Friday, November 28, 2008

Vern Front and Back

Meet Vern. He posed for these two photos sometime between 1920 and 1924. Remove the tapestry backdrop and the front view shows a guy you might have seen the other day at Gold's Gym. He's got a big toothy grin and a little spark in his eye.

Vern stands before the camera with ease and confidence. Wearing what appears to be white boxers with a little drawstring, he's obviously proud of his body. These pictures were taken to document his accomplishments in physical culture.

By today's overblown, self-conscious, airbrushed standards he seems pretty "normal." Maybe that's what's so appealing about him.

These two real photo postcards were saved for over 80 years before one of Vern's descendants decided it was time to auction them off.

Don't know how he would have felt about that but we'll try to make sure he finds a good home.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Targeting the Urban Gay has an interesting user interface that lets you choose "Gifts for Him" and then shop by "Personality."

Is he a "Guy's Guy," an "Outdoor Explorer," a "Devoted Dad," or is he perhaps an "Urban Guy?"

So what gifts does the Urban Guy want from Target this holiday season?

Let's see. There's the Bose headphones (the cheap ones are crap says my boyfriend), a 15 pc. cutlery set, an MP3 player (does anybody remember MP2?), a super tasteful comforter set (charcoal), a black and white poster of "Manhattan at Night," a black side table, and another comforter set ("bleeding stripe").

Apparently Urban Guys spend a whole lot of time listening to music while they play with knives in bed under the New York skyline. Did I mention they are really into bedding?

The only thing that's missing from this assortment is the Titanmen Vibe MasterTool #4. It gives new meaning to "Black Friday" but unfortunately it isn't available at Target.

Maybe next year they'll add it, along with "Top," "Bottom" and "Versatile" in their list of personality types.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If you're feeling a little off-kilter or a bit off-key today

Take heart. Here's Joan Crawford in 1929 as "the personification of youth, beauty, joy and happiness." Before she had shoulder pads, before she found her "face," before she became a corporate mogul, before she became a gay icon.

Joan had more than a bit of trouble singing on key. She danced with enthusiasm, not grace. But that didn't prevent her rise to Hollywood royalty. How can you not love her?

Want more Joan?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sculpture Studio

This undated (1930s?) press photo has the timeless appeal of two nude men. Very hot nude men. Soapy nude men. But that's not what makes it so interesting (well, not entirely).

What publication was going to publish this strange picture and what's really going on?

There are in fact three models. A woman, light reflecting off one bare breast, stands between and behind the men. She's waiting her turn to wash off whatever it is they have apparently all be painted with. Her gaze is down and away. She's reduced to part of the background.

On the left we have one dark haired model who can't quite seem to stop rubbing his muscular belly with a soapy rag. He watches as his fellow model lifts one shapely leg to the rim of the washtub.

He too looks down and away from the camera. Maybe a hint of a smile? Does he realize how beautiful he is?

Also in this little tableau we see, standing towards the back of the studio, three more men. One peaks out from behind the curtain on the left, another stands obscured the model, and then there's the sculptor in his crisp white smock, hand on hip.

He watches too, with an expression that seems wistful. So much beauty, so close by-- he could just extend a hand to help with those hard-to-reach places. He fantasizes because he knows (as we do) that it can never happen. OK, OK, OK. But there's a odd quality of stillness, sadness. Everyone seems not so much posed as frozen in time.

Together the two models bring to mind the Kouroi of the ancient world, and thanks to Wikipedia we found the double kouros of Kleobis and Biton, sons of Cydippe, a priestess of Hera. Now that's a sad story.

Turns out Cydippe was running late for a feast in honor of Hera, and her two strong sons pulled her oxcart the entire way. Cydippe was so impressed with their devotion she prayed to Hera to give them the best gift a god could give a mortal.

Hera ordained that the brothers would die in their sleep. After the feast they lay down in the temple, fell asleep, and never woke.

Thank you Hera.

This photo is available at

Another look at gay marriage

Received this photo in the mail today. Our friends Barbara and Fran, posing in front of San Francisco City Hall. They came back to California, all the way from Lancaster PA, to get married.

By the time the photo arrived, Proposition 8 had threatened their marriage, and those of the 18,000 other gay and lesbian newlyweds.

There's something striking about this photo. You'd never know it is a wedding portrait. It is, in fact, a threat to traditional wedding photography!

Here are two women who love each other very much, lived together for years, own a home, run a business, etc. Their wedding portrait couldn't be more mundane, or more subversive.

It isn't fantasy with big hair and too much makeup and expensive clothes no one will ever wear again. It's reality. Their reality. It avoids ALL the stereotypes of wedding photography. With no "role" to play, each is free to be themselves.

It suggests a boldness of thought, an independence of spirit, a "can-do" attitude. It's so fucking "American."

Some day it will be homobilia.

P.S. Really great piece in the NYTimes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gay Wedding Portrait

5 November 2008. Obama elected. Same-sex marriage ban wins in CA.

Like many of you I'm fucking pissed off. It just doesn't feel like the dawn of a new era.

To the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have wed since June we offer this little bit of perspective.

"Tony, John and Matthew, 1917" it says on the back of the photo.

Looks to me like the best man holding flowers and the newlyweds holding hands. Yes, it looks like, dare I even write the words... Gay Marriage! Brave for 1917.

Sadly, 91 years later, it's still a pretty brave act.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Elmer Lodge

A 20 year-old blue eyed vagrant.

5-9", 155 lbs., light brown hair.

Busted in Topeka, Kansas on June 25th, 1926.

Arresting officer Brandon (Special). Whatever that means.

In spite of those movie star looks, Elmer had obviously fallen on hard times. I fear that he led a really tough life. But man, if I had to share a cell with somebody in Topeka...

Drum Magazine

Unlike the earlier physique magazines, Drum was published "by male homosexuals for the entertainment and information of other male homosexuals." It offers a boy-next-door aesthetic, (no frontal nudity) news from all over the U.S., articles, book reviews, "Ask Drum," classifieds, and more. It is actually interesting to read!

Baltimore: Commissioner of Correction Vernon L. Peppersack has said that 'some homosexual prisoners are allowed to share cells as man and wife in the Maryland Penitentiary if they don't cause trouble. Washington Post, Sept 18.'

New York City: 'We were going to call it Columbia University Mattachine, but the initials killed it,' quipped a student
. The good humor did not cloud the objective however: a group of Columbia students, with the cooperation of their Chaplain's office, are forming America's first homophile organization on a university campus.'

The "National Homosexuality Test" offers 18 questions including:

Q: Is homosexuality against criminal law?
A: No. Such laws would be clearly unconstitutional. In each state, except Illinois, certain acts are against the law however. It seems that it is o.k. to be gay as long as you don't do anything about it.

Much has changed in the past 40 years, but these magazines are still informative and entertaining. And sometimes when we think of all the obstacles in the road ahead it is good to look back and see where we've come from.

See more issues of Drum at