the muscles.

4. The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). Yet another sequel, with Western hunk Boomer Morrow, left providing the muscles and boyfriend Rex Reason, right, the revealing swimsuit.  How did that get past the censors?

5. I was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957).  Body of a boy! Mind of a monster! Soul of an unearthly thing!  Under the monster mask (left) was bisexual bodybuilder Gary Conway, the object of Dr. Frankenstein's unabashed homoerotic fantasy. Not to worry, he eventually gets a new face.

6. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Grant Williams shrinks right out of his clothes.  Unfortunately, he quickly finds something to cover his impressive physique.

7. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). Glenn Langdon has the opposite problem, growing right out of his clothes (except for his underwear).  He immediately goes on a rampage.

 8. She-Gods of Shark Reef (1958). Don Durant and Bill Cord are shipwrecked on an island full of flirtatious women, and immediately lose their clothes.

9. Teenage Cave Man (1958).  A young Robert Vaughn, the future Man from U.N.C.L.E., as the nameless Cave Boy, who displays his chest while discovering the Big Secret.

10. War of the Colossal Beast (1958).  Glenn Langdon refused to do this sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man, so muscular Dean Parker was cast, and given a small eye problem so audiences wouldn't know the difference.

Dean Parker appeared in only one other movie: The Cyclops (1957), where he also flexed his muscles in a monster mask. Apparently that was enough.

11. Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959). Bodybuilder Ken Clark strips down to fight them.  He also displayed his body and bulge in South Pacific and several modern-day dramas.

Richard Denning: The Hunk from the Black Lagoon

I stumbled across this photo on the internet -- a blond hunk in a leopard skin loincloth, carrying a phallic knife.  I thought I knew all of the Tarzans and Tarzan clones who swung from the trees during the 1930s and 1940s.  But it appears that the 28-year old Richard Denning was playing a Tarzan parody, Jackra the Magnificent, in Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942).  It was really an excuse to get current it-girl Dorothy Lamour into a leopard skin of her own.

According to the indispensable Brian's Drive-in Theater, the hunky actor took his shirt off several times during his long career, notably to fight with Buster Crabbe in Caged Fury  (1948) and a web-foot monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), #2 on my list of the Top Horror Movies of the 1950s.  He starred with the equally hunky Richard Carlson, and even got a few bulge shots.

I've only seen him in Black Lagoon, which has a strong gay subtext, in spite of the ubiquitous posters showing  swimsuit-clad girl being carried off by the monster. Ichythologists David (Richard Carlson) and Mark (Richard Denning), The Girl, Kay (Julie Adams), and some scientists head up the Amazon in search of a strange living fossil from the Devonian period.

While David and Mark alone together, The Girl goes off swimming by herself and encounters the Creature, who is so entranced by her beauty that it follows her.

It is captured but escapes and kills half of the crew, including Mark.  Then it captures the Girl.  David is overcome with grief, but rallies enough for a last-minute rescue and a heterosexist ending.

Richard Denning had 114 movie and tv appearances, including both actioners and comedies, from 1937 to 1980.  Boomers may recognize him as the governor of Hawaii on 71 episodes of Hawaii Five-0, or as the star of the radio series My Favorite Husband, with Lucille Ball.  No word on any gay connection in real life.

Aug 10, 2021

"The Great North": Bears, Moose, Bigfoot, and a Gay Son in the Alaskan Wilderness


Stuck in a hotel room in Indiana and unwilling to get a Grindr hookup with pandemic Phase 2 going on, I watched Fox's Sunday night lineup.  A game show about legos, The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, and a sitcom I never heard of before, The Great North.

It was set in a small Alaska town near Anchorage, with animation very reminiscent of Bob's Burgers -- even a child in a bear costume, like Louise's rabbit ears (I couldn't tell their gender).  None of them were given names except for a woman named Honeybee, so I had to make some up.

The primarily plot in the episode I watched involved Guacamole Man and Bear-Child doing various barters to get avocados, so they can make guacamole for Honeybee's birthday party (they end up bartering a plane trip to Anchorage with Guacamole Man's ex-girlfriend).

