Aug 11, 2023

Yogi Bear and Boo Boo

A few years ago I published a scholarly article outlining the homodomestic relationship between Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. And Ruff and Reddy.  And Spongebob and Patrick.

People immediately started screaming at me.  Even today, every few weeks someone finds the article and starts screaming again:
"It's a kid's cartoon!"
"You're reading too much into it!"
"The cartoonists never intended them to be gay!"
"Can't two guys be friends without everyone thinking they're gay?"
"How can they be gay, when they aren't Wearing a Sign?"

Except I never said that the Yogi Bear and Boo Boo were "really" gay, whatever that might mean for beings with no bodies or minds, who don't exist at all outside of some images painted on celluloid.  Or that the producers meant them to be gay.  I said that their partnership provided a model with which gay kids could identify and validate their own same-sex desires.

A lot of the things I know about the world -- avalanches, duels, Napoleon, gangsters, daffodils, Shakespeare, karate, King Arthur, submarines, Egyptian hieroglyphics -- I probably first heard from the block of cartoons that Hanna Barbera broadcast on prime time in the late 1950s, and aired through the 1960s on Saturday mornings and on late-afternoon kids' programs like Captain Ernie's Cartoon Showboat.

The characters belong to my earliest, preliterate, preverbal memories:

Huckleberry Hound
Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har
Pixie and Dixie
Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey
Ruff and Reddy
Wally Gator
Yogi Bear and Boo Boo

Note that they usually came in pairs who lived together, traveled together, and worked together to defeat the bad guy who wanted to eat or confine them.  I know now that they were reflections of the movie-comedy teams of the 1940s and 1950s, like Abbott and Costello, Hope and Crosby, and Martin and Lewis.

I didn't know then.

I knew only that every adult man in the real world had a wife, and every teenage boy had a girlfriend whom he hoped one day to marry.  I saw no men, heard of no men -- none at all  -- who lived together, who built a life together, who didn't need or want wives. But at "cartoon time," in plain view, there was Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Pixie and Dixie, Quick Draw and Baba Looey.

See also: The Three Stooges and The Flintstones.

See Here, Private Hargrove: To Be Young Was Very Heaven

 When I was an undergraduate at Augustana College (1978-1982), there was a metal book rack in the foyer of the library marked "Take a book, leave a book."  There wasn't usually much of a selection: well-thumbed copies of The Godfather and Love Story,  romance novels, five-year old freshman composition textbooks.  But I found a small red textbook of Medieval Latin and Tarzan the Invincible (one of the later Burroughs novels).  One damp, cloudy Saturday afternoon during my senior year, there was nothing but an ancient, yellow-paged paperback, See Here, Private Hargrove.  

Army life during World War II?  Dreary!  But I was heading for a 5-hour shift at the Student Union Snack Bar, which was always deserted on Saturday nights, and I needed something to read.  So I exchanged it for The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. 

I had a slight sore throat, a sort of lump that made swallowing difficult -- in the COVID era it would be inconceivable to go to work while sick, but back in the 1980s, unless you were dying, you went.  The Snack Bar was a desolate square space with about ten round white tables and a gleaming counter up front. I was the only one working.  We sold hamburgers, french fries, sandwiches, chips, sodas, and some desserts.

 From the cash register I could see the glass wall with doors leading outside, now dark and stormy with rain; the banks of mailboxes to the left, and Adam's Bookstore to the right.   From 5 to 10 pm, I had maybe ten customers.  I had dinner at my post -- a hamburger, french fries, and a carton of milk. 

 But mostly I read See Here, Private Hargrove.  It was a collection of humorous anecdotes, originally published in the Charlotte, North Carolina News, about Marion Hargrove's life as a private at Fort Bragg in 1940 and 1941: "The Boy Across the Table...",  "A Soldier Stuck His Hand....", "I Grinned Weakly...": chores, drills, bellowing sergeants, trips into town to go to movies.  The sort of thing that was popular during the Vietnam War: No Time for Sergeants, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes (not quite the same, but close enough).

I've done some research since.  The novel was made into a movie in 1944, starring Robert Walker (1918-1951). best known for the gay-subtext Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train (1951). He was married twice and had four children, so I doubt that he was gay in real life.

I haven't seen the movie, but according to IMDB, Private Hargrove gets a girlfriend (played by Donna Reed, future 1950s housewife on The Donna Reed Show) and a best buddy (played by gay actor Keenan Wynn).  So there may be some buddy-bonding.

Robert Walker's son, Robert Walker, Jr (1940-2019)., played the boy raised by aliens, Charlie X, on a 1966 episode of Star Trek.  He had three wives and seven children.  Probably not gay.

