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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Stigma

posted by Madame Bubby

‘Porn is not destroying the environment.” – recent tweet by Steven Toushin, owner BijouWorld.com


I’ve noticed on Twitter, that is, on my own account especially, a stigma, and this stigma is connected to a larger stigma.

The stigma isn’t homophobia specifically, nor is it what I term a type of classism or elitism, or that somehow only certain persons with certain academic credentials are worthy of a voice in discussing serious issues.

The stigma is what I call pornophobia. It manifests itself in this case, specifically, that because our blog is part of a website that sells gay porn, it is somehow cheapened, deemed unworthy of respect (not that anyone has directly criticized it), and perhaps for diplomatic reasons, persons ignore it as not worthy of artistic or intellectual study. If the blog was located on a not for profit site like an archives or a museum or a library, I think, the stigma would not be as prevalent.

Porn is an integral party of LGBTQ history, in fact, human history, and to just assume that it is a manifestation of “baser” instincts is wrongheaded and bigoted. Some of the earliest gay pornographic films were products of an artistic motivation to incorporate sexual experiences into narratives with story arcs, developing characters, and profound symbols.
 

Poster and images from The Idol
Vintage poster & images from Tom DeSimone's The Idol (1979)

VHS cover for Blue Angel
VHS front & back cover for Jurgen Bauer's The Blue Angel (1986)

They were liberators for the newly liberated. Watch The Idol and The Blue Angel, among other films we make it our mission to preserve and disseminate. They may be somewhat anomalous in their depth and scope, but there’s a range here, and even some of the early J. Brian titles, which feature unabashed sex and not much else, convey their own unique ambience of carpe diem, imply that the cultural composed connection between gay sex, in fact, any type of sex, and shame is as breakable as a bruised reed.
 

Stills from Seven in a Barn
Stills from J. Brian's Seven in a Barn (1971)

Too much literature and art has been created, I think, and this dynamic includes even LGBTQ persons themselves, that focuses on the relationship between many forms of harm and porn, ranging from the stereotypes of the gay porn movie as inextricably linked to an oppressed audience suffering from frustrated sexuality and exploitation, to even condemning all porn as fundamentally misogynistic.

I am not claiming that all porn is of artistic merit, nor am I making any claim that the porn industry (distinguishing between the industry and the product) has not been part of exploitative and oppressive structures.

But any action that involves bending or breaking taboos is indeed a risk. Taking that risk in expressing one’s sexuality means confronting and continually reimagining the primal center of human life, in fact, all life.

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Chicago Pride Parade 2019: The Drama

posted by Madame Bubby

I was there. It was humid and crowded, and luckily I was standing near some hot shirtless guys with cute asses. Nothing terribly exciting or, to be honest, much different from previous years, even if it was celebrating 50 years since Stonewall.
 

Chicago Pride Parade balloons
Photo Credit: Time Out Chicago

I left early to cool down in a friend's apartment, and soon the floodgates opened. Literally. Severe thunderstorms moved in, accompanied by torrential rains. To obtain updates, I was following CWB Chicago on Twitter as the drama was occurring. Attendees were ordered by the police to first shelter in place, and then evacuate. Ultimately, the parade was, to use the unfortunate language of the police, “terminated.” In the 49 years of its existence, as far as I know, this parade was never rained on. Never.

Luckily, my friend and I were ensconced on the couch watching the delayed broadcast of the parade during the monsoon.

We waited until the sun had emerged, about 4:30 p.m, to emerge ourselves to check out the situation.

I already knew from the updates that this unprecedented event causes situations of violence, and, according to a witnesses, overall “weirdness.”

For example, a local Walgreens and CVS wanted to lock their doors because of the onslaught of persons fleeing the rain. In the parking lot of the Walgreens, persons were jumping on cars (this behavior has happened before at events), but in the case, the crowd was larger and overall more violent.
 

Jumping on cars, Chicago Pride Parade
Photo Credit: CWB Chicago

Police said two people were arrested in separate incidents for slapping police horses after the parade had stopped. For example, acccording to CWB Chicago, Wagdi Elgosbi, 28, approached a police horse in the 3200 bock of North Clark around 5:20 p.m. and asked the officer riding it if he could pet the animal. When the officer denied his request, Elgosbi slapped the horse in its face, police said in an arrest report. (Unacceptable!)

And, something both violent and, to be truthful, weird occurred at Chicago Comics (complete story available here). A woman burst into the store, begging for someone to call the police. A gang of twenty plus teenagers burst in, vanadalizing the store, and they sprayed the woman with pepper spray. The group fled when they heard the sirens. The police arrived, and the woman was taken away in an ambulance.
 

Mess in Chicago Comics
Photo Credit: Chicago Comics Facebook Page

Now, just listing incidents in this fashion doesn't really prove much specifically. Violence has occurred in the wake of this event before (and tends to occur at public celebrations, no matter who puts them on), but the above behavior appear to be more noteworthy, whatever that means.

