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September 2012

Male Penguins Marry on "Parks & Recreation" (September 17, 2009)

Gaypenguins_parksandrecreation The sitcom Parks & Recreation stars SNL alum Amy Poehler and debuted on NBC's Thursday schedule in the spring of 2009.  For the first episode of its second season, Poehler's character, parks commissioner Leslie Knope, married two penguins, Tux and Flipper, at the Pawnee (Indiana) Zoo - unaware that both were male.  Hilarity and inanity ensued. 


Leslie_knope_poster This innocent publicity stunt incensed the local "family values" organization but Leslie refused their demand that she anul the marriage.  This made her a hero of Pawnee's gay community, including co-worker April's gay boyfriend and his boyfriend, and they honored her at the local gay bar, the Bulge (where one of the songs played was Lady Gaga's Poker Face).  As a further tribute they created a knock-off version of the famous Obama poster replacing the word "Hope" with "Knope".  The next day she commented how she liked being the "queen of the gays".    


However, to defuse the situation in town Leslie finally arranged to send Tux and Flipper to a zoo in Iowa because, as Leslie noted, same-sex marriage is legal there.  


"Happy Homemaker" Sue Ann Nivens Introduced on "Mary Tyler Moore Show" (September 15, 1973)




Before Martha Stewart there was Sue Ann Nivens, "The Happy Homemaker" at fictional Minneapolis TV station WJM.  She made her debut during the first episode of the fourth season of CBS's Mary Tyler Moore Show on Sept. 15, 1973.  As portrayed by the beloved Betty White, Sue Ann was sweet as sugar on the air, but a rather wanton, man-crazed woman off-camera.  She enjoyed zinging Mary and Murray - and ached for Mr. Grant, oh how she ached for him! 


Sue Ann's character had broad audience appeal, but gay men were especially drawn to her because her biting wit and sense of style were prized traits in our social circles.  Some 20 years later Martha became the reincarnation of Sue Ann but on a much grander, well beyond the borders of the Twin Cities.   









"Modern Family's" Cameron & Mitchell - Neutered for Network TV?

ModernFamily_Cameron_MitchellCam and Mitchell, the gay dads from ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family, are a funny, bickering couple - with zero physical chemistry between them.  While I can easily picture the show's two other couples, Claire and Phil and Jay and Gloria, "getting busy" with each other, I can't say the same for the asexual gay duo.  (I can even picture Mr. French and Uncle Bill from Family Affair getting hot and sweaty with each other before these two.)  I don't know who'd be doing what to whom and I think it would end before it started because of fussing from both sides.



And truth be told I don't even think they're that happy a couple.  Their first child, Lily (as lively as a block of wood, since replaced by a more lifelike child), was probably adopted for a diversion and now even she's not enough because at the end of last season Mitchell mentioned to Cam of his desire to have another child - perhaps to assuage their gnawing dissatisfaction with each other? 




Nonetheless, it's gratifying to see a gay couple living openly as a family on TV.  I just wish they didn't come across as a couple of spinster sisters.  For the time being it appears "heat" between couples on network TV is reserved for heterosexuals.      




"Curb Your Enthusiasm" Coins the Phrase "Pre-Gay" (September 11, 2011)

PregayIn the last episode of the HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm's eighth season (airdate: September 11, 2011) Larry had a very amusing encounter with his girlfriend's 7-year old son.  Larry was truly captivated by the boy, Greg, who was innocently flamboyant.  Larry referred to him as "pre-gay" because he had all the tendencies of a gay man but was too young to understand.  Because Greg had told Larry that he was a big fan of Project Runway and loved fashion, Larry gave him a sewing machine for his birthday.  Greg was thrilled but his mother (played by the wonderful Ana Gasteyer) was perplexed.  She turned to Larry and asked, "Are you trying to turn him gay?".  Larry, gave her a priceless look that communicated, "Isn't it fairly obvious he's well on his way?"


Rob_frydlewicz_1964Rob_frydlewicz_snowsuitNot only did Greg remind me of the gay character Kurt from Glee, but of myself when I was a little kid (pictured).  I would flit around the house and enjoyed playing with my friend Diane's and Mary Kay's Barbie Dolls.  And I remember wrapping my sweater around my shoulders when I went with my family to church.  What I also remember is that no one in my family gave me grief.  Perhaps it was because I did some "boy" things as well, e.g. played with building blocks, airplanes and toy cars (which I enjoyed smashing with bricks.)  And I'm sure my dad was encouraged when I showed an interest in baseball as I approached my teen years. 


Happily, especially in light of what happens in schools nowadays, I didn't face much in the way of harrassment from schoolmates - and this was in a factory town near Pittsburgh.  However, my 4th Grade teacher told my parents that, despite my good grades, I wasn't chosen to attend art school on weekends because she didn't consider me a serious child. (I think if she said that today she could be sued for hurting my feelings.)  Yes, I was a happy, high-spirited child, but it's a disposition I would have expected a teacher would welcome.  I don't know what she expected from a 10-year old boy, perhaps participate in a Civil Rights march?         




