Tuesday, October 5, 2010

70s (and 80s) TV Exposure, Volume 5: Beefcake Revisited

I recently revealed (close to the one year anniversary of this site, I believe) my utter lack of blogging savvy when I announced that I hadn’t previously realized that I could look at the statistics of Poseidon’s Underworld and determine which pages are the most popular and from what areas of the world visitors were coming and from which search engines, keywords and so on! I mentioned then that, far and away, the most popular page at The Underworld is one on the bulges to be found on 70s TV. (It was one of a series of four posts about TV beefcake that highlighted bulges, unbuttoned shirts, Speedos and bare chests.) More than twice the amount of visitors have hit that page on bulges than its next closest in line!

Looking at the posting now, quite a while later, I am struck by how brief it is when compared to a lot of the posts that came after it. (Maybe people are trying to tell me something… like SHUT UP! lol) Anyway, good or bad, it is that page that draws the most people to this site and, even though I am not as a rule one to be led into the things I muse about, I thought it would be fun to revisit the subject, but in an even bigger way. Hence this post, which draws a bit from all four of the categories I made up, with, of course, the biggest focus being bulges.

You would think that in today’s far more vulgar and sexually aggressive climate, there would be more opportunity for crotch gazing on TV than there is. Men’s clothing is actually more baggy, demure and concealing now, for the most part, than it was thirty to forty years ago. Time was in the 60s (and, perhaps, some time I’ll do a little feature on this, too), a person could be innocently sitting in his living room and see Bonanza’s Little Joe (Michael Landon, who was not little!) or The Big Valley’s Nick Barkley (Peter Breck, who appeared to be hung heavier than his horse!) strut onto the screen with all sorts of things going on downstairs. And people still talk about Dr. Joe Gannon’s (Chad Everett) revealing scrubs from Medical Center.

When the 70s (then the 80s) rolled around, things got even more “in your face,” so to speak. Jeans because so snug that you wondered how the people got them on and it became a bother to fasten the top four or five buttons on a shirt. Sometimes there was no shirt to be found anywhere! Then there was the Halley’s comet known as the Speedo, a teensy bathing suit that was a hot item for a while, but soon became laughed into oblivion for everyone except expert swimmers/divers or professional wresters. Let’s take a look back at some TV actors and a few of the beguiling looks they sported for us during the 70s and 80s. Today is a bonanza of beefcake, biceps and bulges, oh my! (And remember the mantra of The Underworld, you can click on the uncentered pics to enlarge!)

Following in the wake of his half-brother David’s success as a teen heartthrob, Shaun Cassidy made a splash of his own for a while. He cut a couple of albums and costarred on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries with Parker Stevenson. Shaun posed for countless pinups, frequently with his shirt open (or off) and in the fashionable “painted-on” jeans of the day. He was never a favorite of mine, but many disagreed! I was more high on his Hardy Boys costar Stevenson (and indeed most people have been inclined to make a Sophie’s Choice, preferring one over the other.) The series was notorious for its display of the young men’s “dressing” preferences, with Parker always dressed right and Shaun invariably veering left. In the episode depicted here, a fight scene has just ended and Parker seems to have become a little aroused by it! Trust me, in motion, this moment is a lot more vivid than it is in this capture! Bulges are hard to catch in one frame with the same impact as they have in motion (the temperature of the water in The Underworld just went up five degrees!)

Another second-generation actor who found success on TV was Lorenzo Lamas. Produced from the genes that gave the world Fernando Lamas and Arlene Dahl, it was a no-brainer that he was going to be attractive, though he doesn’t seem to have inherited the same level of class and taste that his parents tended to display. Lamas scored supporting roles in TV movies and on a show called California Fever before landing the role of Lance Cumson (I beg your pardon!) on the nighttime soap Falcon Crest. As evidenced by this shot of him in his taupe trousers, Fernando seems to have bequeathed him one of the most lauded family heirlooms. Lorenzo was a frequent Speedo wearer, though often by design of his role on Falcon Crest or, like so many others at that time, by the dictates of the legendary Battle of the Network Stars, a competition between the casts of shows from NBC, CBS and ABC that aired periodically and featured all the guys stuffed into the skimpy swimsuits.

The young star of BJ and the Bear, Greg Evigan, was another of those stars compelled to swim and kayak for his team wearing nothing but a Speedo. As I noted in my original post on bulges, most teen idols of the 70s were smooth-chested (often they had an androgynous quality about them), but Greg was a happy exception, proudly showing off his ferret fur. I never watched Bear, nor the much later My Two Dads, but sometimes I wish I’d have given Evigan a chance. He looks pretty cute here.

