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Some 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

 

 

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS - Judy Garland (1944)

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)

 

Lastchristmas

 

 

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

 

Madonna___santa_baby_by_rymc730-das2lmd.png

 

 

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

 

 

IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR - Diana Ross (1993)

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.  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

 

 


Madonna Wins a Golden Globe for "Evita" (January 19, 1997)

Madonna_evita On January 19, 1997 Madonna won a Golden Globe for Best Leading Actress in a Musical/Comedy for her portrayal of Eva Peron in the movie Evita.  In a role she seemed born to play, she beat out Barbra Streisand, Glenn Close, Debbie Reynolds and Frances McDormand.  Looking quite chic, Ms. Ciccone was a study in quiet reserve as she gave her acceptance speech (after all, she was now a serious actress!).

 

 

 

 

Madonna_dicktracy A_league_of_their_own Too often Madonna gets a bum rap for her acting ability (let's not forget that Meryl Streep was in She Devil), but she's given a number of good performances.  For instance, I liked her in Desperately Seeking Susan; Dick Tracy (pictured, far left); A League of Their Own (near left); and the documentary Truth or Dare.  Of course, she's also made her mark musically with hit songs such as Get Into the Groove; Crazy for You; and This Used to be My Playground.  (And in 2012 she won her second Golden Globe for the song Masterpiece from the movie she directed WE).  At the 1991 Oscars Madge performed Sooner or Later from Dick Tracy and it was notable for being one of the few times she displayed nervousness as her hands were visibly shaking during the peformance. 

 

Madonna_vogue_cover After her triumph at the Globes it was disappointing that Madonna failed to get an Oscar nomination.  However, two months later the original song "You Must Love Me" from Evita won the Oscar for Best Song which she performed - with no shaking this time.  So, don't cry for her ...

 

 

 


Madonna Performs on "American Bandstand" (January 14, 1984)

Madonna_on_americanbandstand Believe it or not, there was a time when Madonna was unknown, but on Jan. 14, 1984 the 25-year-old fledgling megastar gained mainstream exposure when she appeared on American Bandstand.  She kissed Dick Clark's ring and lip-synched her song Holiday, which had entered Billboard's Top-40 a month earlier - her first single to do so.  Although it's now a classic, it wasn't one of her more successful singles as it peaked at only #16.  However, thirty-seven top-10 hits would follow (twelve of which went to #1).  When Clark asked Madonna what her plans were for the future her very prescient reply was "to rule the world".  To view this 5-minute clip, double click here.

 

Madonna_firstalbum I bought my first Madonna single, Everybody, a year earlier in January 1983, one of her few not to crack the top-40. (I also remember hearing her being interviewed on the radio back then.)  And during the spring of 1984 I bought a 12-inch version of Burning Up, a song that wasn't released as a single but was popular in gay clubs.  For some reason I never got around to buying her first album.  

 

 

 


Madonna Marries Guy Ritchie (December 22, 2000)

Madonna_guy_ritchieMadonna's first marriage was to actor Sean Penn in 1985 and it took place on her 27th birthday (and the day before his 25th).  They were married for a little more than two years.  Her second marriage was to British movie director Guy Ritchie, ten years her junior, and the ceremony was held on December 22, 2000 at a castle in Scotland.  It was during this time Madge fashioned a British accent that was widely ridiculed on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

 

 

 

Madonna_rocco_lourdes_davidMadonna_mercyMadonna and Ritchie divorced in 2008.  Commenting on the marriage, Ritchie reportedly confided that he had "stepped into a soap opera".  They had two children together: son Rocco was born four months before the wedding and son David was adopted from the African nation of Malawi.  After their divorce Madonna adopted a second child from that country, daughter Mercy (both adoptions were steeped in controversy).  Madonna also has a 17-year-old daughter, Lourdes, fathered by her former personal trainer, Carlos Leon.

 

Other Madonna-centric posts:

Her 1st #1 Hit

Hosting SNL

Making Her Broadway Debut

"Truth or Dare" Documentary

A Golden Globe Winner for "Evita"

 


"Like a Virgin" is Madonna's First #1 Song (December 18, 1984)

Like_a_virgin Madonna's first single, Borderline, peaked at #16 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1983.  The next, Holiday, went to #10 and was followed by Lucky Star which rose to #4.  Then during the week of Dec. 18, 1984 her fourth single, Like a Virgin, went all the way to #1 (on Billboard's Hot 100) - where it stayed for six weeks.  Virgin was the first of her twelve singles to top the charts in the U.S. (Altogether she's had 37 top-10 hits - more than any female artist).  It was her risque live performance of Like a Virgin at MTV's 1st Music Video Awards in 1984 (she rolled about the stage wearing a wedding dress) that propelled her to superstardom.  (Click here to watch it.)  Three other singles from the Like a Virgin LP were top-5 hits:  Material Girl (#2); Angel (#5); and Dress You Up (#5).  

