Nov 15, 2014

Summer 1973: I Meet A Teenage Indian God

When I was a kid, my Dad got a 2-week vacation every year.  We would always spend the first week visiting our relatives in Indiana, and the second camping up north,  usually in Minnesota.

But in 1973, just after seventh grade, for some reason we spent the first week visiting my Kentucky Kinfolk, and the second in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about sixty miles south on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

A whole week of nothing to do but sleep outside, fish, hike, and ride horses.

Gross! Where were all the historic sites? Where was all the beefcake?

Then Mom and Dad announced that we were going to spend a day at the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  We would see the Cherokee Museum, the Oconaluftee Indian Village (a replica of an 18th century Cherokee village), and Unto These Hills, a drama about Cherokee history performed in a gigantic outdoor theater.

The play (written by Kermit Hunter in 1950) was big on "noble savage" myths and short on historical accuracy (a new, more accurate version was introduced in 2006).

But it had lots of white-Indian buddy-bonding: future President Andrew Jackson befriended Chief Junaluska, and William Holland Thomas, a white boy adopted by the Cherokee, befriended Chief Yonaguska.

And lots of semi-nude male dancers.  I especially liked the head Eagle Dancer, a super-muscular teenager whose bare hard chest glimmered in the firelight.  I kept waiting for his white loincloth to flip up so I could see what was underneath.

He reminded me of the  Naked Indian God at the Pow Wow in Rock Island three years ago, but I was just a little kid then, and didn't know how to handle the situation.  Now, a 12 year old grown-up, I knew exactly what I wanted -- to meet the Teenage Indian God, and hopefully see him naked.

 After the performance, I asked my parents if I could go get his autograph. They said ok, but hurry.

I pushed my way through the crowds to the little staging area behind the amphitheater, where the performers were wiping off their makeup.  I found the Teenage Indian God, surprisingly, alone.  He had already exchanged his loincloth for a pair of jeans, but his chest was still bare, smooth and hard, his pecs outlined in blue paint.

"Hi!  You were great!"  I said breathlessly, trying to memorize his physique. "Can I have your autograph?"

"Sure."  He signed my program.  Our hands touched as he passed it back.

What could I say to get him interested?  "Um...I want to be a dancer, too, but the Mean Boys at school say it's just for girls."

"Don't let Mean Boys push you around," the Teenage Indian God told me.  "Do what makes you happy.  I'm the only boy in my ballet class -- one boy and twenty girls!  Nice odds, huh?"

Wait -- was he studying dance just to get girls?  What about the muscular male bodies?  What about the buddy-bonding?

"Gross!" I exclaimed.

He laughed. "Just wait a few years -- let me tell you, there's nothing like holding a foxy chick in your arms..."

"Don't you ever dance with boys?"

"If you're going to be a dancer, you have to dance with girls," he said, looking at me oddly.  "They're always going to be your partners, for the rest of your life."

They're always going to be your partners.  What a bleak future!

Blinking back tears of outrage, I rushed off, forgetting to thank him for the autograph.

When we got back to the camper, I looked at my program.  Kevin Martin.  

He wasn't even a real Indian.

I took it out into the woods and threw it away.

Researching this post, I found out more about Kevin Martin.  After high school, he studied dance in New York, and then spent twenty years performing for dance companies in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Washington.  Today he is the director of the men's dance division of the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut.

Hopefully he hasn't done it all just to get girls.

Nov 14, 2014

Top 12 Public Penises of Central America

I've never been to Mexico, except a few times to Tijuana, which hardly counts.  People keep inviting me to the gay resorts of Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan, but I want to see the archaeological sites; the Aztec ruins, the Mayan pyramids, the gate at Teotihuacan that looks like a portal to another dimension.

And, of course, the beefcake.

Here are the top public penises of Mexico and Central America.

1. In Mexico City, these buffed Aztecs are founding Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital and the largest city in North America  during the 15th century (10 time the size of London at the time).

2. Gaspar Yanga, an African slave who led a revolt against the Spanish in 1570, is memorialized in this statue in Veracruz.

3. Moving south to Guatemala, the town of Livingston features an incongruously neoclassical Dios de la Mar (God of the Sea).

4, Tecun Uman, the last ruler of the Mayas and national hero of Guatemala, is memorialized, muscles in all, by Rodolfo Galeotti Torres.

More after the break.

Nov 13, 2014

Fall 1975: Dad Takes Me to See Naked Men

When I was growing up in Rock Island, the adults always asked "Is there any girl at school that you like?" but never "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  That was already decided.  I would go to work in the factory.

My parents evoked my future in the factory as often as my future with a wife and kids.  The two were linked in my mind: factory/marriage, two inescapable facts of life., two incessant murmurs of the mind-control tripods.

