Sunday, 10 January 2010

353: Gay Cowboys - 1970s and 1980s

Charles Rodrigues
In “National Lampoon”, May 1970
I’ll confess this one is a bit of a guess. But hey, he’s riding side-saddle (see poem below) and is lisping. So it’s not much of a leap to assume that some sort of weird effeminate thing is going on. Although Rodrigues slightly eggs his gag by having another character laughing at him, as though to prove that his ridiculousness is irrefutable.

("O cowboy so lean,
O cowboy so tall,
You sit there straight as an arrow.
But side-saddle you ride,
Instead of astride.
Are you perhaps a gay ranchero?"
- Ernie Kovacs as "Percy Dovetonsils", a joke that tends to be remembered better as "Show me a cowboy who rides sidesaddle, and I'll show you a gay ranchero")

Arnold Roth
In “Punch” 15 October 1980
From a collection of cartoons about “The Drinking Public”
This is exactly the same joke from “Laugh-In” about 10 years earlier. Not that Roth needs to crib. A little thought and this gag writes itself. The Cowboy at western saloon demanding a whisky is a cliché. The sissiest drink for a man to request is a daiquiri. Et Voila! An effeminate cowboy drinking a daiquiri. It then just comes down to how you want to depict effeminacy or homosexuality. Okay, yes, the pursed lips, yes, the effeminate eyes, yes, the hand on hip. But really, a watering can in his holster?

Illustration in “Playboy” January 1982
Oh look. It’s a cowboy all in pink, hand on hip, lowered eyelids, with a hairdryer for a gun. Cause a gay cowboy would be a hairdresser.

in “Punch” 18 May 1983
The cowboys holding hands is one joke (and note, yes, the one has got his hand on his bloody hip). The caption puts an ambivalent spin on it. Either he’s angrily refuting the insinuation anything gay could be going on. Or he’s threatening retaliation in response to a gay slur.

“Brokeback Mountain” is another phenomenon altogether. The cowboy aspect was the original hook, but now it’s almost spread independently. There is the tendency to slap the tag “Brokeback” on anything with homosexual or homosocial potential, with the same liberty that scandals are awarded the suffix “-gate”. And there’s there currency of “I wish I knew how to quit you”.

Wholly useless is this lame joke by David Brenner about “L.A.’s first gay western bar: it’s got a mechanical sheep”. Anything else, to say? Nothing further you might comedically extricate via the juxtaposition of ideas about homosexuality and cowboys? No. Then fuck off, David. We’re just a byword for perversion and bestiality, thanks.

Last, and honestly I don’t know whether it would be least, is the 1975 British film, “Eskimo Nell”. One of the plot threads in this satire of the tawdry end of the British film industry and sexploitation is about the filming of a gay western. I know no more than that. This is a film whose most repeated clip is of a naked porn actor getting his cock caught in the clapperboard, followed by an extend shot of him being taken out on a stretcher with his cock extravagantly bandaged up. Just because I know about a film doesn’t mean I’m going to bloody watch it. There are better things in life.

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