Gay mafia leader



The is the leader of a mafia that enforces and advocates LGBT-related entertainment. He exploited Steve’s country songs in order to praise gay sex, no matter how explicit or dirty.

He appeared in the episode Write ‘Em Cowboy as the main antagonist of Denzel and Steve’s plot.

He frequently made threats to Denzel should he refuse anything the leader ordered him to do regarding Steve’s rise in fame with the gay country songs, while at the same time Denzel didn’t tell Steve that his songs were being used for gay innuendo. His threats were not only deadly but very homosexually-sounding such as when he threatened to put Denzel in "a ditch with your dick in your mouth". Once Steve found out because the mafia leader forced Denzel to get Steve to promote himself on Ellen’s show, Steve goes on a tantrum on Ellen and tries quitting. This makes the mafia leader angry and forces Steve to write another song by threat. Steve and Denzel try running away, but then they decide to make up the song "Billy Black" for the kid who got bullied for being gay. Steve’s new song makes the mob angry because it sounds racist to blacks.

He died at the end of the episode when he told Denzel and Steve that he is now going to kill them, an angry riot caused spotlights to fall which crushed him and his mafia.

Why this charming gay fairytale has been lost for 200 years

“The Dog And The Sailor” is a gay fairytale lost for over 200 years, after it narrowly escaped being … [+] removed from history altogether

It’s long been presumed by many folklorists that heroic LGBTQ characters didn’t exist–because when they were told from generation to generation, being queer was a taboo.

But one newly released gay fairytale, that can be traced back to at least the 19th century has been discovered by Pete Jordi Wood, the Cornish writer and illustrator.

His research suggests that not only did gay fairytale “The Dog And The Sailor” exist but that a “whole chunk of LGBTQ folklore” was “deleted” by one homophobic man, as recently as the 1950s.

“We know that queer characters and stories were prevalent in mythology,” Pete tells me.

“There is some fascinating stuff about the origin of Mulan and how it’s actually a trans narrative. So why, particularly in European fairy tales, did queer characters suddenly, seemingly, disappear?”

The reason we don’t have much to point to is not that LGBTQ folklore didn’t exist, but because during a relatively short period of history–one of the most important folklore academics put his own morals into play when editing the most internationally renowned folklore collections.

“Before books, people told stories to one another, often around the fire. These stories would travel this way down generations and around the world,” Pete says.

One classic example is you can track early variants of Cinderella to China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE.)

the real story of the ymca that inspired the village people‘s gay anthem

In the 40 years since the Village People released “YMCA,” the song has become a cultural touchstone: a gay anthem famous for its innuendos and double entendres about young, fit men “having a good time,” as well as a staple at Yankees games and bar mitzvahs.

The song has also immortalized the Young Men’s Christian Association in pop culture. Yet former residents of the McBurney Y in Chelsea — the building that inspired the song, and which was featured in the video released in late 1978 — say the reality of stays at the YMCA in those days was more complicated than the lyrics portray, with gay culture and working-class workouts coexisting in a single communal space.

“There was certainly a party aspect to their video and that time was the height of all the gay clubs in Chelsea,” recalls Davidson Garrett, who lived at the McBurney Y from 1978 through 2000. “[The YMCA] did have some overlapping of gay cruising. But it was a serious gym for people who really wanted to go and work out every day, and a nice place to live for working-class people.”

It was around May 1978 when part of the ceiling of Garrett’s Hell’s Kitchen one-bedroom apartment fell in, and the then 26-year-old actor and taxi driver put down $40 for what was supposed to be a week stay at the McBurney Y. The temporary arrangement became a 22-year stay.

“It turned out that I actually liked room living,” Garrett said. “It was in that room where I was able to finish my college education, where I was able to do acting auditions and work in the theater and know that I had a place to come back to that wasn’t going to cost an arm and a leg to pay for.”

Several months after Garrett moved in, the Village People filmed exterior shots of the McBurney branch for the “YMCA” video.

Paul Groth, the author of Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States, notes that some of those occupying single room residences in the ‘70s would have somewhat resembled the men pictured in the video — in their 20s or 30s, a mix of white-collar and blue-collar residents, along with retired seniors and veterans. Garrett adds undergraduate students and disabled men to the mix of ethnically and racially diverse renters, about half of whom he estimates were gay.

“At first I came to a 32nd Street residency, but a guy who lived there told me it was cheaper at McBurney,” says Joseph Kangappadan, a former MTA and Post Office employee who began staying at the McBurney YMCA in 1969 after immigrating from England. “[McBurney] was safe. There were no cameras, but there was security, and it was very quiet. And I was crazy about working out, so the gym was my second home.”

The types of characters depicted in the “YMCA” video were, in fact, more likely to reflect temporary occupants than long-term renters, who mostly lodged there to relax and sleep between shifts. Often gay and in their 20s or 30s, the weekend guests used the YMCA “as a dressing room,” and as a place to discreetly hook up, Garrett says.

“The weekend party people who would stay there really just needed the rooms to crash,” says Garrett. “They didn’t stay there at all to socialize, but to take in the nightlife.”

Popularized at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution amid rapid city population growth, single-room occupancy residences featured one-room units often containing just a bed, with shared use of a kitchen and bathroom facilities. They largely disappeared starting in the late 1970s, after decades of concern over poor living conditions, social demonization of the poor, and an aggressive real estate development push under New York City Mayor Ed Koch.

In this once-booming ecosystem, the YMCA’s stricter policies made it distinctive from the divided brownstones, converted lofts, or hotel housing that rented single rooms elsewhere in the city.

“There was more supervision of your social life — a kind of management as to how you behaved — in the Y than there would be in a commercial rooming house, which mostly wanted to make sure the rooms were rented,” Groth says.

