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Gay Actor Rupert Everett Plays Gay in "My Best Friend's Wedding" (June 20, 1997)

Rupert_everett_best_weddingTwo months after Ellen DeGeneres made headlines by personally coming out and then having her character come out on her ABC sitcom as well, Rupert Everett played gay in the movie My Best Friend's Wedding.  He was besties with Julia Roberts' character, a bereft single woman driven to sabotage the wedding of the man she loves - her best friend in college, played by hunky Dermot Mulroney.  Everett agreed to play along as Robert's fiance as a way to make Mulroney's character jealous.  Awkward moments and madcap comedy ensued  Everett's role was somewhat of a watershed because he was a gay actor playing a gay role.


Dermot_mulroney2Dermot Mulroney, the man who breaks Julia Roberts' heart, should not go ignored since I think he was at the peak of his sex appeal when the movie came out (he was 33 at the time).  Perhaps if the movie had been released 15 years later he and Everett's character could have been the ones getting married.


Rupert_everett_bestfriendsweddingThe movie was a hit, grossing $300 million worldwide and Everett got raves for his supporting performance.  There was a talk of him getting an Oscar nomination but, alas, he was passed over; however, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award (he lost to Burt Reynolds who was in Boogie Nights).  The snub left him somewhat bitter and he alluded to the fact that he wasn't nominated because was openly gay and that made Hollywood nervous.  The following year he had a role in Shakespeare in Love which was another box office smash, grossing nearly as much as Wedding.  


The 54-year-old Everett hasn't done a whole lot in the past six years, but he did have a role in the 2012 indie film Hysteria as the somewhat mad scientist who helps in the invention of the vibrator.      


New York City Hosts Gay Games IV (June 18-25, 1994)





For the most part the gayest event to occur in New York City was the Tony Awards.  But in 1994 NYC was chosen to host the fourth Gay Games.  (San Francisco played host to the first two Gay Games in 1982 and 1986; Vancouver hosted in 1990).  It was also a fitting way to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, which embroiled Greenwich Village in late June of 1969.  Opening ceremonies were held on June 18 at Columbia University Stadium; Yankee Stadium was the site of the closing ceremonies.  At first, Yankees management was unwilling to make the stadium available, but mayor Rudy Giuliani appealed to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's civic spirit.





More than 10,000 athletes from 44 countries participated in 31 events, including HIV+ athletes who were allowed entry into the US after the Clinton administration waived visa restrictions (but they were limited to a 10-day visit).  Sporting events included traditional ones such as weight lifting, swimming and track & field, as well as more off-beat competitions such as badminton, in-line skating and aerobics.  Billie Jean King and Greg Louganis spoke at the opening ceremonies and Sir Ian McKellen presided over the closing ceremonies.  Louganis also gave a diving exhibition.




At the same time as the Gay Games, the United States was playing host to soccer's World Cup for the first time; the first three matches were played in the New York area at Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey.  It was estimated that these two events plus Gay Pride festivities drew 1.2 million visitors.



The First "Gay Day" Held at Disney World (June 1, 1991)

GaydaysIn an audacious display of visibility, 3,000 gay and lesbian Floridians converged on Orlando's unsuspecting Disney World on Saturday, June 1, 1991 to enjoy the rides and attractions with their friends - just like everyone else.  This "Gay Day" meet-up has continued on the first Saturday in June ever since - and expanded in a big way.


Gay_mickeyTo make the gay attendees recognizable to each other, they were instructed to wear red-colored shirts - ironically, years before the color became linked with the Republican party.  Today the celebration now encompasses nearly a week of festivities, and all four Disney theme parks in Orlando participate as well as Universal Studio's complex.  The number of attendees now approaches 150,000.  Additionally, Anaheim and Las Vegas also have their own Gay Days events.


Gaydays_redshirtsLike the first Gay Day, this popular gathering still isn't an official Disney event and the company doesn't publicize it, instructing employees to treat it like any other day.  As a result, unsuspecting heterosexual families are still taken by surprise and don't always take kindly to this "flash mob" incursion, reacting with shock and anger that their weekend has been ruined.  (If they ask for their money back, Disney accommodates them.)    


