Artist’s Muse: José “Pete” Martinez


In last summer’s post about the PaJaMa Collective – artists Paul Cadmus, Jared French and his wife Margaret – the focus was on their Fire Island photos of the late 1930’s. One of the friends who cavorted with the trio during that time was José “Pete” Martinez, a dancer from New York City who was involved with their friend, arts patron and ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein.

In David Leddick’s book Intimate Companions, Martinez is described as “a droll and witty young man… Those who knew the two men in the 1930’s said he was capable of endlessly amusing his lover, and that of all the men in his life, Martinez was the man that Kirstein most likely loved the most. Kirstein loved gossip and other men’s tales of their sexual exploits, and this love of storytelling drew him to Martinez. In addition, Martinez was handsome, and many artists painted, drew and photographed him. “

Fire Island PaJaMa photos featuring José Martinez with Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French, ca 1938-39

Besides The PaJaMa Collective, those artists included Paul Cadmus’ sister Fidelma and photographers William Caskey and George Platt Lynes.

The most memorable Lynes photo of Martinez is a studio shot with the dancer perched in a window frame wearing nothing but a wide brimmed sun hat.

George Platt Lynes photographs of José Martinez.

Pete Martinez (who sometimes used the stage name Pete Stefan) was born José Antonio Martinez-Berlanga in Mexico on March 13, 1913. His family moved to Houston, Texas when he was quite young. Mama Martinez had been a folk dancer back in Mexico and one of Jose’s sisters dreamed of following in her footsteps. Little José was drafted as her dance partner. The scenario is familiar to many boys who begin to study dance as children: the sister loses interest and drops out, but he continues on. It’s a page torn out of A Chorus Line. Later an uncle took him to see Ballet Russe, which further strengthened his resolve to dance. “I was going to set the world on fire,” he would later recount.

After graduating high school, much to the chagrin of his parents, José moved to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet, where he eventually gained a full scholarship. Upon graduation, he was invited to join the company.

Martinez caught the eye of Lincoln Kirstein, and the relationship progressed to the point that they moved in together.

The PaJaMa photo “After The Hurricane” features (l-r) Jared French, Lincoln Kirstein, José Martinez, Forrest Thayer and probably Paul Cadmus. Tragically, costume designer Forrest Thayer was killed in a Southampton single car accident in 1951.


Martinez became a member of The Ballet Caravan, a touring company founded by Kirstein to provide off-season summer employment to American ballet dancers. Here Martinez began to get more involved in the creative process: conceiving the ideas and librettos for ballets, if not choreographing them. He is most associated with the ballet Pastorela, although his exact contribution to its creation varies depending on the source.

As noted in the New York Times article below, Martinez also had several engagements at Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room with different dance partners.

New York Times, 12/1/40
José Martinez photographed by William Caskey
Lincoln Kirstein & his wife Fidelma Cadmus


Martinez eventually found himself in a triangular romantic situation similar to his friends in The PaJaMa Collective: Paul Cadmus and Jared French had a sexual relationship that continued after French married Margaret Hoening. The three all lived and worked together in a Greenwich Village townhouse at 5 St. Luke’s Place. When Lincoln Kirstein married Paul’s sister Fidelma, she moved into the apartment he shared with Martinez, who continued to live with them for the first year of the marriage.

Martinez was also photographed in the summer of 1938 sunbathing with Jared French and Paul Cadmus on the roof of their home/studios at 5 St. Luke’s Place.

The Ballet Caravan were on a South American tour through 1941 as the U.S. entered World War II. The troupe returned to a very different New York City than the one they had left. When Martinez was denied entry to the Army, he went to work at a hostel for Jewish refugees in Haverford, Pennsylvania where writer Christopher Isherwood was already working. The two were acquaintances through Kirstein but developed a close friendship that would sometimes turn physical, as detailed in Isherwood’s diaries.

For My Brother: A True Story By José Martinez As Told To Lincoln Kirstein original jacket designed by William Chappell.

Paul Cadmus photographed sketching José Martinez at 5 St. Luke’s Place.

In 1943, a book was published in the UK with the rather unwieldy title For My Brother: A True Story By José Martinez As Told To Lincoln Kirstein.

From the original dust jacket: “It is the life story of a young American of Mexican origin whose family has settled in a small town in Texas. It is at the same time a study in the contrast between two worlds, two ways of life: industrial, polyglot America, and the more primitive civilization of Mexico just over the border, where many of the hero’s relations still live. The story is told with great poetic feeling and a rare delicacy of perception in human relationships…”

The chronology on Kirstein’s website makes no mention of Martinez and lists For My Brother as fiction “based on a Mexican sojourn.”

The book jacket was designed by fellow dancer-turned-ballet designer William Chappell. For My Brother… is quite rare, as most of the 2,000 printed copies were said to have been destroyed in a warehouse bombed by the Nazis. A Canadian edition was later published by MacMillan.

Martinez was finally able to join the military in 1943 and remained in service until the end of the war.

Back in New York, he resumed his dance career with Ballet Society where he danced in the original 1946 productions of George Balanchine’s Four Temperaments and William Dollar’s Highland Fling.

And then…. to invoke A Chorus Line once again: “What do you do when you can no longer dance?”

A knee injury hastened the end of his performance career. A June 4, 1950 article in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot chronicled his coming to terms with the transition. He drifted for a year before settling into the next chapter of his life as a dance teacher in Norfolk, Virginia.

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 7/27/47
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 6/12/49


After Virginia, Martinez founded other dance studios in Ohio and California, where he retired from teaching in the mid-1960’s.

Lincoln Kirstein died at aged 88 in January, 1996. José Martinez passed away 16 months later in Pasadena, California at age 84.

