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Oprah Winfrey Gets the Low Down on the "Down Low" (April 16, 2004)

Down_low_oprah The phrase "on the down low", or the DL, refers to men of color who, while not identifying themselves as being gay, have furtive sex with other men.  This urban slang was picked up by the media at the turn of the 21st century and it picked up steam a few years later with articles in TIME, The Village Voice and the New York Times Magazine.  Then Oprah introduced it to her viewers during an episode of her show that aired on April 14, 2004.  



Downlow.hip-hopOf course, while the DL may be a black construct, men with wives and girlfriends who sneak off to have sex with other men is hardly limited to blacks.  It's been explained that the term was coined because of an aversion many black men have to being labeled as gay.  (Based on the black men I've known, it's quite a generalization.)  Apparently, in the minds of these men, having sex with a man isn't the same thing as being gay, which they equate with being effeminate.  (I wonder if a similar term has been coined in Arabic for Muslim men?)   



Grindr_logo Today, thanks to online chat rooms and the iPad app Grindr, sneaking off for a quickie has never been easier or more tempting.  (Fooling around in the steam room at the gym is so 20th century.)  Because of these new means of communication, wives and girlfriends would surely be freaked if they knew the extent to which husbands and boyfriends play around with other men before work, during lunch and after work.  



Gay_newyork_george_chauncey However, it's hardly a new phenomenon.  In the book Gay Manhattan, which talks of gay life in the first half of the 20th century, author George Chauncey revealed that it wasn't uncommon for a straight blue collar guy to have a gay acquaintance on the side to get him off (without reciprocation) whenever their wives weren't able to provide for all their sexual needs. 




Beyonce Sings National Anthem at Super Bowl (February 1, 2004)

Beyonce_at_superbowlXXXVIII Since Super Bowl XXXVIII (Feb. 1, 2004) was being played in her hometown of Houston, 23-year-old Beyonce Knowles was invited to sing the National Anthem.  Not surprisingly, she looked beautiful and did a faaabulous job (I rank it up there with Cher's and Jennifer Hudson's renditions). 


However, Beyonce's performance has been long forgotten by most because this was the Super Bowl that witnessed the infamous Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake "wardrobe malfunction" (which, ten years later, still reverberates).  I may have been one of the few persons watching the game who missed this incident as I was in the kitchen washing dishes.  However, I did see Beyonce make Houston proud.   




Beyonce_superbowl2Happily, nine years later Beyonce received a lot more attention when she was chosen to provide the halftime entertainment at Super Bowl XLVII and wowed viewers with her Victoria's Secret meets dominatrix outfit.

"Dreamgirls" Opens on Broadway (December 20, 1981)

Dreamgirls_broadway The musical Dreamgirls had its Broadway opening on December 20, 1981.  It would win six Tony Awards, including Best Choreography and three acting awards, but it lost out to Nine for Best Musical.  It ran for nearly four years, closing in August 1985.  25 years later the movie version opened, also at Christmastime.


Dreamgirls_broadway The show is probably best known for 20-year- old Jennifer Holliday's powerful star turn singing the gut-wrenching And I Am Telling You.  It received extensive airplay on the New York radio stations I listened to, WBLS and WKTU, and I repeatedly saw the video of her performance from the 1982 Tony Awards at Uncle Charlie's bar.  Unfortunately, she sat out the performance on the night I took my boyfriend to see the show for his birthday in the summer of 1982 (it was his first Broadway show).  I stewed for the entire show.  




Two years after Dreamgirls closed its acclaimed director/choreographer, Michael Bennett, died at the age of 44 from AIDS.  In the 1990 movie Longtime Companion, about the impact of AIDS on a group of friends,the title song Dreamgirls was featured in one scene, playfully lip-synched by one of the characters. 


Dreamgirls_movie The movie Dreamgirls starred Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), Eddie Murphy & Jamie Foxx.  It took years of twists and turns before the movie reached theaters. (It took even longer for Nine to make it to the silver screen - three years longer than Dreamgirls.)  I didn't like it nearly as much as the Broadway production and found the ending (when Jamie Foxx's character realized he had fathered a daughter - which wasn't in the Broadway version) particularly ludicrous.  At least when I saw it I didn't have to worry about whether Jennifer Hudson would be in the show! 



