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Boy Crushes on Male Singing Stars of the 1960s & '70s

Dennis wilson beach boys

 

A number of years ago I wrote a post about male stars of TV shows in the 1960s and '70s who I fancied when I was a kid.  Now, in this post, male singers from that era who roused my innocent attention get the spotlight.  For the most part I watched these singers when they performed on popular variety shows such as Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams or American Bandstand.  As you'll see, I didn't have one type; some singers had masculine swagger, some possessed long-haired sexiness, while others exuded cool sophistication.

 

DENNIS EDWARDS (The Temptations)

The lasting memory I have of Edwards as lead singer of the Temptations was his performance of their hit song from 1969, I Can't Get Next to You, on the Andy Williams Show.

 

Dennis edwards_temptations

 

LEVI STUBBS (The Four Tops)

Stubbs' voice is strongest on hits of the Four Tops such as Bernadette, Standing in the Shadows of Love, Baby I Need Your Loving and Shake Me, Wake Me.

 

Levi stubbs four tops

 

CAT STEVENS

The ethereal Stevens was a prototype for the 21st century's metrosexual.  I was attracted more to his looks than to his songs.

 

Cat stevens

 

JIM MORRISON (The Doors)

Like Cat Stevens, I liked Morrison's mop of unruly hair and his feline sexiness (Mic Jagger of the Rolling Stones was very similar, but he just didn't do it for me).  Favorite songs of his are Love Her Madly, Touch Me and Riders on the Storm.

 

Jim morrison doors

 

KEITH POTGER (The Seekers)

Potger was one of the three musicians of the Australian group The Seekers (biggest hit was Georgie Girl) who backed up singer Judith Durham.  Unlike Jim Morrison's brooding presence, Keith had a sunny disposition.  

 

Keith potger guitar

  Keith potger_seekers

 

LARRY RAMOS (The Association)

Ramos always seemed to have a kind persona.  Born in Hawaii, he reminded me of a former boyfriend of mine who was from Ecuador.

 

Larry ramos the association

 

TED BLUECHEL (The Association)

Even before he grew his hair long and grew facial hair, Bluechel's clean cut was equally appealing.

 

Ted bluechel_the association

 

EDWIN STARR

Most famous for his anti-war song from 1969, War (What is it Good For?), Starr had a club hit during the disco era with Contact.  Other songs of his that I like include Headline News, Twenty-Five Miles and HAPPY Radio.

 

Edwin starr_war what is it good for

 

MARVIN GAYE

His duets with Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross were especially beautiful.  His cool persona brings to mind that of Barack Obama.  Sadly, he died the day before his 45th birthday (shot by his father).

 

Marving gaye smiling in suit

 

Marvin gaye

 

MIKE NESMITH (The Monkees)

Nesmith was goofy-cute rather than debonair or sexy.

 

Mike nesmith

 

TEDDY PENDERGRASS

Pendergrass exuded sex.  By far his best song as a solo artist, in my estimation, was Close the Door.  He also had great songs leading Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (Bad Luck, Wake Up Everybody, Satisfaction Guaranteed). 

 

Teddy pendergrass

 

SAM COOKE

Another cool and debonair act in the Marvin Gaye mold.  And like Gaye, his life, unfortunately, was cut short by a bullet (at the age of 33).

 

Sam cooke

 

DENNIS WILSON (Beach Boys)

Wilson turned crazy as the years went by and he died young (39).

 

Dennis wilson beach boys early years

 

Dennis wilson bare chested

 

JOHNNY MATHIS

He eventually came out, but like Barry Manilow, it was no great surprise.  Besides Chances Are, his holiday song Sleigh Ride is high on the list of my favorite songs of his.

 

Johnny mathis in a tux

 

Johnny mathis_sleigh ride

 

NINO TEMPO

Nino was paired up with April Stevens; their one hit song was Deep Purple from the early '60s.  His appearance reminds me of the Italian fathers who lived in the town I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

 

Nino tempo


Learning About Gay Life Before Stonewall

SageSAGE is a social welfare organization that looks after the needs of elderly gay men and lesbians.  In the summer of 1985, when I was 28, I volunteered for its Friendly Visitor program, which matches volunteers with a SAGE client for weekly visits - to talk, do light errands or have a meal together.  My client was 75-year-old Jim Chesbro, who lived on East 21st St.  He grew up in Albany and was in the Merchant Marines where he was involved in resettling European refugees after World War II.  Like Sammy Davis Jr., he lost an eye in a car accident when he was in his 20s.  His voice reminded me somewhat of Truman Capote's.  Every other week I'd visit with Jim after work for an hour or so.  Besides being gay we were also both Mets fans.  

