Homosexualist text and subtext in “men’s” magazines


Details, December 2003

2003.11.28a – Big Danny Peres seems to be butching things up a little down at Fairchild (aren’t fair children more apt to be queer?) as Details (“for men”) produces its least-gay issue since I began these readings of magazine’s pink-coloured entrails.

However, “least gay” does not mean “most straight.”

December 2003 issue:

Cover boy

Tom Cruise, for heaven’s sake, appearing all filthy and long-haired (manly, yes) behind the giant hed TOM CRUISE SETS THINGS STRAIGHT.

Does he? Why would he need to?

Jeff Gordimer’s piece, obviously written on the basis of a single heavily-stage-managed interview, p. 125:

For years, both before and after his 10-year marriage to Nicole Kidman disintegrated toward the beginning of 2001, Cruise has been forced to swat away gnatlike whisperings that he’s gay – something that he describes as an irritating media-perpetuated fiction.... “And finally we were in London one day and this guy wrote this outrageous thing, and I’m not going to repeat it, it’s not worth repeating,” he says. The Express, a British tabloid, had suggested that his marriage was a sham; Cruise wrote the paper a letter demanding an apology. “And they basically wrote me a letter back telling me to go stick it,” he says, “I remember that morning I sat there at the table, and I looked at Nic, and I went, ‘That’s it. That’s it. The line is now drawn....’ ” [Lawyer Bert Fields was sicced on] a gay-porn star who was quoted as saying that he and Cruise had had a fling (and later would up strenuously denying the whole thing), and... a man, known in legal documents as Michael Davis, who sent news releases to the media claiming that he had something salacious on videotape. (No such tape ever surfaced.) “...It’s like, this stuff comes in? Bert? Just sue. Just do it. Sue sue sue. Do it. Go. Go. Go. Go. I’m busy. I’ve got my kids, I’ve got my company.” [...]

Cruise says the questions about whether he’s gay should finally fade away. “Am I? No. Of course I’m not. If I was, how am I going to win the lawsuits? If it’s the truth, it’s the truth. Who cares? If it’s true, it’s true, but it’s not.”

This could be an object lesson in learning to ask the right question. Obviously Tom Cruise isn’t gay. But will someone someday get around to asking “Are you bisexual?” or “Have you ever had sex with a man?”

Remember, if it’s true, it’s true.

Nonetheless, I loved him as Lestat.

Oh, and Jeff? Nice one with the turned phrase “wheelchair-bound and howling at the prison of immobility in Born on the Fourth of July.” I saw that movie and quite plainly remember Tom Cruise getting around no problem in his wheelchair, which had no straps or garters that “bound” him to it.

Obviously, to the writer of this story, being crippled is worse than being queer. The latter has to be repudiated; the former is simply a given.

Bare chests in this issue

Must be open to the waist to be enumerated.

Both are improbably, inexplicably, earth-shatteringly low scores. Has someone figured out that straight guys prefer tits to pecs?

Advertising analysis

Across the gutter from a rather chiaroscuro photo of Tom Cruise’s muscular crossed forearms – pros will be aware that the act of crossing your arms makes forearms, even mine, look bigger – sits a full-page advertisement for the long-delayed HBO adaptation of Angels in America.

When I saw it on Broadway, street traffic was audible through the nearby wall and the midwestern housewives to my left reacted to the play’s onslaught with mumblings of “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” (The last time I’d heard that was the train pulling into Montreal, with some old American who’d led an unhappy life marveling at the neon sign on the Farine Five Roses building, three words she did not quite understand.)

What I didn’t get was why Angels in America was so popular. I could get over the writerly touches like the improbable character name of Prior Walter, but what I couldn’t get over was how much of the play was simply old hat to a queer audience. Oh, but that’s the secret: It’s all completely out of the blue to straight people. They’re always the last to know.

Angels in America the pièce de théâtre was subhedded “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” which phrase is notably absent from the print campaign. Perhaps it’s a bit superfluous when TV shows now have “queer” in their titles. Perhaps that also means Angels in America le film is a bit superfluous.

This month’s instalment of “Gay or Eurotrash?”

It really is a monthly feature now. “Gay or Magician?” is, however, the weakest instalment yet.

