Three years ago, with Dr. Jeff and our DC pal Jimbo, I trekked out to Coney Island for Donna Summer’s massive outdoor free concert under the Brooklyn stars. It was hot, pushy, and maddeningly overcrowded. It was also fantastic. But not just for the music. It was also amazing to see several generations of gay men, including not a few seniors, bouncing to songs that had filled their lives for as long as 35 years.
Donna Summer came to fame at a magical time in the development of popular gay culture. No longer were our bars exclusively confined to unlit, unsigned, shabby doorways on shadowy streets. Those places still existed, to be sure. But in the bigger cities, often to the sound of Donna Summer records, gay men, many for the first ever, proudly crowded into giant, glittery, celebratory, and gleefully unrestrained discos.
More than Judy, more than Liza, and yes (gasp), more than Madonna, I submit that Donna Summer owns more square miles of emotional real estate in the hearts of older gay men than any other artist. Back in the days when I maintained online “dating” profiles, I would flippantly post that I couldn’t possibly consider any applicant who was unable to knowledgeably discuss the entire Donna Summer discography, “including the Geffen years.” That was my unsubtle way of weeding out the daddy chasers, but right now I feel the same way.
VIDEO: Donna Summer, Coney Island, 2009.