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LGBT History: A Salute to Our Gay & Lesbian Elders (Age 75+)

Stephen.sondheim Giorgio.armani Edith.windsorThis post celebrates nearly three dozen accomplished gay and lesbian individuals who are at least 75 years of age.  In their formative years, mostly during the 1950s and 1960s, life posed many challenges because of their sexual orientation.  However, they managed to excel in their careers even if it required hiding their true nature.  Most are now open about their orientation and are beacons of inspiration for young LGBTs.  What follows are some top-line findings.  (The list can be found at the end of the post.)


  • The oldest of the group is gossip columnist Liz Smith, who is 91, ten days older than director Franco Zeffirelli.  Prolific composer Ned Rorem is 90.  (Deceased gay icons who lived beyond 90 include architect Philip Johnson, who died at 98; actor John Gielgud, who lived to 96; and artist Paul Cadmus, who was 95 when he died in 1999.)
  • Probably the most famous are composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim (84) and fashion designer Giorgio Armani (78).
  • Only four of the thirty-four persons on this list are women: Liz Smith; same-sex marriage activist Edie Windsor (84); director/producer Jane Wagner (79) and author Patricia Nell Warren.
  • Only one person on the list is Black, singer Johnny Mathis (78) and just one is of Asian heritage, actor George Takei.  None are Hispanic (the oldest is Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is 66).


Johnny Mathis


Edward Albee


Larry Kramer


Tommy Tune


  • This seasoned group has worked in sixteen different occupations, with fashion designers and playwrights represented the most, by four names each.  Arnold Scaasi; Valentino; Karl Lagerfeld; and Giorgio Armani are the designers (all foreign born), while Edward Albee; John Glines; Mart Crowley; and Terrence McNally are the playwrights.   In addition, there are three directors, three composers and three authors.  
  • Ian McKellen will join this group next month when he turns 75 on May 25 ) and Lily Tomlin on Sept. 1.  Three more will turn 75 next year: author Edmund White, fashion designer Bob Mackie and former Congressman Barney Frank.  The most recent death of someone in the 75+ group was pianist Van Cliburn who was 78 when he died in February of 2013.
  • If there lives weren't cut short by AIDS some well-known gay men would no doubt be part of this group, including choreographers Robert Joffrey and Alvin Ailey; athlete Tom Waddell; dancer Rudolf Nureyev; actors Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Larry Kert and Robert Reed; pianist Liberace; and French philosopher Michel Foucault.


(Ages as of May 1, 2014)
  Profession Age Best Known For
Franco Zeffirelli Movie & Opera Director 91 Worked with Maria Callas
Liz Smith Gossip Columnist 91 New York Post
Ned Rorem Composer 90 Prolific composer of 300+ pieces; Fullbright Scholar; Pulitzer Prize for Music  
Edward Albee Playwright 86 "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?"
James Ivory Director 85 Merchant Ivory Productions has produced 50+ films 
Arnold Scaasi Fashion Designer 84 Designed gowns for four First Ladies
Stephen Sondheim Composer/Lyricist 84 8 Tony Awards, 8 Grammys, 2 Oscars, 1 Pulitzer Prize
Jasper Johns Artist 84 "Three Flags"/Partnered with Rob't Rauschenberg
Edie Windsor Mathematician/Activist 84 Lawsuit led to Supreme Court striking down DOMA
John Rechy Author 84 "City of Night"/"Numbers"/"The Sexual Outlaw"
Martin Duberman Historian/Professor 83 Founded Center for Lesbian/Gay Studies at CUNY 
Paul Taylor Choreographer 83 Worked with Martha Graham 
Clive Davis Record Executive 82 Managed Whitney Houston
Jerry Herman Composer/Lyricist 82 "Hello, Dolly!"/"Mame"/"La Cage aux Folles"
Tab Hunter Actor 82 Blonde/"Polyester"
Valentino  Fashion Designer 81 Last name is Garavani/Documentary: "Valentino - The Last Emperor" 
Jim French Photographer 81 Founder of Colt Studios
James Hormel Diplomat 81 1st openly gay US ambassador (Luxembourg)
Richard Chamberlain Actor 80 "Dr. Kildare"/"Shogun"/"The Thornbirds"
Don Bachardy Portrait Artist 80 2008 documentary about life w/Christopher Isherwood: "Chris & Don:  A Love Story"
John Glines Playwright/Producer 80 Tony winner for "Torch Song Trilogy"
Karl Lagerfeld Fashion Designer 80 Chanel/Fendi
Jane Wagner Writer/Producer/Dir 79 Partnered w/Lily Tomlin for 40+ years
Mart Crowley Playwright 78 "Boys in the Band"
Larry Kramer Writer/Activist 78 Co-founded GMHC/"The Normal Heart"
Giorgio Armani Fashion Designer 78 Personal worth of $8.5 billion
Johnny Mathis Singer 78 "Chances Are"
George Takei Actor 77 "Star Trek's" Mr. Sulu
Patricia Nell Warren Author 77 "The Front Runner"
David Hockney Artist 76 Born in England, fell in love with So. Calif.
Tommy Tune Choreographer/Director/Actor 75 Nine Tony Awards/Twiggy/Known for his height (6'6")
Terrence McNally Playwright 75 "Love! Valour! Compassion!"/"Master Class"/"Ragtime"/4  Tonys
Rex Reed Film Critic 75 Lives in The Dakota/pals with Liz Smith
Jonathan Ned Katz Queer Studies/Historian 75 Created OutHistory.org website
Source:  Wikipedia      

