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a complete history of gerbiling so far
January 2, 2013 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Gerbil-stuffing, urban legends, celebrity gossip, and homophobia: Jane Hu in The Awl with A Complete History Of Gerbiling So Far. posted by flex (70 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
[more inside] indeed.
posted by adipocere at 8:39 AM on January 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


I assumed it was just trying to bring Gere down, since he is/was always getting the ladies.
posted by k5.user at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2013


Oh man, I remember hearing this one and it completely blew my mind. I remember it being not so much about Gere in particular, more about "hollywood liberals", since it supposedly happened at a party. You know, where people do that stuff.
posted by DU at 8:44 AM on January 2, 2013


TL;DR: there's (no) little devious rodent.
posted by chavenet at 8:46 AM on January 2, 2013


It was just a euphemism for almost attaining enlightenment but getting distracted right before the crucial moment.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:52 AM on January 2, 2013


You guys, this story is totally true. I heard it from a nurse who was actually in the ER. He name was Le-a (pronouced 'ledasha').

But seriously, who is happier about the Internet existing than Richard Gere? Major media outlets were never going to cover this story in his lifetime and now it can finally all come out.

So to speak.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:54 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am convinced that this urban myth came about because people didn't understand the joke "Q: why do you wrap gerbils in duct tape? A: so they don't explode when you buttfuck them."
posted by rmd1023 at 8:54 AM on January 2, 2013


I have to take some responsibility for this, as I definitely helped spread the Jerry Penacoli story around the playground by mentioning it to Tammy.
posted by orme at 8:57 AM on January 2, 2013


Well, Billy was a boy who had a few ideas of his own ...
posted by RobotHero at 9:00 AM on January 2, 2013


Yeah, I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and both heard and repeated the Jerry Penacoli story, too. What's really odd about it is that I had no idea what that meant or why anyone would want to put a gerbil there. It was just Jerry Penacoli-gerbil-fag, in an almost dismissive way. Like he was less of a person and should be written off.

In retrospect, I feel awful...but at 8 or 9 years old...what the hell do I know about any of this? I am glad he got the last laugh and enjoys a much more successful national career as an entertainment journalist.
posted by inturnaround at 9:02 AM on January 2, 2013


I always get Richard Gere and Tom Cruise mixed up.
posted by adamvasco at 9:06 AM on January 2, 2013


I don't know if this is UK-specific, but there's also the (homophobic) urban legend about Gay Star Of The Month who apparently swallowed so much semen in one go that he had to go to hospital to have his stomach pumped. I've heard it most often about Marc Almond, who actually took pains to refute it in his (ace) autobiography using MATHS and SCIENCE.

The other one is Prince having a rib removed in order to facilitate auto-fellatio.
posted by mippy at 9:09 AM on January 2, 2013


Did you hear that Richard Gere went into the hospital again? This time, it was to have a mole removed.
posted by Chuffy at 9:09 AM on January 2, 2013 [23 favorites]


mippy, I am pretty sure that was Mick Jagger.
posted by thelonius at 9:13 AM on January 2, 2013


No, it was Marilyn Manson!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


While Gere is the most famous person associated with gerbilling, he wasn’t the first. The story seems to have originated circa 1984, and starred an unfortunate mouse.

I've heard people say that the Pet Shop Boys were named after gerbiling, and they've been around since '82 - wonder if this story predated or originated after the Gere story?
posted by mippy at 9:15 AM on January 2, 2013


That Richard Gere. Such a dirty rat.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:15 AM on January 2, 2013


I don't see how one can tell a complete history of gerbiling without telling the epic tale of Lemmiwinks and his survival with the help of the Catatafish and the Sparrow Prince. Lemmiwinks survived to become the Gerbil King.
posted by dios at 9:15 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another thing. Why is it always Tibetan Buddhism with these guys? Not one Hollywood figure, to my knowledge, follows, say, Sri Lankan Buddhism.
posted by thelonius at 9:18 AM on January 2, 2013


thelonius - at school, there was frequently a rumour that a minor star (Keenan and Kel, Gala, Scatman John) had died in a car crash, 'and it must be true because it was on GMTV this morning!'. I was amused to learn that it still happened when my nephew was at school. I bet it was the actual death of one-hit wonder Falco, who actually died in a car crash, that started that trend.
posted by mippy at 9:18 AM on January 2, 2013