 


Sandra Bernhard Plays a Lesbian on "Roseanne" (November 10, 1992)

Sandra_bernhard_roseanne

 

On the November 10, 1992 episode of Roseanne, Roseanne's friend Nancy, played by comic/actress Sandra Bernhard (pictured in the middle), came out as a lesbian.  This was a TV milestone as Nancy became the first regular lesbian character in a sitcom.  It followed by 15 years Billy Crystal's pioneering role as a gay male character (Jodie Dallas) on the ABC sitcom Soap

 

I've always confused Bernhard's name with that of famed 19th century French actress Sarah Bernhardt.  Physically, she reminds me of a more telegenic and less sour version of lesbian author/pundit Fran Lebowitz (who was part of the zeitgeist of the 70s/80s).  In the fall of 1994 I saw Bernhard's one-woman show up in Boston at the Orpheum Theatre.  I've also crossed paths with her in my neighborhood - a few times at Crunch Fitness (working with a trainer) and once at Balducci's (now Citarella) where she was wearing a dazzling white track suit.

 

Sandra_bernhard

 

Bernhard was somewhat of an acquired taste but she became a gay icon in the late 80s and through the following decade.  Her star rose during the five or six years she and Madonna were "gal pals" (she made a cameo in Madge's 1991 documentary Truth or Dare).  They were always teasing about a lesbian relationship so Bernhard's sapphic role in Roseanne wasn't a stretch.   

 

Roseanne was a perfect reflection of its star, i.e. "ballsy", and a pioneering show when it came to gay characters.  At the luncheonette where Roseanne's character worked, she had a gay boss, Leon (played by Martin Mull), who had a commitment ceremony and talked of adopting a child.  Also, Roseanne's mother, Bev, came out in the show's last season.  However, the biggest fuss was made during the 1993/94 season when Nancy's girlfriend (played by Mariel Hemingway) kissed Roseanne at a lesbian bar.  Pretty progressive stuff for the blue collar heartland (Lanford, Illinois), wouldn't you say? 

 


Madonna Hosts "Saturday Night Live" (November 9, 1985)

Madonna_in_1980s Madonna was riding high in 1985.  Her second album, Like A Virgin, had produced a string of hits; she starred in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan; the song Crazy for You from the movie Vision Quest became her second #1 hit; TIME Magazine had her on its cover in May; and in August (on her 27th birthday) she married actor Sean Penn.  And a scandal only added to her "buzz" when Playboy published nude photos of her (from her past) in its September issue. 

 

Madonna.saturdaydaynightliveWith all that was going on in her fledgling career it was a no-brainer for Saturday Night Live to have her host the first show of the 1985 season on Nov. 9.  Surprisingly, she wasn't called upon to sing - that honor went to the group Simple Minds (she'd get the chance in January 1993).  One of the skits had her portraying Princess Diana visiting the Reagans with Prince Charles (played by Jon Lovitz).

 

Madonna_as_princess_diana    

 

Madonna_coffee.talkAlthough this would be her only time hosting, Madonna made a number of memorable cameo appearances over the years.  For instance she appeared on "Coffee Talk" (to the surprise of everyone Barbra Streisand showed up at the end of the segment) and in 2009 she and Lady Gagy had a catfight - but my favorite cameo by far was her May 1991 appearance in a "Wayne's World" skit. (It aired the same weekend as her Truth or Dare documentary opened.)

 


WAYNE'S WORLD SKETCH 1990 featuring Madonna


Madonna Releases Her First Album (July 27, 1983)

220px-MadonnaTheFirstAlbum1983AlbumCover At the end of July 1983, a few weeks before celebrating her 25th birthday, Madonna released her self-titled first album.  However, it wasn't until 1984 that sales picked up steam.  That's when the album cracked the top 10 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums Chart, on the strength of her first top-20 single, Holiday, and two top-10 hits, Borderline and Lucky Star.  (The single Everybody was released nine months before the album but it didn't chart.)  Two other tracks, Burning Up and Physical Attraction, were popular in clubs.  1983 also marked the ascent of another gay icon, Cyndi Lauper.  And although Lauper's career started out more strongly, on the strength of her smash single Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Madonna eclipsed her within a few years.  Her career took off following a memorable performance of Like a Virgin at the first MTV Music Awards in 1984.  

