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
Snake in the Basement: The Prosecution of Reverend Bill Pruitt
Marsh, 1062 Valencia (between 21st and 22nd streets), S.F.
Through June 10
Tickets are $15-20
In 1999, six women accused the then-87-year-old Rev. Bill Pruitt of molesting them at a school for missionary children in Africa in the 1960s and '70s (Pruitt died before the investigation was completed). Now, with found objects -- newspapers, tissues, cloth, and boxes -- Liebe Wetzel's Lunatique Fantastique relates this harrowing tale with stunningly profound results. Black-clad, hooded puppeteers, directed by Jeff Raz, roll newspapers into snakes that slither together to form a surprisingly harmless-looking Pruitt. They flip a red and black double-sided tablecloth over to make a serpent and pinch corners of tissues and cloth into tiny hands, feet, and heads, molding precious (in the best sense) children. Like magic, these kids appear and disappear with a "whoosh" and the flick of a wrist. Though one might think that newspaper and white cloth wouldn't radiate personality, the actors' energy seems to flow from their fingers to the puppets, creating both humorous and emotionally charged scenes -- and a tangible electricity in the audience. Pruitt, with his long limbs and Pinocchio-like nose, at first appears charming as he proposes to his wife and reads stories to the children, making his later sin all the more shocking. Except for the occasional hiss, the insidious "shhh," and the ironic "Amen," the 60-minute performance is eerily silent -- and appropriately so, since Pruitt ties one victim's head into a knot, sealing her silence. When the local newspaper breaks the victims' story, Pruitt -- who is, after all, made of his press -- takes extreme action. In denial, his wife (also made of newspaper) hides the snakes -- the remains of Pruitt -- in the basement, with help from the church (constructed of boxes backed by snoring puppeteers). These metaphors help Snake in the Basement achieve a transcendence that might have been impossible for traditional actors.