See also:
Fire Island PaJaMa Party
Artist’s Muse: Chuck Howard
Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack
Artist’s Muse: Ted Starkowski
Artist’s Muse: The Mystery Model
Buddy & Johnny: A Historic Photo Shoot

Gay Porn Stars We Lost in 2022

In August of 2020, porn star Koldo Goran tweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. Goran’s tweet was the only public notice that performer Dani Rivera had been murdered. “I realize nobody talks about it, we are unprotected and forgotten;” Goran tweeted “We are humans, people, enough of contempt.”

Koldo Goran tweet

Most gay news outlets choose to ignore the passing of all but the biggest names in the adult film industry.  Porn companies also seem reluctant to broadcast the death of a performer who is still on their roster, forever young and present in their website content. An obit is a real boner killer, ya know? Why jeopardize the profit margin?

Additionally, performers who abandon their porn personas and return to life under their real names often pass away unnoticed by former employers and scene partners.

For this reason – and due to continued interest in this topic – we have also updated our lists of porn star passings for 2020 and 2021.

Note that some of the departed listed below have no verification other than the crumbs of information posted on the IAFD database. We remember those that were lost in 2022 to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they have not been forgotten.

1) Earlier this year we posted a tribute to prolific pornographer Robert Prion, who passed away at age 69 on 3/28/22. Prion filmed approximately 70 full-length films over a 30 year period, primarily in and around his New Jersey home. In the first decade of filming, he usually performed in the films as well.

Cody Fallon

2) Cody Fallon appeared in a dozen films for Randy Blue from 2007-2010. He died of throat cancer in late March.

Porter @ Military Classified

3) In June, Rob Novarro tweeted “It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of another of my models, Porter, he was 35 years old when he passed, much too young. I don’t know any details but that he’s gone.”

Porter aka Paris Holsinger passed away on April 12th in California. He appeared in nearly two dozen scenes with Novarro for his Military Classified website in 2015/2016. The death notice suggested donations to a substance abuse recovery organization and services for the homeless.

4) Steve “Titpig” Hurley aka Paul Yinger worked for Catalina, Brush Creek, Hot Desert Knights, and Treasure Island Media over a 15 year period starting in 1998. The 64 year-old from Ypsilanti, Michigan was also an RN and HIV activist. He passed away in Cathedral City, CA on April 14, 2022.

MJ Taylor

5) MJ Taylor primarily worked with Fraternity X and College Dudes but also appeared in scenes for Falcon, Men, Cockyboys, Bait Buddies and other companies from 2007-2018. The Ohio native then went on to work behind the scenes in the industry. He died of cancer in early June, 2022.

Randy from Sean Cody

6) Jason Pacheco, aka Randy was one of the most popular models in the Sean Cody stable, appearing in over 50 scenes from 2013-2019. He was very public on social media about his struggles with drug addiction and a GoFundMe was set up to help pay the medical bills from the resulting complications. He died of organ failure in his hometown of Gloucester, Mass. on 7/9/22.

Sean Cody director Walden Woods issued a statement, “My heart is broken to hear about the passing of Randy. I met him on set almost 10 years ago. He was always a good guy to be around, and had some amazing energy and authentic charm that was undeniable… I had a great time every day he was on set. It’s incredibly sad to hear of his passing. You were a giant Randy, rest in peace.”

Lucas, aka Sam Bayard

7) Lucas aka Sam Bayard appeared in the Crush series on the French Twinks website earlier this year. Pink TV posted a statement: “We are devastated by the passing of Lucas aka Sam Bayard. We spent wonderful and joyful moments by his side before he decided to give a new direction to his career… The whole FrenchTwinks team shares the immense sadness of his loved ones. It was around 11 p.m., this Tuesday, September 20, 2022, that Antoine Lebel and the FrenchTwinks team announced this terrible news.”

8) Lawrence Morningstar, aka Morning Star West aka Laurence William Tyler worked as an exclusive for Cutler’s Den and then with Noir Male and SayUncle as well as producing his own OnlyFans content. He passed away suddenly while on vacation in Maui on September 28th.

Fellow performer Damian Cruz posted on twitter: “It gives me the utmost sadness to have to tell you all, my soulmate, my brother, and my best friend @xxx_morningstar has passed away this morning. Such a light and an amazing human being. Imma miss you buddy. ”

Shawn Mayotte aka Dirk

9) Doug Probst, aka Shawn Mayotte was a well known Hollywood escort who only appeared in a couple of scenes as “Dirk” for YMAC circa 1982-83. Last year he released two books: Mayotte: The Musings of a Narcissist, a memoir recounting his harrowing exploits in Hollywood, and After Hours: Naked & Unashamed, a celebration of his nude print modeling work. He died of throat cancer in early November at age 57.

10) Tyler Roberts, aka Eric Hazen was 34 years old and had been working in the business since he was 20. He experienced “organ failure” while on vacation in Palm Springs and passed away three weeks later on 12/2/22.

His boyfriend Aaron Thomas tweeted, ““I am so heartbroken to share that my love @XXXTylerRoberts passed away yesterday. His family and I are grieving as Eric left a huge space behind that can’t easily be fixed. Lead with love and tell everyone you can you love them as if it’s the last. I love you Bubba. Rest now.”

Tyler Roberts
Forrest Marks aka Fane Roberts


11) Forrest Marks, aka Fane Roberts, aka Bobby Kuenster passed away on December 27, 2022 in his hometown of Chicago. From 2016-2018, he appeared in over a dozen scenes for Gayhoopla under the name Forrest Marks. He was credited as Fane Roberts for his work with Falcon studios.

Model Gage Kalama-Florence posted about his friend on twitter: “I’m shocked and in disbelief, an old friend passed away too soon… my first gay bestie he really showed me the ropes and for ever will be grateful… Rest in peace Robert.”

