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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)    


Cities & Towns With Names That Evoke Gay Life

FruitlandA few years ago my Secret Santa gave me a fun book titled All Over the Map.  It grouped US towns and cities into all sorts of categories, such as "Sex","Food" and "Shakespeare"; the categorization was the inspiration for this post.  During a long delay at La Guardia Airport this past Christmas I pulled out my smartphone and began Googling every state, scanning the names of their cities and towns to see if any piqued my gay sensibility.  I got a kick from those that appeared to be either the brainchild of a closeted gay alderman from the 19th century or the name of a town in a bad gay novel.


HomosassaThe only criteria for consideration was the ability of a town's name to trigger a gay association.  For instance, Knob Lick, Missouri made me think of Modern Family's gay daddy Cam, who is from the state.  Effie brought to mind Effie from Dreamgirls.  I associated Felch Township with a sex act that I've never experienced (nor want to).  Sondheimer made me think of Stephen.  And I associated Lu Verne with a drag queen.  Of the 40 or so listed below, my favorites are De Queen, Fruit Heights, Gayville, Homosassa and Fancy Gap.



As I read through the names I thought up some of my own that could be viable candidates, such as Treasure Trail, Fabulous, Ballsack, Boa, Power Bottom, Harness and Taint Springs - none which would seem out of place in a state like Texas.  Interestingly, popular gay resorts don't have names that play on their gay visitors, e.g., Pines, Cherry Grove, Provincetown, Ogunquit, Saugatuck, Rehoboth, Palm Springs, Ft. Lauderdale, and Key West.


Town State
Balltown IA
Bear River WY
Beardstown IL
Bearsville NY
Big Timber MT
Boy River MN
Bruce SD
Buttzville NJ
Carlos MN
Cumby TX
Cumming GA, IA
De Queen AR
Dix NE
Effie MN
Fancy Gap VA
Fruit Heights UT
Fruitdale AL, SD
Fruitland Park ID
Fruitland  FL, IA, MD, NM
Fruitport MI
Fruitvale TX
Gay GA
Gayville SD
Guysville OH
Homosassa FL
Knob Lick MO
Lake Mary FL
Lu Verne IA
Manly IA
Maryville TN
Mint Spring VA
Nuttsville VA
Queen City MO, TX
Rainbow City AL
Sondheimer LA
Swisher IA
Tea SD
Three Way TN
Warm River ID
Young Harris GA



What Makes the Yuletide Gay?

20131216_125933 What's not to love about Christmas, especially if you're a gay man?  Tinsel, ribbons and Garland - specifically, Judy's 1963 Christmas show!  And when we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer who didn't feel a connection with Herbie the Elf and the toys found on the Island of Misfit Toys?  Then there's the beloved Christmas carol, Deck the Halls.  Not only does it have the fabulous line, "Don we now our gay apparel", but a chorus of "fa la la la la, la la la la" to boot!  Besides that song, we also embrace Christmas music in general, especially if it's sung by the Carpenters or Julie Andrews.  And who can forget the Salsoul Orchestra's classic Christmas Jollies album?


Wrapping_xmas_presentHowever, I must admit there is one aspect of Christmas I don't embrace, and that is wrapping presents.  Although I love beautiful wrapping paper, I've never developed a flair for transforming a package into a work of art - and I have no patience whatsoever when it comes to ribbons and bows.  (I'm more of a brown paper packages tied up with string kind of guy.)  I guess when they were handing out the Martha Stewart gene I must have been in the line for liking baseball.  But let's not dwell on "bah humbug".  Rather, with dreams of sugar plums dancing in my head, here's a ZeitGAYst toast to the Christmas season ....



  • From the movie White Christmas (not to be confused with Holiday Inn), the wonderful number "Sisters" was performed by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and then, hilariously, by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye ...





  • A "Glee"-ful Christmas.  And who can forget Kurt and Blake's spicy duet of Baby It's Cold Outside from the show's 2010 Christmas episode?




  • Here's some gay apparel ...





  • Tzabaco was one of a number of catalogs in the early to mid 1990s that was targeted to gay and lesbian shoppers (Shocking Gray was another).  Alas, it didn't survive more than a few years. 





  • Hats and underwear count as apparel ... 






  • With names like Dancer & Prancer, can two of Santa's reindeer be anything but gay?




