The “Showtune” Gene

This weekend I had an epiphany on why gay men love showtunes.  More on that in a minute.

Sunday is the big “Showtune” video night at the Eagle here in Minneapolis.  Well, technically the showtunes are shown in the Bolt side of the “Eagle Complex”.  I know– PHEW, right?  Because a bar branded with the Eagle name shouldn’t do something so decidedly unmasculine as to play showtunes for a group of drunk, screaming fags.

So while the Bolt half of the bar shows Ethel Merman doing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, the Eagle half plays Rhianna thumpa-thump dance music.

So much butcher, n’est pas?

Side Note:  Every time (and I mean EVERY time) I hear Ethel sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” I think of the Army Hospital scene in Airplane where she portrays a severely shell-shocked Lieutenant Hurwitz, and she bursts from the bed singing “You’ll be SWELL…”, and they have to sedate her.

And that, as much as anything else, led to my drinking problem.  [tips glass into side of head]

Well, after my seventh or so Leinenkugel I found myself looking about the seething, roaring, shouting mass of gay-manity.  This was also about the time Madonna’s abortion version of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” was playing and we all had napkins and were frantically waving them at her while shouting the lyrics.

It was such a “wow” moment for me. As in “Wow!  Look at all these gay men queening out while Madge does a bad rendition of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical!”

And in my beer-induced stupor, I started to question why all gay men seemingly gravitate to Showtunes.  I’m sure not ALL gay men do, but the place was full of all sorts of different types (butch guys, bears, twinks, jocks, leathermen, etc) and everyone  was tossing goddamn napkins and trying doing their level best not to cry for Madge-vita.

Once I sobered up, this was my conclusion:

Gay men are drawn to theater in general, because theater is all about the art of pretending.  Everyone remembers how much fun it was to play “dress up” as a kid either in a basement at a friend’s house or during hallowe’en.  And how much MORE fun is it to dress in costume as an adult and to play at being someone you aren’t in front of a large audience?  Where else but the theater does one get the opportunity to experience this joy?

Oh, that’s right.  Most gay men have to do this every day of their lives.

So I guess it becomes clear how all things “theatrical” would resonate with the gay community.  But why musicals?

Here I think there are a couple of reasons.  First, music adds another whole dimension to what is unfolding on stage or screen.  Music works in synergy with the visual aspect to create something far grander than either could be alone.  One only has to watch a particulary good movie (preferably scored by John Williams) with the sound off to appreciate this.

Second, good musical theater numbers not only further the plot line, but there is something raw and honest about the emotion conveyed by them.  And what gay man, dressed in his daily life costume and acting straight, doesn’t long to burst forth in song and bare the true feelings in his heart?

Of course, this doesn’t explain totally getting into the more campy production numbers– but the descent into ‘musical madness’ begins innocently enough.  It starts with torch songs and diva power ballads listened to in the privacy of headphones in the dead of night.  But it’s a slippery slope from there.

This is how it happens.  You are alone at a gay bar, and suddenly you hear a voice whisper in your ear…

A Lispy Emperor Palpatine:  “Oh… I’m afraid your Merman Voice will be quite operational, when your friends arrive.  Yes… that’s it.  Give in to your Judy!  Streisand me down, and your journey to the dark side will be complete!”

Before you know it, you find yourself in a barful of gay men, full-on mimicking Julie Andrews in doing Le Jazz Hot from “Victor Victoria” and gushing about her Erte gown and headpiece.

I mean, hello!  She looked utterly fabulous and the fringe arms on that gown were to die for!

I’m not sayin’… I’m just sayin’. 

Of course, the belching, beer-swilling and the occasional South Park production number sort of offsets the uber gayness of it all.  I can think of nothing nearly so palette-cleansing as belting out “Uncle Fucker” at the top of your lungs in a crowed bar.

Of course the irony of it isn’t quite lost, as the whole Uncle Fucker production number borrows heavily from gay-friendly musical theater staples.  The tap dancing “fart” sequence might as well be 42nd street.  And the end is straight (pun intended) from “Oklahoma”:

“You’re an Uncle Fucker I must say- YOU fucked your Uncle yesterday!!  Ha ha ha ha! Uncle Fucker, that’s YOU-N-C-L-E  FUCK YOU, Uncle Fuckaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Hi.  My name is cb and I’m a gay showtune-aholic.

Too right.

Suck my balls.

About cb

Nickname: Munt Measurements: 45 B, 34, 38(?) Ambition: to be the best human ever! Turn ons: long walks on the beach, romantic dinners, porn, rainbows, cock Turn offs: bad smell face, men who are full of themselves, dead puppies, popcorn, sadness
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17 Responses to The “Showtune” Gene

  1. Howard says:

    You might as well punch demerits into my gay card as I’m not a fan of musicals at all, except Sweeney Todd (which I’m seeing on June 18th so hold one of those punches).

    However, Uncle Fucker is one of the best spoof ever written. In fact, the South Park movie is genius satire all around.

    I’m super! Thanks for asking.

