Dec 26, 2013

David Barry Gray: Not as Homophobic as Chevy Chase, Probably

Chevy Chase may be one of the more homophobic actors in Hollywood, as his cast mates from Saturday Night Live and the National Lampoon's Vacation movies can attest, but the naked man on top of him, David Barry Gray, is not.  Not very, anyway.

Not as homophobic as Chevy Chase.

The New York City native, heir to the Pepsi Cola fortune,  has appeared on many tv series, beginning as a teenager with William Tell (1987-88); he played William's son, Matthew.  Other series include 21 Jump Street, The Client, JAG, Medium, Ghost Whisperer, and Rizzoli & Isles.

Not a lot of gay subtext vehicles, although you could include his role in S.F.W. (1994), as the brother of hostage-survivor Stephen Dorf, and the "rescuing people from Southeast Asia" movie Soldier Boys (1995), as Lamb, who steps on a land mine (sacrificial lamb -- get it?).

Man-mountain Michael Dudikoff stars.

No gay characters, although he did star in the mega-homophobic Lawn Dogs (1997):

A lonely ten-year old girl and her only friend, the reclusive Trent (Sam Rockwell), both have problems with unwelcome sexual advances from a couple of sleazoid roommates: the girl from Brett (David), and Trent from Sean (Eric Mabius).  Not to worry, the evil gay guy is killed, but the pedophile isn't.

So he played the teenage version of homophobic President Richard Nixon, and more recently, Todd Palin, husband of homophobic Alaska Governor and VP contender Sarah Palin.  That doesn't mean he's personally homophobic.

Does it?

His sister-in-law, Ariel Winter, stars in the gay-positive Modern Family as the brainy teenager Alex Dunphy.

Doesn't that suggest that David is gay-positive?


Well, at least he has a nicely toned physique.

Dec 25, 2013

Fall 1991: Outing a Medieval Knight

Ever since my junior high boyfriend Dan and I plotted to escape to Saudi Arabia, I have been plagued by sudden obsessions with countries or historical periods: Russia, China, Renaissance Italy, the Middle Ages, and so on.   Suddenly it's all I can think of.  I buy 1,000 books, start learning the language, plan trips, and decide to devote my professional life to it.  For 3 months, 6 months, maybe a year, and then it fades away.

In 1991, I became obsessed with Ancient Israel. I bought 1000 books on the topic, studied Biblical Hebrew, planned a trip to Israel, and applied to university programs in Old Testament Studies.

Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee admitted me, so I drove out in August 1991, got a small apartment near the campus and an adjunct teaching job, and registered for classes.

My partner stayed in West Hollywood, but we had an open relationship, so I started dating.  The first guy I dated was a Medieval knight.

In the mundane world he was a buffed, bearded high-school history teacher named Larry, but in "real life" he was Lucien de Peletier from the Shire of Galedenfeld in the Kingdom of Meridies (the Society for Creative Anachronism, which "recreates the culture of Medieval Europe," divides the U.S. into regional "kingdoms").

Vanderbilt Divinity School
Lucien signed his letters "1191" instead of "1991," listened to Medieval music instead of rock or country-western, and pretended to know nothing of current events.

That was all fine with me.  The problem was, he was strictly closeted, not only at work (which was understandable), but among his SCA friends.

"But you dress in Medieval costumes and joust each other," I pointed out.  "Surely they would be ok with gay people."

"It's not historically accurate.  There weren't any gay people in the Middle Ages, so my character is straight."

No gay people in the Middle Ages?  Of course there were some. Lots.

In October he invited me to the SCA Harvest Banquet, but cautioned that we had to bring female dates.

After six years in West Hollywood, I wasn't going to stand for closeting!

The banquet was held in a private room at F. Scott's Restaurant and Jazz Bar, about 20 people in costume and a dozen in street clothes.  I came stag, and sat next to a heavily-embarrassed Lucien and his "date", a middle-aged English professor named Dame Lucille.