The A+ List of Well-Known Gay & Lesbian Celebrities

Neil.patrick.harris NeilPatrickHarrisTonyAwardsShow2011_article_story_main Nph_motherAs I perceive it, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, Ryan Murphy and Rachel Maddow are today's most overexposed gay personalities (or, as Barbara Walters might refer to them as, the most fascinating).  However, a Google search I did on more than 300 gay celebs turned up many others who seem equally high profile (the top 50 can be found at the end of this post).



Harvey.fierstein Melissa.etheridge20 years ago there were very few "out" celebrities so it made sense that the token few, e.g., Harvey Fierstein, Melissa Etheridge and kd lang, received extensive media coverage.  Since then there's been a proliferation of openly gay celebs (a good thing), but an inordinate amount of attention still goes to a rather select group. 



Calvinklein Steve.kmetkoOf the 300+ included in this analysis, the typical celeb had 500,000 search results.  They ranged from 16,000 (for Steve Kmetko - remember him?) to 19 million (Calvin Klein).  There were thirteen well-known LGBTs whose names each generated more than 5 million search results - I guess you can call them the gay A+ List.  At the other end of the spectrum, there were 50 celebs/former celebs with fewer than 100,000 mentions.  (For some perspective, I, a mere gay mortal, had 5,000).



Natesilver TomdaleyNaturally, some of the names among the top 50 have been in the news of late, including newly out actress Ellen Page, figure skater Johnny Weir and stats guru Nate Silver (pictured, far left).  (Surprisingly, neither Michael Sam or Jason Collins were in this select group, ranking 59th and 61st).  By age, six of the top 50 were older than 65, with Giorgio Armani, at 78, the oldest.  Seven were younger than 30, with Tom Daley (pictured) being the youngest, at 19.  Ellen DeGeneres had the most search results for lesbians, but only ten others joined her.



Tim.cook.apple Annie.leibovitzActors, singers and fashion designers dominate the upper echelons of gaydom, comprising two-thirds of the top 50.  (The designers were, no doubt, boosted by their eponymous clothing labels.)  Outside of these fields we have  statistician Nate Silver; personal trainer Jillian Michaels; Apple CEO Tim Cook; photographer Annie Leibovitz; blogger Perez Hilton; interior designer Nate Berkus; and drag performer Ru Paul



Rachel.maddow Anderson.cooper.vanity.fair EllenshowAnd where do the five I thought were most overexposed rank?  Neil Patrick Harris is second; Ellen is fifth and Anderson Cooper, 30th.  Rachel Maddow and Ryan Murphy, however, are further down the list at 65th and 68th, respectively.  Still respectable but not nearly as high as I expected.