Forrest/Fane/Bobby had just started an Only Fans page in October, promising “What is posted now is nothing of what’s coming, shot, and in post production, being shot, and so on. Be patient please. I’m all in.”

Shawn Wolfe

12) On the same day, December 27th, 2022 Shawn Wolfe, aka Shawn Paul Bertrand died of a drug overdose at age 35. His mother wrote on his Facebook wall: “Thank you for all of your kind words. Shawn was a light in this world and he is now a light in Heaven…. He is also with all of his friends and family who went before him….”

Wolfe was first credited as Drew for a 2009 solo scene at Sean Cody. He went on to work primarily for Falcon/Raging Stallion, where he was named Man of the Year in 2013. He retired in 2017. Chi Chi LaRue memorialized Wolfe on Facebook, writing, “Another amazing person gone too soon.”

Gay Porn Stars We Lost In 2020
Gay Porn Stars We Lost In 2021
Remembering prolific pornographer Robert Prion
Costello Presley and 80’s Gay Porn Guilty Pleasures

Yes Virginia, There Is A Spotify Playlist (2022)

NYC Santas photographed in the late 1970’s by Susan Meiselas

I know I am not alone when I say that I take comfort in the annual repetition of the holidays: revisiting holiday-themed music, films, television shows… and now internet posts. Dave Holmes’ account of Patti LaBelle’s disastrous performance at the 1996 National Christmas Tree lighting is worth an annual revisit. Trust me.

In fact, the post that you are currently reading has been reworked and updated from the past two Christmas seasons, not to get meta or anything.

I find it interesting that we immerse ourselves in certain pop culture favorites for exactly 6 weeks of the year and then pack them up in mothballs with the ornaments until next year. I mean, Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” is currently at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Burl Ives and Andy Williams are also in the top 10! Are any of them on your 4th of July playlist? They aren’t on mine.

Gabe Pressman (left) with Marilyn Monroe (1956)

I used to look forward to the annual Christmas Eve tradition on NBC New York’s evening news when reporter Gabe Pressman would read “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus.” I taped it in 2011, knowing that the tradition wouldn’t last forever. The self-described “little Jewish kid from the Bronx” was 87 years old at the time and continued to work at NBC until his death at age 93.

NBC New York reporter Gabe Pressman’s annual segment on Virginia O’Hanlon’s 1897 letter to the New York Sun Newspaper.

In keeping with this revisit, my other blog posts of Christmas past are back to haunt you like A Christmas Carol, Mr. Scrooge:

My Canine Christmas Tail is a true story about my dog Sunshine, a basset hound with an appetite for tinsel.

Here is my take on the 1987 Motown Christmas Special – which featured very few Motown acts.

I recently updated my post of 10 Things You May Not Know About March of The Wooden Soldiers, the Laurel & Hardy classic holiday film.

Have you watched Christmas In Connecticut yet this year? How about that delivery woman?

Here’s a little backstory on that classic holiday tune “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?” & Augie Rios, who sang the original version.

Unfortunately, due to copyright issues all the links are broken on my 60 Degrees Girl Group Christmas piece. This also keeps me from posting other episodes of my old radio show – hopefully only temporarily. However… I have this to share:

Way back in 2002, when Limewire was a thing and people listened to music on silvery discs, I started creating Christmas CD mixes that I would mail out or give to people. These were received with a heartwarming combination of feigned delight, veiled indifference and deafening silence. None of these CDs had a pressing of more than 20 copies. I’d like to call them “much sought after” – but no, that’s not really the case, although every once in a while, someone really got into them and would ask for copies of other volumes.

And so, I’m offering this simple playlist…. for kids from 1 to 92. Unfortunately some of the tracks on these dozen CDs are not on Spotify, but I keep adding songs that would be on the current CD volume… if there was one. And now the playlist is over 16 hours of holiday tunes. I recommend listening on shuffle – there’s something to irritate everyone. Enjoy!

Here’s one more nugget to stuff in your stocking: This vid went viral in 2011. Choreographed and performed by Alex Karigan & Zac Hammer of the Amy Marshall Dance Company, it was filmed in one continuous take at the New 42nd St. Dance Studios. There’s something infectious about it: the joy, the corniness, the celebratory queerness of it all. It makes me want to dust off my jazz shoes. Once a year.

Julius: The Bar That Never Changes Is Officially A Historic Landmark


I recently posted a review of Bette Midler’s Thighs and Whispers LP from the February 1980 Blue Boy Magazine. We are revisiting the same issue of the magazine with a profile of Julius, the oldest continuously operating gay bar in New York City.

In April of 1966 – three years before the Stonewall Riots – a protest took place at Julius’s that became known as the “Sip-In.” This action established the rights of gay people to be served in licensed premises in New York and paved the way for gay establishments to obtain state liquor licenses.

The article below also recounts an earlier lesser-known challenge to the bar’s liquor license alleging that the owners “permitted the premise to become disorderly” by permitting homosexuals to “remain on the premises and conduct themselves in an offensive and indecent manner…” Apparently a patron had propositioned a plainclothed police officer. The courts ultimately decided that the charge was not supported by substantial evidence.

In 2016, Julius was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and on December 6th, 2022 the bar was officially recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The article below states that the bar opened before 1860, although the wikipedia page notes different sources claiming 1864 or 1867. In any case, it’s ancient, but it did not gain its gay reputation until the 1950’s.

Some highlights from the piece below:

“The typical Julius’s person is almost always a doctor/lawyer type, though he may well be unemployed. He generally drinks too much – too early and too many.”

“The decor… is High Dirt.”

…and the hamburgers are still legendary.

