May 10, 2013

Christopher Masterson in the Middle

From 2000 to 2006, Christopher Masterson played eldest brother Francis on the dysfunctional family sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, starring Frankie Muniz..  While Justin Berfield's Reese  got most of the gay references and subtexts (not to mention most of the nude and shirtless shots), Francis got his share.

The most significant gay subtext was in a story arc in which Francis and his friend Eric (Eric Nenninger) move to Alaska together (because they can't stand to be separated) are mistaken for a gay couple.




Born in 1980, Christopher belongs to a show biz family (his brother Danny starred in That Seventies Show).   He began acting at the age of eight, with guest roles on Murphy Brown and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.  

In 1995 he starred in Cutthroat Island, about the female pirate Morgan (Geena Davis) and her companion Shaw (Matthew Modine) searching for treasure.  He played Bowen, her assistant and protege, who displays no heterosexual interest.



In 1997 Christopher returned to the pirate world in Ecce Pirate, about a boy who is kidnapped by pirates and grows up to become their king.  Again, no heterosexual interest.

During Malcolm in the Middle, Christopher had some additional buddy-bonding and gay-vague roles, most notably in the "My Generation" episode of the anthology tv series Strange Frequency (2001), about two serial killers of different generations who decide to go into business together.

Of course there were heterosexist roles, too, such as Nice Guys Finish Last (2001), a "teen boy obsessed with girls" short, and Wuthering Heights (2003), which moves the "classic" Victorian novel into a modern-day high school.

I haven't seen much of his post-Malcolm work, but it doesn't look like there's much gay content.  As usual, you get to buddy-bond in your teens, before you graduate to "mature" heterosexual romances.

A Scientologist, he might not be a gay ally.

See also: The Top 10 Hunks of Malcolm in the Middle





May 9, 2013

Belgium: Skinny-Dipping Farmboys and a Gay Santa Claus

We moved to Rock Island, Illinois in 1968, the summer after second grade.  The people who owned the house before us left a box of books in the attic -- but to my surprise I couldn't read some of them, not even the titles.  I thought they were in a secret code, a clue to the location of "the good place" where men hugged.

Later my friend Bill's big brother, who sang "Men with Beards," told me that they were written in Flemish, a language similar to Dutch spoken in Flanders, in Western Belgium.






I wonder what he would have said if he knew that one of the books was Een Beroemde knapp (A Famous Boy) by gay Belgian author Johannes Kneppelhout.



Rock Island had the largest Belgian population west of Chicago.  There was a Belgian Cultural Center, the Belgian Village Restaurants, rolle-bolle courts.  You could take Flemish at the community college.  Teachers spent almost as much time on "our" Belgian heritage as Scandinavian.  There were a few hints that Belgium was a "good place."

1. In 1310 Jan Breydel and Pietr de Coninck started a freedom-fighting rebellion against the evil French invaders.  Their statue stands in the Market Place in Brugge today.  I imagined that they were boyfriends.



2. In Belgium, Santa Claus, or Sinterklaas, has a male companion, Zwarte Pete (Black Peter).  He is  traditionally played by a white guy in blackface, in spite of the complaints of racism.

3. Malpertuis, aka The Legend of Doom House (1971) is a Belgian horror movie. An androgynous sailor named Jan (Mathieu Carriere, top photo) is abducted and wakes up in the labyrinthine mansion Malpertuis,  along with his sister and various gluttonous, depraved, insane relatives (who may be Greek gods), all imprisoned by the mysterious Uncle Cassavius (Orson Welles).  Everyone, male and female, mortal and god, has creepy sexual intentions toward him.

4. The Francophone gay couples Tintin and Captain Haddock, Corentin and Kim, and Spirou and Fantasio were all drawn by Belgian cartoonists.

5. The Manneken Pis, a statue of a urinating boy, is the symbol of Brussels.

6. De Witte (1980), aka Whitey, is about a gay-vague boy (Eric Clerckx, left) living in Flanders in 1901.  He plays practical jokes and rebels against the religious fundamentalism of his world, longing for the pure joy of skinny-dipping with his chums.  When his mother discovers his "perversion," she forces him to walk all the way back to town naked, a striking image of a gentle soul laid bare for the world to mock.

7. Tomorrowland, a gay-positive music festival held every summer near Brussels.

Pele: Futbol and Homophobia Come to America


When I was a kid in the 1960s, only three sports existed: baseball, basketball, and football.  I hated them. Boring, tedious, pointless attempts to gain control of a silly little ball.  To this day I've seen only about five baseball games and three basketball games without falling asleep.  No football games.

