Monday, May 31, 2010

Playgirl Magazine's Gene Carrier

Summer season unofficially kicks off today here at VGMH...and that means some really fun series are in the works that will run over the next few months.  Hunky beach boys, jockey baseballers, and lots of other vintage men of summers-past will show up here.

But let's kick things off with a very interesting story about a man... the reports on his life are truly amazing: mainstream international fashion and print model, smut performer, Playgirl superstar, and well...just wait because there's even more turns and twists associated with this story!

PLAYGIRL SEPTEMBER, 1980
An interview with Ringo Starr may have been the cover story for this issue, but once readers turned to page 55 there was no doubt about who the real star of the magazine really was. 

Gene Carrier appeared in the Playgirl magazine September 1980 issue (Volume 8 Issue # 4 Number 88 ) and created quite a stir, making him one of their most-popular models ever.  Thanks to a talented photographer, the photos highlighted Gene's best assets skillfully.  But the magazine also offered these stories as well:

FEATURE STORIES
44 THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO WHERE THE MEN ARE
70 JUGGLING LOVERS  Taking more than one lover is no longer strictly a male domain. You can do it, too. Believe it. By Tracy Cabot
82 ARE YOU AND YOUR LOVER SEXUALLY COMPATIBLE? Your sex life doesn't have to be a game of hide-and-seek. There are ways to conduct a sexual symphony in spite of both of your differing sleep habits.

WARM BODIES
48 OUR SECOND ANNUAL 10 SEXIEST MEN  From the fields of sports, music, film, politics, fashion and the media, here are our picks for the most super men around!
55 GENE CARRIER We have the French to thank for producing this objet d'art. Gene is as rare as a fine Bordeaux.
72 MEN OF THE IVY LEAGUE  The best of their class, these sexy students make it easy to wish you were back in school again.
101 THE GUYS NEXT DOOR Ever wondered what that handsome neighbor of yours looks like in his birthday suit? Robin Wheeler, Dwight Coale, Jed Parker, Philip Martin, Louie Anthony, Fred Guttilla, Bob Reese, Thomas Bartz, Ronnie Reeves, Ken Weiner, Guy Thibeault, Orval O'Neal, Clay Dillard and Jim Andrews

TOMORROW: The infamous "torpedo" photo shot that became a Playgirl classic!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gay Memorial Day: A U.S. Marine's Letter to Barack Obama

“Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama”   is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

As part of this campaign, the United States Servicemember's Legal Defense Fund, in conjunciton with others, is sending the President personal stories from soldiers.  At the links below, you can read more personal accounts/letters to the President from soldiers such as Former Sergeant Darren Manzella (photo, right)  and Former Corporal Juan C. Perezortiz (letter below):

May 26, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As an 18-year-old, first generation immigrant from Mexico and a newly sworn in American citizen, military service seemed the best way to repay my fellow citizens for giving my family and me a shot at a better life.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps as an Aircraft Ordnance Man. USMC Boot Camp was physically and mentally challenging, but it didn’t compare to the persecution I would encounter later in the Marines.

As a new PFC in an Aircraft Ordnance (AO) Shop in California, I developed a reputation for being a hard worker, always looking for extra duties and opportunities to expand my skills. As a result, my work ethic and excellent evaluations, I was promoted to an E3, a lance corporal. These were my best days in the military. Unfortunately, they were short numbered. With the arrival of a new gunnery sergeant, my career in the Marines soon became a struggle to survive.

The gunnery sergeant enjoyed socializing with the junior Marines in the shop, frequently taking them out drinking and to the strip clubs. I was expected to participate. I tried to be a team player so I would not be singled out. The shop soon became the squadron’s “frat pad.” Most conversation revolved around girls and hookups, often described by my comrades as “bitches and hoes.”

This behavior, beyond being tolerated, was often sponsored and enjoyed by my superiors. “Gunny” usually joined in, bragging about cheating on his wife. This environment was repulsive and contradictory to the core values of the Marine Corps: honor, courage, commitment — values I tried to live by. I was miserable, but felt powerless to do anything about it.

I still went out drinking with the guys, but tried to avoid going to strip bars or swapping stories about sexual experiences. But then Gunny became suspicious. He told me he suspected I was a “faggot” and that we should see what the rest of the guys thought about it.

