A new anthology lets a select 65 gay writers wax poetic about their leading ladies.
Thu Apr 30 2009
When writer Michael Montlack first came out, he was, as he puts it, "curious about the whole Judy-Barbra stereotype." But he wasn't sold, as those two belters did not make his short list of favorite women. For young Montlack, it had always been about Stevie Nicks. "She was like a fairy godmother," he recalls. Years later, when Montlack realized he wasn't the only gay man who worshipped an atypical icon, he decided to make a book out of the revelation. The just-published result, My Diva, is a series of love letters to some of the most inspiring, surprising, dynamic darlings ever, from Claude Cahun and Julia Child to Kate Bush and Cher. And shockingly, not a Judy or Barbra in the bunch. Below is a sampling from some of the New York contributors.
Poet, 2007 Lambda Literary fellow
His diva: Stevie Nicks, Rock & roll queen
From the essay: "Stevie was the goddess of codes, symbols, secrets.... Yet even through that fog, and from a distance, she would teach me how to survive the closet: for example, how to feel and communicate without being caught."TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "Like Stevie, I think I'm a storyteller who loves the down-to-earth and the ethereal: my folks and mythology, rock & roll and poetry, and yeah, leather and lace—not to mention a hot pair of platform boots that can both ground and levitate."
His diva: Parker Posey, Indie-film goddess
From the essay: "Parker Posey is the epitome of a man's thong. She's thin as a string, hides just the most vulgar of humor and contains within herself something much bigger than she appears to."
TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "Parker Posey has brown hair, I have brown hair. Parker Posey represents the frivolous and the intellectual (so, I hope, do I). She loves designer, I love designer.... [Her humor] is a great combination of sweet, bitchy and honest, which I really see in me."
Christopher Lee Nutter
Co-author of the new Ignite the Genius Within (Penguin)
His diva: Sade, R&B crooner
From the essay: "Unlike Madonna, who stunned us with overstatement, Sade was a masterpiece of understatement. There were no backbreaking dance routines. She exposed nothing, and yet you couldn't keep your eyes off of her."
TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "I have a sense of self so deep that it doesn't require any thinking for it to be.... In short, being a diva is having the freedom to be yourself, and that's what Sade helped teach me—that, and to be a successful diva you need to develop a trademark look early in life and stick with it."
DC Comics editor
His diva: Siouxsie Sioux, Goth-punk banshee
From the essay: "As a chubby, alienated gay teen, I was searching for someone—anyone—who could tell me being different was okay. When I saw Siouxsie in her signature thick eyeliner and hair teased as if she had just stuck her finger in an electrical outlet, something clicked."
TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "Siouxsie and I share a gutter mouth and a macabre sense of humor. She carries herself with an icy, pissed-off exterior that is a facade for a sensitive soul who cries when she sees kittens and shoos roaches out the door instead of smashing them, and I am no different."
CUNY professor, multibook author
His diva: Anna Moffo, Late Met Opera soprano
From the essay: "Anna Moffo's face seems a sugar cookie, a planet, or a pond. Her eyes, in 1972, glow with a glow I can't describe: heightened lan vital? Her dark, wide eyes pivot to their corners. Eye swerve connotes emotional amplitude."
TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "Like Anna Moffo, I care about musical nuance; and like Anna Moffo, I understand that most phrases and gestures—even the supposedly cheerful ones—are suffused with a secret melancholy."
Poet, CUNY Chancellor's fellow
His diva: Helen Reddy, Invincible woman
From the essay: "It may not sound like an act of subversion...but for a boy on the verge of adolescence to go around singing 'I Am Woman' in the quaint white-picket-fence town of Medford, Oregon, was, now that I think about it, pretty daring."
TONY asks: How are you like your diva?: "Helen Reddy embodies one reality I see in myself: bipolarity! She projected both a fortitude beneath the frailty, as well as a power lurking under the chiffon and eye shadow. I always thought she'd either dissolve into water or burgeon into a sudden roar.... Like when I wake up and wonder who I'll be on any given day."
My Diva (Terrace Books, $24.95) is out now.
Buy My Diva at BN.com