Rock Island was a factory town; almost every adult I knew, and the dad of almost every kid I knew, worked at J.I. Case, International Harvester, Caterpillar, or John Deere.  They all made tractors, harvesters, and other farm machines.

My factory was going to be J.I. Case Company, with its logo of an eagle digging its talons into the world.  Like my father and grandfather and three of my uncles and two of my older cousins.  Like everyone.

You started on the assembly line, then after a few years got promoted to lineman, and maybe, eventually, to foreman.  Like my father.  Except he couldn't handle the stress, and got demoted to lineman again.

I could think of no fate more horrible than getting up at 5:00 am for a day of screwing things into things, then returning, dirty and dripping with sweat, to the small square house where my wife would have dinner on the table.

So, occasionally, in grade school or junior high, I said that I didn't want to work in the factory when I grew up.  Dad laughed.

"Of course no one wants to work.  You probably would rather spend the whole day playing football with your pals.  You have to, so you can make money to support your wife and kids."

"No, I mean, I want to do something else besides the assembly line at J.I. Case Company."

"Like what?  Sell shoes in the mall?  The factory pays better, and you don't have to work nights, so you can spend time with your wife and kids."

Tenth graders at Rocky High were put into "business" or "academic" tracks.  I had high grades, so they put me into the academic track, explaining that it was for kids who planned to go to college.

College?  The possibility had never crossed my mind before.  No one in my family had ever gone to college (actually, my grandmother went to art school, but I didn't know that at the time). Wasn't it just for rich people?

No, there were lot of scholarships.  I could probably get one.

"Don't be crazy!" Dad said when I told him about college.  "You don't need college to work in the factory!  Besides, what are you going to do in college but read books?," he added with a derisive sneer. Nazarenes thought of books other than the Bible as worthless at best, and most likely tools of Satan.

"Yeah, and play the violin," I said, to rub it in: classical music was also suspect, redolent of decadence and effeminacy.  "Maybe I'll major in art.  And grow my hair long, like a girl."

I expected Dad to yell, but instead he just stared at me, open mouthed.  Eventually he said "Why don't you come and take a look at the factory? Who knows, you might like it?"

So the next Saturday, we took a tour of J. I. Case Company in Rock Island.  There were three big buildings, all of featureless gray concrete.  The first building contained offices, with vast rows of desks where secretaries and stenographers worked.

"All ladies up here," Dad pointed out.  "But they never go out onto the floor.  That's 100% men."

The "floor" was a vast concrete hangar where the tractor parts moved on conveyor belts until they were assembled on a gigantic machine and then hauled out.  It was all noise and bright lights and grime, all wires and tubes and pipes and complicated sharp things.  I couldn't understand what anything was for, but I did notice that Dad was right: 100% men.

None with their shirts off, but still....

The third building was for painting, finishing, and licensing. There was also a small tv lounge that stank of paint, a lunchroom with vending machines, and because you got dirty and sweaty during the day, a locker room with showers, so you could be fresh and clean when you returned to your small square house, where your wife had dinner on the table.

Here they had their shirts off.  There were even some naked musclemen walking around, penises swinging -- much bigger than the ones I saw in the high school locker room.

Dad took me back to the car, and we drove up the hill again.  "That wasn't so bad, was it?  It's 100% men.  No girly influences at all.  Do you think you'd like to be down there on the floor every day?"

"No.  This was fun, but I still want to go to college."

Why did Dad bring me there?  I didn't understand at the time, but now I do:

He thought of college as a feminizing influence, a place where I would read books, study music and art, and "turn" gay.

So he was offering a masculine alternative: the factory floor, 100% men, sweat, grime, muscles, and swinging penises.

He hoped that looking at male bodies all day would "keep" me straight.

Alphonse and Gaston: Your Grandfather's Gay Couple

If I was living my last life during the 1890s, as Raphael the Gay Psychic Angel said, I would have been around for the first years of newspaper comic strips: The Yellow Kid, The Katzenjammer Kids, Happy Hooligan, Mutt and Boomer, Moon Mullins, Barney Google, Krazy Kat, Little Nemo.

Unfortunately, nothing from that life leaked over into this one: I find comics from that era incomprehensible.  Even when I can understand the slang, the jokes don't make much sense.  They seem to be mostly about people hitting each other.

But I can certainly understand that Alphonse and Gaston are a gay couple.

The invention of prolific cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper, the two Frenchmen, one tall and one short, first appeared in The New York Journal in 1901, and continued intermittently until 1937.

 Jokes involved them being urbane, sophisticated, and foppish, traits antithetical to the big-shouldered Yankee masculinity of the era.

And over-polite, each graciously refusing to leave before the other as the building burns down or the bull charges at them.

Soon they were having adventures in exotic locales like Africa and the Middle East, refusing to escape from more and more serious life-threatening situations, while their friend Leon looked on in exasperation.