HBO Presents "And the Band Played On" (September 11, 1993)

And-the-band-played-on-original Based on Randy Shilts' 1987 book by the same name, the TV movie And the Band Played On told the story of the unfolding AIDS crisis and the various obstacles presented by various parties as authorities attempted to determine a way to stop the spread of the deadly disease.  It aired on HBO on Saturday, September 11, 1993.  Its star studded cast included Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Ian McKellen, Swoozie Kurtz, Anjelica Huston, Richard Gere, BD Wong and Steve Martin among others.  Although it recieved critical acclaim, some critics wrote that this cast of well-known actors might distract viewers from the seriousness of the plot.    


Randy_shilts The movie won the Emmy for Best TV Movie.  After it aired it was released in theaters around the world - but not in the U.S.  And less than 6 months after the movie aired Randy Shilts (left) succumbed to AIDS at the age of 42.

"That Girl" Debuts, Makes Marlo Thomas a Star (September 8, 1966)

That_girl_opening The ABC sitcom That Girl starred Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie, an aspiring actress newly moved to Manhattan (she lived on West 78th St.).  While struggling to get her "big break" she took a string of menial, but amusing, jobs.  Being a single gal living in New York City gave the show a unique sensibility from other sitcoms, which were usually about families.  That Girl's first episode aired on Thursday, September 8, 1966 following Bewitched.  (It was also the very same night that Star Trek aired its first episode.)





Although Ann was single she had a devoted boyfriend, Donald Hollinger, an editor at Newsview Magazine. (Donald was played by Ted Bessell, one of the actors I mentioned in a previous post, "Boyhood Crushes on Male TV Stars".)  At the start of the show's fifth, and final season, Ann and Don finally got engaged but viewers were never invited to a wedding.




What is it about That Girl that makes it a kitschy treat for gay men (or at least for this gay man)?  Perhaps it has to do with Ann being involved in the theater, living in New York City to pursue her dreams, having a lovable boyfriend - and always wearing the latest fashions.  And Ethel Merman (below) appeared in two episodes!   




Ann was always getting herself into "I Love Lucy"-type jams.  Classic episodes included those where she became trapped in a fold-up bed, got her toe stuck in a bowling ball, and the one in which she gave an audition from snowed-in JFK Airport on live TV.  




That_girl_dvd BrewsterI always enjoyed the opening few minutes of each episode in which someone would point to Ann and exclaim "THAT girl!".  The show's theme music played as a wonderful montage of shots showed Ann excitedly exploring Manhattan.  And who can forget Ann looking at the mannequin dressed as a princess in the window at Saks and realizing it was her - and the mannequin gives Ann a knowing wink.  I especially liked the carefree shot of her strolling through Lincoln Center on a sunny spring day twirling an open parasol as her dress blows in the breeze.  Lastly, every episode seemed to make mention that she hailed from Brewster, NY (Westchester County), so when I moved to New York and heard the village's name announced in Grand Central Terminal, it made me chuckle knowingly.   





In 1985 Marlo Thomas furthered her gay cred when she co-starred with Martin Sheen as distraught parents of a son who they learn is gay in the TV movie Consenting Adult.  She played the understanding parent who struggled mightily (as Ann Marie might have) to keep the family together. 


Thatbook_about_thatgirl For fans of the show, the entertaining book That Book About That Girl (by Stephen Cole) provides background on the development of the show as well as an episode-by-episode synopsis. 





Michelangelo's "David" is Unveiled in Florence (September 8, 1504)

Rear_view_davidDavids_eyeMichelangelo was in his mid-20s when he worked on the statue David, which took him two years to complete.  The piece of marble he worked with had been left sitting outside, exposed to the elements for some 25 years after it had been hauled from a quarry 60 miles away.  The original commission for the creation of the statue was handed out before Michelangelo was born, but the first sculptor died and the second moved to another village.  This glorious piece of sculpting was unveiled to the Florentine public on Sept. 8, 1504 (Michelangelo was 33 at the time).  Five hundred years later adoring tourists still clamor to gaze upon and pose before it.





I had the good fortune of seeing David in person during a trip to Italy in the spring of 1993 (that's me, below, in the glasses).  This was two years after it had been vandalized.  At seventeen feet tall he was much larger than I expected.  This made him easy to spot, looming in the distance when we entered Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia.  Visitors could get surprisingly close to him, and the smoothness of the marble tempted me to reach out and run my hands over his tight, perfectly formed buttocks.  What a magnificent sight to behold!





