28 Oldest Gay Celebs (and Why We Still Love Them)

These legends continue to make impactful contributions to our culture at large.

Pictured above: Stephen Sondheim.

Like fine wine, gay icons improve with age, offering worldly wisdom and authority along with the groundbreaking talent they’ve served us all these years. Here’s a toast to the oldest ones and what they still bring to the table.

Kenneth Anger, 93

Scott Rudd/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

NEW YORK CITY, NY - MARCH 1: Kenneth Anger attends Whitney Biennial 2006, Day for Night at Whitney Museum of American Art on March 1, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Rudd/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Known for controversial short films like the leather-drenched rabble-rouser Scorpio Rising and the occult-ish Lucifer Rising and his explosive book of celebrity sex gossip, Hollywood Babylon, Anger has long been a gay provocateur of the first rank. Thanks to his urban legend-filled tome, you can never watch an old Clara Bow movie without thinking of her sleeping with the entire USC football team.

John Kander, 92

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: John Kander attends the 2018 Chita Rivera Awards at NYU Skirball Center on May 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)

With his late lyricist partner Fred Ebb, Kander composed the indelible scores of Cabaret and Chicago, as well as the classic tune, “New York, New York.” Musical theater is a more exalted place thanks to his works, and someone named Liza would surely agree, and all that jazz.

George Maharis, 91

Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 09: JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN - "Miss Belle" 5/8/70 George Maharis (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

The good looking Greek-American actor became a star on television's Route 66 and went on to make pop albums and movies of varying success. But he was sort of the original George Michael, having been busted in gay sex scandals in restrooms in 1967 and 1974. I’ve been running through public bathrooms looking for him ever since.

Stephen Sondheim, 89

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19: Stephen Sondheim attends the 2019 American Songbook Gala at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on June 19, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

With Joker, Marriage Story, and Knives Out all including his songs (or bits of them), Sondheim is more relevant than ever. There’s barely a season without a revival or movie version of one of his works. (Company is returning to Broadway this season, while West Side Story, which he did the lyrics for, is already there again, and the second West Side Story movie version comes out this year.) This is the man that also wrote the head-spinning scores for Follies, Into the Woods, and Sweeney Todd, and every theater queen with any credibility is living for him to finish his Bunuel musical. Yes, he’s still here, he’s still here...

Joel Grey, 87

Ben Hider/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: Actor Joel Grey attends "Hand To God" Broadway Opening Night at Booth Theater on April 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)

The Tony and Oscar winner, forever known as the leering MC in Cabaret, Grey finally came out as gay in 2015. Though four years earlier, in 2011, he co-directed the revival of Larry Kramer’s blistering AIDS play The Normal Heart—a bountiful gay act.

Richard Chamberlain, 85

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Actor Richard Chamberlain attends the premiere of "Twin Peaks" at Ace Hotel on May 19, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

A heartthrob as television's Dr. Kildare in the 1960s, Chamberlain went on to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, and he played Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity in 1988, way before Matt Damon. He didn’t come out until 2003, but a lot of people had a very strong feeling—and not just because he co-starred in a musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Don Bachardy, 85

Adam Berry/Getty Images

BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 14: Don Bachardy, artist and partner of the late British author Christopher Isherwood, speaks at a reading of Isherwood's work on October 14, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Bachardy and Isherwood were a couple for a period of 33 years, until the latter's death, and Bachardy's first visit to Berlin coincides with the 75th anniversary of the publication of 'Goodbye to Berlin,' Isherwood's novel about Berlin in the early 1930s, the period in which Adolf Hitler began to come into power. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

The partner of the late, great author Christopher Isherwood (Goodbye to Berlin, A Single Man), Bachardy is a renowned portrait artist living in California and still creating new work.

Larry Kramer, 84

Melanie Burford For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Playwright Larry Kramer of the production 'The Normal Heart' in his apartment in Manhattan, New York on April 22, 2012. (Photo by Melanie Burford For The Washington Post via Getty Images.)

The fiery activist and author (Faggots, The Normal Heart) is still shaking things up and making a difference by targeting complacency amongst homophobes and people in our own community, as well. He’s invaluable as an ongoing force of nature who never rests on his laurels. His recent book, The American People: Volume 2: The Brutality of Fact, is officially described as completing “his radical reimagining of his country’s history.” I’ll say.

