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John Wayne in Hot Pants

by John Calendo

John Wayne's camel-toeNo, we didn’t use Photoshop on this picture.

That really is John Waynein hot pants.

John Wayne, who was for generations the archetype of rugged cowboy manhood. Broad shouldered. Self-contained. All pensive, wounded looks and a slow-to-anger, two-fisted approach to solving problems.

During the late days of the American Empire, he was “the ugly American” as photogenic movie star, a world conqueror with shameful face, at home as much on the Sagebush Trail as on the Sands of Iwo Jima — two typically iconic titles of his America-Myth building movies.

And yet, there he is, at right, in a not-ready-for-icon-worship private moment.

Exactly how many things are blowing our mind about this photo? Let us count the ways. Not merely the super-tight hot pants, but the super-tight hot pants with the cowboy hat.

Then there’s the little issue about the man-bag — man-bag!oxygen, please. This is 1952! That’s when the photo was taken, in Acapulco. Not even the dizziest bottle-blonde chorusboy, staggering about drunkenly on a gay holiday in Capri, French poodle in beach bag, would be this gay or this proud.

But wait, as Bette Davis says in All About Eve, it gets better!

Mr. True Grit, Mr. Who’s Your Daddy, Mr. Hollywood Republican (whose movies were used to sell the Vietnam war, among other doubtful conflicts) is smoking a cigarette with the sort of anxious self-involvement we usually associate with women on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

John Wayne in Flame of the Barbary CoastWe don’t know about you but our gaydar is ringing off the hook right now. We are waking the whole neighborhood. We are buzzing. We are fizzing. We are blinking like a Vegas slot machine in one of the whorey-er Glitter Gulch casinos.

Yet we have no illusions about whose team Marion (Wayne’s real first name) was batting for. By all accounts, ole Duke was a straight-shooter with a weakness for Latina spitfires (his three wives were all Spanish speaking).

He just had worked in Hollywood most of his life. He worked for and with homosexuals, and so, as the top photo suggests, one of the benefits of such daily contact was that John Wayne — even John Wayne — was cool with his feminine side.

Manly enough to be girly. And speaking of girly, at this point we must point out the girl slippers on John’s surprisingly petite feet, on his surprisingly slender legs that would not be out of place at the Follies Berger, let alone Iwo Jima.

Perhaps the “queer scholars” get it right when they posit that men who make a living being photographed, lit and made-up for the camera have no problems accepting the traditional female role of being the apple of everyone’s eye. (A topic Nightcharm explored in The Discrete Charm of Half-Dressed Men.)

John Wayne -- iconic image Certainly there is something magical about our top photo: The clash — or at least it should be a clash — of the hard granite masculinity we are expecting from this iconic Man and the softer, smaller reality, the human availability of the body on display, the almost balletic position of the feet at a right angle. Never before has a still of John Wayne seemed so human and touchable.

Unexpectedly, he is showing no basket. His shorts are so tight they are, in effect, gaffing him. In fact if we didn’t know better, we’d think we had just got off the bus in Camel Toe City.

Why so tight? In the words of our great poet laureate James Brown: “‘Cause a woman got to use what she got … To get just what she wants, hey! … Hot pants — uh! smokin’!”

Here then is your Diane Arbus moment for the week.

Let it serve for a more profound meditation on what it is to be human, how much of manliness is a sales job, and how the human will always give the truth away — even when it’s cast in the iron mold of an icon.


SPY!Where on earth did we unearth our picture of Duke in houndstooth print? From an old issue of SPY magazine that publisher David K. found under his bed.
Want more SPY — the 80’s smartest, sassiest satirical magazine? You’re in luck.Out this week from Miramax Books, SPY: The Funny Years, compiled by the mag’s original editors Kurt Andersen, Graydon Carter, George Kalogerakis.

©2006 Nightcharm



  • Greg

    Those aren’t just “girl slippers” — Them’s espadrilles!

  • http://www.akafrankgreen.com aka frank

    what you neglect to point out is the very feminine leg that is the object of his desire…

  • Ed, the Adder

    oh give him a break… he’s on holiday and he wants to wear hot pants? Who gives. And the man bag? it looks like that old camera bag from the sixties I have at home… I think this is a bit of wishful thinking really.

  • http://nightcharm.com Robert

    Really? John Wayne? I don’t think so!

  • http://nightcharm.com Robert

    All those studio “contract” players back then had phony creditials & names. Wayne never looked very hung or sexy! But, give a look at gorgeous, hung, “DACK RAMBO”! Check out those old “DALLAS” shots in his jeans. Whadda guy & he had a twin!

