The boys of summer

Return with me now to (what was by one reckoning) the beginning of summer, seven months ago, when I started a complex posting on the boys of summer. Now it’s chilly winter / spring in Palo Alto (night-time lows around 40 F.) and it pleases me to contemplate warmer times.

This posting was begun in the morning dark on 6/1, but, overwhelmed by life, I was unable to finish it then. I now attempt to pick up the thread.

🐇 🐇 🐇 It’s June. US Memorial Day having been on Monday 5/30, it’s now summertime in my my country’s folk culture (and it’s Gay Pride Month too). Yesterday was Walt Whitman’s birthday — the anniversary of 5/31/1819 —  and that will become relevant as we wander through the associations of the image on this month’s calendar page in the Tom of Finland 2022 calendar:

(#1) Hot Water (1980), a drawing from late in his career (Touko Laaksonen died in 1991), surely an homage to the initial scene in Wakefield Poole’s 1971 film Boys in the Sand, in which a hunky naked Peter Fisk is confronted, on a Fire Island beach, by the apparition of a naked, gorgeous, and hung Cal Culver / Casey Donovan arising from the sea (the ToF Sea Man has been merkined here for WordPress modesty)

From ToF and Wakefield Poole, Don Henley and Roger Kahn will take us into baseball and the beach (offering surfer boys, plus men in the dunes of Fire Island). A shirtless Paul Newman will stride out of the sea. And on those hot summer nights, an exclamatory Walt Whitman and an assortment of fictional teen faglings will be seized with desire.

Warning: lots of talk about men’s bodies and man-on-man sex, in very plain language, so this posting is definitely not for kids or the sexually modest.

Note: I’m entirely aware that boys of summer, boys in the sand, boys in the dunes, men from the sea, and so on lead to a great many places beyond the ones I mention here, which are just a sampling of my personal favorites.

When does summer begin? Obviously, different answers in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and different answers in different (sub)cultures. For the current United States, there are at least four different answers:

— the first of May (see below)

— (US) Memorial Day, the last Monday in May (therefore very close to the first of June) — matched by (US) Labor Day (the first Monday in September, therefore very close to the first of September), as the beginning of autumn / fall

— the first of June (according with understanding the summer months as June, July, and August)

— the summer solstice, in the middle of June

Two calendrical choices, one a bit early for some regions of the US, the other a bit late for others; the story told by the life cycles of plants and animals is very different in different regions. One cultural holiday that governs a large number of cultural practices (like the opening of swimming pools). And one astronomically significant date that’s way too late for almost all cultural purposes.

The lusty month of May. From my 5/5/18 posting “Lusty days”, with Jonathan Coulton’s ASL song “The First of May”, beginning:

‘Cause it’s the first of May, first of May
Outdoor fucking starts today

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Chris Ambidge announces the first of May every year with the euphemized version “Outdoor bonking starts today”.

So if we think of summer as, among other things, a sexual season, May 1st is a possible inaugural day.

Cultural associations of summer. In the US, baseball. With the appearance of warmer weather, play in the water (see swimming pools, above), especially at the beach (see #1). And with warmth and the beach come sexual desire (see #1 again, not to mention the lusty month of May). And there’s our program.

The Boys of Summer 1. From Wikipedia:

(#2) Cover of the book

The Boys of Summer is a 1972 non-fiction baseball book by Roger Kahn. After recounting his childhood in Brooklyn and his life as a young reporter on the New York Herald Tribune, the author relates some history of the Brooklyn Dodgers up to their victory in the 1955 World Series. He then tracks the lives of the players (Clem Labine, George Shuba, Carl Erskine, Andy Pafko, Joe Black, Preacher Roe, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and Billy Cox) over the subsequent years as they aged. The title of the book is taken from a Dylan Thomas poem that describes “the boys of summer in their ruin”.

The Boys of Summer 2. From Wikipedia:

“The Boys of Summer” is a song released in 1984 by Eagles vocalist and drummer Don Henley, with lyrics written by Henley and music composed by Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

… The lyrics appear to be about the passing of youth and entering middle age, with the nostalgic theme of “summer love” and reminiscence of a past relationship In a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone, Henley explained that the song is about aging and questioning the past — a recurring theme in Henley’s lyrics (cf. “The End of the Innocence”, and “Taking You Home”.) In an interview with NME in 1985, Henley explained the ‘”Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” lyric as an example of his generation selling out.