Then suddenly, in the spring of 1972, a guy named Pele started appearing on t-shirts and lunch boxes, and on tv commercials, bouncing a black-and-white ball on his head.

I had never heard of futbol, or what the Americans call soccer.  I figured he must be a Olympic athlete.









At least he filled out his uniform nicely, and there are some photographs out there with full-frontal nudity.

Turns out that Pele was "the athlete of the century," a Brazilian national hero, who won the World Cup many times in a row, and almost single-handedly introduced the game into the U.S.

Today 13.5 million people in the U.S. play soccer, more than baseball (11.5) and football (8.9).  It's no-contact rule makes it popular among kids who don't enjoy bashing each other's heads in.








But it's still homophobic.

Pele has been embroiled in a battle-of-insults for several years with fellow soccer great Diego Marandona.  Pele claims that Diego is a degenerate drug addict who is a poor role model for kids.  Then Diego "accuses" Pele of being gay; he "lost his virginity" to his soccer coach at age 15.

Ok, that's statutory rape.  The age of consent in Brazil is 16.






The soccer world is mostly outraged at Marandona (left).  How dare he accuse the Brazilian national hero of something so horrible?  As one blogger pointed out: "Brazilian soccer players aren't homophobic, they just hate gays."

Pele's reaction was slightly less homophobic.  First he denied it: degenerate drug addicts will say anything.  When a 1981 interview in Playboy magazine surfaced with Pele mentioning the incident, he still denied it, claiming that he had been misquoted: "I don't have a problem with it. If I did it, I would admit it.  You do so many crazy things when you are a kid."

At least he "doesn't have a problem" with it.

See also: Joe DiMaggio.

May 8, 2013

Dingdong and Arthur: Gay-Positive Filipino Buddies

Dingdong Dantes got his start as a member of the boy dance troupe Abztract Dancers, and hit teen idol stardom in 1995, at age 17, in the Philippine teen drama TGIS (Thank God It's Sabado).   Many teen movies and tv series followed.

His first major adult role came in the fantasy series Encantadia (2005-) which has been a bit more successful than  Rounin , with 256 episodes to date.

He played Ybarro, a bandit, who falls in love with a diwata, a fairy-like being from Philippine folklore who lives in another dimension.  It turns out that he is really Ybrahim, lost heir of the Kingdom of Sapiro.




He got his cousin and best friend Arthur Solinap (left), who was working as a dancer and model, a role as a soldier named Muros.

He also got Arthur a role in Eternity (2006), about a pair of star-crossed lovers (Dingdong Dantes, Iza Calzado) who transcend time and space. Arthur played his cousin and best friend Demetrio.












And in the dramatic series MariMar (2007-2008), about a poor girl named MariMar who falls in love with the wealthy Sergio (Dingdong Dantes).  Arthur played Diego, husband of the evil Monika. (By the way, there was also a gay character, the chauffeur Arturo, who was in love with Sergio)







And in the comedy I Heart You, Pare (2011-), a Victor/Victoria homage about a woman disguised as a drag queen.  Dingdong plays Kenneth, manager of the drag club, who is in love with him/her. Arthur has a recurring role as Chong dela Paz.

You can see it on youtube, but you have to speak Tagalog.









Both Dingdong and Arthur have been interviewed by gay magazines.  Arthur Solinap even posed in a Speedo for X-Ray.

With all that brotherly love and courting of gay fans, one wonders if the two are a couple?

Guess not.  Dingdong is engaged to Marian Rivera, and although Arthur Solinap claims to be a "gay magnet," his gay friends are just friends.



Edson Stroll: Bodybuilding Opera Buff

I met Ed Stroll when I was working for Muscle and Fitness in Los Angeles: dashing, energetic, and still extremely buffed in his 50s. He was working in real estate, but he spent most of his time at the Marina del Rey Yacht Club, and knew everything there was to know about high culture: concerts, ballets, and especially opera.

And, whenever he could spare a moment, playing high-powered businessman types on Murder She Wrote, Hotel, Dynasty, Simon and Simon....

I didn't know that he had been in show biz for over 30 years. Or that his real name was Edson.





Born in 1929, Ed trained as a bodybuilder, actor, and singer, performing on stage in Shangri-La, Carousel, On the Town, and other plays before breaking into tv with guest shots on How to Marry a Millionaire, Sea Hunt, Lock-Up, and Men into Space.  