Everything changed that day. My evaluation scores began to drop dramatically — from the 4.9 out of 5 average I had for three years to a 1.0. After obtaining copies of my evaluations, I learned that my direct supervisors’ scores had been crossed out and lowered by the gunnery sergeant. I had never failed at anything in life before and I was not going to let anyone tell me I was not a good Marine.

My only way out, I believed, was to transfer out of my unit. At first my requests were repeatedly denied. Eventually though, after numerous letters of recommendations from other military officers, I was transferred.

I was promoted and, when I left my new unit, I had numerous letters of recommendation. The detachment’s commanding officer wrote accolades such as, “You are a Marine with exceptional core values… a great asset to the Armed Services” and “You are a Marine of great caliber and will go far in your military career.”

Unfortunately, I was required to return to my former training squadron just months before my six year contract was up. I was back under Gunny’s command. Those last few months were a living nightmare. I constantly dreaded going to work and was afraid for my physical safety.

With the support of friends, I managed to serve eight years. I love the Marines and, under different command circumstances, I would have continued my service. In three weeks, I’ll graduate from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in structural engineering. With the your help and with open service in place at the Pentagon, I’d signup and serve my country again.

Mr. President, thank you for supporting repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I hope that, with your leadership, no other service member will have to go through the persecution I endured in order to serve our country.

Respectfully,
Former Corporal Juan C. Perezortiz
United States Marine Corps
http://www.sldn.org/blog/c/letters


REMEMBERING THE COURAGE OF STRONG, GAY VETERANS
As noted in yeaterday's post, Mr. Matlovich was already an American military hero, when in 1975 (after he told his superiors he was gay), was booted out and disgraced from the service because of who he really was. After he died, a handful of gay veterans wanted to be buried near him. Here at Arlington National Cemetray can be found the tombstone of F. Warren O'Reilly, 1921-2001, whose stone bears the epitaph "A Gay World War II Veteran." and next to him is Tom "Gator" Swann (born in 1958, and still alive), but whose tombstone reads: "Proud Gay Veteran."

Each of us can help make a difference in getting equal rights for gay service men and women. The link below goes directly to the United States Servicemember's Legal Defense Fund. From there,  everyone can send a free message to elected officials to vote to end stories such as the letter above by Former Corporal Juan C. Perezortiz (above).
 .
http://www.sldn.org/action


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Weekend Special: Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force

"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Although he was considered by many to have been an unlikely spokesperson for gay and lesbian civil rights, Leonard Matlovich became one of the most visible activists in the 1970's after he challenged the United States Air Force's ban on gay and lesbian service members.  In 1975, a series of events landed him on the front page of every major newspaper in the nation and on the cover of TIME, the first out gay person ever to appear on the cover of a mainstream magazine.  In 1978, a movie would be made about his experiences.

Born on July 6, 1943 in Savannah, Georgia, Leo grew up in a rather conservative, religious family.  His father had served for 32 years in the Air Force and retired as a chief master sergeant in 1971. His parents were strict Catholics.  Young Leo would later recount on how his childhood had deeply influenced his personal and political values.

In 1963, Matlovich enlisted in the Air Force and he was assigned to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. There, in spite of his Southern Democratic roots, he identified with and became involved in Republican Party politics, campaigning for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.  He converted to Mormonism in an attempt to reconcile his conservative values with his need for a new direction in his life. A trait that would follow for the rest of his life, when Leo did something he gave 100%.

All told, Matlovich served three brave tours of duty in Vietnam. Among the medals and commendations, he earned were both a Bronze Star for meritorious service and a Purple Heart for being seriously wounded in a mine explosion during his second tour.

Yet for all his bravery and patriotism, there was something deep inside himself, something that he was learning as he matured would never go away. During his service in Vietnam, Leo came to realize that he was not going to change into a straight man. Through his working relationships and friendships, he found himself unlearning many of the prejudices he had inherited from his upbringing in the South. Yet he remained deeply conflicted about living a lie.

In 1973 he read an interview in the Air Force Times by Frank Kameny who had counseled several gays in the military. Leo called him in Washington DC and learned that Kameny had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect military record to create a test case to challenge the military's ban on gays.  With Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone they formulated a plan, and Leo hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975.  When his commander asked, "What does this mean?" Mr. Matlovich replied, "It means Brown versus the Board of Education" (suggesting that his actions would be similar to the Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools). 

