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Oprah Winfrey Gets the Low Down on the "Down Low" (April 16, 2004)

Down_low_oprah The phrase "on the down low", or the DL, refers to men of color who, while not identifying themselves as being gay, have furtive sex with other men.  This urban slang was picked up by the media at the turn of the 21st century and it picked up steam a few years later with articles in TIME, The Village Voice and the New York Times Magazine.  Then Oprah introduced it to her viewers during an episode of her show that aired on April 14, 2004.  



Downlow.hip-hopOf course, while the DL may be a black construct, men with wives and girlfriends who sneak off to have sex with other men is hardly limited to blacks.  It's been explained that the term was coined because of an aversion many black men have to being labeled as gay.  (Based on the black men I've known, it's quite a generalization.)  Apparently, in the minds of these men, having sex with a man isn't the same thing as being gay, which they equate with being effeminate.  (I wonder if a similar term has been coined in Arabic for Muslim men?)   



Grindr_logo Today, thanks to online chat rooms and the iPad app Grindr, sneaking off for a quickie has never been easier or more tempting.  (Fooling around in the steam room at the gym is so 20th century.)  Because of these new means of communication, wives and girlfriends would surely be freaked if they knew the extent to which husbands and boyfriends play around with other men before work, during lunch and after work.  



Gay_newyork_george_chauncey However, it's hardly a new phenomenon.  In the book Gay Manhattan, which talks of gay life in the first half of the 20th century, author George Chauncey revealed that it wasn't uncommon for a straight blue collar guy to have a gay acquaintance on the side to get him off (without reciprocation) whenever their wives weren't able to provide for all their sexual needs. 




Krystle & Alexis Engage in Nasty Catfight on "Dynasty" (April 13, 1983)

Krystle_and_alexisHeterosexual males have had plenty of memorable heavyweight boxing matches throughout the years to get their blood boiling, e.g., Ali v. Frasier and Patterson v. Johansson to name just a few.  But on the night of April 13, 1983, we gays got our "fight of the century" when Dynasty's Krystle and Alexis went at it with each other and ended up flailing about in a lily pond on the Carrington estate.  When Krystle's husband Blake pulls her out of the pond he has these choice words for her:


"No matter what the provocation is, I will NOT have my wife acting this way.  A common brawl in a lily pond - with HER!  You look like a couple of female mud wrestlers!"  (To view this clip doubleclick here.)  


This was just one of a number of nasty altercations between Krystle and Alexis during Dynasty's nine seasons, but it is perhaps the most cherished of them all.  Drag queens especially love to re-enact it during the summer months.  This brings to mind another classic catfight that involved water - the scene from Valley of the Dolls in which Neely O'Hara (played by Patty Duke) pulls off Helen Lawson's wig (played by Susan Hayward) during a fight in the lounge of a fine restaurant's ladies room and then triumphantly tosses it into the toilet.













Carlos Santos - The Year's Sexiest TV Pitchman?

Carlos_santos Carlos_santos_metropcsA few years ago metroPCS had, in my estimation, some of the worst advertising on TV, with ads that dealt in dreadful Pakistani stereotypes.  This year, the company's ads caught my attention again, but this time in a very positive way because of their sexy, new spokesperson, actor/comedian Carlos Santos.  His jaunty swagger combined with a cute wink and broad smile at the end of his sales pitch are pretty irresistible.  Double click to see it here.


Santos joins a long line of appealing pitchmen from previous years:

  • Actor Matt Walton for Optimum Voice:


  • The duo from Liquid Plummer Double Impact:


  • The Right Guard guy from a few years ago ("The Man Your Man Should Smell Like"):


  • Finally, Lucky Vanous, who in 1994 was ogled by appreciative female office workers as he drank a can of diet Coke at a construction site.


With TV ads like these, why would anyone want to fast-forward through the commercials?







TV Commercial for Amazon's Kindle Delights With Surprise Gay Twist

Occasionally, while watching a show I recorded on my DVR, I forget it's been recorded and I sit through the commercials.  This happened to me last week while I was watching Modern Family.  Happily, because of my obliviousness, I saw a great ad (in 2013). 





The commercial opens with a man and woman sitting at a beach resort, both reading their e-books.  The man engages her after noticing that she is having a much easier time reading her device in the bright sunshine than he is.  It turns out she has the new Kindle Paperwhite.  When he makes a somewhat flirtatious comment, the woman nicely informs him that her husband is at the bar getting her a drink.  The fellow then replies that his husband, too, is at the bar.  Cut to a shot of the two husbands standing side-by-side at the bar, looking back and waving at their respective spouses (I'm not certain, but I think the gay hubby is on the left).  

