May 13, 2022

Dennis Cole

Most heterosexuals go about their daily lives as if they are alone in the universe.  If asked, they will say "Sure, some men are gay, which means they're into men, not women," but in the next moment, they'll announce "There's not a man alive who wouldn't want a date with Angelina Jolie or whoever.

The IMDB biography of Dennis Cole assures us that "Females couldn't get enough of him," while males idolized his athleticism.  That's right, every woman and no man swooned over him.

What about his early modeling in beefcake magazines, notably the gay-oriented Physique Pictorial and Bob Mizner's Athletic Model Guild?

Or his work as the hustler Cowboy in a San Diego production of the gay-themed Boys in the Band?

Or King Marchand, the man who falls in love with a woman he thinks is a drag queen, in the national touring company of Victor/Victoria?.

He didn't play any gay characters on tv, but really, between 1965 and 1995, there weren't many gay characters to play, especially if you were too muscular to pull off a thin, willowy queen.  But he played around gay and LGBT characters:

"The Fourth Sex" episode of Medical Center (1975), with Robert Reed as a transgender doctor.

"Star Struck," an episode of Three's Company (1983), with Jack Tripper pretending to be gay.

Early in his career, he went the buddy-bonding route, with two homoerotic detective partners: Howard Duff in Felony Squad (1966-69) and Rod Taylor in Bearcats! (1971).

Dennis was married three times, for a few years each (his second wife was Jacyln Smith of Charlie's Angels.)  When his son Joey was killed in a robbery attempt in 1991, he refused to be associated with any violence in movie or tv productions, which limited his options. He acted on screen only a few more times before his death in 2009, though he continued to work in theater.

May 10, 2022

"The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" becomes "Bel Air": You Win Some and You Lose Some

In the early 1990s, the violent crime rate was the highest of the century,  AIDS deaths peaked at 40,000 per year,  and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allowed gay people to serve in the military as long as they stayed closeted.  Still, I remember it as the best of times: book readings at the Different Light, cruising at Mugi, brunch at the French Quarter, Friday night services at the gay synagogue, parties, dinners, classes, a world of infinite promise.  Not much time for television, although on Monday nights we might settle down to watch Murphy Brown, Designing Women, The Nanny, or Blossom, with a yet-to-hunkify Joey Lawrence.  Rarely if ever The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-96) starring Will Smith as a poor South-Philly teen sent to live with his rich uncle and auntie.  The premise sounded ridiculous, andWill Smith was openly homophobic, so we assumed that his show would be homophobic, too.  I only remember glimpses of a few episodes.

1. Will's Auntie Viv teaches a course in African-American spirtuals at his prep school.  She points out that many "slave songs" contained hidden references giving detailed instructions on how to escape to the North, and sings one to demonstrate.

2. Cousin Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who bulked up in spite of continually being portrayed as a polo-shirt-wearing yuppie, performs as a stripper.  We watched this one after seeing the synopsis in TV Guide.

3. Will argues that Carlton has assimilated into white culture, and no longer remembers how to be black.

4. Sunday morning.  The family is preparing for church (Episcopalian), when Geoffrey the Butler enters after a night of carousing.  He is wearing a full South of Market leathman costume.  Wait -- is Geoffrey gay?

"You should come to church with us," Aunt Viv says disapprovingly.

"Maybe I should," he agrees.

The only gay reference in the series ends with the gay guy "repenting"?  A the time, the inference didn't bother us.  Seeing ourselves on tv was always a cause for celebration.

Googling "Fresh Prince" and "gay" reveals another gay-themed episode: "As the Will Turns" (April 10, 1995):  Will gets a job on a soap opera, but balks when he discovers that his character will be gay.

5. At a gay B&B in England, some guys were watching "The Crazy American Hour" on tv.  One of the segments was an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  We started to watch.  Someone criticized us: "You travel all the way to England, and spend your time watching American sitcoms."   

"Have you seen Carlton lately?" I responded.  "Major hunk."