Robbie.williams Jason.wu JakeshearsWho was I surprised to see among the elite 50?  Besides Calvin Klein at #1, I was also taken aback by the inclusion of singers Robbie Williams (pictured, far right), George Michael, Mika, Tracy Chapman and Boy George; Jillian Michaels fom Biggest Loser; fashion designers Alexander Wang, Jason Wu (pictured) and Zac Posen; and British actor Steven Fry.  And those who I was surprised to see lower than the top 100 include ABC's Robin Roberts (#112); fashion guru Tim Gunn (#142); sexy Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters (#164, pictured near right); diving legend Greg Louganis (#177) and gay blogger Andy Towle (#294).


(Ranked by # of Google Search Results)
    Search Results
  Profession (In Millions)
Calvin Klein Fashion Designer 19.1
Neil Patrick Harris Actor 14.6
Elton John Singer/Songwriter 12.7
Marc Jacobs Fashion Designer 11.0
Ellen DeGeneres Talk Show Host 10.8
Michael Kors Fashion Designer 10.6
Robbie Williams Singer 10.0
Ricky Martin Singer   9.8
Tom Ford Fashion Designer   9.4
Mika Singer   7.1
George Michael Singer/Songwriter   6.7
Pet Shop Boys Pop Music Duo   5.8
Adam Lambert Singer   5.4
Giorgio Armani Fashion Designer   4.6
Tegan & Sara Pop Music Duo   4.5
Rosie O'Donnell TV Personality   4.3
Alexander Wang Fashion Designer   4.3
Ellen Page Actress   4.2
Frank Ocean Rap Singer   3.6
Portia de Rossi Actress   3.4
Tim Cook Business Executive   3.0
Johnny Weir Figure Skater   2.5
Jillian Michaels Trainer   2.4
Jason Wu Fashion Designer   2.4
Zachary Quinto Actor   2.3
Don Lemon News Anchor   2.3
Jodie Foster Actress   2.3
Tracy Chapman Singer/Songwriter   2.2
Perez Hilton Blogger   2.2
Anderson Cooper News Anchor   2.2
Jean Paul Gaultier Fashon Designer   2.1
Zac Posen Fashion Designer   2.0
Lily Tomlin Actress   2.0
Nate Silver Statistician   2.0
Andy Cohen Cable TV Executive   2.0
Ian McKellen Actor   1.9
Annie Leibovitz Photographer   1.8
Jesse Tyler Ferguson Actor   1.7
RuPaul Drag Performer   1.7
Boy George Singer/Songwriter   1.7
John Galliano Fashion Designer   1.7
George Takei Actor   1.7
Nate Berkus Interior Designer   1.6
Graham Norton Talk Show Host   1.6
Matt Bomer Actor   1.6
Wentworth Miller Actor   1.6
Stephen Fry Actor   1.6
Diana Nyad Swimmer   1.6
Tom Daley Diver   1.5
Chris Colfer Actor   1.5
(For period 3/20-24/2014)    


"Valley of the Dolls" - A Delightful, Trashy Mess of a Movie - And a Classic




Valley of the Dolls was a huge best seller when the novel was published in 1966.  And it was an equally popular, although critically panned, movie that was released just before Christmas in 1967.  After adjusting for ticket price inflation, the $44 million it made at the box office (making it the 6th highest grossing movie of the year) is the equivalent of $300 million today.  Despite the date of its release, it would never be considered a holiday classic, but it's a beloved camp classic of many gay men.  (Perhaps the various Housewives iterations on Bravo were inspired by this movie? )


The movie tells the cautionary tale about the sordid underbelly of show business - Broadway as well as Hollywood.  Neely O'Hara, portrayed by Patty Duke, is "discovered", rapidly ascends to stardom, gets hooked on booze and pills, and then is discarded.  Judy Garland was the original choice to play the bigger than life Broadway star, Helen Lawson.  (However, it was Neely O'Hara's character whose professional life mirrored Judy's in terms of pills and liquor).  20 years after VOD was released I was introduced to the movie by my boss, who was gay.




In keeping with the attitude toward gays in the 1960s, the portrayal of homosexuals in Dolls was not a positive one.  They were dismissively referred to as "fags".  Today, more than 50 years later, this portrayal is  somewhat amusing and instructive of how attitudes have changed. 




