As you know, Prince is dead. Long live Prince, in our hearts and minds and iTunes libraries.
With the music icon’s untimely exit (alone in his Paisley Park elevator. Was he going up or down?) comes the ritual reading of the record, Prince’s purple book of life. He said a lot over a lifetime, in music and words and at legendary parties in Minneapolis, New York and LA.
When he was 23, he opened for the Rolling Stones. He strode out wearing a trench coat, dropped it and played his entire set in a black thong. That’s saying a lot.
He was booed off the stage, and we fell in love.
Later, Prince seemed ambivalent about the prospect of gay marriage. “So here’s how it is,” he told The New Yorker in 2008, some years after finding religion with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “‘You’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.’ He pointed to a Bible. ‘But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, “You can do whatever you want.” Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.’”
This is an intelligent conversation looking at both sides of an issue. Respect.
So do we throw the diminutive brown baby that was Prince out with the bathwater when he respectfully disagrees with us? Sure, if you want a world without “Purple Rain,” “Controversy” and “Sugar Walls.
But that would be sad.
Prince wasn’t a homophobe, or a hypocrite, but maybe some other “gay-friendly” entertainers have been. Stick with them or drop them? With respect, here’s a list of nine candidates:
1. Matt Damon 2015
This very nice middle-aged straight white guy got into a lot of trouble when he tried to get all Stanislovski with a reporter for the Guardian: “I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”
Sure, right, someone get Ellen on the phone.
“I know you,” said the gay Oprah after a hastily arranged appearance, “and I know you’re not that guy.”
On his knees (Hi there), and forgiven.
2. Madonna 2014
Madonna has a great sense of humor. Like rap-loving white people who think they can freely call you “nigga,” she drops “gay” like she’s one of us. Oh wait, she’s actually done both.
In 2004, the Material Girl had a fun exchange with Entertainment Tonight host Mark Steines, who was wearing a vintage Madonna tee: “I can’t be seen with you dressed like that,” says Madge. “You’re a cowboy from the waist down, and you’re gay from the waist up. It’s a little bit weird.” As the two laugh, Steines protests, “You just called me gay!” Um, yeah, because you’re wearing a Madonna T-shirt.
Then in 2014, Madonna Mom praised kick-boxing son Rocco on Instagram with the hashtag #disnigga.
And the same year she called kale “gay”on Buzzfeed. Hilarious.
Keep her, even though she issued a formal apology for the former. Whatever. Words!
3. Britney Spears 2013
With the release of her comeback album Britney Jean, Spears took hits on all fronts. Single “Work Bitch” was variously described as craven gay marketing “designed to keep u fags on ecstasy blasting garbage music till 6 am,” and worse, “tacky”, while Spears revealed the her truth about hair and makeup gays: “A lot of my hairstylists and my beauty team that I work with are gay so I hang out with gays a lot and I just think they’re adorable and hilarious.” They better be, you’re paying them.
In another interview, she described her gay fans as “somewhat girls,” probably her hair team.
She’s a ding-dong. Why did you like her in the first place?
4. Paris Hilton 2012
Hilton is the most egregious example of gay-baiting celebrity hypocrisy. In 2012, a cab driver recorded Hilton and a friend discussing Grindr, inspiring the celebutante to describe gay men as “disgusting,” “the horniest people in the world,” and fated to all “like, die of AIDS.” Nice.
Get her out.
5. Kobe Bryant 2010
Bryant isn’t exactly Liza Minnelli when it comes to a gay fan base, but we’ve always considered the super-talented, clean-cut and philandering shooting guard to be a genuinely nice guy. So when he screamed “fucking faggot” at a ref, it was, um, unfortunate, costing Bryant a very public apology and a $100,000 fine. It also set in motion a dedicated effort in and around the NBA to promote tolerance, see Jason Collins, so yay.
Thanks, Kobe! Let’s hang out.
6. Jay Leno 2008
Jay Leno is another genuinely nice guy without any particular gay fan base (or straight one, for that matter) who got into trouble for being just too down. Interviewing adorable Ryan Philippe in 2008, Leno reminded his audience that the actor broke out playing a gay teen on soap One Life to Live. “Pretend the camera is your gay lover. Can you give me your gayest look?”
No? C’mon, it’s Jay! He’s being funny!
Awkwardness and a swift apology followed. Since he’s not really working, you don’t have to dump him.
7. Elton John 2008
Not all gays came around quickly to the idea of gay marriage. Like lots of ladies and gentlemen of his generation, Sir Elton and “partner” David Furnish had to come around to the idea. Here’s what John told USA Today in 2008. “I don’t want to be married. I’m very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership. The word marriage, I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships.”
By 2012, John had evolved: “There is a world of difference between calling someone your ‘partner’ and calling them your ‘husband’. ‘Partner’ is a word that should be preserved for people you play tennis with, or work alongside in business. It doesn’t come close to describing the love that I have for David, and he for me. In contrast, ‘husband’ does.”
Say it like you mean it. The couple married in 2014.
Give up “Daniel?” Never.
8. Bette Midler 2003
She played the Continental Baths in the ’70s. She was roommates with Bruce Vilanch. She’s one of the bluest and gayest performers you’ll ever see on stage.
But the claws came out in 2003 when Midler, like Prince a few years later, talked publicly about gay marriage, with Larry King of all people, based on her own life experience. “Should gay people be allowed to marry? That’s a really good question.” Following was a candid conversation about civil rights, monogamy, commitment, promiscuity and human nature. The 60-something Midler wasn’t against gay marriage; she was wrapping her head around it, and sharing it with the world.
If you’d seen the interview, it all made sense. Enter Margaret Cho:
“Of course I didn’t see that shit, but supposedly Bette Midler said on Larry King that same sex marriage doesn’t look like it would work because gay men are so promiscuous that they would just be cheating on each other constantly. That is a fucked thing to say.” Cho flames on about some “shit” she didn’t see that Bette Midler “supposedly” said. Ridic.
Bette, you stay. Cho, you’re out.
9. Bob Hope 1988
It was 1988, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and Hope, the octogenarian comedy legend and record-setting Oscar host, called someone a “fag” for wearing a colorful tie.
Enter GLAAD, formed just 4 years earlier, who pressured Hope into recording a PSA to atone, a model for the organization right up to today. Also, he paid for it.
Thanks, for the memory, Bob. You were a class act, fags notwithstanding.
Times change, and people do, too.