1920s The West gets mythologized in American culture. The movies speed that along. Wikipedia tells us that what we know as the cowboy shirt actually comes from Hollywood. "Snaps, used in lieu of buttons, allowed the cowboy to escape from a shirt snagged by the horns of steer or bull."
1943 Rodger & Hammerstein's immortal musical Oklahoma! premieres on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Wins the Pulitzer. Becomes a legendary theater touchstone. Over 600 productions are licensed worldwide every year. That's hundreds of opportunities annually for showtune lovin' boys to play "Curly" onstage and Ado Annie behind the curtain.
1948 Western hotties Montgomery Clift and John Ireland fondle each others pistols (no, literally. They do) in Howard Hawk's classic western Red River. When they're not ogling what the other is packin', they're betraying crusty old John Wayne who is clearly not up for the movie these two are planning to star in, once this one wraps.
1953 Immediately prior to Judy Garland's comeback (A Star is Born, 1954), Doris Day pinch hits in her absence as gay icon. Adorably butch as cowgirl Calamity Jane, her "Secret Love" power ballad becomes yearning gay anthem.
1978 Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson record Alma Del Mar's favorite record. It speaks to her.
1979 The Sundance Kid, lost without Butch Cassidy, becomes The Electric Horseman. Cher, Bob Mackie, Sally Kirkland, Liberace, and Bette Midler are all embarrassed to be seen with him.
1980 Disco emits its catchy death rattle as the bad-musicals-we-love Xanadu and Can't Stop the Music both premiere at theaters. The Village People, "Randy the Cowboy" among them, star in the latter. Xanadu's 10 minute climax is filled with visual types. I'm willing to bet there's a cowboy in the mix.
1989 Sitting in a movie theater in Utah with my girlfriend (no, literally. I was) I get very turned on watching Matthew Broderick and Brian Kerwin make out in Torch Tong Trilogy. OK, so they're not gay cowboys or anything but they do kiss on a farm. In a barn... uh, I reckon there's a shot of some hay? I'm reaching. (Just wanted to share.)
1990 Costner bares his, um, ego in Dances with
1992 Billy Ray Cyrus has a smash hit with Achy Breaky Hea--oh, right. Sorry. We were talking about the other kind of "gay."
2000 Madonna, five years ahead of the curve, kicks up some dirt with a bunch of Ennis & Jacks in her music video for "Don't Tell Me". A short-lived western shirt craze kicks off in Chelsea and West Hollywood.
2005 Brokeback Mountain fever begins. Jack and Ennis deliver the first big box office hit about gay cowboys since Red River packed them in in '48. It's so good it gets buried in gold statues. Emotional impact, craftsmanship, intelligence. meaning. It's only missing one thing: a time travel plot twist wherein River's Clift and Ireland are transported up to ole' Brokeback just in time for a fourgy. Plot twist? Plot nasty!
2006 Adam & Steve, a new gay romantic comedy opens next month. The climax, featuring Jackie Beat singing the hilarious "Shit Happens", is an elaborately choreographed gay western hoedown. (no, literally. It is)
previous and subsequent histories
Jodie Foster * Gender Bending * Bald Women * Sarah Jessica Parker *
Gay Cowboys * Julianne Moore's Screen Kids * Gyllenhaal
back to the full blog--there's lots more to experience.