Ah, this old chestnut will go down better with that quart of semen Rod Stewart always has, er, to hand.
posted by PapaLobo at 9:20 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just watched Pretty Woman on cable the other day. I couldn't help but constantly think the character he played was Mitt Romney. This completely changed the viewing experience. It could also explained the constant pained expression on Mitt's face during the campaign.
posted by srboisvert at 9:27 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've heard it most often about Marc Almond

I've never heard that one. I did hear it about Alice Cooper and Rod Stewart back in the day. Re: gerbiling, I remember the precise day in 1985 that a (gay) classmate of mine, just back from a summer in NYC, told me that it was the new hot thing in all the clubs.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:33 AM on January 2, 2013


I heard the Jerry Penacoli thing, too -- and did a paper on this very subject for a folklore class in college.
posted by Madamina at 9:45 AM on January 2, 2013


> Another thing. Why is it always Tibetan Buddhism with these guys? Not one Hollywood figure, to my knowledge, follows, say, Sri Lankan Buddhism.

Well, I'm sure if one digs one could find celebrities interested in other strains of Buddhism, like say Steve Jobs hanging out at Japanese Zen temples. But, you can probably chalk it up to influential personality magnates like the Dalai Lama and Chogyam Trungpa for attracting star followers and popularizing Tibetan Buddhism. It also helps that it came wrapped in a nice cause celebre of freeing the Tibetan people from Chinese occupation. Tibetan Buddhsim also has a much more "complete" system of psychology for converts to plug into. I dig it myself even though I'm of a different religion.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:53 AM on January 2, 2013


Yeah the quart of semen thing has always been so laughable. I remember trying to explain it to idiots in High School... [FLASHBACK HARP]

Me: So you see, there's only about a tablespoon of sem- err, jizz, to use your language– in each go...

Idiots: Wow he must have sucked tons of dicks! What a fag!

Me: No, I don't think anyone could suck that many dicks in one sitting, so to speak. We're talking about 64 tablespoons of jizz.

Idiots: Haha! Rod Stewart sucked 64 dicks in one night.

Me: I really don't think so.

Idiots: FAG!
posted by Mister_A at 10:02 AM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


that a (gay) classmate of mine, just back from a summer in NYC, told me that it was the new hot thing in all the clubs.

Seth Meyers: "Gerbiling, what's that?"
Stefon: "It's that thing where you wrap a gerbil in duct tape and stuff him in your ass and he goes into convulsions and..."
posted by bondcliff at 10:04 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


A complete history that doesn't mention the sub-trope of rolling said gerbil in honey and then cocaine.
posted by imperium at 10:15 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even without the gerbil thing I could never take Richard Gere seriously. Ages ago a friend pointed out that "Richard" could be shortened to "Dick" and thus Richard Gere's name was really "Dick Gear." That, of course, was the height of comedy to an 11 year old.

It must have permanently wrinkled my cortex though, because even now the very first reaction at any mention of Gere is to have some vestigial adolescent part of my brain leap up chortling about "HAHA YOUR NAME MEANS CONDOM!" before descending back into the depths of my psyche.

I swear if I ever meet him in person the name thing will be the very first thing I bring up. At this point I couldn't not do it.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:17 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems like many local news personalities were the main character in the gerbiling legend; I remember a local sportscaster that it was widely told of in the 1980's; it was always someone who had a friend who knew a nurse or EMT that took care of him. I have since heard it repeated of newspeople in several other towns as well. It always seemed farfetched and by the time I decided it was an urban legend it struck me as mean-spirited and cruel. It seems strange that such a bizarre legend could become so wide-spread.
posted by TedW at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2013


I always felt sorry for the gerbil when i heard these stories.
posted by Mister_A at 10:29 AM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Although Frank Bough did actually wear women's clothes and take cocaine. Awesome.
posted by marienbad at 10:30 AM on January 2, 2013


The sad part about this for me was always the dawning realization that most people in my country were so ridiculously uptight, joyless, and disinclined to playful experimentation that they'd never put a finger up their own asshole (let alone a friend's), because that's pretty much all it would take to convince you that the gerbil story was bullshit from the very beginning. Gerbils are delicate little animals and the inner pink is an awfully tight place.

I'd like to think that Snopes and the world of the internet would swiftly deflate this kind of idiot talk today, and it does, but I have had to point out the Snopes link on how cut onions do not sit around magically absorbing bacteria after pretty much everyone I know on Facebook shared the same histrionic panic piece about onions, so there's still room for a doof meme here and there.