When it came time to dance, I walked up to a young, cute bard and said something like "Prithee, in my land of West Holly-Wood, it is customary for men to wont their troth upon whoever they find smokin', be they swains or maids.  Wouldst dance with me?"  (They don't really talk like that.)

The bard grinned.  "T'would be a scandal, milord!"

"If it be scandal, then let the tongues wag."

There were, indeed, a lot of stares and whispers as we joined a roundelay, breaking up the boy-girl-boy pattern.

I glanced over at Lucien.  He was staring ashen-faced.

When the dance ended, I approached Lucien and Dame Lucille.  "Ah, another goodly squire, pleasant of mien, hot of bod.  Lady, prithee allow me to borrow him for a dance?"

Giggling, she nodded, but Lucien growled, "Are you crazy?"

"If this be madness, then send me to bedlam, milord.  I die for a single dance."

"Stay in character!  There weren't any gay people in the Middle Ages!"

"Then, perhaps a kiss, such as that Sir Gawain bestowed upon his swain."

"He speaks sooth, milord," Dame Lucille said.  "It's in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."

All eyes were trained on me as I bent down.  For a moment I thought Lucien was going to permit the kiss.   Then suddenly he pushed me roughly away, jumped up from his chair, knocking over a wine glass, and ran from the room.

The bard and I had to give Dame Lucille a ride home.  That was the last I heard of Lucien.

The story of my semester in Nashville continues here, with my date with the country-western singer.  At least, I thought he was a country-western signer.

Today gay people, "the blue feathers," are fully accepted in most kingdoms of  SCA.  In 2011 the Board of Directors ruled that barons could have same-sex consorts, but crown contenders "must be fighting for a consort of the opposite gender."

Fall 1981: The Priest with the Pushy Mom

I began my senior year at Augustana (1981-82) with a single burning question: grad school or a job?

My professors claimed that I could use an English and Modern Languages major to launch a career in journalism, public relations, advertising, translating, or publishing. Surprise -- you needed specialized training for all of those jobs.  300 resumes, and not a single bite.

So I applied to grad school:
1. Russian, University of Iowa (I know, I was just in first year, but I really liked my Russian major friend in Iowa City)
2. Law, Indiana University
3. English, Indiana University
4. Spanish, Tulane University
5. Linguistics, University of Chicago
6. Byzantine Studies, University of Chicago

Why Byzantine Studies?

With my new Russian obsession, I wanted to try out Russian Orthodox Church, but the nearest was in Chicago, so I picked the next best thing: St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Rock Island.

I was disappointed: the liturgy was in English, not Greek, there were pews (I heard that the Orthodox stood), and the sermon was on heterosexual marriage.  But I did meet Peter, formerly a Greek Orthodox priest, now a private investigator for an insurance company.

Being a clergy groupie, I eagerly accepted his invitation to dinner, even though he was substantially older than me, in his 40s.

He lived in a big house in Davenport with his elderly parents, a bedridden Dad and a frail, tiny Mom who talked incessantly of the old country (she left Greece at the age of five, but still remembered it as a "good place").

The dinner was awful -- lamb in some kind of disgusting white sauce, undercooked potatoes -- what happened to the moussaka, spanikopita, and stuffed grape leaves?  No desert -- not even baklava.  And Peter and his Mom drank incessantly.

Afterwards, Peter invited me into his study to see his books on Orthodox theology, Byzantine history, and modern Greek.  He told me about the Russian Orthodox Saints Boris and George, who were gay, and suggested that the Byzantine world was a "good place."

At least it was bright and colorful.

We went downstairs to the basement rec room, where his Mom was watching Fantasy Island. When it was over, she said goodnight and went to bed, and we watched a late movie on tv, something with Bette Davis in it.  Then Peter asked if I wanted to spend the night.

We went into his bedroom and began to get intimate.

Suddenly the door swung open, and Mom walked in.  No knocking, no words, no nothing.  She saw us, shrieked, and ran out.

"What was...why..."  I stammered.

"Oh, don't worry," Peter said.  "Mom knows that I'm gay."

