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Tag: homophobia (page 2 of 2)

Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin’s 50s Love Makes Today’s Bromance Look Like Bromide

Mark Simpson pays tribute to Lewis & Martin, ‘the hottest male comedy double-act of all time’

(Originally appeared in Out, May 2009)

Forget hair whorls, genomes, amniotic fluid, older brothers, domineering mothers or disco. I can reveal with absolute, religio-scientific certainty that the cause of my homosexuality was just two words.

Jerry. Lewis.

As a kid in the 1970s I watched reruns of his movies, especially the ones from the early fifties with his on-screen boyfriend Dean Martin, with a level of breathless excitement that nothing came close to – until I discovered actual buggery in the 1980s.

Films like Money From Home where he pins Martin to the bed wearing a pair of polka dot shorts camper than Christmas in West Hollywood (1953), and Sailor Beware (1951), where he is pricked by several burly USN medics wielding ever-bigger needles until he squirts liquid in all directions and faints made me the man I am today.

Earlier this year, after a lifetime of being ignored by a cross-armed Academy Awards that never gave him so much as a nomination when he was making movies, Lewis is finally getting an Oscar.

But not for his hilariously cute films with Dean Martin or his solo classics such as The BellboyThe Errand BoyThe Nutty Professor, and The Disorderly Orderly – in which, memorably, he happily hoovers with the appliance plugged in up his own ass – but for his fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy.

It’s a charity Oscar – in every sense. Lewis is 82 and has had serious health problems for some time.

The Hollywood gays though were reportedly Not Happy. They had a hoover up their ass about Lewis.  Apparently some tried to block his Oscar because this ill, old man born in 1926 almost used the word ‘faggot’ last year after hosting a twelve hour telethon.

In effect, The Gays are running down the street screaming Maaaaaaa!!

Likewise, because he isn’t himself gay, and because his early nerdy, ‘retarded’ sissy persona has been deemed ‘exploitative’, Lewis has been almost completely spurned by gay studies, when really he should have his own department. If nothing else, Lewis Studies would be a damn sight more fun than Queer Studies. (As long as they didn’t include the Telethons).

His films should be set texts, but it was his anarchic early 1950s TV shows with Martin when a twenty-something Lewis was at his queerest and giddiest. Their heads so close together in those tiny 50s cathode ray tubes, gazing into each other’s eyes, rubbing noses, occasionally stealing kisses or licking each other’s necks to shrieks of scandalized pleasure from the audience. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And were adored for it – literally chased down the street by crowds of screaming young women and not a few men (especially popular with sailors and soldiers, they were the Forces’ sweethearts).

This half-century old double act from the homo-hating 50s is much more alive, much more flirtatious, than today’s supposedly liberal and liberated ‘bromantic’ comedy, which goes  out of its way to purge the possibility of anything physical. Next to Dean and Jerry’s simmering screen-love, bromance just looks like bromide.

Whatever the nature of his off-screen sexuality, Lewis’ comedy partnership with Martin – the most successful of all time, along with most of their best gags – was based around the matter-of-fact, unspoken assumption that they were a couple.

Their very first TV show opens with our boys arriving at a posh ball full of Waspy straight couples being announced: ‘Mr & Mrs Charles Cordney!’, ‘Mr and Mrs Walter Christiandom!’.  And then: ‘Mr Martin and Mr Lewis!’.  The dago and the jew. Setting the tone for their series, Lewis promptly trashes the place with his nervy-nerdy slapstick.

The Martin and Lewis partnership was queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been invented, trashing normality right in the living rooms of 1950s America, courtesy of Colgate. No wonder they’ve been almost forgotten.

They should never have existed.  True, the explicitness of their pairing depended on the official ‘innocence’ of the times, and the nostalgia for buddydom in post-war America, allowing the audience to enjoy the outrageous queerness of what was going on without having to think too much about it. Literally laughing it off.

But official innocence is a mischievous comedian’s gift-horse. A skit depicting (fictionally) how Martin and Lewis – or ‘Ethel’ and ‘Shirley’ as they called one another – met, climaxes with them being trapped in the closet together: pushed together mouth to mouth, crotch to crotch, by Martin’s vast, vain collection of padded jackets.

In another skit our boys end up sharing a bed with Burt Lancaster playing an escaped homicidal maniac: Jerry: ‘Boy, Dean, these one night stands are moider!’

