Look, let's be honest: Christmas is super-gay. All that tinsel, the frolicsome dancing, mulled wine and all its fruity spices -- and oh goodness, all those holiday specials! Which holiday special is your favorite? Do you prefer the classics, like White Christmas, or do you like something more modern?
Every week on my podcast, The Sewers of Paris, I interview gay men about entertainment that changed their lives, drawing out surprisingly intimate stories about their relationships with everything from Oscar Wilde to Madonna to Drag Race.
For the latest episode, I invited a cavalcade of queer guests to share their very favorite holiday specials, and discovered that everyone seems to have a memorable story attached to a seasonal movie, TV show, song, or book. You can listen to the podcast episode here to get the full story, but read on for some of the highlights from my guests:
Dave and Alonso Fatten Their Guests With Help from Nigella Lawson
The gay-married hosts of the Linoleum Knife podcasts, Dave and Alonso have made Christmas a subject of study. Alonso wrote a book called Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, and Dave's personal holiday goal is to break the dieting habits of body-obsessed homosexuals with his home cooking. His new holiday tradition is preparing food from the book Nigella Christmas: Food Family Friends Festivities, which eschews snobby foodie language and focuses on the pleasure of eating. (And eating. And eating.)
Alonso's holiday pick: The strange queerspoitation film Some of My Best Friends Are, an obvious low-budget attempt to rip off The Boys in the Band. It's such over-the-top self-loathing that you can't help but howl with laughter at the antiquated portrayal of gay life in the 1970s -- and then furrow your brow when a youthful Rue McClanahan, of TV's Golden Girls, pops up unexpectedly. It's available on YouTube in a nauseating wobbly format.
Brian's Fake Tree is as Familiar as Skating Peanuts Kids
It wouldn't be December without A Charlie Brown Christmas, would it? On my holiday episode, Brian recalls watching the special while decorating the tree with his mother every year. It was a fake tree that they still use to this day, pulling it out of storage every year -- like so many comforting traditions, it's available in its familiar form whenever you need it. Brian's visiting friends always used to note that his tree had a black angel, which few of them had ever seen before.
A December Opera Gives Jonathan Hope that his Parents Might One Day Accept Him
Renowned opera singer Jonathan Blalock always returns to the opera Three Decembers, which is about a mother who gradually learns to appreciate her son's relationship with another man. It's a story that has particular resonance with him: Jonathan's own parents still haven't fully accepted him, and his hope is that his own relationship with them might someday mirror that of the parent and child in the show.
Daniel Kindred Spirit is a Jewish Girl in a Men's Prison at Christmas
Growing up, one of the only Jewish holiday specials that Jonathan had to look forward to was Lights: The Miracle Of Chanukah, a celebration of Hebrew history voiced almost entirely by Leonard Nimoy. He's also a fan of the odd The Facts Of Life: The Complete Series holiday episode in which the girls all spend Christmas in a men's prison.
Cody's Obsessed with a Weird Old VHS Tape With a Bear-Porn Santa
Cody Melcher, host of the fabulous literature & rhetoric podcast Tomefoolery, has three holiday favorites. The oddest is probably Good Housekeeping: KIDS SING ALONG Rockin' Reindeer Christmas [VHS], a weird children's direct-to-video special from Good Housekeeping in which an oddly sexy man dressed as a reindeer schemes to usurp Rudolph's position. He's also a fan of the Jack Benny 1957 holiday special, featuring a screaming Mel Blanc (who voiced practically all of Looney Tunes). The special still holds up, more than fifty years later! Also popular in the Melcher household (by which I mean with Cody and his cat) are the Frasier: The Complete Series holiday episodes, including the episode where Frasier has to pretend to be Jewish so that his girlfriend's mother won't disapprove of him.
Bill met his Fiancee at Meet me in St. Louis
Bill's the creator of the amazing Judycast podcast, and of course he's a fan of the lovely Judy Garland film Meet Me in St. Louis. It's the movie that helped him meet his now-fiancee: they both went to a screening one fateful night in New York, and caught each others' eye. Their next dates were to a Barbra Streisand film and then Les Mis, so clearly it was a meeting of kindred spirits. They're about to move in together, awwwww.
