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December 9th, 2020

Horrible Draftsman Is Horrible


Last two panels of the last strip in episode 31. Notice all the erasure marks on the one on the left. No kidding, I really am a hunt and peck draftsman. It probably makes it a lot more work than it would otherwise be if I had more formal training. I just eyeball everything. But there is a method here to my drawing a figure and you can see a bit of it in the panel on the right.

I start with a bunch of circles and ovals and draw some rough grid lines over them and then start fleshing things out. Circles and ovals for the head, arms, abdomen and hips, a kind of odd triangular form for the chest and rib cage. It gives me a start on where to put things. I have no idea where I came up with this but it’s something I’ve used to help me get a figure drawn for ages. I suspect it’s stuff I’ve pulled from various artist’s guide books over the decades. A kind of desperate dumpster diving for an art education.

Note the bit of tracing paper I’ve taped to that last panel. This is my crutch. This panel was, for me, a complex pose, and I needed to get it just right for the gag at the end of the episode to work. I made several starts on it and wasn’t satisfied with about half of it, but the other half was in the ballpark. So I layed a bit of tracing paper over the part I liked to try various solutions for the part I couldn’t seem to get right. Doing this, I can just toss the paper overlay when I see myself backing myself into a rut, and just start over fresh on another piece of tracing paper if I needed to. I can also move the tracing paper around to see if adjusting it this way and that makes it any better. This saves me from potentially erasing all the way through the drawing below it in a struggle to find the right lines…like I almost did on the left panel (which I’m still working on…). When I get something I finally like, I’ll stick the tracing paper Under the drawing, trace over its lines to complete the drawing, and put it aside. Sometimes I just leave it there when I put the paper I’m going to do the inks over it.

There was more work to do but I know when it’s time to just stop for the night and see what I see when I look at it again with fresh eyes in the morning. Which I did early this morning. I think I have it all good now.

So now it’s on to the inks. The pencils are the hardest part of the work for me, and the most time consuming. And the part I’m always the most afraid of. But I think I’m finally learning that if I just keep struggling with it eventually I get it right. At least I’m getting more confidence in that.

Soon I’ll lay another sheet of the same art velium over this one, stick them both on the big LED light board, and do the inks. That way…and again this is all because I’m really insecure about my drafting abilities…if I screw it up I still have the untouched pencils and I can start over with a new sheet of art velium. It seems the pros all just ink right over the pencil lines. I will never have enough nerve to do that.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Horrible Draftsman Is Horrible
December 7th, 2020

Walk Over And Say Something To Him…

A Coming Out Story, episode 31 in progress on the drawing board. When the drawing you’re working on makes you relive old anxieties…


…and I got that look 40+ years later too. So it goes…

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walk Over And Say Something To Him…
December 6th, 2020

The Lover Is A Monotheist…

The lover is a monotheist who knows that other people worship different gods but cannot himself imagine that there could be other gods. -Theodor Reik

I’m working diligently on the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and I’ve taken to listening to the Spotify playlist that Beth David and Esteban Bravo put up as their background music while working on their animated film about a schoolboy’s first crush, In A Heartbeat. It’s surprisingly appropriate, but at some point I might make my own playlist for A Coming Out Story. (It should probably be all 60s/early 70s songs)

Those days are long gone, and yet so much of the adult I eventually became was because of that period in my life. I survived admitting to myself that I am a homosexual, possibly the most awful thing you could be back in 1971, apart maybe from being a communist or a hippy, because I was was in love, completely and utterly twitterpated. When the realization finally broke through it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I swear it really was like something out of a Walt Disney movie…the birds sang a little more sweetly, the stars shone a little more brightly, I walked with a lighter step…everything was beautiful. It saved my life. I never doubted afterward that there was nothing wrong with me, or with any of us. But it did not end well. It often doesn’t for teenage lovers, and gay kids especially back then, and even now, have their own excruciating battle to fight for their hearts and their dreams. But if you never had that thrilling first love experience in your teen years, I am sorry for you.