"Why did she rush in like that?"

"She didn't realize that you were spending the night."

That wasn't a satisfactory answer.

In the morning Mom was perfectly gracious.  There was no breakfast except coffee and juice -- the Greek Orthodox fast before Communion.

Peter invited me over for dinner several more times in the fall of 1981, and afterwards Mom always asked "Boomer, will you be spending the night?"

I loved hearing about the Byzantine World, and Peter was a bona fide member of the Horsemen's Club, but he never wanted to go out in public, not even to the Greek Festival.  We would have dinner -- the food was terrible -- and watch tv -- it was always Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  Besides, Mom was a little creepy.  After about two months, I called it quits.

But not before I applied to the Byzantine Studies Program at the University of Chicago.

I ended up going to Indiana University to study English.

Dec 24, 2013

Viva Las Vegas: Elvis and Cesare Danova Find Each Other

Viva Las Vegas (1964) is a comedy-drama produced during the height of early-1960s cool, when Vegas still meant gambling, booze, and the Rat Pack.  And at the height of the 1960s Italian craze.  How could it go wrong?

Two racing enthusiasts, working-class country boy Lucky (Elvis Presley) and elite Italian Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova) accidentally encounter each other at an auto garage.  They know each other by reputation, but have never met before.  Mancini offers Lucky a job driving his car in upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix, and Lucky refuses.  He will drive his own car.  They will be competitors.

The association would usually end there, but not in Lucky Las Vegas. Both guys have fallen in love at first sight with a girl named Rusty (Ann-Margret), but they don't know much about her.  They decide to join forces to try to track her down.

They spend the next several days together, hitting the Vegas nightspots, ostensibly looking for Rusty, but obviously having a wonderful time without her.

Then they find her.  They are in Mancini's hotel room, getting dressed -- wait, have they been sleeping together?  -- and Elvis says it's time to say goodbye.

Only he doesn't leave.

The two "competitors" spend the rest of the movie vaguely competing over the race and the girl, but it's obvious that they don't care much who wins, as long as they can cling together like long-lost brothers.

The final scene involves a wedding, but Mancini, Lucky, and Rusty are so tightly enclinched that one is not entirely certain who is marrying whom.

The gay subtext is blatant, yet so dependent upon intonation and gesture, that one wonders if Elvis and Cesare Danova were really into each other.  Elvis has long been rumored to be bisexual.  I haven't heard a lot of gay rumors about Cesare Danova, only that he became a born-again Christian in the 1970s, and had his tombstone inscribed with "Praise the Lord."

The music is energetic, and the dance numbers are great. Ann-Margret steals the show.  Highly recommended.

Fall 1991: My Date with the Country-Western Star

I spent the fall 1991 semester in Nashville, where I studied Hebrew at Vanderbilt Divinity School, taught English at a state college, outed a Medieval knight...and dated a country-western singer.  At least, I thought he was a country-western singer.

I'll call him Randy.

We met at a restaurant near near campus, when he saw me trying to translate a passage from the Hebrew Bible and came over to ask if I was "a Christian."  Turns out he went to Bible college, planning to become a missionary, but dropped out, and now he was working as a waiter and at a guitar store while honing his musical craft.

Naturally, I started going to the restaurant for lunch almost every day, at the end of the rush when he had time to chat.

Randy was a country boy, all about fishing, hunting, working on cars, and following sports, but he never mentioned a girl, so I figured he was gay. Besides, there was something about his open face and appreciative smile that made my gaydar go off.

Nashville was the country-western music capital of the world, so I started trying to impress him by listening to Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, and Roy Acuff.  I couldn't stand the dismal, depressing, ballads about being poor, tired, hungry, lonely, rejected, replaced, and generally miserable, but if they helped me get into Randy's good graces, it was worth the depression.

I asked his opinion of Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks,  and Randy Travis.

I did extensive research, until I was able to talk to him about the history and genres of country-western: honky-tonk, rockabilly, country pop, the Bakersfield sound.  Bluegrass, banjo pop, Outlaw Country, Western Swing, neotraditionalism.

