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 murder of a gay man set in motion by a Jenny Jones Show episode in 1995 -- when Jonathan Schmitz shot Scott Amedure for claiming, on camera, to have a crush on him -- inspired this schizophrenic camp drama by Ronnie Larsen. Something odd went on between Amedure and Schmitz (possibly even an affair), so Larsen imagines a night of stilted romance and oral sex between his characters, Stanley and Lee. Octavio Saez De Ibarra gives an earnest and well-tuned performance as Stanley, the gay man, nursing a secret crush on Lee and then revealing it in a trashy way on the Jill Johnson Show. Jeffrey Lippold looks great naked but can't give much dimension to Lee, who's written as a typical straight-guy lughead. Larsen rarely knows when to quit writing satire, and Straight Men is marred by a few scenes of camp where simple drama should have served, but the tense one-night-stand scene is impeccably written and performed. Adrienne Krug also plays Stanley's mom with affecting earnestness. Sister Roma, Dan Renzi, and Allison Smith (as Jill Johnson) do solid work on the silly end of the spectrum. The restraint Larsen shows -- and has to show -- in telling such a weird, tragic story is good for him. Camp is a trap, even when you're good at it, and Straight Men (which premiered earlier this year and returns by popular demand) may still prove to be the grim start, for Larsen, of something new.