Supposedly Kurt Vonnegut once told his daughter that you are allowed to fall deeply in love three times in your life. I think about that quote often when I look back. I’ve had my three strikes. But the quote above expresses how it was for me perfectly. It was always like that for me. Always.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Lover Is A Monotheist…
December 5th, 2020

Trying To Maintain A Head Of Steam…

Starting the pencils on episode 31. Once again it’ll just be three strips, four panels each. Maybe if I just treat it like it’s a paying job I might get these done sooner. I want to get all three in this story arc finished by year’s end…which is just a few weeks away so maybe that’s a tad optimistic. The pencils are the most difficult part for me, since I’m really just a self trained hunt and peck draftsman. But mostly…I’d say four fifths of it, is overcoming my self doubts and just doing the work. Once I get into it and build up a head of steam for it, I can bang things out pretty well. The electric eraser (off panel in this photo) does get a lot of work though.

I have a template that gives me the size of each strip, and grid lines for two, three and four panels to a strip. I have saved line art that’s just the two, three and four panel frames, that I copy over to the working line art file after I’ve scanned in the line art and copied it over to a master image file. If the panels are oddly sized I tweak it in GIMP using a transform tool that lets me extend or compress the panel sizes.

I’ve got all this down to a pretty uniform workflow, which is what made moving it over to GIMP a stressful process. But it turned out not to be so bad after all. Just a few tweaks to it and I’m back in business.

[Update…] Well well…I got the first strip pencils done…generally. There are still details to flesh out, but the essence of it is done. Took about two hours.

I need to remember this. I can do the work in a reasonable amount of time. Most of the time between episodes of this story has been dallying because I’m afraid of not being good enough to draw anything but crap.

Well…and not being able to figure out how to tell parts of it…

And it’s true that some of what I’ve drawn in past years I’m appalled to look at now. But that’s normal. You get better at a thing the more you do it. At this stage of my life I’m doing some of the best artwork I’ve ever done. I really need to stop being afraid that I’m no damn good.

Posted In: Art
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trying To Maintain A Head Of Steam…

Safe Spaces For Teenage Gay Nerds

A Coming Out Story, Episode 30 is live…

There’s a panel that should be in there at the beginning, after “The breathless glances” and before “The constant denial” that would have been captioned “The Flirting”, (more likely “The gay teen nerd in denial flirting…but that wouldn’t fit…) but I cut that one out because it didn’t fit the layout…and I can get to that part of the story soon enough.

So I can move along more quickly here (Hahahahaha…yes…I know…) I’m breaking the episodes up into smaller chunks. So expect to see more two or three strip episodes instead of the huge 10 strip plus ones I’ve put up here previously.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Safe Spaces For Teenage Gay Nerds
December 4th, 2020

A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…

Final strip for ACOS 30 almost finished. I hope to put the new episode up tonight and make it public tomorrow morning. I’ve discovered I need to let my cartoons simmer overnight before going live.

Notice I’m using GIMP now instead of Photoshop. After Adobe bricked the Windows copy I spent 850 dollars for I vowed to get myself off Adobe products. They claimed I’d somehow bought a “bulk” license that had expired even before I registered it. They’d let me use it for two years after the alleged expiration date. Then one supposes, since their new rental software business model wasn’t such a big hit, the tweaked their license algorithm and remote turned off my copy when it failed the new check.

I called their support number to ask what was going on and that I’d spent serious money for that copy, and their service droid told me to be more concerned about all the money Adobe was loosing to Piracy. But I’d bought a legitimate license. They even let me register this so called expired license that cost me 850 bucks and use it for two years.

The wonderful thing about commercial software is there are so many different directions they can point their fingers to blame for customer abuse. Adobe of course can blame the vendor I bought the license from that they claimed was already expired when they let me register and use it for two years. But of course, after two years the vendor isn’t much likely to refund my money. And more than likely they’ll claim it was a perfectly legitimate license and it’s Adobe that’s fucking with me, not them. And the fact is, buried inside nearly everyone’s licensing terms, is a clause allowing the vendor to change the terms of the license out from under you whenever they feel like it.

Think about that, those of you who think you have a permanent license for an Adobe product. 

So I’ve switched to GIMP, which has turned out to be a nearly perfect replacement for Photoshop. And it’s open source. But there is one small problem.