What made seeing this even better was the fact that I watched it without having heard or read about it, so it was truly a delightful surprise.  And it was appropriate that it aired during Modern Family.

This ad aired nearly 20 years after Ikea caused a stir with perhaps the first ad with a gay angle, depicting a male couple shopping for furniture.  Since then, there have also been notable ads from Toyota, Levis and Orbitz; however, the majority of gay ads have been produced for European television.  (Click here to view AdWeek's 50 Gayest Ads Ever.) 



Cher Gives Birth to Chastity Bono (March 4, 1969)

Chastity-bono-sonny_and_cher Cher was 22 years old when she gave birth to daughter Chastity on March 4, 1969.  Very few children who weren't actors (like Shirley Temple) or the offspring of presidents (e.g., Caroline and John-John Kennedy) received the amount of media attention as did Chastity Bono.  As a toddler she was carried out on stage by her parents to say good night at the end of every telecast of their CBS variety show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (which began as a summer replacement series in 1971 when Chastity was 2-1/2 years old.)   



Chastitybono Once the show went off the air in the mid-70s Chastity was able to grow up without the glare of cameras.  However, attention returned when she was a young adult.  First, she started a band named Ceremony and then she came out in the Advocate in 1995.  Her visibility took off upon becoming a guest columnist for the magazine, took a high profile positon with GLAAD and became a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. 



Chaz_bono Chazbono_dancingwiththestarsAnd then in 2009 Chastity captured more headlines by announcing that she was transitioning to a male and had her name legally changed to Chaz Bono.  A documentary about this transition, titled Becoming Chaz, premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and in May 2011 had its TV premiere on Oprah Winfrey's new OWN cable network.  Then in the fall of 2011 Chaz was chosen to compete on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.  More recently, Chaz went on a weight loss program and slimmed down, losing nearly 50 pounds by February 2013. 


Chaz's story about coming out to his parents (about five years before his public announcement) is told in the 1998 book Family Outing while a second book The End of Innocence: A Memoir, published in 2003, talks about his band and some trying relationships.    

Lily 2.0: "Modern Family's" Pint-Size Diva-In-Training

Lily_modernfamilyWhen the sitcom Modern Family debuted four years ago, Lily, the adopted Vietnamese daughter of Cameron and Mitchell, was a mere toddler who never spoke - a human version of baby Maggie from The Simpsons.  Then in Season 3, a new Lily, who was more animated and old enough to speak a few sentences, was brought on board.  Now in Season 4 she has blossomed into quite the sarcastic quipster - a tiny Dorothy Parker (or Fran Leibowitz), if you will. 


Lily_as_joancrawfordLily has certainly become her gay daddies' daughter, and brings to mind the Sondheim song Children Will Listen from Into the Woods.  (In one episode she tells her dads, who were running late, to "hurry up, ladies.")  And while Cam and Mitchell find her zingers amusing, at the same time they are a little bit horrified. 


Lily2After two seasons in which the original Lily was as expressive as a block of wood, Lily 2.0 may revitalize the show, which is going through a transition as Luke, Manny, Alex and Haley grow older and become less adorable.  One can only imagine the handful this "diva in training" will become as a teenager.  No doubt the religious right views Lily as a "demon seed". 



"Lesbian Kiss" Episode Airs on "Roseanne" (March 1, 1994)

Roseanne_lesbian_kissIn November 1992, during ABC sitcom Roseanne's fifth season, Sandra Bernhard's character Nancy was introduced as the first regularly occurring lesbian character in a TV show.  Sixteen months later on March 1, 1994 (at the end of Nielsen's February ratings "sweeps") Nancy's girlfriend Sharon, played by Mariel Hemingway, kissed Roseanne at a lesbian bar.  Roseanne went to Lanford's bar "Lips" to prove how "cool" she was; however, she became unnerved by this five-second kiss and realized that perhaps she wasn't as "hip" as she thought.  (Hemingway had also portrayed a lesbian in the 1982 movie Personal Best.)     







The 2013 Academy Awards: A Post Mortem

2013_oscar_winnersThe 2013 Oscars telecast was a rather tedious affair, largely characterized by the awkward reaction of the audience at LA's Dolby Theatre to host Seth MacFarlane's borderline tasteless attempts at humor.  However, I wasn't too troubled as it was nice to see a fresh face.  On what it is considered our big night, our Super Bowl, gays were mentioned three times.



