Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Gay History Behind Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" and 1948 American Values

NOTE: March is Hollywood month, with lots of gay movie history, sex and scandals behind the sets, and stories about the stars (with of course nudie shots of male movie stars thrown in!).

1948's movie Rope is a complex thriller that was the technological baby of its famous director, Alfred Hitchcock.  It's also a movie with extremely strong 'homosexual' undertones directly connected to a sadistic plot.  When Rope was  released it did respectable business, but was by no means a resounding success.   The film critics and Hollywood had many factors to blame...But there was more going on...In fact, as we'll see later, the movie was actually banned in certain places in the United States.

As film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1984, "Alfred Hitchcock called Rope an 'experiment that didn’t work out', and he was happy to see it kept out of release for most of three decades."

Brandon (John Dall) and Philip (Farley Granger) are two young, arrogant men who seem to share a New York apartment together.  They consider themselves intellectually superior to their friend David decide to have some excitement one late afternoon and kill their pal David, right there in the apartment. After strangling him with rope, they hide his body in a large antique wooden chest, and then prepare to host a festive dinner party. The guests, unaware of what has just happened, include the victim’s father Mr. Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke) and aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier). Also there is his fiancĂ©e, Janet Walker (Joan Chandler) and her former lover Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick).
One of the guests for their dinner party is their former teacher, Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart).  Many of Shaw’s ideas that led to David’s murder stem from debates and discussions held with Cadell about the 'superiority' of some men over others, who are not as smart and gifted.  In Shaw’s opinion, David was inferior and he and Morgan were his superior, so killing him was alright. As the evening continues, Cadell gets closer and closer to discovering what evil has happened, and is forced to deal with his unintended involvement leading up to the death.
Part Two: Rope's Gay Connection with a Real-Life Murder.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vintage Gay Artist Pavel Tchelitchew

Pavel Tchelitchew was born near Moscow on his family's estate and was studying in the city at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Suddenly broke and in danger for his life, he made a smart choice and got out of town....FAST!....moving to Kiev, where he enrolled in the Academy of Art. Tchelitchew later lived in the gay-Mecca city of Berlin (working as a stage designer and enjoying the freedom of the city at that time) and then moved on to Paris, at the height of its golden era of art and liberal living, during the 1920's.  It's been suggested that during the 1924 Summer Olympics (which were held in Paris) Pavel talked virile young men (in town for the games) to pose nude for him. In addition to painting, Pavel designed costumes for ballets. Everybody needs a few lucky breaks in life, and perhaps Tchelitchew's biggest was when he joined Gertrude Stein’s circle of artistic friends; the very gay-friendly Stein quickly embraced the young Russian and championed his art. Through her now-famous salons, he became familiar with Picasso’s early paintings of 1905 and 1906.

Considering the years he lived in, he worked in many really diverse painting styles, changing several times and doing a lot of radical experimentation. Pavel was especially known for his almost-surrealist renderings of the human body (without its skin) similar to anatomical studies.
In 1934, he moved from Paris to New York City with his partner, writer Charles Henri Ford. From 1940 to 1947, he provided illustrations for the surrealist magazine View, edited by Ford and writer and film critic Parker Tyler. While I can't honestly say I like it much, his most significant work is his painting called Hide and Seek, currently on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He became a United States citizen in 1952.

Tchelitchew died in Italy in 1957. His work was largely neglected after his death, but has regained new interest in the past several years, with several books about his art and life.
Portrait of Constance Askew, 1938

Interior Landscape, 1949

Hide and Seek, 1942

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Honest Site Reviews: Tim in Vermont's Vintage Physique Photography is a Gay Old Time!