The gerbil thing comes around at the tail end of The Ronald Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic™, and I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that the lousy stupid ugly eighties were the golden age of meanness, when ubiquitous homo hatred merged with the cultural loosening that allowed everyone to joke about fags nonstop. Defending the gays was sooo gay back then. After AIDS, it was a lot harder to laugh about us, so rectal rodents were just the thing.
posted by sonascope at 10:30 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


> The sad part about this for me was always the dawning realization that most people in my country were
> so ridiculously uptight, joyless, and disinclined to playful experimentation that they'd never put a finger up
> their own asshole (let alone a friend's),

In what way is that more uptight and joyless than, oh, not caring to try lutefisk?
posted by jfuller at 10:47 AM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


sonascope, your comments on uptightness reminded me of this picture, which I saw on the wall of a particularly uptight male student when I was at uuuuni. It made me feel a bit sorry for him, and simultaneously wonder that I might be a bit weird for not needing hours of pushing and prodding to enjoy sexual activity.
posted by mippy at 11:04 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I remember, the favoured punchline to the "quart of semen" story was: "... some of it EQUINE."
posted by Prince Lazy I at 11:21 AM on January 2, 2013


The gerbil thing comes around at the tail end of The Ronald Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic™

No, it's old - I remember hearing that story before Thatcher, even. They probably told it about Beau Brummel and a water-rat.
posted by Grangousier at 11:35 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even without the gerbil thing I could never take Richard Gere seriously. Ages ago a friend pointed out that "Richard" could be shortened to "Dick" and thus Richard Gere's name was really "Dick Gear." That, of course, was the height of comedy to an 11 year old.

It must have permanently wrinkled my cortex though, because even now the very first reaction at any mention of Gere is to have some vestigial adolescent part of my brain leap up chortling about "HAHA YOUR NAME MEANS CONDOM!" before descending back into the depths of my psyche.

I swear if I ever meet him in person the name thing will be the very first thing I bring up. At this point I couldn't not do it.


And presumably your 11-year-old self did not even know Gere's middle name.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:39 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boy named Sue!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2013


Prince Lazy I: "As I remember, the favoured punchline to the "quart of semen" story was: "... some of it EQUINE.""

Old equine in new rockers.

Nthing that I heard the QOS story about Rod Stewart. (Whose name is almost as funny as Dick Gear. Rods-to-hurt, snicker).
posted by chavenet at 11:51 AM on January 2, 2013


It seems strange that such a bizarre legend could become so wide-spread.

The story combines an increasingly common awareness of the existence of homosexuality with a total ignorance of its actual practices, a terror of and disgust with AIDS and gay sex, and a touch of transgressive delight. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that similar stories have circulated for centuries, but the circumstances of the 80's were perfect for making it a myth.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:53 AM on January 2, 2013


True story: in 1992 I wrote a parody about gerbilling, full of florid language like "After about 3 minutes they stop running and start to just writhe. This produces a completely different, massaging motion". Some humorless idiot at PETA saw my post, took it seriously, and tried to get me expelled from my college and fired from my job. Fortunately Reed College was quite familiar with students doing outré things, recognized the satire, and brought the whole subject up with me with discretion and tact. I "negotiated" with the PETAnauts and posted an apology of sorts.

But boy was I pissed at PETA and I will always be. In retrospect it was a good educational moment: at the time I was a forthright leftist activist, a vegetarian, and not entirely thoughtful or careful about my own positions and actions. Seeing someone like PETA treat me so poorly was a good lesson.

So gerbilling: gay men don't believe in it, but PETA does.
posted by Nelson at 12:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The other one is Prince having a rib removed in order to facilitate auto-fellatio.

Like Prince would have any trouble finding people to fellate him.



More likely it was so that his waistcoats would fit properly.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:08 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the Crushable link about Richard Gere:

1. Perhaps the most bizarre fact is that not a lot of people actually know this story! When we were pitching ideas for covering Gere’s birthday and one of us mentioned this, another writer had no idea what we were talking about. So before we can go any further, you need to hear the story.


Because we all do NEED to know this story that didn't happen anyway.
posted by philip-random at 1:21 PM on January 2, 2013


I heard that Prince removed his rib so that he could create Vanity.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:21 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


but PETA does.