He didn't seek publicity, but eventually he came to expect the core values he was taught, that "doing the right thing is always right" to stand for everything, including not hiding his sexuality anymore.  Before the world and press, he would twice be excommunicated by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for "homosexual" acts. He was first excommunicated on October 7, 1975, in Norfolk, Virginia, and then again January 17, 1979, after his appearance on the Phil Donahue television show in 1978. But, by this time, Matlovich had stopped being a believer in what others said and he knew in his heart and soul what was right.

At that time, the Air Force had a unique exception clause that technically could allow gays to continue to serve under undefined circumstances. During his September 1975 discharge hearing, an Air Force attorney asked him if he would sign a document pledging to "never practice homosexuality again" in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force. Matlovich refused. Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, the panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service and he was recommended for a General, or Less than Honorable, discharge. The base commander recommended that it be upgraded to Honorable and the Secretary of the Air Force agreed, confirming Matlovich's discharge in October 1975.

He sued for reinstatement.  The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead, and convinced they would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service (or the conservative Supreme Court might rule against him should the Air Force appeal), Matlovich accepted.  The figure, based on back pay, future pay, and pension was $160,000.  Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force (1978) was a made-for-TV movie, directed by Paul Leaf, written by John McGreevey.

Gay Pioneer Leonard Matlovich First TV Interview - May 26, 1975
 

Friday, May 28, 2010

VGMH Male Sex Icons: The NPR Interview with Jack Wrangler

Here's a link to listen to National Public Radio's interview with Jack Wrangler:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103024381

Below is the text from the same interview, and lots more photos of this Vintage Male Sex Icon in action.  VGMH wishes to thank NPR for allowing use of their media for non-commecial purposes.  The photos are not related to the interview.  Here's the full text of the interview:

NPR  INTERVIEW April 13, 2009 - TERRY GROSS, host:

Coming up we'll listen back to an interview with Jack Wrangler, a gay porn star of the '70s who became a cabaret and theater producer. He died last week at the age of 62. This is FRESH AIR.

We're going to listen back to an interview with Jack Wrangler, who was a gay porn icon in the '70s and early '80s. He died last week of emphysema at the age of 62. Jack Stillman took the stage name Jack Wrangler when he started stripping in a show in L.A. With the name Wrangler he helped bring the macho gay image to pop culture. When clothed, his trademark was tight-fitting jeans and a flannel shirt unbuttoned to reveal his muscular physique.

In the late 70s he met the famous singer Margaret Whiting, who was over 20 years older than him. They became close companions and in 1994 became husband and wife. Whiting is the daughter of the songwriter Richard Whiting, and Johnny Mercer was like an uncle to her. Jack Wrangler produced a couple of Mercer tribute shows that she starred in. When I spoke with Jack Wrangler in 1985, we had an adult conversation about adult films, a conversation that may not be appropriate for young children.

I asked him first about how he developed his stripping routine.

Mr. JACK WRANGLER (Adult Film Star): I always figured that men should really strip differently than women. Women are always the tease thing and little off the shoulder stuff. And I never really thought of a man doing it that way. I always thought them as more rugged and if it -rip it off, or get up… So I walked on stage, first time, they'd had all these little dancers on it - which I don't knock - I can't do it. But I just walked on stage and smoked a cigarette and people thought that was fascinating. I stood there and did that whole macho thing, you put it between the thumb and the forefingers, right, and you squint. And I have a sort of Scotch voice anyway, that I didn't have to invent. I think it seems to get lower every year. As you were saying, I live with Margaret Whiting, her voice is as low as mine in the mornings - we sound exactly alike. But - so I had that voice and so I started using that on stage along with the cigarette, because I figured I couldn't just stand and smoke forever. And I started talking about how I got off on being outdoors and that the ruggedness of the sun and the rocks and the trees, and she's getting hysterical during it. And - and as I was saying that, it would get hot, and so of course the shirt would come off.   And it was all that kind of thing, but it was all - and they would play this very kind of romantic music behind me.

(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. WRANGLER: I'm so glad you weren't there, because you would have started to laugh, and I would have started to laugh, and the whole thing would have been over.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: I would have never had this wonderful career.


(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you enjoy it, was it fun?