It's important, since I'm scoring Vintage Physique Photography so high (95 out of 100 possible points), to note that this review is 100% unbiased and objective...neither myself nor VGMH receive any money for writing this review or for any clicks to their site.  With that out of the way, I've wanted to review Vintage Physique Photography (VPP) for some time now, because of the good things I've read about it.  In my opinion, VPP is pretty impressive for anyone that is a male fitness/male sexuality history buff:
To get an idea of what VPP is about, here's a portion of Tim Wilbur's (VPP's creator) mission statement: "...Very little is being done these days to make sure the history of physique photography is preserved in a way that will allow mass numbers of people to view its details. Photographs and magazines are thrown out by startled heirs, images on film are fading and being destroyed, or collectors keep their treasures locked away for no one else to see. Many times these brave individuals had their property raided by right-wing law enforcement and endured further threats, fines and sometimes even prison sentences. It would be a crime to let those who contributed material during this important period be forgotten. This web site will serve to preserve and present their work to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection."

VPP includes three types of media; 1)Vintage magazines (photos); 2) Old movies; and 3) Paper advertising products (ads and stories intended for a male audience). This media is then further categorized as; 1) Fitness/physique; 2) Male nudes; and 3) Hardcore male smut.
I first visited Vintage Physique Photography last Saturday afternoon and was overwhelmed at the content.  Magazine listings are searchable by: Title, Category, Publisher, ID code, and Date. But wait! The site is also searchable by: Posing straps, Nudes, Physique culture (bodybuilding fitness), Art, Text, Hardcore, and Ephemera (the ads and such).  All of this comes in handy when you consider that there are over 600,000 total images on the site (non-nude, nude and hardcore) and over 470,000 models/athletes identified within the database.

There's so many men, from so many eras, and in so many categories, that it would be impossible for me to adequately describe what "type" of men are to be found on the site.  So instead I'll just suggest that viewers are offered a huge and varied buffet of guys, and most folks are bound to find some beefy dishes that they enjoy enough to want to come back to the table for seconds.   Of course there are the stars, including current vintage favorites Al Parker, Leo Ford, and Jack Wrangler.  There's also the parade of first-name-only Santa Monica Blvd men who dropped their pants to make some easy cash, and in-between these two extremes are countless models, such as blonde hunk Bo Lingstrum, sexy Jon Sommers, and Kirk Bond (pictured directly below).
Before going any further, it's important to underscore the "historical compliation" aspect of the site...Since this is vintage media, the quality of the content varies with that of the original producers of the images, and VPP includes it all in order to preserve everything. This means that when surfing photos and movies, members encounter different degrees of image quality, including; The Excellent; The Great; The Alright; and The Bad.  Personally, I like getting the opportunity to see it all.

It's always been common practice in the industry to "reuse" images in multiple magazines, and I expected (and found) that to be true with many of the magazine photos cataloged on VPP.  This means that some duplicates are included in those 600,000-plus total images (in my opinion, the benefit of having the entire magazine from cover is more important than maybe seeing the same photo included in several different magazines).  And while I had already seen some of the photos previously on the internet...again  VPP offered the entire set of original images, usually in much higher quality/larger sizes than the internet versions, and often with the names of the models.
It's important to stress that not all of the images are nudes or related to sex. The site has an extensive library of fitness and bodybuilding images (think men in posing straps and trunks). Type in a year and get a list of body building contest winners.  If you enjoy the history of body building, stories about fitness and health, and images of beefy men in next to nothing, then you can spend days and days in this section alone. VPP has done and outstanding job of documentng what were the media origins for everything else that was to come in the future. 

The style of the site is straightforward, with a consistent feel and appearance. Forget about seeing fancy symbols, icons, photos or dancing fire graphics on the menu/navigation pages…the main menu page is simply there to get you to the content you want to see…and it delivers very nicely. Tim is to be commended for undertaking the task of developing the database system on the site.  Click on a menu or particular item and you go right there (this is what is supposed to happen at all sites, however many have broken links and things that just don’t work, so it’s shouldn’t be taken for granted). VPP has buttons on every page to take you back "home" so you can't get lost (some sites launch new browser windows and you cannot back out of them: again not a problem here).  Places where viewers are expected to click for actions are obvious, and a change in font color helps track where members have already been.
New/updated material notifications are offered on the main menu. Taking a look at the update pages, they are current and new material seems to be added on a regular basis throughout every month. Pages load fast, and I was online at various hours day and night without any traffic problems. No DRM limits on downloading of material like some other sites (a big plus in my book).

