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Gaywatch: Once Upon A Closet

Gaywatch: Once Upon A Closet    By Tim Parks

Contrary to popular belief I did not emerge from the womb gay, nor did I deem the lighting in the hospital too harsh and unflattering, thus attempting a return to my “temporary housing” before coming to my senses of where I’d be returning to.

No, I would have to say that the true predilection of gauging my history as a gay man, pre and post…closet, is tied into my love of pop culture. The roots of which are firmly planted in the sands of time in the TV shows and movies that have been watched and adored, coupled with entertainment-related purchases made in my formative years, which have all but dictated who I was destined to become.

I firmly believe that these pop cultures instances didn’t necessarily “make me gay,” but they certainly didn’t impede the process, either, mmmkay, and are intrinsically linked. And, whether I was aware of it at the time or not, they most definitely flung my closet door wide open, shedding light on my sexuality.

And in the spirit of Pride, where it’s free to be you and me for the out and proud contingency (maybe I should become a rapper!), I would like to celebrate the stuff and things ( I just love stuff AND things, and can never pick one over the other) that helped me steer queer of becoming a card carrying heterosexual. Even though my best friend believes that having a Blue Oyster Cult tape (yes, I said tape and Blue Oyster Cult in the same sentence, good day!)  in my music collection makes me hetero suspect.

Kid Stuff  

I would have to say that Sid and Marty Krofft shows may have single handedly been my intro into the world of gay sensibility. “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” thrilled me on Saturday mornings with their female brand of heroics, sporting skin tight spandex costumes and those very innocuous “ElectraComs” (their communication devices, which were fricking huge!), and it was one of the first shows that showed me the difficulties of maintaining a dual existence – something that would come in handy when trying to mask my proclivities at a later age.

The obvious drug-related connotations of “H.R. Pufnstuf” (oh, now I get it!) were all but lost on me as a child; but with a cockney accented young hero, Jimmy (Jack Wild), his talking flute named Freddy, who was always being snatched by Witchiepoo and her co-horts, Orson and Seymour (who, in retrospect, seem a bit light in the loafers department), I was in gay kid heaven. Plus, there were a healthy abundance of songs worked into each show, and that got me hooked from the get go.

“The Bugaloos” was most likely my first glimpse of a drag queen in Martha Raye’s character of Benita Bizarre, who had a penchant for wearing Vegas showgirl-like headdresses festooned with feathers and she lived in a fabulous jukebox lair. You go, Miss Gurl!

My most distinct remembrance of “Lidsville,” a show with talking hats as characters (what were those Krofft boys smoking?), is of the theme song that proclaimed the titular town to be the “kook-kook-kookiest” and the “kick-kick-kickiest” place around! Unfortunately, it wasn’t all s’s and g’s (sh*ts and giggles) in the ’ville, as the late, great Charles Nelson Reilly harassed the chapeau citizens as a magician named HooDoo. And he had the nelliest laugh this side of Queersville, and was the gay-gay-gayest villain ever on a children’s TV show.

Even though “Josie and the Pussycats” were not a psychotropic Krofft production, but rather an animated production from Hanna Barbera, I would be remiss in not mentioning the big influence they held over me with their brand of mystery and music! Although my favorite character never donned a long tail or had ears for a hat, she did have a skunk stripe in her raven hair and an even wider bitch streak! That would be Alexandra who I could relate with in her pining and scheming to land the swarthy Alan away from Josie…and I had a slight ping on my gaydar about him, must have been his muscles and neckerchief!

Independent Women Part 3

I have always gravitated towards strong female characters (I know, crazy for a gay man to do), and it seemed that most of these women were on TV shows in the ’70s-and since I am only 26, I caught them all on TV Land reruns…whose laughing? I’ll get you!

Did you ever notice that “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a forerunner to “Sex and The City” without the sex? (It wasn’t called “The Mary Tyler Whore Show” after all!)  Think about it, Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) were career minded gals who didn’t need a man to make them complete.

As was the case with Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) who took life “One Day at a Time,” raising two daughters (Valerie Bertenelli and Mackenzie Phillips – that girl really should have been living the title of the show back then) on her own.

“Alice” (Linda Lavin) was another single mother who worked as a waitress at Mel’s Diner, which was conveniently run by a gentleman named Mel (Vic Tayback), who seemed like he might have been comfortable wearing a harness and being called sir, he had a bear-like quality about him. Unfortunately I recently caught a rerun of the show, and it has not held up well.

Of course, no list of awesome ’70s ladies would be complete without “Charlie’s Angels,” “Wonder Woman” and “The Bionic Woman” – the updated version coming to NBC in the fall actually looks good!

Would You Like Gay On Your Popcorn?

Movies also provided me with fuel for the burgeoning gay fires flaming inside of me. Mommie Dearest scared me upon first viewing; I couldn’t believe the wire hanger and cleanser beatings doled out by Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. Upon subsequent viewings I realized the movie was mis-marketed, it should have been a comedy, and thus I was introduced into the world of camp. The ladies workin’  9 to 5 showed me that you don’t have to put up with any crap from a man – can I get a sisters are doin’ it for themselves? Amen!

The film Deathtrap starred Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve as covert gay men who kill Caine’s wife (Dyan Cannon) to be together. It was the first time I saw two men kiss on screen…too bad one of them was Caine (there is just something nasty about him, I can’t put my finger on it, nor would I care to, thank you!), Reeve could have done much better!

There are also two celluloid ladies that bear mentioning, both Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day made me start working out… I was afraid they would kick my ass!  

Homo Shopping Network

I often find it not-so-ironic that the first record I purchased with my allowance at age 9 was the soundtrack to Grease – why exactly did I need to come out to members of my family? I mean my love for all things Madonna and her envelope pushing sexual ways should have been the biggest clue to them that I was “otherworldly” – ya didn’t see any of my four older brothers riding a cherry red Honda Elite 150 scooter riding up and down the street singing Holiday.”  

And, more than likely none of the aforementioned siblings pitched a fit at the Wherehouse like I did when I called to see if Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth had been released that fateful day as scheduled; after being told it wasn’t and determined I was being lied to, I stormed down to the store, found the cassette and bitched out the counter person! Don’t mess with a gay teen and his desire for a diva-lite fix!  

Cut. Print. That’s A Wrap!   

Once upon a closet there was a boy who knew he was different from the rest, and he found solace in flickering images on two different sized screens and in the entertainment that spoke to him in a language he would come to adopt as his daily lexicon as an out and proud gay man. Thank you for indulging me in this walk down memory lane, and until next time, that’s all of the news that’s fit to print.

About timparksmediaho

I am a self professed Media Ho, which is the nicer version of being a Media Whore. My mother actually inspired me to come up with the term

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