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December 2017

Favorite Christmas Songs From A Gay Baby Boomer's Point of View


Merry gay christmas


A few days ago I came across a post on Billboard.com titled 15 LGBTQ Songs for a Holiday Kiki.  It was a fun read, and there were even a few songs I knew, but for the most part it was created with young gays in mind.  And to be honest, from my silver-haired perspective, most of the songs didn't have a very Christmas-y vibe and were often tacky or a bit sleazy.  This inspired me to draw up my own list, reflecting the sensibility of a Gay Baby Boomer.  My selections range across eras, from the mid-1940s all the way to the 21st century; some of the artists are gay, others are gay icons of my generation.  The songs are a mix of standards and musical styles, with a twist of camp thrown in.  Here they are, in no particular order ...


MERRY CHRISTMAS, DARLING - The Carpenters (1970)

I was in 8th grade when this song was released, and like many gay boys of my generation I fell in love with Karen Carpenter's voice.  In the course of four months at the end of 1970 the Carpenters released Close to You, We've Only Just Begun and then this beauty.  To this day I still find myself replaying the end of the song, with its beautiful layering of voices.  Category: Icon


The carpenters at christmas



JOY TO THE WORLD - Joan Sutherland (1965)

Soprano Sutherland's bombastic delivery suits this grand song like a red-velvet glove.  Julie Andrews also has a beautiful, more delicate rendition of this song.  Category: Icon (of Opera Queens). 


Joan sutherland joy to the world



JINGLE BELLS - Jim Nabors (1970)

Nabors' hearty baritone gives this lightweight chestnut a unique (and amusing) power. Category:  Gay performer (RIP)


Jim nabors christmas album



STEP INTO CHRISTMAS - Elton John (1974)

This is the only rocker on my list.  Category: Gay performer


Elton john step into christmas



MY FAVORITE THINGS - The Supremes (1965)

A nice use of sleigh bells in the background.  Category: Icons


The supremes christmas album




This song is from the movie Meet Me In St. Louis.  Another classic Judy Christmas memory is the Christmas telecast of her eponymous variety series from 1963-64.  Category: Icon


Judy garland - have yourself a merry little christmas



LAST CHRISTMAS - Wham! (1986)

A beautiful, adult-oriented classic.  Sadly, 2017 was the first Christmas season without George Michael, who died last Christmas (no pun intended).  And while the song is very pretty, its accompanying video is awful (as most '80s videos are); still, it's been viewed more than 300 million times.  Category: Gay performer (RIP)





JOY TO THE WORLD - Whitney Houston (1996)

This version is from the movie The Preacher's Wife, which starred Houston.  Category: Icon (RIP)


Whitney joy to the world



SANTA BABY - Madonna (1987)

While Eartha Kitt's version from the early 1950s is certainly a hoot, Madonna's has a processed smoothness along with her Betty Boop voice.  Category: Fading Icon





HAPPY HOLIDAY - Peggy Lee (1960)

This has Miss Peggy Lee's signature cool jazz styling.  Category: Camp


Peggy lee christmas



CHRISTMASTIME IS HERE - Billy Porter (2001)

Porter appeared on this benefit CD twelve years before he won the Tony for Best Actor for his performance in the musical Kinky Boots.  (Unfortunately, I could find no YouTube link.)  Category: Gay performer


Broadway cares - home for the holidays cd



WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS - Cast from Glee (2010)

This is upbeat, fun version from the TV show, Glee, first appeared in the Broadway production of Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, in 1966.  And Lucille Ball played Mame in the 1974 movie (the 1958 movie with Rosalind Russell, titled Auntie Mame, wasn't a musical).  Category: Iconic TV series


Lucille ball as mame



THE CHRISTMAS SONG - Donna Summer (1994)

This is a beautiful version, especially the plaintive piano ending, which brings to mind the beginning of Summer's Last DanceCategory: Vilified Icon


Donna summer - the christmas song



MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL - Denise Montana & the Salsoul Orchestra (1976)

This selection has a very chill vibe - very urban gay.  Category: Tom Ford


Salsoul christmas jollies



WINTER WONDERLAND - The Andrew Sisters w/Guy Lombardo & Orchestra (1946)

