Back in 2013, I spent 6 weeks on the jury of a murder trial in Manhattan. It ended in a hung jury, which was very frustrating, although the guy was retried and convicted the following year. Throughout the trial, there was one reporter who showed up at court every day. Other reporters would come and go, depending on who was testifying, but this one woman was always there. She looked like a fragile little bird, sitting alone in the courtroom.
After the trial was over, most of the jurors were escorted out a side door to scurry away, ashamed of their inability to reach a verdict. A couple of us went out front and spoke to the press. And there was the reporter. After six weeks, I was finally able to ask what publication she worked for. When she said “The New York Post,” I let out some sort of involuntary laugh/snort. I shook my head and was speechless for a moment. I had decided beforehand that I would not speak to a Post reporter. But it was her – the one who had paid the most attention.
I wish I could remember the exact wording I used to express my distaste for that piece of shit tabloid. I remember her assuring me that she was one of the many good reporters working there – “especially in the online version.” I know the last thing I said to her was “Be nice.” Now that the trial was over, I was able to go back and read what she had written. I found her trial reportage to be accurate and fair.
She should have left The New York Post years ago, when she still had a moral compass.
As one Twitterer observed: “breaking point” implies that there were other false stories. Wouldn’t it be great if she ‘fessed up to the other news items she was “forced” to fabricate? And where is the apology to the Vice President?
Photos of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis have recently come to light that are raising some eyebrows. A nude shot of the duo showering together sold on eBay for nearly $4,500 this past week, while a steam room photo sold for a modest $375.
These photos appear to have sold at Sotheby’s in 2018 as part of a collection belonging to Frank Branda, Jerry Lewis’s driver and assistant.
The auction description listed “4 candid photographs (8 x 10 in.) of Lewis and Martin in a steam room and shower, Lewis posing modestly, Martin less so.”
While I originally thought the guy on the right was comedian Morey Amsterdam, a reader wrote:
The guy on the right in the sauna photo is Mack Gray, who was Dean’s assistant, and later in life arguably his closest friend. Dean and Jerry met him when they first came to Hollywood; they attended one of George Raft’s parties, and Jerry referred to Gray as Raft’s ‘Man Friday’. (It’s also worth noting, by the by, that Raft and Gray were in a relationship.)
Cropped versions of a couple of these photos can be found on Pinterest, although in poor quality jpegs, apparently scans of photos that ran in a magazine or newspaper at the time. I wouldn’t exactly call Pinterest a reliable source, but if the captioning is accurate these shots were taken in 1952 at the Palm Springs El Mirador Hotel.
I’m the first to call “fake” on photoshopped images found on the internet, but these new photos are very clear. The only pixel anomalies are the results of my attempt to remove the eBay seller’s name, which was strategically plastered across key nether regions, including Dean Martin’s uncut dong.
UPDATE: Other photos have gone up for auction – see a more recent post about those here.
Dr. Lucas Murnaghan, a celebrated underwater photographer and orthopedic surgeon, passed away in his Toronto home on March 21, 2021. According to his longtime partner Antonio Lennart, Murnaghan succumbed to cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).
In a Ted Talk posted last year, Murnaghan charted his path as an uptight overachiever following the family tradition by becoming a doctor, coming to terms with his sexuality and the circumstances that led him to become a full-time photographer and entrepreneur in recent years.
I started following Lucas on Instagram a couple of years ago. I knew nothing about him but his photographs spoke for themselves: stark, striking images that often played with what he described as “the balance between vulnerability and confidence, pride and shame, solitude and connection.”
When he began to promote his photography, his initial impulse was to hide his “day job” as a medical doctor, feeling that it prohibited him from being taken seriously as a photographer, or having an artistic point of view.
“I felt like I was entering the art world from the side door. Well, as it turns out, there is no front door. As an artist, that’s all we can do… gather up our entire lives and transmit it into our work. To do anything less than that is to not be honest with ourselves or our audience.”
“$8 of Jarlsberg” is nearly a pound of cheese on a single nauseating sandwich.
Her boyfriend is awful, and
Adrian Grenier is a terrible actor.
Note that none of these observations have anything to do with Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, which is why we all watch the movie repeatedly and her performance is beyond criticism, ok?
There is one thing that has bothered me since I saw this movie in its initial theatrical release. It distracts me whenever I watch it and I have waited 15 years for someone else to bring it up:
In the party scene where Andy first meets writer Christian Thompson, what the hell is going on with actor Simon Baker’s face?