And certainly noteworthy was the twerking trend occurring this year. Any object could be “twerked,” according to this compilation.

I realize for some time there's been much controversy, mostly racially-charged, around claims about groups of teenagers not from the local area creating problems in the Boystown area.

I also think one could gain a more accurate and perhaps even inspiring context for this situation by recounting what happened to my friend and I after we left the apartment.

In a quest for food, we stopped at a casual joint called Windy City Gyros. The place was full of openly gay teenagers, racially diverse. Yes, openly gay, girls holding hands, one guy with his arm draped around the shoulder of another guy. This was a place where they could be open, safe. I can't imagine that behavior occurring when I was in high school in the 1970s, anywhere.
 

 

Windy City Gyros interior
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com

And, I do understand the serious issues with police presence at such events, especially at an event which commemorates a movement that began as a protest against the police, but a couple police guys casually went into the place to sit down and eat. Imagine how different this situation might have been in the 1970s and 1980s. During that period, the police might have been there because the owners would be calling them about the deviants.

The boundary between celebration and violence, and self-expression and psychological disturbance, is fluid, especially at events whose purpose and history, however that history may be subsumed or diluted, is a stand against repressive hierarchies.

I decry the violence that occurred in a place previous generations built to be safe and open (including for twerking) for the future: LGBTQ youth.

Perhaps, 50 years after Stonewall, we need to realize that it's not justice or rights in the abstract we need to work for, but with persons in all their moment by moment, often messy, complexity.

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The Wonderful Land of Twitter

posted by Madame Bubby

Twitter logo

The Tweeter in Chief make may make some think the social media platform of Twitter is a hellscape. I suppose that depends on who you are and your previous level of social and intellectual engagement.

In my case, and perhaps my perception will change (not that I would enter #MAGA land; I currently find the #Resist echo chamber comforting, and who wants to hang out in Mordor), but I feel I have entered an enchanted forest.

I decided to activate my personal twitter account which I had opened a few years ago partly out of boredom and partly out of a what I felt to be a pressing social need to spread pro-labor union information.

Three weeks later, a world famous opera singer and I are following each other. Her name is Karita Mattila. She is a world famous soprano. Every gay man needs a diva to worship, and it took only one day for me to join her circle of Twitter buddies. And of course, most of us are gay.
 

Karita Mattila
Karita Mattila

A Reform Jewish rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, has engaged me and like my tweets which have ranged from a discussion of a Hebrew term in Leviticus and the psychosocial pereceptions of clergy.

Wayne Kostenbaum, a nationally acclaimed gay author and I have gotten to the point where we have exchanged direct messages. He thinks I am cute.

I am now tweeting on a close to equal level with other academics in the fields of English and religion. I don't feel excluded like I did on some of the more traditional listservs or in real life.

And, let's just say, already I have moved from tweeting to direct message to texting with a hot young number in grad school in English literature. In one day.

On the lighter side, I am now part of the Old Hollywood club on twitter. I spent last afternoon tweeting around with a wonderful person, joking about the dowager/old lady roles in 1930s Hollywood. Perhaps not the same dynamic as actually being with the person physically, but how long would it take one to physically find someone who would know who Dame May Whitty was?

You are what you make. I wouldn't have been able to do all this if I hadn't already been an exciting, diverse, intellectually curious person. But the fast-paced medium of Twitter has enabled me to somehow share my interests in a more integral way which actually seems to contradict the nanosecond pace and spatially diffuse nature of the platform.

And Bijouworld's Twitter is currently mushrooming, especially since The Rialto Report tweeted:

“We’re proud to announce that Valparaiso Pictures/Permut Presentations have snapped up the screen rights to our article “Centurians Of Rome: How a Bank Robber Made The Most Expensive Gay Porno Of All Time.” We look forward to bringing it to the big screen!"

In one day, we gained 55 followers!
 

Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque
Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque

Now, I don't want to live on Twitter (perhaps the initial beginner's excitement will die down), but I feel the same way I felt when I discovered the internet back in 1998 and made some interesting connections on listservs (many of which have fizzled out slowly, given the more socially restrictive nature of the medium and just the fact that people do change).
 

Twitter logo bird holding sign that says: Yup, I tweet too much! Get over it!

Whatever happens, I will enjoy and perhaps be in a better position to learn if the cyberexperiences don't always develop in a socially and psychologically healthy way.

And follow Bijouworld on Twitter. Our always “kick-ass” account is really hopping now, revealing we are truly leading now in the fields of gay sexuality, LGBTQ history, and film studies.

