Sunday, 14 September 2008

180: Gay Boxing 2

“The Magic Christian” by Terry Southern, 1959

The Champ was a national hero. He became a TV personality, and his stock in trade was a poignant almost incredible, ignorance. He was good-natured and lovably stupid - and, boy-oh-boy, was he tough!

Well, Grand got through somehow, put his cards on the table (two million, tax-free) and made an arrangement whereby the Champ would throw the next fight in a gay or effeminate manner and, in fact, would behave that way all the time, on TV, in the ring, everywhere - swishing about, grimacing oddly, flinching when he struck a match, and so on.

The next big bout was due to go quite differently now. The challenger in this case was a thirty-three-year-old veteran of the ring named Texas Powell. Tex had an impressive record: 40 wins (25 by K.O.), 7 losses and 3 draws. He had been on the scene for quite a while and was known, or so the press insisted, as a 'rugged customer', and a 'tough cookie'.

'Tex has got the punch: they said. 'The big if is: Can he deliver it? Will he remain conscious long enough to deliver it? There's your Big If in tonight's Garden bout!' Well, the fix was in with Tex too, of course - not simply to carry the fight, but to do so in the most flamboyantly homosexual manner possible. And finally, a fix - or zinger, as it was called in those days - was in with the Commission as well, a precaution taken under best advice as it turned out, because what happened in the ring that night was so 'funny' that the bout might well have been halted at the opening bell.

Fortunately, what did happen didn't last too long. The Champ and the challenger capered out from their corners with a saucy mincing step, and, during the first cagey exchange - which on the part of each was like nothing so much as a young girl striking at a wasp with her left hand - uttered little cries of surprise and disdain. Then Texas Powell took the fight to the Champ, closed haughtily, and engaged him with a pesky windmill flurry which soon had the Champ covering up frantically, and finally shrieking, 'I can't stand it!' before succumbing beneath the vicious peck and flurry, to lie in a sobbing tantrum on the canvas, striking his fists against the floor of the ring - more the bad loser than one would have expected. Tex tossed his head with smug feline contempt and allowed his hand to be raised in victory - while, at the touch, eyeing the ref in a questionable manner.

Apparently a number of people found the spectacle so abhorrent that they actually blacked-out.


“The Magic Christian” was a cult book of the ‘60s. Guy Grand is a multimillionaire, who uses his wealth to practise assorted anarchic practical jokes upsetting society’s standards, all to prove that people will really do anything when offered enough money.
Here, Southern undermines the fetished masculinity of popular sports, in this case professional wrestling. At this relatively early date, knowing that he is writing only for a minority hip readership, Southern can afford to be quite explicit about what he means by gay. In 1959, Southern can, slightly smugly, think that a public display of sissiness is enough to outrage and shock his fictional lumpenmass. When the book was adapted for film in 1969 the stakes had to be upped and so the sketch ends with the two boxers kissing each other.

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