A chunk of what we do here on the site is talk about stereotypes of gay and straight men. Last night, I was deep into one of the most familiar of gay stereotypes: show tunes.
On Mondays, a bar in my neighborhood (I live near a longstanding gay ‘hood) has show tunes night. About 9:30 or so, the usual videos go off — so long, Britney — and a stream of video clips from musicals come on. Mostly scenes from film versions, with some live clips from awards shows. It’s not like bar conversation comes to a complete halt, but heads do get riveted to the video screens. A few men sing along lustily, most softly sing or mumble along. The crowd definitely started picking up, no pun intended, as show time came closer.
What is it about show tunes? What draws gay men to musical theatre? It is a pretty true stereotype, I find. Maybe it’s an urban thing. Is it they often revolve around really strong, excessive women such as Auntie Mame, Dolly Levi, and Mamma Rose? Is it that they put a fundamental longing right into the middle of the stage? Think “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time.” Is it the world manufactured of style and artifice? The dancing?
I don’t have some airtight theory on this one. I think it has something to do with gay lyricists and composers. If there’s a gay low down on Ira Gershwin it’s the lyrics to But Not for Me from Crazy in Love. The lyrics are filled with knowing and double entendre.
I like musical theater as much as most gay men, though I am shocked by how little I know compared to some gay men. Like the men last night. I don’t hit show tunes often, but I am glad when I do. And not just for the entertainment value. Show tunes are an equalizer. Gay culture isn’t immune from social strata: ages, race, socioeconomic statues, nelly and butch, tops and bottoms, and all the great stuff in between. It’s nice to see them all fumbling the lyrics.
I made it through hits from Meet Me in St. Louis, Cabaret, Pippin, Hairspray, and left on the high note of Evita. I didn’t leave the bar dancing, but it was nice to connect with a part of myself and with a common thread between strangers.
What about you Straight Guy? Any Pirates of Penzance or Sound of Music in your Ipod? And readers, gay and straight, do you have a musical you love? Can you solve the gay man/show tunes mystery?
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