  • Although not a movie, per se, about Christmas, a key scene early in John Waters' Female Trouble takes place on Christmas morning when rebellious high school student Dawn Davenport (played by Divine) goes ballistic on her parents when she doesn't get the "Cha-Cha heels" she so covets.




  • And finally, holiday cards from dear, dear friends ... 






May all of your Christmases be pink ...


Here are a few other posts I've written with a Christmas theme:

Jingle Bells or Jingle Balls?

Bette Midler Stars in Holiday Commercial for Honda

Martha Stewart's First Christmas Special

Christmas Ads That Spread Holiday Cheer










The Role T-Shirts Play in Gay Visibility

Nyc_gaypride_tshirtWhen collecting fridge magnets, post cards and snow globes isn't enough, there are always t-shirts.  The nice thing about them is that they're mobile.  And when they wear out or tear, you can cut off the sleeves and wear them to the gym.  And those that don't fall apart become more snug after years of laundering - perfect for showing off your biceps and pecs.  And while none of my t-shirts are emblazoned with strident social messages, they do communicate that I'm gay.  Of course, wearing such t-shirts in New York may not be quite as bold as wearing them in Oklahoma or Alabama, but it provides visibility nonetheless. 


Chances are that  much of the non-gay population probably isn't even aware that the places or images on the t-shirts shown below have a gay connection ...     


Gay Pride ...




The Fire Island t-shirt, below on the left, from the summer of 1997, hugs my torso beautifully.  The other t-shirt is from Pines Hardware, which closed at the end of the the 2009 season.




I bought this t-shirt with a fierce image of Grace Jones a few years ago at a street fair in my neighborhood.  The image is from Grace's Slave to the Rhythm album from the mid-1980s.




Although the next four may not have an overt gay message, you probably wouldn't see a straight man wearing them.  My t-shirt from NYC Opera t-shirt is one of my favorites because of its color and simplicity of its logo.  The Thomas Eakins t-shirt was purchased in 1991 at an exhibit of his work at Philadelphia's Academy of Fine Arts.  (Eakins was controversial because of his penchant for drawing scenes depicting teen boys, some nude).   The t-shirt from the 2012 revival of Evita goes without saying.  Lastly, the t-shirt from Archaeology Magazine's depiction of a nude athlete from ancient Greece is homoerotic enough to make it a natural for a gay man to wear.




The first vacation t-shirt, from Provincetown, is my newest, purchased this summer; the one from Puerto Vallarta is from spring 2009; I bought the Reykjavik tank top at a tiny gay bar during a vacation in Iceland in 2003; and the last one, from Key West, was bought while vacationing there in the winter of 1996.







Finally, here are t-shirts from a magazine (HX), a bar (Splash) and a gay talk show (Party Talk, on the Gay Cable Network during the 1990's) that are no more.  Gone, but hardly forgotten ...



Sorting Through Gay Memorabilia, Remembering Good Times




Bric-a-brac, ephemera, mementos - whatever you choose to call them, collecting "stuff" can be rewarding, especially when you look through it years later and experience moments of your life all over again.  (As the disco classic, Souvenirs, by Voyage says: "Souvenirs are signs that take you away".)  I've already written posts about my postcard collection.  Now I'll share items from my collection of pins, fridge magnets, match books and business cards, all with a gay pedigree, circa 1980-2000. 



Looking at the first group, the "Go Homos" button was made to look like the style of GQ Magazine's logo, in response to perceived homophobia by the magazine's publisher.  In the second group, the pin on the left was handed out by the Pink Panthers, who were fashioned after the Guardian Angels to patrol against anti-gay violence in the Village in the early 1990's.  MGM took them to court and won for copyright infringement over the group's appropriation of the Pink Panther paw.  





In the third group, the "Clit Power" pin is the sole lesbian-oriented pin I own.  The simple "Fire Island 1981" pin was picked up during my first visit to Cherry Grove.  After spending years adorning bulletin boards in my various offices, the pin's purplish-blue hue has faded considerably.  Finally, the fourth group shows pins of a more serious nature.  The "DC in '93" pin refers to the huge political rally (between 800,000 and 1 million participated) that took place in the nation's capital on April 25, 1993, a time when hopes were high because of breakthroughs in AIDS treatments and the recent election of Bill Clinton.






These are all fairly self-explanatory.  And, yes, they all can be found on my refrigerator ...






