Donna Summer Time

As I did in June 2014 this June I’m looking at the ‘queer’ music in my collection starting with this major icon: Donna Summer. One mp3 collection includes her: Love 2 Love, Seasons of Love, another has the hits collection On The Radio. Plus I have the stand alone Fairy Tale High.


the shelf buried under garbage

The beat of her music was the music of my coming out – that & the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. My friends on the east coast were blues/folk/celtic musicians & so disco was hated, derided and dismissed. So I didn’t own much of this at that time, not until I moved to TO did I add much expect for Fairy Tale High.

I bought this in Sydney & loved it. For me this is one of her best albums & also a state of the art disco & concept lp. Songs like Faster & Faster to Nowhere capture a culture moment as deeply & painfully as anything I can think of by Springsteen, Reed, or any other of those ‘deeper’ writers. Plus you could really dance to it.


my street roots

Her follow up Bad Girls which included Hot Girls (a great tune), was bloated & boring by comparison. She contributed to the lyric and music writing of her records too. The earlier Love 2 Love, Seasons of Love, are sweet, a bit bloated as well but the Four Season of Love hold some nice memories for me. On The Radio is a good time capsule of the best of her.


boundary issues

Also in the mp3 collection are some other queer icons: Samantha  Fox: Touch Me – a Brit who never really made it big here.. Grace Jones’ Island Life is loaded with after hour club vibe. The Pointer Sisters: Break Out with I’m So Excited still excites. Aretha Franklin: Who’s Zooming Who? can get me doing it for myself. Martha Wash: The Collection: her voice sprawls nearly nameless across so many hits & remixes from Marky Mark to Black Box. And finally Cher: Believe – so what if autotune drives some of the cuts on this, Believe is a triumph of dance music & a career that won’t stop still she dies. Let’s face it honey some of these gals owe their careers to their gay fan base.


‘small planet’

As I pass ‘small planet’ I see the ‘FOR RENT’ sign in the middle of the window. It is a bit lopsided, the tape on one corner weakening in the summer heat. The sign has been there for a few months now.

A short time ago ‘small planet’ had been a struggling little cafe. Simple sandwiches, decent coffee and a personable owner had made it an oasis of sorts in a stretch of unwelcoming taverns and pizza take-outs. A nice place to stop on a Saturday afternoon for lunch and a quick peruse through the second hand CD’s along the back wall.

My first visit had been several months ago when trekking along this strip looking for exactly what ‘small planet’ offered. The owner Theodora was happy to see someone and we struck a quick rapport.

She spoke easily about her boyfriend, money problems, running a little cafe, plans for the future, music. She’s quick to remember what spices I preferred. She’s an oregano woman while I’m a rosemary man. It’s almost like dropping in on a cousin’s deli.

In her mid-twenties she’s stands about 5”5’, with short dark hair that flips up along the back of her neck. She has the strong nose and deep set eyes many Greek women have.

The food was good, she prepared it herself, waited tables herself, washed dishes herself, worked a second job to keep ‘small planet’ in orbit till she’d established a large enough patron base for it to support itself.

Little lamps appeared on the tables. They had odd, tiny shades that her boyfriend had hand painted. Egyptian eyes, water signs, Chinese characters and other bringers of luck. A Lilith Fair poster arrived followed by a dozen dream catchers in the window. All for sale.

She was doing the things I could see myself doing. Theodora was operating the cafe I always wanted to open myself. A place where I could sit behind a counter, share coffee and music with people who dropped in, people who would of course become my friends, my supporters.

I liked her spirit and drive. I tried to drop in every other week  often bringing in friends for lunch or late afternoon coffee. Rarely did we have to compete with other patrons for attention or service.

Winter came, I walked less and stuck to some cafes closer to my home. I found myself avoiding the ‘small planet’ side of street out of guilt. A few times I waved at Theodora as she stood, arms crossed in the window of the empty cafe.

Then one day ‘FOR RENT.’ A week later empty of tables and chairs expect for a lamp shade in the middle of the floor. The Egyptian eye unblinking.

I walk by in the knowledge that I couldn’t have kept this little business going, seeing in my own life how my good luck charms brought little more than decoration.

I wonder if Theodora saw ‘small planet’ as a failure or as experience for the next step, for the next ‘small planet’ she would attempt. I wonder what I would risk for that next step.

Last year’s queer music blogs:

June 2 Billy Strayhorn

June 9 ‘Hangin’ On The Telephone’

June 16 Tea Room Tramps

June 23 Ned Rorem


bondage to shelf

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr


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