Apr 2, 2016

My Uncle and His Boyfriend in the Kentucky Hills

Eastern Kentucky, Summer 1973

It's the summer after seventh grade.  We're visiting my Uncle El, the only one of Mom's family to stay behind when the rest of them moved to Indiana.  Dinner is over, and we're telling stories of long-ago times, before I was born, when Mom was a little girl.   Sometimes the adults laugh at jokes I don't understand.

Uncle El's wife tells about the time she rode her bicycle all the way into Salversville to see a boy, but when she got there he was spooning with someone else.  I have no idea what "spooning" means.

An elderly lady I don't know tells about some witches.

Now it's Uncle El's turn.

"I'm going to tell about my brother, Manus, and his friend Graydon, two boys with the same soul."

I've been dozing off, but now I perk up -- sounds like this will be interesting!

Eastern Kentucky, Fall 1939

Manus and Graydon, the boy from down the holler, were born at the same moment, and some said they shared the same soul.

Oh, on the outside, they was as different as night and day:

Graydon was tall and dark, with thick arms and a tight chest, fond of wrasslin' and huntin' and fishin'.

Manus was short and slim and pale-skinned, a moody boy, always readin', but a good singer, with a clear tenor voice.

They was different down below, too.  You don't have much privacy in the hills, when you sleep three to a bed, and I saw them many times jumping nekkid into the creek, or lying on the soft grass.

Lordy, did that Graydon have a whopper!

"Eliot!  There are children present!"  the elderly lady snaps.

"Why, Marcy, surely they know that boys have something down there!"

Yet for all of their differences, Manus and Graydon were never separated, from sunup to sundown, when their parents forced them into different cabins for dinner.  Even then, they sometimes sneaked out to have secret adventures in the darkness.

Life was hard in the hills during the Depression.  Eight people in a four room cabin.

Kerosene lamps for light, a wood-burning stove for heat, and the woods outside for an outhouse.

They raised chickens and grew corn, beans, taters, and maters.  For everything else, they depended on Dad's job at a factory in Hueysville, eight miles away.

Still, they had fun. There were church socials and square dances.  In the evenings the neighbors came around to tell ghost stories and sing songs.  There'd be no dry eye in the house when Manus  sang "Barbara Allen."

Oh mother, mother, make my bed,
Make it long and make it narrow.
Sweet William died for me today,
I'll die for him tomorrow.

"I always hated that song," Mom says.  

In the summer of 1939, Graydon bought and fixed up an old clunker car.  Now they could drive all the way to Salyersville, 20 miles down the pike, to get malteds and go to the movies.

They liked Little Tough Guy, with the Dead End Kids, and Out West with the Hardys, with Mickey Rooney.

In late October of 1939, Graydon and Manus took ill, maybe from going swimming nekkid in the cold Brushy Fork Creek.  

They gave them herb medicine and mustard plasters and poltices, and Manus got better, but Graydon got sicker and sicker, and he died on November 5th, the day of the first snowfall.

His dad and older brother built a pine box to put him in, and they buried him in the graveyard up atop  the hill.

Well, needless to say, Manus was inconsolable.

He cried and cried, and after he stopped crying he wouldn't eat, he wouldn't sleep, he just sat on the bed in the room he shared with me and Edd, staring out the window, up at the hill where Graydon was buried.

Then one night he yelled to the family, "Hey, there's a light up on the hill!"

It was a swaying yellow light, like from a kerosene lamp.  But who would be up there in the middle of the night?  It was pitch dark, with just a narrow trail through the brush and trees.  

"I'm going up!"  Manus yelled, pulling on his coat.

But Mom and Dad forbade him.  It was too dangerous. He could wait until morning to investigate.

"No, I gotta go now!  I gotta!"  He tried to push past them out the door.  Dad grabbed him by the arms.  He fought.

There was no help for it: they had to lock Manus up in the room, where me and Edd could look over him.