Out_at_ballgame_nymetsThat first Gay Day was an early instance of prying open the eyes of the general public through visibility, which was anathema to the anti-gay religious right.  Since then we've become visible in most walks of life, e.g. portrayed on TV shows and commercials; voted into Congress; participating in the Olympics; working as successful business executives; and now the NBA and NFL each have an openly gay player.  And more than half of Major League Baseball's teams recognize their gay fan base by sponsoring LGBT nights.  (A gay male couple was even shown smooching on Kiss Cam at the Giants game in, where else, San Francisco!) 


Actor Robert Reed, aka "Mr. Brady", Dies of AIDS (May 12, 1992)

Rock_hudson Anthony_perkins Liberace In the early days of the AIDS crisis it was common to assume that any man stricken with it was gay.  As a result, AIDS inadvertently outed a number of its celebrity victims.  Although their close circle of friends may have known about their sexual orientation, the general public was largely unaware.  However, once news that celebs such as Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins and Liberace had AIDS their "secret life" became known.  It was an unfortunate way of being outed.  And in some cases family members vehemently denied that AIDS was the cause of death.


Robert_reed Mike_and_carol_brady Such was the case with actor Robert Reed, best known for his role as architect-dad Mike Brady in the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch, which aired from 1969-1974.  Until he died of AIDS on May 12, 1992, the viewing public was largely unaware he was gay.  He was 59 at the time of his death, which was relatively old since AIDS victims were largely in their 40s.   Although his Wikipedia bio disputes that he died of AIDS, another Wikipedia article lists Reed among celebrities who died from it.  Other articles site that he was HIV+, which was a contributing factor to his death from colon cancer.


22 years would pass before the next cast member passed away, actress Ann B. Davis, who portrayed the Brady's live-in maid, Alice.



Billionaire Malcolm Forbes Outed by Outweek Magazine (March 11, 1990)

Malcolm_forbesBesides his financial acumen, high-profile billionaire Malcolm Forbes was also well known for his hobbies of motorcycling and hot air ballooning, as well as his much publicized friendship with Elizabeth Taylor.  He died on February 24, 1990 at the age of 70, and two weeks later the fledgling weekly gay magazine Outweek ran a cover story outing him (cover date of March 18).  It was written by gay journalist, and rabble-rouser, Michelangelo Signorile.  (Although the cause of Forbes' death is listed as "heart attack", it is rumored that he actually committed suicide upon learning that he was HIV-positive.)




OutingThe story about Forbes was actually just part of the story as the thrust of the article was about the double standard used by the media when it came to reporting on the private lives of closeted gays and heterosexuals.  The act of "outing" was controversial not only with the general public but within the gay community as well.  Because of its potential negative ramifications a debate raged about how ethical it was to reveal a person's sexual orientaiton before they were prepared to do so themselves.  Twenty years later it seems to be reserved mostly for closeted politicians who support anti-gay legislation. 


Outweek_final_issueOutweek_first_issueAs for Outweek it lasted for just two years.  Both its first (near right) and last issue (far right) were published during Gay Pride Week.

"Lesbian Kiss" Episode Airs on "Roseanne" (March 1, 1994)

Roseanne_lesbian_kissIn November 1992, during ABC sitcom Roseanne's fifth season, Sandra Bernhard's character Nancy was introduced as the first regularly occurring lesbian character in a TV show.  Sixteen months later on March 1, 1994 (at the end of Nielsen's February ratings "sweeps") Nancy's girlfriend Sharon, played by Mariel Hemingway, kissed Roseanne at a lesbian bar.  Roseanne went to Lanford's bar "Lips" to prove how "cool" she was; however, she became unnerved by this five-second kiss and realized that perhaps she wasn't as "hip" as she thought.  (Hemingway had also portrayed a lesbian in the 1982 movie Personal Best.)     







Greg Louganis Reveals He's HIV-Positive (February 22, 1995)

GregLouganis_PeopleMagazine On February 22, 1995 35-year old Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis called a press conference and disclosed that, not only was he gay (long rumored), but also HIV+ (which he was aware of since 1988). 