Mr. WRANGLER: No. I was scared to death. I didn't enjoy it at all. I - I thought what if I've gotten myself into. And I also thought, and my parents had told me that I closed a lot of doors, you know, and that I was not going exactly run back out and get into a soap. But remember one hadn't been offered to me either. I always make the joke about that I was not offered the Brady Bunch and so I ended up doing this. But it is true that I wasn't going to wait around for somebody to make me a personality, I wanted it then. And at that time the x-rated film industry was coming into its own. That was new too. I seemed to have carved a lot of new industries.

GROSS: What year are we talking about.

Mr. WRANGLER: That - it's not so long ago. It was about 10 years ago, about 1973, '74 - '74, I guess. We really didn't have that. Pornography was just started to be a big American thing. It was an European import for all those years. And I remember that before we got so excited when we saw those magazines with the girls playing volleyball, you know. That was the first stuff that came out that was considered x-rated and then we got real sophisticated fast.

But I remember when I did it, it's a very strange law. You weren't - you were allowed to make the films and I think you were allowed to own the films, but you weren't allowed to sell the films or distribute the films or something like that. It was a postal law more than anything else. And so when - when I did my first film, it was done as a mail-order loop. It was a thing of me alone and it was a short thing that was on eight millimeter film. And remember those days, and then everybody would put those in their projectors and they'd go rattling off on the floor and you'd be chasing around hundreds of yards of film. I did one of those and I was alone on a ranch, sitting on a fence.

GROSS: When you started stripping, were you already out? Were you already officially gay?

Mr. WRANGLER: What is officially gay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I mean, had you decided for certain that - that at least for then, you were gay?

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh, that I was attracted to guys?

GROSS: And did other people know that, you know...

Mr. WRANGLER: Well, I was fooling around, I remember. I really wasn't doing that much of anything at that time. I didn't think that highly of myself, physically. And I was more concerned in creating an image than ah, living a lifestyle sexually, one way or another at that time. I was getting close to being almost asexual, I think. I'd had a couple of crummy relationships and some very nice ones, I guess, with people. It was more like, with me, it was more like the guys at summer camp or going off on a fraternity binge or something. So I guess I didn't really, I thought if you're a gay, you too had to be doing all kinds of things that I didn't even know about until I had to do them in a film.

GROSS: How did you develop your persona after that strip act, which you had described? How did you go on to develop the persona that you would have in subsequent movies and stage performances?

Mr. WRANGLER: Well part of it had to do with the manager that worked with me at that time, named Bob Myer. And he helped package this whole persona of Jack Wrangler, and I guess the - the, I don't know where the flannel shirt thing came in, but once it geared, I guess I did a couple of photo essays and stuff with the flannel shirt and people, I - I got a good response from it so I kept doing it. I remember that, Bob then would push all these things down everybody's throat. I mean you couldn't open a magazine without me advertising or endorsing something. I endorsed insurance companies, I endorsed where they had me all tied up in conduits, and saying something about don't get all tied up for Jack Wrangler - it was always Jack Wrangler says, so that they keep the name in the face. There's a Jack Wrangler bathing suit that Ah-Men(ph) put out. We had a thing called Intermountain Logging Company that was Levi's and flannel shirts, that's all they sold - and belt buckles, I think. And all to keep this really not western image, as much as highly almost - almost caricature of masculinity, which is very true.


And then in - in the gay x-rated films, it's much more stereotyped than in the straight x-rated films. You have your construction worker and you have your outdoorsman and you have the - the lineman, a telephone lineman is big. I did a window washer once where they suspended me 17 stories over the Ansonia Hotel with a strange squeegee…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: …and I did, I've played cops, I've played wardens, I've played, you know, all those very rough and tumble kind of characters that have never seen in bed before in their lives.

GROSS: Someone once said that we fall in love with people who we want to become ourselves but we're incapable of becoming.

Mr. WRANGLER: Yeah.

GROSS: Did you feel like you kind of created a persona of yourself…

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh sure.

GROSS: That wasn't like you at all, that…

Mr. WRANGLER: It was a Walter Mitty dream, it wasn't anything like me and I want that's - that was exactly the guy I always wanted to be, you know, some lumberjack kind of type. I'd always wanted to be like that. And I felt, because of my upbringing and having an upbringing with governesses and all that stuff, boy it really makes me feel emasculated. I even had to hold my napkin a certain way and dab my mouth. I mean we're taught all that.


