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There's a particular attraction to finding out that in "Real Life" a celebrity figure is vulnerable: Perhaps the basis for the evergreen game of "who's gay in Hollywood". The game has moves as stereotyped as kabuki. Let's look.

Act 1, Scene 1: "Imitation of Life". Character has to be an impersonator of the feminine, but not particularly drag - one Boy George too far. My favorite quote about Liberace was that his "Pillows had pillows". Exaggerated, flamboyant, fabulous, fierce. 70's brought us Glam - and Elton, or "Liberace II" glued to his piano, song-and-dance, and above all costume. Finally for the 80's we've got Michael, or "Liberace III", again mincing, hiccoughing, fierce, but also butch and "Bad", crotch-grabbing; a life most imitated.
Act 1, Scene 2: "Witness for the Prosecution". Necessarily, the celebrity must have a well-tailored lawsuit to wear for a period. Liberace I "cried all the way to the bank" with his, proclaiming loudly of course he's never had homosexual sex. Elton of course had his day in "The Sun" with underage sex. But of course Michael took Scene 2 to a new, superstar dimension by not only going after tabloids about his alleged sexual relations with teenage boys, but by indeed entering into lawsuits about actually having sex with boys. He likes his well-tailored lawsuits, and so many!
Act 2: Scene 1: "The Lady Vanishes". Liberace who was "the perfect all-around man any woman would be thrilled to be with" took variant 1 and surrounded himself with a few and "almost married" Joanne Rio. Clearly an accident averted. Elton John had variant 2 and unfortunately did marry - Renate Blauel - and posed magnificently while his career flagged, the startling wife as a publicity substitute for actually performing as an artist. Michael of course ambidextrously surrounded himself with attractive women (tired of seeing him with Brooke Shields yet?) and at the same time Married several. His version actually had children produced, but clearly not his own. The startle factor of his being married, as with Elton, couldn't prop up a sagging career.
Act 2: Scene 2: "Tod und...". The celebrity must have a life-altering failure. Liberace's shows, TV show and general fade-out coupled exquisitely to renal failure from cleaning fluid inhalation. Elton of course ended up in Rehab, after credit-card overdose, drug-overdose, over-and under-eating overdose. Michael has only now begun the "Tod und..." phase, and well-timed at age 50.
Act 2: Scene 3: "Verklärung":  However, miraculously Liberace revived and entered the triumphal pantheon of preserved celebrities we call Las Vegas and being "A One-May Disneyland". Elton, in stark contrast to other entertainers actually came out, came to his senses, and began his new career with broadway and some of his most productive songwriting since the 70's. Jackson is still in Act 2, Scene 3 - his comeback on stage, which we can only hypothesize would have been a grinding disaster of Irwin Allen scale, has been superseded by his own resurrection - sellouts on Amazon, itunes, memorabilia, and the gift that keeps on giving a revived career, 200 songs bequeathed to his children. We certainly won't hear the last of him for a very long time.
Act 3: Scene 1: "Deliverance". In the end, we knew Liberace's lovers, the views on his specials, his "chauffer". As with many in Vegas, he faded into a general un-genderness in which everyone seems to be granted equal affection, and no boats are rocked. Elton married David Furnish, and as "The Love that Dare Not Speak It's Name Never Shuts Up" moves forward, he's morphing daily closer to being a human, and paradoxically less vulnerable. Michael's lovers are coming out of the woodwork, per clockwork, and we'll soon be able to fill in the chinks in the armor. Death of course conveys the ultimate protection to being hurt now.

Many other celebrities are on the roll. For every celebrity that sues tabloids over gay innuendo, wait for the marriage, the breakdown and comeback and see if they play it for love, or for money. It becomes the name game. There's nothing seamy about it fortunately because, without an audience, what's the point of the celebrity act?

Originally posted to joetex on Wed Jul 01, 2009 at 05:32 PM PDT.

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