While they often presented themselves as bodybuilders’ publications, their chuckle-prompting titles — Torso, Adonis, Honcho, Mandate — didn’t lie. Gay men’s magazines of decades past were bought by gay men who wanted to look at the erotic illustrations of well- built male bodies therein. Because any- one known to possess such material in the homophobic 1950s and 1960s could experience serious consequences, men hid the magazines under their mat- tresses. These illustrations have now inspired a traveling exhibition, Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Wall. Curated by notable erotic artist Robert W. Richards and orig- inating at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, the popular show contains 24 original illustrations that ap- peared in gay magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s. It also looks at how gay men, forced into the closet during those decades, used these pictures to explore their sexuality intimately. It additionally serves as a showcase for the artists in- volved. On view are works by two dozen top artists of the times, including Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland), Antonio Lopez (Antonio), and David Martin.More
We've all heard the story of a nice middle-class girl who works as a stripper or a prostitute to get through college, but what about the apple-cheeked, middle-class boy? David Henry Sterry worked as a Hollywood gigolo in the early '70s after arriving at the Immaculate Heart College with $27 in his pocket and no place to live. ("What do you mean you don't have dorms?" he asks the registering nun. His parents are oddly cash-strapped and stingy.) Sterry published a book last year about his experiences, called Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, and this show improves on it, if only because Sterry puts so much life and energy into his onstage voices. A "chicken" is a boy prostitute. The first thing the young Sterry does on the streets of L.A. is get raped -- I mean, before he even becomes a prostitute -- and shortly afterward a fey, Southern-voiced black man recruits him to have sex with well-to-do ladies in Beverly Hills. This work Sterry enjoys, but he refuses to deal with gay customers, which in a chicken's line of work is hard to avoid. The consequences are ugly, and Sterry tells a sad and harrowing story with humor, energy, and a sharp eye for the sort of characters an "industrial sex technician" might meet in the weird aftermath of the '60s.