Cutting Through the Clutter: Sexy Magazine Ads Dripping with Testosterone

In the world of advertising consumer "engagement" is the name of the game - and what better way for mundane products to draw attention to themselves than through the tactic of sex appeal.  Six examples follow: 


  • Pastamatic.  This ad ran in epicurean magazines in the mid-1980s (note all of the mustaches).  Its selling point: "Inside every PastaMatic there's the skill of 10 Italian chefs with the strength of 20 muscular arms."




  • Martex.  Cute guy with cute baby - always a winner.




  • Dial Soap.  From the happy face of this flight attendant you can tell this ad was from the 1990s - before the airlines started slashing staffs and cutting salaries of its flight attendants.




  • Salem Cigarettes.  No, this isn't an ad for iced tea, but a typically ludicrous cigarette ad - but it got this nonsmoker's attention.




  • Mademoiselle Magazine.  The magazine ran its "This Miss is a Hit" ad campaign in the mid-1980s.  Alas, Mademoiselle hit hard times and ceased publication in 2001.




  • Grover Brothers Fabrics.  What a beautiful way to display fabric!




This is part of an ongoing series on sexy magazine ads.  Here are previous  installments:

Print Ads with a Gay Vibe

Magazine Ads with Sex Appeal - the Sequel

Magazine Ads with Animal Magnetism

Men as Sex Objects - Yet More Sexy Magazine Ads





Palm Springs Elects Gay Mayor (November 4, 2003)

Ron_oden Rond_oden2 The U.S.'s first openly gay mayor, Kenneth Reeves, was elected in 1993 by voters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  10 years later, on November 4, 2003, Palm Springs, California (population 48,000) elected 53-year old Ron Oden (right) as its mayor, making him the first gay mayor of a gay resort destination. 



Previously, Palm Springs was most famous for having Sonny Bono as its mayor (1988-92) as well as hosting the Dinah Shore golf tournament, a popular springtime event for lesbians - now known as Dinah Shore Women's Weekend.  Oden also had another thing in common with the nation's first gay mayor - both were black.  (Cambridge has elected two other gay mayors since Reeves.)




U.S. cities which presently have openly gay mayors include Houston; Portland (OR); Providence (RI); Gainesville (FL); and Chapel Hill (NC).  And the newest member of the club, Jim Gray, was elected mayor of Lexington, KY two years ago.


Two fun books about Palm Springs are Palm Springs Holiday which provides a kitschy history of the resort from the 1910s through the 1960s and Palm Springs Babylon which recounts tawdry tales of the rich & famous.   


Gay Drama "Noah's Arc" Debuts on LOGO (October 19, 2005)

Noahs_arc_logoIn December 2000 Queer as Folk debuted on Showtime, a drama that portrayed a world of gay men and lesbians - all of whom were white (just like NBC's Friends).  Gay cable network LOGO remedied this exclusion by producing the drama Noah's Arc, which aired its first episode on October 19, 2005. 


DarrylstephensThe show revolved around the lives of four black and Latino gay men living in Los Angeles.  (Actor Darryl Stephens, left, who plays Noah, is openly gay.)  It became LOGO's highest rated show, but oddly, was cancelled after two seasons and 17 episodes.  (Word was that it was too expensive to produce.)  Two years later a Noah's Arc movie was released in a small number of theaters (the usual fate of gay-themed films). 




Lafayette_reynolds3Matthew_st_patrickRegardless of whether the characters are gay or straight, the most common way to get African Americans characters written into shows is as part of an ensemble with a white cast.  Recent examples of such gay African American roles include Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood (portrayed by actor Nelsan Ellis, far left); police officer Keith Charles on Six Feet Under (portrayed by Michael St. Patrick, near left), and Cameron and Mitchell's friend Longines (pronounced "lawn-ja-ness") from the ABC sitcom Modern Family.


