Oct 3, 2015

Spring 2009: The Stonewall Veteran and the Bodybuilder in the Park

When I moved to Upstate New York in the fall of 2008, my social calendar was soon crowded with invitations from members of the Gang of Twelve, guys who had known each other for years, and who shared everything, from gossip to boyfriends.
1-2. The Rich Kid and the Crying Truck Driver.
3-4. The Rapper, and the Grabby Nurse.
5. The Satyr and his roommate Chad, who I dated through the fall and winter.
6-7. The Klingon and the Sword Swallower.
8. The Pitcher with a Secret Move.

Date #9: The Stonewall Veteran

One day in the spring of 2009, the Rich Kid told me "There's a guy you have to meet."  I thought he was setting me up on another date, but instead, we drove to an assisted living facility in Oneonta.  There was an elderly man in a wheelchair sitting by a window in the dayroom, reading a large-print version of Tales of the City.  The Rich Kid hugged him affectionately.

"Is this your lover?" the Stonewall Veteran asked.

"No, no.  We went out a couple of times, but it didn't work out."

The uncensored version of this story is on Tales of West Holywood.

Troy and the Satyr's Sinister Scheme

Me and sports don't get along.  My eyes glaze over during discussions of rbis and forward passes.  If I am forced to go to a sports match, I try to focus on the biceps and bulges.

I can barely tolerate having friends who are sports nuts, and I've almost never dated any.  It's on my list of top turn offs, along with being elitist, tall, thin, and feminine.

But what if he looks liked this?

At Christmas in 2008, my boyfriend Chad and I went to a Christmas party thrown by the Rich Kid.  Troy came as the Rich Kid's date.

He was tall, slim, athletic, very handsome, except for the big black earrings and a pink triangle tattoo.

As new meat, he was mobbed by the Gang of Twelve, especially the Satyr, but he kept close to the Rich Kid.  We chatted briefly: he was 22 years old, a senior at the University, president of the Gay Student Association, and a sports nut.  He started out as a physics major, but switched to French, and planned to become a high school teacher and coach.

"I go to Paris every year!" I exclaimed.  "We should talk."

"Sure.  Friend me on Facebook," he said, while both Chad and the Rich Kid glared at us.

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

Brandon DeWilde

Speaking of Westerns, Brandon De Wilde became famous as the ten-year old kid who shouts "Come back, Shane!" in the iconic scene from Shane (1953), but he was a busy child star before that.


And he worked steadily through the 1960s, playing wounded, disturbed, and outsider teens and young adults who often enjoy homoromantic bonds.

With bad boy high schooler Warren Berlinger in Blue Denim (1959).

With muscular sideshow performer Larry Kert on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1961).

With dissolute cowboy Paul Newman in Hud (1963).

With hunky soldier Rich Jason on an episode of Combat (1966).

He never took off his shirt on camera, but there was plenty for gay boys look at, even without nudity.

Unfortunately, Brandon didn't get much play in teen magazines: he was small, slim, and pretty enough to rate attention, but he was married, then divorced, then remarried, and teen idols must be -- or pretend to be -- available.

He died tragically in an auto accident in 1972.

Oct 2, 2015

10 Gay Facts about "Psycho"

If you haven't seen Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), get it now.  It's a suspense classic, a precursor of the psycho-slasher genre, and over-loaded with gay texts and subtexts. (Spoilers below.)

1.It isn't really about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is murdered in the shower at the creepy Bates Motel.  It's about boyfriend Sam (John Gavin) and Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) investigating her disappearance. John Gavin played "straight" men who confront "queer" villains several times during his career.

2. With Marion out of the picture, one expects the requisite "fade out kiss" to be between Sam and Lila, but in fact they don't get involved.  Lila expresses no romantic interest in any man, and can be interpreted as a lesbian.

3. When Vera Miles was getting her start as a contract player for RKO, a chauffeur named Bob Miles drove her to acting class every morning.  Eventually she married him, which enraged Howard Hughes so much that he insisted that all future chauffeurs be gay.

4. Psycho Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)  in the original novel was fat, middle-aged, and lecherous, obviously heterosexual, but the Hitchcock script made him young, slim, and gay, with the smothering mother supposed to be the origin of gay identity in those days. He has no interest in Marion, sexual or otherwise; his "mother" gets the wrong idea, and does the murdering.