March of the Wooden Soldiers: 10 Things You May Not Know About The Classic Film

It’s hard to believe that the Laurel & Hardy holiday classic March of the Wooden Soldiers debuted 88 years ago. Originally released as Babes In Toyland on Nov. 30, 1934, the holiday perennial was based on Victor Herbert’s popular 1903 operetta. The film came out of Hal Roach studios and was co-directed by Gus Meins and Charles Rogers.

Here’s the trailer:

I originally posted this celebration of the film on the 85th Anniversary. Here is an updated version:

10 Things You May Not Know About March of The Wooden Soldiers


1) In addition to Babes In Toyland, the film was also re-released under several different titles, including Laurel and Hardy in Toyland and Revenge Is Sweet.

2) Although the 1934 film includes many of the characters in the original operetta,  the plot is almost completely different. Six musical numbers from the original stage score are featured: “Toyland”, “Never Mind Bo-Peep”, “Castle in Spain”, “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” and the instrumental “March of the Toys”. Additionally, an instrumental version of “I Can’t Do The Sum” is used to underscore many scenes.



3) The villainous Silas Barnaby was played by 22 year old Henry Kleinbach. He later changed his name to Henry Brandon and appeared in over 100 films throughout his 60 year career.

Brandon played essentially the same character as an opera impresario who torments poor, poor Alfalfa in Our Gang Follies of 1938.

20 years later he was Acacious Page in Auntie Mame.

Another fun fact: Brandon’s partner for the last 25+ years of his life was Mark Herron, who was briefly married to Judy Garland.





Bill Cassara and Richard S. Greene recently published a book about him.

You can also find out more about Henry Brandon here









4) Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals) also filmed at Hal Roach studios. Several of the kids appear as schoolchildren in Toyland, although not dressed in their Our Gang costumes as in this photo atop Mother Peep’s Shoe-house.

One of the most popular Our Gang / Little Rascals shorts, Mama’s Little Pirate was filmed the same year and has an extended sequence shot in the caves of Bogeyland. Gus Meins directed both films.

Another Our Gang connection: two graduates of the silent era, Johnny Downs and Jean Darling appear as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks:

Johnny Downs and Jean Darling as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks
Queen of Hearts Alice Moore with a couple of Little Rascals.

5) Felix Knight played romantic lead Tom Tom and fell in love with co-star Alice Moore, who played the Queen of Hearts. They were married the following year.

Behind the scenes, l-r: Alice Moore (Queen Of Hearts) Charley Rodgers (Simple Simon and the film’s co-director), Felix Knight (Tom Tom), Charlotte Henry (Bo-Peep) and Henry Brandon (Barnaby). Note the Three Little Pigs masks and padding hanging in the background.

Knight also appeared with Laurel and Hardy in their 1936 film – The Bohemian Girl:


6) Marie Wilson makes an early film appearance as Mary Quite Contrary. Her later work in film, radio and television (most notably My Friend Irma) garnered her three stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

“NO I haven’t seen them!” Marie Wilson as Mary Quite Contrary

7) Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?  An instrumental version of this song is used to underscore scenes with the Three Little Pigs. However, the song is not from the Babes In Toyland operetta – it was originally featured in the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs and (surprisingly) has been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to LL Cool J.

00Elmer







8) About those pigs….  Elmer, the kidnapped pig was played by a little person – 2′ 11″ Angelo Rossito.






The two other pigs were played by child actors: 

Payne B. Johnson played Jiggs. As of 2022, he is the last surviving major player from the film.







And THIS little piggy…. was a porn star! Willie was played by Edward Earle Marsh, later a Broadway performer known as Edward Earle. He then reinvented himself as Zebedy Colt, a gay cabaret singer and porn star who appeared in both gay and straight movies through the 1970’s & 80’s.

Someone needs to write a book about this guy.


9) The film became a broadcast television staple on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the early 1960’s. I grew up watching the film on NYC’s WPIX Channel 11, which continues to air the film to this day. In 1990 they switched to the colorized version, and in 2018, due to viewer requests, they began airing restored black and white and colorized versions at different times during the day.

Some may remember a shorter version of the film airing on television years ago. A 73 minute version that had fallen into public domain was broadcast for a few years in the 1980’s, with the opening “Toyland” song sequence trimmed and the “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” number cut completely. Any restored prints or colorized versions of the film run at the original 79 minute length.

If it isn’t broadcast in your area, you can watch the full movie here:


10) Bearing in mind that the source material is the original operetta and not this film, there have been numerous wildly different versions of Babes In Toyland:

Between 1950 and 1960, there were three television productions broadcast during Christmas seasons, including one featuring Barbara Cook and Dennis Day in 1955.

Walt Disney’s Technicolor™ 1961 film version starred Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger.

A 1986 made-for-television version featured Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves and “a royal legion of tacky trolls” with only two songs from the Victor Herbert score, a new plot, and new songs by Leslie Bricusse.


An 1997 animated film version, with a new plot and only one of the original songs, featured the voices of Christopher Plummer and Lacey Chabert.


These other versions come and go, but none feature Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee… a gay wedding… nightmare-inducing pig masks … a monkey dressed as a Mickey Mouse knockoff… or poorly costumed Bogeymen with visible zippers and padding.

Join me in wishing a happy 88th birthday to a Hollywood holiday classic!

You Picked The Wrong Fat Guy.

When Olivia Newton-John passed away and I was revisiting her oeuvre, I listened to “A Little More Love”, a minor hit from her 1978 Totally Hot LP. At 9 years old, I didn’t realize how dark the song was. There is a line “Where did my innocence go?” which my sisters and I always sang as “Where did my Anacins go?” We thought she had a headache and couldn’t find her aspirin.