He starred in two famous episodes of The Twilight Zone: "Eye of the Beholder", about a society where the idea of beauty is our "ugliness"; and "The Trade-Ins," in which an elderly couple shop for hot new bodies.

He starred in the military comedy McHale's Navy (1962-66), as Virgil Edwards, "the handsome lover boy of the crew" (according to Wikipedia; I've never seen it).











He appeared in Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961) as Prince Charming, and The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), as romantic lead Captain Tom Andrews.

Not a lot of gay content, but you don't really need any when you spend all of your time hanging around gay men.








I assumed he was gay; he never said he wasn't.

When he died on June 18, 2011, his obituary stated that he was survived by Anita Winters and his two dogs,  Eddie and Sugar Baby.    I have no idea who Anita Winters is.








May 7, 2013

Don's Party: Mostly Heterosexual Boys in the Band

Don's Party (1976), based on the long-running play by David Williamson, is set on the night of the 1969 Federal Election in Australia, where the conservative, establishment Labor Party is expected to win.

Schoolteacher Don (gay actor John Hargreaves, left) and his wife Kath invite some friends over to celebrate the victory.  They are:

1. Alcoholic professor Mal and his bitter wife Jenny

2. Conservative dentist Evan and his artist wife Kerry.






3. Sex-obsessed Cooley (Harold Hopkins, left, lately of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) and his giggly girlfriend Susan.

4. Liberal-supporter  Simon and his wife Jody

5. Working-class Mack (gay actor Graham Kennedy), who has just left his wife.

Gradually it becomes clear that the Liberal party will win, sending Australia plummeting into a snake-pit of drugs and free love, so the depressed partygoers begin drinking heavily.

And the gloves come off.

Men snipe at each other about their failed ambitions.  Women snipe about how small their husbands' penises are and how they're likely to be gay.

Hidden homoerotic desires come out.  There are attempted gay pick-ups.  There is full frontal nudity. By the end of the evening, everyone hates everyone.

It's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets The Boys in the Band. 



To be fair, there's no actual gay sex -- heterosexual machinations predominate -- and there are more naked ladies than naked men.  But still, Don's Party provides a glimpse into the 1970s establishment anxieties over the gay potential of the sexual revolution

May 6, 2013

Christopher Jones: Wild in the Streets

Wild in the Streets (1968), like many 1960s movies and tv shows, including That Cold Day in the Park (1969) and even The Bugaloos (1970-71), draws on establishment fear of the youth counterculture.  Based on a short story by Robert Thorn, "The Day It All Happened, Baby," it stars Christopher Jones as rock star/revolutionary Max Frost, who is elected President of the United States.

 Among his "horrifying" executive decisions: withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam, disbanding the FBI, shipping surplus grain to third-world countries...oh, and sending everyone over 35 to concentration camps, where they are kept high on LSD.

No explicit gay-content, but the hippie boys are quite affectionate with each other, reclining against each other's bodies, lying in each other's arms, and there is considerable beefcake, if you like lean and shaggy.



Born in 1941, Christopher Jones broke into show biz through his friend Frank Corsaro and through his wife, actress Susan Strasberg.  He was known chiefly for playing the titular role in The Legend of Jesse James (1965-66), which transformed the famous outlaw into an anti-establishment hero, a modern day Robin Hood who may have had a substantial buddy-bond with his brother Frank (Allen Case).

And for Chubasco (1967), about a young man sentenced to work on a fishing boat with the older movie hunk Richard Egan, while falling in love with Susan Strasberg.

His studio obviously thought that Christopher would strike an emotional chord with the hippie generation.  After Wild, they promoted him in the hippie sex comedy Three in the Attic (1968), about a boy with three girlfriends;  The Looking-Glass War (1969), about a Polish hippie working behind the Iron Curtain for the West; and Ryan's Daughter (1970), about an Irish boy in love with a girl.

Not a lot of gay-content, but sometimes beefcake is enough, and he gets naked a lot.

But Christopher was disillusioned with Hollywood, especially after the death of his friend/lover Sharon Tate, so he abandoned acting and became a painter.

Encounters with the Tripods: Heterosexism on 1960s Children's TV

It's hard to remember my first encounter with the Tripods, the army of adults, parents, teachers, neighbors, babysitters, coaches, youth ministers, and complete strangers who kept insisting that heterosexual desire was universal human experience, that I, like all boys, would soon become obsessed with the feminine, that no man in the history of the world had ever loved men.

