Jan 21, 2023

Beefcake and bonding in "Bringing Up Father"

When I was a kid, all of the good comic strips -- Peanuts, the Wizard of Id, Doonesbury -- were  in the Moline Dispatch.  In Rock Island, all we got were bargain-basement knockoffs and doddering relics last popular before the invention of radio: Out Our Way, Our Boarding-house with Major Hoople, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.  They were unfunny, incomprehensible, and downright disturbing.  And the most disturbing of the lot was Bringing Up Father by George McManus, which got its start in 1913!

It starred Jiggs, no first name, an elderly, pudgy person, and his wife Maggie.  They both had pug-dog noses and scary, pupil-less eyes and used dashes instead of periods to end their sentences  -- see how bizarre that looks -- it's just wrong --

They had a daughter, drawn as a 1920s glamour girl, who didn't have a name -- her parents called her "Daughter."

Other male characters were drawn as beady-eyed scarecrows, and the women were all glamour girls.

Jiggs and Maggie were noveau-riche. Jiggs longed to return to the old neighborhood, to have working-class corned beef and cabbage at Dinty Moore's diner.  But Maggie doted on her newfound status.  She kept going to teas, receptions, operas, and dinners with people whose names were horrible puns.

When Jiggs got out of line, Maggie unlashed a torrent of abuse, calling him an "insect" and a "worm," and assaulting him with pots and pans and a rolling pin from the kitchen.

Obviously a critique of the myth of the heterosexual nuclear family as most evolved, most stable, most normal of all family types.

For some crazy reason, toy producers in the 1920s thought that kids loved the stories about Jiggs trying to sneak out of the house to drink with Dinty Moore. They produced toys of all types, including dolls, cutouts, and Big Little Books.

There were dozens of movie adaptions and comedy shorts, beginning in 1915.  In 1928, Daughter (named Ellen) got a boyfriend played by Grant Withers (top photo). The last film appearance of Maggie and Jiggs was in the The Man Who Hated Laughter, a 1972 installment of the Saturday Superstar Movie, based on yet another ludicrous belief that the ancient strip attracted child readers. 

By the 1960s, the writers were throwing in contemporary references -- or at least references that were only about 10 years out of date, like this beatnik from 1968.

Anachronisms that merely added to the discomfort.

Recently I bought From Sea to Shining Sea, a compendium of strips from 1939-1940 written primarily by McManus's assistant, Zeke Zekley.  It featured a continuity in which Daughter marries a British nobleman, Lord Worthnotting.  The family celebrates by taking them an extended cross-country honeymoon.

Wherever they visit, Maggie and Daughter go shopping, leaving Jiggs and Lord Worthnotting to go skiing, hiking, camping, and sightseeing on their own.

Before the continuity is over (and Lord Worthnotting vanishes from the strip), the two have buddy-bonded so extensively that one could almost mistake them for the newlywed couple.

Apparently Zeke Zekley knew something that McManus didn't.

When McManus died in 1954, Zekley was in line to take over the strip, but the syndicate gave the job to Vernon Green instead, who returned to the nuclear-family-foibles.

Zekley went on to draw his own strips, including those used in The Tab Hunter Show (1960-1961), with the gay beefcake actor playing a horny "bachelor cartoonist."

He died in 2005.

See also: The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie

The Quest for the Shirtless Superman

When I was a kid, I read Harvey Comics, the Disney ducks, the Gold Key jungle comics, and occasionally an Archie -- but not DC: Superman, Batman, and their ilk.

Who could follow the never-ending story arcs, spread across multiple issues and multiple titles, with references to event that happened ages ago that everyone was supposed to know about?

Besides, the big-city settings were dull -- give me a jungle any day -- and who cared about battling bad guys?  Find a lost civilization or seek out buried treasure, something mildly entertaining instead of the constant zap! pow!

But the biggest problem -- the musclemen were never naked!  Tarzan, Korak, Brothers of the Spear wore skimpy loincloths, so there were massive chests, 6-pack abs, and bulging biceps to ogle in nearly every panel.  The DC superheroes were never shown out of their stupid costumes.

