My Flamboyant Men

Albert: I’m just… a guy!
Armand: What about those?
[Gesturing to Albert’s pink socks]
Albert: These? Well, one does want a hint of color.
The Bird Cage

My Flamboyant Men

It was a long time ago but my flamboyant men are long gone and I miss them still.

Once upon a time, my brother and sister-in-law conspired to get me into a community theater show. I was quickly hooked and it led to a life-long career that careened into many dark corners of what we’d call “theater”.

The first group of people that stood out, oh so long ago, were the flamboyant men who gathered together wherever they went – like chickens clucking; green room, dressing room, backstage. Full of life, it was like an insider’s club with their own nomenclature and mannerisms.

You might call it “overtly gay” or high camp. There was a lot of affectation with exaggerated lisping, posing and snarking at each other. Clearly they were there for a lot of fun but, perhaps, joining in a place of refuge, acceptance and reinforcement, at that I can not guess.

Silly fun like “you are just a scullery maid in this Queen’s court” or instead of a manly handshake, a hand was offered with the expectation of a kiss on a ring. And all those men clucking and squawking to watch my reaction to all of this; a testing for tolerance perhaps.

For me, very fresh in the theater, it was my first show; these men were “theater” through and through and I loved them for it. They would use old movie quotes and tell stories of theater failures and one-upmanship on the stage. And they taught me the history and the superstitions; like about “that Scottish play” and perhaps the why of the superstition. Break a Leg and Merde were taught to me by my flamboyant men. It was a fabulous introduction to this crazy business we call show.

I am told that it was the AIDS epidemic of the middle 80’s that continues on to this very day that changed the culture forever. The overtly gay part is still there but the camp and the hissing and clucking is long gone. Tragic in so many ways, the AIDS epidemic.

I miss those guys, they were a lot of fun.

One thought on “My Flamboyant Men

  1. Ha! “Conspire” is such a negative term. I would say “planned a surprise”.

    I love this piece because it’s so genuinely authentically true. I just would argue that there still some of those great guys around, or their heirs. I think too that the AIDs epidemic obviously stuck a dagger into the free spirits, but I also thinks it is true that what would’ve been considered behind the scenes secretive behavior then is now pretty normal in many ways. So it’s a lot harder to be outlandish than it used to be. Which is good I think because the outlandish is now normal-which I love-but because there was a certain je ne sais qua and rich community in those inner circle jokes and banter.

    Liked by 1 person

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