Muscle Academy

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Tom of Finland’s illustrations I’ve admired in a distant way. At least when the phalluses weren’t obscenely huge. He might be considered the Jack Kirby of homoerotic art: able to make the preposterous look plausible.

But I’m not a Tom’s man. True I once sported black leather Army boots and even a boy lick them. But my momma bought they for me (naturally I didn’t share with her how I used them). I even used to own a leather jacket. But it was a brown aviator’s jacket not unlike the Rocketeer’s.

Months ago some brought a copy of Daddy and the Muscle Academy into my shop. Last night I finally watched this Tom of Finland documentary. Since it was a homage by loving fans I don’t want to mock the movie but can’t help but cavil at a couple of points.

I don’t think Tom created the gay leatherman look. My understanding has always been that the early gay men who adopted leather garb, like Tom of Finland himself, acquired their taste for dark, sleek macho-wear while serving in the military during WWII.

No, Tom’s drawings did not someone eliminate the subculture of effeminate gay guys. Campy boys are with us to this day.

Since Tom did some Peter Berlin illustrations I’d like to have seen Berlin commenting on the work. But I realize he may have been lost in his own self-absorption.

And I’d have been happier if the pointless scenes of staring at some anonymous muscleman’s chest had been eliminated.

I was heartened to learn that he came to America and got to experience the appreciation of his fans before he passed away.

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