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August 2012

Tears Over the Death of Princess Diana (August 31, 1997)

Princess Diana's life was cut tragically short when she was killed in an auto accident in Paris late Saturday night on Aug. 31, 1997.  She was only 36 years old.  And although we're not British subjects, her death cast a pall over Labor Day weekend here in the U.S.  Indeed, grief over Diana's death reverberated throughout the world.




Diana was especially beloved by the gay community because of her AIDS charity work.  Ten years before her death she visited a newly opened shelter for gay men with AIDS and shook their hands - the first high profile celebrity not afraid to touch AIDS victims.  She further endeared herself to gay men because of her sense of style and the ability to rise above the adversity she encountered while married to Prince Charles.




The Pet Shop Boys wrote a beautiful dirgelike song (with a beat) called Dreaming of the Queen.  It tells of a dream in which Queen Elizabeth and Diana discuss, over a spot of tea, the futility of love.  It was from PSB's album Very which was released four years before Diana's death.  In 2000 I saw the Pet Shop Boys in concert at Radio City Music Hall where I saw them perform this song.  Behind them on stage was a video showing the hearse bearing Diana's coffin, its windshield wipers famously working overtime to clear flowers thrown by the millions along the funeral route.   






(I was spending Labor Day weekend out in Fire Island when I heard the news about Diana's death.  I've written a blog post about what I remember of that night on my history blog "History As You Experienced It".)

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Glide & Twirl in "Top Hat" (August 29, 1935)

TophatTop Hat was the fourth movie Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together and is considered the most popular of their ten movies.  It opened on August 29, 1935 and became the highest grossing movie of that year, bringing in $3.2 million - comparable to $110 million in today's inflation-adjusted dollars (back then the average ticket price was 24 cents).  It included the Irving Berlin classics Cheek to Cheek and No Strings (I'm Fancy Free).



Their refined style and the glamorous settings they danced in make it easy to see why Fred and Ginger have gay fans.  I'm guessing this was true back then as well.  Many gay men identify with Rogers being twirled around in her gown and it's been said that the older Rogers was the inspiration for many drag queens.  And although I love to watch Astaire's effortless dancing, I find him oddly asexual and not sexy in the least.  He was too Upper East Side/effete for my taste.  (Gene Kelly was more to my liking.)




Watching Fred and Ginger was surely a great way to escape the grim reality of the Depression - as opposed to the glut of superhero movies during the first 15 years of the 21st century.   





First Gay Games Held in San Francisco (August 28, 1982)

Gaygames1982 To dispel the notion that gay men and lesbians excel only in figure skating and softball, an international athletic competition for gay athletes was organized that encompassed an array of competitive sports similar to the Olympics - but for this event skill wasn't necessarily a qualifier - all were welcome.  Some events were unique to these games, i.e., ballroom dancing and figure skating with same-sex partners.  Fittingly, the first Gay Games were held in San Francisco (and the second Gay Games as well). The opening ceremonies took place on Aug. 28, 1982.  Like the Olympics the Gay Games are held every four years.  The founder of the Gay Games, Tom Waddell (pictured below), represented the U.S. in the decathlon in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  He died of complications from AIDS in 1987 at the age of 49.  


Tom Waddell


These first Gay Games faced a number of hurdles: 

  • The first was whether potential participants would take the event seriously.  Happily, approximately 1,500 athletes signed up (a number that's increased nearly tenfold since then). 
  • Federationofgaygames The U.S. Olympic Committee refused to allow the word "Olympics" to be associated with this event, thus the name Gay Games was created. (By contrast, the committee had no issue with the athletic competition for the disabled calling itself the Special Olympics.)
  • Another issue was the U.S. government's policy of barring foreign visitors with HIV/AIDS from entering the country, including potential participants in the Gay Games (a policy that was finally rescinded in 2009). 


A more recent controversy occurred in 2006 when a rift over financing resulted in two competing events: the sanctioned Gay Games in Chicago and the first World OutGames held in Montreal (the original choice of that year's Gay Games).  That year the two events were held just one week apart which reduced the number of participants at each competition.  To avoid such conflicts in the future the OutGames hold its event the year before the Gay Games.  




Gay.games.clevelandIn addition to San Francisco and Chicago, other Gay Games have been held in other well-known gay destinations such as Amsterdam, New York City and Sydney.  By contrast, the ninth Gay Games in 2014 was held in Cleveland, Ohio.

