Jul 25, 2014

Bobby Hull: Hockey's Beefcake Boy

When I was a kid, I hated sports, but that didn't stop my parents and Santa Claus from loading me down with sports equipment and sports-themed toys.

Well, the action figures were ok -- you could pretend that they were rescuing each other, or tied up face-to-face by the bad guy.  And sometimes they had muscular chests under their clothes.











And the Bobby Hull Hockey Game that I got for Christmas in 1970 was actually kind of fun.

I didn't know who Bobby Hull was, but my cousins quickly informed me: a hockey player for the Chicago Black Hawks, who scored lots of goals and made lots of slapshots, whatever those were.  In 1972 he moved to the Winnipeg Jets, where he stayed until he retired in 1979.





I wasn't impressed by goals and slapshots, but I was impressed by Bobby's physique.  He was one of the few sports figures to be photographed semi-nude often, in the locker room, while exercising, on the beach.  He was even displayed naked in Life magazine!

Here he's polishing his stick, but the phallic symbolism is obvious.

During his career, and after, Bobby also appeared semi- nude in ads.  Here he and his bulge are selling shorts in front of a striped surfboard.















I can't find any particular gay connection in his life, which has been rather controversial due to allegations of domestic abuse and pro-Hitler comments.  But sometimes beefcake is enough.

Jul 24, 2014

Cheech and Chong: The Original Stoner Couple

Comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were the original stoners: their comedy albums were about the "hilarious" things people say while high, and their movies were about the "hilarious" hijinks people get into during their quest for drugs.

I was an undergraduate at Augustana (1978-82) during the Cheech and Chong heyday. My brother had all of their albums.  Augie guys couldn't stop quoting from their movies, Up in Smoke (1978), Cheech and Chong's Next Movie (1980), and Nice Dreams (1981). 


Two more followed -- Still Smokin' (1983) and The Corsican Brothers (1986) -- but the War on Drugs had made drug use suspect -- even lovable stoner drug use -- and the duo soon split up.

I never made it through any of their movies.  They were predicated on gay panic and homophobic stereotypes.  Check out Cheech's near-assault by two swishy gay predators in Still Smokin' -- it's nearly enough to outrank Chuck and Buck as the most homophobic movie of all time.

But to be fair, it's hard to find a comedy during the period that didn't include gay panic jokes and homophobic stereotypes.

And you have to admit, these guys were hot.  Cheech Marin, especially, knew how to flex a bicep.  He -- or his stunt double -- even has a frontal nude scene in Nice Dreams.

Have they redeemed themselves since the 1980s?



Cheech has had a long career in movies and tv series, playing mostly stereotypic Hispanic characters.  I liked Born in East L.A. (1987), about a Mexican-American guy who is mistaken for an illegal alien and deported.  Although he falls in love with a woman, he bonds with several guys along the way.

And The Shrimp on the Barbie (1990), about a Mexican immigrant in Australia who is hired by a heiress to pretend to be her boyfriend and -- get this -- does not fall in love with her!  At least, I don't remember any hetero-romance.



Cheech also starred in Nash Bridges (1996-2001), as Inspector Joe Dominguez, sidekick to Bridges, who was played by the gay-positive Don Johnson.  They had a gay secretary, Pepe (Patrick Fischler), and if I recall properly, they went undercover as a gay couple in one episode.

He played a gay character in an episode of The George Lopez Show: George believes that he has found his father, and shows up at the home of Lalo (Cheech), who is gay, and living with his partner, Charles (John Michael Higgins).

Tommy Chong hasn't done quite as much.  He is best known as the aging stoner Leo on That 70s Show.

Recently the two have reunited for some video shorts, and for the animated feature Cheech and Chong: The Animated Movie (2013).  Their mascot is a crab (pubic hair lice) named Buster (the same joke was used in the gay comic Poppers back in the 1980s).

Jul 23, 2014

Lurich and Aberg: Wrestlers Who Lived and Died Together

The Estonians love wrestling, and they love nudity.  So Georg Lurich (1876-1920) is a national hero.  He grew up in Väike-Maarja, Estonia, which was then part of the Russian Empire, and became a professional weight-lifter, Graeco-Roman wrestler (where they wrestle nearly nude), and strongman (the precursor to the modern bodybuilder).











Although he lived in St. Petersburg, he toured frequently in Estonia, helping to establish the spirit of Estonian nationalism that would result in independence in 1918. Amandus Adamson used him as a model for the famous sculpture of mythic hero Kalevipoeg at the Gates of Hell, and also for a statue entitled Champion.

