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
Freaks is a campy feature film about love and deception set within a community of carnival sideshow stars. It was released in 1932 with appropriately hysterical taglines: “The Strangest ... The Most Startling Human Story Ever Screened ... Are You Afraid to Believe What Your Eyes See? The Love Story of a Siren, a Giant, and a Dwarf!” Shot in black and white for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the story was created by Tod Browning, who had produced and directed Dracula the year before for Universal. It’s a cavalcade of wrongness that might have kickstarted any subsequent film that exploited dwarfism for horror kicks, but it’s also a film in which the contemporary viewer may enjoy such logic-defying feats as a half-man, half-caterpillar rolling and lighting his own marijuana cigarette. It screens today with Island of Lost Souls, part of a seven-day run of similarly spirited films that embrace illicit sex, drugs, and general depravity with a wink and a smile — “Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films for a Nasty-Ass World.” It rekindles a long-held fascination with the salacious films of what’s often dubbed Pre-Code Hollywood, the period from the late 1920s to the early 1930s before censorship was imposed on the silver screen.
March 2-8, 2012