Johnny Mathis, 84

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 05: Singer Johnny Mathis visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on December 05, 2019 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

The velvet-voiced singer of classics like “Chances Are,” Mathis is one of the most audible voices every holiday season, thanks to his crooning of various Christmas chestnuts.

George Takei, 82

Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 11: George Takei attends the 3rd Annual Sports Humanitarian Of The Year Awards at The Novo by Microsoft on July 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Takei is best known for playing the helmsman Sulu on Star Trek, but he’s developed a whole new chapter as an opinion maker with some pointed political tweets that have amassed nearly three million followers. Takei loves to stir it up, and he does so in riveting ways, always the helmsman. He married his partner, Brad Altman, in 2008.

Sir Derek Jacobi, 81

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Sir Derek Jacobi attends the World Premiere of "Murder On The Orient Express" at The Royal Albert Hall on November 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)

The acclaimed Shakespearean actor registered a civil partnership with director Richard Clifford in the United Kingdom in 2006. Nine years later, he and pal Ian McKellen (his co-star in Vicious, the British sitcom about a bickering gay couple) were the Grand Marshals for the NYC Pride March. They were the classiest ones ever.

Terrence McNally, 81

Bruce Glikas/WireImage

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Playwright Terrence McNally poses at a meet and greet photo call for the play "Frankie & Johnny in the CLAIR de LUNE" on Broadway at The New 42nd Street Studios on April 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage)

The long-running playwright has brought us The Ritz (set in a gay bathhouse), Love! Valour! Compassion! (set at a holiday retreat for gay friends) and Master Class (about diva suprema Maria Callas). Tackling gay issues with humor and heart, McNally has also served the librettos for The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, and operas, too.

Tommy Tune, 80

Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23: Tommy Tune attends Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala, Premiere Of "Porgy and Bess" on September 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

A seven-time Tony winner (for performing, direction, and choreography, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award), the lanky Texan whipped up magical Broadway productions like Nine, Grand Hotel, and The Will Rogers Follies. His taste and skill are missed on Broadway, but his impact is forever felt. Tommy turns 81 on February 28.

Sir Ian McKellen, 80

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Paul Smith

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 19: Sir Ian McKellen wearing Paul Smith attends the Paul Smith AW20 50th Anniversary show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 19, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Paul Smith)

An openly gay actor with two franchises under his belt (The Lord of the Rings and X-Men), McKellen—twice-Oscar nominated—came out in 1988 and has been a force in the culture ever since. And, by the way, he apparently turned down Dumbledore in Harry Potter. He could have had three franchises!

Joel Schumacher, 80

Mike Pont/FilmMagic

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Film Director Joel Schumacher attends the 12th Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Pont/FilmMagic)

A popular New York presence, Schumacher was a costume designer before he turned to movie writing (Sparkle, The Wiz) and directing (St. Elmo’s Fire, The Client, and two controversial Batman movies). And that’s not all. In an interview last year, Schumacher estimated that he had slept with about 20,000 men—so far.

Edmund White, 80

Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Edmund White, writer, literary critic, playwright and essayist, Mantova, Italy, 2010. (Photo by Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images)

With his classic books including The Beautiful Room Is Empty and The Farewell Symphony, Edmund White has probably written more about same-sex love than anyone on earth. And more knowingly, too.

Peter Berlin, 77

Sort of a Ken doll by way of Tom of Finland, the Poland-born Berlin wore tight-fitting clothes that showed off his throbbing arms and other bulges, and became a top model and porn actor in the hormonally wild 1970s. At the time, he also got behind the lens and took some erotic photographs that he showed off in a 2015 NYC gallery show, which he flew in from San Francisco to host. “I gave people a lot of good climaxes,” Berlin told me, accurately.

David Geffen, 76

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - MARCH 15: Inductee David Geffen attends the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2010 induction ceremony at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 15, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

He co-created Geffen Records and DreamWorks Pictures and he’s been so successful at it that he’s worth about $8 billion, but he’s also known as a philanthropist and a patron of the arts. Coming out in 1992, Geffen became one of the most high profile gay power brokers in the world, and he’s not about to budge from that throne. David turns 77 on February 21.

