1920s LGBTQ Fantasy

posted by Madame Bubby

I was staring the other day while on the internet at images of 1920s living rooms and kitchens, because I realized how many places I’ve lived in (including my current dwelling) were built in that time period. For example, builders were churning out rows and rows of the traditional Chicago brick bungalow, and, as my grandmother (born in 1900, and she would know) had told me, this was really one of the first homes with consistently “modern” conveniences such as an indoor, private bathroom with a tub and shower, a kitchen with a sink and room for an icebox/refrigerator, and up-to-date electrical wiring and outlets for the period.
 

1920s bungalow kitchen
Source: Old House Journal

Thus, I posed this question on my personal Twitter: what if you woke up and it was 1920 or thereabouts (which, next year, will be 100 years ago!); where would you be, who would you be, what would you do?

Most of the responses were frankly, more glamorous and noble, than mine, such as, according to one classical music specialist being in Vienna and/or Paris and hanging around with such luminaries as “Webern, the Mahlers, Picasso, Woolf, Freud, and Jung.” Another person chose Paris, identifying himself with The Lost Generation, “buying tickets for Koussevitzky’s concerts, Prokofiev’s recitals, and Diaghelev’s ballets.” Another person claimed she would be involved in the women’s suffrage movement.

I concocted a 1920s LGBTQ fantasy. I wonder if I should just write it as a kind of 1920s “Tales of the City,” set in Chicago.
 

Dapper young 1920s guy

I imagined myself as a “dapper young” homosexual, working as a clerk in a library, maybe the Chicago Public Library or even the more esteemed Newberry Library. I would also be trying at the same time to go to school in some humanities-related field. I would be riding the streetcar downtown to work and school from the single room occupancy hotel for men where I would be living.
 

Newberry Library, 1920
Newberry Library, 1920

At the hotel, I meet another dapper guy who is studying philosophy, and we both plan to go to the infinitely more exciting New York and experience the much more sophisticated bohemian scene there (we are both too poor to go to Paris, alas). But a muscular stevedore with a big moustache moves down the hall and distracts me, especially after I accidentally on purpose get a glimpse of his massive uncut cock as he is leaving the shared toilet area in the hotel.
 

Newberry Library, 1920
Source: Collector's Weekly

By this point, one of my Twitter buddies (who is married, of course, grr) said he was getting turned on by this whole narrative, that he would be thinking about it all day, and that he wants to hang out with me, and that, when I mentioned the stevedore, he was thinking, “I want to binge this on Netflix.” (I now know I may have missed my calling.)

Continuing the literally steamy narrative, the dapper philosophy student goes to the Turkish bath. He lies to me that he “did something naughty there.” But I pretty much realize the story is a fabrication, because during that time period, one would be arrested and jailed for sodomy.

As a result, I break up with him (he goes back to live with his Irish parents on the South Side), and visit my eccentric grandma who lives in a two-story frame house in the Division/Milwaukee area, at that time a Polish area. She works full time at the famous Wieboldt’s department store in the area. She is my only family left, because both my parents had died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.
 

1920s Chicago Tribune article on Milwaukee Avenue retail district boom
Milwaukee Avenue retail district - Source: Chicago Patterns

Next door to Grandma, two German ladies live together in a “Boston marriage” (two single women, usually wealthy, living together, not necessarily lesbian, but … ). Scandalously, one of them was seen outside smoking.

While I am staying next door at my grandma’s house, enjoying her front porch on steamy summer nights, the spinster aunt of one of the lesbians next door (Aunt Heddy owns the house) is found stabbed to death with an ice pick. One of the ladies blames the African American ice man, who is convicted on circumstantial evidence (revealing the extreme bigotry of the period, right after the infamous 1919 Chicago Race Riots), but I suspect something else may be afoot.
 

