(Patrick Strudwick’s article appeared in the Independent, 11/2; via Pam Green.)
Britain's greatest living Shakespearean actor is being held aloft by a gaggle of half-naked, ultra-fit young men, muscles bursting through tight Lycra rowing slips. It is a sea of pecs and jaws and bulges. Sir Ian McKellen – Serena to his friends – does not look displeased. On his lined face, with its droopy, heavy-hooded eyes, the triangular brows – part Jack Nicholson, part John Hurt – dart up, delighted. Were it not for that pesky Elton John, the caption would rightfully read Queen of the World.
He is in the Mayfair Hotel, London, to host an evening for Warwick University's rowing club. Not the most obvious cause for a gay icon, for a heavy-hitting film star – or for Gandalf, as most will know him. But the Warwick Rowers, as they are called, have become rather popular among gay men thanks to their support, both financial and rhetorical, for combating homophobia in sport. And their willingness to be photographed naked. In black and white. Their calendars – playful shots of the lads larking about in the spirit of "Oops! we've just innocently flashed our buttocks" sell in almost vulgar quantities.