Bohemian Rhapsody made a fortune and won awards, and Rocketman didn’t die like a candle in the wind, so it doesn’t take a psychic to sense that there will be more biopics made about queer musical artists faster than there will be a sequel to Dumbo.
I hate to promote the idea of yet more pop-rock nostalgia heading to the big screen, but maybe some of these films will actually be good, so I might as well do some free consulting for Hollywood.
Here are my 10 ideas for future flicks:
George Michael (1962-2016)
This one is inevitable. The costar of the new wavey duo Wham!, George went solo to soar on a series of riveting hits, only to have it all crumble when he was arrested for public lewdness in the loo in 1998. But the good thing about that incident is it forced George to finally come out, at which point he became an outspoken activist and humanitarian. You gotta have faith a-faith a-faith that this movie would be socko. And there will be no lack of drama, especially since his boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz, ended up claiming that George’s death was a suicide; he was not in the will, but swore that George said he could stay in the mansion, which he did for three years, against the family’s wishes. Just the other day, when the jig was apparently up, Fawaz was picked up for destroying a lot of the house and angrily throwing things off the roof. Let’s hope for a film that pays more respect to George’s legacy than he has.
Boy George (1961-)
Another British George, Mr. O’Dowd, was a sort of cross dressing cutie as lead singer of the Culture Club, whose first album in 1982 began their explosion, thanks to songs both bouncy (“I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”) and poignant (“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”). During his famous years, George said he was bisexual, though he later revealed that most of the Club’s songs were about his relationship with drummer Jon Moss. Drugs, a problem with the law, community service, and a new life as a DJ would provide plenty of extra chapters for this frank look into George. In fact, there’s already a movie being developed, and George said he finds the suggestion that’s been made of Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones, Dark Phoenix) playing him rather interesting. If that doesn’t work out, Troye Sivan might tumble 4 this. (Other biopic ideas: Holly Johnson, the Pet Shop Boys, Andy Bell, Jimmy Somerville, Limahl)
A flamboyant mama’s boy and classical pianist, Liberace became an unlikely icon, tinkling the ivories to stardom as denial-prone ladies swooned. The denials went both ways, of course. “Lee” himself denied being gay and also denied having AIDS, but one thing he never denied was the chance to provide his audiences with glittery entertainment. His Las Vegas museum full of pianos, fashion, and candelabras is a two-parter that would turn anyone gay—and if you’re already gay, it’d turn you straight, then gay again. Maybe Sam Smith could throw on some sparkles and star in this one?
Influenced by blues and gospel, Sylvester went from the genderfuck performance group the Cockettes to his first album in 1977, emerging as a bold talent for the disco era. When I interviewed the “mighty real” star, Sylvester came off frosty, bratty, and paranoid, but he had a piercing falsetto and provided a lot of hope for flamboyant queens out there who dreamed of getting on the airwaves. Sadly, he died of AIDS. To star: Lizzo?
The Village People
A manufactured group emanating out of the escapist 1970s, the VPs were modeled after gay macho stereotypes, they were named after NYC’s gay hub the Village, and they sang suggestive songs about the “Y.M.C.A.” and “San Francisco,” but America just couldn’t seem to figure out that they were primarily gay! Even though the Native American member had been a dancer at the gay sex club the Anvil! All of this willful ignorance would make a great movie—far better than 1980’s Can’t Stop the Music, a fanciful telling of their creation and rise, which fed right into the myths. We need to know more about the Myth Things.
Barry Manilow (1943-)
The Brooklyn-born Barry accompanied Bette Midler at the Continental Baths and produced albums for her—could it get any gayer?—before becoming a solo hit maker of confections like “Mandy” and “Weekend in New England.” Barry had married a woman in the ‘60s, but his heart belonged to guys—like his manager, Gary Kief, whom he quietly wed in 2014. Barry finally came out in 2017, but he never made much noise about it, not wanting to rock his female fan base. Well, last we heard, they’re fine with it! Maybe Shawn Mendes could star? (Other biopic ideas: Johnny Mathis, Bobby Sherman)
After manager Jerry Brandt heard Jobriath’s demo tape in 1972, he tracked down the performer, who happened to be working as a hustler at the time. The result was the first openly gay rocker to get a major deal—though probably not the first hustler—thanks to Elektra Records, headed by queer David Geffen. (The already established David Bowie said he was gay in ‘72, then bisexual four years later, doing a reverse Boy George trajectory.) And when I say major, I mean that this signing was accompanied by a huge advance, elaborate costumes, and lots of hype, complete with large billboards, plus interviews in which Jobriath controversially called himself “rock’s truest fairy." And it all poignantly fizzled, either because the public wasn’t ready for a big gay or because the music itself wasn’t commercial enough, or both. Jobriath retired in 1975, a sadly forgotten pioneer and the subject of an inevitably great movie. He died of AIDS in ‘83.
