Sightings

Schumer

Schumer

Last night, I saw The Butler in Manhattan. For those not in the know, it’s about a man that works in the White House (…as a butler) and goes on to serve eight Presidents during his career. In the row ahead of me was Chuck Schumer, a Senator from New York. I was curious what he thought of the syrupy, but effective film, especially since he’s been in politics sense the 1970’s, and likely had some interaction with Ronald Reagan (played by Alan Rickman; all the Presidents portrayed felt like stunt casting to me, but they all did a good job. Even John Cusack as Richard Nixon, who gave Tricky Dick an oddly sympathetic sheen). I wanted to ask, but this is NYC, and people do their damnedest to downplay even the most obscure celebrity sightings, so I let it go.

Danny Strong

Danny Strong

My friend and I were walking to a diner after the film, and I was telling him about Danny Strong, the screenwriter of The Butler (he has a bit part in the film, too). Strong is also an actor, maybe best known for playing a reoccurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’m a big fan of. Strong has had an interesting career, starting as sort of a TV character actor, and then reinventing himself as an award winning screenwriter. Maybe thirty seconds after blabbing these details to my friend, we walk past Strong (who appeared to be on a date). I pointed him out to my buddy, but he was sort of dumbfounded as he doesn’t know what Danny Strong looks like.

Anyway, despite being a fan, this is NYC. So I let Strong go about his evening without saying anything.

Reasons to be excited about “Creed”

Image

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that the Ryan Coogler, the director of Fruitvale Station, is set to write and direct a spinoff of Rocky centering on the grandson of Rocky’s biggest opponent, Apollo Creed (to be played by Frutiville Station‘s star, Micheal B. Jordan). To top it off, Sly Stallone is set to reprise his role of Rocky and train the young Creed.

I was pretty excited about this news, and shared it all over social media, expecting my friends, many avid Rocky/Stallone fans to be equally excited, or at least have an opinion about the potential project. It didn’t get a peep. Likewise, the news seemed to generate little interest on the internet.

This puzzles me. Because even if you’re just a passing fan of Rocky, you should be over the moon.

In an age of reboots, this is a refreshing idea. The old guard passing the torch to a new generation. We get to see Stallone fully realize the original story arc he had in mind for the character of Rocky, to eventually be a trainer (an idea he teased with for part five, but the studio insisted on a fight with the titular character). We’ll also finally get to see a fictional account of a black fighter, which is exceedingly rare in the boxing/MMA sub-genre of movies (think about it, how many films feature a black fighter as the lead vs. how many we’ve seen with white leads. then think: how many pro black fighters are there vs. pro white fighters?).  Jordan is an excellent actor (take a look at his work on Friday Night Lights, or the aforementioned Fruitville Station); it’ll be interesting to see what sort of chemistry he and Stallone will have, and how it might mirror the previous trainer/fighter relationships in the series such as the ones Rocky had with Apollo and of course, Mickey.

Still, what makes this a real home-run is that Coolger is a young, hungry filmmaker. Kind of like Stallone back in the day…

Search Results

According to wordpress.com, two people found their way to this blog by googling ‘jean claude van damme gay’.

I was morbidly curious how far down the rung this blog was with that search criteria, and ended up plugging ‘jean claude van damme gay’* into a search engine.

Immediately, I was sidetracked by Google’s ‘searches related’ feature, which included suggestions of looking up the sexuality of several other actions stars (Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Bruce Lee were all in the mix).

On one hand, I understand the curiosity. Looking back on 1980’s action films, there is a lot of hilarious, almost innocent homoerotic imagery. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entire career is built on the idea that he was an impossibly muscular human specimen; any movie of his from the 80’s inevitably showcases his body.

Schwarzenegger’s intro scene is 1985’s Commando is nearly a parody of what straight men believe gay men fantasize about.

Here’s this brawny, sweaty man, carrying a large chainsaw in one hand while a huge log is slung over his shoulder. I like stating the obvious: The chainsaw and log are both phallic.

Arnold’s not included with the popular search results, but I think he set a precedent that action stars of that era felt the need to emulate. Take a guy like Stallone. During the 1970’s, he looked like a somewhat athletic, even chubby guy in the first two Rocky films.

But after Arnold blew up in the 80’s, so did Sly.

Not only did Stallone’s physique improve, but so did the homoerotic undertones. No longer is it enough for chubby Rocky to be egged on by an elderly Burgess Meredith; now Rocky is on the beach, wearing short-shorts and sprinting against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), another impressive human specimen. In the old days after a good work out, Rocky would give a thumbs up. In Rocky III, a good workout calls for a celebration; two men, leaping for joy and embracing, the waves crashing against their heaving bodies. Typing it out, it sounds like Apollo Creed/Rocky Balboa erotic fan-fiction, but it literally happened in the movie proper.

