Keep your eye on the guy

Danielle Devereaux scopes some buns at the Nickel Independent Film Festival

It may be 2006, but I bet you’re familiar with the 1950’s pin-up girl. The glam shots of scantily clad beauties sold to warm the lonely hearts of the GI’s far from home, the incarcerated, the adolescent… But do you know about the beefcake? Well, after watching Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone and the Age of the Beefcake, you will. The documentary tells the story of the underground world of the male pin-up and a photographer who made his mark taking pictures of scantily clad, hunky young men. Photos sold to warm the hearts of, well, the GIs far from home, the incarcerated, the adolescent and closeted gay men everywhere.

These days we barely bat an eye at billboard images of a super hunk in his Calvin Klein undies, but in the 50’s and early 60’s Stone’s chosen subject was quite risqué. Eye on the Guy is a fascinating look at the covert world of 1950’s and early 60’s queer culture and includes interviews with film studies professor Tom Waugh and gay culture archivist Ross Higgins.    

As the film reveals, the world of beefcake hid behind an alibi of athletics. Many of Stone’s models were body builders and his photos appeared in physique magazines.     He made his money taking mail orders: interested readers could see more of their favorite physiques by sending $5.00 to Mark One Studios. Orders were filled from Stone’s basement in the suburbs of …Montreal.
   
That’s right, the photographer, the models, and most of the out-of-doors photo settings – all Canadian. Who knew Canadian history could be so sexy?
   
Eye on the Guy isn’t just about the beefcake, it’s also about Alan B. Stone, the guy behind the lens. Stone died before this film was made, though his voice makes an appearance, as do a number of his former models. While some of the men say they knew their photos were meant for a gay male audience, others say it never occurred to them, which speaks to how deeply underground queer culture was at the time. But it also speaks to the artistry of Stone’s work. Muscular men weren’t Stone’s only subject matter. Photos of the boys are peppered throughout the film and yes they’re all – how shall I say – pretty damn hot, but the images are also strikingly beautiful, and they illustrate, as the film does in the end, that sometimes desire and sexuality are about more than sex.

Eye on the Guy screens at the LSPU Hall Tuesday July 18, 7pm as part of the Nickel Independent Film Festival. The whole evening – well the entire festival really – promises to be excellent and you should go. Check out the festival’s schedule at www.nickelfestival.com or turn to page 5 & 6 for our listings.

danielle@thescope.ca