The first on the left came from St. Mark's Baths; the second from a short-lived bar on 8th Avenue named Chelsea Transfer, which had a beautiful, curved wooden bar; The Saint, of course, was the premiere gay dance club in the 1980s; 'A' stands for the gloriously raunchy Anvil bar on West Street; and the last matchbook is from Uncle Charlie's, NYC's most popular bar from the late 70's through early '90s, until it was supplanted by Splash.  In the second group are matchbooks from Boy Bar in the East Village (1990s); Tracks, which was in Chelsea in the late 1980s; the Club Baths on 1st Avenue near Houston St. (next door to a funeral parlor); and Ice Palace disco on West 57th St., which had its heyday in the late 70s thru early '80s. 






In the 1980s and 1990s, Claire was in the space now occupied by Elmo on 7th Ave. in Chelsea.  In the late 1980s, Stefano's was in the gay Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  Partners was a gay bar in New Haven.  In the early '80s, before my boyfriend at the time moved to NYC, he lived in Connecticut, and occasionally after he picked me up at the train station in New Haven we'd stop in.  I remember it having a fog machine that sprayed a mist made of talcum powder.  Plain & Fancy was one of many restaurants on Commercial St. in Provincetown.  La Fabula (or, La "Faaaabula!") was a popular restaurant in West Hollywood (at least in the late 80s thru early '90s).  And La Te Da was an upscale restaurant in Key West's predominantly gay neighborhood.




These were handed out during happy hours that provided a free drink after the purchase of the first.  Nowadays, most bars just reduce drink prices during happy hour.  An exception is Splash, which still has a two-for-one offer, but bartenders now hand you a paper receipt rather than a decorative chip.





The first card is from Summer Solstice, the gift shop found in the harbor of Fire Island Pines, which sits atop the Pantry grocery store.  The middle card is from Sip'n Twirl, the bar that's situated in the complex behind the Pavilion.  The last card is a calling card to write your name/number if you met someone at low tea you might want to see later - this was before texting.





The card in the center is from Club Norreh, a multi-level bar/club in Pittsburgh, which was the first gay bar I ever set foot in - back in the summer of 1978.  Next is Che 2020, which was briefly what the mega-popular Food Bar restaurant was renamed in the early '90s . Manatus and Village Den are two West Village institutions - and still in business.  





This selection comes from the department store Fast Buck Freddie's on Duval St. in Key West; guest houses in Provincetown and Ogunquit, Maine; my membership card to the gay running group Front Runners; and the last is from Men in Suits, a monthly gathering of men who got into (and sometimes out of) suits and socks with garters.




And one more for good measure ...




A Salute to Rainbow Twizzlers - The Gayest Candy of Them All?

Gay_twizzlersAlthough I've had them on a number of occasions, it wasn't until recently that it dawned on me that multi-hued Twizzlers corresponded closely to the colors of the Gay Pride rainbow flag.  And after doing research on the topic of candy, I came to the conclusion that this line extension of Twizzlers licorice makes it the most gay-friendly candy on the market.  (I also learned that a "twizzler" is an urban term for a homosexual.)  Although they've been sold for a number of years, rainbow Twizzlers have somehow managed to escape the wrath of anti-gay groups.

And here are the other contenders for the "Gay-Friendly" title:


  • Good & Fruity - Like rainbow colored Twizzlers, another line extension, this one of Good'n Plenty.  Its name and hot pink-colored box make it a no-brainer.




  • Pixie Sticks - It goes without saying, doesn't it?  Lik-A-Maid falls into the same category, i.e. "tongue candies".  Perhaps in an attempt to de-sexualize it, the candy has been renamed Lik-M-Maid.




  • Long Boys - Need I explain?




  • Whoppers - What else could it be referring to?  "Low Hangers" was another possible brand name, but it didn't test as well with consumers.




  • Ike & Mike - There's no truth to the rumor that the candy was originally called Bruce & Jason.





  • Candy Necklaces/Buttons - With our innate sense of fashion, many of us were no doubt drawn to this confection as children.




  • Big Hunk - Despite its name it isn't a steroid-infused chocolate bar.  Rather, it's roasted peanuts covered in honey-sweetened nougat.


