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September 2012

What Tickles a Gay Man's Funny Bone

Hustler.fruitlabelI've written a number of posts about magazine ads that I've found titillating, so for a change of pace I decided to share another aspect of a gay man's world view by delving into the gay funny bone.  What follows is a selection of ads, post cards and pages torn from magazines that make me chuckle.  Absurd, campy, a touch mean-spirited - they all bring a smile of delight to my face.


  • Below is a fine characterture of the gals from Sex & the City that appeared in the pages of The New Yorker at the time of the release of the second SAC movie.  I laughed for days.  (Actually, Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie looks pretty good.)




  • Quintessential sophomoric humor from National Lampoon in the late 1970s. 




  • South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were good sports when they allowed the tables to be turned on them for this Absolut ad.  This was years before their Book of Mormon fame.




  • Just as they do with drag names, gay men have a knack for coming up with campy captions to accompany innocent photos from a more innocent time.  






  • Joan Crawford + Madonna + Cher = laff riot!  This page was pulled from an issue in Movieline Magazine in the 1990s.  Joan is on the phone from heaven and says, "Madonna has no class and no dignity," declares Joan Crawford from the afterlife.  "And that Cher!  She dressses like a burlesque queen."




  • This cover of TimeOutNY was years before same-sex marriage was legalized in New York State.  The Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall were great in everything they did, and drag was one of there specialties.  Their show first aired in the U.S. in the 1990s on Comedy Central.




  • This ad for the club Limelight, a former church on 6th Avenue and 20th Street, is from the mid-80s.  It had a gay night on Sunday.  This is probably more amusing if you're not overly religious.




  • If you want something more authentic for your Halloween costume than what you can find in the bargain stores on West 14th Street, there's the Museum Replicas catalog to consider. 




  • Finally, two more post cards:







Richard Chamberlain Stars in "Dr. Kildare" (September 28, 1961)

The medical drama Dr Kildare debuted on NBC's primetime schedule on Sept. 28, 1961.  Starring 27-year-old heartthrob Richard Chamberlain, the show aired on Wednesdays at 8:30 and lasted for five seasons.  It was followed at 9:30 by another new show, the sitcom Hazel.  (And at 10:00, Sing Along with Mitch.Kildare was a hit and finished the season as the ninth most popular show (Hazel was #4). 





Richard_chamberlain Vince_edwards_beefcake Although Chamberlain was certainly a handsome young man, I was more drawn to actor Vince Edwards, who also played a doctor on Ben Casey, a competing medical drama on ABC which aired on Mondays (but not as popular).  Edwards was more swarthy and brooding while Chamberlain was a cool WASP.  (My attraction to Edwards' type would continue through adulthood.)  However, at the time I was just five and had no conception about what a same-sex attraction suggested.  (I wrote about other same-sex attractions of my youth in the post Boyhood Crushes on Male TV Stars of the 1960s.)  


It was years before I heard any mention about Chamberlain being gay.  I first heard some talk about his orientation when he starred in the popular 1982 TV mini-series Shogun.  Chamberlain caused a bit of a stir a few years ago when he commented in an interview that he wouldn't advise TV actors to come out.  Chamberlain is now 80 (as of July 2014).  Vince Edwards died in 1996 at the age of 67.




Here's a cheesy tribute to Chamberlain from his Dr. Kildare years that I found on You Tube: 




The Powerhouse of Gay Talent Behind "West Side Story" (September 26, 1957)

Westside.story.1957In the 1920s the New York Yankees baseball team had a lineup that was referred to as "Murderer's Row" because of its hitting talent.  The same moniker could be applied to the gay talent behind West Side StoryLeonard Bernstein wrote the music; Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics; Arthur Laurents wrote the book; and Jerome Robbins was choreographer.  When the show opened on Sept. 26, 1957, Laurents, at age 40, was the "old man" of the group while 27-year-old Sondheim was the "baby". 


Although the show was a hit it would lose the Tony for Best Musical to The Music Man, a show that was more critically embraced and that ran nearly twice as long as West Side Story (1375 performances vs. 732).  It also won the first Grammy for cast album.


Pictured from L to R: Sondheim; Laurents; Hal Prince (producer); Robert Griffiths (producer); Bernstein; Robbins




The Rise & Fall of Popular New York Bar, "Splash" (1991-2013)





Splash, the spacious gay watering hole on West 17th St., opened its doors the evening of Sept. 25, 1991.  It came along just as Uncle Charlie's reign as the "It" bar of the 80s was coming to an end.  At the time Splash's location was a bit off the beaten path, but leave it to "the gays" to begin the gentrification of a neighborhood that soon became a mecca for gay men.


I enjoyed going to Splash because its expansive layout afforded patrons lots of room to walk around and circulate on its two floors.  Its videos were eclectic and entertaining, and if you didn't find them of interest there was always the stable of buff bartenders to stare at as they strutted around bare chested in their skimpy, and very flattering, briefs. 




