"Sally Forth," he said. "Wow, a wholesome lesbian family comic strip," said I.

That's what I thought for a long, long time. I had been mildly disturbed to see someone using the name of the great sexy Wally Wood strip that ran in the early 70's. But then I thought, wow, a straight-on family strip about a lesbian family. At least it was pushing the line too.

"Damn, we've come a long way, how about that, a lesbian couple played just like a straight couple, just like actual people with the same concerns and the same goals."

It was an easy mistake -- two androgynous people with a daughter, both with the same haircut, the same profile, the same androgynous physique -- one wearing a woman's clothes, the other wearing a man's. Wholesome, interesting relationship with working mother Sally at odds with her boss, but standing up to him, working things out as best as can be done -- no Dagwood-type flake, she. And working with their teenage daughter balancing love with direction. And Ted, well Ted seems to not do much of anything at all but be her foil. (Hey, not so weird. I once had a lovely short-lived thing with a girl named Sam, and as I recall, Steve Carella, of the 82d precinct stories has a wife named Teddy who also is rarely more than a mention.)

But last week they went on vacation to the beach, and while their young daughter wore a top to her bathing suit, Ted did not. So ok, I got it

The Wally Wood strip was something else, sexy and funny, but definitely male-oriented hetero. That generally-naked curvaceous fantasy woman never quite got around to the lesbian side of erotic, although a sendup of the movie Barbarella (called Boobarella) did play into a curious relationship with an eye-patched cartoon Anita Pallenberg-like Great Tyrant, various sex machines, and whips. (No relation to the later porn movies which travel under that name -- Boobarella* or the 1998 Bangkok Boobarella)

This is not to criticize the current Sally Forth, a strip which is generally more pleasant and amusing than actually funny. I read it more or less regularly, and enjoy it.

I came to it only recently, but it's been around a while. Craig Howard created it in 1982, a few months after Wood took his own life (rather than stretch it out drip by drip with dialysis) leaving behind a huge body of wonderful work and, later, a scholarship** in his name.

But damn. I live in Oakland, Alameda county, generally held to be the lesbian capitol of Northern California. (Or so the San Francisco Chronicle says, actually printing maps of lesbian densities by neighborhood in the East Bay Hills -- no, I'm not making this up.) Gay men on the west side of the bay. Gay women on the east. And happy heterosexual me, who has little or no home repair talent, to discover how many of these nice women I see every day, with many of whom I consider myself to be a friend, are carpenters and plumbers and contractors and etceteras. Not to play into a stereotype, but many of the houses around here are fixer-uppers, and tend to attract people with home repair skills. Other than me. So while I enjoy the company of friends and neighbors, it's also nice to know I can ask a friend -- either male or female -- for advice on how to fix something or make something and if the job seems beyond me, it's a friend I can hire to do it.

I guess it's just going to take a while longer until the rest of our society notices how many people who seem rather different from the standard they were told is good and decent are actually people. Just for a while, I thought we'd all grown up a little bit, at least around here.


*Boobarella, seeks to solve the mystery of, as they describe it: "Who's boobs will fit the lost bra," a paean to mammary overkill with Lisa Lipps, Tiffany Towers, Angel Bust, Staci Vaughn, and Candy Cantaloupes, winner of AVN's 1993 Best Big Bust Specialty Award.

**Set up at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan by his brother, Glenn Wood, and J. David Spurlock, who compiled Wood's Sketchbook.


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