Jul 10, 2015

Asian Beefcake #7: Mr. Muscle Doctor Big Basket

One night at Mugi a very large  Asian drag queen in a flowered chemise and blond hair approached me.

Before I had a chance to give Attitude, she grabbed my hand.  "I am Auntie Bopha.  From Kampuchea.  You say Cambodia."

I had never met anyone from Cambodia before. They speak an Austroasiatic language, similar to Thai, with a distinctive writing system.  It wouldn't hurt to have a conversation.  "Hi, I'm Boomer."

"You got job?"

What kind of cruise line was that?  "Um..yes, I work for Muscle and Fitness, and I'm in grad school at USC, working toward my doctorate in..."

"Oh, muscle, good.  And doctor, good, good!  Cure AIDS, maybe?"

"No, I won't be that kind of..."

"Get AIDS test?"

"Yes, I'm HIV negative, but..."

"Like get drunk?"

"No, this is just soda, but...."

Her hand clamped onto my crotch.  "Oh, big basket!  Good, good, good!"

"What the heck are you doing?"  I angrily pried her hand off and started to walk away.

She grabbed my arm.  "Wait -- Auntie Bopha has a boy for you!"  She pointed to the other side of the bar, where a slim Asian twink in a flowered shirt was staring at the floor. Black hair, golden skin, a beautiful angelic face.

The rest of the story, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood

Joe Manganiello: Gay Best Friend

Joe Manganiello, who starred as "Big Dick Richie" in Magic Mike (2012), is a strong gay ally, speaking at the HRC fundraiser in 2011, presenting buddy Matt Bomer (below) the GLSEN "Inspiration Award" in 2012,  hanging out with gay friends, being relaxed, even flirty with gay fans.

But is there any gay content in his on-screen work?

His first starring role was as someone named Black Dildo in The Ketchup King (2002).  I have no idea what that means.

Then he played Flash Thompson in Spider-Man (2002).  I walked out after Tobey Maguire made his heterosexist "all stories are about boys and girls" speech.

The evening soap One Tree Hill (2008-2010): he played Owen Morello, a former alcoholic who becomes a bartender and dates lots of women. Nope.

How I Met Your Mother (2006-2012), about a guy taking an interminably long time to tell his kids how he met their mother: he played Brad Morris, who buddies with Marshall, although he dates women.  He also says that he was "born a little different," so he may be intersexed.  Some queering there.

Then we get to some gay-positive projects:

So NoTorious (2007), about the "real life" Tori Spelling: he played Scott, her crush who turns out to belong to a weird cult.  But there's a gay character, Sasan (Zachary Quinto).

True Blood (2010-2013), about modern-day "out" vampires, with Martin Spanjers and Ryan Kwanten: he plays Alcide, head of a werewolf clan, who has sex with women.  But there are several gay characters, mostly vampires, and the gay-vampire symbolism is played to the hilt.

So: No gay characters, but lots of gay-positive work.

Maybe his man-mountain physique disqualifies him from gay roles, since gay men are still stereotyped as soft, fragile, delicate, and wispy.

Jul 8, 2015

Heterosexuals Think Gay Men are Still Kids

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, I'm going to be visiting relatives.  And once again, I'm going to notice something disturbing:

They think I'm a teenager.  Or 21 at the oldest.

The problem is, every kid was expected to go through a series of milestones of maturity on the way to adulthood.  There were many minor ones -- growing an inch, or moving from the kiddie pool to the big pool at Longview Park, being allowed to drink coffee -- but only 8 big, important ones, ones that the teenagers and adults talked about over and over, sometimes with joyful anticipation ("You'll be a man!"), sometimes with a nostalgic sadness: ("You won't be a little boy anymore.")

1. Your first date with a girl.
2. Your first kiss with a girl.
3. Your first girlfriend.
4. Your first part-time job.

5. Graduating from high school.
6. Your first full-time job.
7. Getting engaged to a woman.
8. Getting married to a woman.
9. Buying a house.

#1 and #2 happened, but not #3.

(The fact that I kissed five girls during high school, more than 30 years ago, caused me no end of headaches. Heterosexuals who find out always exclaim "See!  You kissed girls!  That means you're really straight!")

#4-6 happened, but #7-9 did not.

So, according to my parents and other relatives, I've never grown up.

This prejudice is called the "Peter Pan Syndrome":  "You're gay because you're afraid to accept adult responsibilities.  You want to just have fun all the time, and not settle down and raise a family."

No matter if you have kids: "Doesn't count, it's just playing house unless there's a man and a woman."

And who says that everyone, without exception, has to have kids?

The adults do.

Whenever I visit my parents, brother, sister, or other relatives, I face some annoying consequences to the belief that I have never grown up:

1. Birthday and Christmas presents tend to be things that college students would want.  A popcorn popper or a dorm refrigerator -- even though I haven't lived in a dorm since 1982.  A DVD set of Family Guy.  A t-shirt with the Angry Birds on it.  What the heck are the Angry Birds?

