‘Tom of Finland’ movie screens tonight at Outfest

HOLLYWOOD — His unapologetic sexual drawings featuring leather-clad studs and nude muscle men helped shape the fantasies and fetishes of generations of gay men and inspire gay revolution, but who was Tom of Finland?

The film “Tom of Finland” — screening tonight at Outfest — follows the life of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen, from the trenches of WWII through the repression of the 1950s to the advancement of gay liberation.

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Laaksonen first came to Los Angeles in 1978 to showcase his artwork in a solo exhibition. The success of the show led him to become a frequent traveler to the region. The erotic at pioneer lived in a two-story Craftsman home in Echo Park, owned by Durk Dehner, who invited Laaksonen to use the house as his local studio and residence. Laaksonen also used the house to escape the cold Finnish winters.

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Pioneering erotic artist Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland, lived in this two-story Echo Park home during the latter years of his life. Photo: Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

In 1984, Laaksonen and Dehner spearheaded the Tom of Finland Foundation in the house to catalog his work and to provide a safe space for artists facing discrimination and misrepresentation due to the erotic nature of their work.

In July 2016, the Foundation nominated the Tom of Finland House at 1421 Laveta Terrace for designation as an historic-cultural monument. Four months later, the Los Angeles City Council approved the nomination.

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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