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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Guest Post: He's So Fine, Part 1

Contributed by my English truckbuddy Tim, now resident in Spain:

First of all, the spoilers. This tale contains pictures of Steve McQueen, Dennis Wilson, and Cam Gigandet, so stick with it!


Remember when I wrote that first Universal Truths guest post? And how your Head Trucker had hopes that they were going to reveal the fundamental truths that come with age and wisdom, that would explain the mysteries of life. Well, so far, so bad, but about 10 months ago I had an idea for a post that might actually meet those aspirations. It’s been a long time coming, and when I added a second story-line to the original one, much to my surprise I found that I now had a tale covering my life from my first gay inklings to the present day. However, it didn’t lead me to the discovery of any new Universal Truths. Instead my conclusions lead me to the biggest surprise of all, a personal revelation and some disturbing possibilities that have come as quite a shock. Something, that, to be honest, I’m still trying to assimilate. You will have to wait for the end of Part 2 to discover what they are, but in the meantime, as ever, your comment are always welcome. Who knows, we may even prevail upon the old Trucker to switch off the comment moderator! What’s with those blurry numbers anyway?

It’s 1961, and a scrawny little blond kid is playing alone in the long narrow garden behind the terraced house, down by the railway line. There is a powerful roaring sound overhead. The boy looks up from his game and stands transfixed . . .

- Continued after the jump -

. . . and I’m looking at a Flying Fortress flying over my home, its silhouette unmistakeable. And not just any B-17, but a B-17G, the one with the chin turret, just like the model hanging from my bedroom ceiling. I was only 9, but I knew my aeroplanes. A few minutes later it came around again, this time closely followed by an old DC3 Dakota with its rear cargo door open, and a large cine camera, mounted on a tripod, filling the space. They flew around a couple more times before disappearing in the direction of the old wartime airfield. It must have been a Saturday morning, no school, and with my father still at work. I could barely wait till he got home. Bursting with excitement, I told my Dad what I had seen as soon as he came through the front door. He said there hadn’t been any Flying Fortresses at the base since the war, but I knew what I had seen and pestered him until he agreed to take me over there. At first we couldn’t see anything, and I began to doubt my earlier confidence, but as we drove up a farm track to the old ‘Black’ hangar on the far side of the airfield, there sat the B-17G, resplendent in its olive camouflage and USAAF insignia. And inside the hangar was the Dakota. I knew I hadn’t been seeing things, even Dad was impressed. A few days later, the local paper carried the story that a war film, The War Lover, was being made, and the airfield was one of the locations. It carried some pictures of the American actors, including a couple of one called Steve McQueen, pictured in front of the very B-17 I had seen.

I certainly wasn’t consciously gay at 9 years old, the term didn’t even exist in my childhood world, but I thought Mr McQueen looked just as I imagined an American pilot would look, young, his blond hair short and slicked, a fur collar on his battered flying jacket, just a half-smile, to show he was friendly, but tough at the same time. The planes were really what I was interested in, and when they eventually left, I thought nothing more about the film or its actors. (As an aside, when I did eventually see it, many years later, I thought it was crap, apart from the planes and Steve of course!)

1963, only 2 years later, but a lifetime when you’re 11. I’m in the first year at my grammar school. Halfway through the year, a new boy arrives to join the class. His name is Wayne and he has come from New Zealand - we are asked to make him welcome. He is very handsome: blue eyes, short blond hair, a lean face, with a few freckles, a shy, half-smile, and soon proves himself to be an able athlete on the playing fields. As the year progressed, I realised he seemed strangely familiar to me, and for some inexplicable reason, I felt the desire to know more about him, and for us to be friends if possible. Now that latter thought was not as easy to achieve as you might think. The scrawny 9-year-old me had turned into a painfully thin 11-year-old who did not excel at games. Wayne had been readily accepted into the jock fraternity, and that included the usual suspects, the bullies and the bad boys. Why is that, something about the physicality, channelled aggression? Either way, it was not the circle I moved in. So, it was easier for me to find out more about him, and then perhaps find something in common that would make us friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, good ones, but there was something about him that fascinated me. I couldn’t say why, but the desire in me was powerful.

