Jul 22, 2023

""Praise Petey": A Girl, a Cult, a Redneck Hunk, and a Bar Called the Filthy Pecker

 I don't care what the show is about, or even that the shirtless hunk is actually pictured with an underwear girl.  I'm watching.  It's Praise Petey, on Hulu: a New York It-Girl is charged with modernizing her dad's cult.  Ok....

Scene 1: Petey, "a girl with a boy's name," narrates.  She jaunts through Manhattan, being smug and entitled, getting coffee without waiting in line, not worrying as a giant monster attacks the city -- normal stuff.  

Scene 2: At her job as an assistant, assistant, assistant fashion editor.  Then dinner with her fiance, a wooden board.

Scene 3: She gets a video from her dead dad, explaining that he wants her to take over the planned community he designed: New Utopia, West Carolina.  She refuses, but then her best friend cheats with her fiance (the board), she's fired, and her apartment burns down, so it's off to the South.

Scene 4: The bus lets her off in a mud puddle in a goat field, but fortunately a hot redneck named Bandit comes to the rescue.  Wait --no, he wants her to "git!," because he disapproves of her taking over the town.  He'll still take her in, but she has to walk.

Scene 5: 
The town wakes up with signal fires and a ram's horn.  They welcome her with flowers. Mae-Mae, her father's assistant, takes her to her room at the New Utopia Inn for a shower --with three naked ladies helping her?  

After dressing, Petey wants a drink, so Mae-Mae takes her to the town bar, The Filthy Pecker. Alan Tudyk (yes, the actor) shows her around and introduces her to the town drink, a pickleback. Hot Redneck Bandit is mean to her again.  

She commiserates with the bartender Eliza, whose last relationship ended a year ago (she was one of Petey's Dad's 20 wives). Darn, I thought she was a lesbian.

Scene 6:  Petey and Hot Redneck play pool darts: If Bandit wins, she has to leave town, but if she wins, he has to kiss her.  Um...if this guy is heterosexual, he's going to lose on purpose.

Yep, they kiss, while everyone cheers, congratulating them on being heterosexual.  He went from "I hate you" to "I love you" in record time.

Uh-oh, conflict: "I can't be in love with you because your dad turned this town into a cult."

"This is not a cult!" Petey exclaims. "It just needs a little fresh blood."

Cue the opening of the Illuminati-style altar and the red-robed priests sacrificing Alan Tudyk and drinking his blood.  Darn, I thought he would be a regular character.

Scene 7:  Shocked, Petey rushes out.  Mae-Mae, Dad's assistant, wants to know what's wrong.  "I liked Alan Tudyk.  He was good in everything."  

On a VHS tape, her father manhandles a naked hunk tied to a St. Andrews cross to help (no penis), and explains that "New Utopia needs you.  Make whatever changes you want."

"But this is a cult!"

Mae-Mae scoffs.  "What isn't a cult?"  She has a point there.

Scene 8:  Petey decides to stay and help modernize the cult.  They hold a flower ceremony.  Her first decree as Girl Boss: "No more human sacrifices. And no more kaftans.  We'll wear jumpsuits." 

As she is carried out, Mae-Mae and Emmett (whom I didn't mention, thinking that he wasn't important) discuss their dastardly plan. 

And Redneck Hunk vows to stop her ("after I f*k her, of course").

Two hunks displayed.

Gay Characters: This appears to be a gay-free world.

Evan Peters:  He doesn't appear, but he's 36.  That's an important plot point.

My Grade: D.

Jul 21, 2023

Bomba the Jungle Boy

Johnny Sheffield began playing Boy, adopted son to Johnny Weissmuller's iconic Tarzan, in 1939, when he eight years old, and finished in 1947, when he had grown bigger, taller, and far more muscular than his movie Dad and could hardly be called a "Boy" anymore.