GIMP has a well known problem with tablet input devices, like my Wacom. It seems there is a bug in GTK2 that they’ve been dallying with fixing for 5+ years (It’s Open Source!), and the only machine that GIMP works properly on with my Wacom is the MacBook Pro you see here. So for the duration, that has become my art room computer.

Allegedly GIMP 3 fixes all that (real soon now!). There is a development release, GIMP 2.99.2, that allegedly has the tablet fix in it. But what you get, apart from a development release they tell you up front might crash on you at any moment, is a tarball that you have to compile.

I don’t have an up to date Linux system (it’s on my todo list) so I’ll just stick with the MacBook Pro for now. I’m actually really happy with GIMP. It does some things I need better than Photoshop, and its quirks are easily adapted to. I have a reference document I’ve been working on that steps me through a How To in GIMP things I did all the time in Photoshop, like ingesting line art onto a transparent layer. (It’s in Google Docs if there are any GIMP users here who want to look at it…message me) Moving and sizing objects on a layer is very odd in GIMP if you’re used to the way Photoshop does it, but once you understand it the process is very straightforward. Likewise copying line art from one image to another. But I can do everything in GIMP that I once did in Photoshop…at least regarding my cartoons…so I’m happy.

At some point I need to work on moving my photography workflow away from Lightroom. They say there are lots of good alternatives, some of which work way better at things like noise reduction and shadow detail.

Posted In: Art Life
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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…
November 30th, 2020

Treat Your Cars Right, Even, Or Especially, The Loaners…

…poor thing might never otherwise know what a owner love is. Hoisted from today’s Facebook Memories…November 30, 2012, just because…

Back from dropping off Traveler at the dealership while it gets a minor ding in the driver’s side door fixed. Beware the decorative metal planter rails between the sidewalks and the street parking along 17th street between P and R in D.C.

Every time I get a loaner car from my dealer I am reminded of Dan (another Mercedes owner) telling me the car would change my idea of what normal is. You really notice the difference in solidness of build. I am thoroughly spoiled now. On the other hand, not being born to the manor I didn’t have to sit in it like an upper class twit wondering how to adjust a non-power seat. I’ll treat you right hon…my first car was a 1973 Ford Pinto and it took me to California and back.

Not only do I know how to work a stick, I can also work a manual door window! I haz life skills!

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Treat Your Cars Right, Even, Or Especially, The Loaners…
November 27th, 2020

Coming Soon…

I’m finally getting ready for the next three episodes of A Coming Out Story (plus intermissions…). Here’s a peek at the next episode…

I’m going to be busy at my paying job all weekend long, but this episode, and the next two, are only three strips each so it should go quickly. The intermissions, which are the story of my reading The Truth About Homosexuality by Dr. Pompous J. Fraudquack are single strips interleaved with the rest of my storyline, leading up to the moment I come out to myself. I know…it’s crazy but hopefully easier to follow once it’s all done.

Stay tuned…

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Coming Soon…

You Had To Know It Was Going To Hurt

A friend passed this news article along to me on Facebook, knowing what a fan of Walt Disney World I am…

Disney increases number of planned layoffs to 32,000 employees

A classmate, my high school crush, works (“worked” I suppose now) at Epcot Germany, in the Biergarten restaurant. That is why I started going. Back in 2008. And rediscovered my inner Mouseketeer. 

Last September when I went there I saw the severe measures they were taking to limit guest exposure in the parks. Most of the indoor restaurants were closed. Biergarten was an exception and I wondered how they were managing it, since their thing is Oktoberfest seating. This was why I loved Biergarten, even more so than that he was working there and we could chat after hours for a bit. When you are a solitary traveler, you tend to sit at the bar most places because that’s where you get to talk to the others there. But always sitting at the bar means you are drinking more. Biergarten’s Oktoberfest seating meant I could chat with the others at my table. Plus, I had a ready break the ice start to it. Where are you from? Is this your first time at Disney World?  He even said to me once that I was good at getting a table talking with each other…a thing certain other gay “friends” would be surprised to hear, since they’ve pegged me as too shy to talk to anyone which is why I never get any dates. But all I ever needed was something to break the ice. After that I’m a chatterbox. But a listener too. I love a good conversation. I have had lots of fun and interesting times talking with the other guests. 