I was a highly mannered child, dressed for dinner and all that kind of thing. And so, of course what I wanted to be was a rancher, that would be the obvious thing. I want to get out of those little short pants and Lord Fauntleroy outfits and get into some rugged stuff and be a real man. And so that is - a lot of those over-exaggerating characteristics began to mellow after a few years. I think I got bored with them or I started feeling more self confident. Which I did, I did gain a lot of self confidence doing all of this. I was painfully shy before.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. WRANGLER: Yeah. I'm not anymore.

GROSS: And self conscious too.

Mr. WRANGLER: I'm very much so. I'm still self conscious but I'm not painfully shy anymore.

GROSS: What would it be like, like if you met somebody who you were going to have an affair with or something.

Mr. WRANGLER: It happens.

GROSS: And they expected you to be Jack Wrangler, I mean, who you are -but, what I mean is I expected you to have that kind of outdoorsy background…

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: …sort of being brought up (unintelligible)…

Mr. WRANGLER: And to behave that way at home, you know? That happens a lot. Somebody goes home with me and they know of me as Jack Wrangler, then they're going to expect to a certain - imagine certain things. I can't blame that on them. I blame it on me for creating something that's such an outrageous courage to begin with, that the worst thing is that they expect other people to live up to that character.


And that's - I feel awful when people say I broke up with my lover because he didn't think that I was as masculine as Jack Wrangler. And I said, well, either am I.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: Who is?

GROSS: Well, you had said that you had fantasized about a character like that when you were younger. You kind of became that character but maintained some ironic distance from that character as well. Do you still harbor any romantic fantasies about that kind of really macho, outdoorsy guy, or has all of that been kind of erased in the knowledge that you now have about…

Mr. WRANGLER: Well, I do get it, yeah.

GROSS: …that image that you created?

Mr. WRANGLER: Well, I got a lot of that out of my system by doing it and playing it on the screen. That was a nice release. But I think that I - still am very attracted to the outdoors, and would love to have a Jeep and a big dog and a ranch somewhere - that I would enjoy. But as long as it was only 45 minutes from Saks, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

But sure, I still harbor that. And anytime I hear about somebody just went off to become a forest ranger or a fireman or something - I think, oh, they did the right thing. You know, they're going to have a wonderful life.

GROSS: How did you make the transition and why did you make the transition from gay X-rated to straight X-rated movies?

Mr. WRANGLER: Well, for one thing, I figured if you're going to be the top of the X-rated industry, you better not limit yourself to just one small part. I mean, why be a nurse when you can be a doctor?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: That would sort of apply here. It had always been my plan to be both the top of the gay and the straight X-rated industry, and I wanted to have that simultaneously, because - I don't know. And also, I want to be continuing as a legit director and writer as well, because I want to prove only in America - Horatio Alger, right? - that could one do all of that and be a wonderful guide for children everywhere. You too could do this.


But it was really kind of the plan, where you're going to become the top - the gay first, because in the straight films at that time, you couldn't get your name over the title if you were a guy. Only the girls got them over the title. That changed when I went into the straight films.


My first one, I was over the title because I had been a name in the gay thing, and they thought they might get a lot of those people to go over and see the straight films, so they did it as a merchandizing gimmick.


And so it made sense for me to do, first the gay and then go into the straight. But the first straight film I did was a thing called "Two China Sisters," and that was about two, believe it or not, China sisters who were really not from China. One was from Santa Barbara, I think, and one was from Sherman Oaks or something, with a lot of makeup.


Two girls that decided to take this gay boy and make him straight, which they do by the end of the reel. And that was it.

GROSS: That was your initiation into…

Mr. WRANGLER: Yeah.

GROSS: …heterosexuality, wasn't it?

Mr. WRANGLER: It was, as well. It's a big red-letter day. I felt like I'd been bar mitzvahed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It must have been very weird to have your first heterosexual encounter in front of cameras…

Mr. WRANGLER: Yeah.

GROSS: …and crew.

Mr. WRANGLER: Yeah. It was - most of it was funny, because they were really cheering me on, you know? This was really like, boy, the kid's really coming into his own today. My son, you are a man. And all these people would - the crews always standing out the set with bagels and things. You know, they're always eating, those people. And standing there with their bagels, they say, yay, Jack…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: …go to it.

GROSS: What's the lifespan of - the working lifespan of someone in pornography? Do you reach a certain age where people don't want to see you naked anymore because…

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh, I'm sure.