I can think of three films in which Arnold is shown nearly in the nude (the first three Terminator films). In the Conan films he wears a loin cloth. In Commando** he inexplicably strips down to speedos. Predator has perhaps the most homoerotic sequence of all time; a group of muscled hunks take off their shirts and grease up in order set up traps for the titular hunter alien. Suspiciously, Carl Weathers is involved again.

Not to be outdone, Stallone starting appearing near-nude in his films. Demolition Man and The Specialist (featuring a decidedly straight sex scene with Stallone and Sharon Stone that feels like watching your middle school PE coach plowing your mother***) offer up all but full frontal. A billboard advertising Rambo III infamously depicted Stallone’s chiseled shoulders and slim waist, with the caption ‘Rambo’s Back’.

And as a friend of mine pointed out, the opening moments to this trailer for Rambo: First Blood Part II is essentially, flat out gay porn.

Keep in mind that all of this is curious because it was largely done to attract the 18-34 male demographic. I don’t believe for a second that these action stars were being sexualized in order to rope in new female fans.****

So is it that straight men were sold homoerotic imagery of men before they themselves were sexually aware causing them to be curious about the sexuality of their action heroes of the past?

I suppose that’s reaching. I loved these films growing up, and never once worried about action stars and who they like to sleep with*****, and only started thinking about the concept when I saw how a couple of stray visitors got to this blog.

………

*I suppose by using the term ‘jean claude van damme gay’ frequently, I’m upping the chances of people stumbling onto this page while attempting to get to the bottom of Van Damme’s sexual preferences. Nice.

** Commando’s main villain is a guy that was apparently directed to act like Freddy Mercury.

*** Okay, maybe that’s just me.

**** All though it seems men are finally being sexualized in mainstream films in order to attract female audiences. RE: Magic Mike

***** I always thought action star sex scenes (or even scenes where these guys showed affection to women) were strange and awkward, though. Hmm.

With a katana.

I recently went on an annual trip with some friends I’ve had for two decades (going back to middle school). It’s the sort of annual trip only older dudes do. We stayed in a somewhat secluded cabin, shot firearms, grilled out, and spent a couple of afternoons on the lake in a pontoon boat. They also played video games (I discovered that I’m so grossly behind the curve with modern video games, that I quit in disgust and sulked in a corner while they played for hours, jovial and orgasmic), and the main event was playing the table top role playing games of our misspent youth.

To say it was rejuvenating would be an understatement, but one thing I noticed (mostly in retrospect) is that we didn’t have many philosophical discussions, or even many hypothetical ones (could Andy defeat Mike Tyson in a fight if he had a baseball bat, for instance*).

This is maybe because as we’ve aged, we’ve grown more apart politically. It could also be because we quietly wanted the trip to be an oasis away from politics philosophy theology real life, and an opportunity to shoot paper zombie targets and eat fatty food with impunity.

The closest we got was when Andy brought up the concept of being able to go back in time to give the sixteen-year-old version of yourself advice. Ten years ago, in our early twenties, I bet we would’ve jumped all over that question. However, now that we’ve pretty well made our beds well into our thirties, it’s tougher to say out loud what you’d do differently. In some of our cases, it’d sound like you’re being a snooty blowhard due to your relative success, in others, the long list of regrets would overwhelm the 16 year old you and he’d blow his head off**. So aside from one of us saying,”I would tell myself not to be afraid to talk to girls” and all of us nodding in agreement***, we all kept quiet and let the question die. Or at least, that’s the only answer I remember; I certainly wasn’t going to jump in those waters.

It is an interesting question though, and has been the subject of a lot of speculation/wish fulfillment over the years (and a website/book). Looking over that site I realize it’s a passive aggressive way of asking someone to admit what their biggest goof was (if the the person answering is going to be honest; there’s plenty of people that answer in a way as if to say,”See, I was right! I was right!” and the ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’ variety of answers are common, too****).  Stephen King’s answer was honest. He wasted a decade being an addict. I don’t have anything that profound. I’ve wasted a year or two here or there, and I suppose if I added it up I could squeeze close to a decade of regret out the old life rag.

Anyway, I’ve decided that if we have another trip next year, I will come armed with hypothetical questions. Safe ones that involve Andy in combat with highly superior foes.

