Greatest & Gayest Albums of All Time: Bruce Vilanch’s top 10
Sept 19, 2008
Alongside a parade of rock and roll features, photos, and fashion, Out’s October music issue offers up our first ever Top 100 Greatest, Gayest Albums of All Time. The list was comprised by collecting the individual top 10 lists of over 100 musicians, filmmakers, writers, and critics.
All month long Popnography is rolling out some our favorite top 10 lists by some of our famous friends like Bruce Vilanch. The comic, writer, and actor has penned jokes for the Academy Awards, been featured on Hollywood Squares with Whoopi Goldberg, and starred on Broadway as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
Bruce Vilanch’s top 10 Greatest, Gayest Albums of All Time:
10. Mae West, Great Balls of Fire: She could sing the phone book and make it dirty, but instead she sings a bunch of rock ‘n’ roll lyrics and makes them dirtier than we know they are. She was about a hundred years old when she did this.
9. Millie Jackson, Millie Jackson Live: The original Shirley Q. Licker, the original Geraldine, the original Mary J. Blige. Imagine Tina Turner and Gladys Knight crossed with Lea DeLaria. Onstage, she drank beer from a bottle as if she were giving head. When she put the bottle down and the beer overflowed the top, she would smile and say, “Yeah, that’s how you know it’s over.”
8. Lily Tomlin, The Ernestine Album: Her most popular character, the arch bitch representative of the phone company (back when there was only one). It’s a 48-minute lesson in how to make Giving Attitude work for you in real life.
7. TC Jones, Mask and Gown: A truly brilliant and hilarious drag queen in the original cast album of his Broadway show. He does everyone from Hollywood’s golden age. He was so good that when he took his trademark final bow and ripped off his wig to reveal his shaved head, an older woman two seats away from me gasped, “Oh, the poor woman, she’s bald!”
6. Peter Allen, Peter Allen Live at Carnegie Hall: A great and vastly underrated performer. On the live album, you can feel the sly interplay between Peter and his audience, who knew he was gay, but also knew he had been married to Liza, and were delighted to be with a man of more than a few layers. Everybody was in on it, and it was a party.
5. Sylvester, Sylvester live at the San Francisco Opera House: The only live album that’s worth playing on a dance floor (Donna Summer had one, too, that’s pretty great) and it’s pure, unalloyed joy. The Weather Girls sing back-up (as Tons o’ Fun). There’s something about a huge man in a kaftan singing “You make my body strong” that appeals to me for so many obvious reasons.
4. Frances Faye, Caught in the Act: It’s the late 50s or early 60s and here’s this tiny woman singing “Gay, gay, gay, is there another way?” as she pounds on a piano on a stage in Las Vegas with an audience full of adoring stars who she names in one of her songs. Deliriously hip, and very moving when she gets down to singing lyrics like “I’m drunk with love/my body aches/just one drink/is all it takes.”
3. Bette Midler, The Divine Miss M: Her first album, the one where she catches you with that incredibly sexy, slowed-down recasting of “Do You Wanna Dance?” and then proceeds to breathe life into a trove of old songs. It’s totally inspiring, uses camp to make art, and when she sings “You’ve got to have friends,” she is singing the national anthem of every gay person who ever had issues with their family.
2. Judy Garland, Judy at Carnegie Hall: The DREAMGIRLS of the previous generation, the one album that everyone of a certain age listened to so often they knew it by heart. There isn’t a phony moment on it, the woman is literally singing her heart out, concealing nothing. She forgets the words, she doesn’t give a shit, and when she makes the big notes, the audience goes completely wild and you will, too, even if you don’t know her history as well as they did.
1. Laura Nyro and Patty LaBelle, Gonna Take a Miracle: Way before she came out, but soon after she had become the most influential singer-songwriter of her age, the folk-rocker went to Philly and collaborated with gamble and huff on this acoustic reworking of some old R&B songs. They brought in Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah dash (well before lady marmalade) and the four voices are staggering, heartbreaking and roof-shaking. It’s simple music that was never written to be this complex, but these girls looked at it from another angle, which is the hallmark of the gay approach to life, and which so often results in great art.