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Discovering the Sex Appeal of Redheads

Redhot100.bookA few weeks ago I was chatting with a fellow at my neighborhood bar, the Monster, and he happened to be a redhead.  However, because of the lighting I didn't realize this until a gregarious gentleman walked over and told him, "I could stare at your red pubes for hours."  With that established he sauntered off and my redheaded friend mentioned an event he happened upon in SoHo for a book titled Red Hot 100: The 100 Sexiest Red Hot Guys in the World, which celebrates sexy redheaded men.  (Click here for the book's website.)  This got me thinking about redheads, who generally aren't on my radar since Latinos and Mediterranean types get most of my attention.  For the most part I think of them as being more cute than sexy.  However, after looking through the pages of of sexy faces and hot bodies in Red Hot my perceptions changed.  And it was a relief to discover that not all redheads look like Carrot Top.


Redheads are a rare breed, apparently even more so than persons who are left handed or gay.  They come in varying shades, e.g., flaming orange, auburn, strawberry blonde and other variations, which seem to be referred to as "ginger".   A lot of times you may not know they are redheads until they grow a beard or you see them naked.  Despite my affinity for Latinos I wouldn't be averse to going out with a redhead.  (I can think of one I dated and another I slept with.)  


In no particular order, here is my top-10 list of Cutest/Sexiest Red Heads, three of whom who are gay and four are from the UK .



  • Perhaps the most famous redhead is rascally Prince Harry.




  • As far as athletes go, redheads seem to gravitate to hockey.  Andy Dalton, however, is the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals. 




  • Comic actor Seth Green may be known best for playing Dr. Evil's son, Scott Evil, in the Austin Powers movies.




  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson, one of the openly gay persons on this list, plays one of the gay daddies on Modern Family.  In my opinion he should have one of the Emmys won by his TV hubby, Eric Stonestreet.  Ferguson is known for his snappy bow ties, which he also sells through The Tie Bar (http://www.thetiebar.com).  All proceeds go to Tie the Knot, a same-sex marriage foundation. 




  • Actor Michael Fassbender played a sex addict in Shame, a Spartan solider in 300, a British lieutenant in Inglorious Basterds and a sadistic plantation owner in 12 Years A Slave (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor).




  • Actor John Benjamin Hickey won a Tony for his role in The Normal Heart.  Like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Hickey is openly gay.




  • British actor Damian Lewis is best known for his Emmy-winning role in the Showtime series Homeland.




  • Actor Dash Mihok was raised in Greenwich Village and grew up in the Westbeth Artists apartments on Bank St.  He's had small roles in a number of movies I've seen (The Guru; I Am Legend; Silver Linings Playbook), but I don't recall seeing him.  




  • Best known for his role as Dr. Owen Hunt on Grey's Anatomy for the past eight seasons, Scottish actor Kevin McKidd has also appeared in the TV series movie and as Poseidon in the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians.




  • Finally, singer/actor Anthony Rapp is the third openly gay entry on this list.  He gained attention when he appeared in Rent, but I remember him from his first movie role when he was a teenager, 1987's Adventures in Babysitting.




Julianne.moore.redheadAnd although Red Hot 100 is all about men, here is a a shout-out to some stunning women who are redheads (who were easier for me  to think of off the top of my head than the men): Julianne Moore (right); Emma Stone; Marcia Cross; Jessica Chastain; Nicole Kidman; and Debra Messing.


Greg Louganis Reveals He's HIV-Positive (February 22, 1995)

GregLouganis_PeopleMagazine On February 22, 1995 35-year old Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis called a press conference and disclosed that, not only was he gay (long rumored), but also HIV+ (which he was aware of since 1988). 


These revelations were in preparation for publication of his autobiography Breaking the Surface.  Two days after the press conference he was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20 (see video clip below).  The following week he spoke at a meeting of NYC's gay professional group, New York Advertising & Communications Network (now called Out Professionals), at Cooper Union before an audience of 500.