For a movie that has undergone so much analysis and repeat viewing, I cannot be the only person who has noticed this.
This is only an issue in the first scene in which he appears.
When he comes back later, he has been color corrected and the Botox has relaxed.
This leads me to two theories:
A) Nobody realized what a terrible styling mistake had been made with the leading man until after they looked at the dailies for this party scene. The budget did not afford a re-shoot and they all thought “Well… it’s not THAT bad… onward and upward!”
B) They HAD to re-shoot or add this scene after production was completed and Mr. Baker was off playing a bleached, frozen-faced alien when they called him back to set.
When I started to do some research for this post, I typed “Devil Wears Prada Simon Baker” into Google, which then auto-populated “eyebrows”. So… it turns out, I am not alone in this.
The Detroit Metro Times panned the film and mentions “Simon Baker, whose bushy sage eyebrows look like they might help him take flight and flutter off in search of a better role.”
Other comments I found around the internet:
“Simon Baker’s eyes/eyebrows, especially in his first scene…. there was some weird grooming/Botox mojo going on that really distracted from the narrative.”
“….overly metrosexualized with the strangest blond eyebrows I have ever seen.”
“Simon Baker plays Christian Thompson in The Devil Wears Prada. Good actor, horrible eyebrows. I couldn’t take my eyes off of those creatures.”
I also came across a 2012 interview with Simon Baker in which he says ” “I had despicable eyebrows in that film so I always get comments about that!”
As a person with ample eyebrows myself (although not bleached, as my author photo can attest), I don’t find fault with his voluminous caterpillars throughout the film. It is just that first scene, when they appear to be overly bleached and perched atop a curiously frozen face..
I was a freshman theatre major at Syracuse University when I scribbled this in my journal one bright spring day in 1988:
I’m writing at Oakwood Cemetery, where we are sitting on the steps of the Brown Mausoleum. People might think it’s morbid to hang out in a cemetery, but I love it here – so beautiful and peaceful. If we were sitting in the Quad, with radios blaring and frisbees flying around, I couldn’t relax – it always feels like a fight is just waiting to break out. There’s no judgement here. Other kids walk by every so often but it’s very quiet. I’ve heard that drug deals go on here at night though.
So young. So innocent. So little insight. Then again, I was 19 years old and this was before that kid boiled John Crouse’s head.
Oakwood is an 160 acre cemetery adjacent to the Syracuse University campus. Their website advertises “a grand array of monuments and mausoleums which form a virtual outdoor museum of funerary sculpture and architecture while mirroring the lives of Syracuse’s Victorian families.”
The cemetery was an alternative hangout for us – actors and artists clad in vintage chic attire, toting journals, sketchbooks and cameras. We didn’t come to SU for the sports or fraternity life. The typical campus hangout spots weren’t always the best places to relax so we went to the cemetery. We were respectful, but not everyone else subscribed to the ‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints’ credo and this is why we can’t have nice things.
In October of that year, freshman art student Kevin McQuain thought it would be a good idea to steal a human head from a mausoleum “to use as a model for sculpture class.” He brought it back to his dorm – the nearby Flint Hall – and proceeded to try and clean the odious noggin by boiling it with bleach in a trashcan placed on the stove of the 3rd floor common area. Residents were alarmed by the stench and even more so when they discovered the source. McQuain and two of his friends were arrested.
Two factors helped this to become a national news story:
a) It was Halloween season.
b) It wasn’t just any old skull in the trashcan.
The vandalized mausoleum contained John and Catherine Crouse and their two sons. The Crouse family was a wealthy philanthropic clan that loomed large in the area for generations. A fair percentage of the city of Syracuse bears the Crouse name. John created the University’s Crouse College to honor his wife. Their son, John J. Crouse served as the mayor of Syracuse. All of the coffins in the tomb were vandalized, but the cranium in question belonged to John Jr.
From The Syracuse Herald, 10/21/88 and a 1920’s postcard for Crouse College:
By the time McQuain and his friends went to court in early 1989, national news outlets had lost interest, leaving reportage to the local Syracuse papers. McQuain pled guilty and was properly contrite under advice of council. The charges against his accomplices were dropped, yet all three received the same sentence: 200 hours of community service.