“One hides in closets [steamtrunks, shurely?!]; the other comes out of them. From the Las Vegas stage to the South Beach sands, one thing is for real: The gay man and the gallant magician deal from the same deck of cards. Blow out the hair. Pluck up the collar. Bedazzle something. Because there’s no business like show business.” Good way to end your dek with a cliché there, femalewriter-with-supremely-butch-name-of–Whitney McNally.

Shoulder pads
Creates the mirage of added height [solidity, shurely?!]. And how else to protect the neck from catty animals?
Underneath [covering, shurely?!] the handcuffs, codpieces, and sequins, a sensible jacket is the only way to go.

And what’s so wrong with Cumming?

Mickey Rapkin writes a featurette on Dominic West. Who?

This is, after all, a guy who, as a teenager, spent a night in a Mexican jail for crashing a local Club Med. He also trekked the 450-mile Camino de Santiago across northern Spain and did Design for Living on Broadway a few years back just to spend time with his mates in New York. (The four-month Manhattan holiday did come at a cost, namely having to make out with Alan Cumming eight times a week.)

That must surely leave lingering doubts, though, which Rapkin must immediately erase:

And after an exhausting shoot for The Wire, he’d rather sit on a beach with his five-year-old daughter than [do whatever else actors who kiss men professionally but sire offspring in their free time might be apt to do].

Where there’s tranny, there’s Augusten Burroughs

Actually, no, not this month. We’ll get to Details’s house nigger shortly. He always merits his own section.

Anyway, “Suicide by Stripper” by Scott Omelianuk gives helpful tips on sabotaging your hetero relationship through an Affleck-style lap dance.

Come on, who are you going to believe: The talent who won shared an Oscar for Good Will Hunting or the chick whose greatest accomplishment is putting her legs behind her head for $10 tips? Don’t answer that. The key word here is plausible: Recall that all Eddie Murphy had to do to survive his tranny transgression was insist he was only giving the waddaya-call-it a ride home.

What do you call “it”? Well, what did Omelianuk call “it”? “Tranny,” I seem to recall. Does he consider trannies human?

What our Uncle Tom is up to this month

This month, Augusten Burroughs leaps from acting as pre-approved queer mouthpiece for the prejudices of well-groomed straight guys to writing like a gay correspondent at a straight sex magazine. Like a ghostwriter for 1970s-era Penthouse Forum, in other words.

I am aware that queer people are now the official sex advisors of straight people (Savage, Sasha, inter alia), but to give credible sex advice requires you to divest yourself of ulterior motives, like tricking your straight friends into uttering phrases that titillate you.

Burroughs’s piece, with the screamingly-novel headline “Talk Dirty to Me,” also carries the subhed “The secret to an improved sex life lies in using your mouth – but not for what you’re thinking.” What would I be thinking? Details’ Uncle (or is it Auntie) Tom taunts his heterosexualist friend, rather as David Sedaris surreptitiously did in his youth.

“Well, one day, just out of the blue, my wife opens up the drawer on the bedside table and she pulls out this thing.”

I know exactly what he means, but I want to hear him say the word out loud. “What thing?” I ask innocently.

“You know. A dildo. The kind that strap on.”

The rest is simply embarrassing, uniting terms like Amish, Mormon, stick your finger up my, and your mother, whore within four short paragraphs.

Still not spiced-up enough?

Clearly, Details-approved heterosexualism is in crisis. But if strap-on dildos aren’t enough to spice up your heterosexualist love life, there’s always porn. Another devastatingly original service piece here from Details (“for men”). It’s unbylined, but it reads like Burroughs.

[Elizabeth says,] “And then this other guy walked onscreen and got into bed and he sticks his finger [Burroughs-style?] up the guy’s ass? And all of a sudden Michael starts shouting ‘Oh, my God!’ and then he comes.... I mean, we’d been watching for like 20 minutes, but as soon as the video turned gay, Michael got so aroused that he came. He’s gay, isn’t he?” [...]

“No,” I said firmly.... Who knows what Michael was looking at. Her tits jiggling, her hair whipping around, his dick ramming her. Every straight guy gets off once in a while watching some pornbabe get plowed by a stud.

