Gay men love
female performers so much you would think they were on
salary. A brassy woman on the stage can count on our
adoration. Cher, Bette, and insert name here would
never have lasted without gay fans. They even latched
on to Tammy Faye Bakker, forgiving her fundamentalism
because she looked like a drag queen.
Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin have huge gay followings to
thank for their bank accounts. But will that same audience
pack a theater for a gay man? I spoke to several
friends who are successful out performers. According
to one well-known comedian, "If you aren't a
strong female or fat black woman, good luck getting
gay men to come out and support you. Unless
you're doing a benefit show or cruise and the ticket
includes you, no dice."
Gay comedians are
under no illusions about this. If all the male
audiences I have met on gay cruises who said "When
you perform in my town, I'll come"
actually did come, gay comics would be outselling
the road company of Wicked. A comedian friend who
performs in Provincetown said, "If
there's something else going on where they might
see a hot guy or get laid, they do that. Maybe I should just
do steroids and become a prop comic -- Carrot
gay men flock to see gay performers as they do to women?
They do -- if they're dressed in drag, or
nothing. A drag queen is simply a satire of a woman.
And many plays catering to gays include nudity to heat
up the box office. Naked Boys Singing! made a
fortune from gays before being commandeered by the
bachelorette party crowd, and it wasn't because
of the vocals. Making Porn packed them in to see the
packages. But if The Big Voice -- God or
Merman? an off-Broadway musical starring a
middle-aged (and clothed) gay couple, had attracted
audiences equivalent to its ecstatic reviews, it would still
singer-songwriter told me, "There have been many gay
men who have been incredibly supportive, and
I'm very grateful. But I would be much further
along in my career if I could count on a big gay audience.
There are so many opportunities for gay men to support
each other that we don't take enough advantage
I know the memory
of antigay comics like Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison
has scared gays away from comedy clubs, unless an event is
marketed as a gay comedy night. But even then, lesbian
comics are far more likely to get the girls to show
up. Sisterhood trumps brotherhood.
And anyway, what
brotherhood? Gay performers are often advised to stay in
the closet by--surprise--gay executives. Gay
casting directors repeatedly cast straight men in gay
roles and seldom cast a gay as straight. A friend
recently saw a gay actor in a Broadway show and said,
"What a big fag."
plays a part. Back in the olden days, gay men
couldn't come out but could secretly identify
with tragic Judy Garland or campy Tallulah Bankhead.
They got the moral support from women that they
didn't get from men, and they gave loyalty in
return. The singer told me, "We have a long
history of supporting women, and now we need to train
ourselves to support each other."
Gay men have
related to each other on a sexual level for so long, they
might not be used to appreciating a gay performer
they're not attracted to or consider too
old--a problem they don't have with women.
Elaine Stritch's one-person show attracted a
much bigger audience than Charles Nelson
Reilly's (he had a lot to say about the Hollywood
closet). And experience teaches that there have always
been gay men who don't even want to be in your
presence if they're not attracted to you. These guys
need to relax and knock it off. It's a very short
road between here and the nursing home