Dec 10, 2017

11 Reasons John Smith Was Probably Gay

Not the animated Pilgrim of Pocahontas, the beefcake actor fondly remembered by the first generation of Baby Boomers as the star of Laramie (1959-63). 

1. He was a shy, sensitive, artistic child.  He appeared in the choir in Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945).

2. He signed on with casting agent Henry Willson, who single-handedly started the beefcake fad of the 1950s.  Willson filled studios with gay, bi, and gay-for-pay hunks: Ty Hardin, Rock Hudson, John Saxon, Dack Rambo, Farley Granger. His all-male Sunday afternoon parties were legendary.

Wilson also named him "John Smith."  Rather a serious lack of creativity.

3. Laramie aired on Tuesday nights amid a profusion of Westerns, it is distinctive for the strong gay subtext between the two cowboys, Slim (John Smith) and Jess (Robert Fuller).

4. It also starred Spring Byington, a lesbian actress who is best known for the sitcom December Bride.  Not a romantic interest for either of the male characters.

More after the break

Brokeback Mountain for the 1950s: Laramie

Fifty years before Brokeback Mountain and twenty years before Zachariah, the tv Western Laramie gave us a portrait of two cowboys in love.

Shortly after the Civil War, Slim Sherman (played by an actor with the regrettably anonymous name John Smith) and his teenage brother Andy (Bobby Crawford) run a ranch and a stagecoach relay station in Wyoming Territory.  A hunky drifter, Jess Harper (Robert Fuller) comes to town and draws Andy's attention (for obvious reasons).   

Robert Fuller and Bobby Crawford also became friends in real life, and were often seen in Hollywood hotspots together.

But Slim found his own romantic intentions stymied, so after the first season he shipped Andy off to boarding school so he could have Jess to himself.  After that they were blatantly physical, emotionally intense partners. Not even the third-season addition of Spring Byington as single mother Daisy Cooper could detract from their gay subtext.

They were unusual among 1950s cowboys for their occasional shirtless and undewear shots on-screen (as opposed to just in the muscle magazines), thus enhancing the homoerotic gaze.

John Smith was one of talent agent Henry Willson's stable of gay and gay-friendly 1950s hunks (others included Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter), so he may have been gay or bisexual, though of course he never made any public statements.

He had a long career in Westerns and actioners where his shirt had to come off, including The Women of Pitcairn Island (1956), Cimarron City (1958-59), Island of Lost Women (1959), and Hondo (1967). 

Robert Fuller was one of the movie magazine hunks of the 1950s, eagerly photographed when he was seen in public with either men or women (he was married twice).  After Laramie, he had starring roles on Wagon Train, The Big Valley, Emergency!, Guns of Paradise, and Walker: Texas Ranger.

Dec 9, 2017

Georgia Boys are Always on My Mind

Remember the Beatles' song "Back in the USSR"?

Well, Ukraine boys really knock me out
They leave the rest behind
Moscow boys make me sing and shout,
And Georgia boys are always on my mind....

If you're like me, you've often wondered why there is a country named Georgia in the Caucasus mountains, with no connection to the U.S. state of Georgia.

Georgia the state was named after King George II.  Who was Georgia the country named after?

Nobody.  The official name of the country is  Sakartvelo.  Georgia comes from the Persian name for the people, gurgan ("wolves"), which entered Arabic as jurjan, and European languages as georgian.

If that's not confusing enough, its ancient name was Iberia, which has nothing to do with Spain or the Iberian Peninsula.

The capital is Tbilisi, which is easier to pronounce than it looks.

If you're interested in languages: Georgian, aka Kartvelian, is in the South Caucasian family (which has nothing to do with white people). The family is an isolate, connected to no other languages on Earth.

English: I have a big sausage.
Georgian: Me mak’vs didi dzekhvi

English: Come to my room.
Georgian: Modi ch’ems ot’akhshi

If you're interested in religion: Georgia is dotted with ancient monasteries, some carved right into the mountains.  Of course, the strong religious conservatism has resulted in some virulent homophobic, similar to the U.S. in the 1950s.  There is some gay activism, but it's been met by widespread and violent opposition.

If you're interested in literature:  The Knight in the Panther Skin, a Medieval epic by Shota Rustavelli., tells of the love of two warriors, the civilized Avtandil and wild, skin-clad Tariel.  Sort of like the Gilgamesh and Enkidu in ancient Sumeria.

If you're interested in sports: Eldar Kurtanidze has won five world wrestling championships and represented Georgia at the Olympics twice.  He's now a politician.  Sort of like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More after the break