Patricia Nell Warren

What Do Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga and Johnny Weir Have in Common?

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | May 15, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Media
Tags: Adam Lambert, American Idol, coming out of the closet, Johnny Weir, Lady Gaga

Lately three young superstars are getting the fans screaming wherever they go. One is a singer, another a singer/songwriter, and the third is a figure-skater. But all three stars have something in common: unique talent and pop artistry, and a public that dogs them with nonstop rumors that they are LGBT. None of the three are confirming the rumors. But their most passionate American and overseas fans don't seem to care.

Newest is Adam Lambert, 27 -- the most stunning rock singer to come along in a while, with a powerful voice and range, plus a sure-fire sense of performance. Time and again, on "American Idol," Adam dared to take a pop-rock or hard-rock classic that was branded by a star of yesteryear, and make it uniquely his own. As "Idol 2009" veers towards the finals next week, Adam will duel with Kris Allen to see which of them gets the big win.

The question, "Is Adam gay?" has the whole country twittering -- including ABC News, who asked recently if Adam might be the first gay Idol winner.

"Idol" is supposed to be a family show (after all, it's owned by Fox). So the producers must be a bit concerned at all this rampant rumor-mongering about someone on their stage. Probably that's why the producers have stayed so mum about the matter.

Adam himself is mum. Though some pundits describe Adam as "openly gay," he himself has never stated openly that he is gay, as far as I know. Possibly a morals clause in his "Idols" contract prohibits him from having any kind of high sexual profile. But in spite of his personal silence on this issue, Adam has accumulated a huge LGBT fan base, as we can see from all the breathless burbling about him on gay media and blogs across the country.

A second wave of rumor-mongering follows Lady Gaga.

In 2008, the titanium-blonde singer with the stainless-steel voice first hit the spotlight with her first album "The Fame," followed by the hit singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face." An admirer of Andy Warhol, Gaga puts her productions together -- staging, fashions, arrangements -- with her own creative team called Haus of Gaga, modeled on Warhol's Factory in New York City. With her creative flair and disdain for lip-synching, she garners respect from the more discriminating music fans, and makes clear that she's no brainless Britney. The glam gig she's on is already well-worn by Queen, David Bowie, Madonna and others, yet she puts her own twist on everything she does.

Some Gaga rumors try to make her lesbian or bi. But most rumors are about gender identity -- whether the 23-year-old Lady is a woman or a man. Other than saying that "she feels like a gay man," Gaga has made no statements suggesting that there has been transgender work done or intersex chromosomes inherited. The closest she comes to a definition is a line that rejects definition altogether. She says, "I don't really consider sexual orientation in general." Her "Poker Face" lyrics send a message that she intends to stay inscrutable.

The third superstar is Johnny Weir -- who pushes the art-and-entertainment part of his sport way out there into pure pop.

Weir first became notorious in 2001, when he won the world junior title in men's figure skating. After dominating the U.S. national championships 2004-06, he medalled in world championships but missed at the 2006 Winter Olympics. His career has been dogged by injuries and lapses in confidence, not to mention controversy around his flouting of skating's gender conventions. It's a miracle that he was able to sell his flamboyant and artistic style to the U.S. national-championship judges, when so many homophobic skating authorities and fans translate that style as "effeminate." But Weir, like Lambert and Gaga, has a passionate base of admirers in the U.S. and abroad.

No sport is more fanatically gender-regimented than figure skating. A man is relentlessly rumored as gay (even if he's not) if his style, programs and costume veer an inch towards "artistic." In recent years, a whole slew of "artistic" males have invaded the ice. A few, notably the U.S.'s Rudy Galindo, even came out. The controversy is hottest in the U.S. and Canada, where there is actually a growing movement to de-gay figure skating and make it "macho and athletic."

Weir responds to the rumors by insisting that his private life is nobody else's business. During the media frenzy around him at the Winter Olympics, Weir told the press, "I don't feel the need to express my sexual being because it's not part of my sport and it's private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice."

Though he's been competing for 8 years, Weir is still only 24. Recently he touched off some huge sparks with an exhibition appearance at "Festa on Ice 2009" in South Korea. The buzz that Weir had outdone himself in Korea got younger American sports and pop fans racing to YouTube to catch the video of this signature performance.

Skating to "Poker Face," in a daring costume inspired by Gaga's "alien drag queen" fashions, Weir was at his most confident and provocative best. The capacity crowd screamed non-stop from the moment he stepped onto the ice through the last of his post-skate bows. I watch a lot of figure-skating competitions on TV, and have never seen a crowd do such rock-star screaming for any other skater.

Note: the three luminaries have their links to each other. While Gaga's fashions and dance moves inspire Johnny Weir, her singing and styles reportedly also inspire Adam Lambert.

Indeed, "American Idol" put family-friendly aside long enough to have Lady Gaga and her troupe do "Poker Face" on April 1. Her over-the-top performance stunned a studio crowd that is used to more conventional fare. MTV commented wryly: "Idol may never be the same again."