The available social amenities were in fact much less substantial than that depicted in the lyrics of “you can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal, you can do whatever you feel.” The 50 to 100 or so men who lived at any given time in the 23rd Street building’s nine floors of nearly 200 rooms had a 10 p.m. curfew and no access to a cafeteria or shared social spaces beyond the gym. The bathrooms were clean, but like a “gym locker room facility,” according to Garrett. Meanwhile, housekeepers came not just to offer towels and change your sheets, but to keep an eye on you, Kangappadan recalls.

Part of the song’s charm, of course, is its competing interpretations: It can be read equally well as a celebration of gay culture or of the working man. And as a Spin oral history revealed on the song’s 30th anniversary ten years ago, even the group itself didn’t agree on the proper interpretation.

David Hodo (“the construction worker”) insisted to Spin that Jacques Morali, the French producer who helped create the group and co-wrote the song with lead singer Victor Willis (“the cop”), certainly had the gay community in mind when he came up with the song. Randy Jones (“the cowboy”) retorted, “Do you have the lyrics in front of you? There’s nothing gay about them.”

Jones, who was a Y member at the time, insists to Gothamist that the band’s artistic intent wasn’t to produce a gay anthem. However, he admits that it’s okay to read it as one. The YMCA was, after all, a welcoming, inclusive space where any man could (mostly) get what he needed.

“I think you can go into the lyrics of ‘YMCA,’ and if you are a straight jock who worked out at the Y, you are going to perceive it one way,” Jones says. “But if you happen to be a gay man and have the experience and perspective of hooking up with each other, it’s another way it can be perceived.”

Karen Tongson, a queer studies scholar and associate professor of English and gender studies at the University of Southern California, says both the history of the McBurney branch and the “YMCA” video’s dual legacy are right in line with the way queerness has long existed in real life and pop culture.

“A lot of queer expression has happened through innuendo,” Tongson said. “That’s essentially how queer popular culture has existed — as something that could be read in multiple ways. There is a sense of having to be able to communicate with each other in plain sight, but without other people figuring it out.”

gay innuendo bPIB18t

Billy eichner to play paul lynde in biopic of the gay tv icon

Billy Eichner will play Paul Lynde in an upcoming biography movie based on the life of the gay TV icon.

Eichner (“Billy on the Street”), who identifies as gay, is developing “Man in the Box” based on the actor who was the first TV personality to bring gay humor to the masses in the 1970s.

Deadline was the first publication to break the news.

Lynde, who played warlock Uncle Arthur on “Bewitched” from 1965 to 1971, was known for his Cheshire-cat grin and snarky sense of humor.

On the “Hollywood Squares” game show, Lynde sat in the center square for 10 years (1971-1981) and kept the studio audience in stitches with his gay innuendo jokes.

However, throughout his career, Lynde stayed in the closet, though he never pretended to be heterosexual.

Billy Eichner appears on a May 3 episode of “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.” Photo: Bravo

This secret language allowed gay men to communicate when homosexuality was illegal

If you were a gay man living in England in the mid-20th century, you might greet your friends with ‘How bona to varda your dolly old eek.’ This secret language, or cryptolect, served to help those in the gay community weed out who was ‘in the life’ and who was not.

Polari – a term given to an English dialect that combines elements of Romany, Latin, rhyming slang, circus backslang and criminal cant – originated as far back as the 16th century. By the 1800s, it was the language of outsiders and the disenfranchised in England, and was mostly spoken in London’s Soho neighbourhood.

Its coded and secretive nature lends itself to the label ‘cryptolect’, or what the Oxford English Dictionary calls “a secretive language used to confuse and exclude others and affirm the character and solidarity of a marginalised subculture”.

“You’d be standing there at the bar, talking to a gay friend, [and] you’d notice the person next to him might be listening. [If you] didn’t know who they were, you’d just slip into Polari,” says actor, drag queen and activist Bette Bourne in a 2014 discussion with author Stuart Feather. Bourne learned Polari as a young man in the 1960s.

To the casual English-speaking observer, it would be difficult to identify that Polari speakers were using English. Some may have recognised the dialect as part of the effeminate gay male stereotype, but the actual meanings of the words were indecipherable to the uninitiated. Many Polari phrases communicate private matters that one would rather the taxi driver not pick up on. ‘Kerterver cartzo so nanti arva’, for instance, would indicate that the speaker cannot have sex because he has an STI. Or one might say ‘putting on the dish’ to indicate that he had prepared for anal sex.

“It was much easier because they didn’t know what you talking about. You’d just say ‘bona dish’ [great butt] and all that,” says Bourne. “And especially if it was sexual, you didn’t want them to know what you were talking about. You just slipped into it without thinking.”

In the 1960s, the BBC radio show Round the Horne gave mainstream Britain a taste of Polari. Characters used phrases during the broadcast to imply their homosexuality, and the show was able to depict happy gay men laughing alongside the audience, instead of being the butt of the joke. In addition, Polari speakers were able to understand the double and triple innuendos that would not have made it through censors if the jokes had been written in plain English. While Round the Horne did lead to a short popularisation of the language, it ultimately hurt its exclusivity. This, combined with the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967, led to a decline in usage.

“The younger gay men were kind of coming out in the ’70s and they had different values,” says linguistic researcher Paul Baker in the 2018 documentary Polari – A Short Documentary About the Lost Language of Gay Men. “They [didn’t] want to be associated with secrecy and hiding. Instead, there are these concepts like gay pride and gay liberation and coming out. And Polari is seen as to the detriment of those things.”

In more recent decades, efforts to preserve the language have seen mixed success. Artists have created works that celebrate Polari, but in order to keep a language truly alive, it requires users. With the growth in acceptance of LGBTQ identities, the need for secrecy, and subsequently the use of Polari, has shifted. Polari is no longer spoken day to day, but it does exist in art and in cultural artefacts.

