David's Sexual Underground - 5/22/23

 

Chuck Renslow - BijouBlog

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings All,

 

It has been a rough week for me, which has put us behind schedule this week. I have been assisting a dear friend and mighty force in our greater LGBTQ+ community these past few months. When I came to Chicago in 1976, one of the first friends I made was Marge Summit, then owner of His N Hers, a popular community bar located under the L tracks on Addison.

 

Marge Summit in westernwear at His N Hers

 

Marge created a wonderful space that brought many facets of our community together to celebrate. Marge’s staff served us great drinks, prepared fabulous food including the best burger I ever enjoyed in Chicago. And Marge made a space for lots of local talent to perform, grow and succeed.

She became a dear friend and mentor to me in the service industry. Those of you who joined me for Chicago’s Original Country Dance after closing Carol’s Speakeasy should remember Marge helping us serve drinks at various spots along the way Pusch Studios, Paris Dance, Whiskey River, Bedrock to name a few.

 

Marge at the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame

 

As an icon of our community, Marge was there when AIDS first struck Chicago. Her support for many of the early organizations that came to be in response to this emergency was fantastic. Howard Brown, Chicago House, Open Hand and numerous others were causes championed at His N Hers in the 80s with the support of the talented artist that performed at the bar.

Marge did more than just host benefits; she took action when needed. One of my favorite things she did was to push peoples’ comfort zones.

 

Frank Kellas and Marge Summit in newspaper photo, cited as being named as Organizers of the Year from Gay Chicago for their commitment to the Gay Dollar Campaign

 

To stress the economic force of our community, Marge and her leather buddy Frank Kellas launched the Gay Dollar campaign. She bought rubber stamps that read Gay Dollar and stamped thousands of one dollar bills. In the 80s, that got the attention of the Feds. They visited her and threatened her if she persisted. She did persist and straight folks were forced to be embarrassed by handing over “gay money” when shopping, dining, etc.

You may not remember there was a small grocery store at the corner of Belmont & Broadway. The owners were unhappy as the neighborhood became “New Town” with gays moving into the area. Bars, stores catering to gays sprang up. With the fear of AIDS, the owners were afraid of contact with us. Marge would get friends to join her to each grab a grocery cart and fill it with all kinds of items, the smaller the better. Filling the carts, they would leave them at the checkout announcing they were gay. The fearful owners and staff would be forced to wipe off all the handled merchandise, fearing contamination of AIDS. Sound familiar?

Marge met the love of her life, Janan, in her later years and I was honored to host their wedding at my Country Dance at The Call. Sadly, we had to celebrate Janan’s passing there too. The past few months were hard for Marge, failing health and loneliness made it a vicious circle. I was fortunate to spend time with her, sharing memories, meals, helping her cope as she became weaker.

 

Marge and Janan

 

I got to sit with her one last time on Tuesday in her finally hours as she passed from this world knowing she would be reunited with her wife, Janan.

Marge was not part of our leather community, but she understood our side of the family. She was a great friend of Chuck Rodocker, Chuck Renslow and Jim Flint, all leather bar owners in the 70s and 80s. She stood with us as AIDs decimated the clubs and took the lives of so many leathermen.

This loss is not felt just by me but many others of our leather community of that era.

Thanks for allowing me to share this passing with you.

 

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P(r)ick of the Week - 5/20/20

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Really in a weird space this week. We should be gearing up for 6 big crazy nights for the coming Memorial Day weekend. But we are still shuttered here in Chicago.

For the past 40 years, the International Mr Leather Contest took over our Memorial Day weekend bringing 1,000s of visitors to town. Which made us very busy at Touché with parties night after night and several afternoon functions, too.

We would begin with a welcome party on the Wednesday before the weekend as all the IML contestants, most vendors and others arrived early to prepare for the weekend. Then it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights going strong. By Memorial Day many would be departing Chicago, but we still had great crowds that afternoon for our big cookout and even into the night on Memorial Day.

I will miss many friends this year, the guys from Off Ramp Leathers, friends from other bars that have contestants at IML and many others won’t be visiting Chicago this week. For the first time in years, I’ll have Memorial Day off.

In the beginning IML was not this weekend. The first couple of years it was held over Mother's Day Weekend. IML began as a bar event. Chuck Renslow, owner of the Gold Coast, came up with the idea of a Mister contest for Leathermen.

Back in the mid 1970s before IML started, Chicago bars hosted Mister contests as a way to attract a crowd. The old Gay Chicago Magazine helped develop this promotion of Mister contests by hosting the Mr Windy City Contest each spring. During the winter months, various bars would host a contest to select their Mr, who would then go on to compete for the title of Mr Windy City. During my tenure as manager of the old Carol’s Speakeasy in the 80’s (that was next door to the Bijou Theater), I had 2 Mr Carol’s that won the Mr Windy City title.