In summary, if you're interested in the vintage male, then Vintage Physique Photography  is definitely worth looking at.  Customer service also seems to be very good...when I contacted Webmaster Tim via email, he always responded in less than 24 hours. With all online activities, I always recommend getting answers to any questions you might have beforehand.  Images are from the Vintage Physique Photography site and used with permission.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

World's First "Out" Gay Activist: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs

Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs was born 28 August 1825, and remains the first known out-of-the-closet Gay activist.  To protect his family, in 1864 he used the pseudonym Numa Numantius but dropped it in 1868 when he came out. He set a new standard for everyone who followed by bringing a new, positive approach to bear on what he called the riddle of nature

On August 29, 1867, Ulrichs became the first recorded man to speak out publicly in defence of same-sex love when he pleaded his case at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution urging for the repeal of anti-gay laws. The 500-member Association of German Jurists in Munich, Germany did not take kindly to this single man acting all alone, but he confronted them all and did not back down. In the following excerpt, Ulrichs dramatically describes the occasion:

"Until my dying day I will look back with pride that I found the courage to come face to face in battle against the spectre which for time immemorial has been injecting poison into me and into men of my nature. Many have been driven to suicide because all their happiness in life was tainted. Indeed, I am proud that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt."

Of why he endured the battles he had in his life, he wrote:
"Before my eyes appeared the images of the persecuted and of those already damned who are yet unborn, and I behold the unhappy mothers beside their cradles rocking cursed, innocent children! Then I saw our judges and their blindfolded eyes. Finally I envisioned the gravedigger sliding the cover of my coffin over my cold face".

He was shouted down by the angry crowd, but that did not stop him.  Ulrichs later published the 12th and final book of his research, the Riddle of Man-Manly Love. In this book, Ulrichs surveys literary, historical, physiological, and other data to prove his point that being gay is not a sin, but perfectly natural. He makes the theory that the strict line of differentiation between men and women has been overemphasized.  Ulrichs contended that male (as well as female) same-sex attraction results from a crossing of the male and female generative principles during the first crucial stages of fetal development. Thus, gay men are essentially "male" in body and masculinity, yet "female" in sexual desire...crucially the same yet also different from straight men. Thus, being gay is the work of nature.

In poor health, and feeling he had done all he could in Germany, he went into self-imposed exile in Italy. There it's reported that he found comfort and love with the locals, who were much more tolerant and open-minded.  For several years he travelled around the country before settling in L'Aquila, and his health improved.  Happy in his life and proud of who he was, he died July 14, 1895.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brideshead Revisited

To avoid confusion, please let me clarify up front that the media subject I’m talking about here is the 1981 British television/PBS miniseries. The original 1945 novel , this 11-part miniseries, and later the theatrical movie are all different from one another, especially when it comes to the gay elements of the storyline (the 2008 movie is the most openly gay version of the three). The miniseries was brought to America on PBS' Great Performances series, beginning its run on January 18, 1982.

The miniseries followed Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons), whose fate would have him assigned during World War II to a stately English country mansion. In a voiceover, Charles recalls his youth spent here at this same estate, and his complex relationships with the wealthy family that once lived in it.

In flashbacks, young middle-class Ryder arrives at Oxford, where he befriends Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews). Sebastian is sensitive, implicitly gay, and alcoholic. It turns out that much of his torment, later confided to Ryder during a visit to his home (named Brideshead) comes from his domineering, deeply Catholic mother.

When Ryder stays at the house over the summer months, he becomes as enamored of Brideshead the lifestyle as he is of Sebastian and his beautiful arch sister Julia. Charles is hungry for inclusion into this world, not seeing all the troubles and pain just below the gilt surface. When Sebastian‘s mother, Lady Marchmain, gives Ryder a deal...he can enjoy the family's hospitality, if he keeps Sebastian out of trouble.... he accepts.
Of course things take several turns, but for a brief period, this miniseries delivers a wonderfully sexually-charged dance between Charles and Sebastian as they figure out how far their “friendship“ will go (even though the actual gay attraction fviewers was left very unstated, and the nature of Charles's infatuation with Sebastian ambiguous).