 

My visits proved beneficial for both of us.  Over a cocktail or a glass of wine he'd tell me stories about his life in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, and I enjoyed getting a first-hand history lesson about what gay life was like back then.  In some respects Jim was the grandfather (s) I never had.  He told me that in Albany everyone in his gay circle had an assigned woman's name (his was Laura) and he'd go to house parties where everyone changed into drag upon arriving.  And in Cherry Grove of the 1950s there was no electricity so dinner parties were held by candlelight and guests often wore tuxes.

 

Albany.ny

 

Occasionally we'd eat at his favorite Chinese restaurant, and he insisted on paying.  He also gave me cash gifts at Christmas, Easter and on my birthday - which was against SAGE regulations.  For Thanksgiving 1985 I made a pumpkin pie for him and we went to dinner at The Old Forge on 3rd Ave. and 17th Street.  And while Jim was always a gentleman, during one visit he said that he'd like to see me in a sailor's suit and have me pretend that I was "rough trade"!  

 

Tom.of.finland.sailor

 

It seemed that most of Jim's gay experiences were with hustlers or furtive moments with straight sailors.  However, he did tell me of one long-term romance.  In the 1930s, before joining the Merchant Marine, he was a teacher and librarian at a prison near Albany, where he carried on a 7-year relationship with a prisoner.  He was able to pull some strings and get him an early parole and they moved to Jacksonville, Florida.  However, it turned out the fellow was more or less straight, so Jim moved out after five months.

 

Usmerchantmarine  

 

Jim's mobility was severely impaired by arthritis, which forced him to curtail traveling, something he used to love to do.  The few times we ventured out he'd use a cane and hold on to me.  It was quite a challenge crossing the street with him before the light changed.  Because of his frail condition Jim wanted me to accompany him to the Jersey shore for a vacation and to Fire Island, where a friend owned a home.  In fact, a weekend visit out to the Pines was planned during the summer of 1986, but Jim took ill and it was postponed. 

 

Jim was a client for little more than a year when he died of a heart attack at the end of July 1986.  I got a call at work from one of the friends he often spoke about, Bill Funck.  Later that day I went down to Jim's apartment and met Bill and a few of the friends he mentioned as well as his sister, Mae, who still lived in Albany.  Bill was the friend of Jim's with the house in the Pines and he invited me out a few weekends later.  (He also owned one of the liquor stores in the harbor.)  His house was on Driftwood Walk, and when I took a share in the Pines ten years later my house was on the same walk.

 

RedWagons.FireIsland

 

After Jim's death, Arlene, the manager of the Friendly Visitor program sent me a note expressing her condolences and encouraging me to call her if I needed to talk.  She also hoped I would continue with the program, but I didn't because I didn't want to experience another client's decline and death.  Also, I had heard from other Friendly Visitors how high maintenance some of the clients could be and I realized how easy I had it with Jim.

 

What struck me as I listened to Jim's stories was that despite the  homophobic times Jim lived in he had fun and interesting experiences, even while living a closeted life.  Nowadays I wonder if gay men in their 20s and 30s think living in the 1970s and '80s was also somewhat of a Dark Ages for acceptance for gay men of my generation.

 

Villagepeople.anorak.uk     

 

 


"The Land of Misfit Toys" - An Early Gay Anthem?

Misfit.toysThe beloved Christmas special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer made its debut in 1964 when I was in the Second Grade.  For me the highlight was the song, The Land of Misfit Toys.  Without knowing why, I identified with this plaintive, sweet number about outcasts who were banished (through no fault of their own).  This included Herbie, the elf who wanted to be a dentist.  As we all know, Rudolph becomes the Moses of the misfits, persuading Santa to include them in his deliveries around the word alongside the "normal" toys.

 

Rudolph.reindeer

 

Herbie.the.elf.and.rudolphOf course the song's progressive message is for anyone who feels out of place and yearns to be accepted by society (however, not all of us feel that way and actively seek out the Land of Misfit Toys, such as Fire Island, Provincetown or San Francisco).  Years later the Disney TV movie High School Musical had a variation of this song, Stick with the Status Quo.  And Misfit Toys was later performed on a Christmas episode of Glee, known for tackling gay issues.  