When he first came to the school we were told his father was a Doctor of Science, working in a chemical plant a few miles away. So my investigation began with that information. In a small town like ours there weren’t many doctors in the phone book, and only one with the same surname. Amazingly, the address was just a short walk from my home! That same evening, when I took our dog for his walk, I made a detour, and sure enough, there was his parents’ car outside the house. I had seen it before at the school, when his mum came to pick him up one day.

This knowledge didn’t really help though. Now I knew where he lived, I would occasionally meet him, and we would say hello, but there was still no connection. Then one night, the light was on in the small front bedroom of the house, and there, on the wall, was a large poster for the new film everyone was talking about – The Great Escape. The poster showed one of the actors astride a motorbike, short blond hair, blue eyes, and a half-smile. It was Steve McQueen, and I realised several things all at once. This was why Wayne had seemed so familiar at first sight; he had reminded me in some way of the American pilot. But more importantly now we had something, or rather someone, in common. A connection, however tenuous, had been made.

Up to this point, my fascination with Wayne, and our mutual admiration of Steve McQueen could not be described as sexual - I had only just learnt the facts of life, having previously been convinced that it was ‘something to do with bellybuttons’, and had felt most perplexed when our biology teacher said, almost as an aside, that it was the same for humans (which we had not studied) as it was for rabbits (which we had) . . . ugh! That was sex education in 1963. It was a desire for friendship on my part, with someone I liked the look of, and who I felt, intuitively, would be compatible, given the right circumstances. Complex desires that at the time I didn’t fully understand, just acted upon instinctively. So almost in spite of myself, I gained a placed on the school’s second hockey team, which I held onto for a gruelling season. Naturally, Wayne played for the first team, but it enabled new opportunities for contact, both on and off the pitch. And so over that year, the simple, shy ‘hellos’ would sometimes lengthen into whole sentences, about the opposing teams, or how cold the showers in the changing rooms were. There was also the mutual respect shared between sportsmen the world over. This was good progress!

The next couple of years seemed to fly by, and suddenly we had all come through pimples and puberty and entered adolescence. And the enjoyment of illicit solo activities at night, and the subsequent evidence that it didn’t make you go blind, had led me to realise that there was more to life than I had been taught in the biology classes. By the time I was 15, I knew I was probably ‘queer’. I say probably, because I hedged my bets, and had dated some girls, and very pleasant young ladies they were too, but they didn’t enjoy air shows very much, and didn’t seem at all interested in owning a scooter! I tried, but I didn’t understand them. I was much happier in the company of males, which didn’t seem unusual to me, for the school was a boys-only one. We mostly had similar interests, and all my best friends were boys. It didn’t seem odd to me that this should be so, and I certainly had no notion about the perils of being homosexual in those intolerant times.

Puberty, and the gods, had been particularly kind to Wayne. His lean frame had filled out with muscle, the soft down on his face had given way to harder golden fuzz that glowed when the sun lit it from behind, and blond hair began to curl over his forearms and calves. By now Wayne and I were in different ‘streams’ and so no longer in the same form. He had taken the ‘arts’ route whilst I followed the ‘science’ one. The connection between us was becoming difficult to maintain. I could live for a day by just catching a glimpse of that smile or seeing the line of the hair at the back of his neck, the fall of his shirt across his body. And, athlete that he was, school sports days became must-watch events, and as for the swimming galas . . . ! I found that if I sat near the sand-pit at the end of the long jump, I could see the definition in his arms and legs as he took his run, perhaps catch a glimpse of armpit hair, and only wonder at what lay beneath the shorts. And of course Wayne was not the only one to look at, some of the older boys were very good looking too, but for me he was always special. He was mine, no one else’s, to long for and, as time went by, to lust for. It’s hard to describe, but I had this feeling of wanting to be ‘one’ with him, not sexually, but somehow to co-exist within the same body, to share and feel all that he did, to somehow consume him. It must be the same feeling that mothers have when the clutch a child to their breast and say ‘I could eat you up’, not to frighten the child, but to show how much the child is a part of them. It helps, of course, if the other person feels the same - is that where true love lies? - but it’s not absolutely necessary. Wayne had never showed any sign of reciprocating my attention, but that had never put me off. This one-sided affair always remained quite happily fulfilling for me. Delusional? Maybe. Comforting? Definitely!

