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Pride, fame and the karaoke stage
Last week I went to a karaoke night at a Melbourne gay bar for a friend’s birthday. A few beers in, my friend’s name was called out and he got up on stage to sing Fame, the title song from the musical of the same name. The guy running the evening put out the call for some back-up singers and dancers for my friend, and feeling wholly inadequate as a gay man, I admitted I didn’t know the song or even the musical. It didn’t matter. Out of nowhere, three guys from different groups in the audience jumped up on to the stage, pulled off their shirts and committed to the performance.
It was one of the best things I have ever seen. The three now-shirtless back-up dancers knew all the words and all the moves, creating a spontaneous, coordinated performance that left me almost in tears. Just by being in the audience, I felt like I was part of something magical.
I told my older brother about it a few days later, and he wondered aloud what straight people would sing in the same situation. Could anything incite a straight crowd to half-naked, synchronised and unplanned musical extravagance like that of my karaoke experience? He doubted it. As someone who finds gay pride elusive, I was brimming with the stuff.
What exactly constitutes a ”gay community” and whether we need one at all are perennial conversation topics for most gay men I know. Sometimes I think my generation has helped instigate a backlash against the very notion of a gay community, often rejecting any association with the idea.
To that, I want to say, fuck off. Sure, gay communities have their problems, but moments like Fame remind me I’m part of something much bigger than myself, something stretching back decades and across countries, something that, every now and again, manifests as absolute fucking beauty. Those guys up on stage didn’t know each other and they didn’t know me. But for five minutes and 14 seconds, it didn’t matter. We were there, and that was enough.
INFO: You can follow Benjamin Riley on twitter @bencriley