I was driving down the San Diego Freeway and got passed by a $21,000 Cadillac Seville, the status symbol of the right-wing upper-middle-class American bourgeoisie – all the guys with the blue blazers with the crests and the grey pants – and there was this Grateful Dead “Deadhead” bumper sticker on it!

… The music video to “The Boys of Summer” is a French New Wave-influenced piece directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Shot in black-and-white, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life (as a young boy, a young adult and middle-aged), in each case reminiscing about a past relationship. Interspersed with these scenes are segments of Henley singing the words of the song while riding in a pickup truck. The young boy in the video is played by a seven-year-old Josh Paul, while the girl is played by Audie England. Interspersed with these scenes are segments of Henley articulating the words of the song while driving in a convertible. At its conclusion, the video uses the post-modern concept of exposing its own workings, as with a wry expression Henley drives the car away from a rear projection screen.

You can watch the official music video of the song here.

From the Hollywood Hates Me blog, “Digging too Deeply: The Boys of Summer” on 11/26/13:

obviously, it’s about gay baseball recalled in an apocalyptic wasteland

This is not an entirely preposterous reading of the video.

The Boys of Summer 3. From the Goodreads listing for a 2012 book:

(#3) Cover of the book

Walt Whitman referred to a “Mad, naked, Summer Night!” In the pages of Boys of Summer, acclaimed editor Steve Berman’s latest anthology, talented authors and fresh voices reveal the allure and excitement of the season for gay teens. June always promises romance. July entices with its raw heat, and August offers a languid fire that will burn out before autumn’s approach. These are stories of young love and adventure

About the Whitman (noting again his 5/31/1819 birthday):


Meanwhile, Daily Jocks (in a 6/10/22 mailing) outfits the Summer Boy:

(#4) Striking a classic hustler pose, complete with facial expression

The ad copy, playing it all with a straight face:

30% OFF GREY CORE SHORTS: We all love a pair of grey shorts! The Helsinki Athletica Core Shorts are perfectly fitted to accentuate your body in all the right places.

Rising from the sea. From my 10/18/20 posting “Paul Newman rises from the sea”:

(#5) [caption:] Promoting 1963’s “Hud” at the Venice Film Festival, the actor exhibited an effortless masculinity that had Italians swooning

Newman rising from the sea here was pretty much the perfect package, from face to crotch, everything in balance, nothing obtrusive. Two themes here: the beautiful character rising from the sea; and the full package of male beauty.

Beauty rises from the sea. The archetype here is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, depicting the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully grown

… Emergence from the sea then became something of a gay trope, as I observed in my 11/29/18 posting “He came from the sea … and can only love me”, on

an underwear pose [that] is “likely an allusion to the landmark gay porn film Boys in the Sand, and more indirectly to the whole mansex on the beach genre of male art, gay porn, and gay cartooning

Wakefield Poole’s Boys (1971) has Cal Culver (acting under the name Casey Donovan) coming out of the sea on Fire Island, naked and gorgeous, to encounter Peter Fisk and engage in a series of sexual acts with him (and then to go on to sexual encounters with other men on the Island). Culver / Donovan at first appearance (with his dick fuzzed out for modesty on WordPress, though it’s a central feature of the scene):


Culver / Donovan in [this photo] has the whole male beauty thing — face, torso, and genitals — but in an explicitly highly sexualized context; he’s a very hot trick, and he’s ready for immediate, urgent action. He’s carnality embodied.

Male beauty. Paul Newman [above], in contrast, is virtually ethereal, a platonic ideal of male beauty, restrained in almost every respect — except for his notably erect nipples, which are probably an involuntary consequence of his immersion

From my 9/25/15 posting “Boy in the sand”, a poem (of mine) about the Donovan-Fisk scene:

(#8) This poem is much rawer than the Donovan-Fisk scene, which is mostly tender (and mostly oral)

Tom of Finand’s Hot Water (#1), which is where this posting started,  looks like a re-enactment of Culver / Donovan appearing to Fisk. So an homage to Wakefield Poole.

3 Responses to “The boys of summer”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    “Outdoor fucking starts today” depends very much on location/climate. Where I live in eastern New England, the odds of its being warm enough to be naked outside on May 1st are very low indeed. (By the same token, a gardening-related Facebook group I’m a member of tends to make a big deal of “International Naked Gardening Day”, which I believe is the first Saturday in May. I have various reasons for not considering naked gardening a good idea in any season, but early May? no, thank you.)

  2. RF Says:

    Just a note: while there may be ASL versions of First of May, Coulton’s song was not originally written for sign.

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