David Frum is really coming out of the closet on all sorts of things.
First, he agreed with me in a BloggingHeads/New York Times exchange that Iran’s leadership was behaving as if it really wanted to be bombed with some of its antics and thus Israel and all parties should take a step back from their hyperventilating intoxication with the subject and reconsider. Then he blasted the Republicans for their health care position — and now he is giving credit where credit is due on making Halloween a sexy, fun, adult holiday — to the gay community.
When I was 13, all of my closest friends happened to be Jewish while I was a failed and perpetually failing Episcopalian. So, I got an honorary Bar Mitzvah party.
After this great post reflecting on gay heritage and a holiday about dressing up in all things fun and ghoulish or fabulous, David Frum earns my vote as an “honorary gay man” — at least for a few days.
To understand the global appeal of the Halloween holiday, go back to its origins. Those origins are found not in mystic Celtic folklore, but in modern gay culture.
Halloween is overwhelmingly an adult holiday. This year, for example, Americans spent an estimated $800 million on costumes for children, $1 billion on costumes for adults. Where did that adult dress-up party begin?
As best we can tell: in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. In the 1970s, that neighborhood emerged as the heart of a new home-owning, bourgeois, coupled gay community. A local variety store had long sponsored a Halloween street festival for kids. In the 1970s, the street festival transitioned into an adult party of lavish costumed theatricality. The “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” — a troupe of transvestite nuns — got their start here.
The Castro Halloween party spread to other gay neighborhoods in the 1980s: Greenwich Village, West Hollywood, Key West, Florida. In 1994, University of Florida anthropologist Jerry Kugelmass published a book on the new trend, “Masked Culture,” describing Halloween as an emerging gay “high holiday.”
And after a while — the straights imitated.
From the spread of disco in the 1970s — to the habit of paying money for sparkling waters such as Perrier — culminating in Halloween, gays have incubated and developed major cultural trends. Straights adopt, and then ungratefully forget whom they are adopting from — just as American Christians forget how much of the modern Christmas music they enjoy was written by Jews, starting with the most popular of them all, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The majority culture forgets what the minority culture has produced.
The “masked culture” first developed by the gays of San Francisco has reached across the lines of orientation — and now jumped across the boundaries between nations and languages. It’s not just a party. It’s an ideal of personal emancipation, self-expression and self-fulfillment — an ideal that loses none of its power when it takes the form of a sexy nurse’s outfit.
I want to take David to Nellie’s, JR’s and Cobalt (his wife Danielle too) and introduce him around. David Frum, no matter what he once inspired on Iran as a leg of the axis of evil, could make great bait at a gay bar (not for me – but for others. . .)
But in all seriousness (i.e., the last part was NOT serious), I admire David Frum — who no doubt will be an architect of some future Republican order — for working hard to neutralize the anti-gay currents of his party.
I don’t think he has succeeded yet, but it’s good to have him there pushing the right buttons that embrace and include gays and lesbians in our national narrative.
And while I don’t want to get too far down this track, mark me as “pleased” that even John Bolton is making increasingly clear his support for “gay marriage.”
That’s right. John Bolton supports gay marriage. And I salute him for it.
And he supports the abolition of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. That’s right. JOHN BOLTON.
While I don’t agree with Bolton’s views in much of the international sphere, he is darned right enlightened on these issues.
Not even President Obama, who admits his own views may be on a bit of a journey, has gotten to the admirable place that John Bolton and David Frum have on the civil rights issue of this era.
– Steve Clemons