Remembering Adventures at the Baths: A Gay Rite of Passage

Stackwhitetowels Vaseline RushBefore the onset of AIDS bathhouses were very popular with gay men.  After graduating from college in 1979 I moved to New York and, being a frisky 21-year-old, I felt like a kid in a candy store whenever I'd go to "the baths" - with a variety of different venues to visit.  I went on a regular basis for a little more than a year, from the spring of 1979 thru the summer of 1980.  Besides being exciting it was also a learning experience.   Most of the time I went to the Club Baths, but I also experienced Man's Country, St. Mark's Baths, the Everard and the Big Apple.  Besides being a place for anonymous hook ups, the baths, like bars, also served as a place for making friends.  (I can think of the names of eight guys I met there who I saw outside of the baths on a number of occasions.)  What follows is a synopsis of the venues I went to. 

 

THE CLUB BATHS

The Club Baths was part of a chain with locations across the US.  New York's "franchise" was on 1st Avenue near Houston St. next door to an Hispanic funeral parlor.  It had a lounge with a bar and TV and there was a swimming pool and sauna downstairs.  The price of admission got you a locker; for an additional charge you could rent a cubicle-sized room (with a cot and a door) for four hours.  I never rented a room since I preferred walking about the complex - and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of rejecting those I wasn't interested in (and there were many, especially since I was fresh meat and everyone wanted a taste).  For those looking for groups of guys to play with there was an orgy room, a movie room with bunks, and a maze.  Patrons walked around with a towel wrapped around their waists and opened it, or dropped it to the floor, as "opportunities" presented themselves.

 

Mark.beard_manintowel
Mark Beard, "Man in a White Towel"

 

My first trip on a New York subway was made during a visit to the baths.  I usually went on Saturday night, arriving around 9PM and staying until daybreak, when I'd fine myself on the subway with people who looked like they were going to church.  Since I lived in New Jersey at the time it wasn't an easy trip, but the fun that awaited easily motivated me.

Disco station WKTU played throughout the complex.  Whenever I hear songs such as Put Your Body In It (Stephanie Mills); Harmony (Suzy Lane); Street Life (The Crusaders); or Yellow Beach Umbrella (Bette Midler), warm memories come to mind.  The music would be regularly interrupted by the desk clerk announcing a room number whenever its four-hour rental was about to expire. 

 

Club.baths

 

THE BIG APPLE

The first bathhouse I ever went to was The Big Apple in the Times Square area - on Good Friday.  My first encounter was with a lawyer from Mexico City whose name was Javier.

 

Javier.fernandez  

 

ST. MARK'S BATHS

Located on St. Mark's Place in the East Village, the St. Mark's Baths had the reputation for attracting the hottest men.  The one time I went there was on a balmy October evening and the roof deck was open.

 

Stmarksbaths2

 

MAN'S COUNTRY

Man's Country was on West 15th St. between 5th and 6th Avenues.  Like the other bathhouses, it was multi-level with long, narrow floors.  What made it unique, however, was that upon entering one of the floors you came face-to-face with the front of a red semi with a trailer attached that guys went into to have sex.  This floor also held jail cells for more role playing scenarios.  A famous billboard for Man's Country was in Sheridan Square with the word "Come" dominating.

 

Come_mans.country

 

THE EVERARD

It was infamous for a deadly fire in 1977 that killed nine patrons.  It was located on 5th Avenue south of 34th St.  I went there in the winter of 1980 (it relocated a few blocks after the fire) and met a fellow named Gordon who I dated until the end of the summer.  I'd take the train up to his place in Poughkeepsie on weekends.  He is just one of the men I saw outside of the baths ...

 

NOT ALL ENCOUNTERS WERE ANONYMOUS

Perhaps the most interesting experience I had with someone I met was with Joey, owner of a car dealership in Westchester County, who took me out on his boat in the town of Harrison on Long Island Sound.  He picked me up on a Saturday morning in August 1979 and there were two children in the backseat of his car.  It turns out he was married, and while he and I went out on the boat to "relax" his wife and kids were back at the boathouse.

Dennis was a Catholic priest from Douglaston, Queens, who I met through a personal ad in the Village Voice.  Although I didn't meet him at the baths I introduced him to the Club Baths on a Friday when it was "Buddy Night" and two got in for the price of one.  Another fellow, Tom, a librarian from Scranton, PA, invited me to visit him but with the caveat that since he lived with his father we'd have to have sex in his car in the garage.  We spoke on the phone a few times but I didn't take him up on his invitation.

