Early Gay Crushes: Chris Egan

First, if you don’t immediately recognize the name Chris Egan, I won’t hold that against you. Sure, close readers of this blog would know that he has been a Top Twenty staple on the Sexiest Males Alive list, and maybe even remember him from his brief cameo in this post about Eragon’s Ed Speleers a year ago. Generally, though, while he has landed credits in a couple of short-lived American television shows (in 2007 it was Fox’s Vanished, and this spring he has been seen in NBC’ dud Kings, alongside former Deadwood star Ian McShane), he is still best known for his role as the initially troubled heartthrob Nick Smith on the Australian soap Home and Away. This alone may prove the point that although American pop culture is usually assumed to hold something close to global hegemony, we are really talking about the absolute triumph of Anglo-American culture. Australia still holds deep formal and informal ties to Britain, and th guysis influence seems to have spilled over into the scheduling of Norwegian television networks.

This, then, is the reason why Home and Away may be a more common reference in Europe than it is in the U.S., but it’s not meant to underestimate the cultural influence the show has had on me personally. Singling out one actor for an EGA post on Home and Away would do grave injustice to that very long line of hot people that inhabited the fictional town of Summer Bay over the years I followed the show most closely (for some largely undefinable reason, I’m no longer following it regularly), so in this instance Chris Egan is more like a symbol of something much broader than himself. Apart from being the H&A guy I had the longest and most passionate crush on – I suppose I still do, in a way – he is chosen here because his post-H&A credentials are at least remotely impressive. He is the closest thing to a breakout star the show has ever come, not counting Ryan Kwanten, who went from playing Vinnie Patterson on H&A in the early 2000’s to the role of surfing manboy Jay in WB’s Summerland and currently HBO’s True Blood.

But Home & Away had, to borrow an Australian phrase, brought heaps of both guilt and pleasure long before the blond boy wonder Egan entered the Bay. I didn’t make too much of the kind-of-cute Zac Drayson, but almost immediately after I started watching the show at age 15, I made a mental note-to-self that young Ryan Clark was reason enough to keep tuning in. My gratitude toward him actually still is so great it secured him a spot on the SMA not that many months ago. And like I said when I wrote about the paradoxical hotness of the supposedly desexualized and family-oriented 7th Heaven a while ago; when you’ve struggled to find a more or less coherent and defensible reason for watching show, you eventually come to appreciate even the less-correct reasons for your interest. In Home & Away there were several over the years, from Drayson, Clarke and Daniel Collopy, to more fleetings acquaintances like Brett Hicks-Maitland, Steven Rooke and Sam Atwell.

If Ryan Clarke’s presence was important for getting me sold on the show to begin with, that interest was further consolidated when Cameron Welsh – later a director on the show – hit Norwegian television screens as Mitch McColl, circa 2001. When I’ve talked to my brother about him and other hallmark H&A hunks in retrospect, I’ve realized that we were both secretly drooling over this guy. We of course had more than enough with coming up with a rationale for how we were feeling privarely to ever admit anything of that sort at the time, but perhaps sensing that our common interest in the show ran a little deeper (a somewhat odd choice of words, considering it was, however secretly passionate, essentially shallow) than we dared to admit, we silently agreed never question our common interesting in an Australian soap.

By this time, at the age of 15 or 16, I was more than old enough to read all of this as clear signals of homosexual tendencies, had I only dared to. For some reason, though, and perhaps as a coping strategy, I insisted that there was no correlation between the fact that I had my first serious couple of gay crushes in school about that time, and the visual satisfaction I so eagerly took away from H&A every afternoon. But whether I accepted it or not, my list of H&A crushes just kept getting longer. The beautiful Beau Brady was a welcome addition, and when Chris Egan eventually teamed up with young Mitch Firth, playing the shyly sexy Seb Miller, it was almost too much. Egan may have been the more obvious heartthrob material of the two, but Firth, who just like Egan has been a regular on the SMA list, was a just as natural addition to my list of unconventional cuties. Also, it didn’t exactly hurt that the producers took every possible opportunity to make them stroll around shirtless. Over the course of their run on the show, which in Norway has always been several years behind the Australian schedule, I grew closer to the age of 20, but I still nurtured the homosexuality I still hadn’t brought myself to embrace personally, in the company of these two guys. When in a nostalgic mood, I still do, only without the shame and self-doubt.

Like I said, I have drifted away from H&A over the last couple of years, but that has very little to do with the guys still gracing the frames of the show. For someone with a relatively diverse taste in men, like me, it still has something to offer my every sensibility, from the tenderly adorable Rhys Wakefield and Geek Squad contender Jason Smith, to Mark Furze or Bob Morley. While it may sound cliched, bordering on cheap,  for a gayer to attribute part of his queer awakening to a soap opera (it feels almost like saying showtunes, or Madonna or David Beckham), it nevertheless is true. If I were looking for early signs of my homosexuality, my devotion to Home & Away in general, and Chris Egan in particular, would be a natural place to start. That I will be forever grateful for.

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16 Responses to Early Gay Crushes: Chris Egan

  1. jay says:

    Well like you , I’ve always had a longstanding crush on Chris . I even downloaded a single of his , I think it was called ‘ Fly Away ‘ . I will always remember the scenes when he wore speedos or went shirtless which as he got older or looked older ( I still find it hard to believe that when he started Home and Away he was 16 ! ) the writers got him and seb to go shirtless more and more .

    I’m pleased he’s crossed over the way he has into film and US television , he just hasn’t been lucky
    with choice of series really .

    I think so many young gay teenagers go through watching soaps or films and safely ‘ crushing ‘
    on actors its like a gay rites of passage so to speak

  2. queerlefty says:

    Thanks for the input, jay.