So I was wondering how they managed keeping things going in Biergarten during the plague. Also, I was hoping to at least know that he was okay and still working. Well they managed it by seating nobody with anyone else but the party they came with. And since I was a party of one I got one of their tables, which seat eight, all to myself. And they brought the buffet food out to me…none of this standing in a line at the buffet.

It was…a bit scary. None of the regular German staff were there. The “cast members” all wear name tags with their place of origin on them. Nobody that day at Biergarten had a name tag with a German city on them. They were, I suspect, all pulled from other parts of the park. I’m guessing the guest German workers…kids from the various Epcot World Showcase Lagoon countries brought in to work for a year or two, were sent back to their homes. But my classmate, who says he’s been working there since a few months after it opened and has his green card, was not there. He’s old enough now he could do early social security, but I’ve no idea what’s happening with him anymore. We’re not speaking now. It’s okay. See my previous post.

You have to actually do the backstage tour to see what a massive operation Walt Disney World is. It never stops…it’s a 24 hour thing. When the guests clear out there is a massive maintenance operation that kicks in. The parks themselves are like the tip of an iceberg area wise. There’s a ton of…stuff…supporting the park operations that’s out of sight. It simply cannot be sustained without the usual attendance numbers. And Disney is keeping the numbers down. They closed three of the four big parking lots at Disney Springs to keep the numbers down there. Half of the Boardwalk hotel was closed while I was there. It’s not just the people you see, it’s the massive support system you don’t, and all the people that work it. Yeah…it was going to hurt down there. It had to. Badly.

I’m hoping my classmate is doing okay. He still has his German citizenship. I asked him once why he didn’t just get his US citizenship after all this time, since he’s been paying our taxes so he might as well have a say in how it’s all spent. But no. He’s fine with just having a green card. He’s never expressed the slightest interest in going back to Germany. Or Brazil, where he was born. But Florida so I’m told is a special kind of shithole for the unemployed.

But I’ll probably never know. It’s okay.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on You Had To Know It Was Going To Hurt

Great Deals Are Out There!

Black Friday Shoppers: We’ve reduced the mileage on this fabulous vehicle ONE DAY ONLY!!! Hurry before this offer ends!


Stolen from a Mercedes page I follow on Facebook. Black Friday is an Even Better day to stay cocooned at home than either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Plague or no.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Great Deals Are Out There!

The Minefield Of You

This came to me via Facebook Memories this morning…

Facebook memories are a good antidote for gaslighting. So are diaries. And blogs like this one.

I was spending Thanksgiving week at Walt Disney World that day, and had visited my high school crush at his place of work in one of the restaurants there where he works as a waiter. I used to hang out after closing time and we’d have chats lasting so long at times I would have to be escorted out of the park (Cheerfully and politely because it was Disney World after all…) to my hotel, lest the Langoliers find me. The fact was that after the last fireworks of the night not everything closed on the hour. The rides and restaurants would close of course, but the stores remained open until very late because departing guests might want to buy just one more thing, and Disney leaves no money on the table.

This would have been two years after we reconnected, and I was already beginning to see how his affections ran warm, hot, and cold and it was hard to predict what I was going to encounter on any particular visit. The fact was it was a minefield from the start, and I just got used to periodically being allowed to wander through this lovely pastoral landscape, that would occasionally explode under my feet.

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by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Minefield Of You
November 26th, 2020

A Poem For Black Friday.

Hello Mrs Gorilla
Hello Mrs Not A Gorilla
Been Shopping?
No, been shopping.
What’d you buy?
A piston engine.
A What?!
A piston engine.
What’d you buy that for?
It was a bargain.

-William Shakespython

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Poem For Black Friday.
October 10th, 2020

Heart Patient In The 21st Century

I’ve not said much about it here on the blog…mostly on Facebook where I do most of my online socializing (here I just spill my guts), but some of you may recall my posting about a year ago that I had a heart attack. ,Which makes me a heart patient now I suppose. That counts as a preexisting condition doesn’t it. I’m still fine, mostly. I have the usual pill regimen, and I’ve been going to cardio therapy twice a week. But I’ve been finding it hard to take too seriously.