GROSS: …as far as they're concerned you're just too old.

Mr. WRANGLER: I don't know whether it's a numbers thing as much as it is whether somebody starts to fall apart.

GROSS: But is this something that you worry about, you know, like athletes when they start (unintelligible)…

Mr. WRANGLER: Every breathing moment of my life.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. WRANGLER: But I would worry about it anyway. I worry about it in my personal life, too. If I don't get to like I feel - this last three weeks, I've been working on a project and haven't been able to go to the gym, and I've been traveling a lot. And I feel awful, ugly, terrible, unwanted, unclean. I feel because I haven't been pumping up and getting everything exactly where it's supposed to be - oh, yeah, I'm terrible about all of that stuff.


Really, it's become a phobia. Isn't that a damn shame? Christopher Reeves once said that he thought it was so stupid that people went to gyms. And so he said, he only did it for "Superman." And when he doesn't have to do that role, he cared less about going through all that routine.


It is kind of dumb because you go to this gym and pump up these muscles and they just go right back down again. I mean, they don't stay there or anything. So your whole life is spent locked in a gym. I think that we're much too overly concerned with - wasn't it great in the old days when not just anybody worked out? I thought that was terrific.


It's like when not just anybody flew, you know, and stuff. Now everybody goes to a gym. Everybody looks great. And it's no big deal anymore.

GROSS: But as you get older, do you ever feel like you're really, like, too obsessed with youth and with…

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh, of course we are.
GROSS: …good looks and all that?

Mr. WRANGLER: Oh, we certainly are. Every year, I say that even with stronger voice, that we're much too obsessed with youth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WRANGLER: I think we should become obsessed with middle age.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Thanks a lot for talking with us.
Mr. WRANGLER: Thank you, Terry. I had a wonderful time.

GROSS: Jack Wrangler, recorded in 1985. He died of emphysema last week at the age of 62. After his gay porn career, he went on to produce theater and cabaret, including music reviews starring Margaret Whiting, who became his wife in 1994. We'll hear her tell the story of how they met after a break.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

VGMH Male Sex Icons: Gay Jack Wrangler's Life Comes to an End

As time passed, attitudes about their marriage began to soften, as many people came to realize that this wasn't a sham..but it also wasn't by any means what most people would consider a "traditional" marriage:
  • Once, during an argument in a restaurant, Wrangler shouted at Whiting: ''I'm trying to tell you I'm a fucking faggot!'' Replied Margaret: ''Only around the edges, dear.''
  • Whiting demanded that hubby Jack stop the porn and personal apperances. ''I didn't understand then that was his way of being financially independent,'' she said.
  • There was friction between Jack and Margaret's daughter, Debbie Whiting.
  • Problems arose between Whiting and her 4 Girls 4 co-stars when she canceled performances to visit Jack in the hospital, after he had injured himself falling onstage while performing his one-man strip show (and had to have his right hip replaced).
  • Whiting caught Wrangler lying about things, including saying he was no longer doing his erotic act, when he was.   
  • In the summer of 1980 Wrangler called Whiting from L.A. with shocking news...He, his step-grandmother and his manager had gone out to dinner. When they returned to his step-grandmother's house in Bel Air, they were met by six thieves, who tied and pistol-whipped them. Whiting was skeptical thinking it was another of his lies, and told Jack she couldn't talk because she had to catch a plane to Las Vegas to do a TV show. ''When I got to Vegas,'' reports Margaret, ''Rosemary Clooney ran up to me and asked, 'Have you read the papers? Jack was almost killed!' I felt awful. I called him up and said, 'Jack, I'm so sorry. I'll meet you at home."
  • In 1998, Wrangler and Whiting filed a $3 million lawsuit against New York City when Whiting tripped on loose pavement and broke her hip. Their suit claimed damages for her injuries andfor loss of conjugal relations.
  • Jack said in an interview: "Somebody goes home with me and they know of me as Jack Wrangler, then they're going to expect [...] imagine certain things.  I can't blame that on them. I blame it on me for creating something that's such an outrageous courage to begin with, that the worst thing is that they expect other people to live up to that character."