Over the years Splash went through a number of renovations.  When it first opened it had a shower motif and was famous for its "Splash Dancers" (below) who appeared on a stage, designed as a shower with water spraying, as they slowly performed an erotic dance, solo or with a partner.  And "Musical Mondays", a tribute to Broadway show tunes, was a popular mainstay.




A number of years ago I used a trip to the bar as a business expense when the ad agency I worked at was pitching the Stoli vodka account.  A group of us, a mix of straight and gay men and women, paid a visit to Splash and conducted face-to-face research, chatting with a few bartenders about their work and the liquor preferences of customers.






Splash was in business long enough to have the distinction of serving, entertaining and titillating an entire generation of gay men - but it finally succumbed to the allure Hell's Kitchen held for its clientele and closed its doors in the summer of 2013, seven weeks shy of its 22nd anniversary. 




Only a few bars in the West Village have been in business longer than Splash, including The Monster (since 1982), Ty's (1972, near bottom), and the grand daddy of them all - Julius' (1966, far bottom).  Julius even has its own Wikipedia page.  However, the patrons of these establishments couldn't be more different than Splash's, with a Pines-Cherry Grove comparison an apt one.  The only other bar in Chelsea with longevity, g Lounge, has a crowd similar to Splash - but its square footage is a fraction of Splash's, giving it a claustrophobic feel.    





"Evita" Opens on Broadway, Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin Become Stars (September 25, 1979)

Evita_1979playbillEvita_pattiluponeThe musical Evita had its Broadway opening on the evening of Sept. 25, 1979 and a diva was born - 30-year-old Patti LuPone (and to some degree, Mandy Patinkin).  Six months later, in the first week of April 1980, I had the good fortune of seeing the show.  My favorite numbers were Rainbow High, Oh What a Circus and And the Money Kept Rolling In.  Although I enjoyed it immensely, I found the show's final twenty minutes, when Evita is taken ill and dies, dragged.  (I much preferred the earlier numbers that allowed for Patti's signature bellow and snarl!)  And not long after the show opened the group Festival released its Disco Evita album which was wildly popular at clubs for much of 1980.  



Madonna_evita2Ricky_martin_evitaEvita would win the Tony for Best Musical and LuPone and Patinkin won for Lead Actress and Actor (twenty-eight years passed before Patti received her next Tony, for the role of Mama Rose in the revival of Gypsy).  The show ran until the end of June 1983.  Some thirteen years later the long delayed movie version came out, starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas.  And in 2011 a Broadway revival of the show opened but, unfortunately, despite the drawing power of Ricky Martin, it proved to be a wan successor.      



President Clinton Signs DOMA Into Law (September 21, 1996)

Clinton_signs_doma It was bad enough that President Clinton began his first term by enacting the misguided "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, but as the end of this term approached he signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act on Sept. 21, 1996 (just in time for Election Day).  It allowed states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions and also prevented the federal government from recognizing the validity of such marriages.  Sixteen months later we'd see how the president defended the sacred institution of his "traditional" marriage when his philandering with Monica Lewinsky was uncovered.





After the signing of DOMA, thirty-two states (accounting for nearly 80% of the US population) added amendments to their constitutions defining marriage as the union between a man and woman.  Nonetheless, eight years later Massachusetts became the first state to legalize and perform the first gay marriages.  


Then in 2011 the political landscape shifted dramatically when 1) the US military's noxious "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was repealed and 2) state supreme courts in Massachusetts and California found DOMA unconstitutional.  This was followed in 2012 by President Obama, in the midst of his re-election campaign, announcing his support of same-sex marriage.  In the spring of 2013 Bill Clinton expressed regret over the signing of DOMA, which was quickly followed a few months later by the Supreme Court overturning DOMA and mandating the federal government recognize same-sex marriage in the states where it was legal and provide all benefits previously available only to opposite-sex couples (even in those states where it was still banned).  Finally, in June 2015 the Supreme Court overturned bans on same-sex marriage in 17 states, making it legal nationwide.



"Will & Grace" Debuts on NBC (September 21, 1998)

WillandgraceTV's first gay-themed sitcom was NBC's Will & Grace, which debuted on Sept. 21, 1998.  It first aired on Monday before moving to Thursday's "Must See" lineup (with Friends as its lead-in).  It started out being about the relationship between gay attorney Will and his best friend, interior designer Grace, with Jack and Karen as peripheral characters.  However, Jack and Karen had so much more spunk than the title characters that they soon became as integral to the show as Will and Grace.  When the show first went on the air it was considered somewhat risky since the previous season another sitcom, ABC's Ellen, floundered after its main character came out.    



W&G featured a long list of cameos by high-profile celebrities such as Cher, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Martina Navratilova, Bernadette Peters and Alec Baldwin.  In fact a dependence on such cameos was one of the criticisms of the show in its last few seasons.  At other times it was criticized for having characters that were unlikable; that Will and Grace were too whiny (the reason I wasn't a regular viewer); Will was too non-sexual (especially in the first few seasons); the show wasn't strident enough in addressing social/political issues; or Jack and Karen were too superficial and overexposed.   