When I was a small boy my maternal grandmother, who was living with mom and I at the time, had a heart attack. It was the early 1960s and there wasn’t much the doctors could do for her other than prescribe some meds, keep her in bed, and wait to see if she survived it. For two months she was confined to bed in our apartment, and then it was a slow slog back to a semblance of wellness and her usual bitter crankiness. I had mine here in the 21st century, right in the ER where I’d gone thinking I was experiencing a really bad case of heartburn, and fretting about damage to my esophagus due to all the cigars I’d been smoking. They wheeled me right up to a surgical room where they inserted a snake with a drill of some sort into a major blood vessel in my right arm, drilled out the blockage, put in two stents, wheeled me into the cardio unit for observation, and in total I was in and out of the hospital in about a day and a half. When I got home orders were to relax for two weeks, but I was feeling great. Not exactly what I was expecting of a heart attack.

Of course I was lucky it wasn’t a very severe one. I didn’t die on the spot. It crept up on me slowly, like I was having heartburn more often than normal, then more frequently, and then finally constantly. When it suddenly felt like a horse standing on my chest it scared me and I called 911, but I was still convinced it was heartburn. There was none of the stabby pains I was told to expect in every TV and movie episode where someone has a heart attack. There were no cold clammy sweats and numbness of the limbs…except for a little at my fingertips that in retrospect I should have paid more attention to. But I was lucky it wasn’t worse. And that when the moment finally came I was already there in the ER. I haven’t had any subsequent heart problems. Until a couple nights ago.

I was lounging on the sofa watching the Smithsonian Channel’s Air Disasters…which seems a kinda grim form of entertainment but bear with me…in a time when contempt for science and reason is epidemic, and alternative facts shouting out actual facts, I really appreciate a series that walks you through how men and women of science, reason and logic work step by step to suss out a sequence of events that made a terrible accident happen, out of a lot of twisted and burnt metal and some data points in flight recorders and ground radar, and then put together a plan to keep it from happening again. The TV police procedurals that show how autopsies often point the finger directly at the killer have nothing on this. Twisted metal, pieces of wreckage, broken instruments, marks on a runway, ghostly radar echos, it isn’t just dead men who tell tales, to the scientific mind, everything tells a tale. I love it. What I don’t love is how…faithfully…the series shows us the accident itself.

So I’m watching this and the part where everyone dies is coming and my heart starts racing because I really don’t like watching that…and pretty soon I’m noticing my heart is really pounding. I mean…Really Pounding. So I stick on my blood oxygen and heart rate monitor and it’s showing my heart beating at 187. I wait for it to slow down and it doesn’t. Now I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Am I about to have a stroke? Another heart attack? What the f*ck is going on!? I’m feeling no chest pains, no sweats, nothing but the creepy feeling of my heart pretending to be a machine gun. It doesn’t slow down. So I call 911. And back I go to the ER. One of the EMTs says to her teammates that she’d never seen a heart rate as fast as mine that night. It peaked in the EMT truck at something like 210+. 

When other means of getting it to slow down fail, drugs are given. That works. In the ER they draw some blood, take an x-ray to see if there is any new heart damage, and keep me under observation. Early in the morning they decide whatever it was that happened it’s over now, and I can go home. I was told I’d had an atrial fibrillation, which became a supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT as the ER nurses kept calling it. Basically my heart went nuts for a while, but it didn’t kill me. In fact, that I was in absolutely no pain and had no other symptoms, and that nothing like this had ever happened to me before, was something the doctor seemed to find worrisome. I asked him if he knew what caused the event. He said no. Atrial fibrillation can start suddenly and stop on its own. I asked him if mine would have stopped eventually. He said…maybe.

My manager at work tells me to take it easy for a couple days. In the meantime my cardiologist’s office gets news of my ER visit and asks me to come in…like right now…to discuss it. I get another cardiogram. I get another appointment for an echo EKG, like the one I had after the heart attack. And I get one of these…


It’s a heart monitor, which will record everything my heart does for the next two weeks. Then I mail it back and my cardiologist will take a look at the data. This sudden rapid heart beating has never happened to me before, but the thinking for the moment is I may have been having small-ish episodes of irregularity I just haven’t noticed because they came and went so fast. So they want a long duration record.

