July 19, 2005


When A & E interviewed me for Rupaul's show, they asked me if I could name another black male star who was out of the closet. I could not, and neither could anyone else. Patti Labelle was asked the same question and apparently said "yes, well there's--oops, he's not out." I wonder if she meant you know who. Part of me feels like the emphasis should remain on his incredible music, but if the rich and powerful amongst us don't stand up, who will? The ones with nothing to lose? But then again, if, as he suspected, his fans would turn against him should he "come out", the world would be denied the sounds of a terrific singer. Hell, even David Bowie called Luther in to coach him on the phrasing and sing back-up on one of Bowie's greatest tunes, YOUNG AMERICANS. As he got muzak-ier over the years with recordings like DANCE WITH MY FATHER, I lost interest--except for his underrated MAW collaboration ARE YOU USING ME? But early on Luther sang lead for brilliant disco acts like Greg Diamond, Chic and Change, whose GLOW OF LOVE has to be one of the most beauteous songs EVER written. Maybe he judged it right to not let his private life prevent him form making music of this caliber--I've certainly enjoyed hearing and playing it. But then again, maybe he could have come out and done a world of good once he was established, which was over 10 years ago. But if he wasn't a fag, why did he ever DANCE WITH HIS FATHER in the first place?

Power of Hate
Richard Burnett

I would have gladly gotten down on my knees and blown Luther Vandross if it would have given him the courage to finally publicly come out. I would have also gladly bitch-slapped the long line of backstabbing backstage R'n'B homophobes who feuded with Luther throughout his illustrious career.
Ultimately it was Luther - who died on July 1 at the age of 54 - who should have stood up and battled back like he did from his diabetes-related stroke in 2003.

Instead, like so many closeted rock stars and matinee idols before him, Luther abdicated the right to dictate his own obituary.

"The lifelong bachelor never had any children but doted on his nieces and nephews," the Associated Press cowardly reported. "The entertainer said his busy lifestyle made marriage difficult; besides, it wasn't what he wanted."

Correction: It wasn't what his fans wanted.

When author Craig Seymour asked Luther (or Loofah, as his fans called him) about the gay rumours in his 2004 biography Luther: The Life & Longing of Luther Vandross (HarperCollins), Vandross laughingly replied, "You're trying to zero in on something that you are never gonna get. Look at you, just circling the airport. You ain't never gonna land."

Move over, Ricky Martin.

"Vandross likely felt confessing his sexual preference would destroy his crossover ambitions," The Village Voice reported last week. "He was probably right. But those same crossover ambitions forced him into an exhausting two decades of spin control, warding off AIDS rumours, never able to bring preferred company onto red carpets."

So Vandross sought career advice from openly gay disco superstar Sylvester (who died of AIDS back in 1988), advice he obviously never applied. Sylvester's backup singer at the time was disco diva Martha Wash, who also sang the duet I Who Have Nothing with Vandross.

"You can go any place you want," Luther sang. "To fancy clubs and restaurants. But I can only watch you with my nose pressed up against the window pane."

After Luther suffered his stroke in 2003, Wash told me how distraught she was ("He's a loving and caring human being"), as did Patti LaBelle, who burst into tears on stage when she dedicated her July 3 performance at Montreal's Place des Arts to Vandross (Luther was VP of LaBelle's fan club back in the 1960s when he was a teenager).

LaBelle sang at Luther's star-studded NYC funeral last weekend, at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, after the funeral cortege wound its way from Harlem's Apollo Theater on 125th Street. The lineup also included Stevie Wonder; Aretha Franklin sang Amazing Grace.

Others in attendance were Oprah Winfrey, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ashford and Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack, Teddy Pendergrass, Usher and Alicia Keys.

Clearly everybody in the house knew Vandross was a big-ass faggot. But only Oprah, Roberta Flack and Patti LaBelle have publicly and loudly stood up for gay rights.

Like LaBelle told me herself about the gay men in her own life, "Bless them. They're my glam squad. They are all my children. They look to me as a mother, a sister or a real good girlfriend. Because I am strong and I fight for their rights. I fight when I see a gay person denied like I fight for my children."

But LaBelle couldn't save Luther. Only Luther could save Luther.

Many in the black community are now furious the gay press has finally officially outed Vandross. It's tawdry and mean, they gripe, and completely unnecessary.

Instead, they want Luther to take his secret to his grave, as if his sexuality meant nothing in life. They prefer to neuter soul music's King of Romance so that big mouths like me won't spoil their bump'n'grind soundtrack.