In a second plot, a Clueless older man tries to create a Shrek theme for the birthday party, but he's never seen the movie, so Sarcastic Teenage Boy tells him about it -- and gets everything ludicrously wrong, I assume on purpose.

In a third plot, a young woman is living in Fresno with her various brothers and sisters, and trying to recreate When Harry Meets Sally with her boyfriend -- later we discover that she is Honeybee, the one with the birthday, back before she moved to Alaska.  

Whew, confusing character overload! There was no way to tell which were important and which incidental, and only one was given a name.  Of course, I was mostly interested in whether any were gay.  Time to consult wikipedia.

Beef (Nick Offerman), the patriarch of the family, is divorced.  He has four children (the writers didn't think that might be a bit much?).

1. The adult Wolf (Will Forte, top photo), who is married to Honeybee.  He must be Guacamole Man, and the Fresno story is about when they first met.

2. Teenage Judy.  I think Honeybee was telling her the Fresno story.

3. Ten-year old Moon, the Wolf-Child, apparently something of an operator.

4. Teenage Ham (Paul Rust, left) is gay.  He must be the Sarcastic Teen.  

A gay character in a starring role!  That's more than we ever got on Bob's Burgers (although I'm still holding out for a gay Gene).  Now, if Ham could only get a boyfriend.

Episodes to date:
a moose breaks into the cabin and steals Judy's clothes; the town celebrates the Not People Festival (to demonstrate that they aren't cannibals); Judy and Ham have heterosexual romance-problems; Honeybee's birthday party; a curling competition.

In Episode 6, Judy asks regular character Crispin (Julio Torres) to the big dance, without realizing that he's gay.  He agrees because he wants to get close to his crush, Ham.  The two boys end up dancing, then kissing, but Ham rejects Crispin because you don't steal your sister's date.  But Judy is ok with them dating.

More episodes: The school mural; Bigfoot; a wilderness "expert" who turns out to be a dud; a blizzard; a Titanic party. 

Only one centric episode?  With dozens of characters, what do you expect?  I understand that Ham and Crispin continue to date, anyway.

John Milton: 10 Gay Things About the Author of "Paradise Lost"

In one of the iconic scenes in Animal House (1978), Professor Jennings admits that he hates English poet John Milton (1608-1674), author of Paradise Lost:  "He's a bit long-winded, he doesn't translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible."

And, I presumed, as heterosexist as most of the other "great writers" purveyed by English teachers.

A few months later, I started my freshman year at Augustana College, and my English Literature survey assigned Milton's  L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. 

1. Expecting the worst, I plowed in.  Surprise -- not boring at all. The poems contrasted the perennial college student question: should you spend your time partying and having fun, or studying and getting good grades?

 I leaned toward "having fun," since Milton mentions partying with Corydon and Thyrsis, two gay characters from Virgil's Eclogues.

2. During  my sophomore year, a course in Renaissance Literature assigned Comus, a masque (a sort of pageant with minimal plot): a Lady is kidnapped by the evil Comus, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce her while her brothers rush to the rescue.  It was performed for the Earl of Bridgewater, whose own brother had been executed for sodomy.  So Comus becomes a stand-in for a gay temptation.

3. This muscular, shirtless Comus appeared in the only modern production that I'm aware of, at Florida International University in 2010.

4. We also had to read Lycidas: An elegy lamenting the death of Milton's Cambridge classmate Edward King, who drowned (here he is portrayed as a naked muscle god).

Anything celebrating a same-sex love can't be boring.

5. John Fletcher (left) recites Lycidas in his underwear before a blow-up version of Stonehenge.  I don't know why.

6. During my junior year, I took an entire class in Milton, and we read the big, scary one: Paradise Lost, an epic poem the fall of Satan, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise.  But there were lots of gay subtexts: Satan, an "angel of light," heterosexual sex leads to downfall, and so on.  I wrote a paper on it at Indiana University.

7. And you can't beat the beefcake of the illustrations by Gustav Dore.

8. We also had to read Paradise Regained, about Christ being tempted by all of the pleasures of the world, including: "fair stripling youths rich clad, of fairer hew than Ganymede or Hylas."  So they're hotter than the boyfriends of Zeus and Hercules in Greek mythology?

9. And the "closet drama" Samson Agonistes: the Biblical strongman has been captured by the Philistines, blinded, and enchained.  He bewails his seduction by Delilah: "foul effeminancy held me yoke."  That's right, liking women is effeminate.  Real men like men.

10. Strongman Fernando Lamberty played Samson in a performance at Florida International University in 2009.

John Milton was no doubt homophobic -- who in 17th century Britain wasn't?  But there's still a lot of gay interest in his works.

Aug 9, 2021

Terry and the Pirates

Terry and the Pirates (1934-1973) presented the most overt adult-teen homoromance in the comic strips.  When fourteen-year old Terry Lane first set out to search for his missing grandfather, accompanied by soldier of fortune Pat Ryan, he was a wide-eyed innocent who seemed to belong in a humor strip, quite out of place among the jungles, copra plantations, and seedy port cities of the South China Sea, where everybody had an angle, a price, and a lot of secrets.  He was even drawn differently from the other characters, with a round face and soft, curvy lines amid Milt Caniff’s trademark square-jawed, angular men and women.  Caniff often used humorously drawn outsider characters, like the pug-cute Dickie Dare and the eyeglassed, golly-gee-spurting Wash Tubbs, to link the preternatural world of adventure with the comfortable, familiar world back home.  But Terry was neither boy, like Dickie Dare, nor man, like Wash Tubbs.  He was a teenager, and he was growing up.

Most comic strip characters either do not age, or they jump from child to adult instantly, but Terry aged normally, celebrating his fifteenth birthday in 1935, his sixteenth in 1936, and so on.  As he approached manhood, his relationship with Pat Ryan became considerably more intimate than those of the other pairs, the homoromantic slipping inexorably into the homoerotic.  Terry and Pat were sometimes shown sharing a single bed, or showering together, or naked together.  In a 1936 strip, the sixteen-year old Terry has just bathed, and he is toweling off.  The towel shields his backside from readers, but his frontsize is fully exposed to Pat, who is gazing with obvious appreciation.

Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Don Winslow spent half of their time brawling with men and the other half kissing women, but as long as Terry is not yet a man, Pat Ryan actively avoids the tall, slinky femmes fatale who keep wrapping their arms around him.  . When jewelry fence–kept girl Burma throws herself at Pat for three weeks’ worth of strips, he consistently rejects her, consenting to a kiss only after she calls him “Yellow!”, denigrating his masculinity, eight times in three panels.  Then, after the kiss, he refuses to accept her purring “darlings.”

Pat’s masculinity is, indeed, open to question, in spite of his square-jawed stoicism and expertise at fisticuffs.  He is denigrated by worse terms than “yellow,” including “sissy” and “pansy,” but only by women, so he won’t have to fight back.  Late in 1936, when they are all shipwrecked on another island, Burma throws herself at the colonial administrator (although she is supposedly as hard as nails, she falls for every man she sees).  The solicitous Pat gives the adminstrator’s wife make-up and hairstyle tips so she can beat off the competition.  One expects that, if World War II had not broken out, Pat could have easily returned to America and opened a hair salon.

The sixteen and seventeen-year old Terry is often positioned structurally as a parallel to whatever tall, slinky woman is lusting after with Pat this time.  The lady strips down to her underwear, and in the next scene Terry strips down to his underwear.  Pat is knocked unconscious, and the lady gingerly holds him in her arms.  The next time Pat is knocked unconscious, Terry gingerly holds him in his arms, in precisely the same position.

Columbia’s adaption, released on May 5th, 1940, is one of the era’s few intentionally humorous movie serials (it was directed by James W. Horne, who did the Laurel and Hardy shorts).  Terry was played as a squealing teenager by 22-year old William Tracy, a rather stout, likeable blond.  Pat Ryan, the soldier-of-fortune bodyguard, was miscast with Granville Owen, adequately tall and muscular but only five years older than William Tracy – he had just finished playing a college student in Start Cheering (1938), and he would go on to play the eternally teenage Li’l Abner in the adaptation of the Al Capp comic strip (1940).

The two are by far the most physically expressive of homoromantic partners in movie serials, one with hand always firmly placed on the other’s arm, shoulder, or back, except when they are walking with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. Terry screams and flails like a damsel in distress when he is terrorized by crocodiles, headhunters, and villains lobbing hand-grenades, and after Pat swoops down like Tarzan to save him, they embrace, Terry’s face pressed against Pat’s chest.  