And what is he looking at when that happens? The jiggling, the whipping, the ramming?

Do I feel another cliché coming on? How about “sexuality is fluid”?

Human sexuality is a broad spectrum, not a study in black and white....

I’d told Elizabeth I didn’t think her husband was gay because of the porn incident. But I’d neglected to mention that I did think he was gay because only a homo would live with white shag carpeting in a mid-century-modern Hollywood Hills home.

Gay or Eurotrash?

‘Got screwed in the business’

Details is so cutting-edge, the only rock star it can think to interview is Iggy Pop. What about someone from, say, the Dandy Warhols?

Pete Wells:

Interviewers always ask if you slept with Bowie, if you slept with Jagger. [Leading the witness] And you didn’t...
No, darling.
But did those rumours float around because there was a lot of bisexuality in rock at the time?
There was, and continues to be, a pansexuality in rock and roll. [Sexuality is fluid?] And it works in all sorts of mysterious ways that currently would cause embarrassment in American frat-boy circles. If there’s a guy who most of the guys in America think, “Yeah, he’s cool! His band’s pretty cool!” it actually means they think he’s foxy! [Can a guy even be “foxy”?]His look, and the way he moves, and the sound of his band make them feel really sexy. Also, marijuana makes people think in sensual ways, so even people who aren’t gay will begin to dress with more care... and start to think, “Gee, isn’t my hair lovely?” It was more like that rather than the nitty-gritty of man-on-man sexuality.

Cheerleaders are hot

Bart Blasengame carries out an elaborate act of bearding as he pretends to write a photo-heavy feature on male cheerleaders. In fact, the entire story, from its teaser on p. 121 to the section break on p. 147 – both of which read “Give me an f! Give me an a! Give me a... [g]!” – is an excuse to posit that guys who lead cheers are guys who are queer. (Do they use strap-ons, or do they at least watch porn?)

Some are queer, certainly. One writes his own screamingly neurotic Weblog. But, you know, the numbers, not to mention the sociology, just aren’t there. We’ve got too many guy cheerleaders for them all to be gay (27 men and 72 women, in the article’s case history). They’re too well-built, they read as too straight, and they spend much too much time around homophobic football teams (well, stereotypically homophobic: Like most kids today, the younger players likely don’t give a shit anymore) to really be queer.

But let’s watch Blasengame pick at the scab, as Barts like to do.

...stigma. When it comes to pro sports, big boys don’t do cartwheels unless they’re a little light in their Nikes.

“The Ravens have male cheerleaders,” Ryp11 writes on a Ravens message board, “because all of their male fans are fags.”

That’s a lot of fags.

“I’ve heard the gay thing before,” says Kashan Fields, a fourth-year member of the Titans’ yell squad. “It’s never said to your face, of course, but it still comes up. They think being a cheerleader makes you weak in some way. But you know, they couldn’t do what we do.” [...]

The infusion of beefcake was also meant to cultivate the female fan base, which makes up 38% of the NFL’s 120 million television viewers. “The reaction from the ladies,” [cheerleading-squad founder Tina] Simijoski said, “was ‘Why aren’t the male cheerleaders less covered?’ ” [...]

“One of the male-dominated rock stations here used to razz our guys on the air,” Simijoski says, “But after a while even they had to admit that our guys were the smart ones. They’re around 42 women in a locker room? They’re getting more than anyone.”

They have unisex dressing rooms now?

Anyway, we have a new book out with photos along the lines of those accompanying Blasengame’s piece. I think cheerleaders look nothing short of fabulous in still photographs, and no male athletes short of amateur wrestlers look more solid. Statuesque, even. Literally so, given the poses.

As with the banister Magenta slides down in Rocky Horror, it’s the girl cheerleaders who are lucky.

Bonus question for TOEFL students: Pronounce ‘Mekhi Phifer’

Unbylined interview with Mekhi Phifer concludes thus:

When was the last time you...
had unclean thoughts?
Like being in the middle of a Madonna and Britney Spears make-out session? I’m not the Pope; it’s all clean to me.

What if it were Eminem and Ixuxsxtxixn Limbertake, Mekhi?

Is it “all” still clean then?