My birthday is coming up on Sunday, September 11th, 2011, and I kicked off the weekend of celebrations by going to tonight’s “Way Gay” Sing-Along at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in downtown Austin. The Alamo Drafthouse, for those who don’t know, is a local chain of movie theaters that shows an eclectic mix of first-run, mainstream movies and arthouse movies, plus a lot of repertory and revival and special programming, such as sing-alongs and theme nights like “Girlie Night” and “Terror Tuesdays”. You can buy food and drink from a waiter while you’re seated in the theater. Tonight’s specific theme was in celebration of Pride weekend, which is taking place in September for the first time (Austin’s pride has always been in June, but it was moved in hopes of cooler weather).
I went to this sing-along on a whim, hoping to have some margaritas and some laughs, and maybe to sing along with some gayish pop songs, and I can tell you that my stomach was hurting from laughing even before the show started (the Alamo plays funny and bizarre videos before the movies instead of commercials, and tonight’s were particularly funny). The show started with “Jittergbug” by Wham, and the audience was immediately up on its feet, dancing and singing (the theme of this show is audience participation). I was enjoying myself a lot, and then an unexpected thing happened. I found myself tearing up. I had just laughed aloud at a particularly funny moment in the video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen (you can see the bizarre crotch shot at 58 seconds , followed immediately by Freddie Mercury’s glowing red eyes at the 1:01 mark). The moment that caused a surge of emotions was the segment from 1:45, which begins with a strut, and ends with a fast spin at around the 2:00 mark. For some reason, watching Freddie Mercury strut and prance struck a nerve with me. He was one of the only “out” rock stars of the 80’s, and he was really only completely outed once it was confirmed he had AIDS, and watching him in this video (which was filmed when he was younger than I am now), brought forth a rush of love for the man. In today’s world, he would have had his crooked teeth straightened and his record label would probably have pushed him to work out and develop some more muscle, but watching him dance and perform on a big screen like the rock star he was, while listening to his music at a very loud volume, I really appreciated him in a way I never have before.
I had a similar experience a few minutes later when Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” came on. The video was one of my favorites when I was in high school (it features muscular dancers with painted bodies and Tarzan loincloths), and knowing that Sir Elton is actually still standing today made me…proud. And happy for him. The show moved on through more of the usual suspects (Lady Gaga, Britney), and I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of it, even if the rest of the evening didn’t touch me in quite the profound way that Freddie Mercury and Elton John did. Perhaps because they were actual gay men who “made it” at a time when doing so was incredibly difficult.
If you get a chance to go to “Way Gay” or any of the other Alamo Sing-Alongs, you should jump.