Wednesday, December 31, 2014

History is What Everything Becomes


What can be said in New Year rhymes,

That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,

We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,

We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,

We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,

We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,

And that's the burden of a year.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 Best Wishes For a Happy New Year, 

Monday, December 29, 2014

December 1975

Jeremiah Shastid

The year was 1975 and Playgirl magazine had selected Jeramiah as their December centerfold to close out the year.     Back then, this very hairy chested (and hairy almost everywhere else as well) gent was described as being a "male go-go dancer."   Unfortunately, this was also a period in the magazine's history when their photography wasn't always as stellar and crisp. 


This holiday issue was jam-packed with useful stuff, like an article titled "Vibrators: Everything you must know" and Hollywood's Newest Sex Star--Roger Daltrey.  But it was the side burned and very furry physique of Jeramiah that most buyers thumbed to look at first.  According to the story that went along with the pictures, a friend of Jeramiah and himself began traveling around the country at the end of 1974. He added "What you have to do is put on a show that touches on sex and includes comedy-a whole theatrical routine." 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Babes in Toyland: Tommy Kirk and Coming Out

Babes in Toyland was Disney's 1961 Christmas film, hyped in amazing Technicolor.  It was directed by Jack Donohue, produced by Walt Disney himself, and distributed to theatres by Buena Vista Distribution. Its stars included Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary, Tommy Sands as Tom Piper, and Ed Wynn as the Toymaker, and Tommy Kirk as Grumio.

The film was based upon Victor Herbert's 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland. There was a classic version of the operetta filmed in 1934 with Laurel and Hardy, and three television adaptations prior to the Disney film.  But Disney's was the most elaborate and costly. However, the film was a flop.  Irreparably damaging this version was its 180-minute length...over twice as long as the Laurel and Hardy version, and not even half as good in terms of storyline and songs. What is most memorable to many about this movie is that the toy soldiers would later appear in Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Christmas parades.  The sets specially built for the film at the studio were so unique, they also found a temporary home at Disneyland after the films release in 1961 up to 1963, and people could actually see them up close inside the Opera House on Main Street.

In 1954 Tommy Kirk, then aged 13, was discovered by Disney agents while performing in a Pasadena Playhouse production of  "Ah, Wilderness." In no time at all Tommy Kirk became a Walt Disney contract player. Tommy was the All-American Boy.  His clean-cut good looks, honest face and wholesome roles set a standard.  After a stint on "The Mickey Mouse Club," Kirk was given a starring role opposite Clint Walker in the Disney hit western "Old Yeller" (1957).  In 1959 another dog film followed...Disney's very popular comedy classic "The Shaggy Dog"....and in 1960 Tommy  starred in his favorite Walt Disney feature film, the action-adventure "The Swiss Family Robinson."  He also starred with Fred McMurray in "The Absent-Minded Professor" (1961) and later in the sequel "Son of Flubber" (1963).  In 1964 Tommy Kirk starred opposite former mouseketeer and then-current teen queen of the beach party movies Annette Funicello in "The Misadventures of Merlin Jones."  Tommy seemed to have it all, and Disney had invested a lot of money in grooming their male star (indeed, Disney had also made a ton of money off of his work).

There was only one problem, Tommy was gay.  It's reported that during the early years of his stardom Tommy Kirk's sexuality had been kept secret and even at the height of his popularity many of his fans did not know he was gay. It was in 1964 when Walt Disney found out that Tommy Kirk was having an affair with another male actor. The studio had dealt with actors having potential scandals in the past, and this was certainly a "situation" that could have been dealt with.  But Tommy didn't want to live a lie and hide in a closet, like so many other gay male Hollywood stars were doing. 

According Kevin Minton’s in-depth interview "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt’s Fallen Star," Kirk knew his sexuality would create problems with his career as well as with his strict Baptist parents: Kirk later described his early sexual explorations as "desperate and miserable....back alley kind of things....When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change. I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. Disney was a family film studio and I was supposed to be their young, leading man. After they found out I was involved with someone, that was the end of Disney."

