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
The high point of "Single Spies," a pair of plays by Alan Bennett receiving an American premiere at the Rhino, is a chance meeting, in A Question of Attribution, between Sir Anthony Blunt and the queen of England. Blunt is an exposed Soviet agent working (by royal dispensation) as Queen Elizabeth's art curator, with an illustrious independent career as an art historian. He's played terrifically here by John Fisher as a swish and snobbish English mandarin, with an accent worthy of the queen's service and a habit of wielding his spectacles in one hand to make a point. Libby O'Donnell plays the queen in a crass, flat, shopkeeper's-daughter mode -- not at all regal, but very funny. Their little chat on the topic of forgeries and fakes turns neatly into a veiled warning about treachery, much to Blunt's surprise. "Be careful of how you go up the ladder, Sir Anthony," says the queen on her way out, referring to a stepladder he's positioned in front of a dodgy Titian. "One could have a nasty fall." In real life, when Thatcher came to power and ended Blunt's in-house immunity, in 1979, he did suffer a nasty fall; but for 30 years he'd lived far above the level of his former comrade, Guy Burgess, whose defection to Moscow he'd arranged in 1951. Burgess is the subject of Bennett's other play in this pairing, An Englishman Abroad, and we see him going to seed in a Moscow apartment. Both plays suffer from too much talk, too much explanation, and too much arch acting -- there's an almost sarcastic devotion to Englishness here -- but as a study of witch hunts and official hypocrisy in Cold War England, Bennett's writing holds up wittily well.