Way before Beyoncé could even dream of slaying the MTV Video Music Awards, another female entertainer had risen to super-stardom from a successful singing trio. When Diana Ross had her first number one single with the Supremes, Bey was still about 17 years from even being born.
Diana Ross and the Supremes are one of the most successful groups from Motown Records. Their polished, feminine act helped make them crossover stars, including becoming the first all-female group to have an album top the Billboard Top 200. In addition to her success with the Supremes, she's also a successful solo artist, as well as an Academy Award-nominated actress. She's one of the few people to have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for herself and one as part of the Supremes.
Diana's disco-flavored solo career enshrined her as a gay icon, but she received some pushback for a less than enthusiastic response about gay marriage to The Advocate in 1999: "I just don't think I can speak about this particular issue [gay marriage] because I haven't really given it enough thoughts. It seems like girls, guys, whatever, should be able to live together without a legal contract." This soft answer aside, her music is a staple of pride celebrations across the country and woven into the fabric of gay culture.
Let's revisit some of the ultimate diva's musical high points, AFTER THE JUMP ...
AIDS clinic, gay leader targeted in Kenya: "The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) clinic had been threatened with attack on Christian radio station Baraka FM with a closure deadline of today, 12 March. Their broadcasts said: 'homosexuals are not human beings and should be treated as such'."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Washington Post: "Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity -- or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds."
Confessions of a Las Vegas Call Bear: "So, yes: I'm a Las Vegas call bear. But don't be fooled into assuming that all my clients come from the world of the bears. Far from it. The men who hire me run the gamut from 18-year-olds who want their first male-male experience to be with a man who knows what he's doing to men in their 80s who just want to be held by a lumberjack type for an hour. They might be fat, they might be average, or they might have bodies so perfectly sculpted they should be underwear models."
Disney refuses to add "ex-gays" to its anti-discrimination policies: "Greg Quinlan, director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), presented the resolution at the recent annual shareholders meeting in San Antonio. But he explains that Disney board chairman John E. Pepper 'responded in saying that the current policies were very inclusive and were very broad and that they could not lift every possible nuance to come.'"
Tracy Young coy about relationship with Kim Zolciak: "I’m not at liberty to say all the personal details, but we have a lot of similarities and a very strong connection. She’s a great friend and I adore her, but it’s kind of complicated."
Gay servicemembers have a hang-out in South Korea: "This cluster of trendy bars, with names like 'Queen' and 'Always Homme,' is a 10-minute walk from Yongsan Garrison, the U.S. military’s flagship base in South Korea. The Hill is one of the few places gay and lesbian U.S. servicemembers can be somewhat open about their sexuality while stationed in the country."
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios speaks out against cancellation of gay storyline on One Life to Live: “Last summer, One Life to Live brought a ground-breaking relationship into the homes of millions with Kyle and Fish’s story, one that built acceptance and understanding of gay people,. While we understand that the close of storylines is a frequent occurrence on daytime dramas, canceling this story just as it gains momentum is a step backward in ABC Daytime’s representation of the lives of gay Americans.”
In loose order, some highlights from the service for Michael Jackson held today at L.A.'s Staples Center, which might very well go down in HIStory as the most-watched broadcast of all time. I thought it was more reserved and tasteful than it might have been:
Along with Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones and Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross also bowed out of participating.
The entire highway was shut down to facilitate the transport of Jackson's body and the arrival of a fleet of A-listers. This was the largest public event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics.
Jackson's brothers were wearing his trademark single gloves. Sister Janet cut a striking figure of grief alongside her parents.
Fans were not above shouting out, "I love you Michael!" and other things through any lulls in the program.
Corey Feldman arrived dressed like his former friend, just like he did when he was an adolescent.
Mariah Carey performed an emotional (or overwrought, depending on your taste) version of "I'll Be There." Will she be able to get away with releasing this version as a single?
John Mayer, who had nothing to do with Jackson, performed a mostly instrumental version of "Human Nature."
Jennifer Hudson belted out "Will You Be There," which ended with a haunting use of a recording of Jackson's own voice. This and Stevie Wonder's performance of "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" and "They Won't Go When I Go" might be among the program's artistic highlights.