Another famous bulge of the day belonged to Gary Sandy of WKRP in Cincinnati. Again, he was not my type, but he had quite a following for a while. He was a double duty exposure type of guy due to his constrictive jeans and his shirts, which were rarely buttoned up past his sternum. Though, in actuality, he's continued to work in one form or another, to many of us, Gary Sandy up and disappeared the day WKRP was canceled!

Also, even now, fans still reminisce about John Amos’ tan corduroys on Good Times. Hired to be the father figure to a family of precocious children in the projects eager to make it out to a better life, he and his costar Esther Rolle (both of whose characters had been spun off from Maude) grew disgusted with the direction of the series. He took an early hike, his character dying as Rolle threw a glass punch bowl to the floor howling, “Damn, damn, DAMN!,” but no one ever forgot his poor, straining pants once they’d seen them. (I’m not making this up. Message boards all over the world still bring up these trousers!)

CHiPs was, in retrospect, a sort of cheap and tacky police motorcycle show, but at the time it sent hearts aflutter over its star Erik Estrada. His snow-white teeth, flashing against his deeply tan skin whenever he smiled, temporarily took the focus away from his beige patrol pants, which were a second skin. Erik was another one frequently photographed shirtless or in bursting britches and was a fixture on the teen magazine circuit. His costar Larry Wilcox eventually got tired of playing second fiddle to Estrada when he was supposed to be the lead in the show and took a hike. Once he was replaced, two new blonde cops were added to the mix, one of which was professional bike rider Bruce Penhall, who was a lovely package of tan, blonde yumminess. True, his fame only lasted fourteen minutes and thirty-eight seconds, but a few of us never forgot him!

Speaking of a tacky show, The Dukes of Hazard reigned in that category, reveling in its white trash milieu. Daisy Duke, played by Catherine Bach, had shorts so uniquely tiny – with, hysterically, panty hose under them most of the time! – that the term “daisy dukes” was used to describe them forever after. The big draw, though, for women and gay men anyway, was the appearance of Bo and Luke Duke, played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat.
Wopat was no slouch in the bulge department, but Schneider gave new meaning to the word! Examining some of the screen caps and publicity shots from the series, it’s mind-boggling that he got away with some of the things he did! One infamous episode with guest star Loretta Lynn looks as if he’s at least half hard under his pants (was she that hot?!) Other examples show his junk being spread out all over the place under his jeans. I’ll ask it again… Did no one notice? Were we supposed to be ignoring it? Was it all unintentional? You just don’t see things like this today (today we pixilate Survivor contestants if things get too revealing!)

Eight is Enough’s Willie Aames became another sensation for a while. Shown here in a publicity still for the show (with guest star Ralph Macchio), he garnered more attention than Grant Goodeve (who initially was meant to be focused on more heavily.) Always one drawn to the secure, mature types, I liked Goodeve the most, but Aames was far more popular. He eventually filmed a rip-off of The Blue Lagoon with Phoebe Cates called Paradise in which he took an underwater swim in the buff, revealing all. In time, Aames would become a master of the bizarre, first on Charles in Charge (with Scott Baio) and then with an odd blend of substance abuse, born again Christian evangelism, shoulder pads, mullets, Biblical superheroes and severe financial trauma! But, as witnessed in this crazed publicity photo, the seeds of idiocy and tackiness were sewn long before.
One place that the gays have always been able to seek out revealing costumes (from Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon to Gil Gerard’s Buck Rogers and many things in-between) is science fiction. So many costumers for sci-fi TV shows decided that leotards or otherwise clingy outfits would be the norm in the far-flung future. One show, Space: 1999, had uniforms created by famed fashion and topless swimsuit designer Rudi Gernreich. The sleek, clingy outfits consisted of jersey tops with one arm a different color, such as yellow or red, and slacks that did not forgive those without a decent leg line. In truth, the clothing was surely created with tall, slim people in mind because anyone out of shape instantly looked hideous in them.

Thing was, the material clung EVERYWHERE, including the fun parts. As the series wore on, and the laundering of the clothes continued, shrinkage in the pants lent its way to snugness in the crotch. While series regulars may have a little more attention paid to their uniforms, extras and guest stars sometimes had to make due with whatever was available. This often led to some (fortunately) ill-fitting get-ups.

The leads, too, including Martin Landau and Barry Morse, weren’t exempt from some (unintentional?) exposure. Morse, the older of the two, occasionally flashed a wad of something, occasionally rather eye-opening. (The fuzzy caps here are not necessarily the best examples, just examples!) Landau also was placed in the position of having to stand in a stationary spot, seriously and ponderously spouting lunar and outer space gobbledegook, while the corona of his penis head was visible through his pants!

