Jan 30, 2016

Little Max: A Gay Father in 1950s Comic Books

When I was a kid, whenever we visited my relatives in Indiana, I spent the night with my Cousin Buster in the trailer in the dark woods, and we would squeeze into his narrow twin bed, our bodies pressed together, reading Harvey Comics.  I read until long after he fell asleep, associating the tales of friendly ghosts and little devils with that warmth and affection.

Two boys together clinging, one the other never leaving....

In high school, I looked back on those moments of perfect happiness, and tried to get my hands on the Harvey Comics I read all those years ago (actually less than 10 years ago, but when you're 16, it seems like an eternity).

So I put an ad in the Rock Island Argus, and a very cute Augustana student named Clay answered with an offer of five Little Max comics from 1958-1959 for a dollar each.

I never heard of Little Max, they were from before I was born, and a dollar was four times what a comic cost on the newsstand.  But I bought them anyway.

It was a weird type of deja vu, like looking at a photo of your parents before you were born: familiar, yet bizarre, with a story going on that you are not a part of and can't possibly understand.  Readers were obviously expected to be familiar with these characters and their histories, but I had no idea who they were.

The star, Little Max, looks like Little Audrey in drag: he is drawn in the familiar Harvey style, cherubic-cute, with a big head and gigantic eyes. He doesn't speak, and his thought balloons are full of malapropisms that suggest a learning disorder: "They're both so kindly and generosity!"

His mentor, chum, adopted father, or something is Joe Palooka, a tall, very muscular guy with a weird toothless grin. Max calls him "Dear Joe."

Joe has also adopted or is mentoring an unnamed girl.  Max calls her "Dear Her."  "

She calls Max "Maxth" and Joe "Mith-ter Palooka."

In this Panel, she's looking at Max, not at Joe's swimsuit.

Most of adventures are slapstick, with Max trying to do a good deed that goes terribly wrong.  Here he dresses at an Easter Bunny, is treed by a dog, and reflects on how "embarristing" it is to be "previously engagemented."

There are also fantasies, in which Joe reads Max a fairy tale, and he acts it out in his head, or Max writes his own version.

Sometimes Max appears a bit older, free to wander around without adult supervision.  Although he still can't speak -- or use American Sign Language -- he makes himself understood adequately to interact with a group of friends.

Lots of stories are set on the beach, where Joe can wear a swimsuit and show off his physique, and Max can engage in some heroics (and, here, demonstrate a feminine limp wrist).

Other than the bizarre familiarity, I was attracted to the character of Max, heroic yet not macho, feminine yet never called a sissy.

And Joe Palooka, a single man who had adopted two children, but didn't have a wife or girlfriend.

I've done research since:

Joe Palooka was a naive immigrant boxer in a comic strip by Hal Fischer that premiered in 1921.  He was immensely popular, spinning off into movies, a radio series, Big-Little Books, toys, games, and comic books.  He was less popular by the 1950s, when his Harvey comic book series began, but Harvey in that era adapted several aging comic strip properties, including Terry and the Pirates and Blondie.

Little Max was a supporting character in the Palooka comic strip, a mute shoe-shine boy who Joe befriended.  He had his own comic book series from 1949 to 1961.

And I discovered the origin of Little Max: Max Bartikowsky, a boy artist Hal Fischer knew during his childhood, who roamed around town in his mother's floppy hat.  He became Big Max, owner of Bartikowsky Jewelry in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

He never married.

See also: Joe Palooka

Jan 29, 2016

The Great Redneck Roundup: 20 Days, 20 Hookups

Summer 1995, the Wild West

When Dad turned 62, he and Mom retired, sold their house in Rock Island, and moved back to their home state of Indiana.  They told me that I had to come out by August to pick up any of my stuff that was still in the house, or it would go to Goodwill.

I wanted my desk, two chairs, a couple of books, two paintings, and some other mementos.

And Lane had never been out of California, except to visit me in the Midwest and once to Israel.  Time for a road trip!

The only problem is, after a lifetime in Los Angeles and over 20 years in West Hollywood, even Ojai seemed intolerably homophobic to him.   And we would be driving through some of the scariest, most conservative, most homophobic states in the country.

But we could see the sights, I told him.  The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore...and Rednecks, hairy-chested guys with farm-hard muscles and gigantic Mortadellas, who didn't like gay people but on Saturday night, after a few beers....

"Well...I do like cute redneck farmboys."