 

Man.white.towel

 

Bill was a guard at the US Embassy in Iran on Tehran's Teleghani Ave.  I met him in the summer of 1979, just a few months before embassy personnel were taken hostage.  Then there was Bruce (at first he told me his name was Rick), who was a chef at a restaurant on Cape Cod during the summer in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard.  On one date he came to my apartment and made Coq au vin and showed me how to prepare asparagus.  Phillip, who lived in Inwood in northern Manhattan, was the first black guy I was ever with.

Mel was a former copywriter at McCann Erickson and lived on Staten Island.  I've only been to that borough a few times in my life and the first time was to visit him.  He took me to see the Broadway musical Whoopie and we also saw the Woody Allen film Manhattan.  His was the first uncut cock I ever "encountered."  One more thing - he was in his early 50s, my father's age.

Bill, originally from Milwaukee, was a temp at Touche Ross (before it became Deloitte Touche) and lived at an SRO on West 12th St. off 6th Ave. called the Ardsley House.  He took me to the Russian Tea Room for dinner.  He was smitten with me but I wasn't ready for a serious relationship.  His was the first of many hearts I've broken.

Don lived in Bethpage on Long Island and I visited him there on Memorial Day weekend 1979.  Upon coming back on Sunday I went directly to the baths and ended up meeting Joe from Bensonhurst Brooklyn.  On one of our dates we saw Alien in Times Square and during the movie his car was towed.  He had a share out in the Pines but he wouldn't take me because he didn't think I was ready.

 

Towel

 

My adventures at the baths ended once I started seriously dating someone in September 1980 (we didn't meet at the baths).  Many bathhouses closed by the mid-80s in the midst of a backlash caused by the onset of AIDS.  Today there are a few in business (e.g. The West Side Club in Chelsea), but they aren't nearly as popular as they were back in the carefree '70s.

 

Continental.baths
Poster for a 2013 documentary about the iconic bathhouse, which had its heyday before I moved to New York.

 

 

 

 

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The A+ List of Well-Known Gay & Lesbian Celebrities

Neil.patrick.harris NeilPatrickHarrisTonyAwardsShow2011_article_story_main Nph_motherAs I perceive it, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, Ryan Murphy and Rachel Maddow are today's most overexposed gay personalities (or, as Barbara Walters might refer to them as, the most fascinating).  However, a Google search I did on more than 300 gay celebs turned up many others who seem equally high profile (the top 50 can be found at the end of this post).

 

 

Harvey.fierstein Melissa.etheridge20 years ago there were very few "out" celebrities so it made sense that the token few, e.g., Harvey Fierstein, Melissa Etheridge and kd lang, received extensive media coverage.  Since then there's been a proliferation of openly gay celebs (a good thing), but an inordinate amount of attention still goes to a rather select group. 

 

 

Calvinklein Steve.kmetkoOf the 300+ included in this analysis, the typical celeb had 500,000 search results.  They ranged from 16,000 (for Steve Kmetko - remember him?) to 19 million (Calvin Klein).  There were thirteen well-known LGBTs whose names each generated more than 5 million search results - I guess you can call them the gay A+ List.  At the other end of the spectrum, there were 50 celebs/former celebs with fewer than 100,000 mentions.  (For some perspective, I, a mere gay mortal, had 5,000).

 

 

Natesilver TomdaleyNaturally, some of the names among the top 50 have been in the news of late, including newly out actress Ellen Page, figure skater Johnny Weir and stats guru Nate Silver (pictured, far left).  (Surprisingly, neither Michael Sam or Jason Collins were in this select group, ranking 59th and 61st).  By age, six of the top 50 were older than 65, with Giorgio Armani, at 78, the oldest.  Seven were younger than 30, with Tom Daley (pictured) being the youngest, at 19.  Ellen DeGeneres had the most search results for lesbians, but only ten others joined her.

 

 

Tim.cook.apple Annie.leibovitzActors, singers and fashion designers dominate the upper echelons of gaydom, comprising two-thirds of the top 50.  (The designers were, no doubt, boosted by their eponymous clothing labels.)  Outside of these fields we have  statistician Nate Silver; personal trainer Jillian Michaels; Apple CEO Tim Cook; photographer Annie Leibovitz; blogger Perez Hilton; interior designer Nate Berkus; and drag performer Ru Paul

   

 

Rachel.maddow Anderson.cooper.vanity.fair EllenshowAnd where do the five I thought were most overexposed rank?  Neil Patrick Harris is second; Ellen is fifth and Anderson Cooper, 30th.  Rachel Maddow and Ryan Murphy, however, are further down the list at 65th and 68th, respectively.  Still respectable but not nearly as high as I expected.