Seeing the success of this program, Renslow took that idea and morphed it into a leather titleholder contest. Since you only had 3 or 4 leather bars in Chicago, he made it an international competition to allow for more contestants.

In 1979, Touché was also part of Chicago’s leather bar scene, so Chuck Renslow approached Chuck Rodocker, owner of Touché, to team up and sponsor the contest. Basically the contest was held on one night with bar parties at both places Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Back then, Touché only had a 2 am license while the Gold Coast had a 4 am license. Things started at one bar and then continued at the other.

Being 1979, gay events out in public were still rare; not many places were comfortable having a bunch of queers in their place of business, it would scare off the straights. So there was no host hotel, no big dances in ballrooms, no big display of leather gear and sex toys in convention halls. The early weekend was basically cocktail parties at the bars and fuck parties at the baths (Chuck Renslow also owned Man’s Country).

But as a big advocate of his hometown, my boss Chuck Rodocker (no opportunity to shorten reference to either man, they were both Chuck R, both owners of a leather bar, people still get confused between the two of them) had the staff of Touché host some daytime excursions to add to the weekend activities. We did bus tours around town (have you ever tried to mix drinks on a moving vehicle?).

The logic back then was that Touché closed at 2 am (3 am on Saturday) while the Gold Coast was open till 4 or 5 am. The Touché staff had time for more rest to get back out and going early the next day. The problem with this was that while we may have closed earlier, that didn’t mean we would not wind up at the Gold Coast to enjoy the party there and end up closing that bar, too.

So hungover or still up after fucking some of the visiting leathermen, we would be out there herding folks onto a bus or serving up bloody marys while a local leather club or group of clubs prepared a breakfast buffet of some kind. It was a more intimate weekend than it has become.

As I stated, IML was first held on Mother's Day weekend. Again, you have to visualize Chicago in 1979. White flight had left the city pretty vacant around what we call River North today. The Gold Coast and many other gay bars were in the area, the rest old warehouses, business places that were deserted nights and weekends.

Except...... across the street from the Gold Coast was a renowned restaurant, Gordan’s, that hosted a big Mother's Day brunch every year. Folks would line up outside for the opportunity to treat dear old Mom to a nice brunch. And there we’d be in full leather gear piling guys onto buses, drinks in hand. It was quite a show and I loved being part of it.

And once the IML weekend was over, we still had Memorial Day weekend to kick off summer, just not as crazy as it has been these past few years. I’m going to have to figure out what to do with a long weekend of nothing. Kind of hard, as we have already gone over two months without something, anything. Just hoping I don’t get too comfortable with this, hope to be “back in the saddle” again next May.

So while I ponder my Memorial Day weekend plans, grab my P(r)ick this week with a nod to the men in uniforms - soldiers, sailors and marines - and wave your flags.

My first P(r)ick is A Few Good Men directed by Steve Scott. Released in 1983, this is definitely one of the best grunts fuck films of all time. The Philadelphia Gay News raved about the film on its release, "this gay sex film wins the prize for best treatment of two common gay porn themes: the repressed sexuality of an all-male military setting [including authentic costumes and underwear] and the thin line between fantasy and reality. Scott's style is at its most poetic, in both image and sound."

For a second helping check out Seamen directed by Matt Sterling for Brentwood Studios. Its four pre-condom episodes play with the theme of sailors on leave. There's a good deal of spanking, armpit and foot licking and hearty oral and anal sex. The actors' eager performances ought to get you drop-dead horny.

Before I go this week, I do want to assure you that I do get your comments about my writings for Bijou Video, even if it makes you feel some guy from a porn site is smarter than you. I’m not that smart, just curious to learn more. Thanks for the many compliments, responses to my thoughts and letting me know that you enjoy reading these blogs. I get a kick out of writing them and hearing what you have to say..

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and stay safe, my friends.


David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com

 

A Few Good Men images
A Few Good Men (D00316) - On DVD and Streaming

Seamen images
Seamen (D00228) - On DVD and Streaming
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Some Famous Male Nudes

 

posted by Madame Bubby

Yes, nudes. Nudies. And not just Greek sculptures. (In fact, one might think Tumblr would not block these images. Hmm … )

And famous Greek sculptures, like the Eros of Praxiteles (see below) enabled Chuck Renslow, the pioneering gay erotic photographer and pretty much the founder of the contemporary gay leather/BDSM community, to stay in business. In other words, a full-frontal male nude can be aesthetically beautiful. It's not “dirty” and, in line with the Romantic sensibility that correlated truth with beauty, not morally offensive.
 

