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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Cabarets and Revues  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

With eclectic repertoires and undeniably rich voices, these unique women--the "S&M of Cabaret"--revitalized the nightclub act by discarding Hollywood/Vegas glamor for thrift-store clothes. Neither performer was classically beautiful and both were Jewish (Midler channeled her Jewishness via Hawaii and Streisand via Brooklyn), with a brazen chutzpah that found support from gay patrons looking for their own liberation in the midst of the 1960s sexual revolution.

Midler was perhaps the first mainstream performer not only to embrace her gay audience, but also consciously to tailor her act for them. As she told Newsweek in 1973, "I was playing to people who are always on the outside looking in."

Sponsor Message.

Post-Stonewall Entertainments

Despite their popularity, the "S&M of Cabaret" could not save the genre. James Gavin estimates that in New York City between 1972 and 1982 almost forty nightclubs and cabarets opened and closed. Arthur Bell of the Village Voice dubbed many of them to be part of "the K-Y Circuit," since they depended upon a predominantly gay clientele.

Post-Stonewall entertainments basically divided into three groups, the drag lip-sync revues that became popular in many gay bars, now augmented by drag king shows in some women's bars; comedy clubs; and the return of upscale cabarets.

While standup comedians have been around since minstrelsy and vaudeville, nightspots dedicated completely to standup are a recent occurrence. After Jose's Cabaret and Juice Joint inaugurated Gay Comedy Open Mike Nights in 1990 in San Francisco, other comedy clubs began to open their doors to gay comics.

Openly performers such as Rick Burd, Charles Busch, Kate Clinton, Sara Cytron, Frank DeCaro, Ellen DeGeneres, Lea Delaria, Maxine Feldman, Emmett Foster, Marga Gomez, Lisa Kron, Sabrina Matthews, Frank Maya, Steve Moore, Bob Smith, Robin Tyler, Suzanne Westenhoffer, and Karen Williams found humorous ways to incorporate their sexual identity into their acts.

The traditional nightclub refashioned itself in the 1980s and 1990s in elegant (and expensive) rooms such as Café Carlyle, which became a home to Bobby Short and Barbara Cook; joined by the Algonquin Club, the Rainbow Room, and Michael Feinstein's at the Regency, which all sought to return to the swank of legendary New York City nightclubs.

This trend was mirrored on the west coast, at San Francisco's Plush Room (York Hotel) and at Los Angeles' Cinegrill (Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel) and Jazz Bakery.

Although frequented by a gay clientele, the content in these clubs is in many ways a return to the 1940s with an emphasis on female singers and revues featuring Broadway show tunes. With the rise of gay visibility in film, mainstream theater, television, and in print media, cabarets are no longer one of the few places in which homosexuals can safely meet outside of private homes.

Bud Coleman

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Blues Music

Blues music as it flourished in the 1920s was women's music, and it often featured sexually-inflected lyrics performed by women who were openly bisexual or lesbian.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Gay Male

Beginning in the 1980s, a new generation of gay stand-up comics began to appear, telling jokes from the perspective of the gay insider.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Lesbian

Lesbian stand-up comedy provides an excellent example of how comedy can foster social and political awareness in both minority and mainstream communities.

arts >> Overview:  Divas

The diva has traditionally played a significant role in both gay and lesbian culture as an object of cult worship with whom those who suffer the heartaches of forbidden love and ostracism from an unaccepting society find solace and identification.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Kings and Male Impersonators

A recent arrival in the drag arena, drag kings are part of an international drag movement that emerged in London and San Francisco in the mid 1980s.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bars

The centrality of gay and lesbian bars to glbtq culture has been reduced in recent years, but they continue to fulfill important functions; and, in many areas, they remain the most visible manifestation of glbtq presence.

literature >> Overview:  The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s, included several important gay and lesbian writers.

arts >> Overview:  Variety and Vaudeville

Variety and vaudeville and related theatrical forms featured cross-dressed acts, as well as routines that challenged prevailing gender constructions.

arts >> Ashley, April

Outed as a transsexual in 1961, the indomitable April Ashley rose from poverty to become a glamorous entertainer and top model who married into the British aristocracy and later became a transgender activist.

arts >> Baker, Josephine

Entertainer Josephine Baker achieved acclaim as the twentieth century's first international black female sex symbol, but kept carefully hidden her many sexual liaisons with women, which continued from adolescence to the end of her life.

arts >> Batt, Bryan

Actor and designer Bryan Batt achieved fame playing a closeted advertising executive on television, but in his own life he has been active in affirming the naturalness of homosexuality.

arts >> Bentley, Gladys

African-American Blues singer Gladys Bentley openly flaunted her lesbianism in the 1920s and 1930s, but recanted in the 1950s in an attempt to salvage her career.

arts >> Beyer, Georgina

As the first open transgender person in New Zealand to be elected to the offices of mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer has evinced courage, humor, and personal honesty.

arts >> Bourbon, Ray

Legendary drag performer and recording artist Ray Bourbon appeared in silent movies, vaudeville acts, Broadway plays, and, from the 1940s through the 1960s, performed across the United States in a gay nightclub circuit.

