WATCH: The Truth About The First Openly Gay Rock Star Who “Out-Queened Queen” Is Revealed

Don’t be embarrassed if you’re unfamiliar with Jobriath. The openly gay cult figure from the hey day of glam rock ascended through the music world like a white-hot comet in the early 1970s, proclaimed as the first openly gay rock singer and earned such purple sobriquets as “the star of tomorrow” and “the American David Bowie,” before his career quickly flamed out. But after his much-hyped debut album was released to disappointing sales and mixed reviews, Jobriath’s career crashed and he died in relative obscurity in 1983 at age 37, one of the earliest casualties of AIDS.

In a decade that launched careers of the New York Dolls, the Village People and Queen, why didn’t Jobriath find mainstream superstardom? Perhaps America wasn’t yet ready for such an outrageously out rock star and Jobriath never tried to hide his gay light under a bushel. “Asking me if I’m homosexual is like asking James Brown if he’s black,” he once declared.

jobriath_photo_05Yet in the 30 years since his death, a cult has sprung up around the colorful rock god and his reputation as an important artist has increased remarkably in stature. Jobriath’s legacy has been kept alive by recent releases of his albums which have acquired high-profile fans such as Morrissey, the Scissor Sisters and the Pet Shop Boys, who have spoken numerous times about the influence the late glam rocker had on their own music careers. Also keeping the flame burning is out filmmaker Kieran Turner, who has used archival footage, new interviews and animated interludes to create a vividly compelling documentary, Jobriath A.D.

“I am really excited that, on the 40th anniversary of the release of Jobriath’s first album, and thirty years after his tragic death from AIDS, a new generation of the LGBT community will discover why he was so important to both queer history and music history,” Turner tells Queerty. “As the first openly gay rock star, he kicked open the door for so many who came after him. I’m honored to be the one who gets to tell his amazing story.”

Jobriath A.D., widely acclaimed when it screened at LGBT festivals last year, will be available on VOD and iTunes December 10 and will be released in theaters January 31, 2014. It’s a don’t-miss cinematic experience for music buffs.

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  • DickGreenleaf

    Wayne(later Jane) County came before this guy.

  • Bozen

    Eeesh, hairstyles in the seventies were a new low for guys.

  • DShucking

    @DickGreenleaf: Yes he/she did but this is different altogether because of the cast public marketing campaign. County never had that so he was never propped up to fall so hard. Jobriath really did. One sad thing is that the company owned him for 10 years after he flopped so he couldn’t release anything. He changed his named and became a piano lounge singer. I’m so looking forward to this documentary. I enjoyed Klaus Nomi’s doc as well.

  • boring

    Jobriath is a fascinating tale of cynical marketing going awry.

    Will definitely watch the shit out of it.

  • jimbryant

    America’s youth were never really into the types of camp performers that defined British glam rock in the 70’s.

    Glam rock was thus much bigger in Britain than in the USA, especially around the early to mid-70’s. When glam rock finally took off in the USA around the mid 80’s, it was an arrested-development type of glam rock.

    Case in point: David Bowie was commercially huge in Britain and Australia during his Ziggy Stardust phase around 1972. However, his success in the USA was somewhat limited at this time, with America’s youth showing a certain resistance to male androgyny.

  • GeriHew

    @DickGreenleaf: Does Jayne County identify as gay? Or did she publicly at any time when she was Wayne County? I thought she was queer and open to two or more genders sexually.

    When Bowie first came out he said he was gay but it was fairly obvious that he was bisexual. The difference between gay and bi wasn’t so clearly defined back then.

    I thought Jobriath was bisexual too when I heard his first album because some of his songs implied it. And he seemed a lot like an American version of Bowie.

  • jimbryant


    Bowie never said he was gay or bisexual. He was camp and androgynous. Big difference. The music media attempted to portray him as gay or bisexual but that was a flawed interpretation.

  • CaptainFabulous

    @DickGreenleaf: And today’s Pedantry Award goes to… Dick!!! Congrats Dick! I’m sure it’ll look great on your mantle!

  • aubrey


    Just fyi – Bowie did tell the British music magazine Melody Maker that he was gay (in 1972). And in 1976 he told Rolling Stone he was bisexual.

    Of course, by 1983 he told Rolling Stone that having said he was bisexual was the worst mistake he ever made. That he was actually completely heterosexual.

    Then, in 2002, he told Blender (another music/pop culture magazine) that his 1983 statement was made because America had been so reactionary to his declaration of bisexuality.

    In retrospect, it seems that Bowie used the bi/gay label to generate some controversy, to position himself (pun intended) as ‘edgy’. And while his use of those labels boosted his career in Britain, he came to feel that those labels hurt him financially in America. (the gist of his 2002 interview in Blender).

    Sorry for the excessive detail. The point, jimbryant, is that Bowie did declare himself to be both gay and bi, before retracting that statement (in 1983), then qualifying that retraction in 2002.

    I’m guessing Bowie just used our community to advance his career. To make himself seem more ‘outlandish’ for the time (early 70s), and then found himself saddled with labels that didn’t quite apply to him.

    Which leaves Jobriath as honestly out. Notwithstanding whatever tragedies came from the marketing of that honesty, Jobriath was gay. Bowie was not, no matter how many times he pretended to be.

  • TVC 15

    It’s sad what happened to him. Looking forward to watching the doc.

    For those who haven’t seen it, as @DShucking: said, also watch the Klaus Nomi documentary.

    Both were talented artists who were just a bit too ahead of their times.

  • GeriHew

    @jimbryant: Re David Bowie. You don’t know what you’re talking about as usual Jim.

    Bowie told music journalist Michael Watts that he was gay in an interview that was printed in January 1972. He also used the word bisexual to describe himself at that time when he mentioned his wife and child.

    In an interview with Cameron Crowe printed in Playboy magazine September 1976 Bowie is quoted at length on the subject of his bisexuality:

    Playboy: Let’s start with the one question you’ve always seemed to hedge: How much of your bisexuality is fact and how much is gimmick?

    Bowie: It’s true, I am a bisexual. But I can’t deny that I’ve used that fact very well. I suppose it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Fun, too. We’ll talk all about it.

    Playboy: Why do you say it’s the best thing that ever happened to you?

    Bowie: Well, for one thing, girls are always presuming that I’ve kept my heterosexual virginity for some reason. So I’ve had al these girls try to get me over to the other side again: “C’mon, David, it isn’t all that bad. I’ll show you.” Or, better yet, “We’ll show you.” I always play dumb. On the other hand-I’m sure you want to know about the other hand as well — when I was 14, sex suddenly became all-important to me. It didn’t really matter who or what it was with, as long as it was a sexual experience. So it was some very pretty boy in class in some school or other that I took home and neatly fucked on my bed upstairs. And that was it. My first thought was, Well, if I ever get sent to prison, I’ll know how to keep happy.

    In a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone, Bowie said his public declaration of bisexuality was “the biggest mistake I ever made” and “I was always a closet heterosexual

    Asked about this a 2002 interview with Blender whether he still believed his public declaration was the biggest mistake he ever made, he replied:

    ” Interesting. [Long pause] I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners nor be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.”

    Bowie is a bisexual man who prefers women who has become more hetro as he got older. This has always been obvious to me and I find it funny and pathetic that so many people haven’t got this yet.

  • balehead

    Ummm this post is about Jobriath!…..ummm guys??…

  • KFischer

    How did this escape my notice? I was raised on rock and roll. My sister introduced me to Bowie, Frampton, the Beatles, the Kinks. How could I have never heard of Jobriath? What a talented tragedy!

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