A disagreement over misremembered lyrics got my girlfriend and I youtubing this one hit wonder from the 80s by Dead or Alive the other night, and we watched the video with absolute fascination. Could there be anything gayer in the history of pop culture?
If the song or the band was hailed as a statement from Gay-land back in 1985, that didn't reach me or anyone I knew. And I was immersed in the homophobic world of white boy Catholic school adolescence. This was a mainstream top 40 hit. It aired on afternoon video shows on Canadian network television. They played it at our school dances. And even though "fag" and "faggot" were go-to insults in my peer group, no one batted an eye at this video.
But look at it! Look at the clothes! The hair! The make-up! Look at the way lead singer Pete Burns dances, swishes his hips and arms, and wags his finger repeatedly at the camera!
Most rock stars had what look to us now like extremely feminine ways. An entire sub-genre of music is now termed "hair metal" -a name that didn't exist then. Pop stars routinely were made up with a look that seems flamboyant and outrageous to us now. And yet they were considered straight. Many cultivated tough guy images. They sang about loving women. And having sex with them. Hot girls swooned, and the cameras showed us this in their concert videos.
Gay marriage wasn't even joked about, much less the subject of election-tipping debate. The only out celebrities were Harvey Fierstein, Divine and the like. Eddie Murphy regaled his audience in Delirious with routines about faggots doing each other up the ass. And getting AIDS.
Nowadays, Ellen Degeneres beat Oprah as America's favourite TV star. David Sedaris fills huge venues wherever he goes. Barack Obama did a video for the It Gets Better project. And something my girlfriend pointed out to me (which I'd have had no idea of otherwise) - every member of the indie band Grizzly Bear is gay. But watch a video of theirs. Listen to any of their songs. Would you ever know it?
Meanwhile, Elton John composes music for Disney movies. Stadiums of sports fans stomp, clap and sing along to We Will Rock You. Megan Fox's admitted bisexuality has upped her status as a sex symbol. Same with Angelina Jolie. Sacha Baron-Cohen had a mainstream hit with Bruno. Eddie Murphy was caught giving a ride to a transvestite hooker. And Dead or Alive lead singer Pete Burns left his wife of twenty-eight years and married a man. And divorced him two years later. And is suing his plastic surgeon who did his lip surgery.
Anyway, if you care to post a link to an 80s video that you think can top this one for homosexual tone, dress, choreography and atmosphere, be my guest.