Logically, I can understand why -- strip Superman out of his suit, and no one will know who he is   You'd never know that this is a picture of Superman (actually Kal, from an alternate reality where Krypton explodes in the Middle Ages rather than 1930s, so the super-baby refugee grows up to be a blacksmith rather than mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent.  Got all that?)

But still, there's no reason why there couldn't be at least a few shirtless scenes.

Nope.  I just spent 2 hours on the Grand Comics Database, looking at the covers of  866 issues of Action Comics (1938-2016), 423 issues of Superman (1939-1986), 333 issues of the second incarnation of Superman (1987-2006) and the third 92011-2016), plus all 230 issues of The Adventures of Superman (1987-2006) ), The Justice League of America, Batman/Superman, Superman/Batman, and Supermen from Britain, France, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Finland, over 2500 covers in all.

7 of them show a shirtless Superman.  

That's 0.26%

Nothing at all for the first 25 years.  Then, in 1963, Superman agrees to fight his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor on a planet with a red sun, where his superpowers don't work.  He takes his shirt off to get pummeled.

In 1964, on another red-sun planet, a caveman steals Superman's clothes (he has a beard so we know it isn't really Supe).

Why the lack of beefcake?  I suspect it has something to do with the writers, who were typically girl-chasing heteros who had no interest in drawing the male form.  Or else they thought that the audience consisted entirely of 15 year old hetero boys who had no interest in seeing the male form.

No shirtless covers for 36 years, until, in 2000, Superman appears in a wilderness setting, his shirt half torn off, fighting monsters, with Wonder Woman behind him wielding an axe.  The title "Immortal Beloved" seems to be reflecting the Edgar Rice Burroughs story "The Eternal Lover," about a warrior from 100,000 years ago who falls in love with a 20th century woman who is a reincarnation of his ex-girlfriend.

Then 13 years passed with nothing.

In 2013, "the “Psi-War” epic begins! Psi-War erupts as Hector Hammond tries to take control of H.I.V.E. from its queen, but there are other forces in play as well, as a new Psycho Pirate emerges, and Superman is caught in the middle, unable to protect those closest to him."

The 3-D cover shows a brutal, scary Bizarro or Borg Superman, but at least he has his shirt off.  Note the "real" superman captured in the background.

Justice League 40 (2015) is about the Darkseid War!  The Justice League comes face to face with "the two most powerful and dangerous entities in existence!"  More dangerous than the Sun-Eater that ravages entire galaxies, from a 1967 Superman continuity?

But the cover shows Superman, Batman and company as strippers in a homage to the movie Magic Mike.

Earth One is a series of graphic novels set on an Earth that didn't participate in the mega-retconning "Crisis on Infinite Earths" of the 1980s, and thus is not limited by the continuity restraints of the new DC.  Volume 3 (2015) depicts Superman's battle with General Zod and romance with someone named Lisa.

Superman 42 (2015) has Superman fighting an information-skimming mega-crime syndicate called HORDR.  Also, Lois finds out his true identity, and he loses his powers yet again.

But a variant cover shows Supe drawn like a character from the Nickelodeon cartoon Teen Titans Go!, in his underwear, trying to pick out a costume to wear.

H's a cartoon, but he's still shirtless, so it counts.

3 covers from 1938 to 2012, and then 4 from 2013 to 2015.  Maybe things are looking up for DC Comics beefcake fans.

Check out the Shirtless Superheroes blog for lots more shirtless pictures of Supe and company.

Jan 19, 2023

"Sexify": Three College Girls Test Out a Sexification App

 The icon of the Polish comedy Sexify, on Netflix, appears to show two women about to kiss, and a Google search of "Sexify" and "gay" reveals several articles about "The Best LGBTQ Series."  So I'll take a look.

Scene 1: A naked woman slowly and luxuriously showering, while the camera closes in on her body parts...I think I'll fast forward past.

Scene 2: A party with a lot of boy-girl couples dancing.  A hot guy tries to pick her up, but is rebuffed: "I don't dance...I don't drink...I have to go home to sleep.  No, you can't come."  She goes home, takes off her clothes, and straps herself into a weird mechanism while recording the time, date, humidity, and so on.  I think I'll fast forward past this part, too.