It was 1964 and Kirk was twenty-three and found himself "box office poison." His movies now would range from cute, campy fluff such as Pajama Party in 1964 to cheap cult movies like Mars Needs Women. Kirk explained "After I was fired from Disney, I did some of the worst movies ever made and I got involved with a manager who said it didn’t matter what you did as long as you kept working." Tommy’s personal life also took a downward spiral, getting mixed up with drugs. "I wound up completely broke. I had no self-discipline and I almost died of a drug overdose a couple of times. It’s a miracle that I’m still around."

Tommy eventually discovered life outside of show business. "Finally, I said, to hell with the whole thing, to hell with show business. I’m gonna make a new life for myself, and I got off drugs, completely kicked all that stuff." Kirk started a carpet and upholstery cleaning business.

The studio that once fired him for being gay in the early 1960's turned the corner and Tommy Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in on October 9, 2006, alongside his old co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

To be sure, there's plenty of history with this famous company that has been much less-than gay friendly over the decades, but for many generations of gay men who grew up in a marketing world filled with comic books, movies, cartoons, television programs and theme parks (in far-away places like California and Florida), the name "Disney" often sparks some fond memories of childhood.  And especially in the past few decades the company has been supportive of gay employees and visitors to its theme parks.  Being made to feel welcome and included is important to everybody.

A lot of the Disney magic was (and continues) to be created by talented gay men.  So on this Christmas Eve, it's the magic of the artisans who created a smile and laugh for kids of all ages (and sexualities) that matters most here at VGMH.  Disney gay talent Howard Ashman proved that making magic knows no boundaries or prejudice.  Feeling happy inside and having fun never goes out of style.  There's more about him below.   A sincere and worldwide best wishes to all, from Steve.


Producer, lyricist and openly-gay Howard Ashman made a huge splash in the world of Disney animation in 1989 with "The Little Mermaid," which he co-produced with John Musker.  The song "Under the Sea" (co-written with composer Alan Menken) won an Oscar for Best Song.

Howard's lyrics, as Menken recalled, "would wink at the adults and say something to the kids at exactly the same time." And as demonstrated below, the handsome (and buff) male heroes and villains in these Disney classics have continued a long-standing tradition of being immortalized in cartoon-style smut fantasies.

Perhaps his greatest work was "Beauty and the Beast."  In fact, "Beauty and the Beast," which he executive produced, was the first animated movie ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, a category typically reserved for live-action films, while its title song won the songwriters yet another Oscar.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 17, 1950, the successful lyricist, librettist, playwright, and director moved to New York and became an editor at Grosset & Dunlap, while writing plays including "Dreamstuff," a musical version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," which marked the beginning of his association with Off-Off-Broadway WPA Theatre in 1977.

The hunky gents in these films have evoked many artists to pay honor by creating their own (slightly more gay-erotic) versions.  But back to how Howard joined Disney...

Two years past 1977, Howard teamed with Menken for the first time creating a musical version of Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." They went on to write the musical version of Roger Corman's 1960 cult film "Little Shop of Horrors" and won critical raves and awards including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical of 1982-83. The off-beat show was transformed into a motion picture by Frank Oz in 1986, subsequently winning the musical duo their first Academy Award nominations.

That same year, Howard penned the ballad "Disneyland" for the Broadway production of "Smile," written with Marvin Hamlisch. Soon after he signed a contract with The Walt Disney Company to write lyrics and dialogue for its animated features.  The rest is a wonderful history of great song and memories for several generations.

Howard died following complications from AIDS at the age of 40 in New York City during the making of both Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Ashman and Menken had finished the songs for Beauty and the Beast and 11 songs intended for Aladdin, although only three were featured in the finished film ("Arabian Nights", "Friend Like Me", and "Prince Ali"). Tim Rice was brought in to finish the Aladdin songs with Menken. Ashman was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 2001. Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to him, "To our Friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950-1991"

In 1994, "Beauty and the Beast" moved to the New York stage, and has since become Broadway's 10th longest-running musical. The production features "Human Again," a chorus number by Howard and Menken that was storyboarded for the animated motion picture, but never completed.  The princely hunk from The Little Mermaid continues to delight boys of all ages.  Please relax, have inner peace, and enjoy this season and good memories from holidays past.