"Why not make a game of it?" I suggested.  "We'll see if we can hook up with a cowboy or redneck every day, bring a West Hollywood action to the straight world.  How about it: 20 days, 20 naked men?"

Lane agreed to the Great Cowboy Roundup of 1995:

Day 1: Phoenix, Arizona

This one was easy.  We stayed with a couple Lane knew, transplants from the gay Jewish community in Los Angeles, who took us on a tour of Phoenix's gay neighborhood.  Sausage Count: 2

Day 2: Flagstaff, Arizona

After seeing the Grand Canyon, we drove down to Flagstaff to spend the night.  At a gay-friendly bar, we hooked up with a young Hispanic guy who worked as a waiter. Sousage Count: 3

Day 3: Provo, Utah

The heart of the Mormon world.  We were getting cocky, figuring that we could pick up a guy anywhere in Redneck Country, like on the campus of Brigham Young University.  Bust.

Day 4: Laramie, Wyoming

In a few years, the murder of Matthew Shepherd would make Laramie famous as haven of homophobia, but in 1995, we were just thinking cowboys.  We went to the campus of the University of Wyoming, visited the Art Museum, and the Museum of the Plains.

Nobody in Laramie, but on the road: when you go to a rest stop at dawn, there are always a lot of trucks parked, where the drivers spent the night.  Curious, I walked among them.  One of the doors was open, and the driver was sitting inside, legs spread, waiting for a passerby to strike up a conversation -- and be invited into the cab.  He turned out to be from Chicago. Sausage Count: Boomer 4, Lane 3

Days 5-6: Denver, Colorado

After four days in the Straight World, it was a relief to get to Denver, with its strong, well-organized gay neighborhood.  And meeting guys was easy. A South Asian guy named Ravi took us back to his apartment.

On Day 6, we toured the Museum of Decorative Arts and then met Ravi and his friend Jason for dinner.  We all went to a ballet at the Opera House, and then back to Ravi's apartment again. Sausage Count: Boomer 6, Lane 5

Day 7: Omaha, Nebraska.

I wanted to see the old places I knew from my month in Omaha with Fred.  And found that saying "I'm from West Hollywood" attracts guys as readily as saying "I have a gigantic penis."  We hooked up  with a Cornhuster, an extremely buffed former University of Nebraska football player who now worked as a college recruiter. Sausage Count: Boomer 7, Lane 6

Day 8: Des Moines, Iowa.

Thomas, the gay Episcopalian priest who took me to my first Gay Rights Rally in 1981, was still living in Des Moines, a Silver Daddy who still managed to attract Cute Young Things.  We "shared" his latest boyfriend. Sausage Count: Boomer 9, Lane 8.

Days 9-11: Rock Island, Illinois

Along with visiting my parents and brother, packing up and shipping my stuff, and going to my old haunts, we had time to hang out with my old friend Dick and his partner.  I also sent Lane out to JRs by himself, so we would be even.  Sausage Count: 11

Day 12: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

We saw the famous Stave Church and went to a gay bar downtown, hoping to hook up with a Viking.  Instead we hooked up with a black guy on the downlow, whose wife was an English professor at the University. Sausage Count: 12

Day 13: Rapid City, South Dakota

We were so tired from driving and seeing Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument that we forgot to cruise.  Bust.

Day 14: Billings, Montana

We ended up in Sturgis, South Dakota, during the famous Sturgis Bike Rally.  Hundreds of hot motorcycle guys riding around shirtless, beer in hand.  But there was no place to stay in town, so we had to drive on to Billings, Montana.  Again, too tired to cruise.  Bust.

Day 15: Missoula, Montana

We loved Missoula.  A very nice art museum, historic churches, antique shops, bookstores.  I saw one of the most beautiful men on Earth fishing off a bridge, a cut-off t-shirt revealing enormous biceps.  Lane stayed at the hotel, saying I could hook up by myself, so I went to a country-Western bar and met Jared, a real, actual cowboy (or so he said).  Sausage Count: Boomer 13, Lane 12

Day 17: Spokane, Washington

It was scary driving through Idaho, where the anti-sodomy law brought a maximum penalty of life in prison.  But then we arrived in Spokane, Washington, a little gay mecca, drawing gay guys from all over the redneck states.  They were low-key, closeted; no "real" gay bars, but lots of gay-friendly bars and restaurants, and a lot of "street cruising."  But we didn't pick up anyone.  Bust.