I thought of this song again this morning as Toby was laying out some Advil for me to take. And then I had to Google “Anacin” to see if they still make it. They do. But nobody asks for it by name anymore.

The Advil is for a broken bone in my foot. It’s the hallux sesamoid, a stupid little bone in the ball of the foot that some people don’t even have. Apparently the tiny chip that showed up on the X-ray could have been there for years, but the fact that my foot is swollen and purple indicates a recent trauma.

On Saturday we attended a wedding on the Upper West Side – a very nice affair even though they did not play any Olivia Newton-John. The subway system was not cooperating with us on the way to the event. The A train was on the C track and running local but only to 59th street, where it went express on the D line headed into the Bronx. The trains were clogged with puzzled slow-moving tourists. Typical of weekend mass transit. You really can’t blame visitors for being confused. The Google map prediction that our subway ride would take 8 minutes was off by about half an hour and the wedding ceremony was in progress when we arrived. Four hours later, apprehensive of further subway drama, we boarded the downtown C train headed back to Penn Station.

At Times Square / 42nd Street, the doors were just about to close when a guy snatched my iPhone out of my hand and ran out of the train. I was looking at my phone as he did this. I don’t remember saying “What the fuck?” but that was what Toby heard me say as I bolted out the door after the thief.

I wasn’t even sure if Toby got off the train before the door closed – I was focused on getting my damn phone back. On the platform, the guy slowed for a second before he realized that I was right behind him. He sprinted for the stairs but I kept up with him. As he darted up the steps, I thought “Here we go…”

I have never tackled anyone in my life. Well, outside of the bedroom, anyway. I had no idea that I had a football tackle in my arsenal. But I dove at this guy, who was not a very big man. In the cartoon version of this, my suit-clad 220 pound frame completely flattened him on the stairs. With only his withering hand sticking out from under my girth, he let go of my phone and it clattered onto the steps.

I remember saying “Betcha didn’t think I could run, did ya? Asshole.” I grabbed the phone off the stairs – it couldn’t have been more than 20 seconds since he took it out of my hand on the train. And now Toby was on the guy too, pulling him by the legs and just about to land a punch when an undercover police officer grabbed his arm. Suddenly we were surrounded by police. We soon learned that they had just finished issuing a summons nearby when this unfolded.

Our little felon was taken away and Toby and I got to spend the next 2 ½ hours in the transit police station filling out forms and repeating our story over and over. EMT checked out my bruised hand and swollen foot. We collectively determined that rather than sitting in an Emergency Room for hours on a Saturday night with non-emergency injuries, I should go home, apply some ice, and see how I felt in the morning.

The next day, Toby and I had a couple of additional bruises and minor soreness… except for the foot, which still fucking hurt. I went to the hospital where my superhero sister works as an ER nurse and X-rays confirmed that there was a broken bone.

Although I have lived in this city for over 30 years and I have never actually been robbed, there are plenty of comparable actions that one can easily get tired of putting up with. The unfairness, inconveniences, and the feeling that you are being ripped off can be dismissed as things to deal with in exchange for being allowed to live in The City So Nice, They Named It Twice. If you don’t like it, you know what you can do: Leave. Period. Nobody cares. The End. Another hundred people just got offa the train.

But on this day, a fine Saturday afternoon, instead of feeling beaten up by the city, I felt pretty good. I landed on top, literally.

I would feel very differently if I didn’t get the phone back.

I have to add this:

New York City is not the crime-ridden hellscape that Republican politicians want you to think it is. Crime is still lower here than at any point during “the good ol’ days” of the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. And the people whipping everyone into a frenzy about rampant crime also tend to be against any kind of gun control. Don’t even try to figure that one out. Media saturation does not improve the optic. There is surveillance footage of everything now – not to mention phone footage. So the nightly news can report on every crime with a clips of it actually taking place.

There might be footage of the tackle but I’m sure that my cartoon visualization is much more satisfying.

You can also read about my friend Kenneth’s incredulous iPhone snatching incident from the summer of 2021 here.

Revisiting Bette Midler’s Thighs and Whispers (1979)

I was recently perusing an old issue of Blueboy magazine (as one does) when I found an in-depth review of Bette Midler’s 1979 LP Thighs and Whispers. Single-monikered reviewer Dallas certainly had strong feelings about the album. The review is quite a roller coaster ride, describing different aspects of the LP as “a knock-out”, “third-rate disco,” “disco at its finest,” “gives the impression that she has no taste,” “borders on genius,” and many breathless adjectives of adulation and despair.

Bette had been going full steam throughout the late 70’s. This was her third studio LP released in three years, plus the live double album Live At Last, a concert special on HBO, and her TV special Ol Red Hair Is Back, which won Bette her first Emmy award.

I should probably take Dallas’s advice to smoke a joint and listen to the song “Hurricane” again, because unfortunately my weed-free opinion is that the track is utterly forgettable.

Bette spoke about Thighs and Whispers during a 2021 interview with Jim Farber in Parade Magazine. Reflecting on her career, she admitted that she had recorded “some stinkers.” Of the song “Married Men,” she joked; “Please, God, shoot me now!”

Bette Midler sings “Married Men” on the SNL 4th season finale, (5/26/79). Among her backup singers were Katie Sagal and Luther Vandross.

She also mentioned the song “My Knight In Black Leather,” saying “Save me! That was the label saying, ‘You have to record this.’”

Bette has been using “My Knight In Black Leather” as a punchline for decades – not just in interviews but also during her live shows. Reflecting on her career back in 1987, she told an interviewer that she had no regrets:

“I’d do it all over again, just as I did.”

“What about ‘My Knight In Black Leather?'”

“Well,” she said, “that’s the exception. That’s one thing I don’t think I would do again.”

