christine~ (eppylover) wrote,

The gay difference between now and then

My answer to a question by neongoddess:

I read that post once before, and wanted to ask...

Was being gay really that "frowned upon" in 1983? I was only four years old at the time. I thought the 80's were more "modern" than that. I mean, people liked Queen, and Freddie Mercury was gay, right?? And, of course, Elton John...and people have always seemed to accept Mick Jagger...the list could go on and on.

Also, if the Beatles, Brian's friends, etc. all knew he was gay, how did it remain a secret for so long anyway, especially with all his alleged "indescretions"?

[[ NOTE TO ALL: If there are any people reading this who are closer to my age, who were fully adults in the 1980's, and who remember those years as being different or less repressive that I do, please speak up. ]]

This, my dear, is how I recall that era:

Oh my, yes. The 1980's were not as open to diversity as people seem to think now! A letter to the press such as [ THIS ONE ], if printed in the 80's, would have been viewed as a common-sense or majority opinion, rather than "hate." It wasn't "hate" because it didn't actually promote killing gays. The kindest of the mainstream people wanted gays to at least be put safely away from kids or our young, impressionable youth. After all, they couldn't help being predators because they're mentally ill and unstable.

During the 80's there were pockets of acceptance in certain areas of the country, such as San Francisco and parts of New York and other large metro areas, etc. The entertainment, fashion and personal grooming (i.e., hairdressing) worlds were particularly good about sexual diversity. But ~~ most people did not live in the entertainment world, nor in these utopias of equality in the big cities. There of course was no internet, and because of censorship and network squeamishness, there was no general connection in the TV media with the concept of accepting gays as normal people; only certain theatrical films that were mostly thought of as "wow, that was different, but it was just a movie."

You mention Mick Jagger, Queen and Elton John, etc. as being recognized by the general public as gay. They weren't. Kids put blinders on. Parents would occasionally mock their kids for rockin' on with musicians who "looked and acted like fairies" ~~ and the kids, totally insulted, exploded back at them, arguing that it's just the cool style, it's not faggy, etc.

Read the mainstream (non-tabloid) magazines from that era. You can see that nobody in their readership ever seemed to recognize these celebs as being gay. Admitting to it would, of course, be career suicide. Read books by Simon Napier-Bell, manager of Wham! (George Michael), Marc Bolan, etc. Simon knew all about the delicate balance required in promoting artistes to the mostly hetero-centric public, while keeping certain gay qualities intact.

These qualities, by the way, were brought to our shores first by Brian Epstein through his brilliant re-vamping of the leather Beatles to the fussy-suited Beatles. The genius of Eppy created the hidden gay influence in pop music.

Yes, this was the 80's. Case in point, when Rock Hudson was dying of AIDS in 1985 he was frantic to keep his homosexuality a secret ~ it would have been a disgrace and nobody would ever have understood. Things didn't start to open up until well into the 90's. It was even a touch-and-go secret with Anthony Perkins, when he died of AIDS in 1992. Acceptance poked along slowly, most people still had their heads buried in the sand...except for the religious people, who ranted and raved even more than before (maybe they had an intuition of things to come, hahaa). However! Once the internet happened, gay tolerance was let loose, eyes and ears were opened, and fast. It was almost like it was that way for years.

My current husband was a Queen fan in the 80's, and, like many of his age bracket, dropped them like a hot potato when the truth came out. I must say, the managers and publicists of the gay-looking/acting celebrities in the 80's did a magnificent job of subterfuge.

The general belief was that these celebs weren't gay ~ they were indeed cool in a way that bothered the parents. After all, that's the eternal mission of the teenager, to break off from the parents by emulating something that offends them, right? I mean, just because you dress goth doesn't mean you're gonna go out and kill people or rob graves. And just because you dress and act flamboyant doesn't mean you're gay. Heaven forbid!

There were people "in the know," such as in the pockets of gay community, or people in the entertainment world. However, the majority of the general public assumed that everyone was straight, or, if they weren't sure, they just did not think about it, because that would have been.... unthinkable.

I'm trying hard to think of an analogy for the way people thought of the celebrities that we now know were queer-based. Okay, let's say that certain well-liked people pooped glow-in-the-dark feces. (After all, prior to the 90's, homos were thought of as showy yet "dirty" perverted.) Most people who admired them would simply not want to know about the anal leakage of their idols, right? Perhaps there would be rare indications of the flaw (maybe a stain on the seat of the pants showing through?) Perhaps they would take to wearing day-glo pants to hide it. Then that would become the fashion, day-glo pants. But that didn't mean you pooped fluorescent, did it?

Well, maybe that was a bad analogy, but it's the best I can do. ani rolleyes smiley

In 1981, the groundbreaking Love, Sidney debuted, and it was the first TV series to deal with an actual homosexual character in the lead title role, even though I don't think they ever came right out and used the words "gay" or "homosexual." The show didn't last too long, mainly because the networks were beaten down by the outraged viewers. Even though Tony Randall's main character Sidney Schorr never showed him having a boyfriend ~ indeed Sidney was unhappy with his orientation and totally celibate ~ it was nonetheless unacceptable and disgusting to the general public.

By the way, at the time Love, Sidney was airing I had just left my first husband in North Carolina and moved back home to Michigan. I was in love with Love, Sidney, and heartbroken when it was cancelled, because I figured there would never again be a gay character on TV. Tony Randall was one brave sunuvabitch, and I think he did as much to make people feel all right about gays as Bill Cosby on I Spy (1965-1968) and Diahann Carrol on Julia (1968) did for blacks ~ btw, in the early 60's the acceptable term was "Negroes." If you said "blacks" people would be offended, and if you said "African-Americans" people wouldn't know what the heck you were talking about! I'm not sure exactly when it went from "Negroes" to "blacks," I don't remember, but it was a gradual thing. Sorry for the digression into political correctness nostalgia, hahaa.

And you asked about the Beatles and Brian's friends. Well, glow-in-the-dark feces again. You only spoke about it in secret with certain people of similar orientation, or very, very trusted non-homophobic friends. Eppy's Beatles discreetly turned their heads away from their manager's "problem," as he wished them to do, unless they were in the mood to razz him about it ~ usually in a sort of double-entendre that only people in the know would catch on to ~ in which case, if members of the press were present (and there were times that Lennon didn't give a shit), these reporters were not like the ones of today. They would also turn their heads, certainly not write about it. The press was respectful, knowing that they'd lose valuable insider resources if they offended them. The only exceptions would be in cases such as political scandals that couldn't be ignored.

I hope this answers your question, and if anyone knows better on the subject, I'd like to hear it. After all, I admit to being quite overprotected as a teenager, and I'm sure that fact had some bearing on my perception.

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