Nov 8, 2014

The Swashbuckling Boyfriends of November

November is my favorite month.  The colors are soft and muted, the sky is not too bright, the air is cool but not cold, it's festive but not overwhelming like December, and it contains my birthday and Thanksgiving, the two holidays that provide the most pleasure and least guilt.

Besides, when I was a kid, November and December were the only months where I could read without getting yelled at.

Mom and Dad disapproved of reading -- it was a waste of time, it would strain my brain, it was antisocial -- I should be out playing sports, or at least watching tv with the family.  Science fiction and fantasy was especially suspect, likely to turn me into an atheist, or, much worse, a Catholic.  So I always hid books, or read at my friends' house, or said they were for school.

But in November,they actually were for school.  Teachers always assigned us swashbuckling adventure novels to read over Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation!

It wasn't my fault -- blame my teacher.  Sorry, no time to play basketball in the driveway, or touch football in the schoolyard -- I had to get through this book.

Four of the books we were assigned were particularly memorable.  They had gay subtexts as well as a heteronormative primary plot.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas (1844).  Edmond Dantes escapes from his unjust imprisonment in the Chateau d'If, and gets vengeance on the people who betrayed him.  He gets a girlfriend, but also forms several passionate male friendships, notably with Peppino, a boy who was also betrayed and becomes his...um...."servant."  Henry Cavill, left, is one of the more muscular Dantes in film.



2. The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas (1844). A young man named d'Artagnan wants to become a Musketeer, one of the king's bodyguards. The three current Musketeers reject him, but then find him worthy.  He gets a girlfriend, but rejects her; his most passionate relationships come with men. (Chris O'Donnell, left, is one of many hunky d'Artagnans).

3. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883). A boy helps pirates find buried treasure, with nary a woman in sight.



4. The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope (1894). An Englishman on holiday in Ruritania bears a striking resemblance to King Rudolph, who has disappeared, and agrees to impersonate him.  He falls in love with the King's fiancee, but has to leave her.  The king and the commoner share many a touching moment.

5. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by the Baroness Orczy (1905).  A precursor of Zorro, Batman, and all of the other superheroes with a milktoast alter ego, Sir Percy Blakeney pretended to be gay -- weak, shrill, feminine -- but he was really a hetero hero, saving French aristocrats from the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.  He has a girlfriend, whom he marries, but he also spends time rescuing male aristocrats, notably the hunky Sir Andrew.


6. Captain Blood, by Raphael Sabatini (1922).  Dr. Peter Blood, an Irish physician (who would want to go to a doctor called Blood?), is wrongly convicted of treason and sold into slavery in the Caribbean.  He and his friend Jeremy Pitt commandeer a ship and become pirates. (Ross Alexander, top photo, played Jeremy Pitt in the 1935 movie).

All of these novels have been filmed many times, usually with a hetero-romance tacked on to provide a "fade out kiss" ending.  But I didn't know that during those long, cool November afternoons.

See also: Beefcake and Bonding in the Green Library.


Nov 7, 2014

Knowing Your Straight Friends #2: Basketball

Maybe you're not in danger of assault, getting fired from your job, or stupid homophobic questions like "What do they think causes that now?", so you don't need to pretend that you're straight.  But you still want to hang out with straight guys, get invited to their parties, be accepted as one of them.

First thing to realize: You will be asked to evaluate women's breasts and potential sexual prowess.  Straight guys think you are attracted to women -- you just happen to like men a little more -- and they can never be convinced otherwise.  So just go with the flow and say "Oh, yeah, she's hot. If I wasn't gay, I'd do her in a minute!"

Second thing to realize: You will be discussing The Game.  A lot.  If you don't know something about Sports, you will quickly become a wallflower.


Knowing about football will do the job pretty well, but for a backup, or off-season, you will also need to know about two subsidiary sports, basketball and baseball.

Straight guys love to compete over projectiles.  In basketball, they play on a "court," trying to throw the projectile through a hoop on the opposing team's side.  They can't grab or tackle each other; they can only block throws and try to wrest the ball out of their opponent's hand.


I was forced to play basketball in school.  Whenever I got the ball, I immediately handed it to whoever was standing closest to me, regardless of the team.

The good news:
1. Professional basketball doesn't have as many teams, ranks and categories as football.  There are only 30 teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA), and they're divided into six divisions.

2. You just need to follow "your team," the one closest to you geographically.  Not necessarily in your state.  For example, when I lived in Dayton, my "team" was the Indiana Pacers, not the Cleveland Cavaliers, because Indianapolis was closer than Cleveland.

The bad news:

1. Each team plays a whopping 82 games!

2. The season lasts from October to April, so for three months, the worlds of football and basketball collide!



Straight guys seem to have no trouble juggling the massive schedules.

3. Football players have to tackle you, so they tend to be big and buffed.  Basketball players have to throw a ball over your head, so they tend to be long and lanky, not particularly attractive.

But...a lot of regular hunks play basketball, too, and shirts-skins team patterns are not uncommon.