  • i got issues

    Bobby, baby … Robert, darling. That is John Wayne. How can you doubt it? Look at his face!

  • Julia

    Hot pants AND espadrilles…? Oh, my…Johnny, we hardly knew ye…

  • ggreen

    The Dukester worked many many times with John Ford whom according to Maureen O”Hara was a big old closet queen.

    On the Dack Rambo thread: Wow, I knew two guys that had sex with him and the both said he was one of the filthiest, nastiest hottest fucks ever. When I first noticed him on Dallas I got a hi-rise in my underoos and by that time he had been in show business 25 years already he and his twin brother started in the late 1950’s. He was one of those guy’s that everyone liked and then fell in love with him after one roll in the hay. Super-sexy face and body and hung like a stallion. He was still sexy and only 53 when he died in 1994.

  • Robert

    Thanks GGreen….Dack was on Maury Povich’s show who told him he was one of the most beautiful men he had ever seen! Any older dudes out there remember hunky, macho 6’6″ Jeff Chandler? Esther Williams in “her trash everybody but me” autobio. said he had a closet full of women’s dresses, shoes (where did he find that size) & accessories & loved “dress-up”. She was married to Fernando Lamas, a handsome Latin stud actor, whom allegedly said to her, that he his big cock “hung higher than most”, liked to show it to full advantage & never wore underwear, drove to parties & functions naked from the waist down, putting on his uncreased trousers in the bushes or car at the last moment!

  • http://www.nightcharm.com John Calendo

    LOVE Jeff Chandler.

    Who can forget him in Female on the Beach, where he is always shirtless and in swim trunks. Joan Crawford is in her hardened 50’s mold, all thick eyebrows and swishy full skirts. The imperious Joan, the rich-bitch embittered female on the beach of the title, who realizes Chandler is pushing his body in front of her to hustle her and snaps “I wouldn’t have you if your were hung with diamonds upside down.”

    I, on the other hands, boy child that I was, would have loved his big adult man’s body hung upside down — with or without the diamonds.

  • ggreen

    Esther Williams and her fave gal pal June Allison were terrible homophobes. Even though they had closet queens working for them and worked with lots of ‘mos in Hollywood. June and Ester often bitterly complained about the fags taking over and ruining Palm Springs and Hollywood.

  • http://nightcharm.com Robert

    Thanks John! I couldn’t remember the name of the movie, “Female On the Beach”! Joan’s shoulders looked bigger, but Chandler’s face & body were unforgettable! I think I first saw Chandler in “Broken Arrow” as a bare chested Indian (correct me if wrong) but as a pre-teen got a hard-on & had my first orgasm! He was “ALL MALE” on screen, contrary to Cruise (starting to look like a worn out Jeff Stryker), Pitt or De Caprio who are or were just pretty boys! Wayne was such a homophobic & refused to work with fairies! “POOR SOD THAT HE WAS”, obviously doubted his own masculinity! However, he worked with “Monty” Clift in Red River! Another outstanding & fabulously attractive English actor, Dirk Bogard, took a BIG chance with “Victim”. I would love to know more about him ~ gay or whatever!

  • http://nightcharm.com Robert

    By the way, GGreen, I thought this funny! Esther was denied entrance to the (I think) Beverly Hills Country Club because she was wearing trousers & left in a huff! Maybe it would have been acceptable if she had Chandler on her arm in his latest couture outfit, heels & all!

  • christopher

    Whaddya mean “showing no basket?” It’s all there, just pushed to the side. And the legs looks great to me. Check the one that’s turned out, plenty of muscle there. But it is a girly moment for the Duke to be sure. He probably was relaxing and it was a perfect turn, pose, camera snap moment and in the next second he was off again being his butch bad self.

  • http://nightcharm.com Robert

    Christopher! Is it a tisket or tasket or even a yellow basket? Just kidding! Wayne was an “all male icon” & this photo is a bit shocking for those who thought him the epitamy of manhood! He was such a wooden actor & I never thought of him as a person I couod relate to!

  • davidC

    I’m betting Spy magazine isn’t the most interesting thing under DavidK’s bed; howzabout a photo essay on the complete inventory?

  • Michael O’Sullivan

    Great comments. This photo is definitely Wayne and has been seen lots of times before.
    Esther is great on her romance with Chandler – and how shocked she was to see him in female attire. He particularly liked polka dots which just did not suit him. Read her book – its a scream.
    Dirk Bogarde (I met him in 1970) wrote several books of autobiography and novels and was gay – his lifelong partner was the ex-husband of actress Glynis Johns. Seek out his book for very entertaining reads.

  • lilblacktop

    Actually, those are swimming trunks.