That's all for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The 2022 remake, Bel-Air, retains the basic situation and the names of all the characters, but makes it a somber drama, with Will fleeing South Philly to hide from a gang-banger who wants to kill him, Uncle Philip worrying that "ghetto kid" will ruin his political career, bullies using racist slurs and planting drugs in Will's bag, and so on.  In the first episode, Will flirts with the ex-girlfriend of Cousin Carlton (Olly Sholotan, left), who thereafter hates him.  The overt heterosexism didn't bother me in the 1990s, but it does now.

Oddly, for a show produced by the less-than-gay-friendly Will Smith, the reboot has a gay character, 12-year old Cousin Ashley.  In Episode #5, she tells her sister Hilary that she has a crush on a girl.  Hilary is supportive.

You win some and you lose some.

May 9, 2022

"Werewolf Castle": Mostly Gay Actors, Mostly Shirtless Scenes, and a Dead Wife


Werewolf Castle (2021) has popped up among my Vudu recommendations.  The trailer shows a werewolf eating a girl while Medieval villager Thorfinn (Peter Lofsgard) looks on in horror, but after that it's all beefcake and bonding -- seven shots of the shirtless Thorfinn, plus a scene where another guy grabs his arm.  Besides, who knows who the girl is?  She could be his sister, his mother, or a random villager. 

I'm still worried that I'll fork over $3.95 for a rental and spend two hours watching Thorfinn fight werewolves with his shirt off, only to see him fall in love with a girl.  Time for more research.

1. Getting pictures of his shirtless scenes proved impossible.  There are none on Google Images, and screen captures didn't work with Chrome or Firefox.

2. If "Peter G. Lofsgard" is the same as "Peter Lofsgard," he has a boyfriend.

3. Six of the top-listed stars on IMDB are men.  I am particularly interested in the buddy-bonding potential of Percy, played by Jake Watkins. 

Jake Watkins is also gay.

4. Or Osmond Blakewood (Derek Nelson).

Derek Nelson has lots of pictures of women on his Instagram, so he's probably straight, but he has a bedroom-cuddling shot with Peter Lofgard in Vampire Virus 

5. A second trailer on IMDB shows the girl getting werewolf-ized three times.  Once she's in bed with Thorfinn.  So the dead wife or girlfriend drives the plot!  Boo!  

6. A review on Dread Central complains about having a "flamboyant" gay-coded villain, Wolfstan (Reece Connolly, who is gay and flamboyant in real life).  Maybe it's not a stereotyped gay villain so much as the luck of the draw: when you hire mostly gay actors, some of them are bound to be swishy.

7. Who is hiring all of these gay actors?   Writer/director Charlie Steeds has produced 15 movies, including A Werewolf in England, Vampire Virus, Death Ranch, An English Haunting,  and Escape from Cannibal Farm.  They usually have a heterosexual-romance primary plot, with gay characters or gay subtexts in the background.

I've now spend more time on research than it would take to watch the actual movie.  But sometimes research is a lot more fun.

May 8, 2022

Searching for Beefcake in Shakespeare's Hamlet

Hamlet (1603) is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.  It's heavy-laden with gay subtexts, from the tortured Hamlet's buddy-bond with Horatio to the  backstage chumminess of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Many contemporary versions, parodies, and pastiches have a queer mentality, too.  Remember Mary Anne on Gilligan's Island as a drag-king Laertes listening to his father pontificate?

But I never thought of watching it for the beefcake, until I saw this still of Filip Adeyev in a Russian version of the tragedy.

Aranui High School often wins out over other productions in New Zealand's National Festival of Shakespeare in Schools.  In 2006 they gave Hamlet a Maori context, with Te Awhiroa Kuka-Sweet as the Prince of Denmark.

In 2014, Hiraeth Artistic Productions in London mounted an all-male Hamlet set in a Liverpool prison, with both buddy-bonding and multiple shirtless shots.

The Theatre de Vanves in Paris went even farther, with Hamlet (Robin Causse) completely nude throughout (the other players wore clothes).

Earlier this year, chestworthy actor and reality-tv star Tom Sandoval appeared on the Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live to perform the "To be or not to be" soliloquy with his shirt off.  Presumably the intended audience wouldn't pay attention any other way.
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