This version was featured in The Polar Express, and played in the vast emptiness of the North Pole gift operation, which gave off a reverb-effect sound quality, which is different from its original version.  Category: Camp


Andrew sister - winter wonderland




This performance aired during the 1993 PBS holiday special, Christmas in Vienna (other years featured Natalie Cole and Kiri Te Kanawa).  Ross looks exquisite.  This is a great song made even better by her breathless delivery.  Category: Icon



Diana ross - christmas in vienna



KISSING BY THE MISTLETOE - Aretha Franklin (1962)

A fun song from the very early years before Aretha's rise to Queen of Soul-dom (she was 20).  Category: Icon


Mistletoe - gay kiss



THE MAN WITH THE BAG - Kay Starr (1953)

No, she's not talking about condoms (or perhaps she is and I was too dim to catch the secondary meaning).  This song has a great, upbeat Big Band-ish tempo.  Category: Camp


Kay starr The-Man-With-The-Bag



PAT-A-PAN - David Archuleta (2009)

The adorable Archuleta stole the hearts of girls, their moms and gay boys when he competed on American Idol in 2006 at the age of 16, ultimately finishing second.  (He officially came out in 2021.)  Category: Cute as a Bug


David archuleta - pat a pan



And not one of these selections included the song with the lyric, "Don we now our gay apparel"!


Here are links to a few more Christmas-themed posts:

The Hunks of TV's Cheesy Christmas Movies

"The Land of Misfit Toys" - An Early Gay Anthem?

What Makes the Yuletide Gay

K-Mart's Charmingly Risque Christmas Ad

Bette Midler Stars in Christmas-Themed Holiday Ad



"Call Me By Your Name" - Aesthetically Pleasing, But Lacking Sizzle



Since the early part of 2017 I had been eagerly anticipating the release of the movie Call Me By Your Name, which received rapturous reviews as it traveled the film festival circuit.  At long last it opened in New York in late November, but after all of the rhapsodic buzz it generated, I found the movie somewhat of a disappointment.  Although the Italian-set film was beautiful to watch, it felt sanitized (in fact, screenwriter James Ivory, who would win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, groused about its lack of nudity).  And unlike director Luca Guadagnino's  over-the-top, operatic I Am Love from 2009, this effort was more languid, sapping it of carnal fervor.


The reason for my disappointment was largely due to what I felt was a lack of chemistry between Elio and Oliver; their connection didn't ring true.  Furthermore, I didn't get a gay vibe from Oliver.  In my mind he came across as a player whose motivation was deflowering Elio, who served as a conquest.  (In fact, Oliver's demeanor, and even his appearance, somewhat reminded me of Mad Men's Don Draper.)  And Oliver didn't seem like a 24-year-old grad student, but, rather, more like the real age of the actor who portrayed him, 31-year-old Armie Hammer.  (Perhaps this was why he was overlooked for an Oscar nomination.)




Nor did I detect much in the way of sexual tension between Elio and Oliver, which was in stark contrast to the smoldering relationship between Johnny and Gheorghe, the two main characters, in God's Own Country, which opened a few months before Call Me By Your Name.  It was also critically acclaimed, but without the buzz of Name (however, in the UK it won the British Independent Film Award for Best Picture).  And the $375,000 it made in its four-month run in the US was less than what Name grossed in its first weekend ($400,000 in just four theaters).


God's own country - confrontation


With Call Me set in 1983 it had me thinking about the devastating early years of the AIDS crisis in the US (which was never mentioned in the movie).  I pondered how it might impact Elio's and Oliver's lives in a few years.  With Elio being new to gay sex would he be cautious and fearful?  Once Oliver was married would he be living life on the DL and risk the health of his wife? 


The highlight of the movie came during the closing credits as Elio is shown weeping silently as he gazes into the flames of the fireplace in the home of his parents.  His tears came after Oliver phoned him with the news of his engagement to his girlfriend.  Enhancing this tender scene was the gently captivating song Gates of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens.  This scene brought to mind the closing minutes of Michael Clayton, which showed George Clooney's character sitting in the back of a taxi going through Manhattan after his dramatic take down of Tilda Swinton's murderous corporate attorney (but no tears were shed). 