From The Syracuse Times, 1/26/89:
Universities tend to frown upon students who cook the heads of their benefactors. Following McQuain’s sentencing his scholarship was revoked. Follow up newspaper articles state that he left Syracuse due to a lack of funds, but he did complete his undergraduate education at Alfred University, which is not exactly the Dollar Tree of higher education. Perhaps it was best for all concerned that he made a fresh start outside of Onondaga County.
There is a 2002 follow-up piece from the Syracuse Post Standard that keeps getting… ahem… dug up… every few years and reprinted around Halloween. It’s about how poor Kevin McQuain got stuck with a nickname that he could not shake. His friends dubbed him “Skully.” And he decided “to embrace it.” He went on to form a Goth/Rockabilly record label called Skully Records, which he apparently still runs himself as a side hustle to his every day technical services job.
In 2015, he self-published a vampire/punk novel under the name Kevin Skully McQuain. He also designs t-shirts.
Somehow this unavoidable handle does not force itself onto his professional resume: it just leaks into his side projects when the macabre notoriety might help bump things up a notch.
But oh, how the nickname plagues him! He CANNOT escape it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been called several things throughout my life that I have hated. I assume that you, dear reader, have had one or two nicknames as well. But I don’t know yours and you don’t know mine… because we did not hyphenate them into our names.
How contrite is a person if he is still trying to milk the last ounce of notoriety out of something he stupidly did over 30 years ago? If you made a mistake at 18 – and who hasn’t? – would you allow that thing to be the defining moment of your life? Would you still call yourself “Farty” because you once let one rip in gym class? Is that all ya got?
McQuain is married and a father now, and I can’t help but wonder: at what point in the dating process does one explain the origin of “Skully”? Third date? Over dinner? And what is the appropriate age to sit your child down to explain that you once desecrated a corpse? “Yes, Jayden, Skully-daddy did boil the mayor of Syracuse’s head, but listen…. that was a bad idea, ok?”
Back in 2002, McQuain said “That was a mistake I made when I was young, and I’m fortunate that it didn’t stigmatize me for the rest of my life.” And yet, at 50 years old, he still holds on to the “Skully” nickname, with the backstory tucked into the pocket of his aging punk-rock jeans, ready to whip out and exploit whenever he has a new artistic endeavor that might need a little publicity boost.
In 1988, Kevin McQuain walked out of Oakwood Cemetery with the head of John Crouse in a paper bag, intent on using it as a prop for his art. Over 30 years later, he still finds it quite useful.
Although photographer George Platt Lynes passed away of lung cancer at age 48 in 1955, it took another 30 years before the majority of his male nude photographs were celebrated and widely released. Virtually every collection of his work now features photos of a model named Ted Starkowski. His nude image is featured on the covers of several collections of Lynes’ work – in solo shots or posed with Mel Fellini:
So who was Ted Starkowski?
Lynes biographer David Leddick wrote:
Ted Starkowski worked the streets. Hustling by night, he regaled Bernard Perlin and George Platt Lynes with his adventures while he posed for them during the day. They created unique images with his cat-like face and lithe body.
(Above) George Platt Lynes photographed Ted Starkowski flanked by Bernard Parlin’s sketches.
Teodor Francis Starkowski was born in Hartford, Connecticut on April 4, 1927- the eighth child of Polish immigrants. His Army registration in September of 1945 indicates that he had attended three years of high school and was working at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.
After his stint in the military he relocated to New York City, where he became a favorite subject for Lynes and his circle of artist friends, including Paul Cadmus and Jared French.
(Above) Three images of Ted Starkowski by Jared French.
Few other photographs by Lynes do as much to cast the model as an actor. In his tight jeans, bulging conspicuously at the crotch, fisherman-rib sweater worn without an undershirt, and workaday watchman’s cap relegated to the status of an ornament, Starkowski looks like a longshoreman snatched from the imagination of Tom of Finland … Lynes’s studio provides only the minimum furniture required to support Starkowski in a posture that manages to be solicitous and pensive at the same time, welcoming an evaluating view despite being absorbed in thought.
This photograph extends rough trade as a portable structure of fantasy that discovers erotic opportunities in ambiguities of dress and pose…. Evidently, Starkowski had a knack for acting like a straight man, or at least like a fantasy version thereof.
Another model who posed for many of the same artists was fellow ex-military man Chuck Howard, George Platt Lynes’ live-in boyfriend. After their split in January, 1951, Howard and Starkowski became involved in what David Leddick described as “a tempestuous affair.” The couple were photographed together on Fire Island while vacationing with Paul Cadmus, Jared and Margaret French: artists who called their collective photography work PaJaMa, an acronym of the first letters of their first names.
