Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who's Your (TV) Daddy? Part 2

Brian Kelly of Flipper seems to always be at the top of everyone's Hottest TV Dad list. It's easy to see why. A former marine and son of a Michigan governor, Kelly was extremely handsome and had a strong, masculine build, barrel-chested in a 60s-college-football-star way. As game warden Porter Ricks on Flipper, he exuded the kind of strong-without-swagger masculinity that seems to have gone out of style a generation or so ago.

Kelly's career was cut short by a severe motorcycle accident in 1969 when the a borrowed motorcycle exploded on him. He was left with a paralyzed right arm and leg and speech problems. He sued and won a settlement, which he used to produce the Harrison Ford classic, Blade Runner.

O Captain My Captain

I had this lust/hate thing for Star Trek's Captain Kirk. Personality-wise, I thought Kirk was a jerk. Whether the series’ writers intended it or not, Kirk came across as condescending, bombastic, idiotically “courageous”, ready to risk his life and that of his crew at the drop of a tricorder. He seemed like an Ugly American in space, or worse – an Ugly Canadian, since he was annoyingly self-righteous to boot.

On the other hand, he was kind of hot, although I’m not sure why. Though handsome, William Shatner’s Captain Kirk was short, pugnacious, and a little pudgy (and apparently already balding) – and for some reason the show’s producers thought it was a good idea to keep Shatner’s normally hairy torso shaved as smooth as a preteen boy’s. Not to mention the weird thing they did to try to color over his nipples with makeup. (And yet, in one episode, Spock is stripped to the waist alongside Kirk and he is Alec Baldwin-hairy, which makes no sense; you expect the earthman to be, well, earthy, and the egghead, asexual Vulcan to be as hairless as a Tolkien elf. Go figure.)

Maybe what really turned me on was the gratuitous bondage and faux torture used as a device to enable the shirt-shedding of the young blond captain. Kirk was shown shirtless for no very good reason in numerous episodes. In one, he was stripped and whipped, alongside the aforementioned very hairy-chested Spock, by Nazis. (Yes, Nazis. In outer space.). In another, he was made to wear the kind of chest harness popular with leather S/M guys (was this the start of that fashion?) and he lost his shirt in that same episode because it was shredded from his body as he was, yes, whipped. In yet another episode, he was hung shirtless by the wrists and “whipped” by force rays from an alien's instrument. (Flagellation seems to be poised for a huge comeback in the 23rd century.) On yet another occasion he was totally naked except for a metal bar across his crotch, as a giant android made a duplicate Kirk by spinning him around on a lab table-cum-lazy-susan, so we had two identical, almost nude Kirks side by side when the spinning wheel stopped.

William Shatner of course went on to other roles – TJ Hooker, Denny Crain, and most famous of all, Priceline Spokesman – but to me he was never again close to being sexy or even very good looking after Star Trek (although he was permitted to show chest hair in TJ Hooker). He was at his hottest in Star Trek, which is what you expect in a captain. The show seemed to miss this lesson but lucked out anyway with Patrick Stewart in Star Trek TNG (that is, I think they intended for Number One Jonathan Frakes and not the bald, slight Stewart to be the show’s sex symbol, but they failed to appreciate how hot Stewart really was), and finally figured it out by casting the more obviously handsome and hard-bodied Scott Bakula in Enterprise. But Stewart and Bakula are topics for another day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Moonbase Alpha Male

In high school I used to babysit rich people’s houses when they were out of town. It was the best gig ever. I got to escape from home for extended periods of time, I stayed in much nicer digs than my parents’ house (sometimes the houses I stayed in even had pools), I got to investigate a rich variety of porn collections, and best of all they all had cable TV, which we did not have at home. (And oh yeah, I got paid for loafing around watching TV, getting high, and doing that thing high school boys do the most when they are left alone.)

So one cold winter day while channel-surfing through what at the time seemed an amazing number of cable channels, I came across a sci-fi show made by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the people who had made UFO, which co-starred the studly Michael Billington. I hoped this new show, called Space:1999, would also feature Mr. Billington, but sadly it didn’t. The show starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, formerly of Mission:Impossible in the days before Peter Graves (and, more importantly, Sam Elliott), as well as some old English dude named Barry Morse. As with UFO, the cast were in skin-tight, bulge-showcasing “futuristic” clothing, but this sexy attire was wasted on the (to my mind) unappealing cast. Worse, the show was not all that great and had bad special effects – basically it was about a space station on the moon, named “Moonbase Alpha”, that is lost in space when the moon is blasted out of Earth’s orbit by a nuclear explosion. The show was well-acted, but nothing the crew did made me particularly care about their plight (the Martin Landau character was even more obnoxious than Captain Kirk, something I would not have thought possible). Still, I watched on in case a hot guest star appeared or something. Besides, there wasn’t a lot else to do. This house was occupied by an old couple who had no porn.