I'm never clear on what PETA actually believes in versus what they're willing to say they believe in as media-bait.
posted by aught at 1:29 PM on January 2, 2013


The article's big point is that the gerbil Urban Legend derived from AIDS fear. In 1987 or so Derek Raymond (pen name) began writing I Was Dora Suarez, a really bad best-seller that was published 1990. In the book there is a club for gay AIDS sufferers where gerbils are lowered into the remains of their wrecked anuses. Because, you see, AIDS rots your ass off. It was surprising to me when I first read this book that the writer was such an idiot, more surprising that the book sold well, and astonishing that the damn thing was re-printed. The author claims that this is his "greatest" achievment. The book purports to be sympathetic to gays -- it's like, I know you poor guys need gerbils and I'm okay with that -- even as it exploits this weird fantasy.

(tl;dr) The article is dead on when it relates the gerbil myth to AIDS fear.
posted by CCBC at 1:29 PM on January 2, 2013


I don't know if this is UK-specific, but there's also the (homophobic) urban legend about Gay Star Of The Month who apparently swallowed so much semen in one go that he had to go to hospital to have his stomach pumped. I've heard it most often about Marc Almond, who actually took pains to refute it in his (ace) autobiography using MATHS and SCIENCE.

Yeah, this story used to be about Rod Stewart, and it was that he passed out on stage, went to the hospital and had 8 ounces of semen pumped from his stomach. I think I first heard it in 1978. It was always a bit confusing to me because I had thought Rod liked tarty birds, so was he banking his own spunk for special occasions? I also heard the Richard Gere-bil story just a year or so later (from the same older friend), so it's a much more venerable story than Crushable thinks.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2013


an increasingly common awareness of the existence of homosexuality with a total ignorance of its actual practices, a terror of and disgust with AIDS and gay sex, and a touch of transgressive delight

I think Focus on the Family just found their new fundraising tagline.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:38 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In what way is that more uptight and joyless than, oh, not caring to try lutefisk?

Sadly, I think the nightmarish cartoon skunk trail aroma of lutefisk would be a major disincentive in that regard, and I'm fully aware that I mean that even in comparison to ass. Of course, I've currently got a chunk of gorgonzola piccante in my refrigerator that is like a wedge of sweet festering heaven, and even still, as I'm raising it to my mouth, I have to laugh a bit and wonder how anyone smelling that for the first time would have thought to, say, raise that substance to their mouth. Sometimes, you just have to plunge into the unknown.
posted by sonascope at 1:41 PM on January 2, 2013


The gerbil thing comes around at the tail end of The Ronald Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic™

No, it's old - I remember hearing that story before Thatcher, even. They probably told it about Beau Brummel and a water-rat.


Now that I think about it I heard it the year American Gigolo came out- that was 1980.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:43 PM on January 2, 2013


The version I was told is that the gerbil was frozen, defrosted in the warmth, then started to dig its way out. Which doesn't even make sense and I heard it when I was old enough to know that's not biologically possible. But man, that image really sticks in the brain once imagined and even now thinking about gerbils makes me shudder and clench my buttocks a little.
posted by shelleycat at 1:52 PM on January 2, 2013


Oh, how nice. This article fills a much needed gap.
posted by ocschwar at 1:59 PM on January 2, 2013


You said fill the gap.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2013


Armageddon!
posted by Chuffy at 2:32 PM on January 2, 2013


ChristianMingle.com being the featured ad on this page has no significance, right?
posted by lothar at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2013


I don't have a funny thing to say about this stupid link.

It's kind of relevant. As relevant as a YTMND can be.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:07 PM on January 2, 2013


The one I've always wondered about is Sarah Greene and the college first fifteen on the snooker table. Everyone knew the story when I was at school (many many miles from the alleged location) and later on I found that a lot of people I met, from all around these fairish isles knew almost exactly the same story. How did something so relatively specific in its details (Sarah Greene : University of Hull : Rugby Team : Snooker table) get to all the prurient youth of the UK without the internet? Gossip, yes, but how did it remain so immune to data loss?
posted by Grangousier at 4:26 PM on January 2, 2013


> Gossip, yes, but how did it remain so immune to data loss?

Certain data propagates like a perpetual motion machine. When the N word is said aloud out in public it penetrates to every corner of the space. Has anybody ever done the telephone game with the Gere gerbil anecdote?
posted by bukvich at 4:48 PM on January 2, 2013


I'd never heard the Sarah Greene story before now, but a quick Google suggests that it's probably a mix of Blue Peter being well loved in the colonies, sporty types loving to tell that type of story, and is seems to have grafted onto an existing story, notably one told about Clara Bow.

