Dec 17, 2017

Richard Thomas: Falling in Love with a Photograph

When I was in junior high and high school, this was one of the most recognizable faces in America: Richard Thomas, who played Depression-era teenager John-Boy on The Waltons (1971-77).

I never saw a single episode, just snippets as I walked through the living room on my way upstairs to watch hip sitcoms like Welcome Back Kotter, Barney Miller or What's Happening!!!  Who wanted to watch a boring drama set a thousand years ago, when my parents were kids?

But I saw the parodies on Saturday Night Live and in Mad Magazine, I heard all the jokes, and I had a big crush on Richard Thomas.










Ok, not much of a physique, but that hair, those eyes, those  lips! Tell me you can look at that face without wanting to kiss him.




He wasn't a big teen idol, with no shirtless centerfolds in the teen magazines, barely a mention as they poured out articles about Donny Osmond, Leif Garrett, and Shaun Cassidy.  Maybe he was too old, in his 20s (born in 1951).  Maybe he was too married.  Or maybe he just wasn't androgynous.

But I didn't know he was married, and nine years older was the perfect age for me.  And the pictures in TV Guide, Parade, and other general-interest magazines were enough to spark my romantic interest.

In an interview, Richard stated that he was studying Mandarin Chinese for fun.  I was into languages!  Maybe we would meet and study Arabic together.

I like your smile.
Ana uhibu aibtisamatak

May I kiss you?
Hal li 'an 'aqbalak?

The first erotic dream I remember, around 1975 (ninth or tenth grade), involves kissing Richard Thomas.  I replayed that dream in my head a thousand times.

 I hadn't even figured "it" out yet, and I was fantasizing about kissing Richard Thomas!

During high school and college, I saw him in 3 movies:

1. Roots: The Next Generation (1979).  He played a boy involved in an interracial romance.

2. No Other Love (1979).  He played a mentally handicapped boy who wants to get married.

Both roles about forbidden love.  Could Richard be gay, and trying to "come out" in a roundabout fashion?

3. The 1980 Star Wars rip-off Battle Beyond the Stars (he played Luke Skywalker to George Peppard's Han Solo and Sybill Danning's Princess Leia).

For some reason I missed his role as a gay wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet in Fifth of July.  It aired on March 9, 1982, during my senior year in college.  Most likely I just didn't know about it.

I haven't seen Richard Thomas in anything since.  He generally appears in movies and tv series that I would have absolutely no interest in, religious (The Easter Story, Touched by a Angel), hetero-romantic (Linda, Time after Time), or sad (To Save the Children, Anna's Dream).  No more gay roles, that I know of.

Besides, he has not aged well.  His eyes have narrowed, his lips have shrunken, his face has panned out.  Kissing him would not be out of the question, but it's certainly not the first thing you think of when you see this photograph.

And his photograph was what I fell in love with.

See also: The Waltons: The Gay Connection


Dec 16, 2017

12 Current and Future Beefcake Stars of "Freaks and Geeks"

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) was a high school comedy-drama created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow.  Although it won a lot of critical acclaim and regularly appears on "best tv" lists, it couldn't find an audience -- an hour long comedy that kept switching time slots, competing with Veronica's Closet, Ally McBeal, and Everybody Loves Raymond, then dumped to Saturday night?  18 episodes were produced, but only 12 were aired.  All 18 are now streaming on Netflix.

I find it derivative of 1980s high school nerd movies, complete with sneering bullies, sadistic teachers, and The Girl walking across the room in slow motion while every guy in the class stares at her in rapture.  Hetero-horniness is endemic; gay people do not exist.

And I have a lot of nit-picks:
1. It's Michigan, but always warm and sunny, even in winter.
2. Characters are introduced, then vanish, never to be seen or mentioned again.
3. The fundamentalist Christian girl crosses herself -- only Catholics do that.
4. And her church holds a dance -- fundamentalist Christians do not dance.
5. The time frames make no sense.  They go trick-or-treating for hours in broad daylight.  Lindsay goes to dinner at the Mean Girl's house, hours of plot time pass, and she goes home -- where her family is just sitting down to dinner.  Do they eat at 9:00 pm?

Still, the characters have an endearing quality, the 1980s references give me a nostalgic glow, and there is ample beefcake.

Here are the top 12 beefcake highlights:

The Freaks: a group of slackers and stoners (although they never mention pot).

