Karine Jean-Pierre
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7 Big Gay Music Moments from Vintage Christmas TV Specials

Campy Christmas

We're toasting the holiday season by remembering vintage Christmas TV specials that resonated with LGBT viewers. Whether it was the misfit character Hermey from 1964's Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer or fabulous hosts like Cher and Pee-wee Herman, these beloved specials featured musical moments that have endured — whether they needed to or not.

Let's look back at seven favorites.

1. Hermey the Elf Sings About Being a Misfit: Was there ever a more lovable elf then self-proclaimed misfit Hermey, the fey little guy who so wanted to be a dentist in the 1964 stop-motion animation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Here's Hermey singing "We're a Couple of Misfits" with fellow outcast Rudolph.

2. Sonny and Cher Are Joined By Bernadette Peters (and Captain Kangaroo?): The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour gave the world two fabulous Christmas specials back in 1972 and 1973, but it's the third holiday special in 1976 — after the duo divorced — that features this rocking Christmas medley showcasing the vocal talents of special guests Bernadette Peters and, um, Captain Kangaroo. Also featured: little Chastity, now Chaz Bono.

3. Donny, Marie and Their Friend Paul Lynde: Donny and Marie Osmond, the reigning Mormon brother-sister act of the '70s, hosted their own Christmas special in 1976 featuring gay actor and longtime Hollywood Squares center square Paul Lynde, a frequent guest on the siblings' variety program. Here's the happy trio singing a song about the origin of Donny's purple socks fixation.

4. Karen Carpenter Sings "The Christmas Song": Not to be outdone, The Carpenters, another beloved, wholesome brother-sister act, hosted their first Christmas special in 1977. Here's the late, great Karen Carpenter singing "The Christmas Song."

5. Bing and Bowie Bring Down the House: That same year found old-time crooner and perennial Christmas favorite Bing Crosby teaming up with bisexual British glam-rocker David Bowie on Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas. Who could have predicted these two wildly disparate performers would create absolute magic on a mashup of "Peace on Earth" and "The Little Drummer Boy"? It's since become a holiday staple, but you know that.

6. Princess Leia Somehow Keeps a Straight Face: The Star Wars Christmas Special (1978) is remembered by even the the nicest of TV critics as being remarkably bad despite the fact that it featured special guests like Bea Arthur and Diahann Carroll. But we love lousy TV, and we really love Carrie Fisher. So, we're including this earnest moment Princess Leia shares with Chewie and the gang. 

7. Grace Jones Takes It to Another Level: In 1988, Grace Jones knocked on the door of Pee-wee's Playhouse and sang a funky club rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy" for Paul Reubens's TV special Christmas at Pee-wee's Playhouse. The show featured a dozen LGBT performers and allies including Cher, k.d. lang, Little Richard, Dinah Shore, Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Joan Rivers, but Jones's surreal appearance takes things to another level. Pa-rum-pum-pum-YUM!

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