Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30

Horatio Alger Jr. 

Horatio Alger, Jr. (1832-1899) was a 19th-century American author who published more than 130 novels written for young boys. Of poor literary quality, these inspirational tales repeat the constant theme of rags to riches, illustrating how down-and-out boys might be able to achieve wealth and success through hard work, courage and determination. Alger thus became a significant figure in the history of American cultural and social mores, but his novels, which sold over 100 million copies, are rarely read today.

After graduating from Harvard Divinity School in 1860, Alger took a job as a minister in a Unitarian Church in Brewster, Massachusetts. This post was to provide a painful lesson that influenced his later literary career.

Alger wrote stories about handsome, poor boys who found themselves cast into the world to seek their fortune. Along the way, they inevitably encountered an older, richer man who took an uncommon interest in them. Through the guidance of the older man, the youths were led into a better society. Each and every one of his novels described homoerotic relationships between lonely, older men and needy, handsome youths. In today’s cruder terms, the plots of these books could be described as “rich sugar daddies and the boys who loved them.”

It should come as no surprise then, to learn that Alger had been dismissed from his job as a minister for the “abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with two young boys.” He was run out of town by a howling mob and subsequently fled to New York City, where he lived out his days as a deeply closeted homosexual, trying to escape and sublimate his sexuality – with varying degrees of success. In New York Alger discovered the world of street boys who lived by their wits, eking out a living peddling newspapers or shining shoes. Although he was nearly 40 years old, Alger practically lived at the Newsboys’ Lodging House, surrounded by the boys that enticed him. His erotic fantasies resulted in dozens of books about benevolent older men and needy young men, who often advanced their position by youthful good looks and charm.

A typical Horatio Alger novel is Digging for Gold. A handsome 16-year-old Iowa farmboy, Grant, becomes lost while making his way to California. Nearing starvation, he comes upon a cabin in the woods, occupied by an older bachelor millionaire, Mr. Crosmont, who takes a liking to him. The older man gives the youth a home, clothes, money and a job.

“I give it to you because I feel an interest in you, Grant. I can’t explain why, for I have met a good many young persons in my travels, but  never was drawn to any one as I am drawn to you.”

“I am glad to have so good a friend, Mr. Crosmont.”

“And I am glad to have found some one in whom I can feel an interest.”

Later, after Crosmont has settled in San Francisco, he writes a letter to Grant:

“I confess that I feel lonely. I am not a man to take many friends, and I have met no
one in whom I feel an interest since I parted with you. I begin to think that I should like
to have you with me, and I promise that you will lose nothing by transferring yourself to
San Francisco.”

Grant recognizes a sweet deal and hoofs it to San Francisco. The first day Crosmont greets Grant, he buys the boy a suit, gives him two building lots in the city, takes him into his home (rent-free) and offers him a job paying so much that Grant could buy another three building lots per month. Grant is just 16 years old, and Crosmont almost 50. Hmmm.

Well, there you have it. A typical Horatio Alger story.

Alger eventually gave away most of his royalties to needy young men, in keeping with the story lines of his novels. After his death in 1899, however, his sister destroyed all of his personal papers in an effort to avoid scandal.

Well, the guys coming up have nothing to hide. Let's have a look:

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27

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"Grab your buddy" Friday: 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26

Hollywood actor George Maharis (b. 1928) was arrested November 21, 1974 and charged with committing a sex act with a male hairdresser in the men's room of a gas station in Los Angeles. 46 years old at the time, Maharis was booked on a sex perversion charge and released on $500 bail. Six years earlier Maharis had been arrested by a vice squad officer for lewd conduct in the restroom of a Hollywood restaurant; the officer said Maharis made a pass at him.

Well, now that we have that out of the way...

Best known for his role as Buz Murdock on the hit 1960s CBS television series Route 66, Maharis had just posed nude for Playgirl magazine the year before his 1974 arrest. Route 66 was a 1960-1964 series about two guys and a Corvette who roamed the country together – often dressed in coats and ties, for no apparent reason. I kid you not. Maharis received an Emmy nomination for this role in 1962. However, Maharis left the wildly popular show before it ended its run, and there has been much speculation as to why.

Maharis told the story that he had contracted infectious hepatitis in 1962, and that the shoots were so grueling that to continue would risk his health. He asked the producers to give him a less arduous schedule, but they refused, and he left the show, to be replaced by Glenn Corbitt in the role of Buz. However, others relate a different scenario. Route 66 producer Herbert B. Leonard found out that Maharis was gay and was having a hard time keeping his star’s sexual activities away from the press. Maharis also used the illness, Leonard said, as an excuse to break his contract so that he could get into movies. Co-star Martin Milner (in the role of Tod) and a Route 66 writer-producer confirm this version. Maharis eventually did break into movies, but they were all forgettable B-grade films. Maharis also played stage roles, but nothing ever matched his success as Buz on Route 66, and the TV show never recovered from Maharis’s departure.

According to Karen Blocher, who is working on a book about Maharis and has interviewed him for the project, the reality of why Maharis left Route 66 is a combination of the two. She writes, “The producers felt betrayed and duped when they learned of Maharis's sexual orientation, and never trusted him again. Maharis, for his part, started to feel that he was carrying the show and was going unappreciated. So when he got sick, and came back, and started griping about the working conditions, the producers assumed it was all a ploy to either get more money or else get out of his contract and go make movies. In a less homophobic era, they might have communicated better, and worked things out instead of letting each other down.”

Maharis also had a singing career, releasing seven albums between the years 1962 and 1966, a time period that overlapped his appearance on Route 66. Maharis regularly appeared in Las Vegas nightclubs during the 1980s.

Here’s a complete one-hour episode from early 1962.

Time to turn off the TV and look at some tan lines. Enjoy this totally naked Thursday:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24

Openly gay author and radio performer David Sedaris (b. December 26, 1956) was raised in North Carolina. He began his career reading his own humorous essays on radio, which aired in the U.S. and the UK in the mid-1990s. Sedaris developed a knack for making people laugh by relating every-day occurrences about his family, jobs and relationships in the form of autobiographical, self-deprecating essays.

I first experienced David Sedaris live at a performance in a Washington DC suburban theater, in which he shared billing with fellow NPR notable Bailey White. I will never forget that Sedaris smoked a cigarette while on-stage! My friends kindly forgave me for quoting Sedaris for days and weeks afterwards.

Most people know Sedaris from his books, many of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller lists for non-fiction. I think his masterpiece is Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000); the essays about his brother Paul (known as The Rooster) and his experience with a public school speech therapist (to correct a lisp) are classics. The second half of that book is about moving to France with his long-term partner Hugh Hamrick and the frustrations of language and culture shock. Sedaris describes himself and Hamrick as “the sort of couple who wouldn’t get married.”

His most recent book is Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (2010), not one of his better efforts, in my opinion. Nevertheless, his books have sold more than eight million copies to date, and many of their chapters have appeared in the pages of Esquire and New Yorker magazines.

David is the brother of celebrated actress and author Amy Sedaris. The two have teamed up to write plays, and Amy has authored two best-selling humorous and satirical books on her own. She also bakes a mean cupcake.

This is a fine example of David’s humor, in which he relates first-hand experiences with the French medical system:

But I digress. Back to the tan lines:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22

Magic Mike, in theaters June 29.

UPDATE: Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum (above left). The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer, at left) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money. Also starring Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Mangianello, Olivia Munn, Riley Keough, Cody Horn and Adam Rodriguez.