5. Anthony Perkins was gay in real life, and had affairs with many of the top stars in Hollywood, including Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Troy Donohue, and Tab Hunter.

6. He avoided gay roles, but he did play a gay-vague character in How Awful About Allen (1970).

7. The Hayes Code forbade open depictions of gay characters, even as villains, but the notoriously homophobic Hitchcock usually found some way to signal that his villains were gay.

8. The unique explanation of transvestism, as a type of multiple personality with male and female "sides" struggling for control, was seized upon, and appears often in movies and tv series during the next twenty years, notably in The Streets of San Francisco (with John Davidson as the conflicted drag queen).

9. Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to the original novel, Psycho II, about a movie crew working on a film version of the events. Paul Morgan, the actor playing Norman Bates, researches his character by going to a gay brothel, where the prostitutes dress like Robert Redford, John Travolta, and Clint Eastwood.

10. The various movie sequels, Psycho II, III, and IV, and the prequel Bates Motel, generally heterosexualize Norman Bates by giving him a girlfriend.

Why There's a Picture of Me and a Girl in My Parents' Bedroom

Younger gay guys are often shocked to discover that I used to date girls. "Are you bisexual?" they ask. "Were you trying to 'turn' straight?"  Was it a screen, so no one would find out?" 



I think for a long time, wondering myself.   But in the end there's only one answer: "I had no choice."

During my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s, heterosexual desire was assumed universal human experience.  Little boys might think "girls are icky!," but once they hit puberty, they would "discover the opposite sex," become obsessed with feminine curves and smiles.  Period.  No exceptions.  End of story.

So from birth relatives, teachers, preachers, coaches, camp counselors, judo instructors, Mean Boys, and friends subjected me to a flurry of interrogations: "Do you like girls yet?  Have you grown up?  Are you a man?"

When I turned 13, then 14, then 15, obviously pubescent, yet still protesting a lack of interest, they shifted their tactics.  I was obviously "wild about girls," like every boy who ever existed. I just needed to find one who was my "type."  So they demanded: "Do you like that girl?  Or that one?  Or that one?"

They asked "What girl do you like?" more often than "How are you?"  I went to sleep each night with the interrogation ringing in my ears: "What girl do you like?  What girl do you like?  What girl? What girl?"

When I was hesitant about answering, or answered with the name of a head cheerleader too far out of my league to realistically pursue as a girlfriend, they -- literally everyone I knew -- tried to fix me up.

My father invited coworkers with teenage daughters over for dinner. Teachers assigned me female partners for projects.  Friends orchestrated chance meetings.  I was seated next to girls in the car, invited to parties only to discover that a "date" had been arranged for me, asked to fetch a book from a girl's house.  When the waitress smiled for her tip, I was advised "She likes you -- ask her out."

During high school, I succumbed to dates with 8 girls, including Julie, my date to the Senior Prom.

Everyone was going.  And during the spring semester, no one could talk about anything else. Finals, graduation, college plans?  Who cares!  Let's talk about corsages, tuxedos, dance steps, limousines, and fancy, expensive dinners at Jumer's Castle Lodge (which had rooms to rent upstairs, they told me with a leer).

Everyone wanted to know who I was bringing.  Friends I hadn't talked to in years accosted me in the hallway to ask "what girl?" "what girl?" "what girl?"

The full post is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Sep 30, 2015

Why My Nickname is Boomer, Reasons #1 and #2

You've probably noticed that I started using the nickname Boomer for all of my autobiographical posts.

It has nothing to do with Linwood Boomer, creator of Malcolm in the Middle, the dog in the 1970s Here's Boomer, Canadian television personality Boomer Phillips, or with being a Baby Boomer.

Actually, there are three reasons.  

Warning: the third reason is dirty .

1. My Grandma Prater died when I was 7, so I don't remember much about her, except she was plump, brown, had a thick Southern accent, and a jovial sense of humor.

One day my cousin and I were roughhousing at her house, and we bumped into a bureau containing her collection of ceramic figurines.  A priceless blue jay toppled and fell to the floor with a horribly loud crash!

We were terrified.  We thought she would get a willow switch from the hill and wallop us.

But when Grandma Howard came running in from the kitchen, she wasn't mad.  She laughed.

"Why, aren't you little terrors?  I'm going to have to call you the Buster and you the Boomer.  Now run get a broom and help me clean up this mess."

After that, we called each other Buster and Boomer, but only when we were alone. They were secret names, representing a special bond between us.

Cousin Buster and I drifted apart when we grew up.  He died a few years ago.

2. When I was in fifth grade, I read a Harvey comic about a strong, powerful, and very hot guy named the Boomer.  I recently tracked it down: Wendy Witch World #44, dated June 1971.

The Boomer causes mayhem with his monumental voice.  First he yells "Boo!" like a ghost, but he discovers that he is even more powerful with "Boom!"

I wanted to be strong and powerful, too.

One day at recess we all decided to pick secret nicknames.  My boyfriend Bill was Mad Dog; Joel was Robin (Batman's sidekick); Greg was Barnabas (the vampire from Dark Shadows); David Angel was Muscles.  I was Boomer.

We went around calling ourselves Robin, Mad Dog, Muscles, Barnabas, and Boomer for months.  I demonstrated my power by sneaking up behind random people and yelling "Boom!"

Eventually most of the guys grew tired of the game, but Bill and I continued to call each other Boomer and Mad Dog until we drifted apart in junior high.

I can't print the third reason here.  It's on Tales of West Hollywood.

Sep 29, 2015

Beefcake Dads of 1950s Sitcoms

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a fad of nuclear family sitcoms, set in small town Mayfields, with a pipe-smoking Dad, a Mom who did housework in high heels, groovy teenagers, and wise-cracking preteens.  They actually weren't very popular at the time; adults preferred Westerns, swinging detectives, and musical-variety shows.  But the first generation of Boomers remembers getting their first glimpses of what family life was like -- or should be like -- from the nuclear family sitcoms.

They generally identified with and/or mooned over the teenage boys: the muscular physiques of Bud (Billy Gray) of Father Knows Best and Wally (Tony Dow) of Leave it to Beaver, the blatant bulges of Ricky and David Nelson (Ozzie and Harriet), the teen idol cuteness of Jeff (Paul Petersen) of Donna Reed.  But there's a lot to be said for the dads, too.

Unfortunately, they weren't always as gay-friendly as their tv sons.

1. Born in 1906, bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his wife, former dancer Harriet, started The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet on the radio in 1944. They transitioned to television in 1952, and lasted until 1966, making Ozzie and Harriet the longest-running fictional program on radio/tv.  Still not satisfied, he tried a spin-off, Ozzie's Girls, in 1976 (in which Ozzie takes in three college girls as boarders).

Ozzie and Harriet had many gay friends in real life, although no openly gay characters appeared on their show (that would have been impossible in the 1950s).

2. Robert Young (here apparently informing us of his size) was not only less than adequate physically, he was homophobic.

After his tenure on Father Knows Best ended, he starred in Marcus Welby, M.D., one of the most homophobic tv series of the 1970s.  In one episode, Dr. Welby diagnoses a man with "homosexual tendencies," but assures him that with the proper counseling, he can overcome his affliction.  In another, he treats a gay pedophile, with the implication that all gay men are pedophiles.  Gay activists protested, but the network -- and Dr. Welby -- wouldn't budge.

3. Born in 1909, Hugh Beaumont started out as a minister, but moved into acting during World War II.  Although a devout Methodist, he played his share of scoundrels, in Apology for Murder (1945) and The Blue Dahlia (1946), plus hard-boiled detective Mike Shayne.  Leave It to Beaver was meant to be a change of pace, but he was so typecast as Ward Cleaver that he took only a few roles afterwards, and ended up retiring to grow Christmas trees.

No data on whether he was a gay ally or not, but apparently his tv wife, Barbara Billingsley, was nonchalant about gay people.

4. The youngest of the 1950s sitcom Dads, ex-football star Carl Betz was only 36 when he was cast as Dr. Alex Stone, husband of the practically-perfect Donna Reed.  He had been making the rounds of tv adventure series, with guest parts on The Big Story, Waterfront, Sheriff of Colchise, Panic!, and Perry Mason, and he continued to be a sought-after performer throughout his life.