There are so many wonderfully awful scenes to relish.  For example, Neely being discovered at a telethon; a montage of Neely's typical crazy day as she rises to stardom; the song "Come Live With Me"; Helen singing "I'll Plant a Tree" in front of Calder-like mobile (pictured); Neely and Helen's confrontation in the lounge at a restaurant; Neely grasping for her "dolls".




Here are a dozen of my favorite lines:

  • This IS an exciting business! (An agent's assistant while watching from the side of the stage during Neely's breakout performance at a telethon)
  • The only hit that comes out of a Helen Lawson show is Helen Lawson, and that's ME, baby, remember?  (Helen Lawson, after demanding Neely be fired because she was taking attention from her.)
  • I'll plant my own tree and I'll make it grow ..." (Helen Lawson singing her show stopper, "I'll Plant My Tree)
  • I'll go out the way I came in. (Helen Lawson, in the ladies' lounge at a restaurant, after Neely pulled off her wig and flushed it down the toilet.)
  • I'm not the butler, Neely. (Neely O'Hara's husband) You're not the breadwinner either (Neely's snarky reply).
  • Mother, I know I don't have any talent, and I know all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises. (Sharon Tate's character, Jennifer, on the phone with her disparaging mother)




  • I have to get up at five o'clock in the morning and SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE! (Neely)
  • I wouldn't pay any attention to that. You know how bitchy fags can be!
  • Ted Casablanca is NOT a fag... and I`m the dame who can prove it.  (Neely)
  • Don`t worry, sweetheart. If the show folds I can always get you a part as understudy for my grandmother. (Neely to Helen)
  • They drummed you right outta Hollywood! So ya come crawlin` back to Broadway. Well, Broadway doesnt go for booze and dope! (Helen to Neely)
  • Now you get outta my way, I got a guy waitin` for me. (Helen)  That`s a switch from the fags you're usually stuck with! (Neely) Helen Lawson: At least I never had to MARRY one! (Helen)


There are camp classics that are fine movies such as All About Eve and The Women, then there are the trashy classics such as Show Girls, Mommie Dearest, and then there is ... Valley of the Dolls


In the fall of 1996 there was an off-Broadway production of Dolls that played at Village in the Square in Greenwich Village (Bleecker St.), starring Jackie Beat as Helen.  It was a parody which seemed odd considering it was already laughable in its original release.  I saw it twice.  


"Pines '79" - Revisiting a Play Depicting Carefree Days Before AIDS




Recently, my friend Andy loaned me a paperback he bought on Amazon titled Pines '79.  Actually, it's a bound script and stage notes from the off-Broadway play that opened at Actor's Playhouse in the West Village in 1981.  Set in the Pines, it takes place over four weekends during the summer of 1979.  The comedy's main characters are five gay men sharing one house and an older, straight female friend who lives in another.  It touches upon drugs, disco, sex, relationships, fear of intimacy and the freedom found on Fire Island.  Lightweight and angst free, it's light years away from the self-loathing tone of Boys in the Band.




Prominent play is given to the Meat Rack, the Sandpiper disco (pictured, above), disco naps and "Beach '79" - the first dance party held on the beach, featuring 16-year-old France Joli.  There's no deep talk about politics, just decadence.  Disco songs such as Ring My Bell, the Village People's Fire Island and Don't You Want My Love are featured.  Unfortunately, the last act devolves into slapstick with the appearance of an oafish hustler and a clingy trick.  


Because Pines '79 is such a period piece it would probably be of interest only to those who experienced this way of life.  It would have been interesting if sequels were staged that followed the housemates over subsequent summers.  I wonder if any of the characters would have survived the onset of AIDS?  Alas, the playwright Terry Miller (not to be confused with Dan Savage's husband, who has the same name) succumbed in 1995 at the age of 47.  Miller also authored the book Greenwich Village and How it Got That Way, which was published in 1990.






Recap of the 2013 Tony Awards - One More Gay Man's Opinion

In the afterglow of last night's 2013 Tony Awards, here's another gay man's opinion, limited to 10 observations ...


1. Neil Patrick Harris' opening number was spectacular, but then I thought he went flat.  Perhaps the Billy Crystal syndrome?  His mash-up of titles of musicals and plays is tired; one joke at Mike Tyson's expense was enough; and his tux was unflattering and looked like it was made from itchy flannel.





