Thursday, 27 September 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 28) Going Footloose Into France

Previously on “Another 80 Gays” : 55) Clay Aiken (b.1978) recorded his “American Idol” album in a studio that was turned into a nightclub by 56) Richard Grossi, whose business partner employed 57) Michael Mealiffe (b.1940), a record-breaking swimmer married to Oscar-winning songwriter 58) Dean Pitchford (b.1951).

58) Dean Pitchford has two main claims to fame, one of them being “Fame” itself, the title song of the 1979 film.

There’s a huge network of lgbt connections I could pursue around Dean. As a successful lyricist he has worked with many songwriters and performers. Some of his early lyrics were written for Alan Menken (later known for his work with Howard Ashman). Dean sent some lyrics to the gay songwriter Peter Allen (one-time husband of Liza Minelli) which led to him co-writing songs for Peter’s one-man show.

Lesley Gore, well-known to people of my generation as a singer in the 1960s and who came out as lesbian in 2005, was a close friend of Peter Allen’s. Her brother Michael is another songwriter. At the time Michael was writing songs for “Fame” and he asked Dean Pitchford to write lyrics some for the title song. Dean also wrote lyrics for a song with Lesley.
Out of all this interconnectedness came an Oscar for Best Original Song for Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore for “Fame”, and a nomination for Lesley Gore in the same category for “Out Here On My Own”.

Dean’s next big hit earned him two more Oscar nominations for the film “Footloose” for which he wrote the screenplay as well as all the songs, including the title song. “Footloose” was Dean’s baby from the start and he has spent many years developing the show into a stage musical.

Among Dean’s other songs are lyrics for the song “Now”. This is well-known as being the last recording made by Karen Carpenter. It is also the only Carpenters track played in its entirety in the movie “The Karen Carpenter Story”. This can link us back to “Fame”, because playing Karen Carpenter was Cynthia Gibb, who starred in the tv series of “Fame”. We could continue with the actor who played Richard Carpenter, Mitchell Anderson. He is an openly gay actor who was also involved in the Victory Fund, an organisation which provides financial support for openly lgbt political candidates in the USA, but instead I’m going to go totally left field, literally.

We in the UK aren’t quite as familiar with the term “left field” as the Americans. It refers to an area of a baseball pitch in which there is usually little action. Consequently, anything happening in the left field is unexpected or unusual, and is often used to refer to sporting opening ceremonies. The specific left field we’re heading for is the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Dean Pitchford teamed up with Marvin Hamlisch to write the song “Welcome” for the opening ceremony. Again there are several directions we could go here. We could take the Olympic route with Caitlyn Jenner being one of the people carrying the Olympic flag into the stadium, but I’m going to continue with Dean’s song “Welcome”.

Perhaps you remember, as I do, the man with a jet-pack flying across the stadium at the start of the ceremony. As he landed the orchestra struck up with “Welcome”. The performers held hundreds of balloons which they released at the end of the song and as they drifted skywards the spectators could see two airships. One of them had “Welcome” written across its side.

You can get a closer look at this airship today from the comfort of your armchair. After the Olympics the airship was used as the villains’ lair in the 1985 James Bond film “A View To A Kill”. The villain, Max Zorin, was played by Christopher Walken, though in the planning stages the role was offered to David Bowie, who turned it down. The airship was used in the climax of the film at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, though all the close-up sequences of Bond on the bridge were filmed at Pinewood Studios in England on a full-scale model of a section of the bridge with a full-scale model of the airship. You’ll be pleased to know that the airship that exploded was not the Olympic airship.
The same airship as seen at the 1984 Olympics (left) and the 1985 film "A View to a Kill" (right)
But the airship wasn’t the only villain’s lair in “A View To A Kill”. When Zorin was on the ground his main lair was a fabulous French chateau. We’ve met this chateau before on this blog. It is Château de Chantilly, home of the equally fabulous pink Condé diamond. Both were owned by 59) Prince Louis II de Bourbon, 4th Prince of Condé (1621-1686). As with the diamond, the prince has also on this blog before. I mentioned him briefly in my City Pride article about Paris.

The Prince of Condé was a big military hero who distinguished himself during the Thirty Year’s War. His arranged, unhappy, marriage produced three children and Condé claimed his wife was habitually unfaithful. At any opportunity Condé sought out his own affairs with both men and women.

After a period of French civil unrest, during which he was imprisoned, Condé regained his high place at court. He languished at Chantilly where he hosted gatherings of some of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment.

In 1668 an opportunity opened for him to re-enter politics. The king of the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth abdicated. This was an elected monarchy and the government began looking for candidates to become the new king. Foreign princes were not excluded and Condé was put forward. However, there was much anti-French opposition and violence broke out. The election was held in May and June 1669 and resulted in a Polish aristocrat being elected. His reign was short, however, as he died suddenly in 1674 meaning a new election was ordered, and Condé put himself forward again. This time he was vetoed by King Louis XIV of France in favour of another candidate.

After that Condé took part in a couple of battles before retiring once more to Chantilly. He died at the age of 65 in 1686.

Even though he never sat on a royal throne several of his descendants have, including the present kings of Spain and Belgium. Condé joins a list of other would-be kings as given in “Game of Gay Thrones”. The only one in that article who succeeded was 60) Dmitri I, Tsar of Russia (d.1606), the False Tsar.

Next time : An imposter and a usurper have eyes on the Russian throne, and even a dragon won’t stop one of them.

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