In 1990, the charity, protest and street performance organisation the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence founded a London chapter and quickly adopted Polari as the language of their official ceremonies, replacing Latin. The Sisters use drag and religious iconography in their performances, some of which involve parodies of the Catholic Mass in their initiation rituals. “It is more than a mystical language, half forgotten and only half understood,” describe Anna Livia and Kira Hall in Queerly Phrased (1997), a book exploring the ways the LGBTQ community relates to language. “It is also the language of irony and parody, as are the Sisters’ celebrations themselves.”

In 2017, Polari garnered attention again when a trainee priest attempted to use the cryptolect to “queer the liturgy of evening prayer”. The Church of England ordinand’s plan was to demonstrate that the Christian service could be delivered in a way that honoured the cultural specificity of the LGBTQ community during LGBT History Month. Unfortunately, the plan backfired. Many Christians, gay and straight alike, were made uncomfortable by the changes that turned “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit” to “Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy”. Because this change to the liturgy was not approved by the Church, a representative later apologised for any offence caused.

The legacy of Polari has even penetrated mainstream English. In London, Paul Burston manages the Polari Literary Salon, a showcase founded in 2007 for LGBTQ writers and performers. While the salon takes its name from Polari, performers don’t actually speak it. Burston notes the influence Polari has. “I don’t think most contemporary LGBTQ novelists are consciously drawing on Polari as a language,” he tells Culture Trip. “It tends to appear more in historical fiction, e.g. the work of Jake Arnott or Neil Bartlett. But as with many dialects, there is a legacy – elements of the language that have entered common currency. Words like ‘naff’ or ‘zhoosh’, for example. People use them without necessarily knowing that they were once part of this underground coded language.”

Polari’s influence can still be seen in words such as ‘drag’, ‘kiki’ and ‘camp’. In Polari, ‘camp’ means ‘excessive or showy or affecting mannerisms of the opposite sex’, and today the term is used to refer to many forms of theatrics that lean into the extreme, such as drag performances.

As communities continue to form around LGBTQ identities, Polari exemplifies an important moment in gay history. It was a language that brought gay men together and connected them to a cultural legacy, one that can still be seen in slang today – even if many speakers don’t realise it.

Want to learn Polari? Check out the Polari appFantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang.

gay innuendo EXKVAi

Gay innuendo in dr. pepper ad ignites explosive online debate

These days, brands aren’t afraid to aggressively target the LGBT market. Last year, Coke broke new ground by showing a gender non-binary person and correctly referred to them as “them” in a Super Bowl ad.

Now, Dr. Pepper has taken things a step further by creating an ad for the Swedish market that makes not-so-subtle references to gay sexual roles. It humorously references being a “bottom” (the receiver in anal sex), a “top” (the giver), or and “vers,” which is short for versatile or someone who will play either position.

This Swedish Dr. Pepper ad sure is something else.

Just so you know is the number 1 listings, news and social network for gay, bisexual and curious men in the UK. takes part in various affiliate marketing campaigns and programmes which means that we earn a commission on editorially chosen products bought via the links that we may provide to retailer sites.

gay innuendo HSTGrZZ

Gay fairytales have always existed, but some have been edited out of history

It is challenging to trace stories further back than the 19th century because it wasn’t until the 1800’s that “Folklorists” became a fully-fledged academic discipline.

Around the Industrial revolution, and the invention of the printing press, some of the earliest Folklorists began to create collections of folklores.

Capitalising on listening to storytellers, they began writing down and publishing their stories as collections. This sparked a considerable push to catalogue stories, from about 1850-1900, before they were lost forever, as people began to read instead of pass stories from generation to generation.

And this is where Pete says the filtering of LGBTQ characters began to occur.

“Over one hundred years, very few people edited a catalogue of the world’s folklore with a system which logs different variations of tales across borders around the world,” Pete says.

They used the Aarne Thompson Uther Tale Type Index, to catalogue certain folktales by their structure and assigns them AT (Arne Thompson) numbers.

Stith Thompson, an American Scholar and Folklorist, one half of the duo who created this system then got to work on cataloguing, which is where of monumentally erased much of LGBTQ folklore.

“Unfortunately by his own accounts, Stith Thompson brought with him to the editing his own sense of right and wrong.

“In the accompanying Motif Index of Folklore he compiled in the 1920s, and revised in the 1950s, he lists ‘Homosexuality’ and ‘Lesbianism’ in a section called “Unnatural Perversions” with bestiality and incest. Open about his views he admits he omitted many stories in the catalogue because they were ‘perverse’ or ‘unnatural,’” Pete says.

“One dude. One guy got to choose what stories did or didn’t make the cut in what is now the core resource and system for documenting folklore in an order still used today.

Much gay folklore was lost when Sith Thompson and other prolific folklore academics imposed their … [+] own morals and the stories they heard when they edited them for their collections

Did stith thompson press “delete” on vast chunks of lgbtq history?

In a matter of speaking yes, but not entirely. His folklore collections remain rife with maligned evil LGBTQ characters who, rape, pillage and murder.

“Unfortunately, Stith Thompson was all too happy to put LGBTQ folk tales into his catalogues if the queers got bashed up, imprisoned, sent to hell or murdered. Or worse, that they were predatory and evil.”

But there is light at the end of this historical tale – one story about a Prince and a sailor who fall in love has survived.

Studying for a Masters degree in Illustration at Falmouth University, and sick and tired of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ Pete re-read Stith Thompson’s folk tale catalogues.

And he found something Thompson had missed, something inherently queer.

