Sep 23, 2017

Elijah Wood: Fear of the Buddy-Bond

Unlike his Lord of the Rings costar Sean Astin, Elijah Wood never got much play as a teen hunk, and he didn't do a lot of buddy-bonding roles; the only one that springs to mind is Radio Flier (1992) with Joseph Mazzello, and Oliver Twist (1997).

In fact, a lot of his roles drew on 1990s anxiety concerning same-sex bonds; masculine smiles hide danger, destruction, and malice:

The Good Son (1993): Mark (Elijah) discovers that his irrepressible cousin (Macaulay Culkin) is a psychotic murderer.

The War (1994): Stu (Elijah) and his friends are at war.  Oh, and he gets a girlfriend.

The Ice Storm (1997): Mikey (Elijah) has a violent brother, has sex with a girl, wanders out into an ice storm, and dies.

Or sometimes irrelevant:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1993), a version that ignores the Huck-Jim subtext.

Flipper (1994): a remake of the classic tv series with Elijah playing Luke Halpin's character. He kisses a girl.

The Faculty (1998): Casey (Elijah) discovers that the faculty are aliens, with the help of a girl who has a boorish boyfriend.

The lack of heterosexual interest and homoromantic subtext of The Lord of the Rings might exonerate him, except that during the last ten years, he hasn't done much of gay interest: a gay-vague psychopath with supernatural powers who eats women in Sin City (2005), and a gay "best friend" in Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012).

There's an Elijah Wood dating story on Tales of West Hollywood.

Sep 22, 2017

Alan's Gift From Beyond the Grave

Indianapolis, January 2005

In January 2005, I got a phone call in Indianapolis saying that Alan, my ex-boyfriend, roommate, and close friend for 20 years, had died of AIDS-related cancer.  The memorial service would be held in Norfolk.

I didn't go -- I was too busy, it was too far away, I already had a flight reservation back to Fort Lauderdale, etc., etc.  But the truth is, I didn't want to think about Alan being gone.  I wanted to him to be in West Hollywood, cruising at Mugi, holding court at the French Quarter,  working out at the Holiday Spa, reliving those magic moments, unchanged, eternal.

About two weeks after the memorial service, I got an email from Tarik, Alan and Sandy's boy toy in the 1990s: "Can you come to Ocrakoke?  Alan left you something that you have to come here to pick up."

"What is it?" I responded.  "Can you just ship it to me."

"His instructions were that you have to come here to pick it up -- actually Norfolk, but since I live in Ocracoke now, I'll keep it for you here."

I had never heard of Ocracoke, so I rushed to look it up.  It's an island in the Outer Banks of  North Carolina: very isolated, accessible only by boat.  Permanent population 900, but a lot of tourists in the summer.  Nothing to do but swim, fish, look at wild horses, visit an iconic lighthouse, and go to a weird pirate museum (Blackbeard died there.)  Restaurants called the Back Porch Lunchbox and the Sweet Tooth Deli.  No gay bars, no gay organizations, 99% white.   Not the sort of place that a gay black urban guy would choose.

What was Tarik doing in Ocracoke?

I emailed him back.  "Can you tell me what the gift is?  Or give me a hint?  And what the heck are you doing in Ocracoke?"

"I got a job here.  So, Alan asked me to pass out the four gifts that he left to his old friends.  They all have to come to Ocracoke to get them.  I can't tell you what it is, but I can tell you that Alan picked it out especially for you."

The gift was probably a souvenir of West Hollywood, like a glass from Mugi or a menu from the French Quarter -- something nice, but not worth crossing the country for.  Still, I said that I would come during the summer.

"Great!  Come during Memorial Day Weekend.  Some of the other guys are coming then, too.  It will be a nonstop party!"

Ocracoke, May 2005

From Fort Lauderdale I flew to Norfolk, where I rented a car and drove 4 hours to Hatteras.  I barely made the last ferry, and arrived at Ocracoke at 1:00 am Saturday morning.

Tarik met me at the ferry terminal. He was in his early 40s, but still black-haired and buffed, with square workman's hands and a couple of new gold earrings. We hugged.

As we left the ferry station, he waved at people he knew.  "I'm one of ten black guys on the island, so everybody knows me.  It's like being a celebrity."

He drove m to a house on Back Street Road, around the corner from a coffee shop ("mostly gay") and a place called the Flying Melon ("gay-friendly").

"Sounds like quite a gay presence for a tiny speck of land in the Atlantic."

"It's a small community, mostly lesbians -- I know two other gay couples and about six single guys --but it gets much bigger in the summer.  You picked a good time to visit -- Memorial Day Weekend is nonstop cruising."

It was a big, airy house with hardwood floors, a piano in the front room, a patio out back.  Two dogs padded up to say hello.

There was a naked guy asleep on the sofa.

"We have a full house this weekend -- you know what it's like to live in a resort town!  But don't worry, you get your own room. boyfriend is already asleep, so no sharing tonight -- but definitely tomorrow, ok?"

"Sure," I said, grabbing his butt.