Well, Manus paced and rumbled, and yelled, and cried, and finally sat down in a chair, still staring up at the light on the hill.  Finally Edd and me fell asleep.

The next morning, when we woke up, Manus was gone!

The door was still locked from the outside.  The window hadn't been touched.  There was no way Manus could have gotten out!

Some say one of his sisters let him out, and he went dashing up the hill and fell in a ditch, and got eaten by a bear.

El glances pointedly at my mother.  But she was only three years old at the time.

Some say a neighbor sneaked him out, and drove him to Salyersville, where he bought a bus ticket Out West, like the Hardys.

Some say Graydon came for him.

Whatever happened, no one ever saw Manus again.

But that night, up on the hill, we saw two glowing lights.

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

Apr 1, 2016

Fall 2008: The Darkroom of the Gay Bar in St. Louis

St. Louis, Fall 2008

Most gay bars in Europe have darkrooms, cut off from the main bar by a black curtain.  It's completely dark inside, not even a safety light, although some guys walk around flashing the lights on their cell phones.  You feel around until you find something you like.

In the U.S., there are no darkrooms.  State and local laws strictly forbid public sexual encounters.  Even in bathhouses, private clubs with membership fees, you're not allowed to do things in public areas.  

I've seen the equivalent of a darkroom only once in the U.S.

In the fall of 2008, in St. Louis for a conference, I went to the Spike (I don't remember its real name) on Manchester Street, in the gay neighborhood.

Bare brick walls, a small dance floor, a lot of guys in jeans hanging around staring into space, their beer bottles protruding like phalluses.

I noticed a lot of beer bottles by a door in the back, as if people were leaving them on the way to the bathroom, but it wasn't a bathroom.

They would set down their beer bottle, go through, and return a few minutes later.

After awhile, I investigated.

It was a narrow enclosed patio, partially open to the sky, lit only by the stars and a string of multicolored Christmas tree lights.

No heat except for a red-glowing space heater.

A bulletin board, some railings, no place to sit.

There was a row of men standing with their backs against the wall in single file, waiting.

The rest of the post is too explicit for Boomer Beefcake and Bonding.  You can read it on Tales of West Hollywood.

We Got It Made: 1980s Sitcom with Gay Actor Tom Villard

When I was at Indiana University studying for my M.A., lots of the guys in Eigenmann Hall watched the sex comedy We Got It Made (1983-84), about two nerds who hire Mickey (Teri Copley), one of those ubiquitous 1980s servants who provide joie de vivre along with the housework.   I watched because it was stuck between the must-see Mama's Family and Cheers.  It wasn't awful.

1. The odd couple, button-down attorney David (Matt McCoy, left, John Hillner) and goofy salesman Jay (Tom Villard), had a nice gay subtext going on, in spite of the cheesecake maid and their respective girlfriends.

2. A hot bear cop, Max (former pro wrestler Ron Karabatsos), lived downstairs, with his teenage son Max (Lance Wilson-White).

3. Like Three's Company, it was all about thinking people were having sex, sex itself: Mickey sleepwalks and ends up in the boys' bed; Mickey and Jay work on a screenplay, and David thinks they're having an affair; Mickey's diary entry makes everyone think that she wants to have sex with David; Mickey sleepwalks and ends up in the boys' bed.

4. Tom Villard (right) was gay.  In the mid-1980s, I occasionally saw him at Mugi, the gay Asian bar in Hollywood. He came out as gay and a person with AIDS in an Entertainment Tonight interview in February 1994, which at the time was career suicide; but he thought that speaking out was more important.

He was one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.

When he died in November 1994, his partner,  production designer Scott Chambliss, set up The Tom Villard Foundation to provide assistance to people living with AIDS.

