Thursday, April 29, 2010

Night of the Muscle-Bear

I don't know when the term "bear" was first coined by gay men to refer to a brawny, masculine, hairy adult male but I know I arrived at it entirely on my own and at a young age when I was first introduced to Clint Walker in "Night of the Grizzly." Forget the honey-lovin' woodland critter with claws, the big bear I wanted to watch in action was the shirtless Clint Walker prosaically digging post holes. Walker was a big ol' fur forest of a man, with a ruggedly handsome mug and deep blue eyes and what looked like a bearskin rug on his torso. Gritty and chiseled, all beef and no gristle, big Clint Walker was the original muscle bear, and to this day there's never been a finer celebrity example of the breed.

He looked great in "Grizzly", but it's in "Cheyenne" re-runs where in my opinion Clint was at his all-time hottest. Even now it's unusual to see such a big man with such a great body, but back in the 1950s, when "Cheyenne" was filmed, Clint's sculpted hairy pecs, huge shoulders and arms, and lean waist must have been phenomenal. And he kept in good shape through the years.

When in his 40s he appeared in "The Dirty Dozen" (where he made even the great Jim Brown look puny) and in "Sam Whiskey" (where he made bear cub deluxe Burt Reynolds look like a Tolkien dwarf), he was almost as lean and ripped as he was in the 1950s when he played Cheyenne Brody.

The Cheyenne series is available on DVD now, as are two of his movies from about the same period, "Fort Dobbs" and "Yellowstone Kelly." All three are must-sees for the Walker bearstalker.

Who's Your (TV) Daddy?

The most famous line in TV Sitcom history, at least among males from at least two generations, is June Cleaver's whining admonition to her husband,"Ward, you were a little hard on The Beaver last night."* (You could just imagine her squirming with both pain and pleasure in her seat as she said it.)

Hugh Beaumont shirtless in noir drama
Hugh Beaumont shirtless in Danger Zone.
And every time I hear or read that line, I mentally add a little secondary snicker at the name "Beaver Cleaver", and marvel at how the same censors who raised hell about showing Wally and the Beav keeping a turtle in their toilet tank let that one slip without a word. While the show offered some lame explanation for the name (something about Wally not being able to pronounce young Theodore's name correctly), every kid in America "knew" it had to be a joking reference to the furry, pointy-headed critter that hung out in Ward Cleaver's baggy slacks.

Bunny? Check. Wearing pajamas in public? Check. What's Hef got that I don't?

For some reason, June Cleaver's complaints aside, it just seemed obvious that Ward Cleaver had a dick big enough to name. There was just something about Ward and the way Hugh Beaumont played him that gave you the impression that in his quiet way he was a real stud.** Despite being an ordained Methodist minister and hardcore family man in his own personal life, Beaumont had spent most of his pre-Beaver acting career playing dangerous (and, for the time, oversexed) men on the fringes of society: cops, con men, private dicks (investigators, not male escorts), spies both pro- and anti-American, gang leaders, felons, even murderers. is characters were usually exceptionally accomplished in the sleazy romance department, and treated "dames" and ladies alike as their prerogative if not their property. At one point, the producers of "Danger Zone", a prospective TV series starring Beaumont as a private detective in San Francisco, even tried to get Beaumont to do a little beefcake. In two of the episodes they gratuitously have him stripping to the waist just to change his shirt. Although Beaumont was in his 40s at the time, he looked mighty fine, showing a set of toned, hairy pecs that belong in the DILF Torso Hall of Fame, nestled snugly between Sean Connery and Mike Rowe. 

Hugh Beaumont shirtless
Another shirtless Hugh Beaumont picture from the noir film Danger Zone.
Somehow a hint of Beaumont's noir roles seemed to carry over like a five o'clock shadow into the character of Ward Cleaver. Despite his gray flannel suits and cardigan sweaters, you got the feeling that, if things got really bad, Ward knew how to take care of himself and his family, that he could out-badass Robert Mitchum if need be, and that before he'd settled down with his college sweetheart he'd sown more than his share of wild oats. He wasn't the handsomest, or the best-built, TV dad ever, but he was perhaps the hottest - and, in his own square way, the coolest.

From Objective:Burma.

From Sucker List.

From The Blue Dahlia.

Now Ward, don't be too hard on the beaver.

The things a a man had to do to get a little pussy (or beaver) in the 50s.

Beaumont shirtless again in a scene from a later Dennis O'Brien noir film, Roaring City. Not quite as hot as he appears in Danger Zone, but still looking good.

* That June Cleaver never actually spoke these words doesn't matter - for generations of smartass kids, it's gospel. Apparently the closest thing along these lines that June ever said to Ward was in the episode "More Blessed to Give", where she said, "I hope you weren't too hard on the Beaver."

** Interestingly, lists of alleged celebrity penis sizes that have floated around the Internet for years have claimed that Hugh Beaumont was indeed very well hung in real life. Of course, those lists are rarely supported by actual photos or eyewitness accounts or anything, and in several cases photos that do turn up tend to raise serious doubts.