I never expected to see a movie about Tom and a great one at that. Tom would have liked it very much but I think but he would have said make more sex. Do not miss this classic film and see it in a theater if at all possible – made me cry, but in a good way, for all the good times with Tom and his men.
OK, here is my real feeling on seeing Tom of Finland. Spoiler alert if you have not seen.
At many times I felt it was Tom, not an actor. I cried during a lot of it. They caught the essence of Tom in the film from his Leather muse, to Durk Dehner, to his trips to America in 1978 and 1983, to his life partner Veli, and his sister Kaija.
I met Tom in 1978 at the opening of his exhibition at Fey Way Gallery and at the Eagle but I was the boy in the film with the Physique Pictorial under a blanket in his bed – me 1958 – after I bought my first Tom.
Tom was charming, laconic, intense in his gaze, as moved by us as we were by him and a very sexy man. In 1983 he came to a dying San Francisco because we needed him. He judged IML that year where my partner Colt Thomas was selected. He came to sell his sex positive book Tom of Finland Retrospective. I went to the Casto and stood in line and he signed my book “From Tom of Finland to Peter Fiske of San Francisco”. I even have a photograph to prove it.
From 1984 until his death in 1991, Tom would come to stay with Durk at TOM House and with my friend Felix Jones, we would head south to see Tom almost every year. We would see Tom and Durk and have lunch at the LAPD Academy which is open to the public. If you like cops go there, but I digress.
In 1987, after his husband Charlie Smith died, Coulter wrote Tom and asked him to make a picture of them and send a photograph. Tom said return the picture of you as a cowboy and I will make a new picture for you. Tom loved Coulter. Coulter loved the picture and he loved Tom. That picture now hangs in Tom’s room in TOM House. Go there if you are in LA – it is a place of pilgrimage if you are one of TOM’s Men.
Finally, let’s talk about TOM’s Men. They are incredibly sexual and they are happy, strong, healthy, good men. They love sex and they love each other. They live and love without shame. That is I think the greatness of Tom. His strong men live and love without shame, and they have joy and fun and sex.
Tom of Finland, which follows the life of Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, from the trenches of WWII through the repression of the 1950s to the advancement of gay liberation, will be screened Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 13 and 14 at 11 a.m. The Jan. 10 screening will include a wine reception before the film and a Q&A after the movie at the Art Theatre of Long Beach.
Organizers at the Q Film Festival, which spotlights LGBTQ films and is produced by the Long Beach LGBTQ Center, wanted to schedule Chavela and Tom of Finland during the September movie showcase, but the films were not available, said Robert Cano, who programmed the two films and is the founder of the Festival.
Tom first came to Los Angeles in 1978 to showcase his artwork in a solo exhibition. The success of the show led him to become a frequent traveler to the region. The erotic at pioneer lived in a two-story Craftsman house in Echo Park, owned by Durk Dehner, who invited Tom to use the home as his local studio and residence. Tom also used the house to escape the cold Finnish winters.
TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION
In 1984, Tom and Durk spearheaded Tom of Finland Foundation in the house to catalog his work and to provide a safe space for artists facing discrimination and misrepresentation due to the erotic nature of their work.
In July 2016, the Foundation nominated the Tom of Finland House at 1421 Laveta Terrace for designation as an Historic-Cultural Monument. Four months later, the Los Angeles City Council approved the nomination.