    In an interview with People magazine in May 1987, Margaret Whiting talked about her relationship with Wrangler, and what a gay man offered: 'Because of Jack my life is better,'' says Margaret. ''He has made me more aware of my talent. I see more. I read more. My life has more depth. He's a gifted, sensitive, thinking dear.'' ''Honestly,'' reasons Whiting, ''there's so much unhappiness in the world, if you can find someone who makes you happy, and you can make him happy, then c'mon, who cares? We're not hurting anybody. We're not doing anything wrong. We're enjoying each other, that's all.''

They did benefits to raise money to combat AIDS.  Wrangler became a teacher at the Eugene O'Neill Cabaret Symposium in Waterford, Connecticut, for several years in the early 1990's. During this period, he and his wife taught young students about the Great American Songbook at the Sundance Festival in association with the Johnny Mercer Foundation.  He also directed several performers' acts,
including Margaret and Anne Francine in a duo act.

In 2007, Jack was commissioned by the F. Scott Fitzgerald Foundation in London, and wrote the book to "Ain't We Got Fun" which was a musical revue based on the short stories of Fitzgerald interspersed, with the songs of Margaret's songwriter father Richard Whiting. A sold-out reading followed at The York Theater company in December 2007.  He was also co-creator of "Dream" which appeared on Broadway in 1997 with Leslie Ann Warren, John Pizzarelli and Whiting. He also co-created and co-directed the jazz concert "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," a tribute to Johnny Mercer.
An amazing life...realizing as a boy he was gay and made to feel lacking by his Hollywood player father, John Robert Stillman reinvented himself into Jack Wrangler.  He accomplished his goals of becoming a top star in both gay and straight adult films.  Perhaps because of the years of competition to be the idealized perfect male sex icon, he felt he couldn't find a male life partner he could live with.  Ironically, he found love and comfort with another Hollywood brat, and age and sex didn't matter so much.  In the last part of his life,  John Robert Sillman was able to return and accept himself and even appreciate and poke fun of his creation, Jack Wrangler.  Wrangler died on April 7, 2009, at the age of 62 from complications from emphysema caused by almost 40 years of cigarette smoking.  His widow is still alive.



"I have no regrets. I was never ashamed of anything I did. It wasn't really that big a deal," he says of his film career. "It's just that as time goes on, things that you've done that were somewhat colorful 30 years ago become so much more colorful in retrospect."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

VGMH Male Sex Icons: Gay Jack Wrangler Gets Married (GULP! To a Woman)


Now things get complicated...
Unless you happened to be Jack himself, this is the part of his life story where Wrangler's actions become very confusing for anyone else to understand, because a lot of what Jack said and did during this period seem to be self-contradictory (or worse).

No matter, it's this juicy, sensationalized, "nobody could possibly make up this stuff" news that put an aging porn star and a 1940's torch song crooner into the mainstream media spotlight, and even gave them a feature story in People magazine.  VGMH thinks veteran Hollywood writer/comedian Bruce Vilanch (who has written for the Academy Awards and the 1970's Donny and Marie TV show) probably summed it up best:

 "Jack Wrangler was the first straight-for-pay gay porn star, and while you're figuring that one out, try figuring out his enduring marriage to a legend of American pop music [Margaret Whiting]. Jack and Margaret didn't care if you got it or not, they were getting plenty. A smart, warm, anchored guy, he straddled both sides - he straddled almost everything, come to think of it. And a lot of it is on film. Like all pioneers, there'll never be another one like him."

Needless to say, acting in straight movies while being a real-life gay man was one thing (and was even applauded for breaking new ground against gay stereotypes)....But to generalize, the marriage created a Grand Canyon-sized divide with regards to how many gay men viewed Wrangler:  Fans from his 1970's heyday and 1980's VHS fame cut him some slack because he didn't deny he was still a gay man...but most younger gay males viewed him as a retro self-loathing regressive embarrassment that they wished would just go away. True to character, Jack remained open and honest with the media about his life, without apologizes or worries about how others viewed his decisions.


Hopefully, it now makes more sense as to why VGMH decided to tackle the complicated life of this man in two parts (his youth and early gay porn career, including lots of Wrangler gay smut photos, was covered back in April 20 -27 posts, which are still available in the archive section).  

So it's up to everyone to decide if his marriage was for 'better or worse', as VGMH will now shut up and let the happy couple tell their own story, much of which was originally from a May 4, 1987 People magazine article:

Wrangler said, "I'm not bisexual and I'm not straight. I'm gay, but I could never live a gay lifestyle because I'm much too competitive. When I was with a guy I would always want to be better than him: what we were accomplishing, what we were wearing – anything. With a woman you compete like crazy, but coming from different points of view, and as far as I'm concerned, that was doable."

