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.
Suck my balls.