1. Maybe Flipper, not the tv series but the feature film.  It premiered on August 14, 1963, when I was not yet three years old, but I must have seen it on tv later, because it felt odd and disquieting. The "wrong" Porter Ricks, no Bud, Sandy (Luke Halpin) as a little kid -- and he likes a girl!


2. Or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeerwhich aired on December 6, 1964, and every Christmas thereafter. It ended with Rudolph getting a girlfriend and his Elf buddy Hermie dancing with a girl.

3. Or Hercules and the Princess of Troy, which aired on September 12, 1965, just as I entered kindergarten.  A retelling of the Perseus story, with Hercules (1950s Tarzan Gordon Scott) rescuing the Princess (Diana Hylund), and falling in love with her.




4. Or The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, which aired on November 28, 1965, just after my fifth birthday.  A retelling of the "Red Riding Hood" tale with Red (Liza Minnelli) outsmarting an effeminate wolf and falling for the handsome woodman (Vic Damone).

Although Eric Burdon and the Animals were cute as the Wolf's juvenile delinquent gang.





But it was probably something more personal.

5. I was around four years old, and watching a children's program that I called Land of Ziggy Zaggy, but it was actually The Land of Ziggy Zoggo, aka The Nancy Berg Show (1962-65).  

Apparently my Dad thought I was mesmerized by Ms. Berg's pulchritude rather than her storytelling.  Passing by, he laughed and said "Look, Boomer has a girlfriend!"






Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends


The Cartoon Network has substantially less beefcake than The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, of course; it's mostly cartoons.  Live action series, like Tower Prep, with Drew Van Acker (left) and Ryan Pinkston, or Level Up, with Connor Del Rio, can't seem to find an audience, and get cancelled quickly.

But it has a staggering number of gay-subtext series, Adventure Time, Looney Tunes, Regular Show, My Gym Partner's a Money, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, all the way back to Time Squad in 2001.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2004-08) has an interesting premise: many (but not all) children can create imaginary friends, sometimes human, but usually unicorns, minotaurs, birds,  bees, television sets,  and things with multiple heads.  When their creators grow too old, the imaginary friends are abandoned, so the elderly Mrs. Foster runs a sort of orphanage where they can be adopted by new children.

The protagonist, Mac (voiced by Sean Marquette, left), has been forced to give up his imaginary friend Bloo, but he visits every day and becomes an honorary resident of the house, dining with the imaginary friends and participating in house meetings.  And his relationship with Bloo is coded as romance in at least a dozen episodes.

1. Mac accepts a “date” with a “dreamy boy,” even though he must skip his regular after-school visit to Bloo at the foster home.  The date turns out to be a dud – the boy doesn’t want to do anything fun, like climb rocks or draw with chalk  – so Mac returns to Bloo, who may not be attractive but is always up for a good time.

2. When Mac creates another imaginary friend, Bloo roils with jealousy; “I thought we had something special!”  “I didn’t plan it,” Mac protests, as if he has been caught in a romantic indiscretion.  “It just happened!”

3. Mac becomes infatuated with the superhero Imaginary Man, who asks him to become his sidekick by kneeling and proffering a jewelry box, as if he is proposing marriage.  The jealous Bloo becomes a super-villain, Uniscorn (because Mac has scorned him), and wears a broken-heart pendant.



4. When a boy named Barry arrives at the foster home in search of an imaginary friend to “adopt," he and Bloo are instantly attracted to each other, but Bloo refuses adoption, declaring that he and Mac will be together forever. “He may not be a movie star,” Bloo says, quoting the 1970s classic song “My Guy,” “But if you ask if we’re happy, we are!”

In the next scene, Bloo has a change of heart, and arrives at Barry’s house ready to woo him with flowers and candy.  The two begin seeing each other behind Mac’s back. Eventually Mac finds out.  Bloo insists that “Nothing happened!” (what, precisely, could have happened between an eight-year old boy and a blue blob?), but Mac breaks up with him anyway.

Snooping around, Mac discovers the truth: Barry is actually Berry, a female imaginary friend who has a fatal attraction for Bloo, and wants Mac out of the way so they can “be together forever”  In a gender-bending damsel-in-distress scene, Berry ties Mac to railroad tracks with a train fast approaching, and Bloo rushes to the rescue.  To the end of the episode, however, Bloo is oblivious to the deception; he wonders why Berry suddenly showed up with murderous intent, asks when Barry will be back, and refuses to believe that they were the same person.