These revelations were in preparation for publication of his autobiography Breaking the Surface.  Two days after the press conference he was interviewed by Barbara Walters on 20/20 (see video clip below).  The following week he spoke at a meeting of NYC's gay professional group, New York Advertising & Communications Network (now called Out Professionals), at Cooper Union before an audience of 500.


Two years later a TV movie about Louganis' life, with the same title as his autobiography, aired on USA Network.  It starred 23-year old Mario Lopez.  


                                                                                         Rudy_galindo Magic_johnson Greg_louganisLouganis' disclosure came 2-1/2 years after NBA great Magic Johnson revealed that he was HIV+.  And in 2000 openly gay figure skater Rudy Galindo (1996 U.S. Men's National figure skating champion) also announced his HIV status.  A very important lesson conveyed by Johnson, Louganis and Galindo, all still alive, was that life can go on despite an HIV diagnosis, i.e. HIV does not equal death.  For many it's a chronic condition that can be managed with anti-viral drugs, not a death sentence. 










AIDS Strikes Down Famed Graffiti Artist Keith Haring (February 16, 1990)




Few well-known personalities have died of AIDS at such a young age as graffiti/pop artist Keith Haring, who was 31 at the time of his death on February 16, 1990.  And with the exception of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Egon Schiele, who died in their late 20s, no other accomplished artist was younger at the time of his death as Haring.  But he accomplished a lot during his career in the 1980s and was known worldwide.  He left behind an estate worth $25 million.


I remember seeing Haring's curious "creature graffiti" on the walls of the Sheridan Square/Christopher St. subway station in 1981 when I moved into Manhattan.  His art was playful and otherworldly with a touch of foreboding. (Not only was he known for his art but for social activism as well.)  The style evoked that of the Incas and Mayans.  His work has appeared on T-shirts, exterior and interior walls, postcards, greeting cards and CD covers.  Many books have been published about his life and work including Keith Haring: Life for Art as well as a number of documentaries including Universe of Keith Haring




Three other noted pop artists died in the three years preceding Haring's death (pictured, from right to left): In 1987 Andy Warhol died at age 57 (complications after surgery); Jean-Michael Basquiat died in 1988 at 27 (heroin overdose) and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe died from AIDS complications at the age of 44 in 1989.


Andy_warhol Jean_michel_basquait Robert_mapplethorpe





New York Gay Life as Depicted in Postcards


I've previously published posts that were based on my collection of magazine covers and print ads (e.g., "Print Ads w/Gay Vibe").  I also have an extensive collection of postcards.  Some of the best are freebies found in postcard racks at restaurants and bars that describe the zeitgeist of the time.  This post looks at some of my favorites gathered between 1995-2001.  So, let's begin our trip in my time capsule ...


In the 1980s Uncle Charlie's was undoubtedly the most popular gay bar in New York City, but its popularity waned after Splash opened in the early '90s.  The bar had locations on 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill as well as on Greenwich Ave.  Between 1990-1992 I lived in an apartment that was across the street from the Greenwich Ave. location.  From my kitchen window I could watch who went in and out as well as observe an occasional cat fight.




This off-Broadway play 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night was the first production of Rattlestick Theater, located on Waverly Place.  It opened in the spring of 1995.





This is one of the most beautiful postcards in my collection.  It was for a benefit for Bailey House, which provides housing for homeless individuals with AIDS.  It's located at the west end of Christopher St. near the West Side Highway.




Raymond Dragon (pictured below), a porn actor and director, had a stint as a designer of swimsuits and workout gear in the second half of the 1990s.  He owned a popular clothing store on 7th Avenue in Chelsea.  I bought one of my favorite swimsuits of all time there in the summer of 1997 -  a vivid blue square cut with a vertical strip of metallic silver on one side.  Dragon turned 52 this summer (2013).






The very popular Food Bar opened in the early 1990s just as gay life in NYC was moving northward into Chelsea (Splash opened at about the same time).  Located on 8th Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, it closed in 2009.  (A Chipotle is now there.)  Candy Bar was another nearby restaurant, but it didn't meet with the same wild success as Food Bar.





