If I wasn’t gay before I saw my first Tarzan movie (I was), surely that would have put me over the top. As a kid, the old Tarzan movies ran on Saturday afternoons. It was another genre within my pre-porn collection. I always hoped for the house to be empty when I could sit in front of the TV and enjoy a private moment with the Edgard Rice Burroughs‘ character. I became somewhat of the connoisseur of Tarzans by the time I was an adolescent. Buster Crabbeplayed the part around the same time as the more popular Johnny Weissmuller, but for my money, Crabbe’s Tarzan was far sexier and more entertaining. Denny Miller’s sole project as the “ape man” was memorable… well, Miller in a loincloth was memorable. When I first saw a Mike Henry portrayal of Tarzan, I was instantly in love. Henry played a more “intellectual” jungle man, but his loin cloth was astonishingly brief, his muscled legs were stunningly long, and his hairy torso was incredibly hot. But I believe my favorite and most lusted-after Tarzan had to be Gordon Scott. He didn’t have quite the hard body that Henry had, but there were more than occasional bare-ass shots as Scott’s loin cloth rode up his crack. He perhaps wasn’t quite as handsome as Crabbe, in my book, but he was totally adorable. Although bondage and wrestling seem to have been regularly occurring themes in many of the Tarzan movies, the image of Scott captured and bound is seared in my memory and cherished in my mental collection of homoerotic images. Of course much later portrayals of Tarzan featured gorgeous boys. O’Keefe’s wrestling scene in the 1981 Bo Derek movie can still inspire a hands-free orgasm for me most days.
Two things I have to mention looking back on my early education in homoeroticism worshiping at the feet of Tarzan. First, the whole concept of the man raised as an animal without the inhibitions of “civilized” propriety was all one HUGE metaphor for male sexuality. So who could be surprised that a gay kid like me would be instantly aroused. He was the totally sexualized man, perfectly matched to the hormone-saturated, pre-adolescent gay boy. Second, as a white, gay kid, I marvel today at the (terrible) lessons that those movies taught me about race. Although the villains were often also white (poachers, usually), there were almost always “primitive,” cannibalistic, violent, terrifying black African characters who Tarzan, the great white champion, had to conquer. White women were invariably threatened by horrific (and actually quite hot) dark-skinned menaces who might be about to eat them, rape them, or enslave them. Decades later, I think I’m still trying to live down those early racist lessons.