Judy is not a gay icon at all. She is somewhere far beyond that. She is a gay beacon. A gay saint. She has led the way through the darkness for some 50 years. Whether it’s the Wizard of Oz or the Judy at Carnegie Hall LP - these are brilliant touchstones for the gay experience. A kind of communion takes place between a gay listener and Judy. And of course there is the drink and drugs counter-story, which is very gay for one reason or another.
In the postwar years in Western culture, it has become somehow socially acceptable to be drunk and stoned. There is such a gay fascination to that story. Gay people understand a party, that’s for sure!
There is no level on which Judy Garland doesn’t connect with gay men. She married one, for chrissakes!
2. Stevie Nicks
Certain intellectual gay men obsess over Stevie. She is a dinner party conversation in herself, served up as a kind of hors d'oeuvre before a conversation about the Pre-Raphaelites, or something. She separates interesting homosexuals from uninteresting ones.
3. Dusty Springfield
Blessed with great artistry, she never let her lesbianism get in the way of it. Because she wasn’t open about it, she gave herself the right to enjoy being a lesbian in private. It didn’t diminish her. In the end, cancer claimed her; there’s an iconic price for an iconic life.
There’s a dark force at work here - she subverts everything for her own gain. I went to see her London show and it was all so dour and humourless. She surpasses even Joan Crawford in terms of megalomania. Which makes her a kind of dark gay icon in itself.
5. Kylie Minogue
I love Kylie, she’s the anti-Madonna. Self-knowledge is a truly beautiful thing and Kylie knows herself inside out. She is what she is and there is no attempt to make quasi-intellectual statements to substantiate it. She is the gay shorthand for joy.
Whether he’s gay or not, he is the gay Elvis. He is among the greatest entertainers of our time. The banter, the dancing, the stage-craft, it all conspires and you know exactly what Morrissey is. He is heroic. He is a total package, like Dean Martin or Prince.
7. Barbra Streisand
Ugh, Barbra! You’ve got to hand it to her. She got everything she ever damn wanted and she does manage to maintain her insanity on such a highclass level. I respect her deeply. She’s not as sinister as Madonna and she gives us some hope.
She’s slightly left-of-centre in this deeply conservative pop world. She’s not it, but you’d have more of a chance of finding it by using her as a conduit than you would if you used Britney Spears. You know, Pink is what I would call a ‘gateway drug’.
It feels weird talking about Prince as a gay icon now but you have to applaud a black man in the American record industry who could be so playful with androgyny. Justin Timberlake wouldn’t do that. He is a marine dressed as a pop star.
10. Kate Bush
She is the older sister that every gay man wants. She connects so well with a gay audience because she is so removed from the real world. She is one of the only artists who makes it appear better to be on the outside than on the inside.