The Dog And The Sea is an ancient story, only reimagined with new illustrations, that truly depicted … [+] a positive queer story that was passed from generation to generation over 200 years ago

gay innuendo MNn2ISb

The dog and the sailor is the gay fairytale where the male sailor, gets to kiss prince charming

Stith Thompson’s six-volume Motif-Index of Folk-Literature is considered the international key to traditional material.

“So I looked at over 600 tales in the archive, reading from a queer perspective. And finally, like any good fairy tale, my wish to find my Prince Charming came true. 

“I found this weird-ass tale type called “The Dog and the Sea” which existed in multiple languages, but not in English.” 

So after translating variations of the story from Danish, German, Frisian, and others; and checking Thompson’s synopsis was correct, containing the same elements or motifs – Pete found an “unbelievably and fabulously gay” plot.

“You’ve got this guy who wants to be a sailor who goes on this great adventure, wining the hand in marriage of a handsome prince.

“The witch in it is fabulous, and ridiculously beautiful–a nice twist on the ugly old hag routine. The sailor’s mother is overprotective and funny. There’s a bunch of sexual innuendos. Plus the prince is a total dreamboat.

“Ultimately it’s an ancient tale with a positive portrayal, of a guy who can be read as gay or asexual, but certainly queer, who is the only person who can defeat the evil because he can resist her beauty.

This hidden gem has been available in collections all across Europe, for over a hundred years, in print. But Pete got ‘gay goosebumps’ when he realised what he’d found.

“When I started to recount it to my gay friends, they got goosebumps too. I’m pretty sure goosebumps is an accurate measure of the fact a story is kind of special. 

“We don’t know when The Dog and the Sea were first told, but it would likely be far older than the 1800’s when it was first written down in words.

“What I draw from it is how much it resonates with today’s world. Not just the queer aspects, but a story about male mental health, austerity, and even climate change. If it was groundbreaking, then, whenever it first surfaced in history, in many ways, it still is. 

It depends on whether you read Pete’s adult or child variation of this lost queer fairytale re-born. But both come as an ever more non-binary generation are hungry to know more about their long lost queer history.

I’m a journalist, digital content producer, audience development consultant and a ‘Radio 30 Under 30’ 2019 winner. I host the British Podcast Awards recognized social

I’m a journalist, digital content producer, audience development consultant and a ‘Radio 30 Under 30’ 2019 winner. I host the British Podcast Awards recognized social enterprise podcast #QueerAF. With National Student Pride the show mentors young LGBT students, graduates and reporters to get their first audio commissions. I’ve produced audio for Forbes, City AM, Cancer Research UK, audioBoom and led the video and audio strategy for Attitude Magazine and Gay Star News. I’m driven by stories that empower those they are about, with past investigative series on chemsex, ‘ultra-conservative’ on-campus extremism, with sexual assault survivors and on trans rights.

This website is produced by BBC Global News, a commercial company owned by the BBC (and just the BBC). No money from the licence fee was used to create this website. The money we make from it is re-invested to help fund the BBC’s international journalism.

It’s hard to resist the flamboyant opening of The Birdcage. As the camera swoops into a gaudy Miami nightclub and focuses on a collection of drag queens performing to the iconic Sister Sledge song We Are Family, it becomes clear that Mike Nichols’ 1996 film is both a queer sanctuary and a comedic haven.

Released 25 years ago this week, Nichols’ film, a remake of the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles, about a gay couple hosting an ill-fated dinner party, remains remarkably relevant in its comedic sensibilities. On one level, The Birdcage was a universal, very mainstream comedy, that earned close to $200 million at the international box office. But within the context of mid-1990s Hollywood, the film was also a radical outlier that held particular significance for the LGBTQ+ community. As Dr Matthew Jones, Reader in Cinema Audiences and Reception at De Montfort University, puts it: "It helped an audience traumatised by a decade of living day-to-day with the threat of disease and death to laugh again."

The film centres on a gay couple, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), hosting an ill-fated diner party for their son’s future in-laws (Credit: Alamy)

Nichols’ brazen film, one of the director’s last before his career slowed in the 2000s, is in many ways a classic farce. The film revolves around Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane), the owners of a vibrant Florida drag nightclub, whose son, Val (Dan Futterman), is on a mission to get married. The catch: he wishes to marry the daughter of Ohio Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman), a prominent right-wing politician who certainly won’t approve of the Goldmans’ queer vocation or Albert’s glamorous drag persona, Starina. Armand and Albert decide the solution is to surreptitiously act straight – with Albert in full drag to pass as Val’s mother, ‘Mother Coleman’ – as they welcome the unknowing conservative family into their South Beach home for an evening of innuendo, irony and hilarity.

What is particularly astute about the film’s comedy is the way in which it mixes its farcical hijinks with a satirical intent, taking aim at both homophobia and the crisis of masculinity, as it navigates the infiltration of conservatism into a liberal space. The film makes Senator Keeley’s political perspectives the butt of the joke, such as his vexation at Clinton’s (qualified, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell") acceptance of "gagays inhe military" and belief that homosexuality is "weakening" the US. Acknowledging the particular ‘culture war’ climate of the US in the 1990s, when right-wing populist Pat Buchanan fomented opposition to the perceived social liberalism of the Clinton administration, The Birdcage ridicules the concern surrounding the depletion of so-called ‘traditional values’. By the same token, it empowers its gay characters: they are in control of the reality into which the in-laws enter, and Armand and Albert are never characters that are laughed at, only with.

gay innuendo Oy0brB

The birdcage encourages us all to be more like albert, to see in his gay femininity a kind of strength we all too often mock and disparage – manuel betancourt

In one particularly memorable scene, after Albert initially decides to disguise himself as Val’s uncle, Armand attempts to teach Albert the ‘ways’ of the straight man. It’s a lesson that pokes fun at an act that both characters know to be inherently ridiculous – for Albert, the performance of masculinity becomes just another facet of drag. "The Birdcage encourages us all to be more like Albert, to see in his gay femininity a kind of strength we all too often mock and disparage. Sometimes even within ourselves," reflected writer Manuel Betancourt in a 2019 essay revisiting his relationship to the film.

