Apr 26, 2018

The Beefcake of Meh-Ville, Missouri

St. Louis suburb Mehlville, Missouri, population 28,000, draws the eye because it's spelled wrong.  The author of Moby Dick is Herman Melville.

Maybe it comes from "Meh!", the Jewish expression for "bored, not interested, don't care, whatever."

Because there's not much to do there.  It's at the intersection of Interstate 55 and 255 (the St. Louis roundabout), with a lot of fast-food places, a Wal-Mart, and urban blight as far as the eye can see.

TripAdvisor recommends Chick-Fil-A and McDonalds.

Downtown St. Louis is 13 miles away, so there is a lot of art, culture, and gay activity available.  But if you're stuck in Mehlville, you're stuck.

Except for the Meramac Valley Grotto, which is dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the many caves in the Illinois-Missouri area (this is near Tom Sawyer's Hannibal).

Sounds sort of interesting.

There are two high schools with swim teams, one smiling, the other deadly serious.

Wrestling, with the panther on the singlets going for the crotch.  Rather an odd choice.

Quite a lot of bodybuilding.

In fact, every search on Mehlville brings up Calum Von Moger, aka Callum Von Zilla, the 2014 Mr. Universe.  Except he was born in Australia and now lives in Los Angeles.  The only connection I can find is a profile that appeared in Mehlville Media, the school newspaper and news website, in November 2017.

Mehlville High also sends a troupe to the Missouri Thesbians Conference every year.

Ok, now I'm grasping at straws.

Just drive into St. Louis and go to the Bastille.

Massillon: The Bodybuilding Capital of the World

Massillon, Ohio is a suburb of Canton, which is a suburb of Akron, which is in the metropolitan area of Cleveland:  it's at the end of an urban sprawl of Targets, Wal-Marts, McDonalds, and little houses made of ticky-tacky that began at Lake Erie, fifty miles away.

 Massillon itself,  population of 32,000,  is notable for the Jackson Bog State Nature Preserve (that's right, a bog), and the Ideal Department Store Building (an 8-story skyscraper built in 1918), and for being the birthplace of silent film great Lillian Gish.  It's a rust belt town struggling to find a new identity after the steel mills closed. Nothing to do but work out and drive into Canton.

Let's hear more about that working out.

As far as I can tell, Massillon has twelve gyms and fitness centers, including Cross-Fit, The Fitness Boot Camp, and Bodybuilders, Inc.  Massillon men regularly win regional bodybuilding competitions.

I found the obituary of Devin Dearth, a bodybuilder who grew up in Massillon and went on to win many competitions, including Mr. Kentucky.  He suffered a paralyzing stroke at the age of 40 (not related to drug misuse).  His attempt to recover was the subject of a documentary, 9,000 Needles.

Massillon has two high schools, with the usual swim teams lifting fingers to indicate that they have won some sort of competition.

Plus powerlifting.  The Massillon Tigers hold a Lift-A-Thon annually in memory of Steve Studer, the Strength and Conditioning Coach who died in 2004.

They have wrestling, too.

Zion Shaver, born in Columbus, Ohio, was adopted by a woman in Massillon.  Although he lacks legs, he went out for wrestling.  He weighed only 88 pounds, so he was placed in the lightest weight category, and got an amazing 33/15 wins his senior year.

He graduated in 2016.

Almost makes you want to go visit that bog.

Donald De Lue and the Male Nudes of Public Art

The Boy Scout Memorial, on the Ellipse in Washington DC, gives visitors quite an eyeful.  A muscular man who has apparently just stripped is walking beside the boy scout.

He represents nothing more arcane than "American Manhood."  There's a fully-clothed woman, also, representing "American Womanhood."

It is particularly surprising because it was sculpted in 1963, when male nudity was not commonplace in public art, even with the penis covered.

The sculptor was Donald De Lue (1897-1988), who grew up in Boston and studied in Paris, like many artists of his generation.  After eleven years as assistant to sculptor Bryant Baker, he pushed out on his own, specializing in public art.

Stately,  muscular male nudes, gods and other mythological and allegorical figures.

Like this Babylonian-style frieze "Law and Justice," on the Federal Building in Philadelphia, is from 1941, just before the U.S. entered World War II.

Or The Rocket Thrower, created for the 1964 World's Fair, now at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York.

Among his most famous sculptures is The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, in the American Cemetery at Normandy (1956).

Most of his public art hides the penis, but his smaller pieces don't.  The Sun God (1937) is now at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Icarus (1934) is at the Smithsonian.

Of course, drawing artistic inspiration from the bodies of naked, muscular men doesn't necessarily mean that you are gay.  But it doesn't mean that you are straight, either.


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