Scene 3:  At the University, the woman -- Natalie -- is in the bathroom, giving herself a pep talk, when a guy in a baseball cap comes in.  She angrily tells him that if he wasn't an idiot, he would know that this is the ladies' room.

Scene 4: A giant lecture hall with only about 20 students, most from the party last night.  This is their last semester, so the Dean has hired a superstar guest prof to guide them through their final projects.  The winner will be submitted to a big, famous national ministerial competition. 

Whoops, the superstar guest prof, is Baseball Cap Guy!  Natalie is already on the wrong foot, but it gets worse: she makes a fool of herself by answering a rhetorical question, and when she introduces her project, "Optimizing Sleep," Baseball Cap Guy abruptly cuts her off.  He moves on to the Snob Rafal (Kamil Wodka, top photo), who has invented a hair gel that changes color via Bluetooth.  

Scene 5: Natalie accosts Baseball Cap after class to whine: "I'm top of my class!  I'm super smart!  My project got an A last semester!  Why are you so stupid that you don't realize that?"  He explains that sleep is not sexy: "Invent an app that your peers will get excited about, something that they actually need."

"But...but...this project means everything to me!  Without it, I'm nothing!'  Gee, girlfriend, get a life.

Scene 6: Natalie goes home and tears down her wallful of post-it notes and cries.  

Cut to a dorm room, where Natalie's BFF Paulina gets a phone call, but her boyfriend notes that he has an erection, so she doesn't answer.  They begin sex (no beefcake), but he doesn't perform adequately, and finishes too soon.  Another phone call: from Natalie.

Scene 7: In a clothing store, Natalie is complaining to BFF Paulina about the fiasco of class yesterday.  Then she gets angry at BFF Paulina for choosing clothing just to please her boyfriend. "You've never been in a relationship, so you don't get it."

Scene 8: A muscular middle aged man and woman having sex (rear nudity as he mounts her from behind).  Whoops, they're on a balcony that looks down on the living room.  Her father can see her!  "What the fuck!  Why are you here?" she screams. Hunk rushes out.  

Dad is upset because she hasn't been to class in six months, and is generally slacking off.  She's a student?  I thought she was Natalie's mother.  So he's cutting her off: no money until she gets that diploma, and she's moving out of her 3.5 million apartment ($800,000) into a dorm room.

The Heiress (Monika) privileges her way into the dorm, past about 30 flirting guys, and looks in horror at her tiny, industrial, metal-shelved dorm room. 

Scene 8: Natalie working at a computer store with a balding boss and quirky customers.  She complains about the prof rejecting her project.

Meanwhile, BFF Paulina and her boyfriend, who is either Mariusz (Piotr Pacek) or Marek (Cezary Pazura), are on a bus en route to his father's birthday party, discussing Natalie's new project.  Is everyone obsessed with Natalie?  Something sexy -- public transport?  

Scene 9: The Heiress is trying unsuccessfully to make her dorm room look less awful. She ventures out into the hallway and flirts with a hot guy.  Moan, thump off camera.  

Natalie hears them and angrily bursts into the room to yell at them to stop (now we see A LOT of beefcake!).   "Join or leave!" the Heiress yells.  She leaves.

Scene 10: BFF Paulina and her Boyfriend are at his parents' house with a bunch of old people, singing a birthday song.  It's Dad's birthday, but Boyfriend thinks that this would be a good time to propose!  Way to put the girl on the spot, in front of all your relatives, a long bus ride from home!  "Sure, ok," she says with a look of pure horror.

Later, she is lying alone in bed, checking to see how much the ring costs, when Boyfriend sneaks in!  "But your parents will hear us!"  Not to worry -- he's very bad at it, and finishes instantly.  But he soiled her sheet! 

Scene 11: The university.  Heiress walks in late to a lady professor droning on about coding.  She's not in the course roster, so the professor kicks her out; she immediately complains to the Dean about "harassment."  Maybe she means sexual harassment?

Meanwhile, Natalie asks Rafal the Snob to join forces on an app.  He thinks that she means dating, and eagerly agrees. 

Scene 12: Outside of class, the Heiress is stalked by her ex-boyfriend, Konrad (Bartosz Gellner). To escape him, she hitches a ride with a passing motorcyclist.  