Day 18: Portland, Oregon

A gigantic gay mecca, with a bathhouse that took up nearly a city block and a nice country-western bar.  We did some cruising separately at the bathhouse (3 guys for me, 4 for Lane so we would be even).  Sausage Count: 16

Day 19: Redding, California

Two days left, 4 guys to go.  We pulled into Redding, a town of 90,000 near the Oregon border and Mount Shasta, where Bigfoot has been sighted.  There was only one, small gay bar, and it wasn't very active.

"We can pick up the rest in San Francisco," Lane pointed out.

"Sure, but we're supposed to be getting guys in the Straight World, cowboys and truckers and rednecks."

I went up to the bartender and asked "Do you know of any clubs where you could meet several guys tonight?"

He told me about a bear party going on that night in a place called Happy Valley, where we got our remaining four!  Sausage Count: 20.

Day 20: San Francisco, California

When you drive into town from the north, you go over the Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic San Francisco moment.  We were too overwhelmed by being home, in the heart of the gay world, to bother with cruising.  But we had already had 8 dates or "sharing" experiences, 4 bar hookups, 1 public encounter, and 7 guys from bear parties, for a total of 20 guys in 20 days.

Oh, and we saw the Grand Canyon, too.

The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Andrew Keegan Breaks Boys' Hearts

Andrew Keegan was one of the more popular teen stars of the 1990s. He played mostly operators, rebels, and scallawags, Zack Dell in Camp Nowhere (1994), and "bad boy" guest roles on TGIF sitcoms like  Full House, Moesha, Step by Step, and Boy Meets World.

By the late 1990s, he was starting to bulk up, and the teen magazines started going wild.  They specialized in shots of his bare chest peeking out from his shirt, as if he had been caught in the midst of getting dressed (or undressed).

Lots of gay content:

1. Gay-vague  "not into girls" roles on Party of Five (1997-98) and Seventh Heaven (1997-2004)/

2. Broken Hearts Club (2000): Andrew played Kevin, one of a group of gay friends who hang out in West Hollywood (others include Timothy Olyphant, Dean Cain, and Zach Branff).

3. O (2001), an updating of Othello.  His Michael Cassio, a high school basketball player,  buddy-bonds with Odin (Mekhi James).

Jan 28, 2016

The Gay Arab World

During the famous summer of 1981, when I was working in the college library, taking classes in Chaucer and Modern German Culture, going to see Clash of the Titans, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Wolfen, Arthur, American Werewolf in London, Hell Night, and The Chosen, and finding subtext songs on the radio, the Film Club took a field trip to Madison Wisconsin for an Italian Film Festival, and I saw Pasolini's Arabian Nights.  

Somebody told me there was gay content.  Maybe a little.  But only as an aside in the main plot, where he searches for his lost girlfriend Zumurrud (Ines Pellegrini). In the final scene, Zumurrud, disguised as a man, buys Nur-e-Din as "his" slave.  "He" orders the boy to strip and lie face down on the bed.  Preparing for a sexual assault, Nur-e-Din complies.  Then Zumurrud reveals her true identity.  Heterosexual love wins out over a threat of homoerotic assault.  I left the theater sick to my stomach.  My complete review is here.

I was amazed to discover, years later, that Pasolini was gay.  Homophobic, but gay nonetheless.

Throughout my childhood, movies about the Arab world provided few hints of a "good place." They were mostly adaptations of the Arabian Nights, replete with Sinbads and Aladdins and Ali Babas who get girls, even when they were played by gay actors like Kerwin Mathews (I hadn't yet seen Sabu's homoromantic Arabian adventures.)

TV offered only I Dream of Jeannie, a heterosexist fable, and Shazzan, about a boy and a girl trapped in an Arabian Nights world.  

I was not yet aware of the homoeroticism of Medieval Arab, Turkish, and Persian poets, such as Abu Nuwas: 

I die of love for him, perfect in every way,
Lost in the strains of wafting music.
My eyes are fixed upon his delightful body
And I do not wonder at his beauty.

Or of the Orientalist fervor that sent hundreds of gay Europeans, including Oscar Wilde, W.H. Auden, and Andre Gide, to North Africa in search of Arab lovers.

But there were tantalizing hints in books.  Sonia and Tim Gidal's Sons of the Desert was about two Bedouin boys. 

The Stone of Peace, by Karah Feder Tal, has a Jewish teenager running away from his kibbutz in the Negev and befriending the Bedouin Ahmad. 