Two years later a TV movie about Louganis' life, with the same title as his autobiography, aired on USA Network.  It starred 23-year old Mario Lopez.  


                                                                                         Rudy_galindo Magic_johnson Greg_louganisLouganis' disclosure came 2-1/2 years after NBA great Magic Johnson revealed that he was HIV+.  And in 2000 openly gay figure skater Rudy Galindo (1996 U.S. Men's National figure skating champion) also announced his HIV status.  A very important lesson conveyed by Johnson, Louganis and Galindo, all still alive, was that life can go on despite an HIV diagnosis, i.e. HIV does not equal death.  For many it's a chronic condition that can be managed with anti-viral drugs, not a death sentence. 










"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. 





Gay Writer-Activist Larry Kramer Born (June 25, 1935)

Larrykramer_closeup Say the name Larry Kramer and many of us (hopefully) can easily rattle off some of his accomplishments: the novel Faggots; the movie Women in Love; organizing GMHC; founder of ACT UP; the AIDS drama The Normal Heart.  He was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on June 25, 1935.  It seems fitting that the Stonewall uprising occurred right around the time of his birthday (in the year he turned 34) and that Gay Pride Week events take place around it every year. 



Like the late Arthur Laurents, who died in 2011, Kramer has a reputation for being "difficult".  He was ousted from GMHC; he railed at his alma mater Yale University for turning down his offer to fund a chair in Gay Studies; and he fumed at Barbra Streisand for not following through on her plans to make The Normal Heart into a movie.  He's alienated many with his in-your-face style (the personification of an e-mail typed entirely in caps) - but where would we be without this squeaky wheel?  Knowing of his temperament it was a bit of a surprise that he was so gracious upon accepting the Tony Award in 2012 for The Normal Heart as Best Revival of a Play.  




For more than 30 years years Kramer had been laboring on a semi-fictional work about US history (reportedly 4,000 pages in length) titled The American People.  In it he shines a lavender light on our nation's history, e.g. discussing various historical figures he claims were gay (i.e., George Washington, Abraham Lincoln).  Volume One (which goes through the 1950s) was finally published in 2015 to mixed reviews.  And five years later he published The American People: Vol. 2: The Brutality of Fact: A Novel.




Bottom line, ruffling feathers (or boas) for speaking his mind, Larry Kramer's passion and commitment to gay men has been invaluable in bettering our lives.  (After years of poor health, Kramer died on May 27, 2020, one month before his 85th birthday.)






"The Lost Language of Cranes" Airs on PBS (June 24, 1992)

David_leavittLost_language_of_cranes_novelAuthor David Leavitt (pictured) was only 25 when his novel The Lost Language of Cranes was published in 1986.  Six years later it aired on PBS on the evening of June 24.  (Cranes was produced by the BBC and first aired in the UK in 1991.)  It tells the story of a young man, Philip, who comes out to his parents and later learns that his father is a closeted homosexual.  Although the novel is set in New York City, the movie, perhaps because it was produced by the BBC, takes place in London.  When it aired in the US a number of scenes showing frontal nudity were edited out. 


Lost_language_of_cranesI wasn't familiar with the novel so it wasn't until I watched the PBS telecast that I learned that the "cranes" weren't the birds but rather mechanical ones at seaports that lift cargo in and out of ships.  (However, this is never fully developed to show how it tied into the story.)  An interesting subplot concerns Philips boyfriend who is the adopted son of a gay couple, which seemed quite progressive for the early 1990's.  (One of the father's was played by openly gay director John Schlesinger.)


Lost_language_of_cranes_pbsBefore Cranes there had been TV movies in which either a child or a parent dealt with his/her homosexuality, but this was the first to have a parent and a child both coming to terms with their homosexual nature.  As the movie ends life for father and son appears to hold promise but the wife/mother is left with perhaps the greatest challenges.  (One line of dialogue I remember most vividly was spoken by Philips exasperated mother in response to her husband's revelation and the fact that her son is also gay.  She says "My life's the punch line of some stupid joke.")      