The Rev. Al Sharpton's short eulogy proclaimed that Jackson had broken the color barrier, paving the way for Oprah Winfrey's and Barack Obama's success and said, "I want his children to know—wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with."
The Rev. Bernice King—daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and an avowed foe of marriage equality—spoke alongside her brother Martin Luther King III at the memorial, focusing on the healing power of his music when her mother, Coretta Scott King, was in ill health.
Gay-friendly Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), stating she represented the House in appearing and expressing her condolences and promoting a bill to recognize Michael Jackson's humanitarian contributions, strongly made the point that everyone in this country is innocent until proven guilty, an unusual reference to legal controversies that dogged Jackson.
Usher offered up his version of the prophetic "Gone Too Soon."
Director and collaborator Kenny Ortega presented a (maudlin, if I may) performance of "We Are the World" from the This Is It comeback show as performed by the show's troupe. (A blonde, white female sang Michael Jackson's part from the original song.) As the song progressed, Smokey Robinson (who'd spoken of his respect and affection for Jackson), sister LaToya and other celebrities joined in...as did his grieving children.
The final number in the concert memorial was "Heal the World," complete with another stageful of children.
The moment everyone will be talking about: Jackson's emotional 11-year-old daughter closed the service by saying, "I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine...and I just wanted to say I love him so much," before burying her face in Aunt Janet's arms.
Los Angeles is asking citizens to donate money to "help give Michael the world class memorial he deserves."
Urgent: Marriage equality supporters in California lag in fundraising. "According to the most recent campaign contribution reports from the California Secretary of State, supporters of the anti-gay marriage November ballot measure have raised $16.2 million in their effort to pass Proposition 8. Opponents have brought in $10.8 million, which is still a sizable chunk of money. But Dale Kelly Bankhead, who signed the email as campaign manager of 'No On 8,' writes, 'We must match what is raised dollar for dollar with the right wing; if we do not, we are at serious risk of losing this November.'" No on Prop 8 (site).
New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos appears at PAC fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans, reiterates opposition to same-sex marriage, promises legislation targeting bullying: "'Sometimes the media will say, ‘What are you doing here?’ You’re Republicans and I’m proud of you for being Republicans and I’m proud of being a Republican and standing here with each and every one of you,' he added. The appearance of a Senate majority leader was unusual. Mr. Skelos took over as majority leader this summer from Joseph L. Bruno, who in his 14 years in the post appeared at only one prominent event held by a gay group — a 2006 lobbying event held by the Empire State Pride Agenda."
Google to place servers on ships at sea? "A Google patent application filed two years ago but published this fall is getting some new attention because it's just too interesting to ignore. The patent (link) is for putting data centers on ships at sea and harvesting the energy in waves for power. The biggest benefit for the company, though, could come from changed legal and tax status by placing the ships outside of national jurisdiction. It's a thought both fascinating and frightening, although it also may end up as just another crazy patent filed for the sake of filing it."
Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner to receive first Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award: "The award, which which comes with a cash prize of $200,000 will be announced on Wednesday. The award was created 'with an eye toward attracting talented playwrights and bolstering the status of their profession.'"
Australian Labor MPs slam push for marriage equality: "Responding to AME’s renewed marriage push, Labor MP Anthony Albanese – the Federal Member for Grayndler – lashed out at the group, calling their campaign 'ridiculous'."
Australian HIV infections surge: "New cases of HIV in Australia rose by almost 50 percent in the past eight years, as gay men and immigrants infected overseas spurred the number of people with the virus to a 14-year high. The number of new infections increased to 1,051 in 2007 from 718 in 1999, and are at the highest level since 1993, according to the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research annual surveillance report today. Almost 70 percent of cases in the five years through 2007 were among gay and bisexual men."
Wisconsin Catholic church's music director fired because he's gay: "He says his supervisor fired him this summer after worshipers complained he was too open about his sexual orientation. 'He said having an openly gay male employed at the Church is a scandal,' said Philyaw, recounting the conversation. 'I felt betrayed. But I'm not bitter.' The Madison Catholic Diocese declined an interview request citing their policy of not discussing personnel issues. Philyaw says he's never had any problems at work before and claims the Church knew he was gay when they hired him. Still, employment lawyers there's nothing illegal about what happened."