Adam Lambert is Gay!…And? (June 10, 2009)

I know some of you will accuse me of having fallen off the back of a turnip truck. Although we are in the Obama era, all “Yes we can!” and stuff, I am aware that this country has a long way to go in terms of mutual acceptance of our brethren. Even so, it is still possible to surprise me.

That happened again this week with “news” that American Idol runner-up (it still irks me that he didn’t win) Adam Lambert has come out of the closet in the latest pages of Rolling Stone. There are a couple things about this which bother me. For one, I kind of figured out Lambert was gay the minute he came onstage during Hollywood week and sang a kick-you-in-the-ass cover of Cher’s “Believe.” My obvious question is: so what? Does that change the fact that the dude is a once in a generation musical talent? Unfortunately, Queen frontman and legend Freddie Mercury was forced to hide his sexual light under a bushel, but that was the 70s. I say that with a keen and painful awareness that we have obviously not come as far as I had hoped.

The Lambert/Mercury comparisons do not stop with sexual preference. Both men remain elecrifying rock performers. Through Freddie’s death, he has been relegated to hindsight, but it does nothing to diminish the powers of his gifts in the present day. I fully believe that Adam Lambert is capable of such greatness, with or without the Idol trophy. I look forward to many years of following his career and attending his shows.

The second part of the problem with this public media “revelation” is that it carries the implicit assumption that Lambert owes it to America to come clean, so to speak, about who he is. Again, why? Rock n’ roll has a long history of male whores such as Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, Fred Durst, etc. They do not have to repeatedly reaffirm, with heads bent in shame, that they are straight. Boys will devilish boys, doing what is expected…..unless they choose to sleep with men after the show? Adam Lambert has a steady boyfriend, and is musically gifted. What else do we need to know? I would rather see Bret Michaels under the hot lights, grilled about the necessity of yet another season of VH1’s Rock of Love.

It is apparent that Lambert is not using his homsexuality as a marketing gimmick. I have the impression that he has only made this “announcement” because of relentless media speculation that he figured would be better put to rest. I suppose Adam wants to avoid the years of endless “Is he or isn’t he?” speculation that dogged Season 2 also-ran Clay Aiken.

Now that Lambert has given the vultures what they wanted, I hope we can move on. This interesting story from Reuters raises the inevitable specter that Adam Lambert lost the Idol competition to the wholesome Kris Allen, due to “Red State” disapproval of Lambert’s style:

God, I hope not, but anything is possible. It is 2009 America. According to a number of reliable sources, 10% of the world population is gay. That means that roughly 1 out of every 10 people you encounter is homosexual. Shouldn’t we all be comfortable with this by now? If not, why?

Adam Lambert says it best: “I’m proud of my sexuality,” he said. “I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.” He seems to be a savvy gentleman with a healthy ego and a strong support system. He is not using his sexuality as a media tool, like say, Lindsay Lohan. Whether or not you are a fan of Lambert’s music, the decision should have nothing to do with what goes on behind closed doors.



Mid-1980s London: the height of the global AIDS crisis when celebrity role models such as Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury and gender-bending performer Boy George created space for homosexual young men to consider taking a few tentative steps out of the closet. At the same time, socioeconomic, cultural and familial acceptance were nascent enough concepts to render the struggle for physical and emotional safety a threat to personal freedom. And in a Western Hemisphere just waking up to the LGBT community hiding in plain sight, how much more complicated the issues for immigrants, already branded as “other?”

Into this knotty blend of history, sociology and human rights wades Prologue Theatre Company’s 2014-2015 season-ending production of “Porcelain,” directed by Matthew Ozawa. On a small stage, boasting a minimalist cast of five, Chay Yew’s 1992 work comes to colorful, violent, visceral life through the 21st Century prism of expanding marriage equality and a deep vein of xenophobia and nativism that runs through “enlightened” Western cultures.

Press materials accurately distill the plot as such: “Triply scorned — as an Asian, a homosexual, and now a murderer — 19 year-old John Lee [Scott Shimizu] has confessed to shooting his lover in a public lavatory.” The material knowingly leverages limited incidental suspense to examine a much larger mystery.

Yes, the audience is aware that John is guilty. But how does his particular brew of racial, sexual and personal isolation lead to a powerlessness that can only be defeated (in his mind) through a shocking act of human destruction?

Shimizu commands the stage as John, a lonely student who goes “cottaging (defined as anonymous sex in public bathrooms)” to assuage an unsatisfied need for physical and emotional connection. As the play makes clear, well before he became a murderous media sensation, John faced rejection from the Chinese immigrant community, gay society and even himself.

More than once as John shares his story with a prison psychiatrist, he uses the word “hate” to describe his tortured feelings about his appearance and the lifelong odyssey to find a place where he belongs. Shimizu’s performance is at once utterly sympathetic, unhinged and desperate. Exactly right.

A talented supporting cast uniformly gifted with the ability to slip quickly and seamlessly into the skins of representative London (TV presenters, old women, Chinese laborers and more) makes Shimuzu’s headlining work all the more successful. Cory Hardin, Scott Olson, Graham Emmons and Colin Sphar are a barbershop quartet of onomatopoeia, paparazzi flash, ethnic and social judgment rolled up into the screaming soundtrack of John’s consciousness. Without their strong, emotional work, John’s descent into identity hysteria would lack the necessary urgency.

The color red, origami and an ancient Chinese parable about a misfit crow follow John through the beginning, middle and end of his stage journey — storytelling devices that are both symbolic and literal. Red, representing both luck and death: origami an emblem of creativity and ruminating madness; the crow equally foreign at home and abroad.

These elements are woven into a beautiful but inevitably painful tapestry that unravels in tandem with John’s opportunity to assimilate. Even in prison, he is segregated via solitary confinement. And yet the murder, an act that permanently severs John from community of any type, may be the only powerful and deliberate choice of his life. It’s a willfully uncomfortable idea that both the material and Shimuzu’s performance force audiences to consider.

Running roughly 90 minutes with no intermission, Prologue Theatre’s “Porcelain” has a lot to say with no wasted words or fillers. Due to adult content including a rather graphic sexual assault, the production is decidedly adults only. It’s a chilling, thought-provoking piece worth placing on your early summer calendar.

“Porcelain” runs through July 15 at Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL. For information or tickets, call 773-404-7336 or visit the Greenhouse Theatre website.