  2. Mark says:

    I love all those ‘Airplane’ movies, and the Ethel Merman scene you recounted is great.

    After purchasing movie tickets and noticing I had nearly 30 minutes to waste, I decided to peruse the record store next door. Until then I did not know that Ethel Merman had put out a DISCO albumn. Oh yes! All her hits, sung by The Merm herself, had been disco-fied. I couldn’t resist it, and now this is the CD I put on when I invite the gays over for cocktails, and we all have a gay ol’ time.

    Mark 🙂

  3. Gavin says:

    Great, now you got me singing Uncle Fucker!

  4. Tony says:

    I may start channeling my inner Patti Lupone any second now! She did a great job in the revival of “Anything Goes”, singing the part created by…. wait for it…. Ethel Merman! Yes, I really am that gay.

  5. Ron says:

    I don’t like musicals, but I do like rock operas. However, I actually was once in a musical production, and it was pretty fun.

  6. Gary says:

    Hi cb!

    When I was a child we had Saturday chores, major projects that we did as a family. We kids got to listen to pop music on the ornate console stereo in the dining room if we were on our own. If the parents were involved the choice was country music or showtunes. We always chose showtunes. I still believe that part of the reason it took my family so long to figure out that I was gay is that to this day my three straight siblings and I can sing every song from My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and every Rodgers and Hammerstein musical except Cinderella. Because my dad thought it sucked.

    To the point, a few years ago a dear friend (a fabulous lesbian with a shared love of all things Blake Edwards) and I were in a gay bar in Austin, Texas. I don’t remember if we went because it was show tune night or not. Eventually, Le Jazz Hot came on to the video screens. A few people sang along but as the song came to the big finish every queen, twink, muscleboy, bartender, cowboy, you name it, did the full on hands down and then arms slowly raised as Julie Andrews went through her range, shook shoulders at the top, dropped the arms, whispered Le-Jazz-Hot and thrust their hands skyward for a snap. It was beautiful.

    Thank you for spurring that memory.

  7. RG says:

    It’s amazing the amount of clarity you have after several beers.

  8. Stephen says:

    I love you for this post!!! You’re so right – – great musical theatre propels the plot forward and tells us more about the characters, something underneath.

    Plus, it takes a real man to sing know all the lyrics to EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES! And an even real-er man to sing them out loud at a gay bar!!!!

    Not to mention that singing I CAN’T SAY NO at times can attract a man to you. Since it’s truly my theme song!

    Great post!

  9. madhouse6 says:

    if only you could have all heard this rant in person. oy vey.

  10. Dustin says:

    Hmmmm, well I love musicals, but like everything in my life, I’m picky about the ones I like. The campy classic ones that “the gays” seem to love often make me vomit. I despise Ethel Merman (should i shred my card?) and alot of the classics I don’t like either (guys and dolls, south pacific, etc . . . yes I hear the shreader going now). I do like Weber (probably my band/orchaestra geek training) and I like a lot of the modern rock oprah or “fun” stuff (Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Wicked). Oh and I know “Caberet” is sacred because of Liza, but it’s one downer of a musical!

    As for Madge and Evita, I actually thought she did a damn good job. She’s no Patti, but she did good I thought. I saw the show and I much more prefer the movie actually, as the stage show is very minimalistic (unless it is soon to be revived, then it will have fabulous sets and costumes).

    Of course I didn’t see it with Patti and what’s his face, Enigo Montoya. I saw the “on tour” version, which basically is the only way you can see it nowadays since it’s not on Broadway anymore.

    Anyway, I assume you have seen the box office bomb that was “Connie and Carla?” I don’t care if it did bomb, I love it and watch it often as a feel good movie. Also if you didn’t see it, check out “Camp.” That’s another great broadway movie.

  11. Ray Ray says:

    Hey, I’m not sure I agree w/you cuz i think a chorus line sux ass even tho its broadway and gay inclusive, but aside from all that i think you have a point…madge did a good job at evita even tho i don[t really give a shit about that play and don’t care for that song and never really thought about patti lupone as anything other than camp…i prefer lana turner and old school shit that don’t mean anything anymore. I think ethel merman is fucking FABULOUS singing that shit about coming up roses and u know it’s a helluva lot better than boogie nights porn shit and i’ll take it over behind the green door any day. so fuck all that subversive gay shit being all know it all…there’s nothing fab about knowing it all, in fact knowing it all kinda sucks. more to come

  12. romach says:

    I am so glad you mentioned Ethel Merman and the scene from Airplane. Every time I hear her or see her that is the only thing I can think off! Tee Hee

  13. Tater says:

    Excellent post. I think you pretty much nailed the underlying reasons for our love of this genre, and you made me laugh. Twofer!

  14. Chris says:

    I LOVE this. You have such a great rant I’m impressed! I agree with Howard, as much as most may disagree, musically, SouthPark is friggin’ genius. (considering the potheads that created it! 🙂 )
    SKITTLES!

  15. you just had to bring “Victor Victoria” into it, didn’t you… Tralalalalalaaaa

  16. tracy says:

    great Post.

  17. aNGELICA says:

    caca

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