Colt Cowboys of the Lüger era have a distinct whiff of Marlborough Man about them. He's the modern day, working cowboy, a 'real' man of unquestionable masculinity, strong and silent. This terrific picture shows two such men, who seem to be trying to explore a mutual interest in each other without compromising their own perceptions of masculinity. It's the sort of situation disappointingly enacted at great length in 'Brokeback Mountain', several decades later.
Despite the averted eyes, Colt's picture is genuinely romantic on it's own closeted terms, but also highly erotic if you linger over the detail. There isn't a hint of explicitness beyond some deliciously naked buns and bare bottom-halves. No disguised erections or secret touching. Instead a casually cloaking, Indian blanket provides an erotic connection. The short end seems to be not just screening, but lightly draped over a hidden organ and we can imagine the other man also lightly touching it, using it as a shared, mutual 'frottage' device. It's trailing fringe seems to hint (almost crudely) at a state of high excitement .
The same furtive, disinterested air permeates this image but there's no romance at all here. These men don't even face each other, a hand resting on a shoulder being the only hint of an emotional connection.
The seated man has a slightly sinister air. His broad brimmed hat (reminiscent of Quaintance cowboys) hides his face and he doesn't just avert his eyes from his partner, he looks in the opposite direction. He's balanced on his stool as though eager to escape - it's as though he's ashamed of what he is doing. The leg of his stool betrays his inner desire and you'll find this piece of furniture performing a 'hidden eroticism' function in other Colt pictures too. To the knowledgeable watcher, his lightly-clenched fist is arguably more expressive of urgent desire.
The foreground figure sits back, as though waiting his turn or already serviced. He seems to epitomise temptation, facing the viewer with all his goods stacked up in the shop window and a knowing look on his face, half-smiling, as he cocks his hat invitingly at us.
The anonymous, central figure stands above this, not disinterested of course, but detached. He's depicted in a majestically masculine way which the others are not. That hand on the shoulder gesture seems to reflect a confidence in his superior, separate status, at ease with his needs and those who service them, but not part of their world.
The overall effect is slightly depressing to modern eyes. If a Bible basher wanted to illustrate the dark emptiness and shame of homosexuality, with it's predatory seduction of 'decent' men, he'd find it hard to better this. Of course Lüger is merely chronicling the reality of his own era in which furtive, anonymous encounters were the norm and filled with real danger which generated it's own excitement and urgency. In this context you might equally interpret the foreground figure as an expression of defiance. It's a situation which is largely unknown to us in the West today, but not elsewhere in the world.
It's interesting to compare this image with the Three Sailors in my previous article
which also has a satyr-like third party smugly observing from the fringes. That image however is a confident celebration of gayness. I believe these pictures are near contemporaries, but the contrast in content and technical style suggests much has changed in the intervening period between them.
Colt's flair for depicting the more mature and rugged type of man is a natural fit to the Cowboy scenario and he makes hay here, augmenting that manliness with some of the 'tools of the trade' - the chunky gun belt, the bullwhip and leather gloves. There are spurs lurking in the background too, Colt brings them into view by memorably capturing a casual, crossed leg pose that is characteristically male and brimming with self-confidence. I delight in details like this which neatly encapsulate 'maleness' and demonstrate the observational skill of the artist.
This array of coercive weaponry is intimidating enough but the man's prodigious cock straining at his jeans tops them all. Flaccid, downward-pointing equipment (demonstrated here by his younger companion) seems to have been permitted in this era. Colt demonstrates the absurdity of such rules by using clothing to imply a trapped giant, which is clearly enlarged and aroused but unable to point upwards.
The younger man seems dwarfed but not particularly intimidated, wary perhaps of that monster (which of course is level with his mouth). His crouching pose seems to be symbolic of submission, but he's turned away and the view he's presenting to the older man is highly provocative. If you check the eye-lines you'll see it hasn't gone unnoticed!
The younger men that Colt incorporates into cross-generational images like this often seem to have an exaggerated boyishness, lacking in masculine character almost. The frivolous quiff in his hair and the delicate way he holds his cigarette contrasts with his companion's equivalents, which show a 'real man' casualness. The singlet he is wearing also seems oddly out of place. It shows he has creditable pecs, but doesn't achieve the torso enhancing qualities illustrated in the first picture of this article. In a way it is a charming portrait of a young man, adult and sexually aware, but still growing into his manhood. In this friendly giant he seems to have found a possibly demanding mentor but an enviably attractive one. (I have always loved the big man's triangle of chest hair and perfectly shaped pecs in this picture).
You might also interpret the collar-like neckerchief and the whip loops as indicative of bondage interest but it doesn't seem a particularly strong element - see below.
This image is a detail of a larger picture I've not been able to lay my hands on. It's contemporary with the previous one (1969) but is a much more assertive statement of sexuality. The two mature Cowboys here are more obviously thinking earthy, sexual thoughts - witness the open legs, open mouth and self-touching. The two cocks on display are definitely not flaccid either and there's almost a satirical edge to the piece as the central cowboy seems to be pressing his self-willed cock down so as to conform to the downward-pointing position mandated by the powers that be.
These two are also more overtly rugged and hyper-masculine, displaying prominent body hair and a torn singlet. The central figure demonstrates the correct, manly way to hold a cigarette when it's not drooping out of the corner of one's mouth. (Cupping the hand around the burning tip is a technique evolved to stop it blowing out it in windy locations - like prairies, ships and cruising grounds!).
As in the previous picture, the half-hidden object of interest is a youthful blond. Colt shows him presenting his unprotected rear to the lustful duo. There seems to be an implication that the manly way to have sex is in the active role and that the role of younger men is to tempt and seduce (see Part 1) and service their elders, with the usual overtones of induction and initiation. These are not exclusively gay thought processes as it happens, but we take a different view on such issues today.
The fifties and sixties were the heyday of Cowboy movies and TV shows and somewhere along the line the isolated lifestyle of cattle herders, remote from civilisation for long periods, in isolated groups, earned them a similar reputation to sailors on the high seas, that is for having a taste for releasing their sexual tensions man-to-man. That tag undoubtedly caused discomfort for real Cowboys but makes this pair's casual nudity and mutual preening unmistakeably gay to all and sundry, not just other gays. These two might easily be a couple and there's an interesting resemblance to Tom of Finland's popular Leather Buddy-Lovers image. The playful scene shows a maturing of Colt's imagery beyond sexual innuendo into portraying gay relationships and gay men as normal people who are not defined exclusively by their sexuality.
Sadly it still required 'nudge nudge' humour to get the message out.
See also this interesting article about the Westwood T Shirt
In this picture Colt ingeniously draws on the Cowboy world to produce one of his most audacious rebellions against anti-gay pornography laws. He combines the imagery of riding astride a horse and holding the reins of a stagecoach or wagon to come up with a fanciful simulation of gay sexual intercourse. Once again he mockingly turns the downward-pointing cock rule against the censors. It's pointing in exactly the right direction here, whereas in a more 'realistic', aroused depiction it wouldn't be! There's a strong hint of domination and bondage in this picture but Colt didn't follow that through in other images as far as I can establish.
Read the whole series from Colt Part 1
I haven't found a legitimate source of Colt's artwork, Colt Studio don't seem to publish it now.
There's a decent Colt Collection at Daddy's here
An interesting biography/obit written by Bob Mizer in 2017
For other explorations of the art of hidden eroticism, click on the label below.
For other explorations of the art of hidden eroticism, click on the label below.