Moider was exactly what they got away with.  In a skit set in prison, Jerry’s bunk collapses on Martin below. ‘What are you doing?’ asks Martin. ‘I felt loinesome,’ replies Lewis.

Lewis’ on-screen queerness may have been just a phase – but what a phase! It was so unruly, so indefinable, so crazy, so ticklish, so exhilarating that gays – and probably most people today – don’t know what to do with it. Or where to put it.  It’s a bit scary, frankly.

But that – in addition to still being piss your pants funny – is precisely what is so great about it. And why I still think classic Lewis is as much fun as sodomy.

An ‘exploision’ of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charming clip painstakingly compiled by a YouTube fan.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis – 'Oh Boy'

The noise made by the audience when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pelvis.

Jerry Lewis – Dean Martin Colgate Comedy Hour Clip 16 of 19

Jerry joins the Navy, gets some big pricks, and then sprays everywhere.

Sailor Beware – Blood Bank

Jerry, Dean and James Dean – the perfect locker room threesome.

Sailor Beware – Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin Before the Fight

Dean and Jerry join the Army as paratroopers. Watch Dean’s eyes during the blanket scene.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v/UXLtF-10dqM

‘I was loinesome!’

Jerry Lewis – Dean Martin Colgate Comedy Hour Clip 10 of 19

A slightly fictionlised account of how our boys met, complete with closet clinch climax.

Jerry Lewis – Dean Martin Colgate Comedy Hour Clip 13 of 19

Never been kissed… Yeah, right.

 

Special thanks to Elise Moore and Hannah for sharing their pashernate love of Dean & Jerry — and reminding me of mine.

How Beer Went Queer

Beer, as everyone knows, was invented so that men can touch and hug and kiss – and sometimes shag – one another.  And not have to talk about it or even remember the next day.  ‘Oh boy, was I drunk last night!’.

Beer was invented in other words to allow men time off being MEN.  While still being manly. Because drinking beer was what guys did, as well as the reward for being guys. No wonder we drank it so much, even if much of it tasted like wee.

In fact, the general nondescript awfulness of beer was part of its oblivious male appeal.

But most of us don’t drink it like that any more. If at all. Beer consumption in the UK has been falling for some time, both at home and in the pub.  Young male drinkers are more inclined to sip ‘girly’ alcopops than beer.  And if they drink beer at all it frequently has to be lah-dee-dah strong imported premium beer in a bottle.  ‘Beer’ is no longer this tasteless, undifferentiated, unreflexive, uniform substance – like ‘regular guys’.

Perhaps this is why beer has become something laughably self-conscious. Painfully straight-acting. Both Fosters and Guinness, representing almost opposite ends of the beer market (Guinness a premium beer and brand, Fosters… not so much), have recently released ‘jokey’ beer ads that talk about the things men used to drink beer so they wouldn’t have to think about.

Both ads are based on the homo-panic of the ‘man code’, those prissy-missy list of ‘manly’ – i.e. fagly – ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ that America produced a few years back as part of its backlash against metrosexuality. So the Fosters ad advises their customers about the etiquette of applying sun tan cream to another male without getting an erection, and the Guinness ad discusses how to hug another male without him feeling your erection.

Both have been accused of being homophobic. I’m not sure that this is what they are exactly. And in fact, calling them homophobic is almost to let them off the hook. ‘Homophobic’ almost sounds reassuringly traditional – and it also suggests that we can assume the sexuality of the men in these ads (who don’t seem so sure about it themselves).

In fact, what’s remarkable and slightly disturbing about these beer ads is that they are very faggy. Both in terms of the straight-acting anxieties they play with and how they look.

Essentially they assume that men in general are so gay these days they need advice on how to butch it up. Girl. Beer ads used to always have three men so that no one would think for a moment they were a couple. But both these ads feature male couples (two male couples in the case of the Fosters ad). And in both ads the male couples are so parodic of masculinity that they appear gay.

The Guinness ad couple are particularly easy to imagine fucking (the little skinny nerdy flannel shirted one, of course, topping the big bald leather guy).

And, deliberately or not, the ironic advice they offer ends up looking way gayer than hugging or budgie-smuggling. The nice Guinness guys embracing with their bums stuck out looks more like an invitation to the scally Fosters couple than anything else.