  • *No, he couldn’t. Not even with boxing regulations in effect for Tyson and Andy wielding a sword.
  • ** The list of my regrets are utterly overwhelming, but I think the 16 year old version of myself would be oddly tickled by them. They pretty well bemuse me now.
  • *** Not talking to many girls in High School may have prevented me from being a father of seven by age twenty-one, but I digress.
  • ****I think it’d be pretty shitty to link to ‘normal’ people’s letters to themselves.

Manlove & Kickerdick

Congrats to Mr. Axel Howerton on landing his hilarious and original characters Manlove and Kickerdick into next year’s Queer themed issue of Big Pulp. Manlove and Kickerdick, besides having incredible names, are the break out characters in Axel’s super fun detective novel Hot Sinatra, which I got to read early because I am awesome (it’s due out later this year).

Anyway, to celebrate, I’m gonna list my favorite five detective heroes.

5. Marv“Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him.” -Dwight describing Marv in “A Dame to Kill For”.

Tempted to leave it at that, but I’ll add that Marv is overlooked a lot in the detective pantheon, I’m sure largely for him being introduced in comic books and not being a detective proper; he’s actually more in line with the sort of guys traditional detectives have to take down. However, in Marv’s first appearance, he’s solving a pretty complicated mystery that involves doppelgangers, corrupt priests and politicians, and giving a serial killer some pretty hardcore justice.

4. Mike Hammer– I totally discovered Mike Hammer through the Stacy Keach 80’s TV series, but have since enjoyed the character in the many adaptations and reworkings he’s had over the past several decades. He’s a rare character that’s had a pretty good run in all major formats; comics, TV, film, radio and novels (where he was first introduced). And yeah, like Marv, he has a serious violent streak and isn’t above punching a crotch or two. His books are written in first person, and it’s pretty clear Hammer gets off when he kicks the tar out of someone. A modern reader would likely label Hammer a sociopath, and I suppose they wouldn’t be wrong. Still, a lot of fun.

3. Jake Gittes- I love how Jake sort of gets the shit knocked out of him constantly. Unlike the other guys on this list, Gittes isn’t much for brawler, and isn’t particularly imposing. Hell, you could even argue that he’s not that bright. He’s the closest thing to an everyman detective that has ever hit the mainstream. Most readers seem to gravitate towards detectives that are super geniuses, but they normally bore me (unless he’s wearing spandex… see below). There’s a film of sleaze on Jake’s skin that never wears off, and I like that.

2. Batman- The strongest Batman stories are the ones were he has to earn his moniker as the World’s Greatest Detective. Sure, it’s great to see a grizzled Batman beat the shit out of a boy scout Superman by using kyrptonite gauntlets, but it’s pretty satisfying when he proves through smarts alone that he’s the most formidable person in a room full of guys and gals that can lift mountains.

The best examples of Bats being a detective tend to be in the comics (though the Dark Knight had a couple of nice touches). My favorite is probably The Long Halloween.

1. Bud White– White is the ultimate combination of all the detective archetypes. He’s a bruiser that is never above using violence and intimidation, but he genuinely loves women (which is something of a rarity with the private dicks and detectives in fiction, who tend to treat women like shit as an unwritten rule of the genre), and violence against women is what really sets him off. He’s actually pretty clever, but his gruff demeanor and huge  physical presence (James Ellroy describes White as hands down the biggest officer on the force) tend to let his foes underestimate him on an intellectual level.

A favorite sequence of mine in LA Confidential involves White taking several weeks off from work (he had previously never missed a day after nearly twenty years of duty) to attend an FBI sponsored course on forensics after he realizes he needs a few extra tools in his kit to take down some bad guys solo. His tenacity is incredible, and it’s reinforced by the permanent sacrifice he makes at the close of the book (and amazing film). Maybe that’s why Bud has an unfair advantage over the rest of these guys; he doesn’t have a dozen sequels to let him hop from woman to woman, and trounce a series of forgettable villains.

I realize most of the characters listed would be considered part of the sub-genre dubbed neo-noir. I do enjoy the hell out of more traditional literary detectives like Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Miss Marple (and yes, Sherlock, too), but these guys are the ones I find myself relating to, laughing with, and rooting for.

Regardless, you’ll notice that this tiny sampling is composed entirely of white characters (and if not for my half-assed name drop of Miss Marple, all dudes). It’s important for the pulp/noir genre that writers like Howerton push aside the more traditional archetypes to make way for guys like Manlove and Kickerdick, who when first introduced to me as a reader, were openly gay, low level leg breakers for the mob… and also endlessly fun to read about.