While he was playing the titular lawyer in Judd for the Defense (1967-69), one of his clients was a father who thinks that his son's friend is "recruiting" him into the "homosexual lifestyle."  Judd assures him that there's no cause for believing such a scandalous rumor.

Sep 28, 2015

Dennis Cole

Most heterosexuals go about their daily lives as if they are alone in the universe.  If asked, they will say "Sure, some men are gay, which means they're into men, not women," but in the next moment, they'll announce "There's not a man alive who wouldn't want a date with Angelina Jolie or whoever.

The IMDB biography of Dennis Cole assures us that "Females couldn't get enough of him," while males idolized his athleticism.  That's right, every woman and no man swooned over him.

What about his early modeling in beefcake magazines, notably the gay-oriented Physique Pictorial and Bob Mizner's Athletic Model Guild?

Or his work as the hustler Cowboy in a San Diego production of the gay-themed Boys in the Band?

Or King Marchand, the man who falls in love with a woman he thinks is a drag queen, in the national touring company of Victor/Victoria?.

He didn't play any gay characters on tv, but really, between 1965 and 1995, there weren't many gay characters to play, especially if you were too muscular to pull off a thin, willowy queen.  But he played around gay and LGBT characters:

"The Fourth Sex" episode of Medical Center (1975), with Robert Reed as a transgender doctor.

"Star Struck," an episode of Three's Company (1983), with Jack Tripper pretending to be gay.

Early in his career, he went the buddy-bonding route, with two homoerotic detective partners: Howard Duff in Felony Squad (1966-69) and Rod Taylor in Bearcats! (1971).

Dennis was married three times, for a few years each (his second wife was Jacyln Smith of Charlie's Angels.)  When his son Joey was killed in a robbery attempt in 1991, he refused to be associated with any violence in movie or tv productions, which limited his options. He acted on screen only a few more times before his death in 2009, though he continued to work in theater.

Sep 27, 2015

Dennis the Menace

Newspaper comics aren't for kids.  They never have been.  We couldn't understand Blondie and Dagwood or Hi and Lois; if the husbands and wives hated each other so much, why didn't they just leave?  Comics starring kids, like Peanuts,  were even worse; references to contemporary sports and politics that we knew nothing about, using words that no real-life kid would even think of.

Dennis the Menace was an exception, a single-panel strip detailing the adventures of Boomer kid Dennis Mitchell, drawn as about five years old but enjoying the freedoms of someone much older.  Hank Ketchum's single panel strips first appeared in 1951, and could be seen in thousands of newspapers through the sixties, as well as an iconic sitcom starring Jay North and a feature film starring Mason Gamble, as millions of parents of Boomer kids saw a reflection of their own lives.

 I encountered Dennis through the series of cheap paperback reprints that appeared regularly in garage sales and library book sales every summer: Dennis the Menace...Teacher's Threat, Dennis the Menace -- Nonstop Nuisance, almost thirty titles in all.

I noticed 3 things right away:

1. Dennis was my exact opposite.  I was quiet, mild-mannered, and didn't like to play outside.  He was rambunctious, aggressive, destructive, uninhibited, a “little savage."

I was occasionally scared, and I cried when I was upset, but Dennis never waivered from his hypermasculinity. He displayed not a moment of weakness.  He was, as adult characters kept saying, "all boy."

2. His foil, Margaret, was an absurdly exaggerated "girl."  Although extremely intelligent, she pushed a doll carriage, jumped rope, played “dress up,” and could think of no possible future except as a housewife, or maybe an airline stewardess.  She was not shy about her intentions: first civilizing Dennis, teaching him manners and fashions, and then marrying him.

But Dennis would have none of it:

He slugged Margaret in a Tunnel of Love because he thought she was trying to kissing him.

At a party, he anticipated that Margaret would want to play “post office,” a kissing game, so he brought a stamp to put on her nose.

3. Dennis was not only uninterested, he couldn't even recognize heterosexual desire when he saw it.

When he saw an adult couple kissing, he concluded that “They’re fighting.”

 A sailor kissing his girlfriend: “Makes you wonder what kinda guys they got protecting our country."

