Book Review: Buying Gay

6th Aug 2019

The editor and publisher Michael Denneny was roughly thirteen when he first ogled the Spring 1957 cover of Physique Pictorial, which was adorned with a drawing of a shirtless young man straddling a river-bound log: it was not only his libido that was aroused. “It’s like asking . . . where were you when Kennedy was shot”, Denneny said in an interview in 2012. The mesmerizing illustration was the first of many by the artist Tom of Finland, whose anatomically exaggerated bikers, cops, cowboys and other Adonises would go on to entrance gay men of the postwar era. David Hockney has said that Physique Pictorial was one of two things that convinced him to move to southern California in 1964 (the other being a photograph of Case Study House #21). “His pictures, magazines and films turned us on”, the gay pornographer David Hurles said in a eulogy for Bob Mizer, the magazine’s publisher, editor, chief photographer and all-around impresario, who died in 1992. “But more than that, they gave us hope.”

Finish reading this book review in the Times Literary Supplement.

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