Jan 22, 2018

The Bob Damron Guide

You probably think that the Gayellow Pages, published beginning in 1973, was the first gay directory.  In fact, there were several earlier directories.  The one most familiar to gay men in the 1970s and 1980s was the Damron Address Book.

In 1964, 36-year old businessman Bob Damron published the first Address Book, a pocket-sized 50-page list of all the gay bars he knew about in the big cities of the U.S.

The name wasn't specific, and the word "gay" was not used, because being gay was illegal in every state, with penalties ranging up to life in prison.  Being caught with a "gay" book in your possession would not only get you arrested, it would give the police a complete list of places to raid.

It was wallet-sized, so you could carry it in your pocket without being detected, and dispose of it quickly if necessary.

Later editions included codes:
C: Coffee
D: Dancing
G: Girls (Lesbians)
M: Mixed gay/straight
M/S: Mixed crowd
P: Private club
PE: Pretty elegant
RT: Raunchy types (hustlers)
S: Shows ("record pantomine acts with female impersonators")
SM: Some motorcycle.
YC: Young crowd.

The edition I bought at the adult bookstore in Bloomington in 1982 used the word "gay," and listed bars, bookstores, theaters, and bathhouses.  I carefully calculated which city in the U.S. was best for gay men by weighing all four (in my naivete, I didn't realize that the bookstores and theaters were erotic).

New York got the most points.

By the 1980s, The Damron Guide was illustrated with steamy ads.

Bob Damron died in 1989, but his annual guidebook is still going strong, specializing in international travel.

Searching for Beefcake in "Almost Home"

When I was growing up in Rock Island, we drove out to visit my parents' family in Indiana once or twice a year.  On the way back, about 20 miles outside of town, there was a sign that read "Galesburg."

"Galesburg!" Mom would always exclaim.  "We're almost home!"

Today Galesburg still resonates in my mind as "almost home."

We didn't actually visit often -- there was nothing there that you couldn't get in Rock Island.

Except a train: if you wanted to take the train anywhere, you had to go to Galesburg -- the famous Rock Island line didn't actually stop in Rock Island.  We drove in to pick up my grandmother and Aunt Nora, and drop them off again.

And Carl Sandburg: Our teachers never let us forget that Galesburg was the home town of the "great" Illinois poet that we all hated -- The People Yes!, American Songbag, Always the Young Strangers. 

It was also the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

And the Marx Brothers were performing at the Auditorium Theater on Broad and Ferris when they adopted their stage names: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo.

And there is a substantial amount of beefcake.

The high school has a swim team.

So does Knox College.

Plus wrestling.

And powerlifting.

There's a sex club outside of town, the Hole in the Wall, the only one I've ever seen that wasn't in a big city.

It's just for sex -- no exercise equipment, no sauna, just cruising by a lot of gay and downlow men.

Though I'm pretty sure this one is a fake.

Jan 21, 2018

The Gay Hint of "Where's Huddles"

At the 1970 Superbowl, played on January 11th at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.  The Chiefs got 16 first downs and 151 net yards efficiency. Len Dawson was the individual leader in passing, with 142 yards and 1 touchdown, and a 12/17 c/att.

I have no idea what any of that means, and I couldn't care less. Football is incredibly boring.  I'll go to a superbowl party for the snacks, but I never have any idea what's going on.  Occasionally the other guys in the room scream at the top of the lungs.  I look up from my book and say "So...did our team, like, make a point or something?"

I did try to find a picture of the Kansas City Chiefs with their shirts off.  This one came up, but it also says "Ohio State Football Players Can't Stop Being Shirtless."

I didn't know the Kansas City Chiefs were at Ohio State, but it makes as much sense as anything else in football.

Here's another one of the Kansas City Chief shirtless, at a barbecue that Channing Tatum threw for the Magic Mike Live dancers.

So a football team named after Kansas City that is actually in Ohio moonlights as a dance troupe?

This is why I don't follow football!

But in th summer of 1970, when I was nine years old, I did watch some episodes of a tv series about football!

I know, weird -- nobody watched summer replacement series.  They were awful comedy-variety crap.  Besides, there was something unsettling about watching evening tv when it was still daylight out.

But Where's Huddles was animated, and the two football players, Ed Huddles (Cliff Norton) and Bubba McCoy (Mel Blanc), did a sort of Fred Flintstone-Barney Rubble buddy-bonding routine.  Huddles' wife was even voiced by Jean Vander Pyle (Wilma on The Flintstones).

There was also a Muttley-style snickering dog wearing a football helmet, a daughter named Pom-pom, and a black guy (rare in 1970).

And a football-hating next-door neighbor, Pertwee, voiced with a strong gay accent by Paul Lynde, who I knew from Bewitched.  He voiced everything I thought about football and jocks in general, and he didn't have a wife -- somehow he had avoided the "wife-house-job" future the adults were always mapping out for me!

I didn't know that Paul Lynde was gay himself, and playing the character as gay.  I wouldn't even know that gay people existed for another six years.

But I remember a warm summer evening, when it was still light out, and you could hear the kids playing outside through the screen door, and the fireflies were just starting to sparkle, sitting in front of the tv in our small square house on 41st Street, and seeing a gay man.