Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A History of... Gay Cowboys

It's Tuesday, y'all. Time for "a history of..." The debut effort garnered the most hits ever for anything I've done here at the blog--like Oscar-Day traffic at the homebase. A little Gyllenhaalism goes along way apparently. Never seek treatment. So, in lieu of that and in anticipation of Sunday being Oscar night...

1920s The West gets mythologized in American culture. The movies speed that along. Wikipedia tells us that what we know as the cowboy shirt actually comes from Hollywood. "Snaps, used in lieu of buttons, allowed the cowboy to escape from a shirt snagged by the horns of steer or bull."

Oh, snap.

1943 Rodger & Hammerstein's immortal musical Oklahoma! premieres on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Wins the Pulitzer. Becomes a legendary theater touchstone. Over 600 productions are licensed worldwide every year. That's hundreds of opportunities annually for showtune lovin' boys to play "Curly" onstage and Ado Annie behind the curtain.

1948 Western hotties Montgomery Clift and John Ireland fondle each others pistols (no, literally. They do) in Howard Hawk's classic western Red River. When they're not ogling what the other is packin', they're betraying crusty old John Wayne who is clearly not up for the movie these two are planning to star in, once this one wraps.

1953 Immediately prior to Judy Garland's comeback (A Star is Born, 1954), Doris Day pinch hits in her absence as gay icon. Adorably butch as cowgirl Calamity Jane, her "Secret Love" power ballad becomes yearning gay anthem.

1978 Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson record Alma Del Mar's favorite record. It speaks to her.

1979 The Sundance Kid, lost without Butch Cassidy, becomes The Electric Horseman. Cher, Bob Mackie, Sally Kirkland, Liberace, and Bette Midler are all embarrassed to be seen with him.

1980 Disco emits its catchy death rattle as the bad-musicals-we-love Xanadu and Can't Stop the Music both premiere at theaters. The Village People, "Randy the Cowboy" among them, star in the latter. Xanadu's 10 minute climax is filled with visual types. I'm willing to bet there's a cowboy in the mix.

1989 Sitting in a movie theater in Utah with my girlfriend (no, literally. I was) I get very turned on watching Matthew Broderick and Brian Kerwin make out in Torch Tong Trilogy. OK, so they're not gay cowboys or anything but they do kiss on a farm. In a barn... uh, I reckon there's a shot of some hay? I'm reaching. (Just wanted to share.)

1990 Costner bares his, um, ego in Dances with Oscar Wolves.

1992 Billy Ray Cyrus has a smash hit with Achy Breaky Hea--oh, right. Sorry. We were talking about the other kind of "gay."

2000 Madonna, five years ahead of the curve, kicks up some dirt with a bunch of Ennis & Jacks in her music video for "Don't Tell Me". A short-lived western shirt craze kicks off in Chelsea and West Hollywood.

2005 Brokeback Mountain fever begins. Jack and Ennis deliver the first big box office hit about gay cowboys since Red River packed them in in '48. It's so good it gets buried in gold statues. Emotional impact, craftsmanship, intelligence. meaning. It's only missing one thing: a time travel plot twist wherein River's Clift and Ireland are transported up to ole' Brokeback just in time for a fourgy. Plot twist? Plot nasty!

2006 Adam & Steve, a new gay romantic comedy opens next month. The climax, featuring Jackie Beat singing the hilarious "Shit Happens", is an elaborately choreographed gay western hoedown. (no, literally. It is)

previous and subsequent histories
Jodie Foster * Gender Bending * Bald Women * Sarah Jessica Parker *
Gay Cowboys * Julianne Moore's Screen Kids * Gyllenhaal

back to the full blog--there's lots more to experience.


Anonymous said...

Ireland and Clift and Ledger and Gyllenhaal-oh my...

Anonymous said...

Plot twist? Plot nasty!

Anonymous said...

Plot twist? Plot nasty!

Ingenious, I meant to say...

Anonymous said...

I saw "Adam & Steve" at a film festival before "Brokeback" even opened. It's really cute. And didn't you get the feeling, really that the Duke was sexually obsessed with Clift in "Red River" himself? I know I did....

Anonymous said...

You forgot the cowboy "cater-waiters" in JEFFREY. With Christine Baranski swirling around them all...could it get any gayer?


oh damn. i shoulda worked "half breed" by Cher into that there history somehow. cowboys and indians and gay icons. oh my

Anonymous said...

youre funny!

Anonymous said...

and cute.

Anonymous said...

weren't gay cowboys eating pudding in the early 00's on South Park?

Anonymous said...

Gay film geeks you all get an F for overlooking SONG OF THE LOON from 1970 based on the pulp novel of the same name. And I was born after that so it's no excuse.