After a few weeks of buttering him up, Randy finally made his move: "I'm performing this weekend.  I know it's not really your kind of music, know, if you want, you could come.  And maybe we could have dinner afterwards."

Randy's gig was in the Paradise Park Trailer Resort, a dark, dingy redneck bar downtown where the floors were coated with Astroturf (I'm not kidding).  There was lawn furniture against the walls.  There was a Spam exhibit.  The other patrons looked like refugees from Duck Dynasty. 

I got there at 9:00, just as Randy was going on.  He walked onto the small, dingy stage with guitar in hand, nodded at me, and sang:

Farm people, book wavers, soul savers, love preachers!  Lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop!

It sounded familiar...wait...was it "Stop," by Jane's Addiction?

That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, losing my religion, trying to keep up with you.

What kind of country-western singer performs "Losing My Religion," by R.E.M.?

And then his own composition:

The world keeps on turnin'
I can't decide if it's night or day
Your jaws keep on movin'
I can't decide if you know the way

Protest conformity, rage against the machine, raise your fist against the injustice of the world!  Indie rock!

All this time, I had just been assuming he was a country-western singer!

Later, over dinner, I praised his song effusively.  Randy said "That's a relief!  You're such a big fan of country-western music, I didn't think you would find anything to like in indie rock."

"Oh, I'm versatile," I said with a suggestive leer.  "I can find something to like in just about everything."

Job Interviews with Ben Foster, Star of "The Laramie Project"

I keep going on job interviews with actor Ben Foster in the audience, or in the next room.

In January 1985, when I living in Texas but back in  Rock Island for the holidays,  I applied for a job at a boys' prep school affiliated with Maharishi International University (my friend Corey from Augustana went there).  They called me to campus, gave me a tour, had me teach a sample class, and I never heard from them again.  Ben, then aged 4 1/2, was enrolled in the preschool, so I probably saw him during the campus tour.

In 1996, I applied for a job at Disney Studios.  Ben, age 16, was then starring in the teencom Flash Forward.  (It was actually filmed in Canada, but he spent a lot of time in Burbank).

In 2003, when I was living in Florida, I applied for a job at the University of Tampa.  During my interview, Ben was on campus filming The Punisher.

Ben specializes in playing scruffy, craggy sociopaths (and the superhero Angel in the X-Men series).  But gay audiences might know him best for The Laramie Project (2002), based on the Montana hate crime: he played Aaron Kreifels, the bicyclist who discovered Matthew Shepherd.

He also has some gay and gay subtext work:

Six Feet Under (2003-2005): Russell Corwin, a straight guy who has sex with men.

The remake of The Mechanic (2011): a retiring hit man (Jason Statham) teach his craft to his apprentice/boyfriend (Ben).

The Beat Generation murder mystery, Kill Your Darlings (2013): gay writer William Burroughs (right, with Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg).

Teen Idol Cagatay Ulusoy: 10 Things You Should Know

1. He's a 23-year old former teen idol from Istanbul.

2. Turkey is one of the most-gay friendly countries in the Middle East, which means that most people are no more homophobic than your average Protestant fundamentalist in the U.S.

3. He is of Bosnian and Turkish-Bulgarian ancestry.  According to the World Penis Map, Bosnians average 15.6 cm, and Bulgarians 15.02 (Americans only 12.9).

4. The Turkish national sport is oil wrestling, in which half-naked guys grease up with olive oil and try to pin each other.

5. Cagatay started modeling in 2009, at the age of 19, and won the Best Model of Turkey contest.

6. His first acting role was in the adventure film Anadolu Kartallari (Anatolian Eagle, 2011), but now he concentrates on soaps.  In the soap Adini Feriha Koydum (2011-2012), he played rich kid Emir.

7. In the Turkish version of The O.C., Medcezir (2013-), he plays the Ryan Atwood character, Yaman Koper.  He's got a girlfriend, but the gay subtext seems to be retained.