Thanks to a wealthy benefactor, Starkowski traveled extensively in the second half of the 1950’s. Leddick relays a story of Starkowski showing off his new diamond ring – a gift from his wealthy friend. He asked artist George Tooker if he thought it was too big. Tooker replied “Yes, it is too large for a woman to wear.”
The Paul Cadmus drawing on the left shows Starkowski at age 36 in 1963.
And then… the trail goes dark for the next 14 years. If more images or information come to light, I will update this post. What we do know is that on Friday, May 13, 1977. Ted Starkowski was leaving a New York City bar when he was struck and killed by a car. He was 50 years old.
An obituary ran in the Hartford Courant on Tuesday, May 17th. He was buried in Mount Saint Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
It was a sad end to a man who had inspired many artists.
You can see my earlier post about George Platt Lynes models / bedfellows John Leapheart and Buddy McCarthy here.
In August of this year, porn star Koldo Gorantweeted about three fellow performers who had recently died. In one of those instances, Goran’s tweet remains the only public notice that the 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.”
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 passing 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 with their real name often pass away unnoticed by former employers and co-workers.
Case in point: Roman Heart was about as big a star as you will find in gay porn: 2006 Freshmen of the Year, GayVN Best Newcomer winner, Falcon cover boy with an exclusive contract and a career lasting over a decade. Yet he passed away unnoticed in September of 2019. It was nearly a year before anyone in the business became aware of it.
Here is a list of 10 gay porn stars of note that were lost in 2020. I post them here to prove Koldo Goran wrong – they are not forgotten:
1) Although Goran mentions that Macanao Torres died of cancer in the above tweet, the 35 year old Spaniard actually passed away in an apparent suicide on 12/30/19. He had worked for Cazzo, Jalif, UKNM and other studios.
3) Earlier this year I wrote about the passing of Terry DeCarlo after a battle with cancer on 1/27/20. He worked primarily for Catalina and Robert Prion Studios in the early 1990’s before becoming an activist and community leader.
4) One would have to overlook a huge pile of reprehensible baggage to still be a fan of Sebastian Young, who met his end in a shootout with police after a high speed chase (3/11/20). The 37 year-old convicted sex offender appeared in close to 90 scenes over a decade for Bromo, Jet Set, Lucas, MEN, Next Door, Cockyboys and other studios.
5) The news of Ryan Fields‘ suicide (3/29/20) was tweeted out by fellow Broke Straight Boys model Damien Kyle. Fields was 25 years old and had been with Broke Straight Boys for over 5 years.
6) Dani Rivera was relatively new to adult films, with just a handful of recent releases for Men At Play. As mentioned by Koldo Goran in his tweet. Rivera was murdered on 8/21/20, although no other articles have appeared to fill in the details.
7) 33 year-old Ridder Riverapassed away of unknown causes (8/29/20). Over the past 3 years, the Cuban muscleman had worked with TimTales, Kristen Bjorn, Fuckermate and Raw Strokes, among other companies. I found this post on social media: “Born in Havana in 1987, he was a teacher and those who knew him stand out about him that he spoke several languages and that he took great care of his family, especially his mother. He loved to dance…. took great care of his body and liked to show his followers on Facebook his training routines. “
8) Brazilian Theo Barone worked exclusively with the Hotboys website since 2018, although he had announced his retirement earlier this year. He was 27 when he succumbed to stomach cancer on 9/27/20.
10) Chip Tanner‘s death (12/11/20) was officially ruled a suicide, although people who knew him have spoken out to say that the cause was autoerotic asphixia. The 32 year-old gymnast appeared in scenes for Randy Blue, Next Door Studios and several other companies between 2010-2015.
The sun is shining, the grass is green The orange and palm trees sway There’s never been such a day In Beverly Hills, LA But it’s December the 24th And I’m longing to be up north…
That’s the rarely heard opening verse to Irving Berlin’s classic song White Christmas – originally released in 1942. The song popped into my head as I gathered these Christmastime photos of jockstrap-clad cadets in pre-flight training school at St. Mary’s College in California. Never mind that the school is actually several hundred miles north of Beverly Hills. It is still sunny California, where these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – were training to go to war during the holidays.
Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fence to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature.
