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WATCH: 10 Guys Who Made Us Realize We’re Gay, ’80s Edition

When did you realize you were gay? And no, cutting out simplicity patterns with your mother doesn’t count. For many guys it happened quite unexpectedly as they sat in front of their TV screen or in a movie theater. Below is a list of 10 heartthrobs from the 1980s who created some first time, same-sex stirrings.

He-Man

It’s okay, admit it. Castle Grayskull wasn’t the real reason your pre-teen feet peddled you home so quickly after school each day. It was the man. He- Man. For many of us, He-Man was our first introduction to the Tom of Finland aesthetic: the ’70s style blond shag haircut, chest harness and bulging biceps. He even had a pet tiger for Christ’s sake! “Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword….” Amen!

C. Thomas Howell in The Hitcher

Take your pick: Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Machio. The boys from The Outsiders were all deliciously disheveled, but C. Thomas Howell was the one who simultaneously broke and won our heart. He was at his most breathtaking (and out of breath) while running from serial killer Rutger Hauer (also, inexplicably hot!) in The Hitcher.

Maxwell Caulfield in Grease 2

Marlon Brando may be the original Wild One but Maxwell Caulfield was the ultimate C.O.O.L. R.I.D.E.R that had Michelle Pfeiffer (and all us gay boys) swooning. The sequel to Grease tanked and it virtually killed his career, but I will still take Maxwell over John Travolta any day.  At age 53, Maxwell is still shockingly beautiful and even appeared completely nude on stage in the play Salonika.

Jesse Borrego in Fame

OK, so was I the only one who would watch Fame on Thursday night and then recreate the Jesse Borrego and Nia Peeples musical numbers in my backyard the next day? I, of course, would play the Nia Peeples part while fantasying that Jesse was singing, dancing and loving only me. Really… no one else? Oh, snap! Honorable “Fame” mentions: Gene Anthony Ray and Billy Hufsey.

Michael Schoeffling in Sixteen Candles

Oh, Jake! Has there ever been a teen heartthrob hotter than Jake Ryan? Sensitive, masculine and stylish. It takes a mighty confident man to pull off a sleeveless sweater but Jake Ryan did it. No wonder Molly Ringwald had her teenage panties in such a bind. What’s the legal age for consent again?! Schoeffling retired from acting in the early ’90s (I guess making a movie with Cher can make anyone wanna get the hell out of Hollywood) and reportedly lives in Pennsylvania, where he owns a woodworking shop and makes handcrafted furniture. Did someone say wood?

Christopher Atkins in A Night in Heaven

Yes, the obvious choice here would be The Blue Lagoon. After all, Christopher spent most of the movie wearing only a loan cloth and cavorting around a deserted island with 14-year-old Brooke Shields. Those stats alone make it perversely enjoyable. But, despite his bronze body and translucent curly locks I blame Christopher for that damn puka-shell choker phase that every homo continues to go through. Instead, check out this perfectly implausible 1983 flick where Christopher plays a Chippendales-style erotic dancer who sweeps community college professor Leslie Ann Warren (Hello!!!???) off her sexually frustrated feet.

That hot guy from the Janet Jackson, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” video

In the mid ’80s, when MTV was still playing music videos, Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately” helped make former Solid Gold dancer Rudy Houston a music video leading man. In 1987 Pebbles made him her “Mercedes Boy” and seductively asked, “Do you wanna ride?” Gay men enthusiastically replied, “Hell yeah!” Houston fell off the radar but later resurfaced on the Sally Jesse Raphael show as “Lana.” Houston had undergone sexual reassignment surgery and was now living as a woman. While we miss our brown skin video boy-toy I think Janet would still say, “You’re Alright with me!”

Lorenzo Lamas in Falcon Crest

Yes, there was a time when swooning over Lorenzo Lamas was not a shameful admission. Before that dreadful Renegade period. Before he married one bottle-blond playmate after another. And years before his cringe worthy role as the laser pointing judge on the degenerate reality show, Are you Hot?, Lorenzo Lamas starred on Falcon Crest where his smoldering Argentinian good looks and perfectly lacquered ’80s hair made him a nighttime soap stud.