What’s more, The Birdcage presents Albert’s acts of performativity and transformation as empowering rather than scandalous. Rather it is Keeley’s dysfunctional attempt to maintain a rigid public image that is laughable. What is so striking, however, is the film’s ability to navigate such topics with comedic ease and radiant humour.

With the remake’s switch from 1970s Saint Tropez to 1990s Miami, it’s interesting to reflect on The Birdcage’s relationship with the original La Cage aux Folles. Elaine May’s screenplay replicates almost every single comic beat of the French film, from using John Wayne as a case study for how to walk like a man to Armand and Albert serving the in-laws their meal in sexually explicit patterned bowls.

The film reserves most ridicule for Gene Hackman’s strait-laced senator (here pictured with Dianne Wiest as wife Louise and Calista Flockhart as daughter Barbara) (Credit: Alamy)

However, the contexts in which these films were released gave them very different resonances: itself adapted from a 1973 play, Edouard Molinaro’s original film came to the screen in the pre-Aids, gay liberation era of the 1970s, though it was also widely regarded as ahead of its time. As Laurence Senelick, a Professor of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University, explained in an interview for the film’s Criterion Collection DVD release, La Cage aux Folles was a glimpse into "a world [audiences] had no concept of whatsoever". Liberated in its attitudes towards both gender and sexuality, La Cage Aux Folles was unique at the time in portraying a man who could enjoy dressing as a woman and be in a loving, committed relationship.

By contrast, when The Birdcage was released, in the mid-1990s, the LGBTQ+ community was rebuilding itself following the peak of the Aids crisis. Within this context, The Birdcage’s light-hearted, playful portrait of queerness, exempt from suffering, threat, or death, was radical too. Within the film, there is only one single mention of the Aids pandemic which comes about when, at the dinner table, Albert – as ‘Mother Coleman’ – and the Senator are discussing the traditionalism of their upbringing. "It was a wonderful world then, no drugs and no Aids", Albert remarks knowingly, keeping up the conservative act.

The Birdcage was a circuit breaker for narratives of queer tragedy which had been the norm over the previous decade. Including Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia, the other hit studio film of the era to be pioneering in its centring of a gay man. Released in the same year as Aids diagnoses peaked, it was the first time a major studio explicitly tackled the Aids crisis on-screen: Tom Hanks played a Philadelphia lawyer suing his previous firm for HIV-related discrimination after he was fired once a visible lesion appeared on his forehead.

The birdcage showed that queer identities could exist independently of, and without reference to, the epidemic – dr matthew jones

In its attempt to reach mainstream audiences, Philadelphia offered a consciously sympathetic gay character who could help correct the public’s ignorance on homosexuality and Aids. However, Philadelphia’s navigation of homosexuality was done with little celebration, as it sombrely plotted the gradual and distressing decline of a gay man, a paradigm that had become familiar in the 1990s mainstream conception of queerness. In contrast, The Birdcage revels in flouncing flamboyance. In fact, both films were recognisable breakthroughs for the portrayal of queer characters on-screen, while being opposite in tone: Philadelphia centred on combating discrimination and homophobia, and The Birdcage simply focused on the liberating joy of being one’s self.

While not explicitly discussing the Aids crisis, however, The Birdcage nevertheless honoured it, in its own way, by offering the collective healing power of laughter to a community that had been through years of turmoil. "With the Aids epidemic in the US finally starting to plateau, the mid-1990s was a moment when the LGBTQ+ community began, at last, to be able to believe in the possibility of a post-crisis existence," says Jones, "The Birdcage showed that queer identities could exist independently of, and without reference to, the epidemic. In short, it and similar productions from that period finally made it possible to start rebuilding positive queer identities through laughter and joy."

The original French film La Cage Aux Folles (1978) was itself adapted from a 1973 stage play (Credit: Alamy)

That’s not to say, of course, that those years of turmoil can be erased, even within such a carefree film. Because of the historical context, there is one moment in The Birdcage that really hits home in a different way to the French original. In both cinematic versions, a pause from the laughter comes in a crucial scene of recalibration just before the in-laws arrive, in the middle of the film, when Albert and Armand’s bickering escalates and Albert dramatically walks out – before the gay couple reunite, and poignantly agree to be buried beside each-other so as to "never miss a laugh".

While this scene is an almost perfect mirror of its predecessor, there is an added layer of emotional weight here. Watching the remake, you feel this dark but wholly romantic gesture now underscored by the heart-wrenching, implied context that this couple, off-screen, have survived the Aids crisis together. Given the LGBTQ+ community’s collective reckoning with death at the time, the promise to be buried side-by-side is a vow of unity that seems even more meaningful than marriage – an option that, anyway, the pair couldn’t even legally consider in 1996.