Barry Manilow, 76

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Michael Kors

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Barry Manilow performs on the runway during the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2019 Runway Show at Cipriani Wall Street on February 13, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Michael Kors)

The chart-topping singer of “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs” kept his sexuality a secret from his fan base for decades. But in 2015, he finally revealed that he’d married his longtime partner, Garry Kief, and the fans were fine with it. I guess he can’t smile without him...

Felice Picano, 75

Jude Domski/WireImage

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Writer Felice Picano attends the 2012 Lambda Literary Awards at The Graduate Center at City University of New York on June 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jude Domski/WireImage)

The NYC writer/critic has not only had his words featured in just about every major queer publication there is, but he’s started publishing houses that have showcased the works of up and coming queer artists for years. He is essential. Picano turns 76 on February 22.

Armistead Maupin, 75

Sophie Bassouls/Sygma via Getty Images

Writer Armistead Maupin, author of "Tales of the City"in Saint Malo's Festival des etonnants voyageurs, 20th May 2018 (Photo by Sophie Bassouls/Sygma via Getty Images)

A literary legend and a gay voice, Maupin is best known for writing Tales of the City, a series of quirky San Francisco–set novels.

Gordon Thomson, 74

Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 16: Actor Gordon Thomson attends the premiere of "Winterthorne" at The Renberg Theatre on August 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

The Canadian actor was sensationally sexy as the snarling Adam Carrington on the prime time soap Dynasty, starting in 1982. He came out in 2017, telling the Daily Beast, “It’s not something I’ve ever announced. I’m assuming that people know, and now that I’m my age, that’s fine.”

André De Shields, 74

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Andre De Shields attends the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 9, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic,)

The original Wiz in The Wiz, De Shields has had a storied Broadway career, last year winning a Tony for his sparkplug performance as Hermes, the salty narrator of Hadestown. His trip to the podium was one of Tony’s all-time feel-good moments.

John Waters, 73

Robin Marchant/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE/SPECIAL RATES APPLY) John Waters attends a John Waters Christmas 2013 at Stage 48 on December 13, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

The man who changed the word with deliciously demented movies like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, the Baltimore-based Waters went on to successfully switch tones with the socially conscious Hairspray. He doesn’t make films anymore, but you can catch up with him via his books and his speaking engagements, which are a splendid mix of high- and lowbrow.

Sir Elton John, 72

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Elton John attends the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The sequined Rocketman [who recently picked up a second Oscar] has nothing to prove anymore, having long been an openly gay hitmaker and fashion plate. But he’s not exactly resting on royalties from “Crocodile Rock” and The Lion King. He’s written the music for a Devil Wears Prada musical headed to Broadway next season, and even if it doesn’t get a lot of coverage in Vogue, it sounds like a hit.

Bruce Vilanch, 71

Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage

Bruce Vilanch during 19th Annual Broadway's Stars in the Alley at Shubert Alley in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage)

Vilanch wrote for Bette Midler, he wrote the jokes on the Oscars, he knows everyone on both coasts, and he’s just damned funny. And if a gay can’t be funny, he doesn’t deserve to live long!

Sir Antony Sher, 70

David Levenson/Getty Images

OXFORD, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Antony Sher, actor at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on March 17, 2018 in Oxford, England. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

The South African born Olivier Award-winning actor entered into a U.K. civil partnership with Gregory Doran, a director whom he has worked with many times. They make a good collaboration. Yes, sir!

Bill T. Jones, 68

hnny Nunez/WireImage

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21: Honoree Bill T. Jones speaks at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol Voices 15 Gala at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on May 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

A legend in the dance community, Jones is the co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. (Zane, his lover and collaborator, died of AIDS in 1988.) Jones’ personal and probing work has extended into Broadway productions like Spring Awakening and Fela!, both of which he won a Tony award for. Jones is married to Bjorn Amelan, who is the creative director for Jones/Zane.

Let’s also include Bob Mackie (80), who had a wife in the 1960s and later was partnered with fellow designer Ray Aghayan; and twice-married late bloomer Calvin Klein (77).

Long may they flourish!

Latest News