James Forman's My Enemy, My Brother had another Jewish-Arab friendship.

And Passing Brave was a real-life adventure about two Americans, William Polk and William Mares, armed only with a knowledge of Classical Arabic, crossing the desert in search of a "good place." 

See also: The Egyptian Professor of Political Science

Jan 27, 2016

Summer 1984: I Meet a Zoroastrian in a Public Cruising Area

During the summer of 1984, just after we got our M.A. degrees in English, my friend Viju invited me to visit his family in India for two weeks.

Except for trips to Agra and Varanasi, we spent most of our time in Delhi, hanging out with his parents, sister Aruna, and old university friends, We went to a bodybuilding competition, a lot of shopping malls, and since I was interested in religion, a lot of temples and mosques.

There were no gay bars, bathhouses, community centers, or gay organizations  in India, but there was a lot of public sex in Jahanpanah City Forest.  You saw a guy you liked, nodded, and followed him into the bushes.

Viju said that it was perfectly safe: although "sodomy" was technically illegal,  the police didn't believe that it existed in India, so they didn't patrol.

I was a little hesitant, but when a tall, slim, very dark skinned guy in his 30s smiled at me, Viju whispered "Go for it!"  I followed him into a little copse, where

[Sorry, too explicit]

"You are an American, right?"

Right.  I'm here visiting my friend."

"I guessed that.  I love American boys -- you have an energy, an excitement. Would you have dinner with me tonight?"

"I'll have to ask if Viju has plans for us..."

"Invite him along, too.  The Host at 8:00?  But first, if you're not too tired..."

[Too explicit]

The Host turned out to be a very bright, airy, and expensive restaurant on Connaught Circus, about a half hour by car from Viju's house.

Arshad arrived with a date for Viju: Noel, slim, redheaded, with a British accent.  They were coworkers at an engineering firm.

"But originally I am from Ahmedabad, in Gujarat," Arshad told us.  "A Parsi.  Have you heard of us?" .

Parsis -- Zoroastrians!  The ancient monotheistic religion that competed with Christianity in the first and second centuries.  Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, light and darkness, order and chaos.   The Avestas.  Zarathustra.  Fire temples!

"You are very intelligent as well as handsome," Arshad said, cutting me off.

"Boomer is very interested  in religion," Viju said.  "Me, not much.  I look toward the future, not the past."

"Then you must let me take you on a tour of the spiritual sites of Delhi.  I will take tomorrow off from work.  There are temples for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Baha'is..."

"Christian churches, mosques..."  Noel added.

"A Zoroastrian fire temple?" I asked eagerly.

"Of course, of course," Arshad said, looking down at the menu.  "We will tour that as well."

 We finished the evening at Arshad's apartment.  Noel and Viju took the guest room, and Arshad brought me into the master bedroom, where


After breakfast,  Noel and Viju left, and Arshad drove me out to Ahinsa Sthal, about a half-hour drive south of his apartment.  Sacred to Jainism, with a 13-foot statue of Mahavira.

That was impressive.

Then another half-hour drive east to the Lotus Temple, sacred to the Baha'i religion.

Ok, but what about the Fire Temple?

Back into town, 30 minutes north to the Jama Masjid, a huge mosque.

I already saw it, but ok, I didn't mind seeing it again.

Back to Arshan's apartment for lunch.

Another 30 minutes around Connaught Circus to the Lakshi Narayan Mandir, a Hindu temple that I had already visited.

It was late afternoon.  We had been reverent all day.  I was getting "church fatigue."

"Next the Sacred Heart Cathedral" Arshad said. "It's only a few blocks from here."

Interesting, but I had seen Catholic churches before.

"Could we go to the Fire Temple now?  It's getting late."

He looked away.  "Sure, sure, I suppose.  It's only a few blocks away."

We got into his car and drove east on Nehru Boulevard.  Just past a gigantic hospital complex, we turned right on Bahadur Shah Road.

"The Parsi Anjuman is there on the left," Arshad said as we zipped by.

It was a small, square building with a pillared portico and some vaguely Babylonian fretwork.

"Hey, aren't we going to stop?"

"Oh, there's nothing much to see inside.  And I'm getting hungry.  Shall we have dinner?"

"Hey, what gives?  We spend all day touring the sacred sites of Jains, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Bahai's, and Christians, but when it comes to your own religion, you zoom past at 80 miles an hour."

"Sorry.  But...it's just that..."  He stroked my knee.  "One who is unclean may not enter the temple."