Back in the dorm, she swipes through a tinder-like app and chooses the muscular, balding Artem, who happens to be delivering take-out orders to her building.  Sex with her on top, so we only get an obscured view of his chest. 

Meanwhile, Rafal the Snob gets ready for his "date" with Natalie.  He borrows a cactus and a condom from his roommate Grzegorg, who is busily cooking drug-laced gummy worms.  

Scene 13: Natalie is in her dorm room, annoyed over the Heiress's loud sex.  But before she can rush over to stop it, Rafal the Snob arrives.   She begins talking about her app idea, but he thinks she is talking about sex.  Then he smooches her, and all hell breaks loose.  "What are you doing!  Get out!" 

BFF Paulina bursts in just as he is leaving, accidentally hitting him with the door and knocking him out.  He quickly awakens and leaves.

Scene 14: The Heiress is still having sex with the Delivery Guy, when Stalker Konrad knocks on the door!  She hides Delivery Guy in the closet (naked butt as he is pushed in) and tries to climb down from the balcony.  The entire dorm sees her naked.  So do we --way too much of her. 

Scene 15: Natalie and BFF Paulina let the Heiress into their room.  Lots of boob shots as she flounces around, discussing how much she likes sex.  But BFF Paulina doesn't like it, because her Boyfriend is inept..  And Natalie has never done it.

Konrad leaves, so Delivery Guy comes to fetch the Heiress (chest and butt shots).  And Natalie has an idea (finally!): an app about sex. 

Beefcake: Lots, but it is usually during sex with naked ladies.

Sights: Few exteriors. 

Heterosexism: As Madonna said, sex is not love, and love is not sex.  There are romantic relationships and sexual relationships, and occasionally you get both with the same person.

Gay Characters: Just the Heiress's bi-accessible line, and the hint that Natalie is asexual.  Research reveals that she will find True Love later.  Also there are "some minor gay characters," including Natalie's boss at the computer store.

Will I Continue Watching:  Natalie, BFF Paulina, and the Heiress work together to develop an app to help women achieve sexual satisfaction.  Not really my cup of tea.  However, there will probably be a lot of naked men, as the ladies conduct their research.  

Jan 17, 2023

Saturday Night Live and the Ambiguously Gay Bill Murray

Chevy Chase
In the spring of 1976, during my sophomore year at Rocky High, my friends started talking about a new late-night tv program, with musical numbers and comedy sketches.

"A variety show!" I exclaimed in disgust, thinking of Carol Burnett, with its boring sketches and songs from the dinosaur era.

No, this is different!  Songs by ABBA and Paul Simon!  Spoofs of tv commercials! The cast is young, our age!

So at 10:30 on February 21st, 1976, I heard the words "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night" for the first time.

The guest host was Desi Arnaz, who starred on I Love Lucy in the 1950s.  At that time I had never actually seen an episode, but I had heard of it, so I was mildly amused by sketches involving failed I Love Lucy Pilots (one was I Love Louie, with him married to jazz musician Louie Armstrong!)  

I didn't see it again until April 17th, 1976. I had never heard of the guest host Ron Nessen (Press secretary for President Ford), but I liked a short film about men singing at a urinal, and Weekend Update, with Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) riffing on "Presidential erections" (of statues).

On April 24th, 1976, the guest host was 1960s icon Raquel Welch.  The men kept trying to get her to take her top off and display her breasts.  I didn't like that, but I liked the sketch "One Flew over the Hornet's Nest," where the Bees weren't allowed to watch the Oscars on tv, and the musical guest, Phoebe Snow, singing "All Over":  "The night queen fright wig street Parade may fade, when we laugh at the statues of gods we have made."

And on like that through high school and college, watching occasionally, when I was home and there was nothing good on Creature Feature.  Pleasant but not hilarious, cozy and intimate, like the kinds of spoofs you do among friends.

Occasional gay references, especially in 1977, when Bill Murray joined the cast; he was so flamboyant, with a Castro Clone moustache and a shirt unbuttoned all the way down his chest, that we all assumed he was openly gay.  (Meatballs in 1979 "confirmed" the rumors.)