Mar 31, 2016

Fall 2004: Wade the Beachboy Cruises for Hawaiian Men

Wilton Manors, Summer 2004

"I read an interesting article in the Gay News," Wade and Yuri's hookup says.  "It was about the gay traditions of kanaka maoli, traditional Hawaiian society. "

With three housemates dating and hooking up regularly, you never know who will be sitting at the breakfast table, especially on weekends.  This morning there's seven: me, Barney, our dates from last night, Yuri, my ex-boyfriend Wade, and Ricardo, the Cuban-American dance instructor they "shared."

"The aikane, or male bedmate, was a standard part of the culture," Ricardo continues.  "Every guy had a wife and an aikane." 

"I always thought of Hawaii as a 'good place,'" I say, "Where same-sex desire is open.

"Me, too!" Wade exclaims.  "I applied to the University of Hawaii for my undergrad degree, but my parents talked me into staying home in Canada.  I should have gone!  Hawaiian men are so hot!"

"And I'd love to hear the Hawaiian language spoken."

"You could get your chance," Ricardo says.  "According to the article, there are 400,000 native Hawaiians on the mainland, most of them right here in Florida."

"That's 200,000 men," Barney calculates, "100,000 adult men, 10,000 adult gay men.  Nice odds!  You could get an aikane easily, if you plan your strategy right."

The rest of the story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Mar 29, 2016

The Patty Duke Show

I was saddened to hear of the death of Patty Duke today, at age 69.

The actress was a long-time friend of the gay community, supporting gay rights and AIDS research, and appearing in a number of gay-friendly productions, such as By Design (1982), in which she played a lesbian fashion designer, and Hail to the Chief (1985), about the first woman president of the U.S., with a gay Head of the Secret Service ("The deadliest fairy you'll every meet").

Two of her sons, Sean Astin (born 1971) and Mackenzie Astin (1973), are actors.  They have also appeared in gay-positive productions.  Mackenzie is bisexual.

Of all her memorable performances on tv and in the movies, Baby Boomers remember her most fondly for The Patty Duke Show (1963-66).  It was before my time, but I've seen episodes on youtube.

Patty Duke plays Cathy Lane, a sophisticated, urbane Scottish teenager "who's lived most everywhere, from Zanzibar to Barclay Square," but comes to America to live with her uncle.  She has a cousin, Patty Lane, a typical American teenager who "loves to rock and roll, a hot dog makes her lose control."

Guess what: Patty Duke plays both girls!  They're identical cousins!

Ok, there's no such thing.  They must be sisters -- there's more going on in that family tree than meets the eye.  Better not to ask.

We also shouldn't ask about what happened to Cathy's parents.  Better leave it open, like Mike and Carol's exes on The Brady Bunch.

Cathy sets in to become Americanized, and the standard sitcom complications ensue:
Patty gets a crush on her French teacher.
Cathy tutors a basketball star.
Patty becomes the editor of the school paper.
Cathy gets a date with Sal Mineo.

Looking through the episode synopses on Wikipedia, I find few instances of the girls masquerading as each other.  I guess the novelty of seeing Patty Duke playing two characters at once was enough to fuel the plots.

The family was rounded out with a mother and a father (William Schallert, Jean Byron), a kid brother (Paul O'Keefe), and a series of boyfriends and crushes, notably Eddie Applegate (Richard, who appeared in 88 episodes), but also just about every young adult in Hollywood: Ronnie Schell, Steve Franken, James Brolin, Frank Sinatra Jr., Bobby Vinton, Richard Gautier, and Daniel J. Travanti.

Celebrities like Frankie Avalon, Sammy Davis, Jr. Troy Donahue, and Robert Goulet played themselves.  Chad and Jeremy and the Shindogs performed.

No gay specific characters, obviously, but the show was memorable for not trying to push people into a heteronormative box.  Patty and Cathy's classmates included science nerds, movie buffs, artistic types, athletic types, boys who weren't interested in girls, girls who weren't interested in boys.

William Asher, who co-created the program and wrote most episodes, went on to the gay-subtext filled Bewitched.

In 1999, 33 years after the series ended, many of the cast reprised their roles in The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights.  The family reconvenes to prevent the destruction of the old high school.