"Non-believers?  That's ok, I don't mind not going in."

"Not you -- me.  I'm unclean. My religion teaches that those who do such things are like dogs, filthy beasts."

I looked at Arshad.  Did he actually believe that nonsense, think of himself as a filthy beast?  It was hard to tell.  "Well...my childhood religion, the Nazarenes, have some crazy beliefs, too.  I suppose I wouldn't want to give you a tour of the their church either."

But still, the "filthy beast" statement made me feel uncomfortable.  After dinner, I refused another bedroom session, and asked Arshad drop me off at Viju's house.  We exchanged addresses, but didn't write..

The uncensored post, with nude photos and explicit descriptions of sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

The Naked Gods of Southern India

When I was visiting my friend Viju in India, I saw an occasional guy walking around naked, and figured he was an ascetic of some sort.

 Turns out that most of the naked guys belong to Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world, with about 5 million followers in India and abroad.  You must seek moksha, or pure consciousness, by practicing non violence, not exploiting or attempting to control others, and detaching yourself from the world.

As you detach, you will give up human associations, including romantic partners.  But for those of us who haven't gotten that far in our quest for moksha, there's nothing wrong with being gay.

 About half of all Jains belong to the Digambara sect, and go skyclad, rejecting the use of clothing for comfort or display of social status.  It's ok to look.

Jain icons are usually nude, too.

The most commonly revered of the Jain Siddhas is Bahubali, the first person in our cycle of the universe to reach moksha.  Like the Buddha, he was born with wealth, power, and an enormous penis, but gave it all up to become a monk.  But the fellowship of the monastic community was an impediment, so he went off by himself to meditate, skyclad.

There are many statues of Bahubali in Kamakata, the state of southern India with the largest Jain population

The most famous is the Gommata Shvara Bahubali,  57 feet tall (that's 10 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty), carved out of a single block of granite in 983 AD.  It's an important pilgrimage site for Jains, but members of other faiths are welcome as long as they show proper respect (no giggling or making sleazy comments).

There are four other statues nearly as tall.  Each of them is the subject of a ceremonial cleansing every 12 years in a Mahamstakabhisheka, a festival that draws crowds from all over the country.  In 2014, it will be held for the statue of Bahubali in Dharmasthala.

You can also see many smaller images of sky-clad Tirthankara, enlightened beings who return to our level of consciousness to help us.

And Mahavira, the founder of Jainism (540-468 BC).

It's about a 3 hour flight from Delhi to Bangalore, but worth the trip.

I'm just wondering how you can clear your mind of worldly attachments with so many images of hot guys around.

See also: The Top 10 Public Penises of Hinduism; Pehlwani Wrestling of India; and Zoroastrians Do It Six Times a Day

Jan 26, 2016

Spring 2002: Yuri Lands the Coffee Drinker I was Cruising

Wilton Manors, February 8th, 2002

The Filling Station was my favorite bar in Wilton Manors: three blocks from my house, good burgers and fries, a good mix of bears, regular guys, twinks, and drag queens.  I usually got there at 9:00 pm, just as it was starting to get crowded, but that Friday night in February, I was meeting a date there at 7:00.  

The bar was practically deserted: a bartender, a leatherman eating a hamburger, two giggling twinks, the elegantly dressed old guy who is a fixture at every bar.  I sat down at the bar and ordered a Coke.

Then I saw the Coffee Drinker walking across the dance floor from the dj booth.

He was in his 30s, short, pale, solid with South Florida muscle, strikingly handsome, with a baby face and heavy-lidded sleepy eyes, wearing a white t-shirt that showed his nipples, a beige jacket, and slacks.  And he was holding a large white coffee cup.

There's something indescribably sexy about a guy drinking coffee in a bar.  How did he even know that they served coffee?  Or was it just for him, from a pot brewing in the back room?   He must have access to secret special places.  Maybe he lived in the bar, and was just climbing out of bed. Maybe he was the manager.

As I watched, Coffee Drinker made a slow, careful circuit of the entire bar, occasionally taking a sip from his cup with both hands, as if he was cold. Was he ever going to stop?

Two circuits.  Then my date arrived.  I pointed out the Coffee Drinker.  We speculated on who would be drinking coffee in a bar, and then went on to dinner.

February 13th.