For the next few years, everyone between age 15 and 30, male or female, gay or straight, knew "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not," "Jane, you ignorant slut," "Land Shark," "Cheeseburger cheeseburger coke coke," and "Oh, no, Mr. Hands."  It was a set of common references for everyone age 15 to 30, male or female, gay or straight.  It was one of the few places in the "straight world" where I felt like I belonged.

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, it came on at 1:30 pm, when I was either out or otherwise occupied.  Besides, I was living in a "good place," so I didn't need it anymore.  

During the 1980s and 1990s, I only saw a few glimpses here and there.  I remember the Church Lady, Michael Myers singing about masturbation, and a homophobic sketch about how horrible would it be to allow gays in the military.  According to Saturday NIght Live: An Oral Hisotry some of the cast members, notably Chevy Chase, were extremely homophobic.

But the phrase "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" still brings back memories of high school, when the whole world was fresh and new.

Four Color Beefcake and Bonding

When I was a kid, my comic book buying budget was limited, but when I started making my own money in the late 1970s, the extra income allowed a thorough investigation of the back issue bins at the Comics Cave, and I expanded my beefcake and bonding library with Dell's Four Color Comics.

It was a series of one-shots, each issue dedicated to a different movie, cartoon, tv series, or comic strip character, over a thousand between 1942 and 1962.  The range was staggering.  Here's a brief selection: Donald Duck, Tilly the Toiler, Roy Rogers, Flash Gordon, Harold Teen, Tarzan, Fearless Fagan,  I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, Captain Kangaroo, Johnny Jason Teen Reporter.

I was looking for beefcake or bonding covers, like this Leave it to Beaver (FC 1191, 1961).   It showed Wally and the Beaver (Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers) considerably younger than they would have been in 1961, in a romantic pose, sharing a soda (one soda, two straws) while Beaver rests his hand lightly on Wally's thigh?

Tonka (FC 966, 1958) came out at the same time as the 1958 movie, with gay teen idol Sal Mineo as a bicep-bulging Native American (Tonka was his horse).

But this Spin and Marty comic (FC 1026, 1959), with Marty's hand placed tenderly on Skip's shoulder, was released after the series ended.

Often the characters were completely unrecognizable, relics of the distant past.  Who on Earth was this blond, muscular Curly Kayoe (FC 871, 1957) boxing with a barefoot hunk?  Turns out that boxers were heroes during the 1930s and 1940s, and Curly Kayoe, like Joe Palooka, rated his own comic strip (1945-61) and comic book (1946-50). (Kayoe means "Knock Out.")  He didn't seem to have a girlfriend, but he did have a youthful ward named Davy, Robin to his Batman, who took over the strip in 1961.

Or Clint and Mac (FC 889, 1958)?  Turns out that Kurt Russell didn't play Disney's only American adventurer abroad.  In 1957-58, The Mickey Mouse Club featured a serial about the American Clint (Neil Wolfe), the one in the crew cut and extremely tight jeans, who visits Britain and buddy-bonds with Mac (Jonathan Bailey), the one in the beanie and striped tie.

Their adventure involves catching the thieves who stole an original manuscript of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. They also encounter a street gang, drive a car, and go to a birthday party for Prince Charles.  Both actors vanished from show business soon thereafter, and the serial has never been released on DVD, so without the comic it would have vanished completely.

Or Johnny Yuma, the Rebel (FC 1136, 1960), who shoots one gun and holds another, and wears a Confederate uniform (minus the shirt)?

Turns out that The Rebel (1959-1961) was a Western about Johnny Yuma, an ex-Confederate who wanders around the Old West with his shirt off.  Johnny was played by gay actor Nick Adams, who hung out with a crowd of barely-closeted gay actors, many discovered by gay agent Henry Willson (others included Guy Madison, James Dean,  Lee Patterson, Anthony Perkins, and Van Williams).

Jan 15, 2023

"Unsolved Mysteries, Season 2": A Possibly Gay/Trans Catholic College Boy Vanishes


The new season of Unsolved Mysteries, on Netflix, is once again filled with "perfect" heterosexual nuclear family husbands and wives with dark secrets.  Only one so far has gay potential:

On November 9, 2002, Josh Guilmond, a student at the conservative Catholic St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, went to a poker party at a friend's apartment.  After about half an hour, he got up and left; the other guests thought that he was headed for the bathroom.  He was never seen again.  But he left his glasses and wallet back in his dorm room, so obviously he wasn't planning to vanish.