Patty is a drama teacher, divorced from Richard, with a grown son (Alain Goulem) and a granddaughter, and Cathy is a widow with a teenage son (Kent Riley. left).

Neither of them is immersed in the heterosexual nuclear family box.

See also: Mackenzie Astin; Sean Astin

Spring 1990: Bedroom First, Socializing Later

West Hollywood, Spring 1990

Lane and I have been dating for almost a year.  Almost every night, he stays over in my house near Sunset and San Vicente, or I stay over in his apartment on Hacienda, about five blocks away.

But we still cruise.  On Friday and Saturday nights, if we don't have a dinner or party to go to, we go to Mugi or to the Faultline.

On Sunday afternoons we go to the beer/soda bust at the Faultline.

Of course, we never bring anyone home directly from the bar.  Only disgusting sleazoids stoop to hooking up, or what we call "tricking.  When we meet someone, we make a date with him for 3-4 days later, then go out to dinner or to a movie, and finally, bring him home to "share."

Tonight I have a sore shoulder, and I don't feel like cruising.  After dinner I tell Lane that I just want to stay in  and watch tv.

"Do you mind if I go out by myself?" Lane asks. "I'll come over afterwards to spend the night."

"Only if you bring me something," I say.  "Or somebody," I add as a joke.

He drives off at 9:30 pm, after the Golden Girls.   I watch tv, read a book.

The rest of the story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

13 Writers and Artists of the Romantic Era That You Didn't Know Were Gay

When I was studying for my M.A. in English (1982-84), I had to select two adjacent historical eras for my Comprehensive Exams.  The problem is, gay content seems to go up and down, a homophobic wasteland (Medieval, Restoration-Augustan, early Victorian) followed by a period of homoerotic exuberance (Renaissance, Romantic, late Victorian).

For my first period, I chose the Restoration-Augustan Era, mostly because the professor of my graduate seminar, Dr. Singer, was gay -- or at least we thought he was.  For my second period, I chose the Romantic Era (1770-1830), because the poets were young and cute, and their lives seemed informed by homosocial and homoerotic bonds.  Later I discovered that several were gay in real life. 

The top 13 gay or gay-subtext literary figures:

1. Hugh Walpole  (1717-1797), who built a pseudo-Medieval castle, Strawberry Hill, to entertain the A-list gays of the early Romantic era.

 2. and 3. The Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Charlotte Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831), who eloped, set up housekeeping, and entertained many of the artistic and literary greats of the era.

4. Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), who forged a series of Medieval poems during his teens, and upset over his lack of recognition, committed suicide.  Many of the other Romantic poets revered him as a beautiful youth martyred by an uncomprehending world. He has only appeared on screen once, in a 1970 German movie, played by Ulrich Faulhaber.

 5. William Blake (1757-1822), who advocated for "free love" and illustrated his poetry with lovingly-detailed, super-muscular male nudes

 6. William Beckford  (1760-1844), who built his own pseudo-Medieval castle, Lansdowne Tower, where he kept his huge art collection. 

7. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and 8. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who roomed together and walked across England together (in the company of William's sister Dorothy).In Pandaemonium (2000), they are played by John Hannah and Linus Roach.

9. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), who hung out with attractive men, especially Greeks and Italians, and shared a house in Rome with fellow poet Percy Shelley. I hadn't yet read Byron and Greek Love (1985), but I thought Manfred highly homoerotic.  In Gothic (1986), Byron was played by Gabriel Byrne (seen here holding hands with Shelley, played by Julian Sand).

10. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who cohabitated with Byron and wrote Adonais to mourn the death of the beautiful young poet John Keats (check out the beefcake in the Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonais". Besides, his wife, Mary Shelley, wrote Frankenstein.  In Frankenstein Unbound (1990), a scientist goes back in time to meet Shelley (gay performer Michael Hutchence, top photo) and the real Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia).

11. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), who introduced the gay-coded Dandy to England.

12. John Keats (1795-1821), whose love for Charles Armitage Brown overwhelmed his love for Fanny Brawne (which was never consummated), and wrote of pure beauty much more often than the beauty of women.  In Bright Star (2009), which makes the romantic triangle overt, Keats is played by gay actor Ben Whishaw (left), and Brown by Paul Schneider.

13. Gay artist Henry Fuseli.

Frankenstein, vampires, gay subtexts, and beefcake.  What's not to like?

Mar 28, 2016

Easter at the Bath House

Columbus, Ohio, April, 2007

My boyfriend Paul was devout Catholic, so he did the works: Ash Wednesday, then Lent, for which he gave up soda.  Then Palm Sunday and Holy Week: services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Fasting on Friday, which meant only one meal, in the evening, after church.

Having had nothing to eat all day, we drove to Columbus, to the Holy Cross Catholic Church on Fifth Street, in the gay neighborhood of Germantown.  It wasn't exactly gay-friendly, but there were lots of almost-open gay people in the pews.

The Good Friday Service is almost as painful as the Jewish Rosh Ha-Shanah, two hours of brow-beating, followed by the Veneration of the Cross in a darkened sanctuary and a silent communion.

Very dark and depressing.  I think I would prefer the live-action crucifixions they hold to celebrate Easter in the Philippines.

When the service ended at 9:00, we rushed about a block west to the El Camino Inn for cheese burritos and avocado salad, and then drove up to Club Columbus, a bathhouse near the Ohio State University campus.

It had a gym, a video room, and a very large steamroom-maze where guys often met.

I rented a small "cabana room," and Paul got a locker.

The rest of the story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.

Top 12 Public Penises of South American #2: the West

Our Public Penis tour of South America left off with Argentina.  Next stop: Uruguay.

1. Greetingman, a 20-foot tall blue naked man, bows in Buceo, Uruguay to demonstrate friendship.  He is the creation of Korean artist Yoo Young-ho.

2. A monument to the last of the indigenous peoples of Uruguay in Montevideo.

3. Working our way north, we come to Paraguay, the only nation in South America where an Indian language, Guarani, has official status.  Parque Ybycui, about 60 miles south of Asuncion, has a statue of a semi-naked gladiator.

4. Next comes Bolivia, the only nation in the world with two capitals, La Paz and Sucre.  In Lapaz, this muscular Unknown Soldier lies prostrate on the ground.

5. But you may be more interested in Cabezas, a small town in the Gran Chaco region, where Father Francisco de Pilar is leading a buffed, loincloth-heavy Indian to Christ.

6. In Santiago, Chile, there's an interesting statue of Dedalus mourning a prostrate, naked Icarus outside the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

More after the break.

7. And Capoulican, the military leader of the Mapuche, who led an uprising against the Spanish from 1553 to 1558.

8. If you go all the way south to Punta Arenas, Chile, the monument to Magellan features more semi-nude Indians.

9. I definitely want to visit Peru for Machu Picchu and other Incan archaeological sites, but there's not a lot of beefcake art.  Unless you count this statue in the Museo de Historia y Arqueologia in Lima.

10. North to Colombia, the only country in South America that I've visited in person, to help build a church in a suburb of Medellin.  The most famous artist in Colombia is Fernando Botero, whose distinctive style of squat, hefty naked people is called Boterismo.

Many of his paintings can be seen in the Botero Museum in Bogota, but there are also a number of statues, including this one in Medellin.

11. And this one in Bogota.  Even the horse is sculpted in Boterismo style.

12. If you prefer your beefcake art a little more svelte, visit the Cathedral of Salt, an underground church carved out of the salt mines in Zipaquira, about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Bogota.

There's a naked miner at the entrance, one of the few fully nude pieces of beefcake art in all of South America.

See also: Top 12 Public Penises of South America 1: The East and Me and the Gay Cannibal.