 

 

Robbie.williams Jason.wu JakeshearsWho was I surprised to see among the elite 50?  Besides Calvin Klein at #1, I was also taken aback by the inclusion of singers Robbie Williams (pictured, far right), George Michael, Mika, Tracy Chapman and Boy George; Jillian Michaels fom Biggest Loser; fashion designers Alexander Wang, Jason Wu (pictured) and Zac Posen; and British actor Steven Fry.  And those who I was surprised to see lower than the top 100 include ABC's Robin Roberts (#112); fashion guru Tim Gunn (#142); sexy Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters (#164, pictured near right); diving legend Greg Louganis (#177) and gay blogger Andy Towle (#294).

 

TOP 50 GAY PERSONALITIES
(Ranked by # of Google Search Results)
     
    Search Results
  Profession (In Millions)
Calvin Klein Fashion Designer 19.1
Neil Patrick Harris Actor 14.6
Elton John Singer/Songwriter 12.7
Marc Jacobs Fashion Designer 11.0
Ellen DeGeneres Talk Show Host 10.8
Michael Kors Fashion Designer 10.6
Robbie Williams Singer 10.0
Ricky Martin Singer   9.8
Tom Ford Fashion Designer   9.4
Mika Singer   7.1
George Michael Singer/Songwriter   6.7
Pet Shop Boys Pop Music Duo   5.8
Adam Lambert Singer   5.4
Giorgio Armani Fashion Designer   4.6
Tegan & Sara Pop Music Duo   4.5
Rosie O'Donnell TV Personality   4.3
Alexander Wang Fashion Designer   4.3
Ellen Page Actress   4.2
Frank Ocean Rap Singer   3.6
Portia de Rossi Actress   3.4
Tim Cook Business Executive   3.0
Johnny Weir Figure Skater   2.5
Jillian Michaels Trainer   2.4
Jason Wu Fashion Designer   2.4
Zachary Quinto Actor   2.3
Don Lemon News Anchor   2.3
Jodie Foster Actress   2.3
Tracy Chapman Singer/Songwriter   2.2
Perez Hilton Blogger   2.2
Anderson Cooper News Anchor   2.2
Jean Paul Gaultier Fashon Designer   2.1
Zac Posen Fashion Designer   2.0
Lily Tomlin Actress   2.0
Nate Silver Statistician   2.0
Andy Cohen Cable TV Executive   2.0
Ian McKellen Actor   1.9
Annie Leibovitz Photographer   1.8
Jesse Tyler Ferguson Actor   1.7
RuPaul Drag Performer   1.7
Boy George Singer/Songwriter   1.7
John Galliano Fashion Designer   1.7
George Takei Actor   1.7
Nate Berkus Interior Designer   1.6
Graham Norton Talk Show Host   1.6
Matt Bomer Actor   1.6
Wentworth Miller Actor   1.6
Stephen Fry Actor   1.6
Diana Nyad Swimmer   1.6
Tom Daley Diver   1.5
Chris Colfer Actor   1.5
(For period 3/20-24/2014)    

 


Early Indicators That Pointed to a "Pink" Future

Pre-gayA few years ago on the season premiere of HBO's sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry, the show's protagonist, had an amusing first encounter with his girlfriend's precocious, bordering on flamboyant,  7-year-old son, Greg.  Greg was likely not aware of his gay tendencies (e.g., Project Runway was his favorite show), so Larry referred to him as being "pre-gay".  I could relate because, looking back, all the indicators were there for me as well.  Here are nine of them, memories from when I was a boy:

 

  • When I was six years old I'd wrap my sweater around my shoulders.  If I was lying on my stomach on my bed or on a beach towel I'd kick my legs up and swing them like I was Annette Funicello or Sandra Dee.
  • I had a crush on actor Bill Bixby and the Beatles' Paul McCartney.

 

Billbixby1

 

  • When I played with boy friends in my sandbox, I liked to have them take off their shoes and socks so I could pour sand over them.

 

Sandbox

  • I liked to look through my Dad's issues of Sports Illustrated in hopes of catching a glimpse of athletes in their bare feet or bare chested in the locker room. (I remember feasting my eyes on a bare chested and bare footed Oakland Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica sitting in front of his locker.)  I also liked to watch post-game locker room celebrations on TV in hopes of catching a glimpse of a sweaty bare chest.
  • My musical tastes leaned towards Carly Simon, the Andrew Sisters, Manhattan Transfer, Bette Midler and the Carpenters.

