What Turned Me Gay (again, not really)

I clearly remember seeing the
episode of Hart to Hart, guest starring Mr. Universe Frank Zane. I was a pre-adolescent in a motel room on a family vacation. My family was in the room, and I desperately wanted some alone time with just me, the TV, and Frank Zane flexing. The premise of the “charity muscle show” was contrived to justify intense and deliberate body worship. The YouTube clip is heavily edited, but you get the idea of the body worship theme. Frank Zane is in his posing trunks, oiled up, with dozens of people in formal wear watching and applauding each flex. All eyes are riveted on him, as a muzak version of the Village People’s “Macho Man” plays in the background. The camera zooms in, lingering on each of Zane’s bulging muscle groups, one at a time. A woman leans over and says to Stefanie Powers, breathlessly, “My goodness! This never happens in Pasadena! All we have is a parade.” Just like that exuberant woman, my little gay heart was fluttering, too. There was something particularly erotic about the wealthy audience in tuxedos and formal dresses being entertained by the mostly naked hard body. It smacks of the voyeur or perhaps the power of dominance and submission, as Robert Wagner applauds, restrained but appreciative, as Zane flashes a side chest pose and the camera zooms in on his contracting pec and his bouncing brown nipple. For just an instant, Zane flashes a cocky grin, letting us know that he knows that he’s worship-worthy, that he’s earned our adoration, that although he’s the one almost naked, he’s in command of the moment. That is, of course, the essential plot to every bodybuilding competition, isn’t it? So perhaps this didn’t teach me to be gay, but it certainly gave me an early lesson in the erotic art of worshipping the male form, of the exchange of power between watching and being watched, of the breathless thrill of watching biceps bulge and pecs pump.

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