1920s Women
Source: America in Class

All the while, the stevedore and I are enjoying casual kinky sex (Mr. Muscles of course is the dominant one, of course, but he does like me to give him a spanking once in a while with my belt), but his parents are setting him up to get married to an extremely boring childhood neighbor girl who works at Western Electric in Cicero.

The stevedore and I now decide to do some of our own investigating to find out who really killed Aunt Heddy. Was it her cigarette-smoking niece who was going to inherit the house she was living in with her friend?

That’s as far as I got. I think it’s got potential, both as a novel and/or as a screenplay, and also because of its rich allusions to the specific urban culture of the period.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just write one of the steamy gay sex scenes and share it on the blog.

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Eye Candy

posted by Madame Bubby

I went to the movies a couple of days ago with a lady friend; we went to see a rather tepid movie called The Aftermath. I was in the mood for a historical drama (what we got was mostly history, not drama, but that’s another blog).

When we went to show our purchased tickets to the “ticket taker,” my friend asked him about the quality of the movie. The gentleman was equivocal; he said other it wasn’t as good as Apollo 11 in general, but there would be eye candy in The Aftermath for both of us. That is, the male lead for her, the female lead for me. (Yes, you assumed right, he assumed wrong. Oh, well.)
 

Skarsgård and Knightley in The Aftermath
The Aftermath

And I must admit, the ass and hands (which chopped a lot of wood in the movie, he knows how to wield that axe) of tall and handsome Alexander Skarsgård were eye candy to both of us. (There is a scene where you can see that ass, and it is high and tight.) Eye candy.

I’ve heard that idiom for a long time now, most of my adult life. For example, at all the International Mr. Leather conventions I’ve attended, many guys, even if they aren’t into the leather/BDSM scene, attend the leather market for the eye candy.
 

Hot guys at IML

So, what does the term literally mean? Candy for the eyes. One could say it is synesthesia. One is looking, but at the same time tasting, or at least wanting to taste. Perhaps it is a way to encapsulate in an easily understandable idiom the “male gaze” that mixes together longing, lust, and could be a springboard to fantasy. The words themselves rarely seem to verge into the dangerous domains of sexual harassment and beyond.

But, to be frank, I have never really heard a straight guy refer to a woman as eye candy. It seems to be mostly a female-male or male-male term. Eye candy ranges from the more wholesome Chippendales calendars and covers of romance novels, to the really risque Instagrams (celebrities themselves, or those who have become celebrities solely because of their Instagram pictures).

One definition itself of eye candy itself is quite telling. Despite its what could be a complex synesthesia of sight and taste, some claim it means visual images that “are superficially attractive but intellectually undemanding.” Ah, it’s that old emotion vs. reason binary going on here.

And the word candy can connote childhood or immaturity. Eye cake would perhaps connote a different set of images of assumptions!

I would think perhaps looking at eye candy could possibly move beyond the superficial. Unfortunately, perhaps, one could overanalyze why one is attracted to certain images and the intent of certain advertisers in producing such images. But then the whole point of that slightly primal twinge one experiences in the “eye candy” gaze would be lost.

And let’s not forget, for many LGBTQ persons who were and still are unable to make the journey from eye candy to intimacy, the “eye candy” gaze, however solitary, can even be salvific. In my case, before I came out, magazines like Honcho and some of those sword and sandal movies were my eye candy.
 

Three Honcho magazine covers

Yes, no one wants to be so lonely, like the closeted lesbian character Judi Dench plays in the movie Notes on a Scandal, that the “accidental” touch of a bus conductor’s hand bring a fleeting moment of life and joy.

Yet perhaps the challenge is being able to know and love the object of your affections as a subject. One can’t do that with an image. But the image can be a spark that lights a flame.

One may not find someone as physically beauteous as Alexander Skarsgård, but one’s initial gaze can develop into one’s personal ideal of beauty and intimacy that isn’t necessarily superficial. Ultimately, we are body, mind, and soul. Didn’t someone once say the eyes are the windows of the soul?

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