arts >> Caja, Jerome

San Francisco visual artist Jerome Caja is known for his small, sensuous combinations of found objects, which he painted with nail polish, makeup, and glitter, as well as for his drag performances.

arts >> Camp Records

In the early 1960s, the Camp Record label issued records of gay parody songs; although the music is without much artistic merit, the records are significant for what they reveal about pre-Stonewall gay culture.

arts >> Carter, Nell

A dynamic performer on stage, television, film, and record, Nell Carter built a successful and versatile show business career; only after her death was her longtime relationship with a woman revealed to the public.

arts >> Clinton, Kate

Comedian Kate Clinton has been comfortably open about her lesbianism from the beginning of her career in the entertainment field.

literature >> Coward, Sir Noël

Although Coward's plays are about heterosexual couples, they are written in the language and spirit of camp and reject traditional domestic values.

arts >> Coward, Sir Noël

Accomplished playwright, actor, composer, and lyricist, Sir Noël Coward was also a singer and cabaret performer; he dominated the British stage between the world wars, then reoriented his career in the direction of America.

arts >> DeCaro, Frank

Funnyman Frank DeCaro has found success both in serious journalism as a fashion writer and editor and in comedy as a writer, performer, and radio talk show host.

arts >> DeGeneres, Ellen

No matter how great her contribution to the world of comedy, Ellen DeGeneres will probably be best remembered as the first lesbian to star as a lesbian on her own network television show.

arts >> DeLaria, Lea

A proudly out lesbian from the very beginning of her career, the versatile Lea DeLaria has earned accolades for her talents as an actor, a singer, and a stand-up comic.

arts >> Epperson, John

Talented actor and writer John Epperson has had an extremely successful career performing as the glamorous and hilarious drag diva Lypsinka, among other characters.

arts >> Feinstein, Michael

American pianist and singer Michael Feinstein has had a lifelong fascination with the popular music of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

arts >> Gold, Ari

Ari Gold, the award-winning recording artist, is unusual for his openness in an industry that has not exactly welcomed openly gay performers.

arts >> Griffin, Merv

Singer, talk show host, and a creator and producer of television shows, Merv Griffin remained in the closet even as his bisexuality was an open secret within show business communities.

arts >> Harris, Sam

Multi-talented Sam Harris is best known as a singer and actor; since coming out publicly in 1999, he has lent his voice to the cause of glbtq rights.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

arts >> Kander, John (b. 1927) and Fred Ebb (1932?-2004)

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb are the musical poets of the poymorphous perverse; their works glorify the creativity inherent in sexual ambivalence and celebrate unorthodox forms of political activism.

arts >> Kert, Larry

Gay actor and singer Larry Kert introduced some of the most memorable songs in American musical theater.

arts >> Larson, Jonathan

Although apparently heterosexual, musical theater composer Jonathan Larson wrote sympathetically about a diverse community of artists, many of whom are glbtq.

arts >> Mann, Erika

Writer, actress, and intellectual refugee from the Third Reich, Erika Mann was one of the twentieth century's most intriguing nonconformists, noted especially for her anti-fascist cabaret satire.

arts >> Mercer, Mabel

One of the most respected singers of the mid-twentieth century, Mabel Mercer was a most original stylist who in her later years became a beloved icon of gay New York.

arts >> Pierce, Charles

Self-proclaimed male actress Charles Pierce took an aggressive stance against homophobia, believing that quick wit, a serious attitude, and consummate acting skill could vanquish oppression.

arts >> Rainey, Gertrude ("Ma")

"Mother of the Blues" Gertrude "Ma" Rainey made no secret of her relationships with women.

arts >> Ray, Johnnie

Singer Johnnie Ray caused a sensation in the 1950s with energetic concert performances of hit songs, but his career was damaged by arrests for solicitation and gossip about his sexuality.

social sciences >> Sarria, José

José Sarria, a San Francisco singer, drag performer, and activist, exemplified gay pride before the phrase was invented.

arts >> Smith, Bessie

Gifted with a powerful voice and sophisticated musical artistry, singer Bessie Smith conducted her life by her own set of rules and had affairs with both men and women.

arts >> Sykes, Wanda

Actress and comedian Wanda Sykes, who has never been shy about addressing sensitive or controversial issues on stage, has also become a spirited advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Tyler, Robin

Charismatic performer and activist Robin Tyler has spent much of her life enmeshed in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights, from planning national marches to promoting same-sex marriage.


    Bibliography
   

Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: BasicBooks, 1994.

Clum, John M. Something for the Boys: Musical Theatre and Gay Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Gavin, James. Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.

Kaiser, Charles. The Gay Metropolis: 1940-1996. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Kirk, Chris, and Ed Heath. Men in Frocks. London: Gay Men's Press, 1984.

Michener, Charles. "Bette Midler." Newsweek (December 17, 1973): 62-67.

Newton, Esther. Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Paulson, Don, with Roger Simpson. An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Reballato, Dan. 1956 and All That: The Making of Modern British Drama. London: Routledge, 1999.

Sinfield, Alan. Out on Stage: Lesbian and Gay Theatre in the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Coleman, Bud  
    Entry Title: Cabarets and Revues  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 19, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/cabarets_revues.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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