As for his wife, she was more than 20 years older than Jack.  Jack was only two years old in 1948 when this top hits album came out with a song by his future wife (photo, right). 






The story goes that in 1976, Wrangler met Whiting in New York City.  Actually prior to that meeting, Margaret reported a vague memory of meeting Mr. Wrangler when he was still Jack Stillman (working as a young director of regional theater productions). But it wasn't until 1976 that they were formally introduced to one another at a Broadway nightclub.  Also at the time, Jack was performing his one-man erotic stage show in Greenwich Village. As he later recalled:

 "I was with my manager when I looked over at Margaret, who was surrounded by five guys in a booth. There she was with the hair, the furs and the big gestures. I thought, 'Boy, now that's New York! That's glamour!' I had to meet her."  Wrangler nervously approached Whiting's table and knocked a drink off a waiter's tray.  She asked him what he did. When he told her he was starring in an off-Broadway show, Margaret said she'd love to come see it. Another night, Whiting showed up with three friends. He was 33 and she was 55.



''To my surprise, the audience was all male,'' she said. Wrangler walked onstage, lit a cigarette, and talked about the great outdoors.  He then took off his clothes, turned his back to the audience and simulated an orgasm. Whiting recalled:. ''What could have nauseated me was done with humor, taste and imagination,'' she said.

Still, the best was yet to come. Never ashamed of his career, Wrangler introduced Whiting to the audience: ''I said, 'She's the only woman who's got more balls than I do.' The whole place stood up, which was difficult since everyone was adjusting their clothes,'' said Wrangler. ''I know nothing of that,'' replied Whiting. ''I just know it was a hoot.''

After the show, Wrangler asked Whiting to lunch the next week. She accepted. ''We talked for four hours and discovered lovely things about each other,'' she says. ''I knew I was attracted to him. I thought we'd see each other a few times and that would be that.''
The romance officially blossomed two days after lunch when Wrangler had dinner with Whiting in California. She had gone to L.A. to perform with Rosemary Clooney, Rose Marie and Helen O'Connell in the nightclub revue, 4 Girls 4.  Soon, their relationship was common knowledge and they moved in together after he proposed marriage. They married in 1994.  It turns out there was much more in store for Jack Wrangler, and some gay bridges would be mended in the process...Find out tomorrow!

TOMORROW:  END OF THIS SERIES (AND THE END OF AN AMAZING LIFE).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

VGMH Male Sex Icons: Jack Wrangler Takes His Act on the Road in the 1980's

By 1980, Jack may have moved to acting in only straight films, but he would continue live performances for gay audiences for years to come, making a lot of money in the process. And often to his own surprise, the men who showed up for his live shows spanned a variety of age groups...it seems that many of the classic 1970 smut movies (which were actually recorded on real film and not cheap video tape) had been transferred over to VHS format and by the mid-1980's a whole new generation that had been in their teens when he first became famous discovered Jack all over again. 

Original films such as 1977's Heavy Equipment, 1978's A Night at the Adonis, and 1979's New York Construction Company had become gay VHS classics.  And in the process, Wrangler had become a classic himself...If certain men in the 1970's had once found some degree of self-affirmation via masculine pornography in theatres, then in the 1980's they watched as most of those handsome stars passed away from AIDS...but Wrangler was still there and thriving.  Of the 1970's gay experience, Jack would later comment:

"...it was a strange and weird, rather rarified time. We had this great innocence of people trying to find themselves, who they were, and their own sexuality, their own personal identification.”

From his childhood, Jack understood how Hollywood worked and knew how to market himself.

He made numerous personal appearances promoting his films, images, jeans and a whole line of merchandise.  As already mentioned, Jack also traveled for years with his one man erotic shows where he usually poked considerable fun at his macho sexy screen image (please see video below).  And coming tomorrow, we'll see how a special guest at one of his erotic shows would change his life (and image) forever.

In 1984, he wrote his autobiography, "The Jack Wrangler Story, or What's a Nice Boy Like You Doing?" 

BELOW: JACK WRANGLER'S LIVE SHOW


TOMORROW: THINGS GET REALLY CRAZY!