May 5, 2013

Kawa: 5 Homophobic Rules about Gay Movies

 I love gay subtext movies, but I haven't cared for many of the gay-themed movies that I've seen: Shelter, Brokeback Mountain, Bad Education, Bent, Transamerica, Boys Don't Cry, Get Real.  Subtext movies are about the exuberant joy of two men or two women walking arm-in-arm into the future.  Many gay-themed movies are about hatred, fear, isolation, depression, and angst, angst, angst.

Take Kawa (2010), also known as Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a New Zealand movie directed by Katie Wolfe.  It has approximately the same plot as Making Love (1982), but apparently during the last 30 years, attitudes toward gay people have become much, much worse.

The middle-aged Kawa (Calvin Tuteao) "has it all," or at least the "all" that I spent my youth trying to escape from.  He has some sort of job that involves negotiating with the Australians while sitting in a huge office looking out over Auckland Harbor.  Then he goes home, tells his wife how much he loves her, chuckles at his teenage son for having sex with his girlfriend, and lies in bed next to his preteen daughter to tell her heterosexist bedtime stories while she waves a fairy wand around. In addition, his father is about to retire, making him the head of his Maori clan.

Picture perfect, right?

Homophobic Rule #1: Heterosexual life is amazing, glorious, infinitely fulfilling.  It is Heaven on Earth. It's the theme of everyone's dreaming.  No heterosexual ever experiences a moment of unhappiness, except when they discover that someone is gay.

But Kawa has a problem: he is attracted to men.  He was aware of his attraction before he married, but hoped he could overcome it.  He spent years struggling with his urges, but they're too strong.  He has to act on them.

Homophobic Rule #2: Gay people hate, hate, hate being gay.  It's a horrible obsession that intrudes upon them. They would give anything to be normal, to have a normal life.  They try desperately to suppress the urges, but they're just too strong. Are we talking being gay here, or setting fire to small animals?

Kawa acts on his urges by skulking around bathhouses for anonymous tricks. Everyone in the bathhouse is also closeted, referring to their down-low life as "going to the Gardens of Spain."


Homophobic Rule #3: There is no gay community, just bars, bathhouses, and the occasional t-room. No matter that, last time I checked, Auckland had over 50 gay organizations, everything from gay Christians to gay swimming enthusiasts.  In gay movies, it's a dark, desolate pre-Stonewall world.

By the way, Maori culture is generally gay friendly.  Maori television has a gay tv show, Takatapui, and in 2010 five gay Maori and Polynesian artists had an exhibition called Mana Takatapui: Taera Tane at the City Gallery in Wellington.

Kawa starts tricking regularly with closeted actor Chris (Dean O'Gorman, left), but he rejects any attempt to start a relationship.  He's married; he wants a normal life.  Being gay is just "having a bit of fun." (After he is outed, he tries to get back together with Chris, but the closeted actor has moved on).

Homophobic Rule #4: There is no fade-out kiss.  Gay people may have a bit of fun, but they cannot have lasting relationships.  No matter that New Zealand has gay marriage. Gay couples will always break up, or one of them will die.

Did I mention that New Zealand has gay marriage?







The bit of fun on the side is fine until one day Kawa's mom sees Kawa and Chris kissing.  Then all hell breaks loose.  Her reaction -- "My son died today" -- is the mildest of the lot.  His father collapses, screaming, onto the ground.  His wife throws up, and then forbids him from entering the house or seeing his children (that's definitely not legal).

 His son (Pama Hema Taylor, left) screams "Stay away from my mother"!  His daughter runs away to look for fairies, emblems of her lost "perfect" world of universal heterosexuality.

Kawa also quits his job.  You can't have an office with a view of Auckland Harbor if you're not heterosexual

Homophobic Rule #5: All heterosexuals are wildly, viciously, psychotically homophobic.  No wonder it's a dark closet world -- mention that you're gay, and everyone starts screaming, and you lose everything.

Months and months and months pass, and eventually Kawa's Dad appears at his apartment with the ceremonial robe, signifying that he can become clan leader after all.  What about Mom?  "Give her time."

Jeez, how much time do you need to accept the fact that your son is an axe murderer. . .or is it gay?

Same thing.

Try 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous for a Kiwi movie that gets it right.