Shocking news courtesy of Michelle Visage who, as she is a judge on RuPaul's Drag Race, is apparently an authority on gay. And, due to her time in the you-might-vaguely-remember pop semi-sensation Seduction, also an authority on pop music. As she told Johnny McGovern on Hey Kween,
The gays have kind of turned their back on her. These young gays don’t know what she did for the community and what she continues to do. She did so much for HIV/AIDS, she has done so, so much for the gays. So much, and they forget. The young ones don’t even see her.
Visage is referring specifically to the dismal sales of Madonna's latest album Rebel Heart, not the fact that every gay man on earth watched the gif or a video of Madonna's fall off the stage during the Brit Awards over and over. Some gleefully. Madonna has given much to gay culture:
the string lines and barely veiled plea for paternal tolerance in "Papa Don't Preach"
the cultural appropriation of voguing from the Harlem ballroom scene
the mainstreaming of Tony Ward, paving the way for other gay or gay-for-pay porn stars
tackling Sondheim as the epitome of respectability and then slumming in Evita
snogging Sandra Bernhard
being outspoken in supporting same-sex marriage, fighting censorship, etc, etc, etc,
and even admitting,
In fact, I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for the gay community.
Visage, alas, is on to something. I love Madonna and even though I crank up favourite past albums of hers (basically anything before Ray of Light) on a regular basis, I haven't acquired, or even attempted to acquire a copy of Rebel Heart. "Living for Love" just doesn't connect as viscerally as "Like a Prayer." Rebel Heart debuted at number two, Madonna's first album in almost 20 years to not go to number one. And the next week it dropped to number 21. And it doesn't appear to contain a top 40 hit.
Of course the music landscape has changed and as Visage says,
It makes me so sad that the children today really don’t know what she is. To me, we will never see a superstar ever in our lifetime like Madonna or Michael Jackson. There’s been fringe ones — there’s Whitney Houston, there’s Mariah — but there will never be another Madonna.
Instead she soldiers on - a trouper on stage, a cougar in life - hopefully secure in the knowledge that in the immortal words of her personal friend Stephen Sondheim,
First you're another sloe-eyed vamp
Then someone's mother, then you're camp
Madonna appeared on the cover of the 25th anniversary edition of Cosmopolitan (the one with David Hasselhoff as a centerfold). And now she is on the 50th anniversary edition. Not necessarily the same as selling millions of records but very, very camp. And camp is a very gay thing. Don't count Madonna out yet, Ms Visage.
Madonna plays Mon, Oct 5 and Tues, Oct 6 at the Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St. livenation.com