The 1984 Men’s US Olympic Gymnastics Team


Perhaps Greg Louganis would be the obvious choice for a dreamy 80’s Olympic athlete but who I am turn down a whole team of men in short shorts?! In the summer of 1984 Bart Conner, Timothy Daggett, James Hartung, Scott Johnson, Peter Vidmar and Mitch Gaylord (heh, heh) had gay men grabbing their stick (Er…I mean, remote control) and tuning into to see them win the Olympic gold medal. Gaylord was so good he even has a high bar skill named after him, The Gaylord Flip. God, there must be a joke in there somewhere!

Grace Jones

Hey, wait…that’s not a man. Oh, Grace Jones, she pretty much gender-fucked all of us. From straight women to gay men, she made us all question our sexual orientation… and we worship her for it. Pull up to my bumper, baby. Indeed.


  • 36 Comments
    • BritAus
      BritAus

      Maxwell Caulfield
      *sigh*

      Oct 26, 2013 at 4:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DJ Paul V.
      DJ Paul V.

      There’s a lot more where THAT came from (and pre-80’s too):
      http://myfirstgaycrush.blogspot.com

      Oct 26, 2013 at 5:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Uisce
      Uisce

      Um, it was the cast of CHiPs and, to a lesser extent, Hill Street Blues did it for many of us in the leather community.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 5:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Caleb in SC
      Caleb in SC

      Jon-Erik Hexum! Rest his soul.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 7:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. E. Jones
      Mr. E. Jones

      For me, it was Stephen Collins in “Tales of the Gold Monkey”. His Jake Cutter character gave me my first obsessive crush.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 10:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NicksFanNC
      NicksFanNC

      I actually dated the dancer with the striped shirt in Janet’s video…those dancers sure had some stamina!

      Oct 26, 2013 at 11:08 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • NicksFanNC
      NicksFanNC

      For me Jon-Erik Hexum and the lead singer of A-Ha really solidified my gayness

      Oct 26, 2013 at 11:10 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dixie Rect
      Dixie Rect

      No mention of Jim Palmer and his famous Jockey Underwear ads? That was always good JO material !

      Oct 26, 2013 at 11:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Snapper59
      Snapper59

      John James in “Dynasty”. And pro-wrestlers when they were normal good looking guys instead of steroidal freaks.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 11:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scribe38
      Scribe38

      The actors that played teen boys on Momma’s family and Mr. Belvedere.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 11:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • boring
      boring

      You don’t need to see Maxwell Caulfield in Grease 2 to know you’re gay.

      You’re watching Grease 2.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jake357
      Jake357

      Joining the chorus, Jon-Erik Hexum and I’ll agree with Maxwell Caulfield (yummmmmm)

      Oct 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stache1
      Stache1

      I miss the cheesy 80’s. Christopher Atkins (A night in Heaven) and Mitch Gaylord OMG.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 12:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mz.sam
      mz.sam

      Oh, Max…Max…why did you ever leave me??

      Oct 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Niall
      Niall

      The more I read Queerty articles, the more I feel like I totally grew up in a different world from most gays or something

      Oct 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sprocket
      sprocket

      I take it Queerty is speaking for themselves only.

      Ralph Macchio was my first major crush. And he still looks amazing though he’s much older than me.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rand503
      rand503

      The only reason I watched Falcon Crest was because of Lorenzo. He had the sexiest legs.

      I was more of a modelizer, though, and fell in love with Michael Ives, a preppie looking guy whose modeling career covered the whole of the 80s. Today he’s married and bald, and a real estate agent, but still pretty good looking.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bubba in TX
      Bubba in TX

      He-Man? Guilty. I also agree about Jon-Erik Hexum. But then…there’s THIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JA5R96-Fn4

      Oct 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rockery
      Rockery

      @Niall:

      You might be too young for these references. I looked and I thought… who are these people? But they are all before my time, I only know Grace Jones and Lorenzo Lamas

      Oct 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JDJase
      JDJase

      It was Patrick Swayze for me. In 1989 when I was 4 years old my sister got Dirty Dancing on VHS for Christmas, and that was the first time I saw it. I knew I liked looking at him, and I started thinking about him at night when I humped the mattress lol. So Patrick Swayze will always have a special place in my heart.

      (Though it wasn’t until 1997 when I admitted to myself “I’m Gay”…I have Leonardo DiCaprio to thank for that one)

      Oct 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • stranded
      stranded

      Maxwell Caulfield… my gosh. i think i caught Grease 2 on tv as a kid. As awful as it was, i was obsessed with it. He was so damn beautiful.