I dropped in the bar on Saturday, but the Coffee Drinker wasn't there.  The next popular night was Wednesday, bear night.  I arrived at 7:00, and sure enough, the Coffee Drinker was making a long, slow circuit of the bar, never stopping, never interacting with anyone, occasionally sipping from his cup.

Two circuits.  Three.  Was he ever going to stop so I could draw him into a conversation?

I headed for the bathroom, timing myself to meet him, and gave him a smile and nod of recognition.  He glared.

What was with this guy?

February 15th.

Friday night at 7:00 pm.  The Coffee Drinker was making his usual slow circuit. 

He had seen me twice, so certainly we were "bar friends" who could say hello and even hug without cruising.  I began a circuit that intersected with him, and as we passed, gave him a friendly shoulder grab without making eye contact, a sort of bar "hello."

Coffee Drinker shrugged me off with a vicious glare.

What was with this guy?  

February 20th.

I guessed that the Coffee Drinker came to the Filling Station on Wednesday and Friday nights.  Sure enough, on Friday the 20th, 7:00 pm, he was there, making his usual circuit.  

I ordered coffee at the bar -- yes, they served it, but the bartender wasn't happy, since he had to walk all the way out to the kitchen to fetch it.  

Coffee in hand, I walked in the same direction as Coffee Drinker, caught up with him, and said "Look, we match."

He glared at me.

"Hi, my name is Boomer.  Slow night tonight."

"I'm not interested in a relationship."

"Relationship?  But I just..."

He turned and walked quickly in the opposite direction.

February 27th

Ok, I should have just given up, but he was cute AND a mystery.  Tonight I brought my ex-boyfriend Matt the Security Guard, so the Coffee Drinker would think we were on a date, and not think I was cruising him.

We got our coffees and stood by the DJ booth, arms around each other, waiting for the Coffee Drinker to make his circuit past us.

When he saw us, he turned the other way, and began making U-shaped circuits that avoided the DJ booth.

Enough was enough!

I stopped going to the Filling Station early, and forgot about the Coffee Drinker.

April 24th, 2002

A Wednesday night, two months later.  My housemate Yuri called about 7:30.

"Guess what -- I went to your bar, the Filling Station, and I met someone.  Will you be home?"

In West Hollywood and New York, inviting someone you just met into your bed was rare and frowned upon -- you waited four or five days, and then went out on a date.  In Florida it was still uncommon, but ok, as long as you did something social first -- making it into an instant date -- and invited a friend along, or at least gave a friend his contact information.  Being alone with a stranger was a good way to get robbed or assaulted.  

"Sure.  Do I get to watch or share?"

"Watch, sure.  Maybe share -- I will ask.  Did you eat dinner?  We can get Chinese food."

"I already ate, but I wouldn't say no to some kung pao chicken."

About half an hour later, Yuri came in, carrying a bag from the Lotus Kitchen -- followed by the Coffee Drinker.  Real name: Sidney.

No big mystery -- he gave me Attitude because he thought I wanted a hookup.     

But he was fine with sharing.

And he drank coffee because he was a recovering alcoholic.

The full post, with uncensored photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood

The Unrequited Loves of Michael Welch

If you're fifteen years old, you're familiar with Michael Welch from the Twilight saga about a girl torn between vampire and werewolf boyfriends (Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner).  He plays a human who has an unrequited crush on her.

Michael has sharp features and striking eyes that make him look angelic, demonic, or alien, so he is often cast as a  gay-vague outsider, even if he sometimes experiences unrequited heterosexual passions.

He began his acting career at the age of 10 in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)  as Artim, a boy from a non-technological planet who bonds with the android Data.  His touching performance won him a Young Artist Award.

Next came a series of paranormal and science fiction roles, including a clone of Colonel Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) who just wants to be a normal teenager on Stargate SG-1.  

Michael also guest-starred in a number of sitcoms and dramatic series, including a memorable role as a new neighbor who falls for the brainy Malcolm in Malcolm in the Middle.

On Joan of Arcadia (2003-2005), he played Luke Girardi, younger brother of the girl who talks to God, who has a homoromantic buddy-bond with his best friend Friedman (Aaron Himmelstein), although he dates girls also.

He was also in many movies.  In The United States of Leland (2003), his mentally-challenged Ryan is murdered by classmate Leland (Ryan Gosling), who is dating his sister.

The Grind (2009) is about a grifter, Luke (C. Thomas Howell), who depends on his friends Josh and Courtney (Michael, Tanya Allen) to get him out of a jam. They start a sleazy website, but things go sour, and Luke has to rescue them from the Mexican mafia.