2. A few years ago the theme of the Tonys was "Broadway - It's Not for Gays Anymore!"  This year I didn't even hear the word "gay" mentioned.  However, there was plenty of gayness.  Besides NPH, out actors Zachary Quinto, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alan Cumming, Andrew Rannells and David Hyde Pierce had stage time; Christopher Durang mentioned his partner; and actors who appeared to be seated in the audience with their same-sex partners/boyfriends abounded (e.g., Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson).




3.  As he closed his acceptance speech after winning for Matilda, Gabriel Eberts thanked "Mom, Dad and Scott", leaving many viewers to wonder whether Scott was his partner, dog, agent, or brother.




4. Kinky Boots choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, gets my vote for sexiest man in attendance.  And although he looked great in his red tux jacket, the oversized bow tie was an unfortunate choice.




5. Cyndi Lauper, Billy Porter, Cicely Tyson and Patina Miller all gave wonderfully heartfelt acceptance speeches.  Tyson's slow and deliberate delivery of her acceptance was in refreshing contrast to the rat-a-tat-tat style of most of the other winners (see Judith Light, below).  And Miller's gown was gorgeous, the most beautiful of the night.




6. I love Judith Light and was delighted that she won another Tony, but her overwrought acceptance was a repeat of last year's.  OK Judith, you won the Tony, you can stop acting!




7. I thoroughly enjoyed the musical numbers from Matilda (it reminded me of the number from Spring Awakening a few years ago) and A Christmas Story, but wasn't blown away by the Kinky Boots number, which just seemed like generic Broadway.




8. The actor who portrays Simba in The Lion King appeared on stage twice.  And although he had a dazzling smile, his pecs were a bit too man-boobish for my taste.  (Or perhaps it was the make-up on his upper chest area that accentuated them.)




9. Instead of Cherry Jones or Cynthia Nixon, this year's token lesbian was Jane Lynch.




10. Finally, whose idea was it to pair somewhat diminutive Mayor Michael Bloomberg with Amazonian Sigourney Weaver?  (I suppose it could have been worse - he could have been accompanied by her and the equally towering Jane Lynch.)  Also, despite his glowing report about Broadway attendance, just a few days ago there was an article in the Times reporting on declines in attendance and box office revenue.



And if you still can't get enough of the Tonys, here are links to recaps from the previous two telecasts:





Pet Shop Boys' Musical "Closer to Heaven" Opens in London (May 31, 2001)

Billie_trix2The Pet Shop Boys extended their talents to the theater, and their efforts resulted in the musical Closer to Heaven, which premiered in London's East End on May 31, 2001.  The story brings to mind West Side Story, but with a gay storyline and a London setting.  A young, bisexual man leaves his girlfriend for a deeply troubled, straight acting drug dealer.  A great mix of songs are melded with a story that is sexy, sleazy, tender and heartbreaking.


I had been told about this show by my friend Tom and when the original cast CD was released in early 2002 we found it while we were on vacation in Australia.  Based on his raves, and the fact that I was a PSB fan, I bought it there with great anticipation and I was rewarded many times over.


Closer_to_heaven2There's one great song after another.  Highlights for me are My Night; It's My Little Tribute to Caligula, Darling!; Positive Role Model; Out of My System; For All of Us; and the title track.  The music is a typical mix of PSB tunes, i.e. some danceable, others heart-breakingly beautiful.  The songs Closer to Heaven and For All of Us still bring me to tears.  And Out of My System has a very En Vogue/Destiny's Child vibe. 


Closer To Heaven Pet Shop Boys Dallas programWe waited for the show to come to Broadway, but it was not to be.  However, it did have a limited run in Dallas in 2010 (pictured, right).  It got mixed reviews, but in my imagination it was a smash, with great performances, wonderful sets and writhing/hot bodies.  Perhaps its mixed reviews were due to its gay storyline and/or critics' lack of appreciation for the Pet Shop Boys.


If you haven't already heard it, give yourself a treat and take a listen to the cast CD.