Jermaine Stewart (1957-97)
The Columbus, Ohio, born performer was a Soul Train dancer and tried out for the R&B trio Shalamar, not getting the slot, but still dancing with them on tour. An association with a member of Culture Club led to his solo album and eventually the hit 1986 song “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off," a chaste ditty that hit as AIDS was terrifying the masses. Tragically, Jermaine died of AIDS, his recording career having faded, and the result seemed like a life of unfulfilled promise. A toast of cherry wine to him—and, I hope, a movie. Maybe a part for Jaden Smith?
Lance Bass (1979-)
The Mississippi-born crooner became a smash with the 1990s boy band NSYNC, which made teen hearts flutter, though he didn’t come out until that chapter was decidedly over, in 2006. What he experienced would make for a powerful film, especially since Lance has done a tell-all documentary about the group’s sleazy manager, Lou Pearlman. Other interesting scenes would include Lance’s astronaut-training for a TV show that didn’t happen, as well as his marriage to actor-artist Michael Turchin in 2014. Not surprisingly, this is the group that sang “Girlfriend."
Ricky Martin (1971-)
Similarly: Starting at 12 with the all-boy group Menudo, the Puerto Rican Ricky went on to General Hospital, “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” and spearheading the Latin explosion of 1999. Other acting followed, on Broadway and TV, as well as multilingual crooning and crotch-bumping all around the globe. And mercifully, he came out in 2010 and has been a vocal queer ever since. If this story is told with truthfulness, I would shake my bon-bon all the way to the cineplex.
What Warhol Said About Donald Trump
From left: Ivana Trump, Andy Warhol, Donald Trump, 1980.
Someday they might even go back to doing straight biopics, in which case Donald Trump would be a natural subject and Scott Baio might even get an acting job. And here’s some background for it: In The Andy Warhol Diaries, published in 1989, the late artist and visionary paints, as it were, a not very flattering portrait of Trump, who was then a flashy financier.
In a 1984 entry, Warhol talks about judging the cheerleading auditions for the Trump-owned New Jersey Generals. Says Andy, “Somebody told Ivana she’d better watch her husband because she could lose him to these young girls, but then later somebody told me that he fooled around with all the girls anyway. And seeing these young things and then a sophisticated ‘lady’ like Ivana, you’d think that some day they could be like that, too—if they marry right.”
Prophetic, no? In an entry from later that same year, Warhol gets even more irked by saying, “I just hate the Trumps because they never bought my Trump Tower portraits. And I also hate them because the cabs on the upper level of their ugly Hyatt Hotel just back up traffic so badly around Grand Central now and it takes me so long to get home (cab $6).”
If only that was the biggest mess he ever caused!
Starry, Starry Night
But back to artistic people: At the Broadway’s Rising Stars concert produced by Scott Siegel at Town Hall, Siegel started things with an announcement: “Hello, everyone. The woman sitting in front of you just might be the mother of one of the performers. Turn off your cell phones!” That did the trick—and then he brought out a succession of Broadway wannabes, fresh out of schools from Long Island to Venezuela, and they sang their tuchuses off on a variety of show tunes, as their families cheered and wept. Also in the show was this year’s Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony winner Ali Stroker (Oklahoma!), who once appeared as one of Broadway’s Rising Stars herself. That’s how it works, folks.
Another Tony winner, Cady Huffman (The Producers), has been doing a show called Miss Peggy Lee: In Her Own Words and Music at The Green Room 42 at Yotel, and though it’s not yet for review, I have to step up and say that it’s brilliant. In the format of a Peggy concert of songs the blithe yet feverish jazz singer wrote or co-wrote, complete with illuminating biographical banter, Huffman nails the complicated textures of the woman and her joys, her pain, and her masterful vocals. If this doesn’t make it to Broadway and a biopic, I will poke Elton John’s sunglasses out. They can call it Celebrity Mole.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a boldly cinematic look back at 1969 L.A., the land of starry dreams and disturbed hippies. At its core, it’s basically a bromance between faded actor Leonardo DiCaprio and his stuntman, Brad Pitt, who share a lot of banter, including some dialogue about how Brad’s role is to basically carry Leo’s load. I’m serious!
In other innuendo-laden chitchat, a hippie named Gypsy (Lena Dunham) grabs her pal Pussycat, aka “Pussy” (Margaret Qualley), and exults, “We love Pussy!” Well, Cats isn’t out yet, so please see this.