2. Money.  When adults are alone, they have discussions of income tax, bank loans, mortgages, fixed annuities, increasing the equity of their investments, the pros and cons of retirement plans, the deductible in their medical insurance policies.

Sounds dreary.  But even worse is the humiliation when I come in the room and they immediately clam up, like they've been discussing a big adult secret, and ask what my favorite tv programs are.

3. Cruising.  Adults expect you go to out partying every night. A few years ago, when I was living in Dayton, I spent Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law, and sure enough, Tammy said: "It's Saturday night -- aren't you going out to the bars?"

"Gee, I don't think so.  I'm 45 years old.  The music is too loud, the guys are too young, and I fall asleep by 10:00."

"Nonsense!  You're young -- go out and have a good time."

This from my baby sister.

4. College.  The adults know that I'm associated with a college, but they assume that I'm a student.  "Aren't you done with your education yet?" my uncle asked.  "It's about time you grew up and got a job!"

"Um...I have a job.  I'm a professor..."

"No, I mean a real job.  Something that pays enough for you to buy a house."

Don't get me started on why they think houses are the end-all of maturity, and everyone who lives in an apartment is by definition a kid.

5. Boyfriends.  Heterosexuals divulge their relationships to their relatives in a standard sequence, mentioning them casually, then discussing moving in together, then announcing an engagement and inviting them to a wedding.  Gay people don't: they typically don't mention their relationships until they've moved in together, and there's rarely an engagement or wedding.  It's "This is my boyfriend," period.  So they remain "someone you're casually dating" even after 10, 15, and 20 years.

6. The Disney Channel.  I like comic books, graphic novels, and juvenile tv  -- they're not nearly as heteronormative as media for adults.  But just let me try turning on the Disney Channel at my parents' house.  They'll smile at each other as if to say "What did I tell you?  Boomer is still a kid!"

Jul 7, 2015

Jimmy Olsen, Superman's First Boyfriend

Many gay boys growing up in the 1950s and 1960s dreamed of dating Superman.   In 1954, Daily Planet reporter Jimmy Olsen got his chance: he began to appear in his own comic book title, as Superman's "boy pal."

What, precisely, was a boy pal?  A boy sidekick, like Kaliman's Solin?  An adopted son, like Batman's Robin?  Jimmy wasn't a boy or even a teenager: he was tall and sturdy, with the standard comic book body-by-Michelangelo (since reporter outfits are not particularly revealing, almost every story required him to be in underwear, in a swimsuit, or ripped out of his clothes). 

The "boy pal" relationship differed considerably from ordinary friendships:

1. It was physical.  Superman and Jimmy flew with their arms wrapped tenderly around each other, a position that no one else, not even Lois Lane, rated.

2. It was romantic.  Superman gave no one but Jimmy a gift of jewelry (a special signal watch).

3. It was of public interest: “There goes Superman’s boy pal!” passersby would whisper, and when the duo quarrels in “Superman’s Enemy” (Jimmy Olsen 35, March 1959), every stage of their breakup and reconciliation made Daily Planet headlines. 

4.  It was exclusive: each had other friends and even other sidekicks, but in “Superman’s Super Rival” (Jimmy Olsen 37, June 1959), when Jimmy seems to be courting a newly-arrived superhero named Mysterio, Superman is so jealous that he challenges the rival “pal” to a fight. 

5.  It threatened heterosexual romance: in a fantasy story, “Jimmy Olsen’s Wedding,” (Jimmy Olsen 38, July 1959), Jimmy’s girlfriend agrees to marry him only under the condition that he never see or contact Superman again (one can’t imagine why). He complies for several years, but eventually he cannot bear to be separated any longer, and arranges a secret rendezvous with his “pal.” His wife discovers him in the act (of what?), shrieks in anger. and leaves him.

Such an overt same-sex romance made me scrounge to beg or borrow all of older Jimmy Olson comics I could.  The issues I could buy in the store (the series lasted until 1974) were no good; about 1965, Jimmy and Superman broke up.  Though they stayed on friendly terms, no further stories featured their romance. 

And the special signal watch was never seen again. Perhaps Jimmy returned it the day he told Superman over coffee, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

In 1972, Jimmy found a new boyfriend, an African-American cop named Corrigan, whom he sometimes even called his “pal.”

Unfortunately, the homoromance was not maintained in tv versions of the Superhero.  Smallville gave Superman two boyfriends, but neither were Jimmy Olsen.

Jul 6, 2015

A Beefcake Tour of Cleveland

That's right, Cleveland.

Since flying became such an ordeal, I've been driving back home every year to visit my parents in Indiana, and Cleveland, Ohio is about halfway.