 

Carpenters

  • I still remember the cologne my first male teacher, Mr. Heller (6th Grade), wore - Jade East.

 

Jade.east.cologne

  • I liked playing with my girlfriends' Barbie dolls.
  • Photos often showed me posed with my right hand on my hip. 

 

20140101_084546

 

  • Finally, in the First Grade I had a crush on a schoolmate whose name was Jefferey Bidding.  I was crushed when he moved at the end of the school year.

 

However, at the same time I also possessed some traditional boylike characteristics.  For instance I liked cars, airplanes and building blocks, enjoyed playing wiffle ball with my brother and when I occasionally played touch football with the neighborhood kids I'd get exhilarated whenever I got roughed up.  I also enjoyed making fires and crushing my metal and plastic cars with bricks.  And blue was my favorite color.

 

My parents never tried to steer me in either direction and I did the things that appealed to me; my brother and sister never harassed or ridiculed me.  Furthermore, I never suffered at the hands of bullies, although looking back I certainly could have - kids weren't as mean and hateful as they seem to be now.

 

 


Homophobic Front Page Article Runs in New York Times (December 17, 1963)

Nytimes_overt_growth_of_homosexualityImagine you were gay and living in New York in December 1963.  Like the rest of the country you were undoubtedly still recovering from the shock of President Kennedy's assassination a few weeks earlier.  Perhaps the Christmas holiday would lift your spirits somewhat.  Then on the morning of December 17, 1963 you picked up the New York Times and saw a lengthy news story on Page One with the headline, "Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern".  Quite a dispiriting way to start your day. 

 

Gay_newyork_george_chaunceyThe article, which began, "The problem of homosexuality in New York ...", was wide-ranging in scope, covering legal issues; opinions from psychiatrists; observations about habits, night life and occupations of gay men as well as the neighborhoods they congregated in.  Words such as "problem", "degenerates", "inverts", "disease" were sprinkled throughout.  (Perhaps the song "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" from The Sound of Music was inspired by the "problem" of homosexuality that psychiatrists were trying to solve.)  However, the article also served, unwittingly, as a course in Homosexuality 101 for isolated homosexuals or those just coming to terms with their same-sex attractions. 

 

Here are some of my favorite, jaw-dropping passages (some are paraphrased).

  • Sexual inverts have colonized three areas of the City: Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side from the upper 40s through the 70s, and the Upper West Side.
  • Dregs of the invert world congregate around Eighth Avenue and 42nd St.
  • They have their favored clothing suppliers who specialize in the tight slacks, short-cut coats and fastidious furnishing favored by many, but by no means all, male homosexuals.
  • The word "gay" has been appropriated as the adjective for homosexual.  A homosexual probably derives secret amusement from innocent employment of the word in its original meaning by "straight" - that is, heterosexual - speakers.
  • In summer, the New York homosexual can find vacation spots frequented by his kind - notably parts of Fire Island, a section of the beach at Jacob Riis Park, and many others.

Gayguys_1960s

  • In some areas of the East Side "middle class" homosexuals lead outward lives that are prosperous and even gay in the original sense.  By contrast, homosexuals who live in the Upper West Side are of a less prosperous class who drift through boarding houses.
  • The tendency of high-fashion designers to produce styles that minimize or suppress womanly curves isn't an expression of homosexual hostility toward women but rather an expression of fear.
  • 1962's "Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals" recommended that a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son.  He acts as a neutralizing, protective agent should the mother make seductive or close-binding attempts.   

 

And yet, despite the less then positive depiction of New York City's gay residents, a number of positive observations were made:

  • No attempt is made, the police commissioner said, to enforce the theoretical ban on private homosexual conduct between consenting adults.
  • Parental concern over homosexual offenses involving minors is probably excessive according to most psychiatrists and public officials - no more common than molesters of girls.  Prevailing psychiatric opinion is that a single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality unless a predisposition already existed in the individual.
  • From homosexual subjects he had treated, Dr. Abram Kardiner noted that it was easier and less risky for a homosexual man to find a paramour than it was 25 years earlier.
  • Dr. Bieber believes that wiping out negative attitudes would contribute to healing homosexuality rather than creating it.
  • In a study of 300 homosexual men, 97% told freelance writer Randolfe Wicker that they would not change even if change were easy.

 

The full article can found here.