In an early chapter, they are bedded down for the night when a gorilla breaks into Terry’s room and tries to carry him away.  Pat rushes to the rescue, getting his shirt ripped off in the process.  Afterwards Terry stares appreciatively at Pat’s bulging muscles and hints “I’d feel a lot better if I slept with you tonight.” Pat agrees.

Summer 1969: Give Me a Prehistoric Man

During the summer of 1969, when I was 8 1/2 years old, my Grandma Davis came to visit, and took us to the store to pick out any toy we wanted. My brother Kenny asked for a bicycle, and I asked for a Cave Man Toy Set.

"Are you sure you don't want a bicycle, too?"  Grandma asked in surprise.

Certainly not.  What fun could you possibly have with a bicycle?

But just look at Cave Man Toy Set: hard-muscled guys in loincloths throwing spears and rocks at gigantic dinosaurs!  (This was before toymakers realized that dinosaurs and prehistoric humans didn't coexist).

My boyfriend Bill agreed with my decision.  We spent many hours with that Toy Set, imagining jungle explorations, nick-of-time rescues from warring tribes or brontosauri, and "my hero" hugs.

Cave men were more fun than other action figures.  Our church taught that the world was created about 6,000 years ago, so evolution was a lie, there was no prehistory, and there had never been any cave men. So in addition to the beefcake, you had the thrill of blasphemy.

My Grandma Davis wasn't entirely opposed to the idea of prehistory.  One day in her attic I found this Van Loon Story of Mankind, published in 1926, with some muscular cave men on the cover.

Most museums had exhibits featuring full-sized statues of prehistoric bodybuilders.  In the Putnam Museum in Davenport, they were wearing loincloths, but in the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, they were naked!

You almost never saw or heard of a cave woman.  I got the distinct impression that our ancestors were all male, roaming around naked in hunter-gatherer bands.

Maybe this was before Adam and Eve, so women hadn't been created yet.

Aug 8, 2021

Boxers and Boyfriends: Joe Palooka

The most famous fictional boxer of the 20th century was probably Joe Palooka in the long-running comic strip (1930-1984).   Tall and immensely strong but gentle, Joe Palooka was the creation of Ham Fisher, who observed lots of young Polish immigrant boys hanging around boxing arenas, hoping that their muscles would bring them fame and fortune.

In his heyday, Joe was appearing on the radio, in movies (starring Joe Kirkwood, left), in big-little books, and in comic books.

You could buy Joe Palooka toys, gum, lunch boxes, board games, and a cut-out mask on Wheaties cereal.  

 In 1948, the town of Bedford, Indiana  (near Bloomington) erected a statue in his honor.  It was moved to nearby Oolitic in 1984.

Joe was originally "a woman-hater" and "allergic to girls," although cheese heiress Ann Howe kept trying to snare him, like Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner.  In the 1930s, lack of heterosexual interest did not signify gay identity; although gay readers found ample subtexts. Joe was a "man's man," enjoyed buddy-bonds with his sparring partner, massively-muscular Humphrey Pennyworth.

The two adopted a mute orphan named Little Max, who became popular enough to get his own series of toys and comic book title.

As boxing declined in popularity,  Joe moved beyond the ring to fight gangsters, Nazis, spies, and mad scientists.  During the 1950s he became an all-purpose trouble-shooter, traveling the world to right whatever wrongs needed a muscular remedy.  He got a tv series in 1954.  Harve published a Joe Palooka comic book through 1955.

Since changing attitudes required even heroes to express hetero-horniness, Joe eventually married Ann How.  And Humphrey became short and round, a comic relief character.

The comic strip lingered in a dwindling number of small-town newspapers until 1984.  By that time,  everyone had forgotten about Joe Palooka. (Except for Ham Fisher's home town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which renamed a nearby mountain after him).

And the 1980s college boys scouring the discount bins at the Comics Cave for beefcake covers.

And the elderly gay men who remembered glimpsing homoromantic potential in their childhood, when they opened the comics page to read about L'il Abner, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and Joe Palooka.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...