Boyd Mc Donald may have been an alcoholic, sex-obsessed lunatic who masturbated chronically while encouraging his perverted readers to send in endless descriptions of their gay sex lives with heterosexual men but he remained pure in spirit. After 20 years of resentful conformity and worsening alcoholism, McDonald dried out, pawned all of his suits, and went on welfare. It was then that his life truly began. Admired by such figures as Gore Vidal and William S.
Even after his death, Boyd McDonald continued to trouble the powers that be—he was the subject of a opinion by U. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who ruled that one of his books was pornographic while acknowledging that this question is ultimately vague and subjective. William E. A complex portrait drawn from a wealth of previously unpublished material, True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell is the first biography devoted to a key figure of the American underground. Jones was born in Canton, Ohio.
He received a B. His books include "Killed": Thom Andersen and William E.
Jones , Imitation of Christ , named one of the best photo books of by Time magazine, and Flesh and the Cosmos During this time, McDonald also contributed vivid essays and fiction to the Southwest Review. Though fussier than his later writing, these pieces hint at the voice and concerns that would emerge in Straight to Hell. Though Time was a nightmare for McDonald, the middlebrow aesthetics, regressive politics, and clipped news-speak of the magazine later gave fodder to his satire in Straight to Hell.
At Time , McDonald started out on the Miscellany column, a compilation of silly news clips with punning titles. This culled-news format later became a staple of Straight to Hell. And I drank constantly afterward.
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By , at the age of 43, McDonald had lost his job, his apartment, and most of his possessions. Finding himself drunk and alone on Long Island, he checked into a psychiatric hospital, sobered up, applied for welfare, and moved into a single-room-occupancy hotel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He liked to tell the story of when he pawned all his business suits.
The sex stories were apparently unsolicited; it turned out that men were itching to share. Straight to Hell was a more ambitious expansion of Skinheads. McDonald had no proof of age on file for many of the young men who appeared naked in the pages of Straight to Hell , and readers sent in photos of former lovers who may not have known they were being featured in a pornographic magazine. In the beginning, Straight to Hell was scrappy, with handwritten titles, poorly copied photographs, and profane tirades against the establishment.
Over the years, the aesthetic and tone of the zine softened and became more professional: But the essential elements remained the same. Every issue featured explicit photos, sometimes in collage form. Other photos were sent in anonymously: McDonald also ran interviews with marines, strippers, smut photographers, hustlers, luminaries like Mapplethorpe, and regular joes. His wit and attention to detail were such that even an interview with one particularly terse man was illuminating:.
Letters composed the bulk of the magazine. Letters were edited for length, but never paraphrased or fictionalized. McDonald left intact their misspellings, unusual grammar, and digressions. On the whole, they were candid, unrepentant, and detailed. Some letters were erudite. While taking Amtrak to a disarmament conference, a reader receives a hand job beneath an open copy of the New Yorker: His C was not too thick but sure was nice.
Straight To Hell | EXILE
McDonald was strict about adherence to the facts. For him, the truth was more valuable than an enhanced story. It was also more erotic; that these things had really happened and could happen again was what made them a turn-on. The letters I like are the ones that are pretty ragged. A lot of fears and flaws, failures. Some thought McDonald wrote all the letters himself. Once, the writer Stephen Greco interviewed McDonald at home and voiced doubts that the letters were real.
Many letters began with compliments to a particular story or issue that the reader enjoyed, or overall praise for the magazine: The dialogue between readers and editor gave the magazine the feel of an intimate club. One early issue contained the notice: For Us Only. McDonald maintained a sharp class-consciousness in his commentary and his choice of letters. Straight to Hell was made for a select group of people united by their desire, but at the same time, it was a rare example of sophisticated criticism and political commentary for the masses.
McDonald saw himself as continuing the work of Kinsey. He viewed Straight to Hell as an important historical document: McDonald was not interested in theorizing or analyzing the stories he received. His interest was in description.
His correspondence with his readers was nothing less than a massive collaborative endeavor to define homosexuality, in the sense not of fixing its limits, but of giving shape, texture, and detail to a thing so often addressed dishonestly, with condescension or euphemism. He said in his last interview, with the gay Boston magazine the Guide:.
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My work is an alternative to the gay liberation movement and to the gay press. The gay press has to be sexless because they are public. And in order to be publicly gay they have to be closet homosexuals. My books are all about homosexuality rather than gayness. In other words, gay is what they are in public, and homosexual is what they are in private.
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My books are all about their private lives. It has nothing to do with gay liberation, gay rights, gays in the military, civil rights, fundraising, political candidates, and all that stuff. McDonald was not on the side of the gay-liberation movement, and it was not on his. Though he had many fans, McDonald was not and never would be a part of this scene. He turned his attention to editing book-length anthologies of Straight to Hell which actually brought in money, unlike the zine and to writing more of his own criticism.
From to , McDonald wrote a weekly column about movies for the gay literary journal Christopher Street.
'Mayor' of Hell bans all straight people from entering Michigan town
These films, broadcast at all hours of the day on many channels a person would need to be unemployed, and maybe an insomniac, to catch them all , were made in the era of the Motion Picture Production Code, which from to delineated what was appropriate to show in films. Just as one might cruise the street looking for hints about where to find sex, McDonald cruises the movies for their suggestive moments, the places where, either intentionally or accidentally, the stall door has been left ajar.
Often, the articles were based on film stills and promotional photos, many provided by the now-defunct MoMA Film Stills Archive: In Cruising the Movies , small details open up worlds of fantasy and playful speculation. Did he get a hard-on while dressing or undressing? Did anyone in the crew whistle when he walked onto the set in his tights? Given the bleak backdrop of the s, the humor in Cruising the Movies can feel both dark and necessary.