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December 2013

What Makes the Yuletide Gay?

20131216_125933 What's not to love about Christmas, especially if you're a gay man?  Tinsel, ribbons and Garland - specifically, Judy's 1963 Christmas show!  And when we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer who didn't feel a connection with Herbie the Elf and the toys found on the Island of Misfit Toys?  Then there's the beloved Christmas carol, Deck the Halls.  Not only does it have the fabulous line, "Don we now our gay apparel", but a chorus of "fa la la la la, la la la la" to boot!  Besides that song, we also embrace Christmas music in general, especially if it's sung by the Carpenters or Julie Andrews.  And who can forget the Salsoul Orchestra's classic Christmas Jollies album?


Wrapping_xmas_presentHowever, I must admit there is one aspect of Christmas I don't embrace, and that is wrapping presents.  Although I love beautiful wrapping paper, I've never developed a flair for transforming a package into a work of art - and I have no patience whatsoever when it comes to ribbons and bows.  (I'm more of a brown paper packages tied up with string kind of guy.)  I guess when they were handing out the Martha Stewart gene I must have been in the line for liking baseball.  But let's not dwell on "bah humbug".  Rather, with dreams of sugar plums dancing in my head, here's a ZeitGAYst toast to the Christmas season ....



  • From the movie White Christmas (not to be confused with Holiday Inn), the wonderful number "Sisters" was performed by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and then, hilariously, by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye ...





  • A "Glee"-ful Christmas.  And who can forget Kurt and Blake's spicy duet of Baby It's Cold Outside from the show's 2010 Christmas episode?




  • Here's some gay apparel ...





  • Tzabaco was one of a number of catalogs in the early to mid 1990s that was targeted to gay and lesbian shoppers (Shocking Gray was another).  Alas, it didn't survive more than a few years. 





  • Hats and underwear count as apparel ... 






  • With names like Dancer & Prancer, can two of Santa's reindeer be anything but gay?




  • Although not a movie, per se, about Christmas, a key scene early in John Waters' Female Trouble takes place on Christmas morning when rebellious high school student Dawn Davenport (played by Divine) goes ballistic on her parents when she doesn't get the "Cha-Cha heels" she so covets.




  • And finally, holiday cards from dear, dear friends ... 






May all of your Christmases be pink ...


Here are a few other posts I've written with a Christmas theme:

Jingle Bells or Jingle Balls?

Bette Midler Stars in Holiday Commercial for Honda

Martha Stewart's First Christmas Special

Christmas Ads That Spread Holiday Cheer










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




Imagine that 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 Dec. 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. 


The 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.




  • 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




Valley 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.  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? )


The 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 then 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 boss, who was gay.




In 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, more than 50 years later, this portrayal is  somewhat amusing and instructive of how attitudes have changed. 




There 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)




  • 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 doesnt 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 that 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.  


Primetime TV's 12 Sexiest & Most Adorable Actors

Skylar_astin3This past fall (in 2013), while I was watching post-season baseball on TBS (yes, you read that correctly) the network bombarded viewers with promos for a new sitcom, The Ground Floor.  But rather than being annoyed, I found myself enchanted by its young star, 26-year-old Skylar Astin.  I wasn't familiar with him from his previous work on the stage (Spring Awakening) or screen (Pitch Perfect), and until I Googled him for this post I thought he was the brother of Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) and son of Patti Duke Astin.  Perhaps because the show has a completely hetero, boy meets girl premise, I find myself amused, as perhaps only a gay man could be, by its tagline, "Contrasting the top and the bottom".


Skylar inspired me to write a post of appreciation about a number of other actors who can make even a weak series somewhat salvageable.  They're listed below.  In my opinion all of them are sexier than People's latest Sexiest Man, Adam Levine.    


James Wolk/The Crazy Ones (28 years old) - Although this post was inspired by Astin, Wolk is my favorite.  He first came to my attention last year on Mad Men where he played an eager account executive with a shadowy past who was revealed to be gay.  This season he's on another show about advertising, the new CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones




Chris Messina/The Mindy Project (39) - Chris plays Danny Castellano, a medical colleague of Mindy's (played by Mindy Kaling).  They carry on a delicious flirtation that each episode comes close to blossoming into romance only to be thwarted.  He's also on the HBO drama The Newsroom.




Reid Scott/VEEP (36) - Scott plays Dan, an obsequious staff assistant to Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on HBO's sitcom VEEP.  Although he's straight, Dan is the type who will do anything to get ahead, so even a same-sex dalliance might not be out of the realm of possibility.  One can only hope.




