Gay Icons

The Unhappy Concubine - Leslie Cheung

The Unhappy Concubine – Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung
The Unhappy Concubine

Today, we talk of icons as computer images. A millennium ago they were small religious images, objects of veneration. But “icon” has another meaning – an individual or something specific that is particularly representative of a group. For gay people, there have been icons through the ages, but perhaps never more so than in the last 50 years as gay men were finally able to come out and celebrate their own identity. Read More

James Dean - His Hands Were Free

James Dean – His Hands Were Free

James Dean
His Hands Were Free

Is he perhaps the youngest of all gay icons? Even today we don’t really know if the moody, rebellious actor with whom so many disaffected, misunderstood, sexually confused teenagers around the world of the 1950s identified so closely was really gay. Yet James Dean is now regarded as one of the great gay icons of all time. Read More

Ian McKellan - The Modest Knight

Ian McKellan – The Modest Knight

Ian McKellan
The Modest Knight

On a visit to Scotland during my student years, I was exceedingly fortunate to catch a couple of plays being performed at the celebrated Edinburgh Festival, Shakespeare’s “Richard II” and Marlowe’s “Edward II”. Playing the title role in each was a young English actor about whom there was a considerable buzz in theatrical circles. The friend who accompanied me was then at drama school and madly in love with him. Read More

Christopher Isherwood - Berlin is Boys!

Christopher Isherwood – Berlin is Boys!

Christopher Isherwood
Berlin is Boys!

The lyrics from the opening of the gay Cole Porter’s gorgeous 1934 musical “Anything Goes” could well have been written with the writer and novelist Christopher Isherwood in mind. Although Porter and Isherwood may never have met, both were gay. While Porter married in part to mask his sexuality the English-born Isherwood was one of the 20th century’s most openly gay men. Exposed to homosexuality at his boarding school in England, he had already met and become best friends with another famously gay Englishman, the poet WH Auden. Read More

Liberace - Mr Showmanship

Liberace – Mr Showmanship

Liberace
Mr Showmanship

Some years ago, I was staying with a friend in Toronto. We had just changed to go to a party when I happened to notice my friend’s sneakers. They were covered with black and white piano keys, the upper part liberally covered in gold glitter. Built in to the laces was a swinging candelabra. He had bought them, he told me, after a visit to the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, one of many items of Liberace memorabilia merchandise on sale after Museum tours. Read More

Joe Orton – The High Priest of Tease

Joe Orton – The High Priest of Tease

Joe Orton
The High Priest of Tease

When police finally broke into the tiny, dirty bedsit apartment in North London, even the most hardened were nauseated by what they witnessed. Blood was everywhere. Lying on the bed was the body of the younger of the two men, his head cratered as a result of nine fierce blows from the hammer that lay on his chest. The bloodied naked corpse of the older man lay prostrate on the floor, dead from a massive overdose of barbiturates. Read More

Bette Midler - The Divine Miss M

Bette Midler – The Divine Miss M

Bette Midler
The Divine Miss M

In an earlier blog post, I wrote of my visit to the now-closed Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. I had a second mission on that trip. I’d been thrilled to discover that Caesar’s Palace was then presenting “The Showgirl Must Go On” featuring none other than one of my all-time favorites, Bette Midler. Read More

Julie Andrews – The Dame Who Played a Man

Julie Andrews – The Dame Who Played a Man

Julie Andrews
The Dame Who Played a Man

What? Julie Andrews? The nun from the movie “Sound of Music” as a gay icon? The pure, virginal Dame Julie of “Mary Poppins”? The consummate stage actress who had earlier conquered Broadway and London’s West End. Read More

Oscar Wilde – True Friends Stab You in the Front!

Oscar Wilde – True Friends Stab You in the Front!

Oscar Wilde
True Friends Stab You in the Front!

He was a writer, a playwright, an aesthete, bon vivant, dandy and absolute master of the pithy epigram. The title of this article is one. Even better known is, “I can resist everything except temptation!” He was also gay. Read More

How One Night in Bangkok Heralded a New Gay Dawn

How One Night in Bangkok Heralded a New Gay Dawn

How One Night in Bangkok Heralded a New Gay Dawn

Now what has one of the most popular disco numbers of the 1980s to do with Gay Icons? I wonder how many are aware that this song comes from a Broadway musical? “Chess”, written by the chess-loving Tim Rice who in the 1970s had made himself a nice fortune as the lyricist for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”, opened in London in 1984. To write the music, Rice commuted to Sweden to discuss the idea with the ABBA boys. Read More

Serge Diaghilev - The Gay Impresario Who Changed the World

Serge Diaghilev – The Gay Impresario Who Changed the World

Serge Diaghilev
The Gay Impresario Who Changed the World

To be openly gay in the latter days of the Russian Empire was extremely risky. The celebrated composer Tchaikovsky, most famous for his music for the ballets “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty”. Read More

Noël Coward - Mad Dogs and a Right Royal Scandal

Noël Coward – Mad Dogs and a Right Royal Scandal

Noël Coward
Mad Dogs and a Right Royal Scandal

In a 1999 article marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Noël Coward, TIME magazine noted that “no other 20th century figure approached Coward’s creative breadth: playwright, actor, composer, lyricist, novelist, stage director, film producer, Vegas “entertainer”. Audiences adored Coward’s plays, his stage musicals, his wit and his often-cutting repartee. Between the two World Wars, Coward dominated the theatrical profession on both sides of the Atlantic. Read More

The Beautiful Boy

The Beautiful Boy

Related Article
The Most Beautiful Boy

Out of the early morning mist slowly emerges a darkened steamer, its single chimney belching out black smoke. On the soundtrack we hear the start of the hauntingly beautiful Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. In a long opening shot, the camera follows the steamer as the sky gently lightens. Eventually it cuts to a fifty-ish figure sitting on deck seemingly unsure of what the future will bring. Read More