I was about to give up on the show altogether when what to my lusting eyes should appear but a hot, hairy blond dude with a taut, muscular body (as I said, these clothes were very revealing), a perfect bubble butt, and a huge bulge in his crotch that put the other cast members’ members to shame. I hoped against hope to see this dude shirtless and, voila, by the end of the episode we was stripped from the waist up. The guy had a ripped muscular torso covered in dark blond hair, muscular hairy arms, great definition all around. In fact, by the end of the episode he had for me totally eclipsed Michael Billington, who to my tastes was neither as handsome, nor as well-built, nor as well-endowed (if comparative bulges were any indications) as this blond guy. During the credits I learned that the character was named Captain Alan Carter and he was played by Australian actor Nick Tate.

I watched every episode of the show that I could after that, and while Tate’s hot body continued to excite, I never again saw him shirtless. Also, he seemed to stop being blond after the first season, his hair becoming more of a reddish brown as he presumably spent less time on Australian beaches, and he seemed to gain a little weight, becoming a little stockier (but hardly less sexy).

I occasionally saw Tate in other shows and movies after that (including A Cry in the Dark and as recently as a guest spot on Lost), and heard that he showed up wearing nothing but short shorts in an Australian thriller called Summerfield. Curious, I bought the Summerfield DVD online and converted it to NTSC and was very glad I did. While Tate was a little chunkier than during Space:1999, the flick showcased his great body. There was even a nude scene, although his crotch is artfully concealed throughout. But as tight and revealing as his shorts were, you got a pretty good idea of the size and shape of his equipment anyway. On top of that, the flick is a good atmospheric thriller.

I also found Space:1999 on DVD, and discovered that while Tate really did only totally lose his shirt in the one episode I happened to catch that winter day long ago, he did show up with his chest exposed in a number of episodes, to which the accompanying screen caps testify. Nick Tate may not have been the star of Space:1999 – the good-looking stud with the great body never seems to have starred on English TV shows of that period – and his character wasn’t the commander of the space station, but there was no doubt in my mind who the alpha male of Moonbase Alpha was.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ultrahot Furry Obsession

I first discovered the British sci-fi show UFO in the late 1980s in reruns on cable TV, where I managed to catch it only intermittently. So it took me a long time to figure out that the events of the show, produced in 1970, were actually taking place in 1980 – that is, already almost a decade in the past. This made the show even quirkier than I think its creators intended – it was like instant retro-future, automatic camp.

But the show was more than just a pile of kitschy clich├ęs – as seemed to be the case with so much Brit TV from that time period, it combined great acting with mediocre writing and piss-poor set and costume design. So frequently the dramatic tone of an episode would be dramatically at odds with its packaging. In other words, it really helped if you got stoned to watch it.

So while the promise of weird sci-fi lured me to the show in the first place, what kept me watching it long after I tired of the premise was Michael Billington, who played a supporting character, Paul Foster. (It seems that Brits at the time liked their lead heroes to be brainy leaders, relegating muscle to middle management. Americans, of course, want it all in one package: the leader must be a good looking stud, and at the same time brainy or at least street smart - but never, of course, merely “book smart”.)

Billington was one of those hairy, well-muscled Brits, like Sean Connery and young Jason Statham, whose natural-seeming buffness is just so much hotter than the gym rat look that even teen idol American stars strive for today. Then again, the show was made in 1970, and HGH and fat blockers and personal trainers were non-existent, so natural buffness was pretty much the only kind available (oh allright, natural buffness possibly aided by some free weight reps). Billington’s presence, his handsome face and muscular body covered with beautiful dark brown fur, was the most humanizing element in the spacey series; his earthiness contrasting nicely with the silver uniforms and fembot-like worker drone gals and his boss’s Bowie-esque bleached platinum hair (the lead character, Ed Straker, played by Paul Bishop, often in a wig), like an antique mahogany desk in an IKEA showroom.

Some shots of Billington in roles prior to UFO:

The show didn’t last long, and I never saw Billington in any other role, but a nice warm spot is reserved in my psyche for the nearly naked Paul Foster sitting in a steambath, pouring water over his chest, and singing in a delicious baritone, “Beautiful Dreamer…”

UFO had some interesting uniforms.