Bette and her Harlettes (Linda Hart, Paulette McWilliams and Franny Eisenberg) performed “My Knight In Black Leather” on the German television show Musikladen (10/18/79)

In defense of the song: it was not supposed to be taken seriously. Should it have been a single? Probably not, but they were trying to get a hit record by tapping into that “Village People *wink-wink, nudge-nudge* we-know-it’s-gay-but-Middle-America-doesn’t” disco energy.

Mister D, head of the BootlegBetty fansite is fond of the LP: “…great album, great cover, great orchestrations, and one cut, ‘Cradle Days’ which I thought is probably her greatest vocals on an album.”  


Thighs and Whispers was considered a commercial failure, but ultimately, it was water under the bridge. The film The Rose was released the following month, earning Bette a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination. The accompanying soundtrack LP (for those keeping track, that’s 6 albums released in three years) placed her firmly in rock and roll territory. It should be noted that one of the highlights of The Rose – the song “Stay With Me” – was written by Jerry Ragavoy, composer of… “My Knight in Black Leather.”

With an eye towards the 1980’s and the rise of New Wave music, Bette told an interviewer “I think I should jump on every musical bandwagon and really drive people mad, just irritate them to shit so they say ‘She’s such a cow – she’ll jump on any musical bandwagon.’ Why not? I’ll bleach my hair and rip my clothes. I think it’s fun. I’m getting silly in my old age.” This would have to wait 4 years until her next studio album: 1983’s No Frills.

On October 8, 2016, Bette was the special guest at a Forest Hills Stadium show called Nile Rogers’ FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance) Festival – a show also featuring his group Chic, The Village People and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Given the theme, I thought Bette might dust off a song from her disco period – 1976’s Strangers In The Night, perhaps. But she didn’t. Her set consisted of her classics: “Friends,” “Do You Want To Dance,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Her final song was a nice surprise: “Route 66,” which she said she had never sung before and had just learned the day before.

This issue of Blueboy also features a full page ad for Elton John’s foray into disco,Victim of Love, which was released the same month as Thighs and Whispers. The album is widely considered to be the low point of his career.

Artist’s Muse: The Mystery Model

One of my goals in creating posts about artist’s models like Chuck Howard, Randy Jack, and Ted Starkowski is to clear up misinformation posted online by galleries and auction houses. Whether the inaccuracies are intentionally deceptive or the result of laziness, the errors spread across the internet, with subjects misidentified and photo dates sometimes off by decades.

A series of 30+ nude model study photos are have recently been listed for auctions as “Jared French Nude Study of Tennessee Williams” or “Studio di nudo Tennessee Williams.” One set of two 8×10 photos sold for over $650. These should have been credited to the PaJaMa collective, which Jared French was a part of, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the lean muscularly defined model is certainly not writer Tennessee Williams.

Tennessee Williams was the subject of several PaJaMa photos in Provincetown and at Jared French’s New York City studio at 5 St. Luke’s Place. In one of these photos, Williams strikes the same pose in the same place as our mystery model.

So who was the thin young chap with the low-hangers?

In another corner of the internet, I found two of these photos in a PaJaMa exhibit, dated 1943 and identifying the subject as dancer/choreographer John Butler (1918-1993). In the early 1940’s, he earned money working as an art model while studying dance with both Martha Graham and George Balanchine.

He was also photographed by George Platt Lynes:

AP article (1955)

Butler danced on Broadway as Dream Curly in the original production of Oklahoma! He appeared in a string of Broadway musicals throughout the 1940’s including Hollywood Pinafore, Inside U.S.A. and On The Town, where he dated cast mate Cris Alexander.

He began to transition into choreography in the late 1940’s. The combined influences of Balanchine and Graham gave his work unique elements of classical ballet as well as modern dance. He was one of the first to create works specifically for television, which was still considered a new and inferior medium. He choreographed variety show segments (The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kate Smith Show) as well as for Omnibus and full-length ballets and operas. His 1951 staging of Amahl and the Night Visitors was recreated annually for the following nine NBC holiday specials.

Butler performs as one of the Three Dancers in this 1955 broadcast.

Life Magazine profiled Butler in the April 25, 1955 issue:

In addition to his work choreographing for Broadway and television, Butler founded The John Butler Dance Company in 1955. It was later renamed American Dance Theater and toured Europe until it disbanded in 1961.

John Butler & Carmen de Lavallade rehearse Portrait of Billie, his dance meditation on Billie Holliday (ca 1960)
John Butler & Melvin Dwork (1963)

His most celebrated work was the staging of Carmina Burana (1959) for New York City Opera, which has been revived with over 30 companies.

In 1961 he met celebrated interior designer Melvin Dwork, who has called Butler “the love of my life.” They remained companions and friends until Butler’s death in 1993. Dwork was instrumental in preserving Butler’s dance legacy.

As he matured, Butler’s voluminous eyebrows became something of a trademark of his appearance. He appears to have embraced this with a level of zeal that surely inspired George Whipple.

Over the next several decades, Butler continued to choreograph throughout the U.S. and around the world. The Hague, Munich, Sydney, Spoleto, Montreal, and Warsaw were part of his regular rotation with occasional work in Italy and South America. Back in New York City he choreographed Medea, the first dance for Mikhail Baryshnikov after his defection to the West.

John Butler photographed in April of 1993. He died of lung cancer later that year at the age of 74.

In 1993, author Camille Hardy interviewed John Butler for Dance Magazine shortly before his death. As they sat in his Upper East Side apartment, surrounded by his artwork collection and the walls lined with the works of Warhol, Avedon and Lynes, he said “I’ve done everything in my life I ever wanted to do.”

