Gay male writers—including Mark Doty, Wayne Koestenbaum, Cyrus Cassells and others—pay homage to their divas.
In the introduction to this revealing study of secular devotion, fanatic fandom, heroine-worship—call it what you will—poet Montlack (English/Berkeley Coll.) says that within two weeks of announcing his idea, more than 40 contributors had signed on. The list is quite a cornucopia of female cultural icons, ranging from Sappho to Princess Leia. “[T]here seems still to be a particular type of fandom, or devotion, that only gay guys can deliver,” writes the author. “[W]e show up for the ladies like no one else and usually stick with them for life.” Such fervor and steadfast loyalty blaze through these diverse accounts, whether in depicting an icon, admitting what she means to the devotee or exploring the nature of devotion itself. Poignant and colorful description dominates: Queen Elizabeth I, “undeniably a nerd’s diva,” that “crusty, white-faced Gloriana”; Nina Simone, with her “velvety voice” so “slow, so full, so processional it could pull a ship of lonely sailors to shore”; Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, whose “disheveled hair falling onto her bloated face and into those famed eyes physically transformed her to a gorgon”; Julia Child, “crowned everlastingly in a brown helmet of bedroom hair.” Such splendid portraiture traces the outlines of the writer’s immediate, breathless relation to his diva, for whom she may have paved a route out of repression or a confining home life (Joan Sutherland, Auntie Mame), acted as a tangential, sympathetic witness to the author’s budding sexuality or take-no-prisoners attitude (Kate Bush, Sade, Björk) or continues to serve as a catalyst for an evolving sense of self (Lucille Ball, Mahalia Jackson).
A delightful essay collection.