Chaz wasn’t the first to waltz across my screen

26 Oct

I recently had occasion to meet a woman who is “on strike”.  This past month, I’ve seen a lot of people on strike in the news, be it in protest of Georgia’s death penalty, Wall Street bonuses or hotel labor practices.  However, this lady was my first in-the-flesh striker.  Her cause?  “Get that Chaz Bono offa my Dancing with the Stars!”  Whoa.  Really?  “I never thought I’d see something like that in my lifetime…”  It turns out that the perversity that is Chaz Bono, twirling and dipping on live TV, pretty much sums up everything that is wrong, wrong, wrong with the world today.  She must be awash in relief in the wake of Chaz’ booting from DWTS last night.  I’m relieved too since this was all we have had to worry about.  Silly me; I have been fretting over dwindling job opportunities and escalating foreclosures, but it turns out that those sorts of things aren’t really root problems at all.  It’s Chaz, and the gays and the “ I don’t know whats” on public parade.  Personally, I did find watching Chaz waltzing across my screen uncomfortable, but not for THOSE reasons.  They kept putting him in those tight, stretchy outfits and I was afraid he was going to burst out of them like a bit of ruptured haggis.  I was afraid for my eyes, not my morality.


But as far as I can remember there have always been plenty of gay, lesbian and transgendered characters on television.  People talk about how amazing it is that there is EllenPeople magazine loves to slobber all over Glee for giving us a gay character.  Really?  This isn’t new.  It’s just that no one really had much to say about it.  Why?  I don’t know; I don’t care.  Any given episode of Hollywood Squares, which began airing in 1965, was likely to feature Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Paul Lynde or all three at once!  Back in the day, attention wasn’t so much focused on a character or actor’s preference or sexual identity, but you’d have to have been a moron to miss it.  Maybe we were all just a little more polite and didn’t need to exploit that kind of thing in the media so much.

Wildly popular early 1980s show Too Close for Comfort was premised on the two Rush daughters moving in to their parents’ deceased transvestite neighbor’s apartment.  The cross-dresser never makes it on screen, but loveable Monroe Ficus, played by Jim J. Bullock, sashayed through 118 episodes of the show.

And what about the ex-con turned sassy decorator, Anthony Bouvier, on Designing Women?  Oh, those southern women were too polite to ever state the obvious, but…am I right?


It is generally accepted that Jo Polniaczek on The Facts of Life was playing on her own team, if you know what I mean.  Nudge, nudge.  Wink, wink.  Even though in the past year the actress, Geri Jewell, who played Blair’s cousin, Geri, ‘fessed up, it was tomboy Jo, who set off the gaydar.  To “butch up” actress Nancy McKeon, the wardrobe department gave her a ponytail and a leather jacket.  In her spare time, Jo liked to work on her motorcycle.  Any questions?

There were so many other gay characters on the shows I watched as a kid.  Both goofy Alice and Sam: the Butcher on The Brady Bunch were most certainly bearding for one another.  Don’t you think?  And one being neat and one being sloppy wasn’t the only thing odd about The Odd Couple.  Come to think of it, Skipper and Gilligan were always happy to let Thurston Howell III, clutching his teddy, bunk with them on Gilligan’s IslandBewitched had stereo-typical clotheshorse Uncle Arthur, M.A.S.H. featured Corporal Max Klinger, who was begging to be called out for cross-dressing.  Janet from Three’s Company.  Hello?…oh, there are just too many to get into them all.  But the characters weren’t just limited to live action television.

Sensible Velma from Scooby Doo?  There wasn’t enough weed in the Mystery Van to convince Shaggy that she’d ever be receptive to hanging out and having a Scooby Snack with him.   I certainly didn’t need Charles Schultz to pen a memoir to tell me that Peppermint Patty and Marcy from Peanuts would one day become life partners.  And Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie.  That was a given.

Am I off course here?

3 Responses to “Chaz wasn’t the first to waltz across my screen”

  1. Rob October 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Paul Lynde!? But he played Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and . . . oooh. So was that whole “circle gets a square” thing some sort of euphemism? ( – which I would be against . . . I mean if I’m supposed to be) Oh well, Jack Benny made a pretty good career of “it” – even during the dreaded and repressive 1950s. He even accompanied Harry Truman on the White House piano. (That’s not a double entendre, by the way. Truman played the piano and Benny played his violin . . . none of which is a double entendre, either.) And don’t forget Wayne Newton. Not even Fankie Valli could top that voice for gayness (and I use the term in a non-derogatory, prideful sense) – and I’ll bet the character on Glee couldn’t hold a candle to those two. (That whole “candle” and “flame” analogy isn’t meant to allude to the bundle of sticks used as fuel to start a fire and the derogatory term for homosexuals of which there is nothing wrong – I mean homosexuals not that word.) In any case, isn’t it refreshing how political correctness has allowed us to openly discuss these lifestyle choices with such freedom and maturity, unlike the narrow-minded days when people simply laughed at Paul Lynde’s extemporaneous humor and the comedic timing of Jack Benny without giving a single thought to their homosexual private lives, labeling them as such and making sure that everyone knew that it was acceptable to you and that you condemned anyone who thought otherwise. Yep, a big flamboyant, tenner “Danke Schoen” to you social liberals. (BTW: It’s the “Mystery Machine” . . . “Mystery Van” sounds completely gay.)

  2. Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! October 31, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Well, of course “van” sounds gayer than “machine”. It is. What do you think Fred was always listening to on the groovy eight track in that van when it was a rockin’? Torch (ahem) songs by Liberace, perhaps? Perhaps Judas Priest demo tape?
    I am not sure what it was about game shows that made them such fertile ground for all manner of sexual innuendo and double entendre, but from my memory, they were all of them so pervy. Richard Dawson from Family Feud was always trying to ram his tongue down contestant throats, Bob Barker was readily compliant when it came time to demonstrate how to spin his “big wheel”, and I can’t even guess how often Monty Hall asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to switch to door #2?” What was he really asking??? But you are most certainly on track that it is far more civilized and socially aware to openly discuss every nook and cranny (Oh, I didn’t mean it like that…) of life behind the bedroom doors of others. This is the right and moral thing to do, and anyone who believes otherwise in a Nazi. Because Nazis are uptight. And bad.

    • Rob October 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      For shear sophomoricness I’m not sure you could top (wink) Gene Rayburn asking C-list stars to fill in the “blank” (snicker) in sentences like “Every night Bill polishes the shaft of his ‘BLANK’” or “Dumb Dora was so dumb that she shoved John’s big ‘BLANK’ in her mouth” on “Match Game” (followed by the wacky theme music). People my age have no chance of talking about growing up in more innocent times. (If “sophmoricness” isn’t a word, it should be . . . and I want to stick it in the – “BLANK”!)

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