Richard Hatch: A Winner, But No Role Model (August 23, 2000)

Richard_hatch_survivor Just two days after Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche made headlines with news of their break-up, Richard Hatch, an openly gay contestant on the popular new reality show Survivor, grabbed the spotlight when he was voted the show's first winner.  Interestingly, he seemed to get more attention for prancing around on camera in his birthday suit than for being gay.  As Survivor's champion the 39-year-old Hatch took home the $1 million grand prize.



Richard_hatch_celebrityapprentice GayMovieHatch01 Although Hatch showed America that a gay man could rough it in the jungle and out-stragetize his wily straight teammates, his aura of invincibility didn't last for long.  For much of the next 10 years he was in and out of court, and even landed in prison for a while, for not paying taxes on his winnings.  As a result, the gay community never fully embraced him as a role model.  And his image wasn't helped by appearing on Celebrity Apprentice and by his nude cameo in Another Gay Movie (pictured, near left). 





Hallmark Introduces Greeting Cards Celebrating Same-Sex Marriage (August 21, 2008)

Hallmark_samesex_weddingsHallmark_samesex_weddings2You can't get much more heartland-American than Hallmark, so it was quite a pleasant surprise in the summer of 2008 when the Kansas City-based company introduced a line of greeting cards to celebrate same-sex marriage and commitment ceremonies.  Small, independently owned card companies already had such cards, but having the nation's largest greeting card company jump on board, and relatively early on, was somewhat of a ringing endorsement (however, its stores were not required to carry them).  Perhaps the impetus was California's legalizing same-sex marriage a few months earlier - as short lived as it would be (but then re-instituted in the summer of 2013).  This came five years after Brides's Magazine, Conde Nast's revered wedding "bible"ran a full page article on same-sex weddings. 


Same_sex_wedding_cardsNearly four years later, in May 2012, shortly after President Obama publicly endorsed same-sex unions, Target came out with a line of same-sex wedding cards created by Carlton Cards, a division of American Greetings (which touts itself as the world's largest public greeting card company, as opposed to the much larger Hallmark, which is privately held).   

Ellen DeGeneres & Anne Heche Call it Quits (August 21, 2000)

Ellendegeneres_anneheche Ellen and Anne were the Brad and Angelina of the late 1990s.  They seemed to turn up everywhere and photos of the "It Couple" appeared on a regular basis.  Perhaps the media's fascination was due to the novelty back then of an out, same-sex celebrity couple.  Perhaps this constant attention took its toll on them, because after three years together Ellen and Anne announced their break-up on August 21, 2000.


Anneheche_callmecrazy Heche, 11 years DeGeneres' junior, claimed she was never truly a lesbian and shortly after their break-up married a man.  (She had also dated a string of men before her relationship with DeGeneres.)  The end of that relationship also got attention because of a nasty child custody fight in which Heche was portrayed as being mentally unstable.  The media had a field day with Heche and her tabloid-worthy troubles.  Her 2001 memoir was titled, somewhat appropriataely, Call Me Crazy


Ellen_oscars Ellen_covergirlDeGeneres' career has skyrocketed since her split with Heche.  She's hosted the Emmys once and Academy Awards twice; been a judge on American Idol; was the voice of the fish Dory in the animated hit movie Finding Nemo; been a spokesperson for American Express, Cover Girl cosmetics and JC Penney; and her Daytime talk show has been on the air since 2003.  Since 2004 she's been in a relationship with actress Portia de Rossi (15 years her junior) - which has also gotten its share of publicity - but not nearly as much as the relationship with Heche. 


Heche_tupper Since the break up Heche's career has been spent largely on TV, including roles in Nip/Tuck, HBO's Hung and the short-lived ABC series Men in Trees.  She also appeared in the revival of the Broadway musical Twenthieth Century, which earned her a Tony nomination.  She's presently in a relationship with her Men in Trees co-star Justin Tupper (pictured, left) who she had a child with three years ago. 