Look at that thing. This, as a co-worker says, is what has come of ubiquitous computing. Tiny but powerful CPUs and support chips so cheap to make you don’t even bother making a memory card slot for it. The entire thing is just a little stick-on device. A temporary flight data recorder for the human body. Not too long ago, according to a classmate who worked in healthcare, I’d have had to carry around a box and a bunch of wires connected to me. Now it’s just this stick-on thing.

Not looking forward to having to pull it back off though.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Heart Patient In The 21st Century
October 6th, 2020

Wish You Were Here

I never actually expected to understand that song the way Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason do…


It’s a lot more desolate now. And lately I can’t stop listening to it.

I’m not really in tune with this video of it, given that I don’t understand the song as being about death, so much as loosing someone who is still there, and yet they aren’t…and I don’t believe in reincarnation. But it’s a good one, and it’s nudging me to do something to get this…whatever darkness it is…out…somehow…at the drafting table. Maybe. I don’t think my cameras will help me with this one.

It’s not the heart attack. It’s not I’m feeling my age finally. Deep down inside I’ve stopped caring about something I never thought I would stop caring about. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. But then after all, it doesn’t work that way. I didn’t deserve the good fortune that happened to me. I took advantage of it. I worked it. I think that’s to my credit. I try to give everyone in my path the same chance I got. I will reach a hand out if fate gives me the chance to do that, because I remember how it was, and more, because I saw how it could be. But what does it mean to deserve what happens to you? Really. What does that mean?

Things just happen. And if you love anyone or anything enough, sooner or later it’s going to put a knife into you. But C. S. Lewis, bless his heart I am no believer in God either, was right about this:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The alternative to tragedy…is damnation. I’m not going there. But where…and how? He didn’t deserve what happened to him. But it doesn’t work that way. You know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.

Posted In: Life

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Wish You Were Here
September 27th, 2020

It’s A Small World After All…But Not That Small…

This came to my doorstep the other day…a happy time capsule from a better time. Or so I’d hoped…

This was my favorite of all the Micky Mouse Club serials back in the day. The Adventures of Spin and Marty was okay, but not nearly as engaging. This one had some real adventure, and a mystery for a young geek kid to solve along with Frank and Joe. Plus, if I was to admit it…which back at that age, at that time, I could not…the two leads were Very attractive. Looking back on it, even then I had a thing for good looking guys. But there was another reason I wanted this for my library. Years later, I would learn how Disney fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay, and I would keep a place for him and his work close to heart. If only we’d both lived in a better world back then. This serial was Tommy’s first appearance in a Disney production. I wanted to watch the episodes, imagining in the back of my mind both of us living in that better world as I watched. Perhaps I should not have watched that full episode of the Micky Mouse Club that had the introduction episode in it to the new Hardy Boys serial.

Mind you, when I was a kid watching the Micky Mouse Club back in the day, I was watching the series when it was in reruns. This was after school fare that I would take in along with one or the other of the local kid’s show hosts. Pick Temple. Captain Tugg. Ranger Hal…but he was in the mornings and I only watched his show when I was home from school. My memories of those times and the Mickey Mouse Club are kinda munged together now, and if anything they tell me at age 67 how good that Hardy Boys serial must have been, because watching those are the clearest memories I have of that TV show. And especially that opening title song. That, and how each day of the week had a different theme. I remember the other serials vaguely. Spin and Marty. Corky and White Shadow. I remember we got a Disney cartoon every episode, and the Mouseketeers would sing a song in front of the doors to a treasure vault to open it. One of the cast would run up to a drawer and take out a card presumably with the title of the cartoon we were about to see on it. But what would happen is that Mouseketeer would look at the camera and say “Today’s cartoon is…” and then the video would cut to a title card and a voice over.

Even at that age I knew what was going on was a canned sequence they just reused over and over again. But I was a kid and I let it slide, along with all the other canned sequences TV shows used back then, and the fact that the characters in them always wore the same clothes every second of every episode, so the same boilerplate footage, like Clark Kent going into that storage room down the hall from his office, would always work wherever they had to splice it in. TV in it’s early years was produced very cheaply. I’ve had this running fantasy of creating an All Car Chase cable TV channel that just runs a continuous stream of boilerplate Quinn Martin car chase sequences with those huge Ford whales squealing tires around street corners. People would tune in at random and start wondering which Quinn Martin show it was they were watching.