Well, on behalf of Luther Vandross, I say screw you.

I saw Luther just once, in the early 1990s when he headlined the Montreal Forum with En Vogue (with whom he famously feuded...).

"When we walk down the street, we don't care who we see or who we meet," he sang as every diva in the house stood up singing my favourite Luther song, Power of Love/Love Power.

"Don't need to run, don't need to hide," he sang, "Cause we've got something burning inside - we've got love power!"

Now, again, Luther has been denied in death the love power he was denied in life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

not only was luther gay, he was a lady!

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad that Luther's family and friends seem to embarassed to speak about his sexuality even posthumously, instead allowing for preposterous obits describing his status as a perpetually single "great uncle." I bet we get the same thing 40 years from now when a certain American Idol runner up leaves this planet, too.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Lady Bunny said...

Something tells me I'll be leaving the planet before Clay does so I may never know. But I can't imagine Clay having a career in 20, much less 40 years.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think Luther was gay because if he was wouldn't the tabloids have exploited it with personal pictures on magazines and TV. No one can get away that is famous from the photographers. If he did get away with this BIG SECRET we need to take note of how he did it.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

while I will say that fear is not a quality that our Luther baby exuded it is a excrutiatingly painful emotion. I love him now and then and god loves Luther for always for Luther for love.All of us have our perverbial demons and I am not without fault or fear for that matter!Luther your courage and your warmth is and always will be unbounded and your beauty is and always be bigger than any fear or insecurity. you came you changed the world for the better I thank god for sharing you for as long as he did as you are obviously our angel wether imperfect pompous people werent able to place your vulnerability... ronnie I and billions of others....only aspire to one day again feel your angelic presence. I love you Mary and thankyou in the most sensitive way darcie walker

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not one to post comments about people, but this one particular person, none other than LUTHER VANDROSS made me do this and I swear never to do it again, although "Never say never" I have the feeling that Luther was probably not gay, nor was he a weirdo, he was just a spiritually deep man and artist and what you guys need to know is that artists are very strange people. I have been around artistically oriented beings and I can tell you factually that they are people who are not ordinary. They see the world differently from regular people and they are not quite on this planet, they have the power to create, and to express their craft it takes enormous energy that require cosmic force and spiritual contact and this is the secret to their success which is a heavy burden to bear. They have a halo or aura around them that God graced them with to shine into the stars that they are. I simply want to say that Luther made beautiful songs among his other artistic notions and his songs reflect imperfectly what he envisioned and felt with his spiritual eye. So people like him should be respected and I know for a fact that LOVE to people like Luther is something sacred, something revered and for him to have never discussed or defined his sexuality only indicates that he never wanted to waste his time proving a fact that was so obvious. For all you know he must have had a tendency to love too deeply, that must have scared the hell out of him (remember his words "my sensitivity gets in the way") without even anyone considering and what the world needs to understand is that love is not based on sexuality or physical vices, it is a cosmic force that feeds the soul and I know for a fact that he was drunk with love like people get drunk with the holy spirit. When we start blaspheming we need to refer to the Holy Scripture 1st Corinthians 13 will teach us what love is. Luther like I said was chosen before he even came to this earth and he has moved on to immortality, it's all spiritual and more complicated than average people can relate to.
Peace & Love from Someone who understands :0)

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Humanity will shed the physical body as it evolves into a state of higher faster moving consciousness - that of higher light. The physical experience is about duality played out through the alchemy of thought to experience two things: Linear Time and Emotion - neither of which exist beyond the physical realms. Your soul should be gearing you for these changes. Your 'inner voice' should be telling you to go on a quest to get answers that will help you understand this transition of consciousness - alchemy of mind. We are close.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize these comments were probably posted a while ago, but I had to add my thoughts. First, I must speak to the individual that thinks it would be difficult for Luther to conceal his sexual life from the media. Please, don't be so niave!! I wish all of the closeted gay actors, singers, comedians, rappers, gameshow hosts, etc. could turn PINK for a day. The world would be amazed at who is lesbian and gay. A little discretion goes a long way...this holds true for Hollywood as well as Anytown, USA. I applaud Luther for never revealing his orientation. Bottom line, it's no one's business. And, it's always good to keep them guessing. Finally, I LOVED the comment "... Luther wasn't just gay, he was a lady." Not only was it funny as hell, I believe it's true! And, a lady always knows when to leave a party. God bless you Luther!

2:31 AM  
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