There are two other statues of Lurich in Tallinn, and one in Väike-Maarja






He became a folk hero, with Paul Bunyan-style exploits based on his superhuman strength.  Here he's holding up four rather chummy guys and a barbel, just as Kalevipoeg formed a bridge to allow villagers escape from a fire.











Lurich befriended a number of young athletes, including wrestling great George Hackenschmidt.

But his long-term companion was wrestler Aleksander "Leks" Aberg (1881-1920, below).  They toured together in America, China, Japan, and throughout Europe.

They were touring in southern Russia in 1917, when the Russian Revolution came.  Troop movements trapped them in the village of Armavir, near the Caucasus Mountains, for three years.






They both contracted typhus during the winter of 1919.  Lurich died in January 1920.  Aberg recovered, but then succumbed to pneumonia in February.  They were buried in a single grave in the German Cemetery in Armavir.

Every year, Georg Lurich and Aleksander Aberg Graeco-Roman wrestling competitions are held in their honor.

Jul 21, 2014

Spike Island: Manchester Boys Bond at a Rock Concert

It seems that every year in the U.S., we see yet another movie about a group of high school friends facing the prospect of Growing Up: a heterosexist myth in which one abandons the exuberant buddy-bonding of high school for heterosexual romance, careers, houses, kids, and domesticity.

Usually it's set at an iconic moment in the filmmakers' life.

The British have their own versions, most recently Spike Island (2013), set during the heyday of The Stone Roses.  Yeah, I never heard of them either, but apparently they gave a famous "final concert" in May 1990 on Spike Island in Cheshire, and five working-class Manchester lads are desperate to go.


Not just for the music; they have their own band, so they have to get to the concert to give their demo tape to Ian Brown.  It's their only chance of escaping from their dismal working-class, married-with-children futures.

But they have no tickets, no money, and the concert's sold out. So they steal a florist's van and head out on the highway.

The main couple are Tits (Elliott Tittensor) and Dodge (Nico Mirallegro), who dread the upcoming end of their long-term friendship while competing over the same girl.

There's a lot more soap opera crammed into the weekend.  A dying father; an abusive father; a confrontation between brothers; a boy who doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps; etc., etc.  The characters are broadly-drawn cliches that we've seen a thousand times before: the jock, the nerd, the ineffective girl-chaser, the kid brother.

But there's also a lot of gay connection.  Both Tittensor and Mirallegro have played gay characters before, and they add a nice gay subtext.  Plus there's a lot of physicality in the boys' relationship, hugging, holding, hanging over each other.

And some semi-nudity.  Recommended.

See also: I Wanna Hold Your Hand



Jul 20, 2014

Serge Lifar: Gay Masculine Beauty during the Jazz Age

During the 1920s, the go-to guy for masculine beauty was a Russian ballet dancer named Serge or Sergei Lifar.

Born in Kiev, Russia in 1905, Lifar went to Paris in 1923 and joined the Ballet Russes as Sergei Diaghilev's newest protege-lover.  In 1925, he became lead dancer, to the consternation of previous protege-lovers who were no longer getting the best roles.





Ballet was big during the Jazz Age, maybe because it was the only art form that allowed audiences to see masculine biceps and bulges, and Diaghilev showed off Lifar's every chance he got.  In La Chatte (1927), Lifar entered the stage riding in a "chariot" formed entirely of men.

That didn't sit well with the other members of the ballet company.










In 1929, Diaghilev died, and Lifar moved on to become the director of the Paris Opera Company, where he staged and danced in his own creations, including a renovation of The Afternoon of a Faun in 1935, and Icare (1935), his masterpiece, about the Greek boy who flew too close to the sun.












But Lifar was famous far beyond the world of ballet.  He was photographed in newspapers and magazines. He was painted and sculpted.  He was on a stamp in the Ukraine.

He cavorted with artists, writers, and film stars, many involved in the gay culture of Paris Between the Wars, like Salvador Dali, Paul Valery, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Robeson.

In 1944, during World War II, Lifar's collaboration with the Nazis got him "banned for life" from the Paris Opera.  He claimed that he was working as a secret agent (he returned in 1947).




And don't forget the "duel" he fought in 1958 with equally flamboyant ballet producer George de Cuevas.

Lifar was not openly gay, but his many liaisons with men were well known in the ballet world.  He also sought out the attention of wealthy women who served as his benefactors.

He died in 1986.

See also: The Chilean Bad Boy