Praxiteles' Eros
Praxiteles' Eros

The famous sculpture of Eros by Praxiteles was so lifelike and seductive, that according to one source, a visitor to Thespiae named Allketas fell in love with it and jacked off against it. Pliny, the famous historian, claimed he left “traces of lust” on it. Cum stains? Scandalous. Nero also fell in love with it, but it perished in the great fire of 64 A.C.E. Of course, now someone would end up doing something that Allketas did and put it on Pornhub.

The seventeenth century Italian artist Caravaggio, one of the LGBTQ family, was always in trouble with his prudish Counter Reformation employers for using hot models for his mostly religious paintings, including street hustlers (who frequented the streets around the palaces of the Cardinals). In fact, one of his patrons, the creepy Cardinal Francesco del Monte, cultivated young men (some things never change). Caravaggio's painting “Victorious Love” or “Amor Vincit Omnia” shows Cupid as a naked youth “trouncing various symbols of human achievement and sophistication,” according to Leigh Rutledge. Ouch.

In the eighteenth century, a nude marble statute of an obscure local saint, Guignole, was supposedly able to cure infertility and frigidity. Keep in mind that many of the medieval saints were closely tied in person and function with pre-Christian religious practices, which usually focused on keeping life forces going, that is sex. According to Leigh Rutledge, women took scrapings from the statue's big cock, mixed them with water, and then drank the mixture. The monks - yes monks, supposedly chaste males - who tended the statue ended up having to keep repairing the mutilated penis. Thus, they drilled a hole through the statue's groin and inserted a long phallus made of wood down through it. As followers of the big-cocked saint scraped the penis down to size, a blow with a mallet from the rear would cause the dick to regain its original length. Oh my. So much is going on there.
 

Statue of Saint Guignole pierced with needles
Statue of Saint Guignole pierced with needles

Jumping to 1972, in the wake of the age of sexual liberation, Burt Reynolds appeared naked for Cosmopolitan magazine. Well, not completely, his dick was covered … but still, wow.
 

Burt Reynolds in Cosmopolitan
Burt Reynolds in Cosmopolitan

Yes, the audience was women, but this spread paved the way for Playgirl magazine, the publication for women and gay men. In fact, Playgirl's first centerfold was the hunky Lyle Waggoner of Carol Burnett fame. Even the incredibly talented Carol needed some eye candy hanging about for the benefit of the ladies and her gay fans.
 

Lyle Waggoner in Playgirl, June 1973
Lyle Waggoner in Playgirl, June 1973

Overall, one can see an objectification of the male body, but at the same time, a complex relationship of that body to the surrounding culture. The big dick here may be the god or God here in these scenarios, but it's not just the dick itself, but what it does and what you can do with it. Nature is just the inspiration point for the creative process of the human imagination.

Source: Leigh Rutledge, The Gay Book of Lists

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No More Porn on Tumblr! Why?

I wonder if the announcement that Tumblr was banning pornographic content was perhaps inevitable, but not for the official and unofficial reasons currently being disseminated by the media.

The surface reasons seems to be tied into the confluence between technology and profits. The IOS App Store would no longer allow the Tumblr App because of an isolated child pornography incident. Since most Smartphone users rely on Apps, not allowing it would seriously lessen Tumblr’s overall use and scope. But why target Tumblr? Was it simply the, according to some sources, the 20 percent porn content?

It may seem that Tumblr was directly put between the proverbial rock and hard place, even though the microblog is a free service. An article in The Verge succinctly paraphrases the new policy:

“Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.” The wording of Tumblr’s announcement seems to both evoke and invoke arguments about obscenity that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.

LGBTQ sexual pioneer Chuck Renslow started out as a physique photographer, and he definitely was pushing social boundaries during the 1950s with his homoerotic (as close to nude was possible, and one could often see that the posing straps were painted on) photos. He, like many other in this line of work, were “coding” their visuals, because it was one of the few ways gay men could experience their erotic desires and fantasies safely and privately. Many outfits mailed nude photos and films in plain envelopes, but these were often confiscated by the Post Office and the perpetrators, both the senders and receivers, punished.

Some of these incidents ended up in the court system. Renslow’s case ended in victory, as the judge made the ruling that if one deemed these photos obscene, so would certain masterpieces of art, especially from the Graeco-Roman period.

The Manual vs. Day case, which went to the United States Supreme Court, held that magazines consisting of semi-nude or nude males are not obscene and the Post Office cannot interfere with their dissemination through the mail. The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened the U.S. mail to nude male pornography, especially those whose audience was gay men.

Tumblr of course is certainly not contained physically in brown, unmarked envelopes, but what is interesting is that Tumblr seems to be agreeing with that 1950s judge. Agreeing to some extent, yes, but also opening up once more some of the time-worn arguments about the complex relationship between sexuality, artistic expression, violence, and how this relationship builds and shapes an audience.