 

 

 


"Valley of the Dolls" - A Delightful, Trashy Mess of a Movie - And a Classic

Neely_helenlawson_fightValley of the Dolls was a huge best seller when the novel was published in 1966.  And it was an equally popular, although critically panned, movie that was released just before Christmas in 1967 (Dec. 15).  After adjusting for ticket price inflation, the $44 million it made at the box office (making it the 6th highest grossing movie of the year) is the equivalent of $300 million today.  Despite the date of its release, it would never be considered a holiday classic, but it's a beloved camp classic of many gay men.  (Perhaps the various Housewives iterations on Bravo were inspired by this movie? )

 

Valleyofdolls_neely2The movie tells the cautionary tale about the sordid underbelly of show business - Broadway as well as Hollywood.  Neely O'Hara, portrayed by Patty Duke, is "discovered", rapidly ascends to stardom, gets hooked on booze and pills and is discarded.  Judy Garland was the original choice to play the bigger than life Broadway star Helen Lawson.  (However, it was Neely O'Hara's character whose professional life mirrored Judy's in terms of pills and liquor).  20 years after VOD was released I was introduced to the movie by my gay boss.

 

Bitchy_fags_valleyofdollsIn keeping with the attitude toward gays in the 1960s, the portrayal of homosexuals in Dolls was not a positive one.  They were dismissively referred to as "fags".  Today, nearly 50 years later, this portrayal is  somewhat amusing and instructive of how attitudes have changed. 

 

Helen.lawson_treeThere are so many wonderfully awful scenes to relish.  For example, Neely being discovered at a telethon; a montage of Neely's typical crazy day as she rises to stardom; the song "Come Live With Me"; Helen singing "I'll Plant a Tree" in front of Calder-like mobile (pictured); Neely and Helen's confrontation in the lounge at a restaurant; Neely grasping for her "dolls".

 

Here are a dozen of my favorite lines:

  • This IS an exciting business! (An agent's assistant while watching from the side of the stage during Neely's breakout performance at a telethon)
  • The only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson, and that's ME, baby, remember?  (Helen Lawson, after demanding Neely be fired because she was taking attention from her.)
  • I'll plant my own tree and I'll make it grow ..." (Helen Lawson singing her show stopper, "I'll Plant My Tree)
  • I'll go out the way I came in. (Helen Lawson, in the ladies' lounge at a restaurant, after Neely pulled off her wig and flushed it down the toilet.)
  • I'm not the butler, Neely. (Neely O'Hara's husband) You're not the breadwinner either (Neely's snarky reply).
  • Mother, I know I don't have any talent, and I know all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises. (Sharon Tate's character, Jennifer, on the phone with her disparaging mother)

 

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  • I have to get up at five o'clock in the morning and SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE! (Neely)
  • I wouldn't pay any attention to that. You know how bitchy fags can be!
  • Ted Casablanca is NOT a fag... and I`m the dame who can prove it.  (Neely)
  • Don`t worry, sweetheart. If the show folds I can always get you a part as understudy for my grandmother. (Neely to Helen)
  • They drummed you right outta Hollywood! So ya come crawlin` back to Broadway. Well, Broadway doesn`t go for booze and dope! (Helen to Neely)
  • Now you get outta my way, I got a guy waitin` for me. (Helen) That`s a switch from the fags you`re usually stuck with! (Neely) Helen Lawson: At least I never had to MARRY one! (Helen)

 

There are camp classics that are fine movies such as All About Eve and The Women, then there are the trashy classics such as Show Girls, Mommie Dearest and then there is ... Valley of the Dolls

 

In the fall of 1996 there was an off-Broadway production of Dolls they played at Village in the Square in Greenwich Village (Bleecker St.) starring Jackie Beat as Helen.  It was a parody which seemed odd considering it was already laughable in its original release.  I saw it twice.  

 


The Role Sports Illustrated Played in the Stirrings of My First Same-Sex Attractions

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My father was a big sports fan and subscribed to Sports Illustrated.  Although I wasn't into sports at the time, I'd page through an issue if there was an attractive male athlete on the cover.  Back then (the 1960s and early 70s) I had no inkling what being gay was all about, but I do remember feeling a tingle of excitement whenever I came across a photo in an issue showing a sweaty, bare chested athlete whooping it up with fellow athletes.  I didn't question this frisson of excitement, I just went with it.  (I never got the same excitement from SI's Swimsuit issue.) 

 

To commemorate the early stirrings created by these rather chaste covers, I've chosen some choice examples that tickled my nascent gay fancy.