The master bedroom was downstairs ("The owner of the house, and whatever Cute Young Thing he's convinced to come out from the mainland") and four bedrooms upstairs: "our room, the third roommate's room, guest room,, occupied, guest room for you,"  plus a finished attic, occupied ("I figured you wouldn't want to deal with the horny gay ghost").

He pointed out the bathroom, said "Breakfast is at 8:00," and left me alone.

The room was very dark, with heavy drapes and no night light.  When I turned off the lamp, I couldn't see anything at all.  Spooky!

A couple of hours later, I was awakened by a hand caressing my chest.  The gay ghost?  I thought -- no -- this guy was corporeal, with thick arms and a hard smooth chest.  Tarik was much bigger -- he must be one of the housemates or guests.

In a house occupied by four gay men and their boyfriends and hookup, it's not unusual for someone to get up in the middle of the night and end up in the wrong bed, accidentally or on purpose.

[Sexual activity censored.]

I figured that in the morning I could figure out the identity of my mysterious visitor by process of elimination.

I awoke to the smell of coffee brewing, and the sound of laughter and clattering plates.  Downstairs, the owner's twink boyfriend, naked except for an apron, was making pancakes.  Other guys drifted out to the deck, where there were scrambled eggs, sausages, muffins, and pitchers of orange and tomato juice.  The owner, a burly bear; Tarik and his boyfriend; the asleep on the couch guy; Sandy from Norfolk and his date...and a buffed Asian guy wearing only red jockey shorts.

"It" I asked tentatively.

"Good morning," he said with a smile, and scooted over so I could sit next to him on the bench.  Jonathan Peng Lee, originally from Hong Kong, now a grad student in engineering at UNC Chapel Hill.

When the flurry of eating and gossip died down, Tarik clicked on a glass to get our attention.

"As some of you know, we invited Boomer, Sandy, and Mark here today to pick up the gifts that our friend Alan bequeathed them.  We'll start with Boomer.  Here's Alan himself to give the introduction."

He brought out his laptop and pushed a button, and suddenly I heard Alan!

"Greetings from the spirit world, Booooomer...." he said in a spooky voice.  "I have to get to my date with River Phoenix and Brandon Lee, so I'll make this brief.  One of my favorite memories of our time together is when we were sharing that tiny apartment in Japan, and I brought home a trick, who kept jumping into your bed.  Well, I recreated that experience for you.  I got a Japanese boy to sneak into your bed -- but don't freak out if there's another guy in your bed.  I just may pop in to share.   Enjoy!"

Everyone applauded.

"We couldn't find a Japanese guy," Tarik said,  "But I hope Jonathan is close enough."

"Sure, he's great."  I turned to Jonathan, who had his arm around my shoulders.  " you're a hustler?"

He grinned.  "It pays my tuition.  They hired me for the whole weekend, so anytime you want another session, just ask."

I reached down and fondled his crotch.    "Pencil me in for this afternoon."

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

Jan-Michael Vincent's First Boyfriends

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-70), was a Saturday morning anthology series starring an animatronic rock band, with psychedelic blackouts, corny jokes, very bad songs, and cheesy cartoons.  But the live-action segment, Danger Island, offered a glimpse of a 1960s gay couple.

Archaeologist Professor Hayden (Frank Aletter, who starred in It's About Time), his daughter Leslie (Ronne Troup), and their young, tanned, and remarkably toned assistant, Link (Jan-Michael Vincent, who would go on to star in Big Wednesday) are searching for a lost city in the uncharted South Seas. Suddenly pirates attack. 

Link is knocked overboard, and sees the ship explode, so he assumes that his friends are dead; he therefore swims for the nearest island, fighting a shark en route. Crawling onto the shore, half-naked and half-drowned, he encounters a pair of long-time castaways.  

The tall, muscular African-American Morgan (Rockne Tarkington) wears a brown vest that accentuates his biceps.  His boyfriend, the short, slim Pacific Islander Chongo (professional stuntman Kahana), who is mute and somewhat addled, wears a yellow vest that looks like it was meant for a girl.

The couple invite Link back to their cave-home, where Chongo fusses over him like a drag queen auntie, making him try on one inappropriately risqué costume after another and in the process “accidentally” fondling his hard chest and shoulders.

Link settles on skintight white pants and a blue sailor shirt (but not to worry, it’s always being torn open or ripped off). Meanwhile, Morgan advises him of the severity of their situation: Danger Island is overrun by wild animals, savages, and pirates, all with different specialties of murder and mayhem (thus its name). 

Eventually Professor Hayden and Leslie, not dead after all, join the party, and they spend many cliffhangers looking for the lost city and fighting the promised wild animals, savages, and pirates (who drool enthusiastically over hardbodied Link). 

 In the last episode, they have thwarted every villain and acquired a boat, and they prepare to head back to civilization. But Morgan and Chongo decline rescue: “We’ve been living this way too long,” Morgan explains, his arm cozily around his partner’s waist. “We wouldn’t know how to live civilized.” 

They say goodbye and walk off arm in arm. I cannot imagine what the actors thought they were portraying in this scene. I can only advise Morgan and Chongo that they could live “this way” quite happily in Greenwich Village or the Castro, with the first heady days of gay liberation immanent.