The Novel "Running in Bed" Revisits Gay New York of the 1970s & 1980s


I'm not a big book reader but I just finished reading one that had me captivated.  The book is Running in Bed.   No, it's not a sequel to Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors, but rather the semi-autobiographical debut novel by Jeffrey Sharlach which arrived in bookstores a few weeks ago (Spring 2012).  It recounts the life of gay protagonist Josh Silver during his early years as an adult living in New York between 1977-1987.  It touches upon coming out, work life, sex, romance, and the AIDS crisis.




Since I often write about my own memories and experiences on my blogs, it was refreshing to read someone else's, especially since the character Josh's experiences were somewhat similar to mine, e.g., we both moved to New York in the late '70s to work in advertising, and we lived in Greenwich Village.  One big difference was that he immediately took a summer share in the Pines, while I waited until the mid-1990s.  







The novel mentions a lot of familiar places, e.g., Sandolino's restaurant; Uncle Charlie's Bar; Balducci's; Company restaurant;, the Ice Palace disco on 57th St.; Driftwood Walk in the Pines, et al.  However, although the story begins during the hedonistic, sex-fueled late '70s, Josh doesn't explore the baths or Fire Island's Meat Rack, which were rights of passage for many gay men back then - and key plot devices in Larry Kramer's and Andrew Holleran's acclaimed novels Faggots and Dancer from the Dance, respectively.





The story would have benefited from more scrupulous fact checking.  For instance: 

  • The disco hits I Will Survive, Ring my Bell and Move on Up were popular in 1979, not 1978. 
  • The Monster bar/disco on Grove St. in Greenwich Village wasn't around in December 1979.  It opened its doors in 1982.
  • The royal wedding of Prince Charles and Diana didn't occur on a weekend, but on a Wednesday.  (However, Diana's funeral was held on a Saturday.)
  • The entire winter of 1982 wasn't mild, since January 1982 was, in fact, one of the ten coldest Januarys of the 20th century.     


Nonetheless, despite these quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and found it time well spent.

Author John Rechy Born (March 10, 1934)

John_rechy Gay author John Rechy was born in El Paso, Texas on March 10, 1934.  He's written more than a dozen novels, with perhaps the best known being City of Night (1963), Numbers (1967) and The Sexual Outlaw (1977).  His stories tell of the loneliness and desparation lived by street hustlers, the secret liasions of closeted men and the discrimination practiced against homosexuals - all pioneering themes for their time.  


Pattee_Library_PennState I have an amusing story to share about Rechy's novel City of Night.  It was Fall 1977, I was starting my junior year at Penn State and in the early stages of coming out.  I went to Pattee Library (pictured) on main campus at University Park to see if they carried Rechy's book.  They did, but, curiously, it was kept in the section of the library called "Special Collections". 


That's right, because of its subject matter Rechy's book wasn't considered suitable for the "open stacks", but instead was stored with invaluable one-of-a-kind historical documents such as antique maps, a 15th Century Hebrew bible and 200-year old manuscripts by the likes of William Penn!  However, unlike these treasures, which couldn't be taken out of the library, I was able to do so with City of Night - but for just three days (and I was required to fill out a release form). 


Numbers_john_rechy City_of_night The_sexual_outlaw At the time I didn't question it as I was just happy to take the damn book out.  But that's when I came to the realization that college wasn't necessarily the bastion of liberalism and free thinking I always assumed.  Nestled in central Pennsylvania, University Park was insulated from the "real world" (I guess why that's why it's called Happy Valley) - and this incident really drove home that point.  35 years later I hope Rechy's book (and many others like it) has found its way to the "open stacks"


Figure Skater Johnny Weir - Ice Queen with Balls




January and February are the prime months for figure skating competitions so it was fitting that Johnny Weir's 2011 autobiography Welcome to My World was published at this time.  (Spoiler Alert: Johnny reveals that he's gay!)  Weir is the Boy George and Lady Gaga of male figure skaters, i.e., as my mother would say, he's quite a handful.  Interestingly, his signature flamboyant style is in sharp contrast to his upbringing in southeastern Pennsylvania's Amish country.   




