My posting on the new Calvin Klein underwear ads took me strolling down memory lane. As I thought about the secret joys of my childhood, thumbing through the pages of the underwear ads in catalogs and magazines, it just had to be said: Jim Palmer turned me gay.
I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall of the first pitch Jockey made to future hall of famer, Jim. Today, of course, we see the results of three decades of persistent commodification of the hard male body. In the late 70’s, though, I have to think it was a stretch to convince a professional baseball player to strip to very skimpy briefs and show up nearly naked in most every home and on billboards across the country.
I wonder if it took Jim a second to get what was being done to him. I wonder if he asked if they would want him to model with his baseball glove. Not really, Jim. We only want you for your body.
I imagine the marketing strategy was to identify a man that men wanted to be, who was also a man that women wanted to be with. He needed to have a boy-next-door face, jock bona fides, and a hot-though-not-too-hot naked body. The gay erotica aspect, I have to imagine, was not part of the explicit strategy. Shoving Jim’s barely clad package in the faces of America (nice thought) was certainly a cultural shift, so it had to exploit both the (potentially threatening) sexuality of an athlete’s bare body and the (non-threatening) squeaky clean image of a boy scout.
Enter blue-eyed, 6’3″ Baltimore Oriole pitcher, Jim Palmer. Stack 1970’s Jim up against, say 2010’s Mehcad Brooks, and Jim looks downright average. If 1970’s Jim in jockeys met 2010’s Kellan Lutz in his Calvins in some dark alley somewhere (now we’re talking!), I have to imagine Jim would feel profoundly inadequate and in disbelief that young Kellan is now the standard of male perfection rather than the monstrous muscle god he would have seemed three decades ago.
Jim in a bikini brief, trying to save a modicum of modesty behind his mitt, with that disarming boy scout smile, still turns me on. But just between you and me, I’d sort of like to go back to that dark alley, where Jim meets big-sexy, Kellan. Disparaging words are exchanged. Jim’s pride is injured, and he puffs up his hairy chest to defend his honor. Ten minutes later, he’s flat on his back, schoolboy pinned, with Kellan’s Calvin-clad package pressed against his lips. Time marches on…