It has the Flex Spa, one of the best gay resorts in the U.S., housed in the old Greyhound Station (2600 Hamilton).  Downstairs there's an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a steam room-maze, a bar and restaurant, lounge areas, and a fully equipped gym.
Upstairs are the private rooms, porn theater, dark rooms, and a rooftop lounge area.

You can get a full-sized hotel room and spend the night, but  it's in a nasty neighborhood, so you should stay elsewhere.

There are two good restaurants nearby:
1. Slyman's Deli, 3106 St. Clair, for enormous portions of corned beef and Christian fundamentalist tracts.
2. Siam Cafe, 3951 St. Clair, for the best Pad Thai outside of Bangkok.

In between sessions at the Flex Spa, drive east on Euclid to University Circle, where all of the museums in town are arranged in a walkable loop: The Botanical Gardens, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Art, the Institute of Art.  Other than the hunky Carnegie-Mellon students jogging around the Wade Oval, the best beefcake sights are in Museum of Art (on East Drive).

1. Hosner's Sleeping Faun (above)

2. Rodin's Age of Bronze.

3. Bandelli's Nude Study (left)

 4. Meynier's Apollo.

5. Jacques-Louis David's Cupid and Psyche.  Ok, he's with a woman, but you have to admire the smirk!

6. Minne's Solidarity, two naked guys hugging.

More after the break

Jul 5, 2015

Summer 1975: Finding a Place to Invite Boys and their Baseball Bats

Sometime in 7th grade:

I start to hear that guys' beneath-the-belt equipment turns into a gigantic baseball bat at random moments, with no prior warning.

The process is called "getting a boner," or "popping a boner," when it happens in an embarrassing situation, like when you are visiting your grandmother or giving an oral presentation in class.

8th grade, around my 13th birthday:

I start experiencing my own baseball bats at random moments, in the locker room, in science class, at church.  They are usually easy to cover up with a hymnal or a science textbook, so no one notices.

The story goes on from there.  No way I could publish it on this blog.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood.

A Boy Named Twilight

I had a recurring dream, or an especially vivid memory, of being attracted to a boy in my earliest childhood, maybe even before I felt the biceps of the bodybuilder on the beach.

A very short house with a tall palm tree out front.  A woman, blond in a flowered dress.  A fat, blustery man.  A girl eating strawberries with whipped cream. A baby. And the boy.

Older than me, but still a kid, and taller, with blond or dirty-blond hair. I remembered his name as Twilight.

There were three main images:

1. We are watching tv in a room with oak panels. I think that a guy on screen is cute, and turn to Twilight for  validation.  He smiles.

2. In a car, driving somewhere: Twilight is sitting next to me in the back seat.  He says "Look at that" and reaches over my lap to point it out.  His warm, tanned arm rests briefly on my thigh.

3. Twilight is trying to coax me into a warm, salty ocean.  He splashes through the surf, yells, "Come on!"  His dark-tanned skin glistens in the sun.  There's a line of white on his back, where his swim trunks have ridden down.

Over the years Twilight grew in symbolic importance, until he became a Harlequin figure, a Jack of Shadows. The smile reveals the existence of same-sex love.  The touch demonstrates that it can be be physical as well as spiritual. And the cry of "Come on!" invites me to embrace its warmth: "don't dream it, be it."

Or was he a real boy that I actually met?

In the fall of 2004, when I was living in Florida, still glowing with the success of tracking down my Grandma Davis's gay friend from art school, I decided to try my sleuthing skills out on the mysterious Twilight.

1. First problem: we always took the same vacation, camping at a lake up north, in Michigan, Minnesota,or Canada.  I remembered only one variation: when I was 12,  to the Smoky Mountains National Park, where I met  a teenage Indian god.

I called Mom and asked if we ever visited anywhere with palm trees and a beach.

"We went down to South Carolina in 1967 -- just after you were in 1st grade -- you took a bath with your Cousin George, remember?"

"What about a house with a palm tree out front, and a boy named Twilight?"

"Oh, you must mean Twyla!  My friend in high school.  She and her husband moved to Florida, so after we visited your Cousin George, we drove down there for a few days."

That explained Twilight.  "Did they have a son about my age?"

"I don't think so.  Just a daughter.  What was her name...Suzie, maybe?"

2. Then who was the boy? (I still thought of him as Twilight.) My next step was to find Twyla and her husband Bill.

Mom lost track of them over the years.  Their address and phone number from 1967 was no longer valid. But there weren't many people named Twyla in Florida, so I found one -- a student at Florida State -- and emailed her, hoping for the best.

3. The return email: "Oh, you mean my grandmother!  I was named after her!"

Did she have a son who was around ten years old in 1967?

"No, my only uncle was born in 1965."  The baby in my memory.

"Could I get in contract with your grandparents?"