Famed Spanish Poet-Writer Federico Garcia Lorca Executed (August 19, 1936)

Federico_garcia_lorcaJust one month after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War one of Spain's most renowned poets, Federico Garcia Lorca, was executed on Aug. 19, 1936.  His body was dumped into an unmarked grave with those of a few others shot at the same time.  He was 38 years old.  There are a number of conflicting stories about the reason for his murder.  Some say it was for his leftist political views while others cite his homosexuality as playing a role.  To make his murder even more distressing, it has never been determined beyond a doubt where his body was buried.



Little_ashes For a number of years in the 1920s Lorca carried on an affair with avant garde artist Salvador Dali, six years Lorca's junior.  It was said to be a largely unrequited relationship with Lorca the frustrated pursuer.  The 2008 movie Little Ashes tells the story of their anguished relationship.  (Actor Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame, portrayed Dali.)  After showing at a number of lesbian and gay film festivals in the U.S. it had a very limited release.  Although the movie was beautiful to look at reviews were largely tepid. 





How Gay Are You? A Checklist to Review

Test.your.knowledgeSo you're attracted to men, but how "gay" are you really?  It's more than just what you do between the sheets.  To help you determine the degree of your gayness, I've drawn up a check list of what you need to know or do, at minimum, to be a card-carrying, rainbow-flag-flying homo in good standing ...



  • It's an absolute must that you know the correct spelling of Barbra's, Liza's and Katharine Hepburn's first names.




  • Upon hearing the opening notes of Dancing Queen you stop what you're doing and rush onto the dance floor (bonus points for squealing with delight).
  • T-shirts or polo shirts should fit snugly.  Being able to see a slight impression of your nipples through the fabric is the aim.  Remember, fit takes precedence over comfort.
  • If you walk into the middle of a conversation in which your friends are chatting about pitchers and catchers, don't be discouraged if you're not a sports fan because chances are they're not talking about baseball.




  • Vanity Fair is preferred over People.
  • You're able to while away the hours with your friends thinking up drag names (without using the formula that's largely for the amusement of heterosexuals).  Sipping a cocktail or two enhances the experience.
  • You put considerable thought into what you're going to wear at the gym, including briefs, which are important for your locker room striptease.  Lastly, a stylish gym bag is de rigueur.




  • Upon hearing the name Adam Sandler your facial expression involuntarily becomes one of disdain.
  • You have far too much style and creativity to wear a t-shirt that merely says "Abercrombie & Fitch" or "JP Morgan Corporate Challenge".
  • You can recite at least one line of dialogue from each of the following movies: The Women; All About Eve; Auntie Mame; Valley of the Dolls; and Mommie Dearest.




  • You know the U.S. states in which same-sex marriage is legal.
  • Give Sondheim a listen.  Like nipple play, his work is an acquired taste - but it can be very satisfying.
  • Rather than "What would Jesus do?" you ask "What would Martha do?




  • You don't put "clothes" on, you put on an "outfit".
  • You're familiar with the following acronyms: HRC, LLDEF, BDSM, PFLAG, AMFAR, CBT, GLAAD, VGL.
  • Finally, Brazilians = TROUBLE



Porn Legend Al Parker Dies of AIDS (August 17, 1992)

Alparker Alparker2 Al Parker, one of gay porn's biggest stars, died of AIDS complications on August 17, 1992 at the age of 40.  Between 1977 and 1991 he appeared in more than 20 films, including classics such as Inches, Heavy Equipment and Oversize Load.  Whether wearing his hair long or short, the bearded Parker was the epitome of virility.  In his later years he had his own gay film company, Surge Studios, which was one of the first to require its actors to use condoms during filmed sex scenes.



Caseydonovan Parker's death came five years after the death of Casey Donovan (Boys in the Sand), the first porn superstar who succumbed to AIDS.  Donovan was 43.  

The LGBT "Where Are They Now?" Hall of Fame

Where.are.they.nowThis is a follow-up to an earlier post I wrote on the whereabouts of gay and lesbian personalities who enjoyed some time in the limelight.  (The first post, "Whatever Happened To ...?" was published in the summer of 2012.)  It's not that the careers of these twelve individuals are over, it's just that their peak years of fame were five, ten, even fifteeen years ago.



Bobby was a VJ on VH-1 in the late 1980s at the same time as gay counterparts Rosie O'Donnell and Carol Leifer.  Later on the same network he hosted a celebrity interview show titled Watch Bobby Rivers.  From there he went on to do local TV in the New York market and then had a show on the Food Network.  Since then his career has diminished somewhat.  On VH-1 I remember him as being funny, cheerful and a fount of pop culture knowledge - and having a megawatt smile.  (I follow him on Twitter at @BobbyRiversTV.)





