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‘Tom of Finland’ movie traces gay icon’s life, art

While some may not know the name Touko Laaksonen, they will unmistakably recognize his homoerotic, fetish art.

Better known as  Tom of Finland — the Finnish artist who’s had a huge influence on late 20th century gay culture — has become an icon within and beyond the LGBTQ community for his stylized, drawings of leather clad and nude muscle men.

Finnish director Dome Karukoski will bring the artist and his story to the big screen with an eponymous biopic that will debut in the U.S. at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23.

The film follows Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) as he served in World War II, his artistic career and his induction into Los Angeles’ gay scene during the 1950s.

The Tom of Finland Foundation, established in 1984, is based out of Laaksonen’s former Echo Park home, where he retreated to escape the cold Finnish winters. 

The foundation’s work is to preserve and promote Tom of Finland art. The foundation’s archives include not only the largest collection of Tom’s work, but also the largest archive of erotic art in the world —  more than 100,000 items.

Pekka Strang, center, plays Touko Valio Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland, in the biopic “Tom of Finland.” Photo: Protagonist Pictures.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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