Marion Hargrove (1919-2003) went on to write two more novels, plus magazine articles and television scripts.  His credits include I Spy, The Name of the Game, and The Waltons.  His humorous account of trying to get a couch for the studio office was published in The Playboy Book of Humor and Satire (1965).  He had two wives and six children, so probably not gay.

Today, I have replaced the small paperback with a hardbound copy -- just to have, not to read -- I don't want any new memories to develop.  I want to see the book on its shelf and flash back to that night -- the sore throat,  the hamburger and carton of milk, gazing out through the glass windows into a rainstorm, all of it.  Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.

Aug 10, 2023

March 24, 1975: Mitzi and a Hundred Guys

March 24, 1975.  The Monday before Easter.  I check the TV Guide and find a special, Mitzi and a Hundred Guys.  

I don't know who Mitzi is, but anything with a hundred guys is going on my DVR List.

Just kidding -- in those days you watched it in real time or not at all.  So I plop myself in front of the tv.  My parents are surprised that I want to see something with "singing and dancing" in it; usually I hate variety shows.

There's a lot of singing and dancing, interspliced with comedy skits like Carol Burnett.   But the hundred guys make up for the tedium.

They include  included practically every male tv star,  plus some movie and radio stars.  I divide them into:

 Hot guys that I know.

Hot guys that I don't (such as Rich Little, left).

 Ugly guys that I know.

Ugly guys that I don't.

But the highlight is Mitzi crooning the Irving Berlin torch song "Always" while bodybuilders in jock straps surround her.

At least, I remember jock straps.  But, thanks to the internet, I see that they were wearing white pants.  And I can identify them.

1, Don Peters (1931-2001), a five-time Mr. America winner who also posed for the gay-porn photos of Bruce of L.A.

2. Kent Kuehn, a three-time Mr. America who appeared with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Stay Hungry (1975), the film that popularized bodybuilding.

3. Bob Birdsong (b. 1948), who appeared in two gay porn films, California Supermen (1972) and Loadstar (1973) before winning the 1975 Mr. Universe title. He later "found Jesus," got a "beautiful wife" and started a ministry.

4. Ric Drasin (b. 1944, recent photp), a bodybuilder, professional wrestler, and actor, with credits ranging from Ben (1972) and Sextette (1978) to The Shield (2004).  He is also a spokesman for Gold's Gym and a wrestling instructor.

Aug 8, 2023

Jackanapes: Boyfriends in a Victorian Children's Story

When I was a kid in the 1960s, there were only a few books in the house, so I spent many hours leafing through the nine volume Junior Classics (1956), an anthology of antiquated stories that someone born before horseless carriages were invented thought that modern kids should read, such as Alice in Wonderland and King of the Golden River.

As a nine or ten-year old, I often found the words too hard, the references obscure, and the plots disturbing. Julia Horatia Ewing's Jackanapes (1883), from the ironically entitled Volume 5, Stories that Never Grow Old, certainly qualifies: it starts with villagers who live on the Green talking about a sexton "who would be ninety-nine come Martinmas, and whose father remembered a man who had carried arrows, as a boy, for the battle of Flodden Field."

Ok: I didn't know what a Green was, or a sexton, or Martinmas, or Flodden Field.

And when I skipped ahead to the end, Jackanapes, whoever that was, had died.  Depressing.

Years later, in my college Shakespeare class, I heard the word again: Jackanapes was the nickname of Sir William de la Pole, who appears in Henry VI.  So I returned to the story, and found a Victorian model of same-sex love: a Bart Simpson troublemaker and his friend Tony, weaker, more cautious, and described as "beautiful."  The two smoke cigars, get sick on a merry-go-round, and concoct schemes to get money to buy horses.

Fast forward twenty years, and they are British calvary officers (and not married).  In the heat of battle, Tony falls off his horse and breaks his leg.  The enemy is approaching fast, but Jackanapes rushes over and prepares to lift Tony onto his own horse.

"Jackanapes! It won't do. You must go on. Tell the fellows I gave you back to them, with all my heart. Jackanapes, if you love me, leave me!"

There was a daffodil light over the evening sky in front of them, and it shone strangely on Jackanapes' hair and face. He turned with an odd look in his eyes that a vainer man than Tony Johnson might have taken for brotherly pride. Then he shook his mop and laughed at him.

"Leave you? To save my skin? No, Tony, not to save my soul!"

Jackanapes then rescues Tony, though it means that he will die.

The rest of the novella involves the folk back home gossipping about Jackanapes' sacrifice, and the author moralizing about God and country.  But the gay subtext is strong, and clear, and survives the obscurity of the text.

Later I discovered that Victorian literature is filled with gay writers.  Julia Horatia Ewing was not among them.

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