In Lost Dream (2009), college student Perry (Michael) falls for nihilistic free-spirit Giovanni (Shaun Sipos), who is involved in risky sex, drugs, and games of Russian roulette.  He must save Gio before it's too late.

Michael's many unrequited, doomed, and hopeless same-sex loves seem to be throwbacks to the 1960s and 1970s, where the gay guy was always depressed and usually doomed.  But, to be fair, his characters often have unrequited, doomed, and hopeless heterosexual loves, too.

Heterosexual in real life, he is a gay ally who publicly voices his support of gay marriage.

Jan 25, 2016

16 Indiana University Boyfriends, Dates, Tricks, and Hookups

I figured "it" out during the summer after my senior year in high school, and spent the next four years at a small Lutheran college.  I had a couple of boyfriends, went on a few dates, even marched in a Gay Rights March, but I had no idea that there was a gay community out there.  Everything was underground, clandestine, unspoken.

Not until I started grad school at Indiana University did I really "come out," start going to gay venues and meeting gay people.  And "tricking," going home with guys I just met.

In West Hollywood in 1985, "tricking" was rare and frowned upon, but not in Bloomington in 1982. We hadn't heard of AIDS, we were young and naive, and after 20 years of being told that same-sex desire does not exist, just being able to flirt with guys, to stare, compliment their physiques, touch their shoulders or chests was a new, glorious freedom.

It wasn't about sex.  It was about belonging, friendship, community, about overcoming the heteronormative lie, about acknowledging that same-sex desire is real and valid.

And I met a lot of very interesting guys:

Fall 1982

1.Shaun, the first gay person I met in Bloomington, who also happened to be the boyfriend of Mark, the optometry student from down the hall.  Not a problem: Mark was happy with "sharing."

2. Roy the Farmboy from southern Indiana, who worked with me in the Eigenmann Hall Snack Bar.  We drove down to Kentucky for my first-ever service at the gay Metropolitan Community Church.  Then we went out with Preacher and the Security Guard.  I only managed to spend the night with the Preacher.

Spring 1983

3, My friend Viju talked me into going to gay bars.  First we drove up to Indianapolis, where I met a blond violinist from Finland, visiting for a concert.  They make them big in Finland.

4. Soon we started going to Bloomington's own gay bar, Bullwinkle's.  On the first night I cruised solo, I accidentally hooked up with Creepy Old Guy with a grand piano who kept calling me "beautiful boy."

5.  Meanwhile I got invited to my straight friend's "circle jerk," and ended up seeing Six Naked College Guys.  Plus I landed a date with Asher, a cute freshman.

6. Back in Indianapolis, I hooked up with a Deputy Attorney General of the State of Indiana, whose large dogs kept trying to horn in on our evening together.

7. And a Mormon missionary who tried to convert me, while we were lying in bed, and left some tracts and a Book of Mormon on my nightstand.  I still have it.

8. And a Nigerian Daddy with a tattooed penis, who summoned Yoruba Orishas.  He convinced me that the point of cruising is not to search for archetypal male beauty, but to get to know unique guys in their unique locations.

Summer 1983

9. That summer my friend Joseph, an undergraduate who belonged to the Gay Student Union, took me to help clean out his great-aunt's house...and, you know, other stuff.  Unfortunately, I got spooked by the ghost of Great-Aunt Rose, curtailing the erotic activity.  But we spent the night together in his parents' house in Indianapolis.

10. Later Viju came to visit me in Rock Island, and we drove into Chicago's gay neighborhood, including my first bathhouse, Man's Country.  We hooked up with a guy who took us to a country-western bar called Yosemite's.

Fall 1983

11. I dated Jimmy the Bodybuilder on Crutches all through the fall, until he dumped me for one of students in the class I was a teaching assistant for.

12. But Viju and I still had time to pick up a bisexual bodybuilder from Thailand (left) whose girlfriend showed up the next day.  We all went out for breakfast. She didn't mind that he was bisexual, and sometimes "shared" his bar pickups, male and female.

Spring 1984

13. After Jimmy and I broke up, I dated a professor of political science from Egypt, in his 40s, who was making the rounds of the gay students on campus.

14. Meanwhile, Viju and I tried to find out if Professor Singer. who taught Restoration and Augustan Literature, was gay.  Viju tried a "sexual confusion" gambit, while I just took my clothes off at the gym.