Antonio Sabato, Jr. was ubiquitous in the first half of the 1990s as a Calvin Klein underwear model (along with Marky Mark).  You could find him in magazine and TV ads, on one of Times Square's giant billboards and on free postcards like this one.  Sabato turned 42 at the end of February 2014.




This was a great series of ads for Chanel for Men.  Each had a scent packet on the back of the postcard.  The only line of copy was in small type on the bottom of the card and said either, "If he wears nothing else", or "What should he wear?"




Ah, our Patti!  At the time of this 1995 ad campaign LuPone was in her mid-40s.  Career wise, her stint on the ABC drama Life Goes On had ended a few years earlier, and in 1994 she was unceremoniously fired by Andrew Lloyd Weber from the London production of Sunset Boulevard (before it came to Broadway).




Varla Jean Merman was a popular drag performer, who claimed to be the daughter of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine.  Besides having a great singing voice, Varla Jean was also known for being able to sing while spraying an entire can of string cheese into her mouth.  She had a daytime job (as Jeffrey Roberson) in the creative department of ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, where I also worked (between 1995-2001).  I remember seeing her perform at a number of company holiday parties.  This postcard is promoting her 2001 Christmas concert at Town Hall, a benefit for God's Love We Deliver.




This sexy postcard was an ad for a hair salon on West 16th St.




Body Positive promoted its 1998 Academy Awards benefit/party with this postcard.  It was held at the club Twirl, located on West 23rd St.  Back then, the Oscar telecast aired on Monday night in late March.




In the late '90s the sports bar Champs opened a few blocks north of Splash but it couldn't compete, and closed after a few years.  This postcard was for one of its theme nights.  10 years later, a more successful sports bar, Gym Sports Bar, opened on 8th Ave near 19th Street. (Its website incorrectly touts itself as being NYC's Original Gay Sports Bar.)




This postcard was for the first Tulips & Pansies AIDS benefit, held in 2001.  It was like the Tournament of Roses Parade, but with the floral arrangements worn as headdresses.




This next postcard promoted a CD in which songs composed with men and women singing to the opposite sex were performed in same-sex fashion.  There was a separate CD for men singing to men, and women singing to women (and another postcard in which two women are in the foreground).




The "Trocs" are a troupe of accomplished male dancers dressed as ballerinas.  Each dancer has a wonderfully daffy Russian name.  I saw them perform a number of times at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea (two doors up from Gym Bar).




Here's something for the ladies, a lesbian dance party.  It was held at the club Industria on Washington St. in the West Village, and was a benefit for a show titled Vegas Girl.  The party promoter also organized a regular women's event called Planetgirl.




The Gay & Lesbian Community Center opened on West 13th St. in the mid-80s.  The building, a former high school, was in disrepair, so in the late '90s a renovation began.  During that time the Center temporarily relocated to the Meat Packing District (before it became a yuppie/Gen X magnet).  This postcard announced the Center's re-opening in the spring of 2001.







Jerry & George Mistaken as Gay Couple on "Seinfeld" (February 11, 1993)

Jerry_and_george So many episodes of Seinfeld can be considered "classic", but the episode that aired on Feb. 11, 1993 is a classic among classics.  A young woman overhears Jerry and George at the coffee shop, and from their banter she thinks they're a gay couple.  Later, her assumption appears correct when she visits Jerry to interview him for the NYU student newspaper and finds George there as well - bickering with Jerry like a married couple.  The episode was the source of the catch phrase, "Not that there's anything wrong with that".  It was spoken throughout the episode after every vehement denial by Jerry or George.  (They said it so their friends wouldn't think they were homophobic.)


Seinfeld_gay_episode Just as things appeared to have been "straightened" out (Jerry and the reporter ended up going on a date), George tried to use his mistaken orientation as a way to break up with a woman he was dating.  As is usually the case with George, his plan backfired - Jerry lost the girl, George couldn't shake his and more hilarity ensued.  And, of course, the last line of the episode (this time spoken by Kramer) was ...


Seinfeld_season4 Unfortunately, the clip I wanted to include can't be shared.  However, you can find the episode in the Season 4 DVD (which includes the classic "Bubble Boy" and "The Contest" episodes.)