History is never simple

One reason is that spinning an artful narrative out of the messy details of a conquering people can sometimes lead to very much heat and very little light. Take the Pilgrims, for example. In 1620, Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower naming the land Plymouth Rock, but the village was already named Patuxet and the Wampanoag Indians  had lived there for thousands of years prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival.

TOM OF FINLAND, Untitled (Detail) 1982, Pen & ink on paper, ToFF #82.60 © 1982Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND, Untitled (Detail)
1982, Pen & ink on paper, ToFF #82.60
© 1982 Tom of Finland Foundation

We like to believe in a festive first Thanksgiving celebrating shared life in the “New” world between the Indians and the Plymouth settlers, yet the truth, as much as it can be ferreted out from the revisions and counter-revisions of historians appears dramatically different.

In 1621, Pilgrims did have a feast but it was not repeated years thereafter. So, it wasn’t the beginning of a Thanksgiving tradition nor did Pilgrims call it a Thanksgiving feast. Pilgrims perceived Indians in relation to the Devil (in Governor William Bradford’s words, they (the Indians) were “savage people, who are cruel, barbarous, and most treacherous.”) and the more probable reason they were invited to the feast was for the purpose of eventually negotiating a treaty that would secure the lands for the Pilgrims.

From Colonial Times down to the present, the story of the “Pequot Massacre” has been told and retold:
In 1636 ninety armed settlers went to raid Block Island, off the coast, because a white man had been found killed on his boat nearby Whet the armed party landed, they found that the Indians of had gone into hiding; they burned the villages and crops and returned to the mainland, where for good measure they burned down some Pequot villages. The English went after these Pequots and told them that they were held responsible for the murder. The Pequots had to hand over ‘the remaining murderers’ and provide assurances about future behavior. The Pequots ‘obstinately’ refused (words of an English eyewitness) and in the resulting fight several Pequots were killed and wounded, and their belongings destroyed or carried off. Thus started the Pequot War…

Historian Francis Jennings writes:
Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy’s will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective.

The colonist army surrounded a fortified Pequot village on the Mystic River. At sunrise, as the inhabitants slept, the Puritan soldiers set the village on fire.

We must burn them!‘” Mason is reported as having shouted, running around with a firebrand and lighting the wigwams. “Such a dreadful terror let the Almighty fall upon their spirits that they would flee from us and run into the very flames. Thus did the Lord judge the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies.

The next day, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children.” It was signed into law that, “This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots.”

It seems the present Thanksgiving “celebration” is based historically on some mixture of the 1621 meeting between the Indians and the new Pilgrim colony, and the Puritan commemoration of the Pequot massacre.

Tom of Finland film meets with Tom of Finland in Finland

Producer Aleksi Bardy and director Dome Karukoski of Helsinki-filmi meet with Tom of Finland Foundation, Tom of Finland Seura, friends of Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) and friends in Helsinki.IMG_0442

The meeting took place at the Sea Horse restaurant in Touko’s neighborhood where he and his lover of 28 years, Veli, took many meals.


The great thing about collaborating with Helsinki-filmi on the TOM OF FINLAND project is that the movie will be made, not only with the artist’s sensibility, but with a Queer sensibility, as well.

At the meeting, among others, were historian Kati Mustola, author Lamppu Laamanen, Durk Dehner and Susanna Luoto from TOM’s Foundation, TOM’s Club member Wiki Wickman and Marko Kuivalainen from the Seura.

A Straight Guy, Gay Guy and a Straight Woman Walk Into a Museum…

In Los Angeles in 1945, photographer Bob Mizer founded the Athletic Model Guild, a sort of home for wayward and hunky boys who didn’t mind having their unclothed photos taken in the company of other men. Physique Pictorial, a small, half-sheet-sized black and white zine, was the house publication and sales tool, and it created a wide audience for both Mizer’s photographs as well as the drawings of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen. Mizer assigned Laaksonen the easier-to-pronounce pseudonym Tom of Finland, and under that name, Laaksonen’s drawings became some of the most iconic images of gay erotic art.

MOCA Pacific Design Center is running a show of images from Physique Pictorial as well as images from Mizer’s and Tom of Finland’s private collection, through January 26. L.A. Weekly sent a team of three very different observers — a gay man, a straight man and a straight woman (this writer and two of her male friends) — to have a look at the show, and share their perspective on four of Tom of Finland’s images.

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Detail, from the story, Kake - TV Repair), 1972, Pen and ink, gouache on paper, 11.38” x 9.13”, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #72.77, © 1972 Tom of Finland Foundation

TOM OF FINLAND (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920 – 1991), Untitled (Detail, from the story, Kake – TV Repair), 1972, Pen and ink, gouache on paper, 11.38” x 9.13”, Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection #72.77, © 1972 Tom of Finland Foundation

SW: Yeah. It just looks grotesque to me. How is it striking you?

GG: If this was real life, I’d be so happy.

SG: It doesn’t strike me as grotesque, but it strikes me as alien — I can’t identify with it being arousing. If I put a woman there, it would be.

GG: It’s so exaggerated, it’s unreal, the size of everything, therefore it takes a bit of the excitement away. But it were a little closer to reality, maybe it would be more arousing. But I think he had the intention of getting this type of reaction — grossed out, perverted. I think that was part of the idea… push as far as you can, so when you’re here, people will be okay. I think he did a great service for liberating these so-called perversions.

SW: I think of the general culture seeing this… was it meant to shock, or meant to normalize?

GG: Shock at first, but I think that’s a benefit in the long term.

SG: Do you think these guys gave any thought to this being seen by heterosexuals? I don’t think they did.

SW: I think they had to, because Bob Mizer went to jail for distributing this stuff. They had to know that was a risk they were running.

SG: That’s a risk they were running, but they weren’t doing this for heterosexuals at all.

SW: But how could you escape from consciousness of the dominant culture?

GG: It could be also that they’re not giving a fuck about the dominant culture, and they’re saying it’s time for us to do something for us. We are sexual beings, and we get to have this kind of fun too.

SG: Yes, exactly. I see that in here. This is liberating. They’re saying, if you find this offensive, fuck you. It’s for us.

GG: And if in the long term they get used to it, even better.

SG: I think it would be tough for any man, regardless or orientation, not to emerge from this unaffected.