There was other stuff stitched into a typical Micky Mouse Club episode that I’d completely forgotten. Lots of boilerplate I only vaguely remembered. And as it turned out, a bunch of stuff I’d completely forgotten. Or more likely suppressed the memory of. And when I popped the first CD of this set into the player and started watching it all came back to me. And I cringed.

Oh…I remember this world…

See…I rediscovered my inner Mouseketeer back in 2008, when I went to Walt Disney World for the first time and it all came back to me. Yes, I’d gone mostly to see my first love again after thirty plus years of searching for him. But I’d forgotten what a little Mouseketeer I was. And almost from the moment I set foot in Epcot, and saw the monorail glide overhead, and heard the music, and it all embraced me like a long lost boy come back to the family, it all came back to me. And for a little while I could be that kid again, and believe in all the things I used to believe about the world, and what the future held. But that was the kid who grew up in an all white protestant suburb, who didn’t yet know he was gay.

The Walt Disney World of today would embrace that gay kid. Walking through those gates in 2008 I felt welcome even then, years before the Pulse nightclub massacre that changed everything in Orlando, and among the Disney crew. Yes, it was a kind of down low embracing. But you had to have grown up in the world I was seeing on that CD to appreciate how Wonderful even that on the down low acceptance felt. We had Gay Days now, but it was unofficial (it still is, but Disney World Paris had an official actual Gay Pride parade last June). And that It’s A Small World After All mindset was everywhere. People from all over the world came to Walt Disney World. You saw people of all nations, all races in the parks, just enjoying themselves. You could hear the languages of the world spoken. Spanish and English announcements alternated. And also, even closer to my heart, that There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow Shining At The End Of Every Day mindset. I felt I was back home, back in the world I belonged in.

Watching that full episode of The Micky Mouse Club I saw the old testament world. The world of the red baiting, gay witch hunts, ostentatious flag waving, and suffocating moralizing. But that world was also a world I remembered well. It’s a way too easily remembered world in fact, because so many people keep trying to bring it back.

The first thing you notice watching those old Micky Mouse Club episodes, is the unrelenting whiteness of it. There were no black Mouseketeers. And of course, in the 1950s, had Disney put Any black kids on the show as regulars, unless they were strictly for stereotypical comic relief only, ABC would have instantly lost all the southern TV station affiliates for that time slot. I remember watching the TV series I Spy get an Emmy Award back in the mid sixties, and the guy whoever it was receiving it said on the podium that Sheldon Leonard “has a lot of guts”, and I had no idea what he was talking about. Later it dawned on me…he’d cast a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the leads, and they’d lost southern affiliates over it, and the network didn’t back down. I sat on my sofa watching this Micky Mouse Club episode and wondered how it felt to black kids back in the 1950s, to be invisible on a family oriented TV show that was supposedly for all kids everywhere. 

An other thing you notice was how supposedly all-American it was in just about every minute of it. The patriotic display was as thick as the moralism and it was all thoroughly suffocating. The head Mouseketeer in the series, adult Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd, would often take to the camera to talk to the kids about making all the right moral choices and how lucky they were to be living in such a great country as ours. These were, so I’m told, called “Doddisms”, and there was one of them on this episode, that ended with Dodd pointing at the camera and saying “someday one of you will be President of the United States.” I’m pretty sure Walt Disney would be spitting nails to know the man who is President now is part of his Hall of the Presidents attraction. But his Micky Mouse Club was exactly the kind of all white constantly moralizing to the common folk world that man and his supporters favor to their own motives and ends. There is not an inch of distance between them. Only, I am convinced, that Walt Disney believed in it himself. I don’t think that man put his name on anything he didn’t actually believe in, just to make a buck.