"The Boys in the Band" Opens on Broadway (April 14, 1968)

4869736-Making_the_Boys Just three months after opening off-Broadway, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band came to Broadway, opening on Easter Sunday.  It offered an unvarnished glimpse of eight homosexuals at a birthday party and was the first play to openly portray the lives of gay men.  It ran for three years and was made into a movie in 1970.  I first saw the movie in January 1981 when it was showing at the Eighth St. Playhouse in the Village.  I found it depressing and dripping in cloying stereotypes.  However, I did enjoy the opening credits in which Cole Porter's Anything Goes was playing.  



Mart_crowley Crayton_robey The 2011 documentary Making the Boys tells the story behind the creation of the play.  It may also be of interest to fans of Natalie Wood, who is mentioned repeatedly since she was a dear friend of Crowley's (who is now 78, pictured far left).  It was directed by Crayton Robey (near left), who also directed the documentary When Ocean Meets Sky, which tells the story of Fire Island Pines.



Making_the_boys Unfortunately, like most documentaries that delve into gay history, Making the Boys played in just a few theaters nationwide.  In New York it played at Quad Cinema last year for only two weeks.  (Luckily, I saw it the last night it was there).  It's a sad commentary on the lack of interest in our history.  However, it did play at the Tribeca Film Festival and at a number of gay film festivals.  Perhaps it will get picked up by LOGO (like When Ocean Meets Sky).





An excellent discussion about the play and movie can be found at CinemaQueer.com . 



Barbra Streisand Triumphs in "Funny Girl" (March 26, 1964)

Funny_girl_broadway Funny_girl_poster1964 was an outstanding year on Broadway.  It began with the opening of Hello, Dolly! and at the end of the year, Fiddler on the Roof got the 1964-65 theater season off to a rousing start.  And in between the two was Funny Girl, which opened on March 26, 1964.  21-year-old Barbra Streisand starred, but it had taken a while for her name to come up during casting discussions.  Before she was approached, one singer whose name was tossed around was Eydie Gorme; however, she would consider the role only if her husband, Steve Lawrence, was cast in the role of Nicky Arnstein!   


(By the way, this was not Babs' Broadway debut.  That occurred two years earlier in I Can Get it for You Wholesale.)


Carolchanning_hellodolly_imagesCA1M3E8D Streisand_hellodolly_imagesCA0OETF3 Despite receiving eight Tony nominations, Funny Girl went home empty-handed as Hello, Dolly! was the big winner, with ten.  However, Barbra would win an Oscar as Best Actress for the movie version, which was released in 1968.  (It was the top grossing film of the year.)  And when Hello Dolly! was made into a feature film in 1969, it was Streisand who was cast in the title role, not Broadway Dolly's! Carol Channing.  (This was also Channing's fate when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was made into a movie in 1953 and Marilyn Monroe was chosen over her, despite Channing's acclaimed performance in Blondes on Broadway.)   




I've also published posts about other Broadway openings:

Angels in America (1993)

Boys in the Band (1968)

Coco (1969)

Company (1970)

Dreamgirls (1981)

Evita (1979)

Into the Woods (1987)

Speed the Plow (1988)

Take Me Out (2002)

Twilight of the Golds (1993)

West Side Story (1957)


Off-Broadway Play "Fortune and Men's Eyes" Opens (February 23, 1967)

FortuneAndMensEyesThe off-Broadway play Fortune and Men's Eyes opened at Actor's Playhouse in the West Village the evening of February 23, 1967.  (The play's name was taken from the first line of Shakespeare's 29th Sonnet).  It offered up a chilling portrayal of prison life, touching upon subjects such as male-on-male rape and sexual slavery and was very risque for its time.  It opened a year before Boys in the Band and more than two years before the Stonewall riots (and 30 years before HBO's Oz).  


Boys_in_the_band The play ran for nearly a year and then was released as a movie in 1971.  (Although Fortune's stage version opened a year before Boys in the Band, the movie version came out a year after Band's theatrical release - pictured, left).  As a teenager I remember seeing small ads for the movie in the Pittsburgh paper, and although I didn't quite know the movie's premise I was very intrigued by the title and the ad's suggestive photo. 




Salmineo_donjohnson When the play opened in Los Angeles a few years later it starred Sal Mineo (who was trying to change his image) and co-starred 23-year old Don "Miami Vice" Johnson (pictured).  

"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!