In the 1950s, nude photos of male celebrities were practically non-existent; the few examples we have were taken and developed in private, and didn't get mass exposure for many years. Even shirtless photos are uncommon. So it's no wonder that Elvis Presley caused a stampede when he was photographed in his underwear during his induction into the U.S. army in 1958.
At the time he was the most famous singer in the world, a cultural icon who almost single-handedly drew rock and roll away from its roots in jazz and blues. He had already had a string of #1 hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" -- the list goes on. Being drafted was a big deal, even without the underwear.
He was apparently quite homophobic in real life -- most men of the 1950s generation were -- but that didn't stop him from forging friendships with many gay men.
Mar 22, 2018
Mar 21, 2018
During those years, he was a fixture on Broadway, starring in such gay favorites as Dream Girl (1959), Meet Me in St. Louis (1960), and Camelot (1962), befriending such gay favorites as Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Cher.
As a singer, he charted frequently during the 1960s, with the easy-listening pop tunes that the older generation liked as a remedy to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones: "My Love, Forgive ME" (1964), "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (1965), "Once I Had a Heart" (1966).
He starred in eight movies, often with gay subtexts:
2. Honeymoon Hotel (1964) had an interesting gay connection: he and Robert Morse (the one in the dress) check into the "honeymoon hotel" along with all of the other couples. Heterosexual hijinks follow, but there are a sizeable number of double-takes at the "honeymoon couple," as well as the rule "you've got to have a girl in your room" to eliminate any rumors.
3. I'd Rather Be Rich (1964). Young heiress Sandra Dee has to decide between her fiance (Andy Williams) and the man she's hired to impersonate him (Robert Goulet).
Goulet appeared on tv nearly 100 times, in specials devoted to his music, in his own series, Blue Light (1966-67), about an American journalist going undercover to spy on the Nazis during World War II, and in many guest roles: a hunky science teacher on The Patty Duke Show, a con artist faith healer on The Big Valley. a murderous doctor on The Name of the Game.
Of course, Goulet continued to perform for thirty years after Stonewall, but he aimed his work at that same body of fans who had loved him in the 1950s, appealing to Boomers only in an occasional spoof, or when a melodious voice was needed: he provided the voice for Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story 2 (1999), and for sensitive third grader Mikey on the Disney Channel's Recess (1998-2001).
In 2005, two years before his death, Goulet took over the role of Georges, owner of the nightclub and Albin's partner in the Broadway revivial of La Cage aux Folles. It was like a final shout-out to the gay fans who had followed him for half a century.