A straight couple who own a country-themed gay bar in New York say they were shocked to find tweets from the Westboro Baptist Church after the couple and some friends posted a video satirizing the hate group.
Chris Barnes, who co-owns the Flaming Saddles Saloon with his partner, Jacqui Squatriglia, says he felt inspired to write a satirical song taking the so-called church to task. After a little collaboration with Squatriglia, who suggested something that sounded a little like Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," Barnes wrote the "Westboro Baptist Blues."
"I thought, what if Billie Joe was gay, and he jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge for bullying?" Barnes says. He wrote his song a year ago, and after several fits and starts, he and his band, the Bad News Barnes, recorded it with Dana Fuchs, who played Sadie in the 2007 film Across the Universe. In May, Barnes took advantage of his bar's Hell's Kitchen location and set up a spot to record a music video during the Ninth Avenue Avenue International Food Festival, featuring himself, Fuchs, and Felicia Collins from the Late Show band.
The video was posted online last week, and within days, the Westboro Baptist Church congregation launched a typical Twitter crusade against the bar's owners.
"They're just foaming — we got several tweets from them," Barnes tells The Advocate.
The so-called church's Twitter account shows at least three tweets, in addition to more than a dozen tweets and retweets from Fred Phelps Jr.
Barnes admits that he is not necessarily social media–savvy, but he didn't expect this sort of backlash from the song.
"I didn't think they would even recognize it," he says. "We didn't pick a fight with them."
Barnes says the experience has made for interesting watching, as old friends and acquaintances see the video and the corresponding attacks on social media.
"We have a lot of heterosexual friends who are on the fence about voicing support for the LGBT community," Barnes says. "They're willing to be supportive at the dinner table, but the support ends there a lot of the time. But they're seeing this video and activity around it, and it's becoming a great opportunity for us to actualize and activate a larger part of the heterosexual community."
That attitude, he says, isn't new. He first saw it when he opened the Flaming Saddles Saloon three years ago.
"As a straight couple, we're getting to meet the parents of our bartenders, and we're just getting to learn some of the amazing stories," he says. "The heterosexual community really doesn't know the prejudice and the struggle and the hate that the gay community gets. So we immediately became, like, activists. Our T-shirts say, 'Yippee I'm Gay, Motherfucker.'"
Watch the video below: