The first time I heard the derogatory term “fag” was from my own mother. I was engrossed in an Elton John concert on television—the iconic one where he donned a Donald Duck outfit while passionately playing the piano. Oddly, despite owning all his 8-tracks, my mom had taken a sudden disliking to him. Her utterance of that slur bewildered me, as I didn’t quite grasp its connotation. I only knew it wasn’t something one wanted to be called. Tragically, the term resurfaced throughout my life, especially before my brother’s passing from AIDS in 1986. These days, my mom has toned it down to saying, “that looks gay.”
Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself working at Soundcenter, a local record and stereo equipment store. It was a sanctuary for audiophiles, offering everything from high-end stereo systems to albums, 12-inch singles, and more. My responsibilities included overseeing reorders and displays. One fateful June morning in 1980, a news segment on Stonewall aired. My co-worker Ray pointed at the TV and grimly informed me that I, too, would face the same fate as those being arrested. Once again, I was jarred by the term, more so since it was directly aimed at me this time.
While grappling with my own identity—let’s just say an Andy Gibb cover provided some clues—I initially had misconceptions about what being gay entailed. For instance, I assumed it involved a certain affinity for leather and kinks not unlike gay stereotyped Village People at the time, which didn’t resonate with me. Music, particularly the works of the incomparable Donna Summer, was my refuge from these complex feelings and societal norms.
As a musically obsessed teen, I’d often sneak my confiscated Zenith stereo from my parents’ closet to spin records while they were at work after they took it away due to failing grades. Even though I mostly bought 45s for their cost-effectiveness, purchasing Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” album was a defining moment. That album felt like an indulgence, an experience enhanced by the tactile joy of sliding out fresh vinyl. I played it obsessively, memorizing every lyric. The songs from “Bad Girls,” along with other Donna Summer classics like “I Feel Love” and “Last Dance,” became the soundtrack to my soul-searching years.
At Soundcenter, I had a unique opportunity to express my love for Donna Summer. When promotional posters for her “On the Radio: Greatest Hits” came in, you can bet one found its way to my bedroom wall. Yet, as my musical taste evolved, influenced by my older sister and shifting cultural trends, Donna had to make room for Debbie Harry Prestenders and others.
Even as I navigated the complexities of high school and the fear of being labeled “gay,” my love for Donna Summer never waned. These days, if I need a mood lift, her music remains my go-to therapy. This final set is a heartfelt homage to the Queen of Disco, and my first true love, Donna Summer.
As for Ray, he took his own life about a year after making those derogatory remarks. It was a dark realization about how those who are most vehemently anti-gay might be wrestling with their own closeted identity. While I can’t say I mourned his loss, I can at least comprehend his inner turmoil.
To Donna Summer, the true Queen of Disco, you’ll forever occupy a cherished place in my heart and my musical journey. Until the next time…ENJOY!
Album : Donna Summer | The Casablanca Years
Genre : Divas, Disco
Year : 2014
Total Time : 01:48:38
- Love To Love You Baby (Extended Version)
- Could It Be Magic (Extended Mix)
- Try Me, I Know We Can Make It (Extended Mix)
- Spring Affair (Extended Version)
- Heaven Knows (Party Favorz Special Extended Mix) [with Brooklyn Dreams]
- With Your Love (12” Single)
- Rumour Has It (Extended Version)
- I Love You (Extended Mix)
- I Feel Love (12” Extended)
- MacArthur Park Suite (Party Favorz Special Edit)
- Hot Stuff (12” Extended)
- Bad Girls (Extended Version)
- Dim All The Lights (12″ Extended)
- Sunset People (Jandry’s Neon Sign Remix 2010)
- Our Love (Extended Version)
- Walk Away (12” Remix)
- No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (Hot Tracks Remix) [with Barbra Streisand]
- On The Radio (Long Version)
- Last Dance (Promotional 12” Single)