The resident “hunk” of the show, at least during the first season, was Australian Nick Tate. His face was marginally handsome, but he had a decent body and the uniform suited him as well as it did anyone else. Quite a hairy guy, he would occasionally be seen with his shirt off or in one of the slinky blue sleepwear ensembles that patients held in Barbara Bain’s medical unit wore. Look for a tribute to Space: 1999 in the future, one that will hopefully have more, even better, examples of this clothing phenomena (one that had me, in 1977, panting for 1999 to get here, though it came and went without Gernreich’s designs being worn by the US populace!)

A show that promised a certain amount of male skin each episode was Man from Atlantis starring Patrick Duffy. Duffy had webbed fingers and feet and could exist underwater for extended periods of time. Various styles of yellow swimsuits were tried out on him from traditional near-speedos to almost knee length trunks to the sort of running/onionskin ones shown here. (I don’t know what, by the way, Belinda Montgomery finds so funny.) In any case, the show failed to catch on and was canceled before long.

One of the unsung hunks of 70s TV is Ben Murphy. Costar of the western show Alias Smith and Jones, he seemed to be overshadowed (then and now) by his costar Peter Duell, but (in what is a recurring theme here!) I found Ben to be by far the cutest. Somewhere out there are some seminude shots of him in (I think) Oui Magazine and I wish I could get my hands on them! For now, I’ll have to make due with this pair of bathtub shots. One fun thing about westerns for the burgeoning gay boy was that very often, after a long dusty ride, the hero would opt to take a hot, sudsy bath.

I came across this photo of The Bee Gees from their 70s heyday and even though they aren’t cast members of a TV series, they appeared many times as musical guests on shows during their meteoric success after Saturday Night Fever. I’m including this shot because it is emblematic of the type of shiny, snug pants and zippered jackets, opened to reveal wildly hairy chests, that were so popular then.

Dennis Cole, married for a time to Jaclyn Smith and a three-time guest star on Charlie’s Angels, worked on TV very frequently back then. Having begun his career as a posing strap model, he later segued into acting. This shot is from a spread he did in the early mid-70s that included some rear shots of him shaving and showering. Upon closer inspection, this picture probably reveals more than even his posing strap photos ever did!

When Rock Hudson made the switch from movies to television in McMillan & Wife, he sometimes provided an eye-popping glimpse into what was going on downstairs. His business suits on the show tended to be traditional, albeit with some mod, colorful touches in the shirts and ties, but his casual wear pretty much announced to the world that he was going commando under his polyester slacks. The amusing thing about this is that it was clear to anyone watching closely that Hudson didn’t wear underwear, but one episode had his maid Nancy Walker misplacing his shorts, forcing the character to go without them to a black tie function. The character of McMillan was so uncomfortable about this that he went and put on swim trunks (!) under his tux rather than go bare when the real Hudson scarcely bothered. Now that was some acting!

David Hasselhoff was one of the tight jeans brigade. People who didn’t wear them always wondered how in the world guys managed to sit down. Somehow they just did. No pain no gain. Ha! Hoff, Tom Selleck and Lee Horsley were all TV stars shown wearing snug jeans and plenty of brown curly hair, some of it on their chest! Selleck was really the undisputed champ in this arena, but David tried (saddled with the far more ignorant Knight Rider as a vehicle versus the slightly more adult-oriented Magnum, P.I.) After Knight Rider, Hasselhoff headlined Baywatch, which, for a while, featured the infamous Speedos as an occasional part of the costume lineup, though in time these were basically done away with, except for special circumstances, in favor of trunks.

At the top of the post, I mentioned Chad Everett and his character’s scrubs on Medical Center. Well, I don’t have any pics of those, but I do have what I think is just as good. This shot of Chad in an outdoorsy setting features him in one seriously figure-hugging pair of corduroys. This kind of “hanging chad” I can deal with. Yum! I love Chad (see a tribute to him by clicking on his name in the column to the right) and this just became my new favorite shot of him. Reflecting on the role that tan corduroys have played in the depiction of the male form, I think it’s high time we made a motion for a comeback where they are concerned!

Oh, one final shot - and this one isn't even from TV, but is from a feature film that starred a TV actor. I just had to toss it in because it falls into the bulge category and, let's face it, I'm never going to do a Jason Priestly tribute... It's from the movie Calendar Girl (and there's fellow TV performer Jerry O'Connell in the car, too.) Hopefully, under the circumstances, you can forgive this breach of the rules (which I, as Poseidon, ruler of The Underworld, make up anyway!) since it's a special case of bulgery! We'll just say that the movie sometimes plays on TV.

Thanks for reading and I do hope you found this latest examination of our beloved television stars to be, er, revealing!


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