Sunday, November 16, 2008

Birthday....Boys: Gender Play

I love nature's little cosmic jokes when it comes to shared birthdays. Today we have a pair of performers, both rather Great Stars in their own right, who also happen to represent perhaps the two outer ends of the male self-dpresentation scale.

Winnetka's own Roy Scherer, Jr., was born today in 1925. He grew up to be a mechanic and truck driver who fled to Dreamland and transformed himself into America's favorite side of beef, Rock Hudson.

Onscreen, Hudson was able to mock the conventions of Hollywood masculinity even as he embodied them, his air of Never Quite Taking It Seriously helping to leaven his perfect beauty, making it approachable and nonthreatening.

It also deflected too much curiosity about the star's private life, which belied his macho image even more than did his occasional forays into onscreen bubble baths. Hudson's tragedy was the way his image trapped him in the closet, believing as he did (and was likely right for his times) that his public preferred the myth to the (gay) man.

But, oh, he was lovely.

Equally lovely - and infinitely more fierce - is today's second birthday, a man for whom the closet has never been anything more than a place to hang his fabulous gowns:

RuPaul burst out of Atlanta onto New York's club scene in the late 80s, a breath of fresh air who shared with Rock a lightness of touch and lack of seriousness that was a joy to behold next to some of Manhattan's more Solemn Evil Queens.

He's since parlayed the RuPaul persona - saucy, sweetly acerbic, and upbeat - into a surprisingly durable career, taking in comedy cameos in mainstream pictures, stints as a spokesmodel, a talk show, and - inevitably, I suppose - an upcoming reality show.

Through it all he's kept up a level of glamour not seen since the glory days of Cher and a level of energy that almost approaches the Charoesque.

And - fun fact I honestly did not know until today - RuPaul is even his real name.

Happy birthday!

Tiny name-droppy brag of the day: back in my glory days, I actually met both of these heavenly creatures: Hudson when he was touring (surprisingly creditably) in a revival of Camelot and I was an usher, and RuPaul when we were both young and staying out all night on the Lower East Side. Both were darling, but only Rock made me weak in the knees...


  1. I saw RuPaul perform in a nightclub once here in Sydney, during a promotional tour. He was fun, and performed a short but very tight set of songs to a backing track. A couple of years ago I discovered his blog and sent him an email to say what a great night we had had. He wrote me back the sweetest thank you email. Class act!

  2. I've met them both as well.
    Rock in the steam room of The Beverly Hills Health Club and Ru on the set of Star Booty.

  3. Just a guess, but I have a feeling, D., that you might have been just a tad less bashful with Mr. H. that I was...