Women Who Made Me

elaine stritch

Tonight I finished watching the documentary, Elaine Stritch Shoot Me. It was wonderful. What is it about her that we find so fascinating? Gay men in particular, of which I’m one, love Elaine Stritch. I love Elaine Stritch.

I’m sure the topic of why gay man love certain women has been written about forever. And I’m not sure that I have any deep insight to add to that discussion. Other than to say I think there is an honesty and raw energy in Elaine Stritch’s songs. I only discovered her work by chance a few years ago and quickly became a fan. Only to then discover that she’s someone who is loved by gay men. Which made me ask, what gene do I have that had me like Elaine Stritch? Is it the same gene that had me fall in love with Carol Channing at age 8? Or Pearl Bailey at age 11 when I saw her and Cab Calloway perform Hello Dolly in 1967. I still remember that magical performance.

When Elaine Stritch died this past July I was truly sad. I read about it in the New York Times and immediately forwarded the article to my friend Eric, who is also gay, and is also a big fan. We traded emails on her passing. Eric wrote back, “Elaine Stritch was one of a kind. And something of a terror judging from the NY Times reporter who wrote the side-bar piece about interviewing her a couple of years ago. I feel fortunate to have met her and to have seen her on stage.” I really only knew Elaine Stritch from the recording of her one-woman show on Broadway, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and then saw her perform on videos posted on YouTube. I wish I could have seen her in person or met her.

pearl bailey hello dolly

Elaine Stritch said in the documentary, “I’ve never been interested in the picture I’m going to leave.” [after she was gone]. I too have never really been interested either in how I would be seen by the world after I was gone. But now that I’m out, and becoming more public being out, I’m thinking more about my legacy. Because now, I am showing the world who I truly am. In the past I could always say, “well they didn’t really know me.”

carol channing

So I guess I have that gay gene that has gay men like certain women. And yes, maybe somebody should have noticed when I was eight that I was a unnaturally attracted to Carol Channing in Hello Dolly, walking around the house singing songs from the show. But whatever stuff I am made out of, Elaine Stritch sure was terrific. And maybe it is just that I have got fabulous fantastic taste in incredible women actors and singers. I don’t know. But Elaine Stritch added to my life. Carol Channing added to my life and Pearl Bailey added to my life. And I thank them for it.

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