New York Times Obituary (12/13/93)

See also:
Fire Island PaJaMa Party
Artist’s Muse: José “Pete” Martinez
Artist’s Muse: Chuck Howard
Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack
Artist’s Muse: Ted Starkowski
Buddy & Johnny: A Historic Photo Shoot

Artist’s Muse: Chuck Howard

In the profile Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack, I wrote about his relationship with photographer George Platt Lynes, which came to an end in the Fall of 1948. Just 10 days after Jack moved out of the apartment, another former military man named Chuck Howard moved in as Lynes’ next boyfriend.

Charles “Chuck” Howard was born in Cochran, Georgia on March 4, 1927. After graduating from high school during World War II, he joined the Naval Air Force and became a tail gunner. While stationed in Miami Beach, he met New York artist Bernard Perlin and the two would “reconnect” whenever Chuck was in New York City. After the war, Howard studied fashion in France on the G.I. Bill before moving back to NYC to live with the artist. When Perlin was offered a residency in Rome, he threw himself a farewell party, and Chuck was introduced to Lynes.

Three sketches of Chuck Howard by Bernard Perlin

Chuck Howard and George Platt Lynes, ca 1950

“Another twenty-one-year-old has moved in on me bag and baggage, almost without being invited..” Lynes wrote in a letter to his friend, author Katherine Anne Porter.

Howard was viewed favorably by Lynes’ friends and was said to have a grounding effect on the photographer. The relationship lasted for just over two years.

Although Howard had previously posed for Bernard Perlin, it was after his introduction to Lynes and his circle of friends that he became a favorite model for the artists. He posed for George Tooker, sculptor John LaFarge, and Jared French, with whom he also had a physical relationship.

Paul Cadmus also sketched him several times and used him as the model for the central figure in his painting Architect (1950).

Architect by Paul Cadmus (1950) Chuck Howard was the model for the central figure with George Tooker reflected behind him.

When Lynes’ nude photography became more widely exhibited decades after his death, photos of Chuck Howard were among the most celebrated. Howard downplayed the photos, describing his work modeling for Lynes as “primarily lighting tests.” Collectors disagree.

Chuck Howard also had a film career of sorts when he participated in Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s famous studies, performing sexual acts with poet Glenway Wescott in front of the researchers’ movie camera. Howard later remarked; “It wasn’t Hollywood.”

Lynes and Howard parted ways in January, 1951. “Chuck has decided to go off and live by himself;” Lynes wrote to his mother. “I shall miss him but I don’t disapprove… I’m afraid that my influence is too often all-pervading, all-inclusive.”

In an earlier blog post on Ted Starkowski, I mentioned that he and Chuck then embarked on what author David Leddick described as “a tempestuous affair.” The couple were photographed together on Fire Island while vacationing with Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French: aka The PaJaMa Collective.

Lauren Hutton modeling a dress by Chuck Howard. (1965)

Act II: Chuck Howard’s career in the fashion industry began to flourish in the late 1950’s when he sketched for several designers, including Bill Blass. He worked for David Crystal before moving on to Anne Klein’s Junior Sophisticates. In 1965, he joined Townley, working his way up to become chief designer and head of business operations. The company was then renamed Chuck Howard, Inc. His design style was noted for its sense of humor with sporty, colorful coats, tunics, pants and jersey shirts.

Around this time, a Parsons student named Donna Karan began working for Howard and he eventually introduced her to Anne Klein.

After Klein’s death in 1974, Donna Karan succeeded her as designer for the Anne Klein studio. Chuck Howard then closed his company and became a designer and creative coordinator there, where he was responsible for several of its collections. He departed with fellow designer Peter Wrigley in 1976 to form their own company.

Howard and Wrigley operated their business out of Chuck’s townhouse at 412 W 47th street – formerly the infamous party house of New Yorker editor Harold Ross and Alexander Woolcott.

Chuck Howard (r) with his partner Ed Vaughan in their restaurant (1981)
New York Daily News, (1/15/81)

Act III: In 1980, after his departure from the fashion industry, Chuck Howard opened his self-named restaurant on Restaurant Row at 355 W 46th St. Assisting him in this next chapter was his partner Edward Vaughan. A young Anthony Bourdain headed up the back of the house. While several sources call the restaurant successful, a review from the Daily News suggested that it wasn’t destined to last. By the end of 1982, the restaurant had closed.

The couple retired to the island of Saba in the Netherlands Antilles where they lived for several years before settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

On October 5, 2002, Chuck Howard died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 75 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was survived by his long time partner Edward Vaughan.

Chuck Howard, ca 1950 / 1997

Chuck Howard’s life had a similar trajectory as fellow Lynes paramour Randy Jack: A WWII military man who became a artists’ muse before moving on to the world of fashion and finally ending as a restaurateur. In their twilight years, both enjoyed a bit of recognition for the work they inspired in some of the great American artists of the 20th century.

See also:
Artist’s Muse: José “Pete” Martinez
Artist’s Muse: Randy Jack
Artist’s Muse: Ted Starkowski
Artist’s Muse: The Mystery Model
Fire Island PaJaMa Party
Buddy & Johnny: A Historic Photo Shoot

You Know The B-52’s Song “Roam” Is About Butt Sex, Right?

The B-52’s are currently in the midst of their first farewell tour. It seems like a good time to revisit this blog post from the summer of 2018:

A couple of months ago, the internet burst into flames when Bunny Wailer, songwriter of “The Electric Slide”, confirmed rumors that the song is indeed about a vibrator. (It’s electric!).

An article on the Aazios site quoted him as saying that he wrote the song after a girlfriend told him she didn’t need him because she had a toy she nicknamed the “electric slide”. The story went viral.

Singer Marcia Griffiths was not happy about it. “I don’t sing about vibrators,” she said. “I sing to teach, educate and uplift.”