No matter, 1982 PBS watchers got it, and the notion that a young heterosexual male (Irons) could have a summer love affair with another man and then slip into heterosexuality for the rest of his life was a hot topic (and certainly more than a few husbands watching were silently recalling their own youths).  Many young men of the era recalled this miniseries as being important to them because, while gay figures and storylines were already on television by that point, the complexities of human sexuality (not everything is simply black and white) had seldom been blended into such a larger and broad storyline, and without the need to sensationalize.

Sir Laurence Olivier was already in his early 70s when he won an Emmy for his role in Brideshead.  As an added treat, the series included Sir John Gielgud.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

David Ashfield Finds Himself in a Tight Spot

Long before he became famous for being the very skinny "guy next door" who looked like his body could barely support holding up his thick manhood, a young David appeared in some less-than-vanilla smut and also went by many other names, including: Brad Bowen, Jay Matson (Deitrick), David Fields, Bob Holloway, Billy Joe Evans, and Billy Evans.  These photos are reported to be Ashfield performing under an alias at the begining of his career (yikes!):

Another of his more savory roles included the movie Move Over Johnny (1985), where Dan Legreid stops his motorcycle in a dangerous alley only to find Dave Ashfield and Rich Parsons waiting in leather gear, and things get busy from there. David slips inside Dan ...Rich entertains himself as he watches David do Dan (who’s now bent over the motorcycle).  Dan becomes a real slave when they chain him to the wall and David enjoys him while Rich continues to watch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What do David Ashfield, Brain Hawkes and Senator Scott Brown Have in Common? 1982 Smut!

Brian Hawkes and David Ashfield looked so darn young in Locker Room Fever!  David was 22 at the time and (depending on the source) Brian was about one year older.  But time moves forward.  Not only did 1982 bring us this nifty naughty movie starring Brian and David and friends, but that same year a another young man in their age group (a 22-year-old law student at Boston College) appeared naked and naughty in Cosmopolitan magazine, and now he's a U.S. Senator (please see earlier post this year for his photo). 

Judging by responses I've received this week, David would be happy to know that he still has a lot of fans out there. Many readers expressed similar thoughts about David...he was in lots of movies/videos but seldom seemed to get the first billing.  For a man who earned a reputation for pulling an erection out of his hat as needed by the director, there's certainly no shame in being a supporting star, and as already mentioned, David's skinny-to-normal body type (as compared to plastic and steroids) continues to make his early films very collectible and enjoyed by men who were not even born when Locker Room Fever was being filmed.  On a related topic, this weekend I'll share some special photos of David when he went by another name (and when his image was a whole lot less wholesome than the horny "boy-next-door").

Nova Studios, which produced Locker Room Fever! often featured sex scenes in masculine "straight" everyday locations (garages, public restrooms, locker rooms, cars/trucks, and barns). The studio focused on the unspoken idea that all men secretly crave sex all the time, and that given the opportunity (and knowledge that no one would find out),  sex with another guy could happen at anytime and when you least expect it.  As has been said of the studio elsewhere; the point, above all, was to show 'hot guys having gay sex,' not gay guys having hot sex'."


Thursday, February 18, 2010

1980's Gay Sex Star David Ashfield has Locker Room Fever!

David was most-busy in smut between 1981-1998.  Probably his most popular early film was Lockerroom Fever (1982).  The movie starred  Billy Joe Evans (AKA David Ashfield in later releases of the video), Steve Decker, Brian Hawkes, Tige McMasters, Mitch Taylor, and Giorgio Canali (Rocco Rizzoli) in a nice and friendly buddy sex-a-thon.

Forget about team sports out on the field; in this movie Ashfield the jock is busy squeezing his thick man stick into muscular Steve Decker, as Steve lays on his back and positions himself for David to do his stuff.   This pre-condom era scene became a classic.  Then Brian Hawkes (who VGMH covered in a large series last year) steps out of the shower and shoves his own hard manhood into both Steve`s mouth and behind...teamwork!