What’s impressive is how relatively progressive The Birdcage still feels, within the context of mainstream cinema, in its treatment of queerness. Of the other Hollywood attempts at a ‘gay comedy’ in the 1990s, and since, from The Object of My Affection (1998) to Love, Simon (2018), few have reached the bar that Nichols set. The following year, for example, saw the release of Frank Oz’s straight-laced gay comedy In & Out. Inspired by Hanks’ impassioned Academy Award best-actor speech for Philadelphia, in which he thanked his gay high-school teacher, the film focused on Howard (Kevin Kline), a closeted Midwest teacher who is outed by an Oscar-winning pupil and tries to convince the world around him, and himself, that he’s not gay. While Howard denies his queerness, the very idea of a homosexual presence in the small town throws its inhabitants into turmoil.

gay innuendo

With its foregrounded, unapologetic queerness, it was a film that sat in an unallocated space between the new queer cinema and hollywood

In one scene, Howard is terminated on the basis that the school principal fears his queerness will "spread" to the students. The loaded phrase was not a coincidence, in the context of the moral panic around Aids at the time, it underlined the position of many mainstream gay films: that queer characters could not be acquitted in the eyes of the rest of the world from their association with the deadly virus. The Birdcage rebuffed this notion, never even considering the idea of queer abandonment. Instead, the film celebrates two gay men being romantic partners, business owners and loving parents without invoking shame, fear or denial.

Around the time of The Birdcage’s release, just as mainstream Hollywood was taking small steps in depicting queer folk, independent cinema had seen the emergence of what the critic B Ruby Rich called ‘New Queer Cinema’ – a movement in which queer-identifying filmmakers were venturing into pioneering new territory: "renegotiating subjectivities, annexing whole genres, revising histories in their image," as Ruby Rich put it. Unified by self-representing queer narratives, the likes of Paris is Burning (1990), The Watermelon Woman (1996), Tongues Untied (1989) and Edward II (1991) constitute just some of the queer films made outside of the mainstream in the early and mid-1990s. The Birdcage was a very different proposition from these productions – but with its foregrounded, unapologetic queerness, it sat in an unallocated space between the New Queer Cinema and Hollywood.

Philadelphia (1993) was the other hit studio film of the era to centre a gay man (Credit: Alamy)

Indeed, even if it was made by a straight director and a big studio, The Birdcage remains a pillar in the landscape of queer cinema. As the film draws to a close and the lively tune of We Are Family fills the dance floor once again, the credits roll and all the film’s gay characters are still breathing. Not only that: they’re laughing. Twenty-five years later, the characters’ laughter, and the laughter they inspire, is a sound of joy and relief that remains a force of healing for LGBTQ+ viewers.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Twitter.

This website is produced by BBC Global News, a commercial company owned by the BBC (and just the BBC). No money from the licence fee was used to create this website. The money we make from it is re-invested to help fund the BBC’s international journalism.

I can’t recall exactly where I was when I first heard a song by the Village People. I was doubtless very young – as I remember, the venue was either a school disco or a wedding reception. It certainly wasn’t a sordid affair. I should admit immediately, though, that I suspect this memory to be made up. This is probably where we all imagine we heard Village People for the first time – those of my generation, at least: such is the way their biggest hits have become the sonic staples of our biggest events and get-togethers.

However, be this memory real or simulacrum, it strikes me as hilarious given what the Village People are universally known for: tongue-in-cheek gay innuendo, sparsely covered by a flimsy veneer of hyper-macho drag. But they’re not ‘just’ gay. They’re almost overtly (homo)sexual. Their signature song YMCA – one of the most famous of all time, most recently appropriated by Donald Trump supporters, who have turned it into M-A-G-A – is about cruising for sex in a mens’ health club; others celebrate traditionally male-oriented institutions such as the navy and the police.

Despite being queer pioneers, the Village People are now more often thought of as novelty act, thanks to hits like YMCA and Macho Man (Credit: Gett Images)

Yet, because of the band’s supremely cheesy reputation, their music passed me by for a long time. I avoided it quite organically, actually; we all have to at least pretend we have high tastes, after all. Can you imagine being caught listening to the Village People with any kind of sincerity?

Then, around a year and a half ago, I listened to their music out of choice – the listen that changed it all. It was actually an accident of Spotify’s algorithm – I had been listening to an album by revered disco pioneer Patrick Cowley, whose ethereal, frisky compositions, often soundtracks to ‘80s porn films, couldn’t be more different from the Village People’s stereotypical garishness. However the service’s automatic run-on feature clearly disagreed and decided that, when Cowley’s sensual, gay bathhouse-ready rhythms ended, ‘Macho Man’ would be a great follow-up. And so the opening drums of the track began: a repetitive “tssh-tssh-tssh, tssh-tssh-tssh”, a simple beat, but one which demands you shake your ass.

The chorus of Macho Man has washed through pop culture like torrential rain. We’ve all heard some variation on the theme, be it the original, a football stadium chant, or Homer Simpson’s ‘Nacho Man’. Yet unlike most flash-in-the-pan pop hits, which stick to the teeth of pop culture like toffee, this was genuinely catchy. I let the song play out a few times. Once the novelty had worn off somewhat, I flicked on to another song, one I’d not heard (of) before: San Francisco (You’ve Got Me), a punchy, queer-coded ode to the bayside Californian city, which reimagines it as a hedonistic utopia (“Freedom is in the air, yeah / searching for what we all treasure: pleasure”).

gay innuendo UrPccE

For better or worse, I was hooked ­– and soon I’d listened to nearly their entire discography. I found their later albums pretty awful, but I heavily rotated the first three (Village People, Macho Man, and Cruisin’) for a good six months, plus one or two other singles. It was all so fun; some songs, like Milkshake, which is literally about making a milkshake, were hilariously bad and more joyous for it. San Francisco, with its celebratory high tempo and soul-grasping jubilance, became my on-repeat running anthem. And I was fascinated by the empowerment I felt from Village People, the title track on their eponymous debut album, and an unambiguous call for gay liberation that sounds more akin to a protest chant than a chart topper. It lit a fire in my gut in a way few queer artworks have before. And all this from the Village People?

Well, yes. Said first three albums (and especially the first two) carry a surprisingly political energy; the more popular tracks, such as the eponymous Macho Man, might be vacuous but others – take I Am What I Am, a defiant chant that suggests exactly what you’d expect it to suggest – envision a world in which male bodies could be free to come together without oppression.