1. Teddy bear Ken (Seth Rogen)













2. James Dean wannabe Danny (James Franco)













3. Aspiring musician Nick (Jason Segel).

If these three sound familiar, it's because they've been starring in each others' movies for 17 years.

Plus Mean Girl Kim (Busy Phillips) and focus character Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini)







The Geeks: a group of underdeveloped, non-athletic Star Wars fans:

4. Tall, thin, laconic Bill (Martin Starr).  He's still tall, thin, and laconic.














5. Jewish stereotype Neal (Samm Levine).  The hottest of the cast, then and now.

















6. Prepubescent focus character Sam (John Francis Daley) was 18 at the time, although he could easily pass for 14.  He's grown up a lot since.










More after the break.


Dec 15, 2017

70 Years of Archie Beefcake

For over 70 years, Archie Andrews and his pals and gals have been presenting an idealized portrait of the American teenager, with countless thousands of comic book stories, plus cartoons, tv series, radio series, movies, and songs.  Preteens look to Archie for a glimpse of their future, and adults, for a nostalgic look at their past.  And gay boys can find in Archie comics more shirtless and swimsuit-clad hunks than anywhere else in children's literature.

I wanted to see how Archie and the gang have changed over the years, becoming more and more buffed, more defined to meet the changing expectations of masculine beauty.






1948.

Archie is thin, even underdeveloped, with little attention to realism in his arms and shoulders.  He looks like a cartoon character.












1959.

Archie and Jughead appear in the Dan Montana house style, with some indication of pecs and maybe a line down the stomach to indicate abs.











1973.

When I was reading Archie comics as a kid, there was a lot more attention to the detail of pecs, shoulders, and biceps, particularly in the "muscle bound" Big Moose.











1989

The guy's got a chest and abs, but no biceps.
















2002.

A rather realistic Archie, with chest, abs and biceps.













2013

Whoa, Reggie's got a 6-pack, plus shoulders, pecs, and biceps.  Of course, he's parodying the tv show Jersey Shore, but still, he's come a long way in 70 years.









Dec 14, 2017

Jonathan Taylor Thomas



Born in September 1981, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) became a star at age 11 through Home Improvement (1991-1998), playing Randy, the middle son of macho tool-show host Tim Allen. He was passive and somewhat feminine, gay-coded yet indefatigably girl-crazy from the start, and careful to rebel against any hint that he might be gay.

In “Groin Pull” (October 1992), Randy is cast as Peter Pan in the school play.  First he is horrified because he must “prance” rather than fly: as his father states, “Men don’t prance.  We walk, we run, we skip if no one’s looking. . .but we never prance!”  Then he discovers that Peter Pan is generally played by a woman, and almost drops out of the play, before Dad confinces him that he can re-create the role as heterosexual, “a man’s man. . .a man with hair on his chest.”  And it works: Randy comes home after the performance and exclaims triumphantly, “I saw Jennifer looking at me!"



The pubescent Jonathan Taylor Thomas soon began to dominate the teen magazines.  There are literally thousands of pin-ups and centerfolds, far overwhelming those featuring the more muscular Zachery Ty Bryan, who played his older brother, or Taran Noah Smith, who played his younger brother, or their various hunky friends (such as Josh Blake of Alf).

. His character became a teen dream operator, intensely attractive to girls -- never to boys -- and intensely heterosexually active and aware.

But Randy was not content to be just another of the girl-crazy hunks who populated 1990s tv.  He often supported liberal causes, in opposition to his conservative father, and his episodes often drew the series into serious themes, such as Randy questioning his religion or facing a possible cancer diagnosis. When JTT left the series in 1998, it was explained that Randy had been accepted into a year-long environmental study program in Costa Rica.



In his other projects, JTT more than made up for the "every girl's fantasy" plotlines of his conservative tv series.  He enjoyed a buddy-bonding romance with Brad Renfro in Tom and Huck (1995), and with Devon Sawa in Wild America (1997).  He played a bisexual hustler in Speedway Junky (1999), opposite Jesse Bradford, and a gay teenager in Common Ground (2000).











2 gay/bi roles in two years!  The gay rumors came fast and furious, but JTT, like his character on Home Improvement, always denied them: he said he didn't mind, but they made his elderly grandmother upset.

He moved into voice work, guest starred on Smallville, and went to college, graduating from Columbia University in 2010 with a degree in history.