But in that world, black kids need not apply for any of the lead roles. Not Jewish kids. Asian kids. Boys who don’t fit the Disney mold of what boys should be. Girls who don’t fit the Disney mold of proper ladies. I’m told Disney was shocked, shocked when Annette began appearing in beach movies wearing a bikini. And she remained a very conservative woman to her dying day. It’s a small gated community after all. The rest of us were at best, background scenery. Boilerplate stereotypes. And that only if we were allowed to exist at all:

“I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy. I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. It wasn’t until the early ’60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated. The lifestyle was not recognized and I was very, very lonely. Oh, I had some brief, very passionate encounters and as a teenager I had some affairs, but they were always stolen, back alley kind of things. They were desperate and miserable. When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change. I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. It was all going to come to an end.”

Tommy Kirk.

There’s a well known story about the Disney animator Art Babbitt, who decided to study piano to better understand the relationship between music and animation, and when he told Walt Disney he was taking piano lessons Disney snapped back at him “What are you, some kind of fag or something?” I’ve often wondered if the context of that was finding out the child actor he’d groomed for bigger and better things after the Hardy Boys, and was a big hit with audiences in Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Shaggy Dog  turned out to be gay. But the time frames don’t seem to match up. Disney discarded Tommy over something he was and couldn’t help being and it destroyed him inside. His career plummeted into drugs and crappy movies and he finally had to get out of it and start over. He blames himself for it, but then lots of us do because we’re taught to believe deep down inside that we are damaged goods. We are taught to blame ourselves for the ignorant hatred of others.

So I’m sitting on my sofa watching that episode of the Mickey Mouse Club and that feeling of teenage suffocation came back to me with all the immediacy of that moment in 2008 when I walked into Epcot and remembered how it was to be a Disney Kid, before the suffocation set in. And that was why I stopped being a Disney kid in my late teens. Even before I came out to myself one day in 1971, I’d stopped feeling that I was a part of his world. Like the Baptist culture I was raised in I had to get out and breath. But it wasn’t just Disney, who was both a product of his times and a definer of them. It’s been well said that to understand the counter culture rebellion of the 1960s, you have to first understand the stifling conformity all us 60s kids grew up with in the 1950s. A good place to see it is that Mickey Mouse Club episode of Oct. 1, 1956.

I like to think if Walt Disney had, given Lots of pixie dust and magic, lived to today he might have grown out of his prejudices and stereotypes. He’d also be over 100 years old but…well okay. What people forget about him was while he was a conservative man, with one foot in Mainstreet U.S.A., he had the other foot in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science and he believed in progress. It wasn’t just cartoon mice and Mary Poppins with him. It was also this…

I like to think that the science regarding sexual orientation, and being exposed to the stories of our lives, told in our own words, would have eventually got through to him. And the stories of all the other kids. Black, yellow, red, brown. It is a small world after all. I like to think in other words, that he would have lived to become the Uncle Walt he presented himself as, and which I’m certain he thought of himself as being. And all the kids of this world would have had a friend and mentor in him. Gay kids too. And that would have been good, because there are much Much worse examples to set for gay kids, than the ones Walt Disney would have. But deeply held prejudices like those die hard. And also that cocoon so many white Americans lived in back then.

I don’t think he ever realized what it did to so many kids back then, that they were invisible in his world, except, sometimes, as stereotypes to dress the stage with. There is a sequence in that Mickey Mouse Club episode, where the Mouseketeers do a song and dance for a Fun With Music segment…a recurring song and dance part of the show…that is a spectacularly cringeworthy moment of white kids dressing up and performing the cultural stereotypes of the 1950s… 

But when it was aired nobody watching would have thought it anything but charming in that Disney way. I don’t recall seeing any Asian Mouseketeers either.

Walt Disney died in 1966. His heirs, the Disney kids who looked up to him, and believed in that great big beautiful tomorrow, set out to make it real in the parks, TV shows and movies that bear his name. Maybe he would be spitting nails to see it now, but he preached the sermon and we all believed and in Walt Disney’s parks, TV shows and movies some of us Disney kids are making it happen. We can all be Disney kids now. And that’s good. Because the more of us there are telling our stories in our own words, instead of sitting passively at the TV watching other people’s stereotypes about us, the closer we all get to that great big beautiful tomorrow Disney promised us.

You too Tommy. And all the kids like you who are watching.

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