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Chanticleer - Voices of Angels (In Tuxedos)

Chanticleer.christmas2014Chanticleer is an all-male vocal ensemble based in San Francisco.  Best known for its interpretations of Renaissance music, the group also performs a repertoire that includes jazz, gospel and standards.  The group came to my attention in 1992 when I saw a video for their version of Responsorio Desundo de SS Jose from the CD Mexican Baroque.  In addition to this CD I later bought a few others.  Then ten years ago I bought a DVD of their Christmastime performance at the Metropolitan Museum.  It was magnificent.  And this year (2014) I attended their Christmas concert at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan (where Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis' 1994 funeral was held).






The ensemble is comprised of a dozen male singers who I'd say are between the ages of 30 and 50.  Although they're not officially considered a gay group they certainly send out a gay vibe.  (In this year's concert program  one singer made it known that he's straight.)  The group was formed in 1978, which happens to be the same year the first gay choral group, San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus, was formed.

Battle of the Disco Era's Double Albums (1977 - 1978)

Discowallpaper21977 and 1978 were the halcyon years of the disco era.  The 10-month period between October 1977 and August 1978 was particularly frenzied as four double albums were released: the soundtracks to Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday and two by Donna Summer


SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (Release Date: Nov. 15, 1977)

I bought it in June 1978, seven months after its release.  After more than 30 years I've tired of Night Fever, How Deep is Your Love? and Stayin' Alive, but my ears still prick up when I hear other hits such as If I Can't Have You; More Than a Woman (both versions); Disco Inferno; and You Should Be Dancing.  And I always had a soft spot in my heart for KC & the Sunshine Band's Boogie Shoes.  The extended instrumentals were worth listening to as well.




THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY (Release Date: May 19, 1978)

With the exception of Last Dance (and to a lesser degree, the title track), this wasn't packed with big hits like Sat. Night Fever.  This was probably the reason I didn't get around to buying it until five or six years after it was released - and then only because it was at a discount record store on 5th Ave. for $1.99.  But it was quite a find because it was packed with great dance tracks by Diana Ross (Lovin', Livin' and Givin' - not to be confused with Journey's Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' ); Thelma Houston (Love Masterpiece);  Pattie Brooks (After Dark); Donna Summer (With Your Love); Cameo (Find My Way); and Love & Kisses (You're the Most Precious Thing).  These tracks all got plenty of attention at gay discos.




ONCE UPON A TIME (Release Date: Oct. 25, 1977)

I have a special place in my heart for this album because it was my first by Donna Summer, bought in the summer of 1978, when I was coming out.  I was somewhat familiar with only the single Rumor Has It, but I had a feeling I'd love the other tracks - and I was right.  It contains lush, swirling songs such as Fairytale High; Trip to Nowhere; I Love You; and Now I Need You.




DONNA SUMMER LIVE AND MORE (Release Date: Aug. 31, 1978)

A powerhouse of an album anchored by the 19-minute MacArthur Park Suite, which had the songs One of a Kind and Heaven Knows embedded in it.  The other three sides were live and included most of the tracks from Once Upon a Time, a way to expose mainstream audiences, who embraced the album as much as "the gays."  At the Monster in Greenwich Village they still play MacArthur Park Suite in its entirety every Tuesday at their classic disco night.




And my favorite of them all?  Once Upon a Time, followed by Thank God It's Friday, Sat. Night Fever and Live and More.  Don't get me wrong I like Live and More but because a lot of it was tracks from Once Upon a Time I played it less.  





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)    


The Andrews Sisters & My First Stirrings of "Camp"

Andrew.sistersWhen I was around the age of 14 or 15 I saw a TV commercial for a compilation of the Andrews Sisters' greatest hits and I was captivated by Patty, Maxene and LaVerne.  Their harmony, their look, their pep!  My favorite song of theirs was Hold Tight.  And Bette Midler had a top-10 hit in 1973 with her cover of their WWII classic Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (from her first album The Divine Miss M).  I also came to embrace other songs from the 40s, such as Hut Sut Song, Three Little Fishies and Elmer's Tune.  At the time I had no inkling about being gay (that would come a few years later), but my nascent gay sensibility was beginning to blossom.


Candyman.christina.aguilera Fast forward to the 21st century where in 2004 I was tickled by the inclusion of the Andrews Sisters' version of Winter Wonderland in the movie The Polar Express.  Then a few years later Christina Aguilera paid homage to them with her music video for Candy Man and its uptempo Big Band-like beat and military motif. 


Andrew.sisters.whatsmylineHere are links to two marvelous You Tube clips.  The first, from 1959, is an appearance by the Andrews Sisters on What's My Line?.  The second clip, from 1966, has them in a sing-off with the Supremes, performing each others' hits on Sammy Davis Jr.'s short-lived variety show.  


Madonna_trueblueWhen I became aware of the Andrews Sisters' music, part of its appeal was how old fashioned it was.  Today, however, when I look back at the popular music from 25-30 years ago by Madonna, Culture Club,  George Michael, or the Eurythmics, their songs don't seem like "oldies" at all - "classic" is more appropriate.  Ah, how different the world appears looking through the eyes of youth and the eyes of the AARP set!