15. My last Bullwinkle's pickup was the most interesting: a townie who turned out to be my second cousin, grandson of my Grandma Davis's younger brother Harry.  I showed him the photographs of the gay couple that I got from Grandma Davis's trunk when she died.

Summer 1984

16. During the summer after we got our M.A. degrees, Viju invited me to visit him in India, where I got a date with Arshad the Zoroastrian.

The full list, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Jamie Croft, the Australian Tom Sawyer

Speaking of Jeremy Lelliott, his costar in Disappearance, Jamie Croft, had several buddy-bonding projects as a child star in Australia.

In That Eye, the Sky (1994), the oddball outsider Ort (13-year old Jamie) lives in the Australian outback with his mother, his sister, his paralyzed father, and his frail, elderly grandmother. He's getting weird premonitions and questioning his belief in God.  Then the hunky American Henry (Peter Coyote) arrives and teaches Ort about the magic of everyday life. Meanwhile Ort gets his first crush.

The miniseries The Valley Between (1996) follows the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn-like adventures of German immigrant Bruno (15-year old Jamie) in South Australia.

He has a crush on an older teenager, Eddie (Josh Picker).

No heterosexual interest in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1996).

In his guest spot on The Lost World  (1999-2002), about various people trapped in a sort of Land of the Lost in the Amazon, teenage Rob Dillon (Jamie) is kidnapped by a savage tribe and requires a daring rescue.  But he grins at a girl.

Then came Disappearance (2002), the gender-bending comedy Blurred (2002), and the teenage muscle hunk Hercules (2005; played as an adult by Paul Telfer). There is minimal girl-craziness in these projects, but unfortunately no shirtless or semi-nude shots, not even as Hercules.

More recently Jamie has moved into voice work, playing the 12-year old barbarian in The Legend of Enyo (2010) and Pablo in The Davincibles (2011).

In real life he is married with children; no word on whether he's a gay ally.

On the Town: Three Sailors on Leave in a Gay City

Long before I ever visited New York City, I learned all about the Battery, the Bronx, the Empire State Building, Central Park, subways, seltzer, and delis.  Like Los Angeles, it was a magical place, gleaming with steel and glass, where you could escape the constant "what girl do you like?" litany of the adults.

I learned all that through tv programs like That Girl and The Odd Couple, and through movies like On the Town (1949).

Based on a 1944 Broadway musical scored by gay composer Leonard Bernstein, On the Town follows the adventures of three sailors on leave in New York City before they ship out: the naive Gabey (dance master Gene Kelly), the fast-talking Chip (future Rat Pack singer Frank Sinatra), and the dopey Ozzie (comic relief Jules Munshin). They just have 24 hours, and they want to see and do everything, especially meet girls.

Then Gabey falls in love with a girl on a poster, Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), mistakenly thinking she's a famous actress.

So his friends obligingly give up their plans to help Gabey track her down.

They give up their plans to help a buddy?  Anytime a same-sex friendship trumps the quest for hetero-romance, you have some significant gay symbolism.

During the madcap scavenger hunt, female cabbie  Hildy (Betty Garrett) aggressively courts Chip ("Come back to my place!").

Ozzie is courted by anthropologist Claire (Ann Miller), whose mentor thinks she's a lesbian, uninterested in men; actually, she just prefers the big, brawny type ("Give me a prehistoric man!").

And Gabey catches the eye of  the gawky Lucy Schmeeler (Alice Pearce).

Butch, aggressive women chasing unwilling, feminine-coded men: the gender atypicality gives the musical even more gay symbolism.

And even more: all of them become friends, boys and girls both -- when was the last time you saw a platonic male-female friendship in a musical?

They all help Gabey search.  When he becomes despondent, they all invite him to "Count on me."  

Gabey eventually meets the Girl, and the "three couples" share a final song and a kiss.  But there's no marriage and children: when the 24 hours ends, the three sailors head back to their ship.  Hildy, Claire, and Iris wave goodbye.

But they're not alone.  Strangers yesterday, the three women have found each other.

This movie is not about hetero-romance at all.  It's about friendship.  That's what makes it a gay classic.

Plus the energetic dance numbers, the gay connections of actresses Betty Garrett and Alice Pearce, and New York City, the most important character, brimming with light and color.  No wonder the posters call it "Twice as gay as Anchors Aweigh."

The original musical is a favorite of high school and college drama departments.  Not a lot of beefcake, but Tony Yazbeck dances shirtless in the Broadway revival.