 In 2011, tv personality Lo Bosworth re-ignited the rumors by stating that he was gay on the Chelsea Lately program.

There's a sausage sighting story on Tales of West Hollywood


West Side Story: Stick to the East Side


When I was in high school, we had to read West Side Story in conjunction with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  They were even bound together, in the same book.  Plus the orchestra played highlights from the score.  So I got a double dose, and I hated every moment of it.

Was there ever anything more heterosexist?










It's about two rival gangs in New York City, the Jets (white) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).  Tony, a retired member of the Jets, meets a girl named Maria, who happens to be the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.  Guess what happens?

Right.  The Jets hate Maria, the Sharks hate Tony, conflict, conflict, conflict, our love will triumph, fight at the gym, death, everybody's sad.

A flame of heteronormativity envelops songs like "Maria" and "One Hand, One Heart."

Plus all of the Jets and Sharks have girlfriends.  Every one of them.

The most you can hope for is the tiniest bit of chest-pounding, girl-chasing buddy-bonding between Tony and Riff (the leader of the Jets), and Bernardo and his right-hand man Chino.

Horrible.  Absolutely unwatchable.

Which is surprising, when you consider that the writer Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim were all gay (see Hello, Dolly! for another example).

And about half of the cast members.

There isn't even any beefcake: the high-stepping hunks never take off their shirts.  Not once.


The original Broadway musical starred Larry Kert (Tony), Carol Lawrence (Maria), Michael Callan (Riff), Ken Le Roy (Bernardo), Jamie Sanchez (Chino),

The 1961 movie starred Richard Beymer (Tony, left), Natalie Wood (Maria), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Jose de Vega (Chino).

Many other hunks have played Tony, such as Colt Prattes (top photo) and Matthew Cavenaugh.

Including some gay ones.

I can not figure out why.

See also: Leonard Bernstein's Mass; Michael Callan: A Gay Guy and His Pretend Wife.

Dec 13, 2017

The Most Boring, Stupid, and Heterosexist State Songs

At every school assembly when I was a kid in Rock Island, we had to sing the state song.  You were also forced to sing it at football games, wrestling matches, and political rallies:

By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,
O'er the prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,
Comes an echo on the breeze.
Rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois.

Has any state song been more reviled and made fun of?

Yep.  Across the river, Iowa's state song is just as bad, if not worse:

From yonder Misissippi's stream
To where Missouri's waters gleam
O! fair it is as poet's dream, Iowa, in Iowa.


Who decided that states should have official songs to be foisted upon schoolchildren and the audiences of football teams, and who decided that they should be uniformly so awful?  And heterosexist?

I took it upon myself to read the lyrics of all 50+ state songs (some have more than one).

It was dismal.  Song after song of nonsense.

This state is full of badgers, this state is full of sod,
This state is full of sandwiches, this state is under God.

New York's is hands-down the stupidest:

New York is special. New York is diff'rent' cause there's no place else on Earth quite like New York and that's why I love New York.

What, "Start spreading the word, I'm leaving today" was taken?

Contrary to what you might think, it was not composed by a 5-year old, but by Steve Karmen, an accomplished tv commercial jingle writer: "Aren't you glad you use Dial?", "When you say Budweiser," "The Great American chocolate bar."

Maryland's state song is grotesquely bloody:

Avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!

Colorado's is all about mass extinction due to global warming:

The bison is gone from the upland, the deer from the canyon has fled,
The home of the wolf is deserted, the antelope moans for his dead

Fortunately, they replaced it with John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" in 2007.







And over half are disgustingly heterosexist, making schoolkids and football teams sing about "Aren't you glad everybody is heterosexual?  Aren't you glad those pesky gay people don't exist?"

 How many times have you heard Indiana's "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away," without knowing who ir what was on that riverbank?  Some guy's dead girlfriend:

Long years have passed since I strolled thro' the churchyard.
She's sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear,
I loved her, but she thought I didn't mean it,
Still I'd give my future were she only here.

Georgia has Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind," in which the guy thinks of his ex-girlfriend while he's in bed with other women.

Other arms reach out to me, other eyes smile tenderly
Still in the peaceful dreams I see the road leads back to you

By the way, when you google "Georgia football player shirtless," what you get is Darian Alvarez, a soccer player from Honduras.  Not that I'm complaining.

Before countering with "South Carolina On My Mind" in 1984, South Carolina's state song was a little more graphic about the guy's girlfriend getting with other guys..

Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,
They shall not touch thy noble heart!

After that, Michigan's state song about lost love is sort of a relief.  The girlfriend is receding into the distance, while the guy moans  "What am I supposed to do without you?"

Tennessee has "The Tennessee Waltz," which we had to sing in grade-school music class; "I was dancing with my darling, etc., etc."  Missouri has "The Missouri Waltz," which has a whole complicated story about a father reminiscing to his children about his wife or ex-wife or something.

Oklahoma adopted "Oklahoma," from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which is all about getting married and moving to the land stolen from the Indians:

Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky

Um...you know that hawk is searching for small animals to kill and eat, right?

Utah's state song is all about Brigham Young, Family with a capital F, and the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place!

I just wish these guys were from Mississippi, so there'd be ten of them.


No state song extolled same-sex friendship, and the only one with any beefcake was Alabama's, mentioning two Native American heroes with muscular physiques:

Fair thy Coosa-Tallapoosa
Bold thy Warrior, dark and strong,
Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee!

Whoops, my mistake.  Those are both rivers.

Still, I imagine that grade school kids in Alabama have a lot of fun thinking of dirty meanings to Coosa-Tallapoosa.

Dec 12, 2017

Dorno of the Herculoids, Grown Up and Tied Up


These are The Herculoids, Zandor (middle), Tara (left), and Dorno (right), protectors of the planet Amzot in a Saturday morning cartoon series that ran 18 episodes from 1967 to 1969.  A few more episodes were aired in 1981-1982.

They were barbarians with sci-fi powers and a lot of cool pets: a space dragon; a giant ape; a rhinocerous with a laser cannon for horns; and two blob-beings.









Most episodes involved one of the three getting captured by Bird Men, Mole Men, Spider Men, Bubble Men, Electrode Men, Sun People, Crystallites, Reptons, Monkey People, and so on. 

Dorno, of course, ignores the orders to "stay here where it's safe" and either initiates the action or stumbles upon a way to perform a daring rescue.

Although it's been 35 years since we saw any new episodes, the Herculoids have not been forgotten. They've appeared on Harvey Birdman and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and in various comic books, including DC Comics' Future Quest (2016).




And there's a lot of fan art of Dorno tied and threatened.
















Usually he's aged into young adulthood and buffed up a bit, to appeal to adult sensibilities.

















Sometimes he is threatened by villains from the show, and sometimes by new characters.  There's a whole series of Dorno fighting Freddie Kruger.
















Here Jonny Quest and Hadji gang up on the barbarian hero.













Jonny and Dorno have some romantic moments, too.










But there's not much time for romance when every monster, pirate, and villain in the galaxy wants a piece of you.







And the rule in the Villain's Code about hurting kids no longer applies.

All pictures are copyrighted by their respective owners on deviantart.com.

See also: Saturday Morning Muscle

Sandy Ricks in Trouble

It's been 50 years since Sandy and Bud Ricks appeared on the Boys with their Shirts Off Show, aka Flipper (1964-67).

It was about two boys and their dad living in the Florida Everglades.  In each episode, one or both would get into a jam, and their pet dolphin Flipper would rush to their aid.  Sort of like an aquatic version of Lassie.

Except neither of the boys owned a shirt



Dad was shirtless sometimes, too.

And the show was in color, giving you clear, bright, beautifully detailed views of muscular chests and taunt biceps.  Especially when they were tied up, and straining at the ropes.

I never saw Flipper during its first run -- it was on Sunday night, when we were in church.  But millions of Baby Boomer kids watched, enthralled by the endless teenage beefcake, getting their first glimmers of same-sex desire.

And they remember.


My childhood favorite was Bud (Tommy Norden), with his impossibly buffed physique, but most Boomer kids seem to have favored the lithe, slim Sandy (Luke Halpin).

Today you can go to an online archive where a fan has digitized thousands of screencaps and pictures of Luke Halpin, and there's plenty of fan art.









On deviantart.com, aard4447 envisions a meeting between Sandy and Robin the Boy Wonder of Batman (1966-68).














Bondageincomics draws Sandy bound and gagged, being kidnapped, and left to drown.  If only Flipper were here!











Korak225 gives us another Sandy Ricks kidnapping scene.













And Sandy being untied by his brother Bud.

Or maybe tied.  Bud was always jealous of Sandy's teen idol status, after all.

All drawings copyrighted by their respective owners.

See also: Flipper Toys