DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEWs of Esear Tuaolo’s Alone in the Trenches, Mark Tewksbury Inside Out, Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham


Author (or Editor):  Esera Tuaolo (with John Rosengren)

Title:  Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL

Fiction? No (autobiography)

Publisher:  Sourcebooks, Naperville, IL


ISBN:  1-4022-0505-8    ISBN-13 978-1-4022-0505-7

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound, 281 pgs

Relevance to HPPUB: gays in intimate occupations similar to the military


I recall the stir created by the book by former Washington Redskin Dave Kopay in the early 1980s. This autobiography relates the story of a football player born and raised on Hawaii of Somoan descent. He gradually came to terms with his sexuality, resisting the religious intolerance of his Assembly of God upbringing as well as Somoan culture, which stresses interdependence and loyalty among blood family members. Playing for several teams, he kept his sexual orientation a secret, as any leak would have ended his career. On some teams, there was considerable verbal fag-bashing and aggressive women chasing by players.

The writing style is simple and homey. Toward the end, he plays in a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons in a losing effort. He settles in Minneapolis, and relates visiting the Saloon, a popular dance bar on Hennepin (three blocks from the Gay Nineties) with a patio, a computer bar, grille, and a dance floor with three wooden stages that would fit a wide angle movie camera perfectly for a future on-location film shot in any film that needed to show dirty dancing.

He also sings the national anthem at a college football game. He relates being a poor student in high school, and being misclassified as needing special education. He also has a younger brother who dies of AIDS and is given a Somoan funeral.

Mark Tewksbury, Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock. (2006, Toronto: Wiley Canada, ISBN 0-470-83735-7, 262 pages, hardbound). Canadian Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury, born 1968, gives us an account of his career as individual sports celebrity, and of his gradual coming out. The most disturbing incidents have to do with the queasiness of his sponsors over the public's finding out about his homosexuality, even in liberal Canada. He would have to agree to "morals" clauses, not to bring disrepute on the sponsors, and he looses a huge contract in the 90s when he is outed. Then he goes solo. There are a lot of color pictures, which have the effect of a filmstrip.

I have been to only one swimming meet in my life, at the SMU natatorium in Dallas in 1982. In the 80s, swimmers would talk about peaking before performances, including complete body shaving. Tewksburu backs into this subject around p 87, and the accounts for his total depilation once he went to Australia, undergoing what Steve Carell does in "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

Jon Barrett. Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham: A Man Who Fought Back on September 11 (2002. Advocate, ISBN 1-55583-780-8, 173 pages, paper). About a most serious topic, first a joke. This book arrived in an Amazon "pseudobox". Mail box services call small boxes that. Attack of the pseudoboxes. More seriously, this book is very personal, almost like what an autobiography could be. But the author has to piece together not only what happened on Flight 93, but what Mark's life was really like. He starts out with a prologue telling the story of Oliver Sipple, who saved the life of President Ford in 1975, and it was a big deal for the press to deal with the fact that he was gay. Sipple was also a Marine Corps veteran, years before "don't ask don't tell" when the ban was per service (when they needed people for Vietnam). Bingham's coming of age as a gay man seems almost incidental. In the meantime, he got good at rugby, and the book gives some description of this form of English football. He had a few boy friends, and the book describes a certain fetish for body hair and bears, and his concerns about his own body image, which he gradually outgrew. (It's coincidental that one boyfriend was named Chris Pratt, no relation to the actor who plays Bright on Everwood). The book also gives an account of the life of Alice Hoglan, his mother, who would appear so often in the days following 9/11. Each of the ten chapters in the book starts with the voicemails that he never got, and actual details of how Mark was situated on Flight 93 during the counterattack on the terrorists are uncertain. After the tragedy, Mark was honored by many conservative speakers, who had to decide what to say about him. He would be considered for the Congressional Medal of Honor, an irony of both the history of "don't ask don't tell" and then of the 9/11 attacks. 

An interesting subtext is his development of a public relations business during the dot-com boom, and his having to cut it back during the bust in early 2001. His reaction to how to use the Internet was somewhat the opposite of mine.

Would this book make a good biographical film? I think so.





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