Homophobia in the "Idol" Vote?

So -- next Tuesday is make-or-break day for Adam Lambert. Will the rumors help him or hinder him? Hopefully the LGBT vote be out in full force. Every vote will count. Personally, I feel that he's a way bigger talent than Kris Allen, and deserves to win.

The big worry is how "Idol" voting might be manipulated. For years, conspiracy theories have popped up, compelling the show's producers to insist that the tally is accurate and audited. But it would still be a snap to stuff the show's ballot box by making multiple phone votes.

The "Idol" voting system evidently uses software that foils the kind of phone-call blitzes used by telemarketing firms. But it might be hard to detect thousands of votes placed from a pool of randomly collected phones by well-organized individuals, fan clubs and political lobbies that feel they have a vested interest in who wins. "Dancing With the Stars" puts a limit of three votes from each phone. But some friends have told me that they vote dozens of times a week on "Idol." So it's apparently possible to place a lot of votes from a single phone.

On the semifinals last week, host Ryan Seacrest claimed that a record-setting 88 million votes had been cast. In reality, this might be 1 million people voting 88 times, or 8 million people voting 11 times. In other words, "Idol" balloting is hardly a case of "one man, one vote."

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Fox has kept the religious right shushed about Adam's sexuality issue -- no doubt they don't want that kind of open controversy around the show. But I also suspect that the fundies put their troops to work behind the scenes, calling and texting thousands of votes for Midwest singer Danny Gokey, who made it to the semifinals. Danny would have been the fundies' choice because of his church associations and his hetero family image.

Last week the Adam bandwagon evidently massed enough liberal votes to push the church guy out of the finals. But next week, the underground fundie voting campaign (if it exists), may redouble its efforts to keep Adam from winning.

The Final Question

Will any of these three superstars ever come out? That is, if there's anything to the rumors? I don't know, and won't speculate. It's their right to decide where and when and how to reveal their reality, if they are L, or G, or B, or T.

Today, the PC canon demands that everybody should come out -- that closeted politicians or judges should even be forcibly outed, especially if they are making anti-gay decisions while in office. But in the world of arts and entertainment, some circumstances can be different. True, there is homophobia that often keeps gay or lesbian film actors (for example) from coming out for fear they won't get work.

But there can be cases where a performing artist (and/or their management) feels that cloaking their private life with mystery is part of the total creative package -- part of the broad appeal. That approach has often worked for some artists, and it is usually accepted by all the different constituencies among their fans.

On the other hand, if Adam and Gaga and Johnny aren't LGBT, they still have a special "it" in their charisma and creative sensibilities, that speaks to a whole range of humanity beyond heterosexual. It will keep them popular with our community for years to come.

For now, what matters are these hot-news performances that have got so many fans stirred up and screaming their heads off.

_______________

Hat tip to Jim Buzinski at Outsports.com, another Johnny Weir admirer, whose mention of the "Poker Face" skate in Korea was the first I saw.


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As a postscript to writing this piece:

Shortly after it was posted, I happened to catch Fox 11 News in L.A., and the news anchors were playing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" as a background track! The female weather anchor was disco-dancing to the catchy music. "I'll have to learn the lyrics," one of the anchors said. I guess! It appears that they have no idea what the song means.

christophe | May 15, 2009 3:53 PM

I wouldn't be surprised a bit if the religious zealots were doing mass calling AGAINST Adam. I think that would be terrible and dishonest, but they obviously don't mind being dishonest, lying, hypocritical bigots. They would rather go against what is at the core of their touted beliefs, (being honest loving people) rather than letting a just deserved gay perceived guy win. Well even if he doesn't win, he still will have a great career IMO. Afterall many 2nd place winners have gone far ahead of the so called winner in the past. I don't think its hurt Clay Aiken. But as far as myself, i would vote for adam simply because he's LGBT, maybe thats wrong on my part, but I think its time the LGBT has a gay icon.

CBrachyrhynchos | May 15, 2009 5:05 PM

Lady Gaga dropped hints on a TV interview with Jonathan Ross.

CBrachyrhynchos | May 15, 2009 5:13 PM

And on another TV performance, the awesomeness of which mostly overcomes my reservations that she might be playing the "hot bi babe" thing for publicity.

This report at After Ellen would seem to indicate Lady Gaga is bisexual.

A. J. Lopp | May 16, 2009 12:26 AM

The "Is He or Isn't He?" game has been used to stimulate publicity for decades, going all the way back to Montgomery Cliff and Johnnie Mathis. If any of these folks are smart (and they are) they will play the rumors for all the mileage they can get before letting us in on anything.

"Weir first became notorious in 2001, when he won the world junior title in men's figure skating. After dominating the U.S. national championships 2004-06, he medalled in world championships but missed at the 2006 Winter Olympics."