 

This is Bruce Jenner, years before he got hooked on plastic surgery.  He was 26 when this issue hit newsstands during his gold medal winning performance in Decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

 

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Here is Joe Namath after he led the New York Jets to an improbable Super Bowl championship in 1969.  He was 25 at the time.

 

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This December 1961 cover shows 27-year-old defenseman Dan Currie of the Green Bay Packers.  Six years later a similar rain-themed cover was published with a player named Dan, who looked very much like Currie (Dan Reeves of the Cowboys).

 

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The sexy focus of Ron Swoboda of the New York Mets, readying himself for the pitch ...

 

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Mickey Mantle of the Yankees, the all-American boy.  This cover was from the summer of 1962 when he was 31.

 

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Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins at the age of 22.

 

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Whodem doesn't love a man in uniform?  This one is halfback Joe Bellino from the U.S. Naval Academy, winner of the 1960 Heisman Trophy.

 

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Swimmer Chet Jastremski, Indiana University, shown here during the winter of 1962.  He took a break from medical school to compete in the 1964 Olympics.  

 

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NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain at the age of 36.  This was back when basketball players not only shot baskets but showed off their baskets in the short shorts they wore.  These are now a distant memory, replaced by unflattering, long and baggy shorts. 

 

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Steve Garvey, another all-American athlete who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He was later knocked off his pedestal when stories of philandering were revealed (which was a somewhat novel revelation back then).

 

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This cover of pitching great Juan Marichal appealed to my aesthetic sensibility.  The headline, "Latin Conquest", also got my attention.

 

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And finally, even as a grown man a cover occasionally opens my eyes and brings back memories of the early years ...

 

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A Long Overdue Return Visit to Provincetown

Provincetown_tshirt Rob_frydlewicz_provincetown_summer2013Between 1980 and 1995 I vacationed in Provincetown on a regular basis.  Then I began spending summers at Fire Island and stopped making the trek up to this charming gay resort located at the tip of Cape Cod.  However, I recently had an unexpected vacation there when my friend Andy, who had made arrangements to go there for a long weekend, had a change of plans and asked if I'd be interested in going in his place - all expenses paid.  So on Thursday morning I took the train up to Boston and from there boarded the speed ferry for the 90-minute trip to this quaint Portuguese fishing village.  I was delighted to be able to take advantage of this opportunity because I have fond memories of P-town.

 

I stayed at a guest house in the heart of town off Commercial St. called Watership Inn.  A cozy place, it consists of a number of weather-beaten buildings which encircle a small backyard.  However, its interior was a bit dreary and dark for my taste, bringing to mind the mansions of the Addams Family or Dark Shadows.

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RSCN5619I was pleasantly surprised to find that the town was largely the way I remember, especially the mix of pedestrians, bikes and cars clogging Commercial Street.  And the downtown scene was as vibrant as ever.  The Lobster Pot and Spiritus Pizza were still there as were the art galleries, crafts shops, little stores that sell salt water taffy, Gale Force bike rentals, tea dance at the Boatslip and many of the restaurants.  The big guest houses were bustling, including some I once stayed at - Captain Jack's Wharf, Anchor Inn and Gifford House.  However, one restaurant I fondly remember, Tips for Tops'n on Bradford St., was no longer there, having closed just last summer.  One addition I ruefully noted was the Marc Jacobs store (but no Starbuck's or Chipotle - yet).   

 

Visiting P-town was also a nice respite from New York "attitude" as I found the people here friendlier and less pretentious than those who summer in the Pines.  (But when it comes to sex appeal, the boys of the Pines win hands-down!)  And while Provincetown reminds me somewhat of Cherry Grove, it's missing the shrillness of the Bridge & Tunnel residents who give the Grove its "personality". 

 

Provincetown_fog Provincetown_monument_clearskiesThe weather was gray and drizzly on my first full day, a Friday, but bright blue skies abounded on Saturday.  And I was happy with both conditions.  After all, overcast skies are great for photos since colors "pop" in the dull light, and the delight of sunny skies go without saying.  However, Sunday turned uncomfortably humid under a light overcast.   

 

To close, what follows is a gallery of photos, showing various aspects of Provincetown, beginning with some of the town's architecture. The middle photograph shows P-town's library.

 

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File these four under "The Charm of Provincetown" ...

 

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In addition to the many galleries, outdoor sculpting is scattered about town.  The first is titled "Tourists" and is situated in front of the library.  The two photos that follow were snapped on MacMillan Pier, the place where visitors go for a whale watching tour and to get the ferry back to Boston.

 

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