Standing in a convenience store in South Korea, it was a question I had to ask myself.
|I’m thirty-nine years old, and I have spent most of my adult life living outside of the U.S. This combination of age and culture gaps makes it very hard for me to know what is and isn’t cool. (Quite frankly, I am also at the age where it is even harder for me to care.) However, last year around this time, I was transported back to my cool youth, in a most surprising way. |
I was in a small mom-and-pop convenience store in a little village on the outskirts of Daegu, South Korea. As is often the case in Korean retail outlets, very loud music was playing on the store’s sound system. But instead of the usual Korean pop, a song from my youth was playing. The band in question was a German duo known as Modern Talking, and they were performing their hit single, Cheri Cheri Lady.
If you are an American, there is a good chance you have never heard of Modern Talking – much less know any of their songs. Though they enjoyed great success in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and even some African nations, they had virtually no success in the U.S. (I only know about them because I lived in Germany from 1985-86.)
Well, who needs the U.S.? As the most successful German pop act in history, you would think the two would have had no complaints. Not so. The boys did face one problem: a lot of people thought they were gay. Hey, in the 1980’s that was a serious charge for a couple of straight guys. It was worse than having cooties.
This was a particular problem in England, where they had been promoted as a gay group. Realizing that people in the U.K. thought that they were gay and that gay clubs were playing their music, the boys from the Fatherland repaid their new fans, their new source of income, with a dose of good-old-fashion homophobia.
When the two appeared on British TV, they stood on opposite sides of the stage. The lead singer (and in my humble opinion easily the gayer-looking of the 2) wore a large gold necklace bearing his girlfriend’s name. Hey, nothing says straight like neatly-styled, long hair, stage make-up, and a big piece of jewelry with a girl’s name on it.
Looking back, one has to ask, “Why did they care if people thought they were gay?” Well, it was the 1980’s. Accusing a guy of being gay was one of the worst things you could do to him. In those days, 2 guys would only go to a movie together provided they left one empty seat between them. A male could only refer to another male as handsome or good-looking provided he put in at least one non-gay disclaimer, e.g. “I’m not gay, but he’s a good-looking guy. I mean girls find him attractive.”
But times have changed, haven’t they? I am not suggesting that homophobia is a thing of the past. Obviously it is alive and well. Like racism and misogyny, it will always be there. But gay is not quite the dirty word it once was. When done right, at least in the entertainment industry, coming out of the closet can be a career booster instead of a career ender. Depending on the most recent court decision or plebiscite, gays can even marry in certain states. And public approval of “civil unions”, a euphemism for same-sex-marriage, is on the rise.
But what do I know? I’m 40 and losing my hair. I don’t even own a cell phone. So let me ask you, is gay still an insult?
(One final note, if anyone reading this is under the impression that I am gay and as a result wants to offer me fame and fortune as a writer, I have only one thing to say; you don’t have to ask this girl twice.)
Thank you for reading my essay. I hope you enjoyed my work.
You can catch Modern Talking’s Cheri Cheri Lady on Youtube at http://youtube.com/watch?v=-GCOaJPIwLA