Here I am at age 12 on vacation in Florida with my brother Joe feeding the seals at SeaWorld. I am wearing two essential pieces of every outfit I wore that summer: my Christian Dior rose-tinted, tortoise shell glasses and my floppy suede leather hat that I had personalized with more than 20 googly-eyed puff balls - popular then like Pet Rocks or Garbage Pail Kids.
I wore them both everywhere, all the time.
Later that year, I spent all winter break in my room continually listening to Bette Midler's soundtrack for "The Rose." 30 years later, I still can recite her entire concert monologue from that time in my life.
While my brothers listened to KISS, Van Halen and Journey, I listened to Donna Summer, Captain and Tennile, The Carpenters, Diana Ross and especially, Bette Midler. I had no idea why I identified so much with these women, and was amazed (when I later came out) about the concept of a Gay Diva and my shared love of a soulful (usually black) woman singing to me.
As I look back at this picture I am reminded of the strange mix of creativity, confidence, determination and sadness I felt about never feeling like I fit in, but also feeling compelled to express myself. Adults use to tell me things like, 'Boy, you're really different.' And I would respond, 'Thank you.'
Things changed the next summer when I went to Junior High - where I saw everything from my clothes to my music needing to change if I was to survive the taunts and harassment of the hallways. I ended up spending tremendous energy repressing and denying myself (and my feelings) until I accepted being gay and came out at 28.
Now I have a love of both a great diva and a great guitar solo, which is why I absolutely love Judas Priest! Rob Halford kicks ass!
Don's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Mark Goddard (Major Don West on "Lost In Space")
Racer-X (from TV's "Speed Racer")
Erik Estrada (from "CHiPs")
OMG. That smile and those pants!