I'd never associated the gerbil story with being a gay urban legend either. The only one I remember was a gang of gay youths called the Bottle Boys, who would prowl suburban streets looking for tender young things to sodomise with broken beer bottles. In those days I considered it highly improbable. The Internet has taught me that somewhere there's probably some tragic grain of truth in that one, somewhere.
posted by Mezentian at 4:52 PM on January 2, 2013


The first time I heard the story was when I was riding in an elevator with Reggie Jackson and his Doberman Pinscher. Or was it Eddie Murphy and a Rottweiler?

> Gossip, yes, but how did it remain so immune to data loss?

Not so much data loss, but rather variation. Many time-tested urban legends will be able to persist more or less unchanged for decades, with all their specific details intact, but just as often, variations will emerge, wherein the names & places will change, but the "punch line" or overall point of the story survives.

Sometimes it's simply a case of a celebrity story being updated to include someone more contemporary, hence Rod Stewart or Elton John becomes Marc Almond, or Cher becomes Marilyn Manson, etc.

Other times, both people and places may be interchanged to include details more locally familiar, as with the case of the news reporters, or when stories cross borders.

However, the details of any one version tend to stick through retelling due to their simplicity, their shock value (shocking or sordid stories are often more memorable due to the strong emotional associations we create upon hearing them) and the fact that they are treated as true stories, unlike the "telephone game," which is more about trying to remember seemingly random objects and actions.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:23 PM on January 2, 2013


Yeah, this story used to be about Rod Stewart, and it was that he passed out on stage, went to the hospital and had 8 ounces of semen pumped from his stomach.

The story has been around for decades, attached to whomever is on the charts. It is usually stars a male (Elton John and David Bowie were the subjects in my schoolyard days) but occasionally it is a female singer: ten years ago I heard it with Britney Spears as the unfortunate in the emergency room, and I thought, "Well, at least that would explain what the $500-a-ticket front row concertgoers get for their money."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:50 PM on January 2, 2013


That Jane Hu is smart.
posted by latkes at 8:35 PM on January 2, 2013


Old equine in new rockers.

QFT.
posted by sneebler at 8:47 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The story has been around for decades, attached to whomever is on the charts. It is usually stars a male (Elton John and David Bowie were the subjects in my schoolyard days) but occasionally it is a female singer: ten years ago I heard it with Britney Spears...

The version I heard for years was Alanis Morissette, until eventually someone said, "No way, you guys, I am pretty sure it was actually this old guy named Rod Stewart."
posted by naoko at 9:28 PM on January 2, 2013


Grangousier: “No, it's old - I remember hearing that story before Thatcher, even. They probably told it about Beau Brummel and a water-rat.”

The point is absolutely not how old the damned thing is. The point is the bitter meanness behind it. And that it rose in prominence (no matter how far back you may remember it) during the AIDS epidemic, when ungays wanted as many reasons as possible to talk in hushed whispers of the horrifying deviancy of gay men in order to stoke the flames of their paranoia and fear.

I get the feeling not a whole lot of people read all the way through the article here. You don't even have to look at the other links; the main article stands nicely on its own, particularly if you read through to the end.

To wit: this is not a story about kooky urban legends. It's a story about homophobic paranoia.
posted by koeselitz at 10:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The other one is Prince having a rib removed in order to facilitate auto-fellatio.

Is that all it takes? Would insurance cover it?
posted by orme at 4:21 AM on January 3, 2013


Is that all it takes? Would insurance cover it?

I think the correct response is "gay, dude".
I did a bit of googling and, in truth, it seems that rib removal has little to do with it.
It seems to require "right combination of flexibility and penile length" and noted performer Mr Ron Jeremy implies that it was not pleasurable.
posted by Mezentian at 4:39 AM on January 3, 2013


Actually, the amount of pleasure one can get from it may be somewhat proportional to how gay you actually are. Or at least how much you think of oral self pleasure as masturbation rather than a sex act. And it definitely has something do with how comfortable you are once you are flexible enough.

(Though I can't help but think it may also be true that even Ron Jeremy doesn't find Ron Jeremy attractive enough to have sex with.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:37 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have heard (from someone able to accomplish the act, thereby becoming the focus of a bit of collective inquisitive awe) that "it feels more like sucking a cock than like getting your cock sucked".
posted by flex at 8:00 PM on January 3, 2013


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