Anonymous said...

SONG OF THE LOON was a porn film, and it's not exactly available on Netflicks, now is it, buddyboy? So I think you can excuse us.... Maybe with the success of BROKEBACK, though, some enterprising distributor will see fit to rerelease it......

Anonymous said...

Oh, dannyboy. You must have seen the uncut director's version. The VHS I saw had nudity, male kissing and a gay cowboy to boot, but no cowpokery. And I think if we're referencing a roll in the hay in TORCH, than this qualifies, porntastic or not. Still, you've got me curious, but I'll simply sleep in peace until it comes to DVD.

Anonymous said...

hummm.... I've never seen it, but there's a great poster for it in THE QUEER MOVIE POSTER BOOK, that labels it "An Adult Film". The blurb calls it "The first big-budged (72,000) gay soft-core feature. I hear the negitive has been preserved by the San Francisco LGBT historical society.

Who want's to start an investment drive in a preservation of the uncut version in 35 MM?

(By the way, the whole book can be found on line at: http://nifty-west.guiltygroups.com/nifty/Vince_Water/Song-of-the-Loon/

Anonymous said...

Nobody mentions the gayest cowboy of them all...Randolph Scott.

Anonymous said...

What about Andy Griffith in RUSTLER'S RHAPSODY? Good comic turn without being offensive....

NicksFlickPicks said...

It was kind of you to avoid any Young Guns references....


it did cross the mind...and i thought, why cause all of you the pain that that crossing caused me?

Adventurous Kate said...

You should mention Midnight Cowboy -- not the film from later on, but the one from the 20s or 30s, I think. We learned about this in my homosexuality in film class. It's a very short, silent film with a gay cowboy chasing a man, completing it with blowing him a kiss and saying, "My hero!"

Glenn Dunks said...

Midnight Cowboy prolly shoulda been mentioned anyway.

But, great history of! Uber-fun.

I also agree that South Park shoulda been mentioned. That line, while way too overused in 2005, was actually sorta funny at the time and considering what occured... psychic (without the pudding... but you never know)

Anonymous said...

Nice job Nate, but how could you leave out Rock Hudson (check him in BEND OF THE RIVER) and Tab Hunter (deserves a mention for LUST IN THE DUST at the very least)?


lust in the dust was in the first draft, anonymous.

kate. never heard of that other one. MUST see it.

Anonymous said...

How would y'all know about "song of the loon" being porn unless u watched gay porn. yick

Anonymous said...

Some of my favorite movie moments come from gay porn, Maya. If you don't like it don't watch it, but who are you to tell others what's "yick" and what's "yum?"

Anonymous said...

"Blazing Saddles" was it gay or just fey?? Can't remember.

Anonymous said...

My internet is like crazy mustang today! Finally I opened your blog. Uff..It's interesting! superpony

Anonymous said...

Who knew about that first 'Midnight Cowboy'? Where is it? And how much longer do I have to keep looking for 'Song of the Loon' on VHS or DVD? That clip on PlanetOut just isn't enough!

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LANGE said...



about brazilian cowboys

(english version available on this french PAL dvd).

Anonymous said...

As with many other aspects of history, the Gay milieu of
cowboy life has been completely overlooked. Until recently,
most historians have ignored or actively suppressed the very
strong homosexual component present in frontier life.

Anonymous said...

Gay cowboys embraced by redneck country

Last December, when the movie A History of Gay Cowboys nudged nervously onto the
cultural radar screen in the US, the consensus was broad and wide. This movie was
one step too far. It was yet another example of Hollywood’s liberal bias.
They’re not going to go see the gay cowboys in Montana. I’m sorry. They’re not
going to do it,

I’m highly sceptical that a movie about big black ass, however good, will find a large
mainstream audience.

Something odd happened between the elite’s assessment of the heartland and the
heartland’s assessment of A history of gay cowboys.

What happened? There are various theories. Brilliant marketing pitched the movie as a love
story and a western, two genres well ingrained in middle American tastes. Women dragged
nervous husbands and boyfriends to see a film where the women could enjoy long, languorous
views of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and the men could admire the naked studs.

Blue state liberals felt it some kind of social duty to see the film. Gays and lesbians
flocked. The media hyped the “gay cowboy” movie and it generated more and more publicity,
and thereby curiosity and thereby tickets.

The iconic phrase uttered by Gyllenhaal — “I wish I knew how to quit you” — has become part
of the popular culture. The cover of last week’s New Yorker had a parody of the now-famous
poster, with Bush and Dick Cheney as the cowboys and Cheney blowing some young twink

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