A couple of years later, he started on a series of 12 Bomba the Jungle Boy movies (1949-55), ostensibly based on the series of boys' adventure novels, but really about a teenage Tarzan -- Bomba borrowed Weissmuller's trademark loincloth and "Me Tarzan" patois, and the short-lived comic book spin-off was subtitled "TV's Teenage Jungle Star."

The Bomba movies, which I saw on tv during the rare Saturday afternoons in the 1960s that didn't have a game or a repeat of The Magic Sword, seemed to have the same plot, with minor variations.

Bomba is summoned by a scientist or colonial administrator, who tells him about the bad guys and introduces his attractive teenage niece, visiting from America. Bomba and niece flirt.  Bomba is captured by the bad guys, but escapes.  The niece is captured, but Bomba rescues her and defeats the bad guys.  The niece goes back to America. Bomba goes back to the jungle.

The 30 or so minutes of action was turned into a feature-length movie through some stock footage of African wildlife and 20-30 minutes of close-ups of Johnny Sheffield's body.

When Bomba takes a nap, we don't get an establishing shot and then a switch to the next scene: the camera slowly travels down the length of his body for a good five minutes.

When he is tied up by the bad guys, he struggles with his bonds for the amount of time it takes the cameraman to go down to the commisary for a sandwich.

When he goes back into the jungle, he climbs a tree, and the camera obligingly zooms in on his semi-nude butt.

This wasn't an accident of direction or editing.  It was obvious that the African adventure and the heterosexist boy-meets-girl romance were just window dressing; the entire point of the movie was to put Johnny Sheffield on display as often as possible, for as long as possible.

Not that the audience, comprised primarily of preteen gay boys and straight girls, was complaining.  They could think of lots worse ways to spend a dull Saturday afternoon than gazing at Johnny Sheffield.

He influenced a generation of muscular, semi-nude jungle boys, such as Gunga on Andy's Gang and Terry on Maya

After Bomba, Johnny filmed a tv pilot called Bantu the Zebra Boy, which is available on youtube.  He then went to UCLA, got a degree in business, and had a successfully fully-clothed career in real estate.  But was always happy to chat with his fans, gay or straight -- Johnny was refreshingly gay-friendly for someone of  his generation.

There's a gay celebrity story about him on Tales of West Hollywood, but it might be apocryphal.

He died in 2010.

See also: Why is Bomba the Jungle Boy always tied up?

Jul 18, 2023

Why Do Gay Men Like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"?

"Like" is too weak a term.  To gay men of a certain age, it is the movie.  It is more than a movie, it is salvation.

They don't attend the audience-participation midnight showings, with young oddballs throwing toast and rice, yelling nasty, often homophobic lines at the screen, and cheering when the "Frank the Fag" is killed.  They watch at home, alone, a private communion.

 Gay empowerment was not at all what Richard O'Brien intended when he wrote the script of a science fiction-horror musical comedy pastiche.

 If yo're looking for positive LGBT representation, you must overlook or excuse quite a lot:

Frank N Furter is a villain!  He keeps Brad and Janet prisoner, turns them to stone with his Medusa ray, brutally beats his servants, kills Eddie and then serves him to his guests for dinner!  That's not just villainous, it's psycho-killer!

And what do you make of the song "Superhero", which Brad and Janet sing in the wreckage of Frank's lab at the end of the movie:

Superheroes come to feast, to taste the flesh not yet deceased
And all I know, is still the beast is feeding.

Not exactly uplifting, is it?

There's no one gay in the film.  The male characters are all bisexual, capable of sexual relations with men and women both, and the female characters are all heterosexual.

The main sexual awakening isn't same-sex, it's Rocky and Janet.

The "don't dream it, be it" scene in the pool isn't gay, it's a pansexual orgy, while Frank is floating on a life preserver from the Titanic.

That pink triangle on Frank's lab coat was not intended to be a gay symbol.  It just happened to be on the coat they bought for a prop.

So how did gay men of a certain age get around all that?

1. They didn't notice Frank's villainy.  All gay and bi men in the mass media of the era were villains, usually psycho killers.  It was business as usual.  You simply didn't notice.