The wording here is a little off. Weir has only one World medal-a bronze in 2008. Weir had/has the rep for skating well at Nationals, but then choking, being a drama queen, getting injured, ect. at Worlds and other big events.

You are right about one thing-Evan Lysacek has always been the darling of the USFSA. I have even heard him sarcastically referred to as "The Great Straight Hope." The preference for Evan is due to some uncomfortable feelings over Johnny's flamboyance, true, but also Evan's reputation for shutting up and letting his skating speak for him. If Johnny's talk matched his results, the USFSA wouldn't care who he was sleeping with.

Thanks for this great post! I think Adam is *amazing* and who will ever forget Lady Gaga standing up on the piano bench and singing her heart out?? I'll have to pay more attention to Johnny Weir.

I'd also like to add that Danny Gokey will still be seen as many kids' American Idol because of the charity work he's doing to help them in the name of his late wife: http://tinyurl.com/p77yam

Thanks again!

Yes, Danny Gokey is a talented singer. I was sure that he'd make the semi-finals, and hoped to see Allison Iraheta in the semi-finals as well. I was shocked when both Allison and Danny were sent home.

But there's no doubt that both Gokey and Iraheta will have careers. There IS life after "Idol..."

I think this is one of your best posts yet, Patricia. I know it'll end up on the Best Of list quickly... I loved the video components you added to make the post even better!

Adam is gay. Adam lives his life as an out gay man. He doesn't need to make a big declaration. He confirms it by just being himself. Please do not lump him in some Anderson Cooper/Jodie Foster/Sean Hayes closet.

Please read the last section of my post carefully. Among other things, I said, "It's their right to decide where and when and how to reveal their reality, if they are L, or G, or B, or T." Personally, I'm prepared to leave it at that.

Legally speaking, however, it's not a good idea to identify somebody as "gay" in print unless that person has actually confirmed it by their own public statement.

Putting pics of yourself with your boyfriend kissing on the net is a declaration. Going out to dinner with your boyfriend is a declaration. I'll never understand why the older generation in the GLBT community insist that we all stand on a stage with a bullhorn instead of just living as out gay people.

I respectfully disagree. And it's not a generation-gap issue. There are photos of Rock Hudson with boyfriends, but that doesn't mean that Rock was ever "out."

It's really a legal issue. Legally (and I have to recognize that legal line drawn in the sand, when I am wearing the hat of a reporter who writes about other people's lives), there has to be a specific statement by the individual -- in a book, or a magazine interview, or on a talk show, or whatever.

In the absence of a specific statement, a photo of dinner with a boyfriend could mean that an individual is bi, not gay.

Uh this has nothing to do with the "older generation" I'm 19 and I don't think he's quite "out" either. It's merely speculation at this point and many people are denying that he is gay or at least bi.

The reason (I'm guessing) the "older generation" wants people to "stand on stage with a bullhorn saying their gay" is because everyone is assumed to be straight unless the person in question says otherwise. It's unfortunate but true.

I feel he doesn't have to do this but to classify him as "out and proud" while on idol is wrong. He's not directly hiding anything but he is omitting and deflecting.

Well, IF Adam is gay...I wish him a wonderful career and hope he chooses to come out. He is an unbelievable talent like Lady Gaga and Mr. Weir.

Regan DuCasse | June 16, 2009 7:23 PM

J. Weir does have a contemporary dance/lyrical grace to his skating I never see in most other male skaters. And a very sensuous method to his hips. His overdeveloped butt and quad muscles are why he gets so much height and control in the axels.
And did I mention he's cuter than all the other guy skaters too?

Yeah his style is skating the fine line of being a male skater with androgynous look and sensibility.

Lambert is a better singer, and Weir a skater than Lady Gaga is anything else.
She doesn't strike me as someone who can carry a performance on her own like the other two, without a lot of posing and special effects.

Lambert could sing the phonebook, and sometimes talent just has to exceed beyond whatever the public feels about their sexual orientation.
Even if figure skating tried to make men's performances hypermasculine, or Adam Lambert less metrosexual in his appearance, they would STILL beat the hell out of their competition.

Regarding the comment "Her "Poker Face" lyrics send a message that she intends to stay inscrutable." In fact Lady Gaga has spoken about the true meaning of her lyrics in Poker Face in an interview. She has said Kanye West was correct in reading her: that Poker Face was about the fact that men couldnt read her "poker face" she had - fantacizing about a WOMAN while having sex with a man. So weather or not lady gaga is a Lesbian or bi - she certainly is open to her Lesbian fantasies.

actually i am not sure that lady gaga is great project as lambert or weir are. her music is pretty cheap and in two years we will hardy understand how could we listen to such poor music. and i have never payed my attention on the sexual orientation of talanted people. lol. chaykovsky and oscar wiled were gays and luis carrol was pedofile. still they are vip figuers of a world calture.