San Francisco was one of the gay meccas the Village People celebrated on their visionary debut album (Credit: Alamy)

As far as evoking same-sex love goes, there was a precedent – from disco’s genesis, queered sexual positivity was the life blood of the genre, as Peter Shapiro identifies in Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco. “As the cultural adjunct of the gay pride movement, disco was the embodiment of the pleasure-is-politics ethos of a new generation of gay culture, a generation fed up with police raids, draconian laws and the darkness of the closet,” he writes. “That this new movement was born on the night of Judy Garland’s funeral couldn’t have been more appropriate.”

That said, the genre’s lyrics tended to eschew more overt political statements – and the few that did carry an unambiguous message of gay liberation didn’t chart well. Queer pop historian Martin Aston cites the example of Carl Bean’s I Was Born This Way, released three decades before Lady Gaga’s riff on the same theme: “I Was Born This Way sold respectably but never charted. […] Political disco was almost an oxymoron.” Yet, despite this, the Village People’s eponymous debut, certainly, can hardly be described as apolitical, even if it is the group’s reputation for frivolity that has endured within popular consciousness.

I think to myself that gay people have no group, nobody to personalise the gay people, you know? – jacques morali

In her disco chronicle Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, Alice Echols recalls a 1978 Rolling Stone article in which Jacques Morali – the French producer who, alongside Henri Bolelo and eventual group leader Victor Willis, created the Village People – put forward a manifesto of gay visibility: “Morali outed himself, and emphasised that as a homosexual he was committed to ending the cultural invisibility of gay men. ‘I think to myself that gay people have no group,’ he said, ‘nobody to personalise the gay people, you know?’”

Indeed, the themes of their first LP serve to support this intent. The album is comprised of paeans to the United States’ gay underbelly, focusing on four places: San Francisco, Hollywood, Fire Island and Greenwich Village. The combination of locales alone should immediately tip you off as to who Village People was being sold to, as any gay man in the late 70s would recognise this as a laundry list of US gay meccas.

Not only an ode to the city, San Francisco (You’ve Got Me) celebrates freedom of the self. It knowingly evokes the sex-as-politics attitude of gay liberation (“Love the way I please / don’t put no chains on me”), and Victor Willis’ cry of “leather, leather, leather baby” speaks to the era’s emergent gay macho archetype. Out was victimisation, in their eyes, and in were muscles and moustaches. The song also evokes the great gay urban migration of the 1970s, during which gays and lesbians across the US moved to urban centres – San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City – en masse. This theme is seamlessly carried over to In Hollywood (Everybody is a Star), which envisions Hollywood as a cartoonish hub of opulence, universal success and stardom – an aspirational portrait for a historically marginalised class.

As their career went on, the Village People increasingly courted the mainstream, including with 1980 film Can’t Stop the Music (Credit: Alamy)

For something unabashedly homosexual you need only turn to Fire Island, named after the most iconic gay hotspot in the world, a thin strip of land some 50 miles off the coast of New York City, revered for its hookup spots and orgiastic dances. Directly referencing such famous bars and clubs as The Ice Palace and The Sandpiper (which, by the way, is where they’re “peckin’”), Fire Island evokes unashamed queer sexual desire: “You never know just who you’ll meet / Maybe someone out of your wildest fantasies.”

And then we come to the titular track Village People, the most emphatically political of them all; a percussive chant that calls upon the ‘Village people’, thin code for gay men, to “take our place in the Sun”: “To be free,” Village People declare, “We must be / all for one.” It’s a revolutionary statement through-and-through. The song envisions a new age of sexual freedom, advocating for unity against the homophobia that was de rigueur in US society in the late 70s.

I’m not arguing that the Village People are peerless artists, and even if I did think that, I probably wouldn’t admit it. The band’s motives, for one, have to be questioned. Empowering and queer-focused as their early lyrics may have been, the message quickly shifted once mainstream success was courted and deemed to be more profitable than their initial target group of gay disco-goers. It would seem they followed the money. And so it would be hagiographic to enshrine them as gay political pioneers, Jacques Morali’s manifesto for gay cultural visibility or otherwise.

But for a gay man, it is impossible, too, not to have a visceral response to Village People and its – somewhat superficial but incredibly energising – call for gay liberation, in such unambiguous terms. Even in the last 40 years, how many songs have so emphatically called for queer unity, and for hope? Certainly, if the tune makes me ecstatic, I can’t begin to think of what it would be like for a guy in 1979, newly discovering his gayness and hearing it for the first time in a pulsating New York nightclub.

It’s in this sense that Village People can serve as a bridge to the past, for me and many other young queer people. I’m fascinated by historical queer culture, forged as it is by community revolts and political struggle, and the joy I derive from their music comes in part from the lineage their music evokes. The imagined history that pops into my head when I hear such songs as Fire Island – of free men dancing in pulsating clubs, their shirtless bodies entwined.

I’m certain some might find my love for the Village People ridiculous, and it’s hard to entirely disagree. But at the end of the day, as the song goes: “I didn’t choose the way I am.” You might even say I was born this way.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Twitter.

gay innuendo zgMBhYU

from sylvester to perfume genius to everyone in between, editors pick the most evocative, transformative songs

From Sylvester to Perfume Genius to everyone in between, editors pick the most evocative, transformative songs

Is there an LGBTQ sensibility? What was it 40 years ago, before much of today’s language for gender and sexual identities even existed? Or, much more simply: Which songs best evoke the sex, drama, heartache, struggle, liberation and mindfucks of queer lives then and now? What follows is not a comprehensive (or ranked) list, but one that bridges the gap between post-Stonewall disco parties and gender-queer millennial rock of today. While some classics do appear on our list, others do not – sorry, Gloria Gaynor, Kylie Minogue, RuPaul, Britney and Cher, we still adore you — here are 25 essential pride songs from the 1970s to today.