8. Cagatay has never fallen in love, although he gets lots of offers.

9. He is heterosexual, but does not currently have a girlfriend.

10. He loves his gay fans.

Dec 23, 2013

Summer 1971: How to Catch a Fisherman

When I was a kid in the 1970s, whenever we visited my relatives, my Uncle Paul (of the Naked Man in the Peat Bog)  or Cousin Joe (whom I saw naked when I was seven) or Cousin George would announce "I'm going to take you fishing!"  and expect me to bounce around the room in ecstasy.

I didn't bounce around in ecstasy.

1. You sit in a rickety boat or on a rickety dock, with only a thin veneer of wood separating you from 40 feet of gross, dank water.
2. While the mosquitos eat you alive
3. You bait a hook with gross, squishy worms.
4. You dunk the worms in the water and wait.

5. And wait and wait and wait.
6. Eventually a fish takes the bait, and you pull it onto the dock or the boat, where it struggles wildly and finally dies.
7. Then you have to scale it and gut it.

But fishing had some advantages.

It got very hot, so shirts came off, and the ripple of shoulders and biceps as Uncle Paul or Cousin Joe battled Fish was a beautiful sight.

And we weren't alone.  There were lots of cute boys taking off their shirts to battle the fish, and they were surprisingly easy to catch.

When I was little, I played "inept," fumbling around with baits and lines, and waiting until a cute boy offered to teach me.  Hopefully a fish would take the bait, and he would put his arm around me while helping me reel it in.

But when I visited Cousin George in the summer of 1971, I caught a fish, and paraded around with it until a cute boy offered back-slapping, hand-on-shoulder congratulations and questions of how I did it.  I ended up with a buddy for the rest of my visit.

Cousin George was surprisingly nonchalant about me using fish to pick up guys.

I found out why a few years later.

From David Paetkau to Lars Slind: Finding a Gay Connection

One of the main things I like about writing this blog is the research: investigating gay subtexts in movies or tv series I never heard of before. Sometimes the research leads in unexpected directions:

6:00 am: I never heard of David Paetkau, who played a gay character in the Canadian ice hockey movie Goon (2011), so I looked him up on IMDB.  He's been in over 30 movies and tv series, including Final Destination 2 (2003), Whistler (2006-2008), and Flashpoint (2008-).  Nothing I've seen, and nothing with keywords "gay."

6:10 am: Google Images has pictures of him getting married, in a cop uniform, and hugging a number of guys, including Shaun Sipos.  I never heard of him either, but one blogger thinks he's cute.  So maybe Shaun Sipos is gay or plays gay characters?

6:15 am: Like David, Shaun Sipos is a British Colombia native who was in Final Destination 2.   He's also been on the tv series Melrose Place (2009-2010), Life Unexpected (2010-2011), and The Vampire Diaries (2013).  I haven't seen any of them either, but a keyword search for "gay" reveals that his Melrose Place character was involved with a bisexual woman.

 6:20 am: He's in a movie called The Michaels (2014), in post-production. I can't find a synopsis online, but with multiple Michaels, one must be gay.  And there's a character called Handsome Party Guy, played by Lars Slind.  Never heard of him.

6:25 am: Score!  Lars Slind, born in 1983 in Arizona, is an artist, actor, model, and writer with about a thousand shirtless and underwear shots on the internet.

He starred in the tv series The Cavanaughs (2011-2012) and has guest starred on Teen Wolf, True Blood, and Desperate Housewives, mostly in roles like "Hunky Guy."

6:35: He played Superman in Batman Hangover (2013), available on the Funny or Die website, and he's got a starring role coming up in the superhero comedy Real Heroes (2014).

 Let's face it -- no one with this kind of physique is going to be cast as a gay character -- Hollywood wants its gay men to be wispy bits of fluff. 

6:40: But Lars is gay or an ally (I can't tell which).  He posed for the gay magazine DNA and gave an interview to  The Gay Leaguea gay superhero fan blog.  

Finally a gay connnection!  And it only took 45 minutes!