They had both passed away, but Twyla gave me the email address of her mother -- Stacey, not Suzie. The girl eating strawberries.

4. "I used to play with a boy from down the street," Stacey wrote.  "He might have come with us to the beach when you were visiting.  His name was Teddy.  I don't remember his last name, but I can tell you where he lived."

5. So I drove three hours from Fort Lauderdale to Titusville, and stood again in front of the "short house" (ranch style) of my recurring dream. It was a shock to see it again in real life.

I walked to the end of the block and knocked on the door of a pink-painted ranch house.  A middle aged man answered -- tall, balding, bearded, husky, wearing a t-shirt advertising the Florida Gators.  He eyed me suspiciously.  "Can I help you?"

"I'm trying to track down a friend who used to live here when I was a kid.  Do you know anyone named Teddy, about fifty years old?"

"That's me. You say we were friends?"

The mysterious Twilight was actually Ted Spencer, a computer systems engineer from Orlando, in town visiting his parents.

Straight: a wife and three kids, one in high school and "quite the ladies' man," the other two "married and out of the house."  And a newborn grandson.

"So you only knew Ted during that one vacation when you were six years old?" The Wife asked as we lounged in the pool in the back yard.  "He must have made quite an impression on you!"

"You have no idea!"

Twilight grinned and hugged her affectionately.  "Haven't I always told you that I'm an unforgettable character?"

See also: The Muscles of Morris Street.

Summer 1977: Dancing with a Leather Boy in Switzerland

During the summer after my junior year at Rocky High, I was one of the delegates to the Nazarene Youth Society International Institute, 500 cream-of-the-crop teenage Johnny and Suzie Nazarenes from around the world meeting in an old army training camp (now the Sport und Ferienzentrum) in Fiesch, Switzerland.

What did we do for a week?

Boys-only swimming
1. Evangelization services, with altar calls every night.
2. Bible studies, prayer meetings, and workshops on personal evangelization.
3. The International Jump Quiz Tournament.
4. Swimming in the camp pool (boys only before noon, girls only after noon).
 5. Field trips to Rhone Glacier, Brig (for skiing), and Mount Eggishorn (for mountain climbing).

I tried to call Giovanni, the foreign-exchange student who I had a crush on, but the number didn't work.

The complete story, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Bomba the Jungle Boy

Johnny Sheffield began playing Boy, adopted son to Johnny Weissmuller's iconic Tarzan, in 1939, when he eight years old, and finished in 1947, when he had grown bigger, taller, and far more muscular than his movie Dad and could hardly be called a "Boy" anymore.

A couple of years later, he started on a series of 12 Bomba the Jungle Boy movies (1949-55), ostensibly based on the series of boys' adventure novels, but really about a teenage Tarzan -- Bomba borrowed Weissmuller's trademark loincloth and "Me Tarzan" patois, and the short-lived comic book spin-off was subtitled "TV's Teenage Jungle Star."

The Bomba movies, which I saw on tv during the rare Saturday afternoons in the 1960s that didn't have a game or a repeat of The Magic Sword, seemed to have the same plot, with minor variations.

Bomba is summoned by a scientist or colonial administrator, who tells him about the bad guys and introduces his attractive teenage niece, visiting from America. Bomba and niece flirt.  Bomba is captured by the bad guys, but escapes.  The niece is captured, but Bomba rescues her and defeats the bad guys.  The niece goes back to America. Bomba goes back to the jungle.

The 30 or so minutes of action was turned into a feature-length movie through some stock footage of African wildlife and 20-30 minutes of close-ups of Johnny Sheffield's body.

When Bomba takes a nap, we don't get an establishing shot and then a switch to the next scene: the camera slowly travels down the length of his body for a good five minutes.

When he is tied up by the bad guys, he struggles with his bonds for the amount of time it takes the cameraman to go down to the commisary for a sandwich.

When he goes back into the jungle, he climbs a tree, and the camera obligingly zooms in on his semi-nude butt.

This wasn't an accident of direction or editing.  It was obvious that the African adventure and the heterosexist boy-meets-girl romance were just window dressing; the entire point of the movie was to put Johnny Sheffield on display as often as possible, for as long as possible.

Not that the audience, comprised primarily of preteen gay boys and straight girls, was complaining.  They could think of lots worse ways to spend a dull Saturday afternoon than gazing at Johnny Sheffield.

He influenced a generation of muscular, semi-nude jungle boys, such as Gunga on Andy's Gang and Terry on Maya

After Bomba, Johnny filmed a tv pilot called Bantu the Zebra Boy, which is available on youtube.  He then went to UCLA, got a degree in business, and had a successfully fully-clothed career in real estate.  But was always happy to chat with his fans, gay or straight -- Johnny was refreshingly gay-friendly for someone of  his generation.

He died in 2010.

See also: Why is Bomba the Jungle Boy always tied up?