    I only hope that Chris would have a hit show or movie sometime, if only to ensure that he’ll still be ’round the business. Also, while I have not yet seen Kings, it would’ve been nice to seem him in something that you didn’t have to excuse yourself to other people for watching (I’d put both Eragon and Resident Evil in this category). That said, I would watch him no matter what.

    Speaking of keeping in the spotlight, I would love to know what Mitch Firth is doing – and looks like – nowadays.

  3. jay says:

    Actually Kings isn’t as bad as people make out ,
    when I watched the first two episodes I thought this will sink pretty fast ratings wise as its a bit too much of a ‘fantasy’ . I’m not sure what the budget was ,but production wise the show looked very good . But to be honest I don’t think the premise could run to a whole series .

    Yes what did happen to Mitch ?, my friend had a great nick name for him ‘sullen seb’ as he always,
    well seemed a bit sullen .

    Have you seen Rhys Wakefield in Black Balloon
    he was very good in that . It will be interesting to see how Rhys get on .

  4. Smilie says:

    Looking at the actors in the show I can certainly see the appeal. I think my first early TV crush was (and I’m embarrassed to say it now) was Wil Wheaton (from “Star Trek: TNG”). While my tastes have changed, watching him on Star Trek in those skin tight jumpsuits definitely got my attention (even though I couldn’t admit why at the time).

    This was an interesting post. I’m always curious about peoples’ early crushes. :-)

  5. poeticgrin says:

    “surfing manboy” = who says you’re not poetic? :)

    Chris Egan has flown under my radar… time to do some image googling!

    You’ve raised an interested and important point in regard to the link between entertainment and sexuality, particularly when one is coming of age. For me it was JTT & Home Improvement. Drool. Before I realized I was gay, I was hooked on the movie Stand By Me – not for any sexual reasons whatsoever – but because of the unabashed closeness the male friends were able to show. I will never lose the image of Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix in a supportive embrace.

  6. queerlefty says:

    jay: Kings was pretty much doomed from the outset, but I’ll no doubt try to catch it nonetheless. I wouldn’t miss Chris for the world.

    No, I haven’t seen ‘Black ‘Balloon’. I thought about seeing it when it had its theatrical run here a while ago, but while I certainly think RW is cute, I could quite muster the necessary enthusiasm.

  7. queerlefty says:

    Smilie,

    I’ve never taken even the slightest interest in ‘Star Trek’, but like Bryan, I remember WW from ‘Stand By Me’. But I can’t see what’s supposed to be embarrassing about it? Is it the ‘Star Trek’ portion of it? I love hearing about other peoples EGA’s, too

  8. queerlefty says:

    The way I remember it, movies were always more important than TV shows, when it came to stimulate my not yet conscious gay mind. I never really watched ‘Home Improvement’ that closely. My definitive memory of him is in the mostly awful family comedy ‘Man of the House’ with Chevy Chase and Farah Fawcett.

    Stand By Me keeps growing on me. It’s told in such a simple and sympathetic way, and captures something essential about the young male bonding experience. There’s something deeply profound about the naive BFF feel of the proceedings. When we were young, we actually believed those things.

    Thanks for reminding me, and thanks for reading.

  9. poeticgrin says:

    JTT – The voice of Simba from The Lion King = the reason I slept with a stuffed lion cub at the age of 16.

  10. queerlefty says:

    You were a really dedicated gayer, weren’t you:)?

  11. Smilie says:

    I think it’s more that I had a thing for Wil then for “Star Trek.” He doesn’t really do anything for me anymore.

    “Star Trek” was an important show to me when I was younger. It was a show that painted an optimistic view of the future, a place where prejudice and bigotry were mostly gone. It’s a world I’d like to live in someday.

    • queerlefty says:

      Yeah, I could see how ‘Star Trek’ might work as escapism. Perhaps unfortunately, I wasn’t really aware of the franchise before the whole Trekkie thing had framed my perception of it. I might still go see the new movie, though, to see if it can be rewarding even for an outsider to the universe. How about you?

      I agree on WW too. I guess we’ve both moved on.

  12. Smilie says:

    I haven’t watched the movie yet (I had a rather…eventful weekend) but I’m hoping to see it in the next week.

    I’ve talked to some friends who aren’t into Star Trek at all but went to see the movie. They really enjoyed it.

    I don’t allow the Trekkie thing to frame my perception of the franchise just as I don’t allow “gay culture” to frame what it is to me to be gay. Trekkies get framed as unattractive nerds who live in their parents’ basements, sitting in their authentic replicas of Captain Kirk’s chair spending their nights on forums heatedly debating if Kirk or Picard was the better captain. That’s not me. I wasn’t going to dress up as a Klingon warrior and line up for two hours on opening night to watch the movie.

    The show provided a degree of idealism and escapism that I did (and still do) find appealing. As I’ve matured (depending on who you ask) I’ve also come to see that the show tackles issues that are relevant in today’s society. They’re just more circumspect about it than other shows.

    How’s that for verbose and off-topic? :-)

  13. queerlefty says:

    You’re not more off-topic than I invited you to be, Smilie:)

    In a way, I wish I could have discovered Star Trek earlier than I did, without all the baggage that comes with the Trekkie. This is not meant as condescension towards Trekkies, only to point out that my experience with Star Trek might by now be so distinctively framed
    so as to be beyond relief.

    This whole thing kind of reminds me that I should finally get around to watching Battlestar Galactica. I have to give up my reluctance to sci fi at some point.

  14. dminrunyun says:

    Just came back from the premiere party for “Letters to Juliet” and met Chris Egan. Not only is he adorable but so cool and down to earth. He plays Vanessa Redgrave’s grandson in the movie. He’s got his hit.

  15. queerlefty says:

    Let’s hope so.

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