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Blue Collar

Ed Wiley in Rough Trades
Ed Wiley (aka Myles Longue) in Jack Deveau's Rough Trades

When I was younger, much younger, I slept with a guy who one could safely say was blue collar. He worked at various constructions jobs (mostly unskilled). He was hot (muscles, beard, deep voice, big hands) and he was gay, and he was kinky. What more could one ask for? In fact, at a gathering I held when I was sleeping with him off and on, a cultured friend of mine who sold suits to mostly white collar executives met him. He blurted out to me, “You slept with him! Can I touch you?” He meant it jokingly, but I think much was implied in his reaction, much about class, education, sexual orientation, and how that all ties into how we view what is masculine.
 

Hot Truckin' before/after color correction images from upcoming restoration
Before/after color correction from Bijou's NEW restoration of Tom DeSimone's Hot Truckin' starring Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers as truck drivers

Where does the term blue collar even come from?
 

Hot trucker

The term blue collar was first used in reference to trades jobs in 1924, in an Alden, Iowa newspaper. The phrase stems from the image of manual workers wearing blue denim or chambray shirts as part of their uniforms.
 

1930s men's work uniforms

Some blue collar workers have uniforms with the name of the business and/or the individual's name embroidered or printed on it.

Historically the popularity of the color blue among manual laborers contrasts with the popularity of white dress shirts worn by people in office environments.

The blue collar/white collar color scheme has socioeconomic connotations, which comes from the British class system, especially as it transmuted because of the Industrial Revolution.

The people who worked in factories were called the working class, and they varied in degrees of respectability, ranging from the skilled laborers who could afford a small house and raise a church-going family (think Archie Bunker types), to unskilled day laborers at the bottom of the social ladder.

These individuals, because of their lack of education, were stereotyped as coarse and ill-mannered, but also as physically strong and big-hearted; perhaps Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners exemplifies the best and the worst of this image.
 

Ralph Kramden
Ralph Kramden

The people who ran the factories and eventually created the big corporations of the Gilded Age and beyond, combined with the older, genteel professions of teachers and doctors, became the white collar middle and upper middle classes, and at the top of that ladder, the nouveau riche.

This structure pretty much held for a long time in the United States, but once factory jobs moved to China and other places because of globalization, a new working class replaced it, working lower paid service and retail jobs jobs, and also in office jobs, ostensibly white collar, but working mostly as servants to upper middle class and upper class high level professionals like lawyers and corporate executives.
 

Robert Rikas in American Cream
Robert Rikas as a power-hungry white collar executive degrading his employee in the brilliant and satircal 1972 gay porn classic, American Cream

Now, how do gay men fit into this social picture? The stereotype of gay men is definitely not the “rough” guy who works with his hands, but the effeminate artsy-fartsy queen who thrives in refined cultural environments, the “sissy.” If you weren't out in that way and consigning yourself to stereotypical gay professions like acting and hairdressing, you conformed to the social structure above, and if you were in the working class, you definitely didn't proclaim your sexual orientation.
 

Henk Van Dijk and Garry Hunt as a ballet dancer and a trucker in Ballet Down the Highway
A ballet dancer (Henk Van Dijk) & a closeted truck driver (Garry Hunt) having an affair in Jack Deveau's 1976 film, Ballet Down the Highway

Thus, in the book Maurice, the aristocrat Maurice is really taking a risk by loving Alec Scudder, a gamekeeper, much below him in social class.

So, what was a gay construction worker or trucker to do?

Hide their true selves, it seems. But note, so many gay porn fantasies involve these blue collar guys in places like truck stops and construction sites, but how much are they the projected fantasies of white collar gay guys who fetishize the conventional masculinity of these straight guys?
 

Vintage ads for Grease Monkeys and Hardhat
Hard working mechanics and construction workers in the vintage Jaguar releases, Grease Monkeys and Hardhat

Tellingly, we saw this projection become dominant very soon after the initial liberation of Stonewall, when the gay clone look involved construction boots, denim, and keys hanging from belts.
 

Richard Locke in Cruisin' the Castro
Richard Locke, the ultimate blue collar man of '70s gay porn, in Cruisin' the Castro

And of course, one of the Village People guys was a construction worker.
 

Village People construction worker

Thus, in my case, it was almost a status symbol that I really slept with a real blue collar guy (I also slept with a fireman).

Neither relationship worked out, and it wasn't because of the social gap.

Yet, since the 1990s, when those relationships occurred, some social distinctions have blurred, but not all. Even in the increasingly mainstream LGBTQ community, upper middle class wealthy white educated males have wielded the most power and influence, ostensibly for the good of all in a diverse community, but the dynamic mirrors the class structure of the society as a whole.

The Veda Pierces (the snobbish daughter of Mildred Pierce) who looked down upon dollar days and men who wear uniforms (today what many retail employees have to wear) still exist, but they come from all social classes as the world of cyberspace creates a level playing field for everyone.
 

Veda Pierce
Veda Pierce

Yet, the world of Twitter can create identities that don't correspond with one's real life social status, and thus the opposite of the above can occur: an Amazon delivery person can show more class and education and insight than a nouveau riche person, the most powerful man in the world, who embodies the worst stereotypes of the blue collar worker every time he tweets.

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