Mario_lopez_niptuckLopez_niptuckSpeaking of beautiful butts, fast forward 500 years and we had Mario Lopez's sexy buns to ogle during a tantalizing shower scene from a 2006 episode of the TV show Nip/Tuck.  (It starts at about the one-minute mark.) 








"Take Me Out" Explores Impact of Openly Gay Baseball Player on Teammates (September 5, 2002)




My most lasting memory of the 1994 revival of the musical Damn Yankees was its jaunty shower scene while the players sang HeartTake Me Out, another show I saw with a baseball theme, also had a memorable shower scene, but with a completely different, and hotter, tone.  It opened off-Broadway at the Public Theater on September 5, 2002.  




While Damn Yankees was a light musical about a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for becoming a major league baseball player, Take Me Out was a drama that explored how a team was impacted after one of its star players, portrayed by Daniel Sunjata (pictured), came out.  This premise was somewhat topical at the time because a few years earlier hunky New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza called a press conference to deny rumors dogging him that he was gay.  




Whereas the shower scene in Damn Yankees had each player in separate shower stalls with doors that restricted the view between each player's calves and waist (while they sang the song Heart), Take Me Out's scene took place in an open shower with two totally nude ballplayers (except for shower shoes) having a somewhat sexually charged conversation as they soap up.  It was largely because of this scene that gay men who weren't the least bit interested in baseball eagerly lined up to get tickets.  


Six months after opening, Take Me Out went to Broadway where it won the Tony Award for Best Play - and openly gay actor Denis O'Hare won for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play.  (Sunjata also received a nomination.)





Celebrating Mark Spitz, the First Olympic Sex Symbol (September 1972)

Mark_spitz_redtrunksNo pun intended, but 1972 was seminal year if, like me, you were a teenage boy coming to grips with your same-sex attractions.  First, Burt Reynolds flaunted his stuff for a Cosmopolitan centerfold; then six months later Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz came along in his Speedo.  Spitz was the Mark Phelps of his generation, winning seven gold medals at the Summer Games in Munich.  What was great about him was that you could openly ogle him while watching the Olympics in the living room with your parents.  If you found these tantalizing displays of Mark and Burt's "packages" arousing you knew it was likely you were gay.




Although Spitz and Reynolds both had black hair and mustaches, the hairy chested 36-year-old Reynolds had a lascivious, bad boy grin while the smooth 22-year-old Spitz's smile evinced the innocence of the boy next door.  Gay men benefited from the early feminists who believed that men could be objectified as sex objects for the titillation of women just as their sisters had been subjected to since the beginning of time.




Markspitz_posterSpitz was the first male Olympic star to become a sex symbol.  Four years before the famous Farrah Fawcett poster was plastered in boys' dorm rooms, an equally popular poster of Spitz was available for his female fans.  If you were lucky you had girlfriends who owned the poster.  This display of beefcake for public consumption was long before overt displays of celebrity skin became the norm.         





First Issue of "The Advocate" Published (September 2, 1967)

300px-Advocate1 The Advocate has been reporting on news of interest to gay and lesbian readers for more than 40 years.  Before The Boys in the Band, Stonewall or disco music The Advocate was reporting on gay politics and culture.  As witness to the unfolding gay liberation movement the magazine has become an important part of gay history itself.  Its first issue was published on September 2, 1967 as a newspaper for the Los Angeles area.


Advocate_gayisnewblack Advocate_porn_panic Advocate_hillary_clintonIn the mid-80's the magazine took on a more glossy look and was sized to resemble a traditonal consumer magazine.  To attract national advertisers it removed its notorious sex-oriented ads from the back of the magazine and published them in a separate supplement.  In the 1990's it did away with the supplement completely.  Then in 2007 another milestone occurred when the magazine offered to mail the magazine to subscribers without its brown paper wrapper.


Signorile Camille_paglia The magazine does a good job of mixing politics, entertainment and sex although some have criticized it for relying to heavily on straight celebrities for its cover stories.  Columns have been contributed by a long list of gay luminaries, including Tony Kushner; Michelangelo Signorilie (far right); Andrew Sullivan; Chastity Bono; Urvashi Vaid; Kate Clinton; Janis Ian; Camille Paglia (near right); Bruce Vilanch; and the late Vito Russo.


Advocate_lady_gaga Out_magazine_adele Although The Advocate has outlived the likes of Blueboy, Christopher St. Magazine, After Dark, and Genre some question how much longer it will survive (at least in its print format).  After all, it's gone from being bi-monthly to monthly and is now delivered in a polybag with its sister publication Out (which is noticeably thicker - no pun intended).  Since there isn't a considerable difference between the two editiorially (although Out has a slicker look and features sexy fashion spreads), what is keeping its owner, Here Media Inc., from combining the two?  And if they do, which title will be kept?  With its distinguished pedigree, hopefully it will be The Advocate


(Earlier in the year I published a post that paid tribute to some of my favorite Advocate covers from the past 20 years.)