The big event of the year is the Playoffs, in late April, to decide the best team in the NBA.  During the last few years, the winning team is usually the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, or the Los Angeles Lakers.





College basketball is divided into the same divisions as college football.  It doesn't draw nearly as much interest, but you should know about March Madness, technically the NCAA Men's Division I Championship, when 38 college teams compete. Recent winners have included Connecticut, Louisville, Kentucky, Duke, Florida, and North Carolina.

You only need to know about the high school teams in your own city. and then only insofar as team members might be recruited for college teams or the NBA.

A lot easier than football, right?

See also: Knowing Your Straight Friends  #1: Football


Adam DeVine: Amazing Physique, Homophobic Past

If you've been watching Modern Family, you're probably wondering about Andy, the sweet, cheerful, ultra-feminine guy with a incredible -- repeat, incredible -- physique that Gloria hires as a nanny for the baby, to the consternation of her husband and teenage son.  At first I figured that he was using feminine mannerisms to signify that he was gay.

But it turns out that his plot arc is going in another direction: he and the teenage Haley have a sparring "I hate you!" attraction going on.

I looked him up on the internet, and found some amazing beefcake photos.




He's Adam DeVine, a 30-year old comedian from Omaha, Nebraska who has been performing on-screen since 2006, usually teamed with Anders Holms and Blake Anderson.  They have produced many comedy shorts, such as Religious Dad, Straight Outta Mordor, and Super Seniors, and three tv series for Comedy Central: Crossbows & Mustaches (2006-2008), Fifth Year (2008-), and the workplace comedy Workaholics (2011-2014).  




Comedy Central's humor is usually bitingly homophobic, so I'm leery about investigating Adam's work further, but a google search suggests that Workaholics has some gay subtexts combined with a lot of homophobia.  According to the Gender/Sex/Media Blog, being gay is presented as weird, stupid, and absurd.

Maybe gay male viewers are too overwhelmed by the spectacular physique to notice.







Still, Gloria might want to rethink her choice of nanny, especially if she intends to invite Cam and Mitchell over. There might be trouble.

Postscript: after four months, Andy has spent time with all of the other characters, but not Cam and Mitchell.  They were on screen together just once, in a group shot, and they haven't interacted at all.

Postscript: Entire season finished up, and still no Cam-Mitchell-Andy interactions.

Maybe it's in his contract.


Nov 6, 2014

Knowing Your Straight Friends #3: Baseball

Baseball may be the only third most important sport in the Straight Guy pantheon, but it's still more important than hockey, golf, tennis, wrestling, boxing, track and field, and gymnastics.  Besides, it's the only sport for Straight Guys to talk about when football and basketball season is over, roughly April to August.

And it's got a lot of sexual symbolism.  We used to classify sexual activity by running bases; hitting a home run was heterosexual intercourse.

Baseball bats are obvious phallic symbols.

And gay guys are still asked if they're a pitcher or a catcher, that is, a top or a bottom.

When Yuri was dating a baseball player in Florida, he was asked that every five minutes, by people who thought they were being very funny.


Baseball is played outdoors, on a diamond-shaped field.  The "pitcher," on the opposing team will throw a small round projectile at you.  Your job is to hit it with a bat, far enough so you can run around the diamond, touching three bases, before anyone on the other team can retrieve the projectile and touch you with it.

The main quality for success in baseball is hand-eye coordination, not height or strength, so all physical types can play.  Even little kids are often co-opted into Little League.

Major League Baseball teams are divided, like football and basketball, into two groups, the American League and the National League.  Each league is divided into three divisions, East, Central, and West.  The same city may have teams from two leagues, as in the New York Yankees and the New York Mets.

But don't worry, you just have to know "your team," usually the team in the city closest to you.  When I was growing up in Rock Island, most people belonged to the Chicago Cubs (3 hours away), though a few belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals (6 hours away).


Baseball season typically lasts for six months, from April to October.  Your team will play a whopping 162 games, five nights a week plus an occasional afternoon game, pairing off against every team in the league at least once.

At the end of October, the top teams in the football and basketball leagues play each other once to determine the championship, but in baseball, they play each other seven times  in a week-long festive occasion called the World Series.

The last few teams to win the World Series are: the San Francisco Giants, The Boston Red Sox, the Giants, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since nearly anyone can play baseball, there is a bewildering variety of minor leagues, semi-pro leagues, local teams, youth teams -- you name it.


Whenever Straight Guys can't get out to watch their pro team play, they'll make do with some of these local and regional games.  So just ask "How did the Moondogs do last night?" and be prepared to talked into a stupor.

See also: A Naked Baseball Player in the Kitchen.

Nov 3, 2014

Looking for Beefcake on the Swim Team

This isn't a picture of my high school swim team -- the yearbook photo wouldn't scan properly -- but two of the boys look exactly like my old high school classmates.

Back row right: looks exactly like Craig, who  sat next to me in every class from third grade through junior high,  participated in the famous streaking incident of 1974, and invited me to "get down" at his graduation party in 1978.

Front row center: looks exactly like David, who was dating my buddy Emily, except David was a bit more impressive in the locker room.