During his career, Weir (now 37) won 23 medals, including the gold at the US Nationals three years in a row.  However, he failed to medal in either the 2006 or 2010 Winter Olympics (placing sixth and fifth).  His flamboyance and flouting of tradition is risky in a sport with a scoring system that depends largely on the subjectivity of its judges.  It may have also cost him endorsement deals that more traditional skaters like Brian Boitano and Evan Lysacek (both Olympic gold medal winners) received.  (The same probably holds true for another openly gay skater, before Weir's time, Rudy Galindo.)  In the 2010s, however, Weir became a commentator for NBC during figure skating competitions.


Johnny weir nbc commentator







"Tales of the City" Airs on PBS (January 1994)




Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City aired over three nights on PBS, with the first episode airing on Monday, January 10, 1994.  I was captivated by the series after receiving the boxed set of volumes as a Christmas gift five years earlier.  (I'm not a fan of fiction but I breezed through these volumes, perhaps because I could identify with the storyline - and its chapters were only 3-5 pages in length.)  Tales takes place in San Francisco during the swinging 1970s and is seen largely through the eyes of Mary Ann Singleton, a recent twenty-something transplant from Cleveland.  And although gay neighbor Michael Tolliver was a key character, Tales was more than just about San Francisco's gay life.  


Among its cast were Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney and Parker Posey (the latter two in the early stages of their careers).  The mini-series' frank portrayals of gay life, drug use and some nudity made it controversial and PBS provided squeamish stations an edited version.  There would be two subsequent installments (More Tales of the City in 1998 and Further Tales of the City in 2001), but neither aired on PBS (despite record ratings of the initial series).  This was in response to threats made by conservative politicians to sharply reduce PBS's federal funding.  Instead, More Tales and Further Tales aired on Showtime




Then in 2019, Netflix produced a 10-episode sequel that brought the story to the present day (with San Francisco's sky-high real estate prices, PrEP, and transgender issues part of the 21st century storyline).  Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis reprised their roles.


Netflix_tales of the city


Kinsey Report on Male Sexuality Published (January 3, 1948)



The landmark Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was released on Jan. 3, 1948 (a report about women was published five years later).  Based on information gathered during face-to-face interviews by Dr. Alfred Kinsey (right) and his staff from the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, it reported on sexual practices not usually spoken about in "polite" company.  Using a scale of 0-7, Kinsey classified the degree of heterosexual and homosexual orientation.  From this famous "Kinsey Scale" it was determined that 10% of men were homosexual - for a period of at least three consecutive years.  This qualifier was largely overlooked and the 10% is the headline that stuck.  It's long been questioned and studies over the past decade report figures in the 5% to 8% range (higher, of course, in certain cities and neighborhoods).


Alfred Kinsey


In addition to the famous 10% finding, another was that 37% of men claimed to have had at least one homosexual experience in their lifetime.  However, despite Kinsey's figures showing homosexual experiences weren't uncommon, they had no impact on how homosexuals were viewed by the public during the conformist 1950s.  Individuals found to be homosexual were often institutionalized, blackmailed or lost their jobs - all in an attempt to keep them marginalized from mainstream society. 


In autumn 2004 the movie Kinsey came out, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney (who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress).  Though Kinsey was ostensibly heterosexual, in one scene he has sex with one of his male assistants (played by Peter Sarsgaard.)  It was named Outstanding Film of the Year by GLAAD.  However, like many critically acclaimed films, it wasn't a hit, grossing just $17 million.