Published in: November-December 2004 issue.


Plastic Counts, Too  It’s well known that in the original Greek Olympics the male athletes competed in the nude. And while there was plenty of skin on display at the 2004 Olympics in Athens—the swimmers and gymnasts got the Olympicsprime-time coverage for a reason—this is a far cry from the Greek concept of the “heroic,” i.e. completely nude, male athlete. Still, the organizers in Athens wanted to make at least a small beau geste toward the ancient custom, so they created a series of naked mannequins rendered in plastic to suggest the kouros statues of old. But when the figures made their appearance at the opening ceremony, American viewers saw only their upper torsos, as NBC—still spooked by Janet Jackson’s “costume malfunction” at the Superbowl—didn’t want to risk offending an American public that was still recovering from two seconds of bare breast. The fact that the highly stylized statues were made entirely of white plastic, right down to their genitals, didn’t seem to matter.

Stop Making Sense  One morning session of the Republican convention in New York was opened with an invocation by one Sheri Drew, a fanatical anti-gay speaker who’s fond of stating that those who support same-sex marriage are no different from those who supported Hitler prior to World War II. Drew provides no particular explanation for this odd comparison in her speeches, and when asked about it at the convention merely stammered that “it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats against the family—but maybe not.” In other words, comparing someone you don’t like to Hitler is always good for a smear, and it really doesn’t matter whether it makes any sense or not. Wasn’t there a time when such people were relegated to babbling on street corners to indifferent passersby? Now they’re given a national forum at the Republican convention.

This Protest Sucks  For years, the Phelps family of Kansas has been traveling around the country picketing any event that celebrates gay life or mourns its deaths. Alas, they seem to be running out of targets, as witness their recent visit to an Electrolux outlet—yes, the vacuum cleaner—in Bloomington, Indiana, to stage a protest. As it happens, Electrolux is owned by a company based in Sweden, a country that recognizes same-sex marriage (well, sort of). But if this logic was a bit convoluted, the Phelpses reverted to the tried-and-true by later moving their demonstration to the local Catholic Church, Holy Trinity. Here they adopted a more theological rationale for their protest, explaining that churches like Trinity “enable homosexuality” because they teach that “God loves everyone.” And, as the groups’ picket signs clearly state, “God hates fags.” Q.E.D. The group was met with catcalls and some thrown tomatoes at both locales.

Naked Boys  Republicans showed that their convention in New York wasn’t only about politics, it was about good clean values, too, so they carefully controlled the entertainment portion of the week to ensure that no one was corrupted by the Big City. Well, it seems that among the many shows for which the RNC was providing discount tickets was the hit Off-Broadway musical, Naked Boys Singing! Can’t have that! Having apparently been fooled by its sly title only to discover that the show is, in fact, comprised of naked boys singing, the organizers hastily removed the show from the roster of available tickets and ordered all traces of it expunged from the relevant website. Meanwhile, according to a number of reports, prostitutes were being imported from Jersey and the other boroughs to meet the upsurge in demand during the convention.

Naked Men  If there’s one place that draws the ultra-elite among conservative power brokers and fat cats, it’s the Bohemian Grove in California. The all-male enclave recently featured a two-week retreat whose guests included George H. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Walter Cronkite, Newt Gingrich, Alexander Haig, Jack Kemp, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and William F. Buckley. While the goings-on at the Grove are strictly guarded, word somehow got out that one of the valets who was serving the assembled guests was a well-known gay porn star, Chad Savage. The New York Post reported this fact with its usual shocked rectitude, and other media outlets followed suit. The other valets were said to be “tittering” about the revelation that the star of How the West Was Hung was in their midst. And while the reportage seemed to assume that the Grove’s guests were shocked by the news, one has to wonder. The Bohemian Grove is famous for its clothing-optional policy, which allows attending moguls to wander the Grove’s redwood forests in the altogether and to urinate at will. And if there’s an ever-so-subtle homoerotic undercurrent here, it was detected long ago by the rarely subtle Richard Nixon, who described the Grove as “the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine.” Apparently, it just got a little faggier.

Beyond the Great Barrier Reef  When a group of Australians declared their intention to set up “the world’s first independent sovereign Gay & Lesbian nation,” it sounded about as serious as the plan of some American evangelicals to move en masse to South Carolina and then secede from the U.S. But off they sailed in a boat called the Gayflower to Australia’s Coral Sea Island Territory, a vast area dotted with hundreds of tiny, uninhabited islands, and chose one of them to colonize. The group insists it has a sound legal basis for its claim of independence that’s rooted in international law, which allows settlers of an uninhabited territory to form a government. Nor can the Australian government remove them from the island, they contend, since they haven’t broken any law. Founder Dale Anderson issued a manifesto based on the U.S. Declaration of Independence and named the new nation—with deliberate irony?—the Gay Kingdom.