The word was a bit jarring to me, but I didn’t really understand what she meant other than I knew it was likely something you didn’t want to be called. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time she used the word at least up until my brother’s death from AIDS in 1986. Now, she’ll just say “that looks gay.” LOL
It would be several years later before I heard the word again, when I was working for a local Record and Stereo equipment store called Soundcenter. Half the building was all high-end stereo equipment, while the other side was albums, 12 inches, singles, t-shirts, buttons, Walkman’s etc.; the side I worked on. I was in charge of re-orders and displays.
One morning in June of 1980, there was a news broadcast on something like Good Morning America talking about Stonewall. It showed pictures of gays being arrested during a riot at this bar in New York. This guy Ray called me over and pointed at the TV and said that’s going to happen to you, you FAG. They’re gonna arrest you and throw you in jail with all the other fags.
Damn! There was that word again and this time it’s being directed at me. One of my co-workers Johnny J who was a local DJ told me to ignore Ray; he’s just an asshole to everyone. Even though I didn’t fully understand what it meant, I was shaken by his use of the word and how he was using it to describe me.
When you’re jerking off to the cover sleeve of an Andy Gibb 45 you kinda know you’re different. Gradually, I came to the understanding that a Fag meant I liked guys and was something I should keep hidden from everyone else.
Somewhere along the way I got the preconceived notion that being gay meant you wore leather, and was into whips and chains. I had convinced myself that I’m not a fag because that was nothing like me. After all, I was attracted to the construction guy from the Village People, not the biker guy with the big mustache who I figured was gay (but not the rest of the Village People …go figure).
Prior to getting the job at Soundcenter, I would mow lawns for the money I needed to buy my records. I was a musically obsessed child and my Zenith stereo I saved and purchased was my parent’s weapon of choice if my grades were not up to par. They’d take it away until my grades picked up. I was a latchkey kid, so I’d just sneak into their closet and pull it down and spin my records while they were still at work LOL.
While I usually only purchased 45s because you got more for less, I remember buying Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” album and what it set me back. This was the second album I had ever bought (the first being Barry Manilow Live). I love the split open sleeve, with additional artwork, the smell of vinyl when you pull the record out for the first time. I would play that album obsessively and knew the words to all the songs. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to listen to it on the go, so I ended up saving for the 8-track version as well for my portable player I had received for Christmas. My brother criticized me for asking for a portable 8-track boombox because he said cassettes were the future; what did he know? [grin]
I had already owned the 45s of Donna’s “I Feel Love,” “I Love You,” “Last Dance,” and “MacArthur Park” but the Bad Girls album was like the icing on a cake. I scored my biggest win when Soundcenter got multiple copies of the promotional poster for “On the Radio: Greatest Hits,” and I happen to be in charge of displays. You know one of those made it to my bedroom wall.
By the end of my freshman year, the writing was on the wall and in order for me to have friends over to my house; I knew Donna had to come down and Debbie Harry went up in its place (another gay icon). I was already in a transition phase and discovered the Pretenders (their debut album to this day is one of my all-time favorites) the Cars, AC/DC, Pat Benatar, Blondie all courtesy of my older sister. Disco was out, new wave and big hair rock were in; so I was in to whatever my friends were into, unless I wanted to be called a fag. I had a pretty good grasp on the meaning of the word by then.
Often I had fantasized of being several years older, living in New York and dancing my ass off at Studio 54 listening to Donna, and all of my other favorite disco artists; but I wouldn’t change my musical education, which spans a variety of genres for anything. Nevertheless, disco and Donna was my first true love. To this day, if I need a pick me up, I can slap on some Donna and it will always put a smile on my face.
This final set is devoted with love and respect to the Queen of Disco and my first true love, Miss Donna Summer.
As for Ray, he committed suicide about a year after his comments. That’s also the time I figured out that people who are vehemently anti-gay are typically closeted themselves. I can’t say that I felt any sorrow for his loss, but at least I can understand his pain.
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 Know (Party Favorz Special Extended Mix)
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)
On The Radio (Long Version)
Last Dance (Promotional 12'' Single)