Gay Sports Media Roundup
Joining us late? Herewith, relive the magic of the Gay Sports Media Roundup.
Where the hell have I been? Oh, you know, working, forgetting completely about the Roundup, working, not working, fretting about not working.
In the meantime, the Olympics happened. But let's handle the print medium first. Manhandle it, in fact.
Start small. Start chaste. Yes, that's the ticket. Ease back into the Roundup. GQ. August 2000. Way back when. Cover tease: "We dress our top Olympians." (We undress and top our Olympians.) Other cover tease, rather less of a draw: Anna Kournikova.
As mentioned previously, fully-clothed athletes can still be quite pleasurable to behold. Just not here. "Dreams of Glory" is the title, shot by Robert Erdmann. Not a lot of glory in hurdling construction hoardings and police barriers, I wouldn't think. (Is it unnatural to hurdle when fully clothed?) Mark Crear and Allen Johnson look like brothers, and oddly symmetrical (right arm forward on Mark, left on Allen), despite the wildly different backdrop and apparel.
What is Lenny Krayzelburg doing sitting fully clothed in an innertube floating alongside a lane marker? (Actually, who is he?) The portfolio makes no sense, even at the level of fashion spread, and fails hugely in its efforts to lovingly lampoon the athletes' disciplines through cutesy mise-en-scène setups. Exception: The total dreamboat named John Godina ("shot put and discus"), who actually seems comfortable in his sweater, pants, and good shoes, while hefting a boulder in Rockefeller Center. We like. Just this. Not the rest.
Quite the disappointment.
And then we saw the New Yorker. Cover tease: "The sports issue" (August 21 and 28, 2000). The photo feature, shot by Martin Schoeller, opens with a medium-format B&W shot of a pole-vaulter. How fitting: Schoeller significantly raises the bar in epitomizing the true personality and character of an athlete through the kind of mise-en-scène setups that embarrassed GQ.
Now, Schoeller is quickly rising in our pantheon. He's responsible for the tennis photo in Esquire that told us so much about Pete Sampras by having him simply stand in position. In the New Yorker, WNBA starlet Lisa Leslie looks human, almost maternal, in shorts, a licensed halter top, and sneakers. She's a million miles tall, with a niece and a cousin scramblng for a ball she holds as far away as the roof of an 18-wheeler. Seemingly brutal frontlighting, again as seen in the Esquire shot, instead provides loving detail. And we're very aware of it. Schoeller's photographs advertise themselves as photos, and areall the stronger for it.
It gets better and better and better. Godina seems almost solarized in black and white (stereotypically, we'd describe it as "stark" black and white), with icy brows and pale chalk dust on his shoulder. You can count every snow-white hair on his arms. How many 250-pound men are shot for beauty? Or sex appeal? How about both?
You get this sometimes with nudes, mostly of female celebrities. Afterward, publicists churn out quotes detailing how beautiful the shooter made her feel. It's counterintuitive, but taking off your clothes makes you feel complete.
More? Yes, impressively enough. A so-called pro wrestler hoists a tiny figure-skater and a tiny jockey. The wrestler is a woman. Schoeller channels Olympia in stop-action frames of the butterfly stroke of Jenny Thompson.
The low point is a busload of New York Jets dumped into "a Long Island steakhouse." A tad contrived. Not the steakhouse part; the part with professional athletes eating in a restaurant in full-on pads, cleats, and jerseys. It's halfway to a porn shoot. Five minutes from now, what odds do you give that the guys are down to their athletic supporters?
Martin Schoeller isn't as impressionistic as my other fave photographers de l'ère, Matt Mahurin and Dan Winters. His eye is more objective, with just enough artifice to maintain the interest of a jaded media-savvy ironist. Schoeller could photograph a horse and communicate its essence. In fact, let's hope someone hands him such a gig.