 

Madonna_cyndilauper

 

In addition to Lauper, Madonna also had competition from a number of other female singers in the mid-80s, such as Taylor Dane (top, below), Regina Alisha and Stacy Q (middle).  Dane had a string of hits, but after some initial success, the others' careers failed to gain traction.  

 

Taylordane

 

Regina - Baby Love Cover 

 

Stacyq

 

 

Madonna_blindfold_erotica Madonna, however, was in a league of her own, constantly finding ways to create controversy, reinventing herself and demonstrating an uncanny ability to remain in the publc eye.  Like Lauper, her career was propelled by a devoted gay fan base.  And both performers have been huge supporters of gay causes, especially bringing attention to the AIDS crisis in its early years.  (Interestingly, the "gay cancer" was formally called AIDS by the CDC exactly one year before the release of Madonna's first album.)

 

   

 


Madonna's Documentary "Truth or Dare" Opens (May 10, 1991)

Truth_or_dare_poster The documentary Truth or Dare followed Madonna on her "Blond Ambition" concert tour as she played Japan, Canada, the U.S. and Europe.  It was shot during her dalliance with Warren Beatty (who she starred with in the 1990 movie Dick Tracy).  Others who appeared in the doc included gal pal Sandra Bernhard and Antonio Banderas (who co-starred with Madonna in the movie version of Evita six years later).  It opened in New York and L.A. the weekend of May 10-12, 1991.  

 

 

Truth-dare-backstage Memorable scenes included Madonna felating a bottle while playing "Truth or Dare" with her back-up dancers; dissing Kevin Costner when he came backstage and referred to her concert as "neat"; and lying next to the grave of her mother in Michigan.

 

 

For whatever reason, one piece of dialogue from the movie sticks with me.  While relaxing in her hotel room in Madrid, Madonna is joined by Sandra Bernhard and at one point the talk turns to sleeping with people they hate.  Bernhard posits that sex is always hot when you can't stand the person.  

 

Madonna_waynes_world To promote the movie Madonna made a cameo on the May 11 episode of Saturday Night Live where she appeared in a dream sequence during a "Wayne's World" skit.

 

 

The following year Showtime aired comedian Julie Brown's delicious parody of Truth or Dare titled Medusa: Dare to be Truthful.  One of the characters in this mockumentary was Kathy Griffin.

 

 

 

Truth or Dare did very well for a documentary film and still ranks among the 10 highest grossing docs of all time.  Its $29 million box office take is comparable to about $55 million in today's dollars.


Madonna Makes Her Broadway Acting Debut in David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" (May 3, 1988)

Speedtheplow_madonna Always one to push the envelope, Madonna was able to cross off "perform on Broadway" from her bucket list on May 3, 1988 when she co-starred with Joe Mantegna and Ron Silver (who won a Tony for Best Actor) in David Mamet's play, Speed-the-Plow.  It was an early example of a show hiring a popular non-actor to draw an audience.  Plow ran thru New Year's Eve.   Madonna played the role of Karen, a temp in a Hollywood studio who turned out to be a smooth operator.  At the time of this acting stint she was in between albums, 1986's True Blue and 1989's Like a Prayer.  I saw the play six weeks after it opened, on June 14, with a fellow I dated briefly.  We had great seats, sixth row center, and were surrounded by other excited teen girls and gay men waiting to see their idol.  Madge's performance was uninspiring, and in my journal I wrote: "It was a wooden performance, her delivery seemed unnatural and it seemed as if she was reading for an audition".  Still, it was fun to see her close up.  And props to Madonna for going beyond her comfort zone of music videos.

 

Playbill_speedtheplow

 

20 years later the play was revived with Jeremy Piven, Raul Esparza and Elizabeth Moss (Peggy from Mad Men).  The revival made headlines a few months after it opened when Piven dropped out after claiming he was suffering from mercury poisoning caused by eating nothing but sushi for years.  He turned out to be more high-maintenance than Madonna!

 

Piven_moss_speedtheplow