The annual camp extravaganza that is the Eurovision Song Contest returns this month with the usual mix of over-the-top performances, costumes and pyrotechnics that has endeared the show to millions of viewers the world over.

Germany is this year’s host following its victory in 2010 and is hosting the event in a soccer stadium in Düsseldorf, allowing 35,000 dedicated fans to watch the two semi-finals and grand final live. While the audience will undoubtedly have a high percentage of GLBT members, this year there are also several out and proud singers.

Arguably the highest-profile act taking part is the reformed British boyband Blue, who enjoyed a number of global hits in the early 2000s. Their four-man line-up includes Duncan James, who came out as bisexual in 2009 and has enjoyed considerable success on the West End stage as well as forging a successful TV presenting career.

As part of their publicity in the run-up to the contest, Blue posed for the naked edition of British gay lifestyle magazine Attitude which is sure to earn them a few points. Bookies and fans rate their song, I Can, pretty highly, so they could do well for the UK.

Israel has chosen transsexual superstar Dana International with the song Ding Dong. The glamorous singer grabbed the world’s attention when she won the contest in 1998 with the aptly named Diva. This year’s song has been dismissed as second-rate by many but Dana International will certainly make the headlines: her outfit was chosen in an online poll from the latest Jean Paul Gaultier collection.

Malta has been desperate to win the contest for years and this year has turned to Glen Vella and his gay disco anthem One Life. Vella celebrates his birthday on the night of the final but, as one of the rank outsiders, he may not be celebrating it on stage on the night.

Many people forget that from among the outlandish frocks and bizarre choreography at Eurovision often a real international superstar emerges with a quality song — Abba and Celine Dion are both former winners. Last year’s winner, Lena, enjoyed some modest international success (her song Satellite peaked at 37 in Australia) and she is back to defend her title with the slightly moodier number Taken by a Stranger.

Armenia will resort to the traditional Eurovision lyric of old with a song called Boom Boom while both Slovakia and Ireland are represented by pairs of identical twins — girls for Slovakia and boys for Ireland.

Favourite to win is France, represented by Amaury Vassili and the poperatic number Sognu. He is described as the world’s youngest tenor and his Gallic good looks may win over the televoters.

Other highlights are sure to include Norway’s Stella Mwangi partly singing in Swahili, Sweden’s performer Eric Saade breaking out of a glass cage and Russian singer Alex Sparrow asking you to scream if you want to have fun tonight.

Whether you tune in for the music, the outfits or just out of curiosity, make sure you have a drink nearby — otherwise it could be a long three hours.

info: SBS One will screen the semi-finals and final of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest on consecutive nights, May 13, 14 and 15. www.Eurovision.tv will webcast the events live on May 10, 12 and 14 at 5am EST. SBS One will also broadcast a two-part documentary, The Secret History of the Eurovision Song Contest, on May 6 and 13 at 7.30pm. Visit www.sbs.com.au/eurovision

To watch Eurovision with a suitably amped-up queer crowd, head to these Melbourne and Sydney screenings:

SYDNEY:
Eurovision Grand Finale Screening, presented by Lufthansa and Schwarzkopf, 7pm Sunday May 15 at the Supper Club, Oxford Hotel.

MELBOURNE:
Sunday May 15, 7pm at the Greyhound Hotel for a special screening organised by the Joy 94.9 team.

By COLIN HYDE

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