The series lasted eight seasons.  Long after its final episode Vice President Joe Biden, credited it for educating the general public and making them more comfortable with gay people and with the idea of same-sex marriage.  (And then in 2018 the show returned, airing again on Thursdays with the same four leads.)



The Saint Opens as AIDS Looms (September 20, 1980)




The Saint, the Yankee Stadium of gay dance clubs, opened its doors the night of Sept. 20, 1980.  Located in New York's East Village, it occupied the space that was formerly home to the famed Fillmore East concert hall.  At the time, the Saint's sound system and lighting were beyond compare.  A planetarium projector rose from under the dance floor and projected stars that swirled against a domed ceiling.  On opening night, the first song to be honored with this awe-inspiring light show was Donna Summer's Could it be Magic?   




Before there were circuit parties, the Saint was a destination for gay men worldwide.  It was a members-only club with annual dues between $150-$250 ($500-$750 in 2021's dollars).  Members had their own lockers, where they could conveniently strip off their street clothes and put on their club gear.  My first time there was in June 1981 shortly before it closed for the summer (when many of its members were out on Fire Island).  


Besides its breathtaking design and incomparable sound system, the allure of dancing, drugs and sex provided escape from the harsh reality that awaited many club goers in the light of day.  That reality would very soon be AIDS.  The club's first season ended just as news reports began circulating about a mysterious cancer striking down gay men.  In just a few years AIDS would decimate the Saint's A-list clientele, and figured largely in the club's closing in April 1988. 




The creator and owner of the Saint, Bruce Mailman (who also owned the Saint Mark's Baths), was one of the thousands of gay New Yorkers who succumbed to AIDS.  He died in 1994 at the age of 55.  He talks about the opening of the Saint in the following video clip:  





Faye Dunaway Chews the Scenery in "Mommie Dearest" (September 19, 1981)

Mommie_dearest The movie Mommie Dearest is based on the tell-all book by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter Christina.  It opened he weekend of Sept. 19, 1981, a little more than four years after Crawford's death at the age of 77.  Faye Dunaway, acclaimed for her roles in Bonnie & Clyde (1967), Chinatown (1974) and Network (1976), portrayed Crawford.  Her over-the-top performance is what made the movie a camp classic but it was said to have ended her career as a leading lady.   


Joan_slapping_christina I always enjoyed a video shown at the bar Splash that repeatedly showed the scene where Joan slaps a fresh Christina (see video clip below).  It was often shown together with a scene from Dynasty in which Krystle slapped Alexis.



The movie is a wall-to-wall camp-fest of quotes.  Among my favorites: 

  • Tear_down_that_bitch_of_a_wall Joan to contractors in her new apartment in Manhattan after she married Pepsi CEO Alfred Steele: "Tear down that bitch of a bearing wall and put a window where it ought to be!"


  • Joan to Christina at her birthday party: "Is that the present you like best?  Then that's the present you can keep.  We'll take the rest to the orphans who don't have anything."


  • Mommie_dearest_angryatthedirt Joan to her maid who finds her cleaning the bathroom floor: "Helga, I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt."


  • "Tina, get me the ax!"


  • Mommie_dearest_i_am_not_one_of_your-fans Joan to Christina: "I don't ask much of you girl.  Why can't you give me the respect I'm entitled to? Why can't you treat me in the way that I'm treated by any stranger on the street?"  Christina: "Because ... I am ... NOT ... one ... of ... your ... fans!!!"  (Commence choking of Christina by Joan).


  • Joan to Christina: "I should have known you'd know where to find the boys and the booze."  


No_wire_hangers Mommy dearest dont fuck with me Because of their overuse, the "no wire hangers" and "don't fuck with me, fellows" quotes aren't particular favorites of mine. 





In Praise of Mary Wilson of The Supremes

Supremes2I've always thought Mary Wilson was the most glamorous of the Supremes.  She had a beautiful smile, a sexy full figure and seemed the most approachable of the three Supremes.  And she was a constant presence through a number of personnel changes that occurred with the group, which she was a part of from 1961-1977.  (In the photo to the right, Mary is in the middle, between Diana Ross and Florence Ballard.)    



Not to take anything away from Diana, but Miss Ross was a largely manufactured star with a reed-thin frame, bulging eyes and a thin, rather screechy voice.  And although she grabbed much of the glory, Mary always gave Diana her due and refrained from badmouthing her.  I own a DVD boxed set of performances from The Ed Sullivan Show and one of the discs is devoted to the Supremes.  (In the photo to the left Mary is shaking Sullivan's hand.)  Watching their glorious performances I would find myself focusing on Mary who always seemed to be having a good time. 




Sadly, Mary recently died (Feb. 8, 2021), a month shy of her 77th birthday (DOB: 3/6/44).  In 1986 her autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme was published.  It focuses on the groups rise and ascent to superstardom.  A sequel titled Supreme Faith was published in 1990 and details the years following Diana's departure and discusses Mary's career after the Supremes.  (The two books have since been combined into one 752-page volume available on Amazon.) 




The Supremes with Ed Sullivan