Although critics love to dismiss LGBT entertainers as ‘luvvies’, they have always been the mainstay of the performing arts. Whether acting, singing, dancing, directing or making us laugh LGBT performers have provided the creativity and imagination that is the backbone of showbusiness.
In this new show for LGBT History Month, Terry Sanderson celebrates some of the great lesbian and gay performers from the past century.
These days we take gay entertainers for granted – Alan Carr, Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, Paul O’Grady – the list is endless. But in previous generations entertainers had to be much more careful in what they revealed about their private lives.
Not only was there always the fear that the public would reject them and they wouldn’t be able to work, there was even the chance at some points that they would find themselves in trouble with the law. Indeed, Sir John Gielgud was one actor caught cottaging in London whose career thankfully survived the ordeal.
Others were quite obviously gay but could not bring themselves to say it to their adoring fans – Frankie Howard, Liberace (who actually won a libel action against a journalist who outed him) and even the campest of all comedians, Larry Grayson and John Inman.
Others, who took the risk, paid the price – comedian Ellen de Generes spent some time in the wilderness after she came out as lesbian. But she managed to ride the cusp of society’s changing perceptions and she is now one of America’s best-loved TV personalities.
And so, as we look at some of these showbiz legends from the past (and some from the present) who were or are gay, we will enjoy the fruits of their talents in generous clips from their performances. And there will be some surprises along the way.
This is an evening to celebrate and cheer those LGBT people who have thrilled and amused us, have become our heroes and icons and, in some cases, have made significant inroads to furthering the acceptance and understanding of gay people.
But most of all this is a show that glories in the performing arts from a completely gay perspective. And if there is one thing that gay people are good at, it’s generating fun and laughter and fabulous – sometimes heart-wrenching – music.
From Cole Porter to Lily Savage, from Rock Hudson to Danny LaRue, from Rudolph Nureyev to kd lang, from Marlene Dietrich to Irene Handl – the diversity and variety of gay entertainers is as long as your arm. Don’t miss this celebration of their talents on film and video.