Elio crying - call me by your name


Finally, in what may have been a first, three other gay-themed movies were out at the same time as Call Me By Your Name: God's Own Country, BPM, and Tom of Finland.  And although none of these movies was ever in more than 20 theaters, nonetheless, it seemed like an embarrassment of riches. (However, in April the movie Love, Simon was released in more than 2,400 theaters, selling more tickets in its first two weeks than Call Me By Your Name did in its entire run.) 


Love simon

A Salute to the Hunks of TV's Cheesy Christmas-Themed Movies

Christmas wish - aaron odonnell

Whenever I take a trip back home to Pittsburgh to visit my mom, we spend a good amount of time watching TV.  During this year's Thanksgiving visit (2017) there was, as there always is, a surfeit of cheesy, formulaic Christmas-themed movies on The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and Icon, all with heterosexual romance as their main themes.  But despite their mind-dulling plots and cliched twists and turns, the hunky male leads held my attention - and not once did I implore Mom to change the channel.  While watching I amused myself by fantasizing that the big reveal at the end of each movie would involve the hunk coming out to his lady friend rather than proposing to her. 


Hallmark-christmas-movies-all i want or christma


Here are some of the best "knights in shining armor" I feasted my eyes upon. (Please note that, with one exception, bare chested photos of them are not from their Christmas movies.)


AARON O'DONNELL (32 y.o., 6'1"/born in Ohio)

O'Donnell, a former Ford model, has four holiday movies to his credit: With Love, Christmas (2017); My Christmas Love (2016); 12 Gifts of Christmas (2015); and A Prince for Christmas (2015).  However, he may be most famous for his role as a plumber in TV ads for Liquid Plumr




Aaron o'connell - liquid plumbr ad
Liquid Plumr ad


Model aaron odonnell
A photo from O'Donnell's modeling days, not from the movie


STERLING SULIEMAN (34 y.o., 5'11"/born in Hawaii)

Perhaps best known for his roles in The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, in 2015's The Christmas Wish (on Lifetime) Sulieman portrayed Wesley, director of an agency that places foster children, which is across town from his father's architectural firm, notorious for razing neighborhoods to make way for glitzy Trump-like towers. 


Sterling sulieman - the christmas gift


Sterling sulieman

 Sterling-sulieman-open shirt



RICK FOX (49 y.o., 6'7"/ born in Canada)

A former member of the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers over thirteen seasons, Fox appeared in a supporting role to Sterling Suleilman in The Christmas Wish as the publisher of an alternative newspaper.


Rick fox



ROB MAYES (34 y.o. /born in Ohio)

A child model, Mayes starred in Love for Christmas (2012, on Ion), where he played a naval officer returning home to California, where he bumps into his former high school crush (in real life he briefly attended the US Naval Academy).  The flame is rekindled but she takes a job in New York as a Broadway director, something she avoided telling him until the last minute (at the party following the big Christmas pageant she oversaw).  After she moves he decides to find her (at the urging of his precious 10-year-old niece) and finds her on top of the Empire State Building where he proposes. 




Rob mayes


Rob mayes


DAVID ALPAY (38 y.o., 5'10"/Canadian)

He's starred in three holiday movies.  In The Mistletoe Inn (2017) he plays Zeke, a romance novelist; in Sleigh Bells Ring (2016) he plays Alex, and old flame of the organizer of their town's Christmas parade; and in Ice Sculpture Christmas (2015) he plays David, who enters his friend, a chef, into an ice sculpting contest that pits her against her boss.  Her friendship with David blossoms into romance.


David alpay - sleigh bells ring

  David alpay ice sculpting

David alpay - younger days
In younger days



CARLOS PENAVEGA (29 y.o., 5'6"/born in Missouri)

PenaVega's last name was simply Pena until his marriage to Alexa Vega.  After graduating from the Boston Conservatory, he rose to fame on Nickelodeon, then in November 2015 he competed on Dancing With the Stars and in 2016 he played Kenickie in Fox's production of Grease Live!  And this holiday season he starred in An Enchanted Christmas on The Hallmark Channel where he played the role of Ricardo, a salsa instructor. 


