The Men of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

One of my socially distant pastimes of 2020 has been searching for jpegs of WWII U.S. Navy Pre-Flight Training photos. These images of naked or jockstrap-clad cadets were taken at St. Mary’s College in California when it was requisitioned for the war effort between 1942-1946. I first became aware of these black and white 5″x7″ triptych photos through posts on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook group. Listings also turn up on eBay and other auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by an index card which was used to record the physical training progress of each cadet.

It has been speculated that this was tied to a study on race purity/eugenics, as were the infamous Yale student posture photos. I choose to believe that it was merely a matter of recording alignment and physical fitness as part of the overall medical examination process.

Comparative fitness photos for a cadet taken on 6/27 & 8/31 1942

Call me naïve, but if we are to appreciate the photos of these fine young men who were training to fight for our country, it’s a lot less icky to ignore a potential ulterior motive on the part of those taking the photos.

Comparative fitness photos for a cadet taken on 7/27 & 9/29 1942

The earliest photos – dated June 13, 1942 – feature the men completely nude. When the subjects were photographed in profile, they appear to be holding hands with someone off-camera – presumably to help them obtain proper… positioning?

All subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fence to better detect misalignment and spinal curvature. Note that, although cropped here, all of these photos contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard.

Most of the photos shown here were gathered from various sources around the internet with the subject’s name cropped out: God forbid someone ran across a picture of near-naked PeePaw and suffered conflicting feelings.

My collection includes nearly 200 jpegs of different cadets with the names intact. I have taken my pastime a step further by researching who these men were and where they ended up. As expected, some did perish during the war – just a year or two after these photos were taken. Others reenlisted for the Korean War and did not survive that conflict. But the largest majority went on to successful careers, families and lived to ripe old ages. Any surviving cadets would now be in their late 90’s.

Whether the photos of these handsome young men are literal snapshots near the beginnings of their lives or tragically close to the end, all of the subjects are equally, timelessly captured here in prime physical condition as they trained to serve our country. 75+ years later, we salute their fine forms and dedication.

UPDATE – See more photos here:

Christmas At St.Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Boys of Summer: St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Christmas At St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School, Pt. II

80 Years Ago: The Men Of St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School

Never Forget This:

Remember when the New York Times ran “Portraits of Grief” – a series of profiles of those lost on 9/11? They didn’t cover every single person who perished, but these were published daily for months and later compiled in a book – 1,800 individual stories. It was hard to grasp the number of lives lost.

We are now losing a 9/11’s worth of lives every 2-3 days. Over 190,000 people in this country have died. If the New York Times were to profile one person each day, it would take – are you ready? – over 520 years. And that’s if COVID “magically went away” and didn’t claim another life after today.

Where are these people being honored other than @facesofcovid? At the very least, why aren’t U.S. flags flown at half-staff? Is it because they die in solitude and not on a clear day, live on television?

To those who aggressively wave their flags and yell “Never forget” as an angry cry for revenge – still calling for the blood of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks even though we got them long ago – let us never forget this:

Trump dismantled the Pandemic Response Team that was already in place.

He threw out the Pandemic Action Plan given to him by the previous administration.

He purposely downplayed the virus and lied to the American people.

He continues to put concern for the economy over the safety of the public.

He continues to put us all in danger by ridiculing those taking precautions for their own lives.

Other things to never forget:

Remember that he invited Taliban leaders to the White House while simultaneously withdrawing our troops from Iraq.

Remember that he still has not condemned Putin’s bounty on the heads of U.S. soldiers.

Remember that he refers to service people as “suckers and losers.”

These are just the highlights.

Never forget what this traitor has done – and continues to do – to us and to the country.

San Francisco In Touch (1979)

I recently posted two San Francisco-based articles from the September 1980 issue of Blueboy magazine – one by Armistead Maupin and another by Randy Shilts. I was ready to move back to the east coast when I came across a third article – written by Dan Turner for the Nov/Dec 1979 issue of In Touch Magazine. It seemed to work as a literary triptych with the other two articles. Also… it looked somewhat familiar….

The flipped version of the shot below accompanied the Armistead Maupin piece in Blueboy. And no, those are not nude sunbathers on the roof – it’s an overlapping photo.

SF Flipped Blueboy photo

The shot below was from the Nov/Dec In Touch Magazine article. Same guys, same clothes or lack thereof. Some people have shifted around a bit, so it was taken at a different time on the same day.

SF IT photoThrough internet magic, I did a little “Google map virtual walk” down Castro Street, which led me to the corner of 18th st. And there it is: the boys’ perch, 40 years later. The pharmacy is now a Walgreens:

495 Castro 18th st

I felt like I was slipping down the rabbit hole. Next stop: YouTube with a search of 1979 Castro Street Fair videos! Sure enough, there they were – captured in grainy home movie footage.

Theses guys were photographed more than the soldiers at Iwo Jima. Call it Gay-wo Jima.

Before I started to save videos and crop and edit and convert to gifs and blah blah blah, I took a step back from the edge. I felt that I had lost the plot at this point. Where were we? Oh yes.

IT 11_79aa

 

In Touch Magazine.

Nov/Dec 1979, Issue #44.