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there is a variety of body types.
My collection now includes over 300 jpegs of different cadets. Some did perish during WWII, but the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages. Any surviving cadets would now be in their late 90’s.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, 75+ years later, cue up White Christmasas we again salute their fine forms and dedication.
I am not alone in saying that I always take comfort in the annual repetition of the holidays – revisiting holiday-themed music, film, television… and now internet posts as well. This feeling is in overdrive this year, as I occupy myself at home and skip other annual holiday traditions that involve leaving my apartment. The Rockefeller Center tree looks very nice on my television – and that view will have to suffice this year, thank you very much.
I feel bad for this year’s Rockefeller Center tree – sacrificed to become the most famous Christmas shrub in the world at a time when nobody is allowed to actually go near it. It’s the Just Sam of Christmas trees, which makes the displaced owl Ryan Seacrest.
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, Bing Crosby, Brenda Lee and Johnny Mathis are rock stars from Thanksgiving through New Years. Are any of them on your 4th of July playlist? They aren’t on mine.
The film A Christmas Story has an even shorter (Elf on the) shelf life. We binge-watch the repeated broadcast for exactly 24 hours each year. I own it on Blu-ray and I’m not sure why: I have never opened it. To pop it in at any other time feels like a betrayal.
In keeping with this revisiting, blog posts of Christmas past are back to haunt you like A Christmas Carol, Mr. Scrooge:
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 the radio show – hopefully only temporarily, as I find a work-around.
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 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 many 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 14 hours of holiday tunes. I recommend listening on shuffle – there’s something to irritate everyone. Enjoy!
Ok – I admit it: I am one of those people who started playing Christmas music last week. Yesterday the Christmas lights went up. I don’t normally rush this, but 2020 has been the pits and I am comfortable enough in my middle-aged fruitiness to freely quote Auntie Mame at you: We need a little Christmas. Now.
The lead track, Joy (written by Thorn) has been on repeat in my home every December since its 2012 release. But when I dug it out of the mothballs this year, the song feels like it was tailor-made for the current climate as we navigate a pandemic holiday season while anxiously looking forward to a brighter 2021.
The opening lyric:
When someone very dear / calls you with the words “Everything’s all clear.” / That’s what you want to hear / but you know it might be different in the new year. / That’s why / That’s why / We hang the lights so high: Joy.
Here are some other Thanksgiving-themed goodies I originally posted in 2018:
When it comes to holiday music, unfortunately Thanksgiving is lost in the long shadow of Christmas. There’s a severe lack of Thanksgiving songs, aren’t there? All we’ve got is Let’s Turkey Trot by Little Eva, and even then it is not really about Thanksgiving at all. The song’s title refers to the Turkey Trot, a dance step popular back in the early 1900’s.
Let’s Turkey Trot was Eva Boyd’s third single, released in 1963 with the hopes of recapturing the #1 success of her debut platter, The Loco-Motion. Let’s Turkey Trot gave Little Eva a respectable showing on the charts, peaking at #20, although it should have been billed as Little Eva & The Cookies, as the backing group is as much a part of the success of the record as the lead. Group member Earl-Jean McCrea delivers solo lines echoing their own hits Chains & Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby, which also featured Little Eva on background vocals.
Here’s an abbreviated performance by Little Eva on Shindig in 1965. Darlene Love and the Blossoms stand in for the Cookies in what must be one of the proudest moments of their career. Gobble Diddle It!
The Dollyrots also covered this track in 2014. Besides using footage of Little Eva’s Shindig performance throughout the video, they also namecheck “Little Eva back in ’63”:
Want some Mashed Potatoes with your Turkey Trot? Here’s Dee Dee Sharp with her own ode to a Thanksgiving staple / dance move:
Aaaaand some Gravy for your mashed potatoes:
On the darker side… one of the faux trailers from Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse is the hilariously spot-on Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. It is entirely plausible that someone would have jumped on the bandwagon of grade-z holiday themed horror films that followed the success of Halloween. But this one is a fake. As of now. Who knows…. maybe Roth will film it one day.
During the Thanksgiving episode of SNL in 1997, Lilith Fair stand-up comic Cinder Calhoun (a recurring character played by Ana Gasteyer) & singer Sara McLachlan paid a visit to Norm MacDonald and the Weekend Update desk, singing the Thanksgiving classic Basted In Blood. It would not be nearly as funny if they didn’t sing it so well.