Carlos-penavega-enchanted christmas



Carlos penavega - dancing with the stars
Dancing With the Stars


LEA COCO (41 y.o., 6'2"/born in Louisiana)

Not to be confused with Lea Delaria or Lee Iacocca, Coco is a journeyman actor with no real TV franchise under his belt.  In The Sweetest Christmas (2017, Hallmark Channel), he plays the role of Nick, old boyfriend of Kylie, who owns a pizzeria.  Kylie asks to use his oven when hers malfunctions the day before the American Gingerbread competition.



 Lea coco actor



RYAN PAEVEY (34 y.o., 6'/born in southern California)

Similar to Aaron O'Donnell, Paevey jumped from modeling to acting and is best known for various roles on General Hospital (starting in January 2014).  During the 2016 Christmas season he co-starred in the Hallmark Channel's Unleashing Mr. Darcy, in which he played an arrogant judge at a dog show.  (Yes, it's considered a holiday movie.)


Ryan paevey - unleashing mr. darcy



DANIEL LISSING (37 y.o., 5'11"/Australian)

Lissing appeared with Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman in the shortlived ABC drama Last Resort in 2012-13.  In 2016's A December Bride, he had the role of Seth, who was responsible for introducing Layla's ex-fiance to his bride-to-be, who is Layla's cousin.  Layla can't find a date to the wedding and Seth offers to go with her.




Daniel lissing australian


Daniel lessing in tank top


JESSE HUTCH (37 y.o., 6'0"/Canadian)

Hutch is a Hallmark Channel favorite; he reminds me of a TV version of Channing Tatum.  Growing up in the Canadian Rockies he has a reputation for doing his own stunts (and his bio says that he always had an attraction to action and adrenaline).  He has three Hallmark holiday movies to his credit, where had the roles of Cole in Snowmance (2017); Connor in Becoming Santa (2015); and Brady in Let It Snow (2013).  As you'll see he's the only actor on this list who bared his chest in one of his movies.


Jesse hutch - let it snow movie
"Let It Snow!"


Jesse hutch in snowmance


Jesse hutch becoming santa
"Becoming Santa"



CHRIS CARMACK (38 y.o., 6'1"/born in Washington, DC)

Carmack may be best known for his role as closeted country singer Will Lexington on the ABC drama Nashville.  Before that role he starred in two 2012 Christmas-themed movies, All About Christmas Eve and A Christmas Wedding Date.


"A Christmas Wedding Date"


Chris carmack - all about christmas eve
"All About Christmas Eve"


TRAVIS MILNE (32 y.o., 6'2"/Canadian)

Shortly after his six-year stint on ABC's Rookie Blue came to an end, Milne starred as a workaholic single dad who falls for his personal shopper in A Gift-Wrapped Christmas (2015)


Travis milne - a gift wrapped christmas



BRENNAN ELLIOTT (43 y.o./Canadian)

Yet, one more Canadian!  His most high profile performances were on Lifetime's medical drama Strong Medicine for four seasons and the USA Movie Flight 93 before starring in A Christmas Melody (featuring Mariah Carey) in 2015 and Love You Like Christmas in 2016.


Brennan elliott - a christmas melody


Brennan elliott all of my heart


Brennan elliott driving


I had the makings of my very own Hallmark movie during my trip to Pittsburgh.  I took Amtrak there and my seatmate, who boarded in Philly was a young, friendly, talkative attorney who was also visiting his mom in Pittsburgh.  We chatted non-stop for three hours; from our conversation I surmised that he was single but I couldn't tell if we played on the same team.  However, once off the train we quickly parted, going our separate ways, he taking Uber, me Lyft.  If this story followed the arc of the holiday movies we would have a chance encounter a number of weeks, months or years later.  Alas, it was not to be.




Finally, fast forward a few years to Lifetime and its holiday movie, Twinkle all the Way, in which one of the two sons of Leslie Ann Warren's characters not only was gay, but married as well.  Yes!  And the final kiss of the movie is between husband and husband.  And during the summer of 2020 it was announced that Hallmark Channel was planning to air at least one Christmas move with a gay romance at its center.


Gay kiss_ twinkle all the way_lifetime movie
Husbands kiss in "Twinkle All the Way"