Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Elton John & Rufus Wainwright

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Elton John & Rufus Wainwright

Article excerpt

ELTON JOHN'S JOURNEY AS A GAY MAN HAS EASED RUFUS WAINRIGHT'S PATH AS AN ARTIST

When Elton John came out as a gay man in the early '90s, his social contributions soon grew even more dependable and laudable than his music. Initially known for his high-spirited piano-plunking performances and monumental eyeglass collection, this 53-year-old British knight has become arguably the world's most famous gay person and certainly one of its most vocal spokespeople and fund-raisers. The man behind the Elton John AIDS Foundation of Los Angeles and London--organizations that have distributed more than $21 million in grants--is as gay as any homo next door (maybe even gayer). Yet with at least one Top 40 hit on the charts every year since his 1970 breakthrough, John remains the essence of mainstream music, the enduring Disney favorite of 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds alike.

John's accomplishments are making things easier for those who've followed in his path -- particularly another piano player, Rufus Wainwright. Whereas John discussed his bisexuality years after becoming a superstar, briefly married in 1984, then proclaimed himself a gay man a decade later, the former Canadian child star and son of folksingers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle came out years before his album did. There's little chance that anyone within earshot of his campy stage patter could mistake this 26-year-old singer-songwriter for hetero. Whereas John's presentation has mellowed over the years as his voice as a gay man has grown more public, Wainwright creates music suffused with the gay sensibility of yesteryear--witty wordplay, operatic emotions, outsider attitude--that reads as sensitive rock renegade to the hipster crowd and as old-school homo to us. With only one album to his credit (released in 1998), Wainwright is considered among the most promising songwriters of his generation, a critical and cult favorite as likely to become the next Stephen Sondheim as the next Harry Nilsson.

Unlike the glam rockers of John's generation or the closet cases of both yesterday and today, Wainwright can focus his creativity on his music without fretting over how to construct a palatable sexual image. He's coming of age at a time when the public is beginning to honor those with the courage to come out and mistrust those who don't. …

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