Bloodhounds tracked his scent to a bridge over the lake that divided the two parts of the campus.  Maybe he slipped and fell in, or jumped in.  But dredging the lake turned up nothing.

The prime suspect was Josh's roommate, who was starting to date his ex-girlfriend.  They had an argument earlier that day, and there was an hour of missing time in his activities that night.  Investigators quickly abandoned that lead.

Josh was writing a paper on the sex abuse scandal going on among the monks at the college.  Maybe he learned too much?  A bloodhound tracked his scent to the monks' residence.  But a search revealed nothing incriminating.

And why did someone enter Josh's room two days after he disappeared and wipe his computer clean?

The case fizzled out until 2009, when advances in IT technology allowed the researchers to retrieve most of the files on Josh's hard drive.  They found "heterosexual and homosexual" porn, and the logs of chat rooms, where Josh had pretended to be a girl.  Maybe he left the party early because he was meeting a guy for a hookup, and things went wrong. 

If you were pretending to be a girl, or were embracing a transgender identity, shouldn't you let your partner know beforehand?  But a conservative Catholic college student 20 years ago might not have had way to learn the basics.  

Josh's family and friends were shocked at the new revelations: "But he never said or did anything suggesting that he was gay or trans."  You probably wouldn't, not until you were ready to come out.  But was it a gay/trans hookup that went wrong.

Think about it: a "girl" offers to meet you on campus.  You drive over in the middle of the night, but all you see is a boy.  Won't you think that you were being stood up, and drive away?

Besides, Josh didn't take his coat, glasses, wallet, or keys.  You would certainly take some of those along on a hookup.  I'm going back to the priest coverup theory.

Looking for Muscle on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

The Dick Van Dyke Show won 15 Emmies during its five seasons (1961-1966), and is constantly praised today as one of the greatest TV shows of all time (TV Guide ranks it at #13).

It came on before my bedtime during its original run, but it was constantly being rerun during my childhood, often at lunchtime during the summer, so my brother and I watched while waiting for Mom to fry our  baloney or egg sandwiches

I know, it's a classic, and it won lots of Emmies, and all, but I didn't like it.

1. The premise: Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) was head writer for a weekly comedy-variety show.  Stories alternated between work and home.  Father of beefcake actor Barry Van Dyke (but no relation to Philip Van Dyke), Dick was tall, gawky, and rubbery-limbed, not at all attractive.

Plus he was hetero-horny in that obnoxious eye-bulging 1950s way, although devoted to his wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, who would get her own iconic tv sitcom in the 1970s).

2. Rob's writing staff included the unhappily single, man-hungry Sally Rogers (Rose Marie), who was desperate to get married, even though that would mean giving up her successful comedy-writing career.

And short, sarcastic Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam).  Cute, but in his 50s, a bit too old to be attractive to a preteen.

He was as hetero-horney as Rob, and married to a former chorus girl with the ridiculous name Pickles.

3. Buddy had a sparring love-hate relationship with Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon), the balding, stuffy producer of the tv show.  But it was mostly hate.  You have to push really hard to find an undertow of homoerotic attraction.

Richard Deacon was gay in real life, and a fixture in West Hollywood bars during the 1970s.  My friend Levi dated him.

4. Back home, Rob and Laura had a son, Ritchie (Larry Mathews), who was about my age.  But I don't recall him being the focus of any episode, except one where they explain how he got the feminine middle name "Rosebud."  He was mostly a non-entity.

5. The only regular cast member who was marginally attractive was next door neighbor Jerry Helper, played Jerry Paris, who starred in some sex comedies during the 1960s.  But he was married, too.

6. And maybe an occasional guest star, such as Jerry Van Dyke (left), Jamie Farr, and Jacques Bergerac.

No muscles, no buddy-bonding, a lot of hetero-horniness.  No wonder I didn't like it.

Besides, the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut" scared me to death.

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