Other posts about the LOGO cable network:

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Gay Issues on TV  

LOGO Cable Network Debuts




In Praise of Mary Wilson of The Supremes

Supremes2I've always thought Mary Wilson was the most glamorous of the Supremes.  She had a beautiful smile, a sexy full figure and seemed the most approachable of the three Supremes.  And she was a constant presence through a number of personnel changes that occurred with the group, which she was a part of from 1961-1977.  (In the photo to the right, Mary is in the middle, between Diana Ross and Florence Ballard.)    



Not to take anything away from Diana, but Miss Ross was a largely manufactured star with a reed-thin frame, bulging eyes and a thin, rather screechy voice.  And although she grabbed much of the glory, Mary always gave Diana her due and refrained from badmouthing her.  I own a DVD boxed set of performances from The Ed Sullivan Show and one of the discs is devoted to the Supremes.  (In the photo to the left Mary is shaking Sullivan's hand.)  Watching their glorious performances I would find myself focusing on Mary who always seemed to be having a good time. 




Sadly, Mary recently died (Feb. 8, 2021), a month shy of her 77th birthday (DOB: 3/6/44).  In 1986 her autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme was published.  It focuses on the groups rise and ascent to superstardom.  A sequel titled Supreme Faith was published in 1990 and details the years following Diana's departure and discusses Mary's career after the Supremes.  (The two books have since been combined into one 752-page volume available on Amazon.) 




The Supremes with Ed Sullivan


Landmark Supreme Court Decision Strikes Down Sodomy Laws (June 26, 2003)

Lawrence_v_texas On June 26, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas' same-sex sodomy law was unconstitutional. The landmark Lawrence v Texas ruling was decided by a 6-3 vote, with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist the dissenting votes.  (Pictured are John Geddes Lawrence, far right, with fellow plaintiff Tyron Power.  Both have died since the decision.)  The ruling voided the remaining sodomy laws in twelve other states as well (including Florida and Michigan). This decision came 42 years after Illinois became the first state to strike down its sodomy law.


Supremecourt_building This ruling reversed the Court's infamous 1986 decision upholding Georgia's sodomy law (Bowers v Hardwick). Many legal scholars consider Lawrence v Texas one of the Court's most important rulings. Once same-sex relations were made legal it opened the way for making same-sex marriage possible - and the state of Massachusetts followed suit the following year.



RuPaul Releases 1st CD, "Supermodel of the World" (June 8, 1993)

SupermodelFour months after RuPaul's fabulously catchy and campy single Super Model (You Better Work) hit clubs, radio airwaves and MTV the 6'4" (without heels) drag performer's debut CD Supermodel of the World was released the week of June 8, 1993.  And in gay circles the phrase "Shante, shante, shante!" was the "it" phrase of the year.  For the rest of the 1990's he seemed to be everywhere flashing his megawatt smile.  (I was especially enamored by his cameos in the two Brady Brunch movies as guidance counselor Mrs. Cummings!) 


Rupaul_as_manTwenty years later the 51-year old RuPaul Andre Charles (pictured, left) still has an active career and is presently hosting RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo TV.  Only Madonna, the Pet Shop Boys and Liza have been going at it longer.  He certainly has taken the edict "You better work" to heart.





A Song Celebrates Promiscuity in the Early Days of AIDS (Summer 1983)




In the summer of 1983, the dance song So Many Men, So Little Time by Miquel Brown was a huge club hit.  However, its timing was peculiar as it was released in the early years of the AIDS crisis.  Hearing it always gave me a chill, and I was surprised there wasn't a backlash over its questionable message - or the cruel irony of the phrase "so little time".       


To be sure, there were other songs that touched on a similar theme, such as Olivia Newton John's Physical and the Weather Girls' It's Raining Men, but they had more of a bubblegum feel to them, and were popular somewhat before the full-blown AIDS panic took hold.  As for So Many Men, perhaps it seemed removed from the gay experience because it was sung by a woman - but it unsettled me nonetheless.