I have a thing for dead celebrities. Not like a let-me-buy-a-map-and-drive-to-the-site-of-their-demise, thing or even a let-me-put-horrific-poems-and-cheap-flowers-on-their-graves thing. No, my thing is more like a let-me-reminisce-about-their-importance-in-my-life-because-after-all-it-is-all-about- me, kind of thing. Since I’ve recently entered old age, I find that upon receiving news of some twinkling star from my youth passing on to the nether realm, I am overcome with the need to step back to their hayday for a few moments. Thank god for the interweb, I don’t know how old people reminisced before technology. Anyhoo, recent weeks have been especially strong for me in the dead celebrity realm.
Richard Dawson, you taught me how to properly brace for goopy old man kisses before answering important questions. This came in handy during my mid-20’s bartending career as well as while living in Turkey.
Robin Gibb – my favorite BeeGee. Robin, you taught me that chest hair and falsetto were not always in agreement. News of his death made me long for an adult-sized version of my pink satin jacket with the glittered roller-skate above the right pocket. In honor of Robin, I spent a few hours on Spotify cueing up classic BeeGees, strolling down disco lane in my rainbow toe socks with hair so finely feathered that even Farrah contemplated a brief resurrection to join me.
And lest we forget, Donna Summer. Oh Donna. I spent my youth longing for your ginormous nest of hair and that glittering dew-like finish you never left home without. As a chubby young white kid in Middle America, I was enamored of you and your soulful tunes, but I did not begin to appreciate the full spectrum of your talents until I entered the world of gay men. Even as I type the words ‘gay men’ I hear strains of “Love to Love You” busting through the crazy in my head. Dear Donna, as the media has engaged in numerous retrospective tributes to you these past weeks, I have sashayed down memory lane (I think it is important to note here that this memory lane is made of plexiglass, sprinkled with glitter and has a mirror ball revolving above) tossing my hair and remembering when the phrase “She Works Hard For the Money” was my something I contemplated aspiring to rather than my everyday reality.
Every song in Donna’s greatest hits list has the uncanny power to take me back to various moments from my former life of fabulousness – when I was young, sassy and surrounded by some of the most marvelous men on the planet. No, I was not a fag hag. I despise that term. ‘Fag hag’ conjures images of angry women with buzz cuts and multiple piercings sipping Jack Daniels and sucking on Virginia Slims at the corner leather bar. I am far too high maintenance to be a fag hag and the boys I spent my youth with are far too festive to be called fags. We worked in professional theatre for godsake- costumes no less and thus we were more the types to be found sipping a Cosmo on a chaise lounge with vintage Cher thumping in the background. No, I was not a fag hag but rather a Fairy Princess. He’s a fairy, I’m a princess – it compliments both of us - way better than fag and hag.
Anyhoo, in my life as a Fairy Princess, I spent many a night in techno-filled gay bars all along the Northeast Corridor – thanks to my BFF and now The Midget’s Fairy Godfather, Uncle Johnny. And no matter the age of its patrons, every bar, club or hotspot always managed to mix in a healthy amount of Donna Summer. My love of Donna goes way beyond the pedestrian adoration of “Last Dance” when played at closing time. No, my connection to Donna runs deep. Whenever I hear the first few “Ahhhh’s” of “Love to Love You Baby,” I am instantly transported to a hot summer night in the mid- 90’s, at the The Monster in the Village - the soothing sounds of Donna, blanketing the room while hotties in ass-hugging pants and nipple baring tops danced the night away with their arms waving in full-on homosexuality. As I was embraced by a bar full of truly amazing men, it was clear that my life had done a full 360 from the small town Iowa I’d left behind a couple years prior and there was no going back. Disco and many other things had all new meaning and I loved it.
“Hot Stuff” never fails to takes me back to a questionable leather bar in Philly with a few grad school cohorts. “This Time I Know It’s For Real” sends me right back to a cool summer week spent on Fire Island – me and 8 fab fairies high above the bay on a rooftop deck sipping appletinis and gossiping about who had felt up Anderson Cooper on the dance floor (spoiler alert – it certainly wasn’t me.) “Heaven Knows” and I’m at Stonewall in ‘98. “On the Radio” and I’m back signing into a hairbrush with my gay bestie in his 1st New York apartment. I could go on and on through fabulous gay nightspots and the raunchy fun that was had over the years with Donna providing the soundtrack, but without a doubt, the number one Donna Summer backed memory I have would be set to the tune of “Bad Girls.”
NYC Gay Pride Parade 1999 – A fabulous glittered float fluttered down Bleeker street and atop was a stunning drag queen lip syncing her heart out – flanked by a bevy of hot hunks in leather thongs and motorcycle boots.
ahhhhh beep beep….ahhhh toot toot
Talkin’ bout them sad girls.
Bad girls. Talkin’ ‘bout bad bad girls.”
Three men next to me (clad in sailor uniforms of course) had me in hysterical tears of laughter as each exclaimed, “There my baby daddy!” Best. Parade. Ever.
Those were my formidable years. Those were the years in which I became fabulous – a fabulous that has lasted through expatriation, motherhood AND a brief return to the Midwest. Now that is fabulous. Without those years in the world of gay men what would have happened to me? Would I know the power of kitten heels? Would I be clear about the rule “Always remove one accessory before leaving home for optimum balance?” Would I have ever read all volumes of Tales of the City – 4 times? How would I have learned about my fav show –Absolutely Fabulous? Would I love leopard as I do now? Most importantly, would I fully understand the true importance of Wonder Woman in our universe? I fear not.
Donna, I bid you farewell for now, but know that every time I hear the disco strains of MacArthur Park, I will toss my arms out wide and dissolve in to a full-on Wonder Woman spin, just the way the boys in the clubs taught me to do. “Someone left the cake out in the rain…”
-For my bestie Johnny- without you I'd never know....