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.


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 damaged 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.

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