In This Article: Against Me, Diana Ross, direct, Donna Summer, Elton John, Erasure, George Michael, Hercules & Love Affair, Lady Gaga, LGBT, LGBTQ Pride, Madonna, Mary Lambert, Melissa Ethridge, Peaches, Perfume Genius, Queen, Robyn, Scissor Sisters, Tegan and Sara, TRWPride, Village People

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

Glaad media reference guide – in focus: covering crimes when the accused is lgbt

Crime stories that involve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people invariably pique media curiosity. However too often they also garner sensationalistic coverage that focuses on lurid speculation and sexual innuendo.

When a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person stands accused of a crime, please treat him or her as you would treat any other person who is similarly accused. If you would not report on the sexual orientation of a heterosexual suspect, please apply a consistent standard for LGBT suspects.

It is a false-cause fallacy to imply, suggest, or allow others to suggest a causal relationship between sexual orientation or gender identity and criminal activity. Straight and LGBT people commit crimes. But to insinuate – either through direct statements or by quoting others – that LGBT people are more likely to commit crimes because they are LGBT is blatantly defamatory. This also applies to insinuating that one person’s criminal acts are broadly representative of all LGBT people.

Stereotypes perpetuate myths. For example, far-right extremists long have claimed that gay and lesbian people are sexual predators, substance abusers, and prone to domestic abuse and child molestation. These baseless, defamatory myths only sensationalize crime stories and fuel anti-LGBT sentiment.

Hasty assumptions can feed rumors about the sexual orientations and/or gender identities of any of the involved parties. A criminal’s or a victim’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is not always obvious – or relevant – based simply on the circumstances of the crime or preliminary investigation reports. If a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is clearly relevant, please investigate to establish it factually rather than relying on speculation or innuendo.

Level the playing field. As a rule, avoid labeling an activity, relationship, or emotion gay, lesbian, bisexual unless you would call the same activity, relationship, or emotion heterosexual or straight if engaged in by someone of another sexual orientation. Do not identify someone as transgender unless it is directly related to the alleged crime. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern people’s genders and/or sexual orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.

Providing Context. In the section on covering hate crimes, it is recommended that a journalist provide some context about the discrimination, violence and poverty faced by transgender people – especially transgender women of color. The same recommendation is made when reporting on a transgender person who is accused of committing a crime. For additional information about discrimination and violence faced by the transgender community, please see "Injustice at Every Turn," a report issued by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Glaad‘s ninth annual studio responsibility index finds a growth in racial diversity and screen time for lgbtq characters, but zero transgender characters in 2020 wide release films

GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.

Billy eichner

In the Deadline interview, Eichner, 41, explained why he wants to play Lynde.

“One of the main reasons I want to do this is…because gay actors are never, hardly ever, I should say, allowed to play our own gay icons,” Eichner said. “Harvey MilkFreddie MercuryElton John. Where are the gay actors? And it’s not to take anything away from those performances, which were all excellent. But why don’t we get to tell our own stories?”

“I don’t think there needs to be a rule, like straight actors can never play gay, but it is so lopsided. It never works in the other direction. And we’re not even allowed to play our own heroes,” Eichner said.

Gay actors should play these roles

Eichner also explained why gay actors are qualified to portray these people.

“I can tell you right now, that a gay actor, a gay person in general, understands the nuances, the idiosyncrasies, and the emotional complexity of playing another gay person, especially a famous gay person, playing another famous gay person, than a straight person does,” he said. “And we are never granted the opportunity to bring all of our life experience, as gay people, to the screen, and it has become a little bit frustrating to watch that happen over and over and over again.”

‘the hollywood squares’

In 1966, Lynde debuted on the fledgling game show “The Hollywood Squares.” He quickly became its iconic guest star, and eventually became the permanent “center square,” a move that guaranteed guests would call on Lynde every round.

On “The Hollywood Squares,” Lynde gained notoriety for his comedic skills, the short, salty one-liners, spoken with his signature snickering. Many jokes were thinly-veiled references him being gay.

Appearing on the game show 707 times, Lynde garnered considerable fame and wealth from the series. But Lynde also felt conflicted and disenchanted by the success. He felt the gay humor boxed him in.

Edit locked

A comedy plot line in which a character wrongly believes another character to be gay, either because of misinformation received or because of the supposedly gay character’s own misinterpreted words and actions. Once the character is taken to be a homosexual, all his words and actions become laden with innuendo and further misunderstandingshumor ensues.

This can often be caused with supernatural secrets, such as superpowers or lycanthropy, which aren’t immediately obvious, or various other embarrassing secrets.

Almost inevitable for Heterosexual Life-Partners. This plot may be the first time we’ve heard them explicitly say they’re not gay (whether we believe them or not is another matter).

A slight subversion occurs when a character is suspected of being gay and takes this as a compliment, since that person deeply sympathizes with gay people.

For such characters to qualify, they have to be mistakenly assumed to be homosexual, even if the G, H, and L words are not used. However, these characters don’t need to retaliate or tell those who have mistaken them that they aren’t gay as such characters can easily disprove these mistakes through other means such as a revelation of a straight relationship.

See also Mistaken for Index. When the character probably is gay but is in denial, they’re in the Transparent Closet. When the Character is heterosexual but acts like the Camp Straight. Due to the common belief that All Men Are Perverts and A Man Is Always Eager, any male character who isn’t shown to jump at the chance to have sex with a woman will be mistaken for gay (if not actually gay) by the audience and possibly by the other characters as well (especially male characters).

Phillip zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach’s Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper’s history to have a beat covering the city’s vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts’ failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.