Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Think Danger Bred A Different Kind Of Gay Back Then


I was lucky; I came out when I was living in Amsterdam. I worried there was something wrong with me so I went to see a psychiatrist. I told him I thought I could be gay. He asked me why I was coming to him and if I was looking for addresses of gay bars and other places where gay people met. I didn't. I lived right across the street-- literally, 30 steps-- from a side gate into Amsterdam's biggest park (like their version of Central Park or Griffith Park). And it was a special entrance, as it turns out. At night there were always gay men in that part of the park eager to meet other men. So much better than a dark, smokey bar!

Being gay is easy and almost without a sense of social opprobrium nowadays. Gays can get married. It's no biggie. When I was a kid it was very different. And... well-- how do I put this? If you were gay, you were an outlaw, a rebel... like Jean Genet, like Truman Capote, William Burroughs, John Rechy, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Gore Vidal, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Paul Bowles, Jean Cocteau, Kenneth Anger, Anaïs Nin, John Waters, Jack Kerouac... role models. You know, who's a better role model Plato or a ribbon clerk?

Danny Fields, who I met when I was in college when I had booked The Doors to come play at my school and he worked for their record label, was the one who put the idea of ribbon clerks in my consciousness. He and Dee Dee Ramone wanted to go someplace "exciting" after The Ramones first show in San Francisco. I had no idea where to take them so I suggested the Eagle's Nest, a forbidding gay bar on Folsom Street. Danny made a face. "Ribbon clerks playing dress up," he sneered in his charming way. Eventually I started taking out of town guests to Mr. B's Ballroom instead. The DEVO guys, who I don't think were even gay, wrote a song about the night I brought them there.
Three cheers!
They're yellin' again
Three cheers!
They'll be at it to the end

So drink some big beers and go crazy tonight
They're all dressed up and they'll be gettin' it tonight
Big swingers in double knits tonight
Big babies gonna get in a fight
Actin' crazy, bustin' up the chairs
Doubled over gettin' sick on the stairs

They know the limits 'cause they cross them every night
The dull sensations as it turns real hot
Why, the guys in the back with their heads on the floor
Surrounded by their buddies, they're all hollerin' for more
Whoa, whoa, whoa
It's Mr. B's ballroom

Party time, turn the music up loud
Party time, lose your head in the crowd
Yellin',, laughin' tryin' hard to act smart
Put 'em under pressure and you watch them fall apart

Freeze! Come on out of there
Freeze! You ain't goin' nowhere
Freeze! Put your hands on your head
It's Mr. B's ballroom
Someone slipped in semen and fell down and we left. Books were easier-- and I've always been a bookish guy. There's a new movie that screened in NYC this week, Tom of Finland, and it's opening in New York on October 13 and in L.A. and San Francisco October 20... all the towns I lived in. Watch the trailer up top. I think Finnish director Dome Karukoski conveys what I'm trying to talk about far better than I am.

Tom of Finland was the pseudonym for Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991) and Wikipedia describes him as "a Finnish artist known for his stylized highly masculinized homoerotic fetish art, and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. He has been called the "most influential creator of gay pornographic images" by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. Over the course of four decades, he produced some 3500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits, wearing tight or partially removed clothing." At the time, all his work had an implied sense of danger. The film company reminds critics that he was "a decorated officer" and that the film describes him as returning "home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II. But life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds post-war Helsinki rampant with homophobic persecution, and gay men around him are being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art: homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhibitions. But it is only when an American publisher sees them and invites Tuoko over to the West Coast that his life really takes a turn. Finally being able to walk free and proud in Los Angeles, Tuoko dives head first into the sexual revolution, becoming an icon and a rallying point. His work-- made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’-- became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of the worldwide gay revolution."

But not today's gays I don't think. Yes, this is a real stamp:

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At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to Antebellum in Hollywood, the self-described only fetish art gallery in the world, not exclusively but mostly gay oriented.


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