Meet me in St. Louis is a bit melancholy -- the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is the most wistful, somber Christmas song ever written. At the time, it had a double-meaning: the movie came out in 1944, and the audience heard allusions to World War II as Judy sang about hopefully being back together someday soon.
Patrick's Drawn to the Darkness of The Nutcracker
You might know Patrick Bristow for his role as Ellen's gay best friend on her 90s sitcom; or as the "thrust it!" character from the movie showgirls. But off-screen, Patrick has a passion for The Nutcracker this time of year. His mother, a dancer, inspired him with a love of dance. And every December, he knows that Christmas is right around the corner when he starts thinking about Baryshnikov in tights. His favorite parts of the show are the dark, brooding, dangerous chords, reminding us that the dead of winter is a time to huddle together lest the darkness and cold overwhelm us.
Bil Hopes to Inspire his Niece with Little Women
Toronto actor and playwright Bil Antoniou was so sick last year he could barely get out of bed, but his four-year-old niece came to visit him and they watched Meet me in St. Louis together. He also showed her the movie Little Women, featuring Wynona Rider as a strong female figure.
Brady Learned About Drag from White Christmas
Brady's a fan of White Christmas, though he admits to being troubled by the movie's problematic minstrel-inspired song. That number aside, Brady's family all watched the movie together every year for the holidays, and it was actually his first introduction to drag. In one number, the two male leads lip-sync to song sung by women, while mincing about in what amounts to a sort of semi-drag costume. Seeing how his family enjoyed the song, Brady felt a glimmer of hope that they might accept him when he finally came out -- and sure enough, they did.
A Singing Scrooge Kept Matt Company on a Lonely Christmas night
As a boy, Matt discovered the musical Scrooge by accident one night while flipping through channels by himself. He was feeling lonely, and Scrooge's song "I Hate People" seemed to strike a chord with him. But by the end of the movie, Scrooge had learned to love life, and Matt realized that the negative feelings he'd bottled up could be reversed. These days, he watches the movie with his husband every year. He doesn't hate people anymore.
Terrence Appreciates It's Wonderful Life Now More than Ever
What would Christmas be without It's A Wonderful Life (Black & White Version)? Terrence used to watch it every year with his parents, before they divorced. Nowadays, his family is far-flung across the country, and it's hard for everyone to come together like they once could. Like George Bailey, he didn't quite appreciate how good he had it until it was taken away.
Zach Can't Resist Love Actually
Why do millennials love the movie Love Actually? Maybe it's because the film, with its cast of thousands and its intersecting storylines, reflects the interconnected nature of modern online life. Guardian writer Zach Stafford speculates that the film appeals to twenty-somethings because its web of relationships and love stories so closely resembles dating in the internet age.
Phil's Happy to Have Been Corrupted by The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Playwright Phil Dawe started his life in the theater as a child actor, in a play inspired by the family-favorite book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The story is about a rough-shod family that tries to take advantage of good Christians, only to be won over by the story of the birth of Christ. As a kid, Phil auditioned for a local production of the story, and then through the theater met all the gay mentors and role models who would help him emerge from the closet. In a way, it's a reverse of the book's theme: two worlds collide, but in Phil's story it's the religious one that yields to the more subversive queer influence.
Richard is Living for The Nightmare Before Christmas
Richard grew up in an aggressively Roman Catholic household -- to the point that he has a Virgin Mary tattoo on his shoulder. But as a teenager, he discovered that the holiday can be more than midnight mass and Catholic guilt -- it can also be fun. And he made this discovery through an unlikely source: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Like Richard, Jack Skellington is very tall, but the similarities don't end there. They both discover that a holiday can be so much more than they ever dreamed. And that's what's truly magical about Christmas: you can use your imagination and make the holiday anything you want it to be. Christmas doesn't belong to anyone -- it can be whatever you make it.