      Oct 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Atomicrob
      Atomicrob

      Sean Connery in Dr. No, Dr. Ben Casey, Adam on Ponderosa, geeze they were all all, but Michael Schoeffling still rocks.

      Oct 27, 2013 at 5:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jcsportsfan
      jcsportsfan

      Oh man…Michael Schoeffling made me wish I was Molly Ringwald in that movie!!

      Oct 27, 2013 at 11:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stache1
      Stache1

      @sprocket: Wow. Just looked at some of his current pics and your right. He was a hottie back then and still is. Some people just age really well.

      Oct 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rad
      Rad

      Jon-Eric Hexum did it for me. Sure, as a child I would prance around (complete with cape and candle opera) and pretend to be Liberace when he would come on Mike Douglas or Ed Sullivan, but the first time I ever realized I was sexually attracted to a man was when I saw Jon-Eric. He was my first fan-boy crush. After that Scott Valentine as “Nick” on “Family Ties”.

      Oct 28, 2013 at 9:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dsp
      dsp

      W.T.F, Why is John Shcneider not on this list? That Duke of Hazard in those tight Jeans, Open button shirt and golden locks were the hottest on TV. The man looks just as hot today……I still want to marry him…..ahhhhh my dream man

      Oct 28, 2013 at 9:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Polaro
      Polaro

      Well, you all have good taste in men.

      Oct 28, 2013 at 10:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Darling Nikki
      Darling Nikki

      Maxwell Caulfield DEFINITELY, but more for his work on The Colbys than Grease 2.
      Then there is the boys from the Dukes of Hazard (Tom Wopat/John Schneider). Tight Jeans, sliding into cars, yummy.
      And I must admit I had a major crush on the boys of Duran Duran. Wild Boys and Hungry Like the Wolf, indeed.
      I could go on and on, but those come to mind, and of course Grace Jones, I still love A View to A Kill (Ms. Jones as MAYDAY and theme song by Duran Duran, perfect, and Mr. Walken was still hot in the film).

      Oct 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Suburban
      Suburban

      I understand some of these choices and some I don’t. I was a teenager in the 80’s and watched Growing Pains and I had a crush on Kirk Cameron. It’s such a shame what a jerk he’s become. Michael Schoeffling I totally get and he was in Longtime Companion which I own on DVD and really liked even though it gets sadder towards the end. Pretty much all of the guys from The Outsiders even thought Ralph Macchio and Tom Cruise were so baby faced then. The names will keep coming I’m sure.

      Oct 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ruddigore
      Ruddigore

      In addition to dreamy Max my ten would include:
      Hart Bochner (Breaking Away, Rich and Famous, Supergirl), Bruce Boxleitner (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), Jameson Parker (Simon & Simon), Perry King (Riptide), John James (Dynasty / The Colbys), Cary Elwes (Another Country, Princess Bride), Christopher Cazenove (Dynasty), Antony Hamilton (J-EH’s Cover Up replacement), James Read (Remington Steele, North and South), Lenny Von Dohlen (Electric Dreams), Barry Tubb (Consenting Adult), Simon MacCorkindale (Manimal)

      Oct 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Adam
      Adam

      Sam Jones as Flash Gordon (1980).

      Oct 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • CandyFloss666
      CandyFloss666

      …If it was indeed a “Loan Cloth” that Christopher was wearing, I’d like to get it back! Otherwise I think you meant *Loincloth =P

      Oct 29, 2013 at 11:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SteveDenver
      SteveDenver

      I recall being mesmerized by Steve Guttenberg in COCOON when he comes to the deck of the boat in white swim trunks with a lame pattern of squares dotted on them. He was showing major basket!

      I was thinking Jan Michael Vincent, but that was BUSTER AND BILLIE from 1974, but I didn’t see it until 1984. Does it still count?

      Feb 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Respect4all
      Respect4all

      Jesse Borrego? How about Gene Anthony Ray?!!

      Feb 17, 2014 at 3:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • scottj
      scottj

      for me it was scott bakula(late 80’s quantum leap),mark harmon and of course the 80’s god,tom selleck. back in the day when men could have body hair without it being considered revolting or being lumped into a specific group.

      Mar 28, 2014 at 11:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Doughosier
      Doughosier

      Christopher Atkins and Mitch Gaylord for me! Nothing makes me feel older more than the fact that Christopher Atkins is now a grandfather.

      May 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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