“Why not both?” I say.

ALT whynot both

Huffpost, which initially reposted the Aazios story, then printed an update that it was not true… noting, apropos of nothing, that Aazios is “an online source of LGBTQ news and entertainment” – as if that had anything to do with Bunny Wailer, the vibrator, or the validity of the story.

Snopehas labeled the story FALSE with a quote from Bunny Wailer that reads like a statement prepared by a lawyer to protect a client from litigation: “At no time have I ever lent credence to a rumor that the song was inspired by anything other than Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue. To state otherwise is a falsehood and offends my legacy, the legacy of singer Marcia Griffiths, and tarnishes the reputation of a song beloved by millions of fans the world over.”

The problem is… Wailer wrote the song in the 1970’s, years before Eddie Grant’s 1982 hit. The song was dusted off and reworked to ride the “Electric” coattails of that hit record. Thirty-five years later, it is still a dance floor staple at a certain caliber of venue. It is understandable that someone who still makes money off of this record does not want to suddenly admit that their cash cow is about a dildo.

electric slide

Bottom line: It is or it isn’t. Either way, you now have a topic of conversation to slur loudly over your 9th cocktail while your mom and Karen from finance are knocking into each other on the dance floor. 

So… now can we talk about The B-52’s 1989 hit song “Roam“? You know it’s about butt sex, right?

b52s wildplanet

Of course, nobody is going to step up and confirm this now. The B-52’s still make a nice living touring the world performing “Roam” along with party classics like “Rock Lobster and “Love ShackOne song they haven’t performed in years is “Dirty Back Road,” a track from their 1980 Wild Planet LP. Co-written by a guy named Robert Waldrop with band member Ricky Wilson, it’s not that much of a stretch to figure out what this little ditty is about:

Wreckless driving / Like a sports car / God I want you / Like a fuel engine / Energized line / Like a road / You ride me / Like a road / You ride me / Foot on the peddle / Feet in the air / Sand in my hair / Don’t look back / Don’t look behind you / Reckless drivin’ on / Dirty back road

Pretty obvious, right? Well… of course not, according to YouTube comments. People will argue about anything. I know, I know. Never read the comments.

b52s dirty back roadb52s-dirty-back-road-1980

Now lets move on to “Roam“: The song’s lyrics are credited again to Robert Waldrop, with music written by the surviving members of the band. Ricky Wilson had passed away from AIDS complications in 1985 during the recording of the Bouncing Off The Satellites LP. After taking a few years off, the band came back in 1989 with the LP Cosmic Thing, which would be the biggest commercial success of their career. The singles “Love Shack” and “Roam” topped the charts around the world, garnered the band their first two Grammy nominations and still get regular airplay today.

b52s cosmic thingb52s roam

When did I realize that “Roam” was about butt sex? I couldn’t say. I just always knew. I saw Robert Waldrop’s name in the cassette booklet, read the lyrics to “Roam and thought “Look at that. He cleaned up his ‘Dirty Back Road.” Well, not completely – the second line has them “dancing down those dirty and dusty trails.” It may not be as blatant, but it’s there.

The phrase “Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness” is repeated about a dozen times throughout the song.

The chorus: Roam if you want to / Roam around the world / Without wings without wheels / Roam around the world / Without anything but the love we feel… 

And then there’s this verse:

Hit the air-strip to the sunset Ride the arrow to the target / Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness / Around the world the trip begins with a kiss 

(at this point in the video, a banana goes through a hole in a bagel)Roam

I would like to make it clear that I do not make these pronouncements as some sort of slander. Believe me, I am a big fan of butt sex and partake as often as possible.

In posting this piece, I realize that there are people who will get annoyed or upset that their favorite B-52’s hit is all about taking a ride on the Hershey highway, but really… if you think this is shocking or not possibly true then you never really understood the band and/or their sense of humor in the first place. People who only know them from Top 40 radio might not remember that they were/are a predominantly gay party bandThey were messysubversive and more than just a little punk. Fun punk. 

If a clueless fan does not know that, it is akin to saying that you love John Waters because of the films Hairspray and Cry Baby, but have never seen Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble.

Polyester

Like many other bands before or since, the B-52’s started out edgy and moved towards mainstream pop as their career progressed. While their current tour does pull heavily from their first two LPs, their bread and butter is still playing the hit songs. They are a business  not so much a band as a corporation like their contemporaries the Go-Go’s and Blondie.

Even if the B-52’s issued a statement today that Roam” never was or is about getting popped in the pooper, the motivation would not be to tell the truth, but rather to protect their own livelihoodCase in point: The Village People, Inc. When faced with anti-gay protests for a gig in Jamaica back in 1998their representative had the balls to issue a statement declaring that there was nothing gay about them. The fucking Village People, people. I would like to think that the B-52’s are still way too cool to ever do such a thing.

So… I just thought you ought to know. Roam” is about takin’ it up the ass. Something to think about when you hear it wafting over the airwaves at the supermarket or when you are in line at the bankI am not going to debate the evidence. It is what it is. I think it’s a hoot – it makes me chuckle whenever I hear it. But if you feel a strong opposition to the theory… may I invite you to hit the airstrip… and teach yourself the Electric Slide. Boogie woogie woogie.

B52s loveshack.gif

UPDATE: Since this was piece was first posted in August, 2018, an expanded 30th Anniversary edition of the Cosmic Thing LP was released. The band did a considerable amount of press, reflecting on the songs and recording process. Not surprisingly, nobody mentioned that “Roam” is about butt sex.

“‘Roam‘ has many meanings, but it’s a beautiful song about death,” Cindy Wilson told Classic Pop magazine in 2019. “It’s about when your spirit leaves your body and you can just roam.”

Well, yes. Some would describe it like that.