Going back to my initial statement, it seems inevitable that something of this nature would happen, because it’s obvious our means of communication have changed drastically since the days of postage stamps and nudie photographs and envelopes, and later, moving images of sexual acts in theaters that charged admission only to adults: physical mediums that exist in a controlled spatial situation.

What Tumblr and those who support restricting what they deem porn (for them, porn equals genitals which equals sexual acts) fail to recognize is not of course the nanosecond dissemination of mostly amateur depictions of sex which could result in more potentially dangerous situations: no, they fail to recognize the aesthetics (which tie into social contexts, of course) of a wide variety of LGBTQ pornography from the 1970s and 1980s, especially.

For example, Al Parker responded to the AIDS crisis by combining sexual acts and documentary in his film High Tech. Jack Deveau offers what one could claim is a documentary of gay life during the "hippie" era in Left-Handed. So many others of that period usually offer narrative structures: the sex acts aren’t just sex acts per se, but components in forms that explore the larger social issues of the time. And even some of the J. Brian films, which were not made to specifically address any social or moral issues, could be seen as living documents of gay sexual history.
 

Three cast members in High Tech
Three men using vacuum pumps in High Tech

Stars of Left-Handed
Stars Ray Frank & Robert Rikas in Left-Handed

The question remains as to how one could apply any standard of evaluation to any medium which communicates the erotic universally, but it seems a rather generalized case could be made that the older the porn, the more chances it could be determined to be aesthetically or historically significant. But the burden of proof would fall on the user, and in today’s lightning-paced communication environment, time is an enemy, rather than, as before, space.

Yet at this juncture, it seems like the only possible solution here is diversification. Perhaps Tumblr’s free-for-all ethos caused this implosion. Given the fluid nature of social media, those who used Tumblr, especially LGBTQ persons who still exist in various states of marginalization, will have to regroup, and unfortunately, some might claim, not return to closets or ghettos, but establish in their own tech-savvy ways other spaces for erotic expression.

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A Secret Sex Life a Couple of Blocks Away

Samuel Steward aka Phil Andros

When I was younger and discovering gay sexuality through paperback books, I came up the work of Phil Andros. In the early 1990s, soon after I came out, I acquired (used) some of his leather/fetish-oriented fiction, which was published by an outfit called Perineum Press (what a name!). The book was called Different Strokes. It's been a while since I've read it (in fact, I just found it on my LGBTQ bookcase at home), but it contains descriptions of rough sex, verbal abuse, boots, leather … a world that, as I just found out, was occurring in real life very, very close to where I currently live in the Uptown area. A long time ago. Before Stonewall, gay liberation, rainbow flags, and prosperous/hipsterish couples pushing strollers.
 

Cover of Different Strokes by Phil Andros

Phil Andros, as I recently found out, was a pen name (and also the name of the prodigiously sexual hustler character in his books) for Samuel Steward. Born in the early part of the last century, he lived a double life as Dr. Steward, an English professor at two Catholic universities in Chicago, erotic artist/author, tattoo artist Phil Sparrow (including, at one point, for the Hell's Angels!), and, ultimately and consistently, sexual rebel. He was as openly gay as one could be in the days before Stonewall; he even decorated his first apartment in homoerotic murals that showed dick.
 

 

Samuel Steward tattooing as Phil Sparrow

 

Yet he expressed his sexuality not in trying to find a lover and live quietly and monogamously in the closet; no, his sexual world consisted of sailors on leave; married guys who, because they were on the receiving end of Sammy's amazing blowjobs, did not consider themselves gay; rough trade, especially with African-American guys from the South Side; and eventually, participation in the early days of openly gay leather BDSM begun by the equally maverick Chuck Renslow.
 

Sailors at 1940s great lakes naval base

Overall, he gloried in mansex, but given his background in literature and art, found ways to distill its essence in poems, fiction, and visual art. And his legacy was kept hidden until his elder years, post-Stonewall, when gay sexuality literally exploded.

There's so much more (and I will share more tidbits in future blogs, including his connection to 1970s gay porn), but what really floored me is where his sex life, which for many seems like a masturbatory fantasy or porn movie, occurred. A couple blocks from where I dwell. In a nondescript courtyard apartment building (I haven't found out the exact apartment number). I did check out the building on Zillow, and the apartments don't look that rehabbed. Maybe there's the original floor where Sam knelt before the boots of some greaser type in the 1950s.
 

Phil Andros' apartment building

As I said above, I will share some more tidbits, but in the meantime, you can check out a book on him, and you can also check out our early 1970s porn (including this J. Brian film based on one of his novels) to savor visually some of the amazing sexual energy that happened in that humble apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.

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