June 19, 2011

Role Models

There were two female characters in Superman II and Superman III that were huge influences on me as a child and something that I find very curious as they proved to be an integral part in the development of my personality and in who I am now. Don't panic, this isn't going to be some weepy, "when-I-knew-I-was-gay" essay. However, I do find it interesting that even at such a young age, I had already developed the tastes, style (or lack there-of), sense of humor and obsessions that I have today.

The patented "Annie Ross Eyebrow Arch"
Let's go back to 1983 when I saw Superman III in the theater. I recall being particularly intrigued with the character played by Annie Ross, Vera Webster (Robert Vaughn's evil, possibly lesbian sister). I was nine when this movie came out and even then I was interested and fascinated in this sort of mannish, extreme woman. She had a bitchy, mean quality that I really liked, not to mention a fun hairstyle, arched eyebrows and a general nastiness towards everything that I found quite compelling. I wanted to be just like her. I remember re-enacting scenes with my friends in my backyard. We'd be playing Superman and I'd say, "Oh, I wanna be Vera." They'd shrug and not really understand, but at least I got to turn into a robot.

One of my prized possessions: An Annie Ross/Superman III trading card
The same goes for Sarah Douglas as Ursa in Superman II. So sleek, vicious and boyish. I can remember styling my hair like hers, donning my mother's boots and stomping around the house with my hands on my hips, daring anyone to cross my path. Usually, it was the family cat, Duchess, who I would banish to the Forbidden Zone with a quick glance of my eyes (which emitted imaginary red laser beams). Or I'd throw couch cushions across the room as if they were light as a feather. Take that Superman! 

Sarah Douglas in Superman II
Other major and similar influences on me in my childhood were Mariangela Melato in the Flash Gordon (1980) movie (who was very much along the line of the svelte, tight-leather wearing Sarah Douglas), The Baroness from "G.I. Joe" and Evil-Lyn from the "He-Man" cartoons. They were all totally bitchin'. Literally. What is it about little gay boys identifying with the villains? And why is it always the female ones? I think between all of these characters, I learned how to curl my lip up into an intimidating sneer and arch an eyebrow at anything that annoyed me. During the late 80s/early 90s, as I grew older and my movie watching habits began to evolve, I slowly began discovering I had a mad infatuation with the additional and increasingly extreme female characters in the films I was watching. People like Shirley Stoler (from The Honeymoon Killers, Seven Beauties and "Pee Wee's Playhouse"), Nancy Parsons (The Porky's movies, Motel Hell), Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul, Deathrace 2000), Pat Ast (Reform School Girls, Andy Warhol's Heat), Susan Tyrrell (Cry-Baby, Forbidden Zone) and many more. They all usually played prison matrons, prostitutes, drunks, landladies, judges or gym teachers. What was this attraction to scary, larger than life women?

Mariangela Melato in Flash Gordon
Now, here is what I find interesting - I grew up with no gay influences whatsoever. I had no gay family members, friends, neighbors or classmates. How then was I able to become interested in things that, ultimately, were also influences on scores of other gay children around the world? How did I know that Divine was a huge gay idol? Or my obsession with Andy Warhol, John Waters, Joe Dallesandro, etc. I never knew that they were actually gay icons. What is this common gay link? Why do we all seem to appreciate the same type of characters, stories, styles, music and, most of all, humor? I can only guess that it is because we want to be like these people. I know that I've always wanted to be like Divine (I still do!). These characters were strong, confident, visually impressive and they took any disadvantages they may have had and turned them into an advantage. These characters also kicked ass when they needed to. These were all attributes I so desperately wanted to have growing up and throughout high school. 

Thank God for all of these wonderful people that have inspired me. Who knows what I would have turned out like. I'd probably like sports and sell carpet for a living. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

June 17, 2011

An Appreciation of The Baseball Furies or: Thoughts on The Warriors (1979)

I've been thinking a lot lately about Walter Hill's epic street gang saga, The Warriors (1979). Particularly those wonderful and mysterious Baseball Furies. They all looked so incredibly sexy and scary in their uniforms and painted faces. I wish I could have dated one of them. I would have loved to have been a Fury groupie. However, I was pretty disappointed at how easily they were beaten by the Warriors. They should have been a lot more vicious, violent and unpredictable.

I often wonder what their back-story was. Did they live at home? Did they dress that way all the time? How do you actually become a Fury? Is there some sort of initiation process? Do you have to actually LIKE baseball?

Now, let me mention a few things about the Warriors themselves. They were all way too pretty to be a street gang. I didn't buy them for one second - Michael Beck was just too cute, too angular and too willowy to be the gang's "warlord". Plus, he went on to do Xanadu and that totally ruined any chances of creating a respectable form of street cred.

One of the highlights of the film was all of the different themed gangs. It was amazing...EVERYONE had their own gang! There was the girl gang, the Lizzies, that were pretty great. Then those skinhead guys, the Orphans (losers). I kept hoping that there would be a gay gang, called the Cupcakes or the Marys or something. Or a gang of rogue, celebrity impersonators...bad ones, of course.

The entire film felt like one big video game - whenever the characters would have a run in with a new gang, it was like each gang represented a level you had to beat in order to move on to the next. I wish that, at the end of the picture, the Warriors would have had to fight that mysterious DJ woman who (somehow) was in the know and knew everything that was going on out in the streets. Perhaps she could have wielded a microphone like a whip or thrown razor sharp records at them.

Apparently, when the movie came out, real life street gangs would go and start fights and riots. Now that would have been a true movie viewing experience.  

The Warriors is now over thirty years old, so I wonder...where are the Baseball Furies now? Did they retire? Did they get too fat for their uniforms? Have they moved on to a new gang...maybe a new, more relaxed organization?

Whatever it may be, I will remain forever and hopelessly devoted to my boys.