My Favorite Song by Cher

CherOf all the memorable songs by Cher (e.g., Gypsy Tramps & Thieves; The Way of Love; Believe) my favorite is a rather obscure one from her 1974 album Dark Lady called I Saw a Man & He Danced with His Wife.  September 2014 will mark 40 years since I saw her perform it on her variety show on CBS.  Presented as a mini soap opera of sorts (a very early music video?), it told the story of love lost and regained. 


It opens with Cher sitting alone at a club, sipping a glass of wine.  As the band begins playing she spies a former lover getting up to dance with his new wife.  Although she catches his eye, he walks by without acknowledging her.  Then two weeks later he shows up at her door and tells Cher that he left his lover because he realized he loved her more than he ever knew (sigh). 


Cher_vogueThis song was very different from Cher's other hits because it had a Big Band feel to it.  (The mid-70s were a time when Bette Midler and the Manhattan Transfer were making 40s-style music popular.)  Not surprisingly, I Saw a Man wasn't a hit, peaking at only #42 on the Billboard Hot 100.  However, based on hearing it this one time, I bought the 45.  Perhaps I liked it because it received no airplay so I never tired of it.  Interestingly, the writer of this song, John Durrill, also wrote her #1 hit Dark Lady.  Double click here to listen to the song.


This was the beginning of a fallow period in Cher's music career.  It would be five years before her next hit, Take Me Home, and then another eight years would pass before she came back in a big way with four top-10 hits in the next few years.  (And during this time she would win the Oscar for Best Actress in Moonstruck.)   But it's her little melodrama of a song from 1974 that I treasure the most.


Here are some other posts I've written about Cher you may find of interest:

Suitable for Framing: Cher's Classic TIME Magazine Cover

Cher + Elton + Bette + WOW! 

Cher Gives Birth to Chasity 


Best Disco Songs with "Hand Claps"

Clapping_handsSynthesizers, whistles, bells, tambourines and electronic beeps are all incorporated into dance music, but the hand-clap stands out for its human connection (granted they're often the product of a synthesizer).  What I also like about hand claps is how they have a primal way of compelling the listener/dancer to join in.  You'll know what I mean as you review the following baker's dozen of my hand-clap favorites:


  • Cocomotion - El Coco (1977).  The song begins with the lyrics, "Do it, do it good (clap-clap), dance the Cocomotion (clap-clap) ...".  (In the link this line comes on about midway through the song.)


  • Don't Let Me Be Understand - Santa Esmeralda (1977).  A remake of a rock classic from the mid-60s, but with a salsa beat.


  • Everybody Dance - Chic (1979).  The lyrics issue the command, "Everybody dance (ooh ooh ooh), clap your hands, clap your hands."


  • Good Times (1979)- Chic.  This song, perhaps the top song of the summer of '79, came out just as the CBS sitcom by the same name was ending its 6-year run.  The clapping occurs during the chorus of "Good times, these are the good times, leave your cares behind".


  • Fairy Tale High (1977) - Donna Summer.  From her double-album titled Once Upon a Time, when I bought it I realized that I was gay.  Double click here to hear an extended remix.


  • One of a Kind - Donna Summer (1978).  This song comes in the middle of the grand, 18-minute "MacArthur Park Suite".


  • If There's Love - Amant (1978).  Clapping comes in during an interlude about two-thirds of the way into the song.  I first heard this at the famed Gaiety in Times Square (above Howard Johnson) when I moved to New York in March 1979.


  • In the Navy - Village People (1979).  Hand claps come in during the chorus of, "They want you, they want you, they want you as a new recruit!"


  • Let's All Chant - Michael Zager Band (1978).  The extended 12-inch version begins with rounds of clapping followed by "Ooh-ooh, ah-ah, let's all chant (clap-clap-clap); Ooh-ooh, ah-ah, let's all chant (clap-clap-clap)".  Click here for a jaw-droppingly cheesy clip from Solid Gold that may ruin your enjoyment of the song forever.


  • Mandolay - La Flavour (1980).  Not to be confused with the Burmese city of Mandalay, Mandolay is a woman who hangs out at a disco in Spain.  Rhythmic hand claps are part of the song's chorus.


  • Don't You Want My Love? - Debbie Jacobs (1979).  The clap pattern is:  "Clap, beat, clap-clap".  Listen for yourself in this clip.


  • Car Wash - Rose Royce (1976).  Its funky opening includes rhythmic clapping.


  • Rasputin - Boney M (1978).  This group was huge in Europe but not in the U.S.  Double click here to hear the song and watch the video.    


You may also find the following two posts about classic disco of interest:

Favorite Lyrics of Classic Disco Hits

Silly Disco Hits


Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall: A Performance for the Ages (April 23, 1961)




Forgive some of our gay elders if they look askance when the younger generation gushes about seeing the likes of Cher, Barbra or Madonna in concert.  This may be because, in their minds, they saw the concert, i.e., Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall.  This wildly acclaimed performance took place on Sunday, April 23, 1961.  And although she was a showbiz veteran, at the time of the concert Judy was still only 38 years old (just four years older than Marilyn Monroe).