Instead, you noticed the scenes where Frank becomes a sympathetic character, longing for home:

I see blue skies through the tears in my eyes,
When I realize, I'm going home.

Telling about his first drag dreams:

Whatever happened to Fay Wray, that exquisite, satin-draped frame?
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, 'cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.

2. There was same-sex desire!  Even the gay men in the mass media of the era never expressed same-sex desire.  Gay meant feminine and not interested in women, period.  You never saw a gay man with a boyfriend except Jodie in Soap, who was planning a sex change to "become a woman" for him. (They didn't understand trans people, either.)

Then you go to Rocky Horror, and Frank belts out:

A deltoid, and a tricep, a hot groin and a bicep
Makes me shake, makes me want to take Charles Atlas by the....hand.

3. There were bulges!

You rarely saw men shirtless in movies of the 1970s, and costumers tried their best to remove all hints of a bulge.  But Rocky and Brad are both half-naked most of the time, in extremely bulgeworthy outfits.  Male beauty was celebrated, not erased.

4. There was transformation.

I feel released
Bad times deceased
My confidence has increased
Reality is here

After years and decades of being told, over and over, that you, like every man who had ever lived and who ever would live, longed for women and shuned the touch of men, that same-sex desire did not and could not exist, you heard Frank sing:

Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.

You left the theater with tears streaming down your face, transformed, literally saved.

I was lost, but now I'm found.  Was blind, but now I see

See also: Beefcake in The Home of Happiness

Jul 16, 2023

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I missed most of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68).  First it was on past my bedtime, and then there were too many competing choices (The Time Tunnel, Hogan's Heroes) -- so I watched only sporadically, when one of my friends insisted.  But I had more than one friend who thought it was "good beyond hope."

 It was a buddy spy series, like I Spy and Wild Wild West, but with an interesting twist.  In the heart of the Cold War, we heard over and over that "Russkies" were all evil monsters plotting our destruction.   But one of the secret agents was Russian.

The premise: The USSR, the United States, and other countries have set aside their differences and formed U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) to fight the evil THRUSH (acronym unknown), which wants to "subjugate the human race."

The plots were much more extravagant than anything seen on Mission: Impossible, rivaling Batman in campiness:
THRUSH tries to bring Hitler back to life.
THRUSH invents a deadly hiccup-inducing gas.
THRUSH invents an exploding hula-dancing doll.
Pat Harrington, Jr. (later on One Day at a Time) steals a rare book containing THRUSH code.
Sonny and Cher play clothes designers with THRUSH code hidden in one of their dresses.

But the main draw was the "The Man,"  American Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn, previously seen shirtless in Teenage Caveman), and his partner, the Russian Illya Kuryakin (Scottish actor David McCallum).  They were not only spy partners: they seemed to live together (and when traveling always took hotel rooms with just one bed).  They expressed their affection with the easy nonchalance of Starsky and Hutch.  And, contrary to James Bond style, they mostly ignored women.

Solo was a no-nonsense man's man (notice the use of his last name).  By contrast, Illya (notice the first name) was soft, quiet, intellectual, "feminine."  As a result, he was captured by the baddies a lot more often: 8 times (Solo was captured alone 4 times, and they were captured together 10 times).

Sometimes the capture was specifically to egg Solo on.  For instance, in "The Deadly Quest Affair," Viktor Karmak (Darren McGavin) tells Solo that Illya has been sequestered somewhere in New York City, and he has 12 hours to find him before Illya is killed by nerve gas.

There were also many shirtless and underwear shots.  David McCallum had the blond, shaggy-haired dreaminess that appealed to preteens, so he received the lion's share of coverage in teen magazines.

There were lots of book tie-ins and miscellaneous toys.

After U.N.C.L.E., the two moved on to other projects, but returned to their characters in The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1983). They are called back into service 15 years after they broke up.  Dig their civilian careers: Solo became a computer developer, and Illya. . .um. . .a fashion designer.

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