It’s the summer of 1968, and we’re sweet 16. And what a wonderful summer it is, long, hot, never a cloud in the sky, and epitomised by the Beach Boys, who are playing non-stop on our transistor radios. Dennis Wilson, of course, was my favourite one - just my type, look at him here!

I don’t know what Capitol Records target audience was for that one, but it certainly works for me! And for those who love a hairier bear.

Throughout the summer vacation I worked on the holiday beaches, developing my ‘Steve McQueen’ surfer-boy look, whilst Wayne worked in a local pub. He didn’t need to develop the look, he already had it in spades, damn him! Occasionally we would ‘bump’ into one another in Sandy’s cafe, the one above the supermarket opposite our school. I knew it was a favourite haunt of his during school time, and I liked the atmosphere there too. The waiter, Charlie, was the first openly gay person I had ever met. He was quite young, and behaved outrageously with the older sixth-form boys, very camp - a word that was only just then coming into use. Wayne and I would chat briefly, but otherwise we kept to our own circle of friends.

The summer of ‘68 was also when The Thomas Crown Affair was released, and Mr McQueen was by now quite my favourite American. Wayne’s too, I suspected, for we both affected the same ‘McQueen’ look of roll-neck sweaters, chinos, and loafers. This suspicion was borne out when we returned to school after the summer vacations. The film had featured a wonderful sequence with a dune buggy.

Such vehicles were totally unknown to us back then, but that summer a cigarette company, John Player or Peter Stuyvesant I think, had piggy-backed on the success of the film and sent promotional beach buggies to tour the coastal towns. The buggies attracted my attention far more than the bikini-clad young ladies who gave out free cigarettes, or their drivers, whose hair styles were not short and slick like my hero’s, but owed more to Burt Reynolds. Most interesting of all however, was that you could obtain the plans on how to make your own buggy from a converted VW beetle. I took mine to school on our first day back after the holidays and there in the common room was Wayne, surrounded by the usual suspects, with the same plans spread over one of the tables. Most of them were a little surprised that a non-jock like me would be considering a beach buggy, but they were amazed when their Prince smiled and came over to me. We talked enthusiastically about the problems and possibilities of finding a suitable VW. How did we chop it in half to make a buggy chassis, could we get the over-size chrome wheels? Here we were talking together as friends . . . so this was what heaven was like! We continued to meet on a regular basis over the next couple of weeks until regretfully we realised that lack of funds, not to mention lack of driving licences, were insurmountable obstacles in our path to having the first beach buggy in town.

Those first few weeks back at school were some of the best, the close connection that had eluded me for so long had finally been made. But they were also destined to be some of the last, for the pressure of exams, and the need to think about an impending career soon began to occupy all our time and energy. Like our plans for the beach buggy, so many other dreams and desires in our lives had to be put on hold. After we left school in 1970, we all went our separate ways. I went into the Royal Air Force, and Wayne and his family moved away from our little seaside town soon after. I never saw him again. But I still occasionally dream of him, and of course, as is the way in dreams, he never ages, he’s still that cute, fresh-faced boy with the short blond hair, the half-smile and an athlete’s grace, and to be honest, that’s the way I prefer to remember him. Part of my heart is his and always will be.

So in celebration, let’s have one more look at sexy Steve while we enjoy a little music from that glorious summer of ’68. The Beach Boys and ‘Darlin’. This clip is from 1980, not quite contemporary, but Dennis still looks cute from this distance, still shaking his mop-top. Go Dennis!

And what about Cam Gigandet? Sorry, you’ll have to wait for Part 2 next week!


Ray's Cowboy said...

Tim thank you for sharing that story with us. I really enjoyed it and gotten to know you abit more. Once again thank you for this story.


Craig said...

I enjoyed it immensely, but a whole week?

Nikolaos said...

Beaut story. My first "crush" wasn't until I'd left school (I was a very late developer) But Steve McQueen ....

Tim said...

Thank you Guys, I hope you like Part 2 as much, only 6 days now Craig!

Davis said...

McQueen was the real thing - a man.

Tim said...

I couldn't agree more Davis, There is a masculinity about him that appeals to both sexes, and crosses generations, iconic.

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