Judy's career had been somewhat fallow since the mid-1950s when she appeared in A Star is Born in 1954.  She and her managers decided 1961 would be the year for a comeback.  After all, she still had quite a reservoir of goodwill from fans to tap into - and she was saddled with debt.  Her Carnegie Hall concert was part of a larger tour that went on during April and May.  (In addition to the concert tour, she also landed a small, but pivotal, role in the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.)  In May she returned to Carnegie Hall for another sold-out performance, and then in July she performed at the Forest Hills Tennis Club in Queens.   




Judy's live concert album won five Grammy Awards and was the nation's #1 album for 13 weeks.  The following year she starred with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in an acclaimed TV special.  Due to its ratings success CBS decided to give Judy her own variety show the following year.  Unfortunately, it lasted just one season, largely because it had the misfortune of being scheduled opposite Bonanza.  Still, Judy was back!




45 years later out singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who wasn't even born until 1973, gave the very same concert at Carnegie Hall on two nights.  He seemed to have much fun as Judy did - and the audience was almost as adoring - but the reviews weren't nearly as glowing.  Here, below, is his version of Judy's San Francisco.  






Suitable for Framing: TIME Magazine's Classic Cher Cover

Cher_TimeMag_1101750317_400 Now a single woman, and starring in her own variety show, 29-year-old Cher was in the midst of Version 3 of her career.  (V1 was as a singing duo with Sonny in the mid-1960's; V2 began in 1971 with their CBS variety show).  Her "emancipation" warranted a TIME Magazine cover story* and this glamorous cover from the mid-March 1975 became an instant classic.  (And since then Cher's career has continued its iterations, including Hollywood Cher; Disco Diva Cher; Infomercial Cher; and Retirement Tour Cher.) 

*Cover date of 3/17/75 but on newsstands March 11. 



EltonJohn_TimeMag_1101750707_400 LizaMinnelli_1101720228_400 LindaRonstadt_TimeMag_1101770228_400 Four months after Cher's TIME cover Elton John would get one of his own as well.  Other gay icons bestowed with covers have included Liza Minnelli (1972)*, Linda Ronstadt (1977), Madonna (1985) and Bette Midler (1987).  But none compare to Cher's in terms of "Wow!" factor (But Rondstadt's sultry cover comes close).

*Surprisingly, while Liza merited a cover story her even more iconic mother never had one.







Nancy Sinatra Tops the Charts with "These Boots Are Made for Walking" (February 20, 1966)

Nancy_sinatra_bootsFrank Sinatra's daughter Nancy had one of the biggest hits of 1966 with Boots, an early song about female empowerment.  (Two years earlier Lesley Gore had come out with a similarly-themed song, You Don't Own Me.)  It went to #1 the week of February 20.  However, it wasn't until twenty years later that the song became part of the "Camp Hall of Fame" when cable network VH-1 uncovered a primitive video for the song that had been produced for video jukeboxes. 


I was 8 years old at the time the song was popular and remember thinking that the song was pretty dreadful.  Now I've grown to like it, thanks largely to the video with Nancy and her bevy of young vixens with their teased That Girl flips and go-go boots.  And who can forget the call to action at the song's end - "Are you ready boots? ... start walkin!".   




A year later Nancy and her dad had an even bigger hit with the song Something Stupid, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.  It was very popular despite the creepiness factor of father and daughter singing about romantic love.

First Issue of "Entertainment Weekly" Published (February 8, 1990)

Kdlang_entertainmentwkly Entertainmentwkly_gayteens Probably because of the industries it covers, Entertainment Weekly has regularly covered gay issues, trends and personalities.  For example, in its first year it began an end-of-year feature (coinciding with World AIDS Day) listing those in the entertainment industry who had died of AIDS during the year.  It has run cover stories on gay icons such as Madonna (five of them) and Cher and has published numerous articles with a gay slant, e.g. "Gay Men & Straight Women: Why Hollywood Just Loves Them"; "Gays vs. Dr. Laura"; and "Gay Teens on TV". 


EW's current managing editor, Jess Cagle, is openly gay as is one of its columnists, Mark Harris (playwright Tony Kushner's partner).  I've been a subscriber since the first issue (cover date of 2/16/90), which featured kd lang on the cover (she wasn't out at the time).


Over the years EW has given us classic covers of special interest to its gay readers such as Madonna hitchhiking nude (1992); buff Ryan Reynolds showing off his six-pack (2009); our Sex in the City gal pals (2010); and Modern Family's gay daddys Cameron and Mitchell (2010).









And then there's Jake Gyllenhaal in a soaked shirt (2004); Brokeback Mountain (2007); an absolutely adorable one with Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattison from Twilight (2010); and sexy Ricky Martin (2000).










Now that EW is entering its adult years let's hope that it continues to maintain the youthful zest of its adolescent and teen years!