Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had huge hits with their songs Thrift Shop and Can’t Hold Us, and then another unexpected hit in Same Love, a song that makes the political case for gay marriage. Or as Macklemore puts it: “No freedom till we’re equal. Damn right I support it.”
More on the success of Same Love at the NY Times.
Michelangelo is often considered one of history’s greatest artists, and his sexuality may have been part of what made him great, as that was certainly a factor in helping him break free of convention to create genius. The New Republic’s Jed Perl describes Michelangelo’s The Dream as his most haunting drawing, and it is fraught with homoerotic emotions.
The dreamer is a handsome young man, his naked muscular body decisively, dramatically posed. But the dream itself is tangled, ambiguous, dramatically confounding.
Amidst the tension between the calm of the central figure and the agitation swarming around it, Perl notes this may be a portrait of Michelangelo’s longtime lover, Tommaso de’ Cavalieri. If true this offers an astonishing portrait of their often troubled relationship.
Whatever the source, The Dream inspires, disturbs, and challenges me, or as Perl puts it:
The Dream explodes the ordinary pleasures of allegory, which are the pleasures of piecing together a puzzle. Michelangelo’s puzzle, complete but still puzzling, is irreducible allegory—a whole thought to be grasped through the experiencing authority of the eye.
Sesame Street’s beloved Big Bird was created by two gay lovers who lived together for over 50 years, Kermit Love and his partner Christopher Lyall. They created the original Big Bird from a Jim Henson sketch of those glass toy drinking birds that rock back and forth as they drip their beaks in a glass of water.
After barbs were exchanged about Big Bird between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election, The Daily Beast ran a lovely piece about Big Bird’s gay dads:
Lyall and Love were partners in work and life for half a century and in the 1980s traveled with Big Bird to the White House for the annual Easter egg roll. The most momentous results of that presidential nexus were the grass stains on Big Bird’s outsize feet. Nobody could have imagined that this puppet might someday play even the smallest role in deciding who would occupy the Oval Office. “We’ll see,” Lyall says. The possible political impact of this 8-foot-2 yellow plumed character takes a turn from the ridiculous to the delightfully apt when you consider this: Big Bird was the product of a profound partnership between two men that was in every way a marriage save for in the strictly legal sense that the law until very recently forbade.
Big Bird, left, and his creator Kermit Love, right. I think they both look like adorable muppets.
And hard as it is to believe, this lovely gay man who so influenced Sesame Street was in fact named Kermit Love. So. Cool.
Shy, he stepped off into the cornfield. I could see
his back muscles under the damp shirt quiver and go slack.
Turning again to face the shade, he smiled at me, not
squinted, smiled, and finished tugging shut his fly.
Now, when the cornstalks in the night wind slide
like fire, I see him. He steps closer in my dream.
I don’t know, where he sleeps, if sleep refreshes him,
but here it works me like hot metal over a flame.
From the poem “The Idea Of Beauty” by Meleagros, 3rd century, translated by Brooks Haxton in The Atlantic.
Queer is not the same as gay. Queer means different, strange, odd, or eccentric, and in that sense, Burning Man is profoundly queer.
If you haven’t seen this, it really is a touching and a powerful mood reseter, if you need one. Plus it gives a great sense of the spirit of Burning Man, something hard to get if you have never been there.
It may be that dandies have always suffered, as in this poem Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson first published in 1897:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Fortunately for us modern dandies, It Gets Better.
Walt Whitman wrote some of the most important poetry in American history – and in his eyes, the love of two men, and the greatness of America, were inextricably linked.
Come, I will make the continent indissoluble;
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever yet shone upon;
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of
America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies;
I will make inseparable cities, with their arms about each other’s necks;
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.
For you these, from me, O Democracy, to serve you, ma femme!
For you! for you, I am trilling these songs,
In the love of comrades,
In the high-towering love of comrades.
~ A Song, by Walt Whitman
Preston and Kamran, at Yosemite Falls, 2011
A beautiful film tribute to Lou Reed’s classic, Walk on the Wild Side, showing the characters involved:
What a hauntingly beautiful song. It is hard to imagine today, but I loved this song back when I heard it on the radio in Salt Lake City in 1972 without ever understanding its meaning.
This song also speaks to a time when gay culture celebrated its feminine side, something lost in today’s push to appear “normal” and assimilate.
Sadly, we no longer have “underground” cultures as everything spreads instantly across the internet, but this song stands as a tribute to a time when insiders could say astonishing things without the umbrella culture reading the code. Consider the lyrics –
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
In the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
Backrooms, hustlers, and trannies? How did the meaning ever escape us? Even today I will point out the song’s meaning to gay friends who are surprised they never caught it.
(OK, I did not know what a backroom was in 1972, but I did in 1982 and I didn’t get it then, either. And for my straight readers – a backroom was a dark space at the back of a gay bar where men went to have sex, a convenience shut down when AIDS hit.)
Harvey Milk and Joe Campbell
Missing from the YouTube video is the Sugar Plum Fairy, slang for drug dealer, which may be why it was left out. The Sugar Plum Fairy was Joe Campbell who played a character of that name in Andy Warhol’s film My Hustler. Joe met Harvey Milk in 1955 when Joe was 19 and Harvey 26, and to Harvey’s amazement, Joe fell instantly in love, and they lived together for 7 years in New York. Harvey moved to San Francisco’s Castro after they broke up.
Amazingly, Joe Campbell had another famous lover named Oliver “Billy” Sipple. Sipple was an ex-Marine who became famous on September 22, 1975 when he went to hear a speech by President Gerald Ford in San Francisco’s Union Square. Standing next to Sipple was a woman named Sara Jane Moore who pulled out a gun and tried to shoot the President, but was thwarted when Sipple, acting fast, knocked the gun away, saving the President. Sipple was closeted, but Harvey Milk thought this was a great opportunity to show Americans that gay men could be heroic. The San Francisco Chronicle printed the information that Sipple was gay, but the resulting press onslaught on Sipple and his parents was devastating to them, and Sipple unsuccessfully sued the Chronicle for outing him. It appears he then sank into alcoholism until his death in 1989.
A little research turned up something else interesting about the other, “Little” Joe. Joe Dallesandro is alive and well and living in Los Angeles, at least according to Wikipedia. Hard to imagine he was a hustler in New York in the 70s and made it through alive. In fact, it is Joe Dallesandro’s crotch that is memorialized on one of the most famous album covers ever, The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers:
Update: Note Mixxie’s comments below for an even fuller picture of the time and people of the song.