The sacred and the profane

My friend Tinky Winky dressed me down the other day. "I've been disappointed in your column lately," he confided, pointed sentiments piercing his mush-mouthed speech. "Sometimes it isn't gay enough."

"I've transformed a respected newspaper into my open love letter to Brendan Fraser," I countered. "I've waxed ad nauseam about Cher, Madonna, and Martha Stewart. I can't get much gayer, unless I graphically describe Danzig and Rollins making the beast with two backs."

"Look, bitch," he shot back. "I'm going through a rough patch. You could at least try and entertain me. I mean, what was up with that boring trip-hop column two weeks ago?"

"Purple Penguin? I thought you'd like that—they're purple, you're purple . . . "

"Right, and everything purple is gay." His triangle-antenna trembled indignantly. "I deserve better than that, girlfriend."

Then he whimpered, and my heart melted. Tinky Winky is the victim of a witch hunt; his days are numbered. Soon he'll be grumbling alongside Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony on Jerry Springer about how fickle toddlers are. Couldn't I be just a little gayer, for one week, to brighten his spirits?

But as any boy I've ever cruised will tell you, whenever I try my damnedest to do something quintessentially gay—like pick up a man—I end up looking foolish. Even my own mother can't deny I'm a big homo, yet the wailing divas and "Nobody Knows I'm a Fag" T-shirts and brunch entr饳 clearly demarcated as "gay culture" rarely make me feel proud, just embarrassed.

Later I was taping house singles to listen to at the gym (and if that's not gay . . . ). Without thinking, I segued from the 1995 gospel stomp "Power," by the Boys Choir of Harlem, into "Outside," George Michael's paean to al fresco sex. Since this cassette wasn't intended for public consumption, I'd suspended my usual rules of DJ programming and trying to create thematic unity between records.

When I heard how the two tunes intersected, the mix initially sounded dissonant. But then a dialogue emerged, as the opening phrase of the latter—"You want it, you've got it"—bounced beside the Boys Choir shouting "the power." The combination worked.

Picking through my music collection, I realized that this confluence of seemingly disparate themes—sex and salvation—consistently helps me feel good about myself, even when other sources of affirmation (a boyfriend, nice tits) elude me. Hearing "I'm Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair)" makes me want to dance and sing and express myself physically. Ultra Nat駳 "Rejoicing" evokes the same reaction, but while praising God.

After he was born again, pioneering disco DJ Walter Gibbons stopped playing songs he felt weren't uplifting. But he'd still take requests. If somebody requested a tune like "Nasty Girls," he'd follow up with "Try God" by the New York Community Choir. Gibbons believed that spirits lived in the grooves and moved through the dancers. A dose of faith was the antidote to lust. I'm happier thinking that each listener will calibrate the two impulses accordingly, as befits his or her lifestyle.

Listen up, Jerry Falwell. Proclaiming that my Teletubby pal is turning toddlers queer is ludicrous. What do you hope to achieve by "outing" a creature less threatening than Barney the Dinosaur crossed with a Kewpie doll? Be careful what you wish for. An artist who doesn't have to conceal a key component of his life from the public can create works of greater potency. "Outside" is George Michael singing ferociously about desire, parlaying the consequences of his recent ordeal into his catchiest record in years. You want it, you've got it . . . the power.

And as for you, Tinky Winky, I have an idea for your next career move. Christian attempts to co-opt the queer community have proven disastrous (can you say "ex-gay movement?"), but the reverse often yields winning results. Track down Tammy Faye Baker and record a duet of Ocean's 1971 Top 10 hit "Put Your Hand in the Hand." Commission a fierce remix, and just imagine whom you'll set spinning. Lord only knows.

 
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