Is it any wonder that I went to all the swim meets?

Swimming was always a reliable source of beefcake.  In the summer, you could go to Longview Park Pool to look at the never-ending parade of beefcake, men with hairy chests, jocks in red swimtrunks, heavily-muscled bodies glistening in the afternoon sun.   When it got cold, you could get your beefcake quota by reading sports books about swimming (This also satisfied your parents, who were constantly trying to push you into liking sports.)





















I collected Boy Scout instruction manuals on swimming, diving, water polo, and life saving, and guides to high school and college swim teams.

















The only athlete I could name offhand was Mark Spitz, who won 7 gold medals in the 1972 Summer Olympics and had guest shots all over tv in 1973 and 1974.  Most of the gay boys at Washington Junior High had this poster on their bedroom walls.

See also: Cruising in the Cub Scouts.

Nov 2, 2014

Lucas Black: Gay Subtexts in the South


In the movies, people from the South are homophobic even when they're not.

Take this speech from Sling Blade (1996), in which 13-year old Frank (Lucas Black) explains why his mom's best friend (John Ritter) can't do anything to protect her from her abusive boyfriend:

He's funny, you know. Not funny "Ha-Ha", funny queer. He likes to go with men instead of women. That makes him not able to fight too good. He sure is nice, though. He's from St. Louis. People who are queer get along better in a big town. I wish he liked to go with women, I'd rather he be Mama's boyfriend than Doyle.

So he's got an affliction that keeps him from being able to fight or become Mama's boyfriend.  Sure is nice, though.

But implicit homophobia in Southern characters doesn't prevent gay subtexts; in fact, it facilitates them, since "no one" will believe that a masculine-coded Southerner could possibly be "funny queer."

Check out the career of 30-year old Lucas Black:

1. All the Pretty Horses (2000).  He plays a teenager in the Old West who rides with cowboy buddies (Matt Damon, Henry Thomas) and doesn't get a girl.

2. Killer Diller (2004). Good old boys Wesley and Vernon (Lucas, William Lane Scott) start a band together.

3. Friday Night Lights (2004). About a struggling Texas high school football team, with the coach (Billy Bob Thornton) big-brothering star athlete (Lucas).

4. Jarhead (2005). Marine (Jake Gylenhaal) buddies around with his platoon.  Lucas has only a few scenes as Southern-fried Chris Kruger, but there's a lot of testosterone in the air.





5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2007).  Alabama teen Sean Boswell (Lucas) moves to Japan with his Dad and gets a girlfriend, but buddies with  Han (Sung Kang). Han is killed, and the rage over his death leads Sean to become the champion drift-racer of Japan.

6. 42 (2013). Sports biography about baseball player Jackie Robinson.  Lucas plays Peewee Reese, Jackie's close friend.

Not bad for a Southern Baptist boy from Decatur, Alabama.

Roddy McDowall: Hiding in Plain Sight

Gay male actors born before Stonewall pretended to be heterosexual as a matter of survival.  They had "Hollywood marriages."  They brought heterosexual dates to events, and gave interviews about the type of woman they preferred.  Some, like George Takei and Richard Chamberlain, came out in old age, when their careers were over or almost over.  Some, like Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde, had such a fey stage presence that they figured it was obvious, no  need to come out. And some like Liberace, denied the "allegations" to their dying breath.

Roddy McDowall never denied anything, but he never said anything, either.  He "hid in plain sight," taking advantage of the homophobic myth that gay men don't exist, or if they do they're mincing, lisping pieces of fluff.

So, in this photo shoot, Roddy and fellow gay actor Tab Hunter cook weiners and cake in their underwear, and apparently no one in the 1960s had any idea.


Born in 1928, Roddy got his start as a child star, bringing wartime angst to the screen with boy-and-dog or boy-and-horse vehicles.  In his teens, he played Malcolm in Macbeth and David Balfour in an adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. 

He made the transition from child star to young adult seamlessly, playing prissy gay-vague characters, usually costarring with a more macho muscleman: Stuart Whitman in Shock Treatment (1964), Robert Redford in Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Dave Draper in Lord Love a Duck (1966).

His friends were usually muscular, too, such as Scotty Beckett and fellow gay actor Farley Granger. (There was originally a girl between them, but she's been photoshopped out).





During the 1970s, Roddy started making movies again, mostly playing fey, easily-ruffled characters, sometimes comic relief, sometimes villains. Sci-fi, horror, adventure, black comedy: The Poseidon Adventure, The Legend of Hell House, Arnold, Embryo, The Flood!, The Cat from Outer Space, Double Trouble, The Evil Inside Me....  Sadly, he may be best remembered for the gay-vague Galen in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

Occasionally guest spots on tv series, but only two starring roles, on The Fantastic Journey and Tales of the Gold Monkey, which I remember fondly because I dated one of the cast members.

Most of his characters in 261 movie and tv roles were gay-coded, but none were gay.

That's something gay actors of the closet generation would never do.



The key was to not say anything, and occasionally pose for a photo shoot entitled "Calling All Girls."

He died in 1998.