It's reported that Al Parker (a VGMH Male Sex Icon) was so-impressed with David's ability to have multiple orgasms and stay hard that Parker invited Dave to work for Parker's Surge Studios.  Parker personally directed Ashfield in Therapy (1985).  The movie became a big hit for Surge, in large part because it was rough masculine sex (in true Parker style).  In the movie, hairy Shawn Roberts gets his face screwed through a gloryhole by blond Blake Cass; Rich Parsons steps into the wrong alley and meets leather bad boys Pierce Daniels and Alex Lago (who bend Rich's behind over a garbage can as they take turns); and finally, David Ashfield makes a deposit into bank manager Eric Ross while bent over a pile of gold bricks.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

President Lincoln's History: Do Undisputed Facts Point to a Life with Gay Episodes? Disney Got Him Right, After All.

End of Series
Because the definition of being a "man" and the topic of same-sex attraction remains so heated today, any truly objective historical analysis of the personal life of Lincoln probably remains decades away. For whatever flaws the Tripp book included, it at least finally brought the topic out in the open for the general public. In that context, respected historians do not argue about these facts, which have been well-documented for decades:

  • In 1831 at the age of 22, Lincoln moved to New Salem. There he met Billy Greene. Greene coached Lincoln in grammar and shared a narrow bed with him. ''When one turned over the other had to do likewise,'' Greene said. Bed-sharing was very common in settlements, but documents show that Greene's memories of Lincoln's physique were very detailed: ''His thighs were as perfect as a human being could be.''
  • Six years later, Lincoln moved to Springfield, where he met Joshua Speed (photo, right) who became his best friend; John G. Nicolay and John Hay, two early biographers, called Speed ''the only intimate friend that Lincoln ever had.'' Lincoln and Speed shared a bed in Speed's store for four years (for two of those years, two other young men also shared the room, though not their bed). Perhaps more important than their sleeping together was the tone of their friendship…Lincoln's letters to Speed, before and after Speed's wedding in 1842, remain open questions as both men discuss their insecurities about marriage and women. Several of them are signed ''Yours forever.''   Consider this letter to Speed from Lincoln:' 'The sweet violet you enclosed came safely to hand, but it was so dry, and mashed so flat, that it crumbled to dust at the first attempt to handle it.... The juice that mashed out of it stained a place in the leteter, which I mean to preserve and cherish...'' from Lincoln's March 27, 1842 letter to Joshua Speed.
Speed was the first to marry, something that Lincoln coached his friend through with tender but not altogether convincing letters of encouragement. It seemed that Speed was on the verge of a premarital meltdown similar to Lincoln's: "If you went through the ceremony calmly, or even with sufficient composure not to excite alarm in anyone present, you are safe, beyond question." Later letters from Lincoln inquired whether Speed really was "happier or, if you think the term preferable, less miserable."
  • For nearly eight months between 1862-1863, Capt. David Derickson led the brigade that guarded President Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home in the District of Columbia (the Camp David of the era). Derickson, in words taken directly from his regiment's history published three decades later, ''advanced so far in the president's confidence and esteem that in Mrs. Lincoln's absence he frequently spent the night at his cottage, sleeping in the same bed with him, and it is said, making use of his Excellency's night shirt!''

Why does all this matter?  I'll take a chance and go full-circle to my first post about Abe, and revisit the first Walt Disney presentation of him at the 1964 World's Fair, which I think answers why it matters if this man had gay feelings:

Narrator: We pay tribute here not to a man who lived a century ago, but to an individual who lives today in the hearts of all freedom-loving people. His prophetic words are as valid for our time as they were for his. And now the skills of the sculptor and the talents of the artist will let us relive great moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Voice of Lincoln figure:"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in the schools, in the seminaries, and in the colleges. Let it be written in primers, in spelling books and almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And in short, let it become the political religion of the nation. And let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes, and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly at its altars

And let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence. Trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security. Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by the menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves!  Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."