Max Greenfield/New Girl (33) - This one always seems to find himself in situations which require him to strip down.  Which is interesting because it brings attention to a physical flaw, which is his tiny, mosquito-bite sized nipples.




Josh Hopkins/Cougar Town (43) - Hopkins character, Grayson, plays hubbie to Courtney Cox's character on this TBS sitcom (that started out on ABC).  Grayson brings to mind Terri Hatcher's husband, Mike Delfino, on Desperate Housewives, except Hopkins has more of a puppy dog quality.. 




Taylor Kinney & Jesse Spencer/Chicago Fire (32/34) - Actually more hunky than adorable, these two are quite a duo.  They do fireman nationwide proud.






Darren Criss/Glee (26 yo) - As Kurt's charming boyfriend, Blaine, on Fox's Glee, Criss is the only actor on this list who plays a character still in his teens.





Josh Charles/The Good Wife (42) - You won't find one vampire, meth dealer or duck hunter among the characters on my list.  In fact, half of the them work in professional occupations such as the fields of Finance, Medicine and Journalism.  And Charles' character, Will Gardner (RIP), is one of two attorneys on this list. 




Dan Bucatinsky/Scandal (48) - The only openly gay actor on this list and the oldest of the bunch as well.  Bucatinsky won an Emmy for his role as gay journalist James Novak, who's also the husband of the president's male chief of staff.  Bucatinsky also plays Lisa Kudrow's ditzy assistant on the Showtme sitcom Web Therapy.





Glenn Howerton/The Mindy Project (37) - One in a string of boyfriends of the title character, Howerton plays Cliff, an attorney who works in the same building as Mindy, where she works as an obstetrician/gynecologist.




Honorable Mentions: Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation); Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother); Seth Green (Dads).

Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney's First Movie Together (December 3, 1937)

Thoroughbreds.dont.cryAfter Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the next most popular movie pairing of the 1930s and 1940s was Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.  Between 1937 and 1943 they appeared in eight movies together.  The first of these, Thoroughbreds Don't Cry, opened in theaters on December 3, 1937.  At the time Judy was 15 and Mickey 17.  (This was two years before The Wizard of Oz.) 


Strikeuptheband2Probably their most popular movies were Babes in Arms (1939); Strike Up the Band (1940); Babes on Broadway (1942); and Girl Crazy (1943).  (Available in a boxed set on Amazon.)  All contained delightful, over-the-top-musical numbers that could very well have been the inspiration behind Disney's wildly popular High School Musical franchise.


Judy.mickeyWhat's always struck me about these movies was the comportment of their characters.  Their interaction with each other and the other teens was what you might expect from adults in regards to being polite and in their formal introductions ("Miss Jones I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Miller.")  I realized that back then movies were used as a way to teach social skills to the masses.  Fast-forward to the present and the exact opposite is happening on TV as reality shows instruct viewers in how to be anti-social as a way to gain fame.


Besides their eight movies together, they also appeared in two other movies that weren't traditional Mickey and Judy movies; they appeared in just a few scenes together: Thousands Cheer (1943) and Words and Music (1948).


Tim Gunn Urges "Project Runway" Competitors to "Make it Work!" (Dec. 1, 2004)

Tim.gunn2On Dec. 1, 2004 the fashion-design reality show Project Runway debuted on Bravo and its viewers were introduced to the debonair, yet avuncular, co-host, Tim Gunn, and his catch phrase - "Make it work!".  (Not to be confused with RuPaul's catch phrase - "You better work!", from 12 years earlier.)  A few years later the show moved to Lifetime where it still airs - and Gunn is still part of the show.  Like the cast of another Bravo that debuted the year before, Queer Guy for the Straight Guy, Gunn distinguished himself with his approachable nature.


At the time he was hired for Project Runway Gunn was dean of New York's Parsons School of Design.  Since then he has hosted another reality show, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style; left Parsons to become chief creative director of Liz Claiborne; was hired as a spokesman for Macy's; and has published four books, the first which was titled Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style.


 Cher_snapoutofitWith all of this professional success, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Gunn revealed that he has been single and celibate for nearly 30 years, ever since a relationship ended that he never got over.  Reading this, I thought of a friend of mine who lost a partner in a car accident and another whose partner was murdered.  Both bounced back from these crushing losses and started new and successful relationships.  So when I read how Gunn has chosen to deal with his heartbreak I wanted to slap him like Cher did Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck and scream, "Snap out of it".