  • The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles appeared on stage.
  • After the chorus' appearance, MacFarlane told William Shatner (who was visiting from the future) that he wasn't a member of the chorus, to which Shatner replied, "Oh, trust me, in July 2015 you join the chorus".
  • Later in the telecast MacFarlane announced that the musical Chicago was being honored for winning Best Picture 10 years ago, "because we're afraid the show wasn't gay enough yet."
  • By far, the highlight of the night for me was Dame Shirley Bassey, who appeared at the end of a tribute to 50 years of James Bond movies and performed the theme from Gold Finger.  It was a very electric performance (such expressive use of her hands and arms!) and the audience gave her quite a reception.  Later, at the end of the "In Memoriam" tribute, Barbra Streisand came on stage and, in tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, sang The Way We Were.




  • I loved hearing last year's Best Actor winner, French actor Jean Dujardin, pronouncing the names of the Best Actress nominees.




  • Although it was a nice surprise to see the Gay Men's Chorus of LA on stage, unfortunately, it was during the frat boy number I Saw Your Boobs. (Whose sprightly melody I can't get out of my head.)  I don't know what the connection was between the two.  Mercifully, they were on screen just 15 seconds.  And Although I'm not certain, I believe they may also have provided background vocals for Adele later in the telecast. 




  • Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum did a very nice Astaire/Rogers dance number at the beginning of the show, performed to The Way You Look Tonight.  And Catherine Zeta Jones killed during her All That Jazz number. 




  • Beards (the facial hair type) were the look for men as evidenced by Ben Affleck, Hugh Jackman, Jean Dujardin, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Bryan Cranston, Chris Pine, Justin Theroux and Ann Hathaway's husband.  (I lost count at ten.)




  • Melissa McCarthy's and Paul Rudd's banter fell embarrassingly flat (and like last year, her gown resembled a shapeless sack); Daniel Radcliffe and Kristin Stewart had no chemistry whatsoever; the usually stunning Nicole Kidman looked a bit wilted; and Rene Zelwegger looked uncomfortable when she appeared on stage with her fellow cast members from Chicago.




  • Thankfully, 75-year-old Jane Fonda looked incredible because her gown was bound to draw attention due to its canary-yellow color.  And co-presenter, Michael Douglas (68 years old), also looked great.




In closing, one thing I'll say in Seth MacFarlane's favor is that he has a very nice speaking and singing voice.



To read my comments from last year's Oscar telecast, double click here.





Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin Star in Acclaimed TV Special (February 25, 1962)

Judygarland_franksinatra_deanmartinThe acclaimed Judy Garland special, "Once in a Lifetime", aired on February 25, 1962.  Her guests were Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.  (What a sight to see Sinatra sing while puffing away on a cigarette!)  The show was a prelude to Judy's regularly scheduled Sunday variety show on CBS that began in the fall of 1963.  (However, it had the misfortune of being scheduled opposite Bonanza on NBC and would last just one season.)




Lesley Ann Warren Stars in "Cinderella" TV Special (February 22, 1965)

Cinderella_1965There have been three muscial productions of Cinderella that have aired in primetime.  The first was in 1957 and starred Julie Andrews (with Kay Ballard and Alice Ghostley as her stepsisters).  Forty years later singer Brandy played Cinderella with Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother (Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber also had roles).  And in between those two telecasts a production in 1965 starred 18-year old Lesley Ann Warren.  Celeste Holm was her fairy godmother, Ginger Rogers was the Queen and Pat Carrol was one of the evil stepsisters.  Its 42.2 household rating made it the highest rated TV telecast of 1965.


Probably many boys between the ages of 4-14, who later blossomed into full-fledged homos, gave this telecast their undivided attention.  I know I did.  I was 7 at the time.   


Stuart_damon_lesleyann_warrenThere was so much about this production to captivate, e.g., Cinderella's bitchy stepmother and stepsisters; Cinderella's coach and gown; her fairy godmother; wonderful musical numbers (e.g., Possible; In My Own Little Corner) - and, of course, the prince!  He was played by 28-year-old Stuart Damon, who was a cross between Rock Hudson and Max Baer (Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies).  Damon later rose to fame for his 30-year role as Doctor Alan Quartermaine on General Hospital




And despite watching it in black and white (my household didn't get a color TV until 1968) it was still an enchanting experience.  And 48 years later this production of Cinderella came to Broadway, albeit with somewhat of a feminist slant.