San Francisco: Ever Onward.

Written by Dan Turner.

Cover model / Centerfold: Todd Denson.

There is also a New York-centric piece in this issue that I will be posting soon. I wanted to complete this three-part series first.SF1

SF2

SF3

SF4SF5

SF6

Dan TurnerThat last paragraph just hurts. How could anyone have known what the future held? In 1981, the author of this piece, Dan Turner was one of the first people diagnosed with AIDS. This was before it even had a name. He helped found the AIDS Foundation, People with AIDS and the AIDS Switchboard. He was the longest surviving person with AIDS when he passed in 1990 at age 42.

“…they are not just pretending to be the heroes they admired. They are becoming the heroes themselves.”

SF Map

Castro st2020

RIP Porn Star Turned Activist Terry DeCarlo

Terry DeCarlo was only 57 years old when he passed away earlier this week, yet he seemed to have lived multiple lives. His partner of 23 years, Bill Huelsman announced on Facebook that Terry had lost his battle with cancer on January 27th.

Terry DeCarlo with Pete Buttigieg in June, 2019

DeCarlo held many jobs over the years – his Instagram account lists Communications Manager of Broward County, Co-Hosting Out & About America and USAF Intelligence Officer in addition to his most prominent position as Executive Director of The LGBT+ Center in Orlando. DeCarlo became a national figure when the Pulse massacre occurred and led a grieving community through a tumultuous time.

He is seen here in an appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show:

All of his obits and online tributes – including this New York Times piece – have rightfully focused on his 20+ years of activist work in Florida, so it’s easy to forget that he first came to prominence as a porn star.

In the early 90’s DeCarlo was a fixture on the New York City gay nightlife scene, appearing regularly on the Robin Byrd Show to promote his adult films and ongoing residency at Show World strip club. One particularly memorable performance featured a giant live snake. (Insert python joke here)

Terry DeCarlo (center) with Dave Logan and Mark West on the box cover for Lunch Hour 2 (1992)
Lunch Hour 2 (1992)

He appeared in films alongside (although not necessarily in scenes with) porn legends Jon King, Joey Stefano, Karl Thomas and Mark West.

DeCarlo in Solid Intake (1993)
19 Good Men (1993)
DeCarlo (right) with Storm, Giovanni and Jason Lamont in 19 Good Men (1993)


A partial filmography:
Lunch Hour 2 (Catalina video 1992)
19 Good Men (Robert Prion, Bijou 1993)
Put It Where It Counts (Robert Prion, Bijou 1993)
What Men Do (Tenderloin, 1993)
Solid Intake (Robert Prion, Bijou 1993)
Leather 2 (Catalina video, 1994)
Forever Hold Your Piece (Catalina video, 1994)

Forever Hold Your Piece (1994)
Box cover with Jon King and Devyn Foster

After he retired from performing, DeCarlo moved to Florida and focused on his activist work. Besides those previously mentioned, he also worked at other organizations such are Care Resource and the Broward House, helping to ensure that health care, medication, shelter and basic needs were available for all. He was an integral part of the White Party, AIDS Walk Miami, Dining Out for Life, the Smart Ride and countless other fundraising events.

He dedicated his life to helping others and will not be forgotten. My heart goes out to his partner Bill and their Wilton Manors community.

December 21st – 30 Years Later

December 21st. I am never quite sure how to handle this day. Do I ignore it? If I acknowledge it, does it seem exploitative somehow? What level of grief is acceptable? We were the class behind them. We were their friends and co-workers, but we were not their BEST friends. We were the ones back in Syracuse. We did not go to London for that Fall semester – most of us had not seen them since the previous May. Of course, we were not family. But we did go through it. It happened to all of us. “We.” We all hung on to each other and we made our way through.

We sat a couple of rows back at the memorials. We were devastated, too, but how do you calibrate your grief? You feel what you feel. We were 19, 20 years old. And it has now been 30 years. There is still a scar on each of us somewhere. It does not matter how much you look at it or if you ignore it, talk about it or don’t talk about it. You still have it. All of us that went through it have them. Our own individual scars – each a little different. Some deeper than others. We have our reunions and little get-togethers but we do not discuss it. For the most part. There is no need to.

And I say to myself: I will address this one day. To explain to everyone else, really. All the people that have become a part of my life since then. 10 years goes by. 20 years. 25 years. One day I will address that scar. One day I will write about what it was like. What these people meant. How we found out who was and was not on the plane. The confusion. The anger. The unimaginable wave of sorrow. How we coped with it.

Ah, but then you get through the day… the week…. and you tell yourself, well… let’s just pack that away for another year. Focus on the holidays! I mean, really…. you were a few rows back. Your feelings are once-removed. What do you have to say that has not already been said so eloquently? What unique perspective do you think you are bringing to the table? Calibrate that. And then pack it away with the rest of the holiday baggage.

So I’ve cracked the door open just a bit on this 30th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. For Theo and Miriam and Nicole and Turhan and Tim. And for everyone that knew them.

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These memorial boards hung in the lobby of Syracuse Stage, honoring the drama students that were among the 270 people killed in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

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“Into The Morning” Silkscreen by Prof. Gerardine Clark to honor her lost students.