  • And we finish with Nips. I think the following product description from the brand's website perfectly captures how enticing nips can be:  

For people who need a break from life's little irritations, NIPS® is the rich and creamy hard candy that provides a soothing diversion. Each NIPS candy has its own distinct and truly satisfying flavor. This hard candy is known for its smooth, creamy texture and bite-size eat with an unmistakable hint or "nip" of flavor – hence the name "NIPS".




There it is, an ode to the nipple.  A soothing "diversion" indeed.


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!) 


First Same-Sex Marriages In U.S. Begin in Massachusetts (May 17, 2004)

Samesexmarriage The first same-sex marriages in the US took place in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004.  This was six months after the state's Supreme Court ruled that a ban on such unions was unconstitutional.  Since then, thirty-six other states and Washington, DC have also made gay marriage legal.  (The Netherlands was the first country to legalize gay unions in 2001.)  Many of these states came on board after the Supreme Court struck down the 1996's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013.  Its ruling made federal marriage benefits available to married same-sex couples throughout the nation - even if couples lived in states that didn't allow gay marriage.    


Prop8 For three months in 2008, the state of California also allowed same-sex marriages, until voters narrowly voted against them later that year.  However, any marriages that were performed in those months are still valid.  In August 2010 a Federal District Court in San Francisco overturned Proposition 8 but resumption of marriages was put on hold until the US Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 in June 2013 (when it also overturned DOMA). 


Samesexmarriage_massachusetts The latest marriage figures for Massachusetts (from a Pew Research study) are through 2013 and they show that nearly 27,000 same-sex couples had gotten hitched there, the most of any state.  In 2014 the US Census Bureau for the first time released figures on married same-sex couples.  and these figures showed that, nationwide, there were 252,000 legally married same-sex couples.  And a Gallup survey conducted in the first quarter of 2015 estimated that there were 390,000 such couples.       


TIME Magazine Cover Story Asks "How Gay is Gay?" (April 16, 1979)

Time_how_gay_is_gayApril 1979 was a milestone month for me.  I had just moved to New York to start my first job out of college (ad agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves) and I was living on my own for the first time.  I was starting my second week at the new job when TIME Magazine published a cover story titled "How Gay is Gay?" (with a cover date of April 23, it hit newsstands today).  The story was a positive portrayal of the state of gay America.  This was in contrast to a cover story published 10 years earlier titled "The Homosexual" which painted a more dreary picture.  (My first ZeitGAYst post reported on that cover story.)             


White_painters_pantsThe story reported on the influence gay men had in gentrifying formerly undesirable urban neighborhoods and in starting fashion trends.  Introducing disco to mainstream America was also mentioned.  One gay New Yorker who was interviewed commented that he first saw Adidas sneakers and white painters pants being worn as casual wear out on Fire Island a few years before they caught on with the rest of the country. 


Its_ok_to_be_gay One observation made in the article seemed like it was written today rather than 34 years ago: "A few younger gays, especially in the cities, have never hidden their identities".  And even in 1979 thirty-nine cities and towns had already enacted ordinances prohibiting anti-gay discrimination in jobs and housing (NYC wouldn't pass such a law until 1986).  Furthermore, 120 companies, including AT&T and IBM, had anti-discrimination policies as it pertained to hiring or promotions.    


Later that year I came out to a friend I worked with, Marina, and she told me she wasn't surprised and mentioned this cover story.  It seemed that I kept that particular issue of TIME on my desk for a while and she thought I was making a subtle statement.  

The Lunacy of Abstinence Before Marriage

  Celibate_teensI'm no psychologist, but that hasn't kept me from having a strong opinion rooted in psychology when it comes to the subject of "saving oneself" for marriage, aka abstinence.  As I see it, the way someone expresses himself/herself sexually is a crucial part of one's personality, so waiting until the wedding night to reveal it seems ludicrous.  The time before marriage, at least in Western cultures, should be a period of discovery, a time to learn the "lay of the land", so to speak.  Wouldn't it behoove a couple to discover beforehand if they have sexual chemistry?  I'm sure many of us have experienced the frustration of dating someone who's wonderful to be with but just doesn't "push our buttons" in the bedroom.  For these reasons, this is why I don't find a vow of celibacy admirable but, rather, something to advise against. 


Tim_tebowSo what's really behind abstinence or virginity "pledges"?  I often wonder if someone's choice to wait until their wedding night masks an inability to come to grips with a lack of desire for the opposite-sex.  Yes, Tim Tebow, America's most famous virgin (pictured), I'm thinking of you.