"After you, my dear Alphonse!"  "No, after you, my dear Gaston!" became a popular catchphrase, used endlessly by journalists, political cartoonists, and sports commentators.

They became a staple of Vaudeville and the subject of a stage play, plus several one-minute long comedy shorts (1901-1903).  Only one seems to have survived, but plot synopses suggest that the couple lives and sleeps together.

In 1947, Bob Clampett adopted the characters to the over-polite gophers Mac and Tosh, who are even more obviously portrayed as a gay couple, particularly in their recent incarnation on the Cartoon Network.

See also: The Looney Tunes Show

Nov 9, 2014

Gary Daniels: Man-Mountain with Gay Subtexts

During the brawny Old West of the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was squaring off against the Evil Empire and Jerry Falwell was squaring off against the gays, we needed lots of man-mountains:

Buffed shirtless guys who could storm through the jungles of Southeast Asia to rescue kidnapped buddies,  get revenge on murdered wives or girlfriends, or take out entire enemy armies with their bare hands.

Unfortunately, after the first hundred buffed guys with martial arts training hit Hollywood, the market became highly competitive, and besides, 25-year old kickboxer Gary Daniels was British, unlikely to be cast in a movie promoting American Exceptionalism.

So he went to the Philippines instead.  After a buddy-bonding Indiana Jones rip-off, The Secret of King Mahis Island (1988), he was cast as a man-mountain who ignores his wife and gets nude with his buddy prior to taking out the evil Vietnamese army in Final Reprisal (1988).  Some rather explicit gay subtexts.

By the 1990s, Gary had managed to break into American film, playing kickboxer managers, villains, and opponents in the Big Match, fighting to rescue his kidnapped brother (in American Streetfighter), fighting to rescue his buddy (in Firepower), fighting to get revenge on his brother (Hawk's Vengeance).

Gary's characters had little time for women: the target audience of heterosexual male teenagers wanted to see muscles, fights, and explosions, and couldn't care less about a fade-out kiss.  The result was a lot of gay subtexts.

During the 2000s, as Gary got older, he began playing more fully-clothed roles, as attorneys, detectives, and military officers who oversee the punching and kicking, but don't indulge personally.  His most memorable recent role is The Expendables (2010), in which a group of aging man-mountains is hired to take out a Latin American dictator.

Two of them, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li, reveal that they are a gay couple in The Expendables 2 (2012).  Or maybe they're just joking.  Either way, they're acknowledging the homoerotics behind the man-mountain genre.

Peter MacNicol: Not a Teen Idol

Peter MacNicol was not related to Jimmy and Kristy McNichol -- notice the name is spelled differently -- but everyone thought he was.  In fact, everyone at Augustana College went to Dragonslayer in 1981 because they  mistakenly believed that Peter was the buffed 21-year old teen idol.

It wasn't good.  Derivative, heterosexist...and sword-and-sorcery heroes are supposed to be man-mountains, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Or Jimmy McNichol.  But Peter was scrawny!

In Sophie's Choice (1982), he plays a young aspiring writer in the 1950s South, who inexplicably starts a romance with an elderly Jewish lady named Sophie (played by Meryl Streep).  She's a concentration camp survivor who had to make a terrible choice -- I'm not going to tell you what it was -- that renders her forever incapable of falling in love.

But we get to see Peter's scrawny physique, and there's a gay subtext with the always flamboyant Kevin Kline.

A couple of dramas followed, which nobody saw, but might have some more gay subtexts -- with Burt Reynolds in Heat (1986) and Tim Guinee in American Blue Note (1989).

Remember in Ghostbusters (1984), Rich Moranis plays a nerd with a crush on Dana, who becomes possessed by the evil spirit?  Ghostbusters II (1989), which nobody saw, had precisely the same plot, with Peter as the nerd with a crush on Dana who's possessed by the evil spirit.

You probably saw him as the nerdy villain Gary Granger, summer camp manager who tried to force Wednesday and Pugsley into conformity in Addams Family Values (1993).

And as Renfield, snively servant of the wisecracking vampire in Mel Brooks' parody Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995).

But he didn't really find his niche until he played John Cage, eccentric co-founder of Allie's law firm in Allie McBeal (1997-2002).  The program was generally heterosexist, and occasionally homophobic, but it did give John a gay-subtext friendship with his best bud Richard Fish (Greg Germann). 

He got into a bit of a controversery in 2001, when John romances a woman played by Anne Heche, who had just announced that she had "become" a lesbian.  Would audiences accept a hetero-romance played by a lesbian?

Apparently it wasn't a problem, and later Heche "turned back" to straight.

Since Allie McBeal, Peter has starred in Numb3rs, 24, and Grey's Anatomy, and done a lot of voice work, notably playing X the Eliminator, gay-vague fanboy and wannabe arch-nemesis of Harvey Birdman on Adult Swim.

See also: Jimmy McNichol and the Gay Coach