A cowboy with a woman on his arm: “She must be his sister.”

His Dad and neighbor Mr. Wilson ogling a cheesecake calendar: “They’re talking about football. 40-23-36 is signals.”

It didn't last.  Sometime during the 1970s, the reprint books introduced Italian immigrant Gina, tall and slim, in a mod outfit.  No prissy girl-stereotype, she liked skateboarding and soccer, didn’t disapprove of dirt and bugs, and could beat up any boy. Dennis was entranced. Maybe he never met a girl that he had anything in common with before.

"Gina makes me feel all funny inside," he announced to his parents.  And met his heterosexaul destiny.

But in the 1960s, Dennis gave gay kids the freedom to not to be interested in the opposite sex, in spite of what parents, teachers, and peers kept telling us.


My Date with Liam and His Brother

Liam started hanging out in the Long Island chatroom in the fall of  1998.  I didn't need clues: he told me right off that he was in high school.

I immediately crossed him off the list of potential boyfriends, of course, but we continued to chat.

 One day in February 2000 he emailed me: "Hey, I'm coming to the City to talk to some admissions reps at NYU.  We should hang out while I'm there."

Did he mean hang out or hook up?  He was a senior in high school, of legal age --  but  a 20 year age difference?  What would my friends back in West Hollywood say?

"Oh, and my older brother wants to meet you, too."

In that case, fine.  

This is the brother.

The rest of the story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Spring 1999: Sharing the Muscle Bear

In the spring of 1999, when I was dating Joe the Regular Guy, we took the train up the Hudson Valley to Rhinebeck to visit his ex boyfriend Travis, the first guy he ever dated, back when he was a young, naive undergrad at Bard College.

Travis actually worked as a carpenter -- he made good money building custom furniture for rich people.  He was in his 40s, muscular, with a beard and a hairy chest, wearing overalls with no shirt.

He had two dogs, who greeted Joe enthusiastically, two cats, and a rabbit.  Plus two pick up trucks, a wood shop, a refrigerator full of beer, and a living room with copies of Field and Stream on the coffee table.  Just like my mother's relatives in Indiana, except he was gay.

 I started having fantasies of those long, dark nights at the farmhouse outside Garrett, sitting on my Uncle Paul's lap or trying spying on Uncle Ed's "gun."

Although Joe and I hadn't discussed it on the way up, I naturally expected to "share."

The uncensored story is on Tales of West Hollywood.

The 10 Ultimate Hunks of the Ultimate Spider-Man

I was never a big superhero fan to begin with, and Spider-Man was at the bottom of my list.  He's got a crush on a girl, his name has a stupid hyphen, and the 1970s tv series had an awful theme song:

Is he strong?  Listen, bud...he's got radioactive blood.

And I walked out of the 2003 Spiderman during the first scene, when Peter Parker, narrating, insists that "Like all stories, this story is about [a boy and] a girl."  Horrifying heterosexism!

But I may have to rethink my anti-Spidey sentiments.

The Ultimate Spiderman (2012-), an animated series on Disney XD, has a teenage Peter Parker being trained by the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (I don't know what they are, either).

During his adventures, Peter encounters teenage versions of just about every superhero in the Marvel Universe, mostly being voiced by uber-muscular actor/models. The 10 Ultimate Hunks are:

1. Drake Bell (top photo), formerly of the gay-subtext heavy Drake and Josh, as Peter Parker.

2.Ogie Banks as Luke Cage (the African-American Hero for Hire of 1970s comics).

3. Greg Cipes as Danny Rand, aka Iron Fist.

4. Matt Lanter (left) of 90210 as Harry Osborn, Peter's best friend, destined to become his nemesis, the Green Goblin

5. Logan Miller (left) as Sam Alexander, aka Nova.

6. Travis Willingham as the blond god Thor.

7. Roger Craig Smith as 1940s Superhero Captain America

8. Oded Fehr as some sort of mummy superhero.

9. Bodybuilder Terry Crews, formerly of Everybody Hates Chris, as Blade.

10. Disney teen hunk Ross Lynch as my favorite Marvel comics character, gay-coded werewolf Jack Russell, Werewolf by Night.

See also: Bring on the Spider-Men.