Kmetko rose to prominence on the E! cable network as an entertainment correspondent and for a brief time he and Olympic diver Greg Louganis were an item.  Handsome in a Brian Williams (NBC anchorman) meets Hollywood kind of way, Kmetko is now a nicely weathered 60.  According to his Wikipedia bio he now works with celebrities on how to comport themselves during interviews with the press.





He's the 46-year-old son of Barbra Streisand and Eliott Gould.  In 2000 he wrote and starred in a film short, Boys Life 3, in which he played the son of a celebrity who comes out.  He's now more into writing and producing than acting.  Although a private person, he was open about the fact that he is HIV+.  He may make some headlines if a rumored tell-all about life with Babs (apparently he's had a strained relationship with her) comes to pass.





What makes Hal Sparks unique for this list is that he's straight, but he convincingly played one of the gay leads in Showtime's Queer as Folk - the adorable, put upon Michael Novotny.  Although that's what put him in the gay spotlight he was busy in showbiz long before and has been busy ever since QAF.  He turns 45 in September (2014).





Phranc is a lesbian musician whose signature crewcut gave her the look of a cute teen boy - or a clone of kd lang.  According to Phranc's Wikipedia bio she now splits her time between arts and crafts projects and selling Tupperware.  Turning 57 in August (2014), she's lost her boyish allure and now looks more like one of your dad's grizzled drinking buddies from the auto repair shop.







A whip-smart lawyer, activist and former  executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, she was often the go-to person for TV and newspaper interviews about gay issues.  She's the longtime partner of comic Kate Clinton and is 55 years old.





She's a bigger than life stand-up comic, actress and jazz singer.  I saw her in a revival of On the Town in 1997 where she played the cab driver Hildy - it's the only Broadway show I ever left at intermission (but not necessarily because of her).  She also appeared in the Broadway version of Rocky Horror Picture Show (with another "Where Are They?" alum, Sebastian La Cause).  She's 55.  (Update: Delaria has a role in the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black.)






They were the "it" couple during the first half of the 1990s until they broke up.  Paris was a former bodybuilding champion.  Looking back it was pretty amazing that they were so public about their relationship.  (For some they may have been too perfect.)  Bob (pictured on the left, aka "the hot one") is 54 and lives in Vancouver where he writes, does motivational speaking and some occasional acting.  Very little is known about Rod except that he keeps a low profile in LA.





Irascible professor, author, social commentator and admirer of Madonna, Paglia was known for putting feminism through the wringer with her contrarian opinions.  She also wrote a column for the Advocate for a number of years.  Her prickly personality may have played a role in her fading from the spotlight.  She's 66.





Mizrahi is a fashion designer who was the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary in 1995 titled Unzipped (which picked up Best Documentary nods at Cannes and Sundance).  He also had a very successful licensing arrangement with Target.  However, he followed Target with a stint at Liz Claiborne, but that was a short-lived disaster.  Since then he's had a TV presence but his profile isn't quite what it was 10 years ago.  He's 52, one year older than Marc Jacobs.





Knight has more of a theatrical pedigree but is best known for his five years on Grey's Anatomy.  During his time on the show he was outed in the aftermath of a controversy whereby fellow GA costar Isaiah Washington called him a "faggot" during an argument on the set.  Knight then formally came out in an article in People Magazine.  A few years ago he co-starred with Patrick Stewart on Broadway in David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre.  He's now 40.





A child star in the 1980s ABC popular sitcom Who's the Boss?, Pinatauro had the good fortune of working with gay favorite Judith Light.  He came out in an interview with the National Enquirer in the late '90's.  He's now 37 and is a cuter version of Ryan Seacrest.  Like Phranc, Wikipedia reports that he now sells Tupperware.







An NBA player for the Washington Wizards, Collins made headlines in April 2013 when he became the first athlete from a major sports league to come out.  However, much like a quasar, it seemed his time in the spotlight was all too brief.  Collins' contract was up and he wasn't picked up by another team.  Perhaps it was due to his age (35), but others speculated that being openly gay was too much for any team to deal with.  (Update: In Feb. 2014 Collins was picked up by the New Jersey Nets.)