The Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Since then, almost thirty countries have followed suit. But when do you think the first celebrity gay wedding took place? Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi? Maybe Elton John and David Furnish? They may have been the first legal same-sex marriages, but the first celebrity gay wedding took place in Canada long before same-sex marriage was legalised.
Dusty Springfield, probably Britain’s greatest 60s pop singer, married her partner Teda Bracci in a symbolic ceremony in 1983. It was a defiant gesture at a time when homophobia was surging as the HIV crisis deepened.
Aside from making groundbreaking records, Springfield has the distinction of being the first pop star to willingly come out. In an interview with The Evening Standard in 1970, she said she was bisexual. Although she was gay, claiming to swing both ways was a means of softening the blow. Boy George did the same thing in the 80s when he first came out, initially claiming to be bisexual before confirming that he was in fact gay, to the surprise of no one.
Curiously, Springfield’s brave coming out dovetailed with her career decline. The hits were drying up by the early 70s and she wouldn’t make a dent on the charts for many years to come. She went on to have many stormy affairs with women, partied with the likes of Billie Jean King and all but gave up on music.
During one of her comeback attempts in 1979, she caused a scandal. Performing to an adoring crowd at the Royal Albert Hall, she aimed a barbed comment at the royal box. Princess Margaret was watching the show, along with row after row of gay men. Dusty said she was pleased to see that the royalty wasn’t confined to the royal box. Princess Margaret was furious. Buckingham Palace sent Dusty Springfield a letter, urging her to write an apology. She did so.
That event captures much of the essence of her personality. On the one hand, Dusty was an out and proud trailblazer at a time when being gay was only just legal. On the other hand, she was a shy Catholic girl who just wanted to be accepted.
By 1983, when her career was at its lowest ebb, she married her partner and took her queer icon status to another level. Having the first celebrity gay wedding demonstrates both sides of her nature once again. The defiance and the desire to just fit in.
The marriage didn’t last and her personal problems intensified, but all gay icons eventually get their comeback. Dusty had hers in 1987. The unashamedly queer Pet Shop Boys invited her to duet on their single What Have I Done To Deserve This? The song was a huge hit all over the world. Dusty returned to England, got sober and made more albums.
By the time she passed away from cancer in 1999, her star had faded once again. Today she’s considered to be one of the greatest pop singers of all time, but it’s widely forgotten that she was responsible for the first celebrity gay wedding. Her life may have been easier if she had lived in a less homophobic time. She made a lot of sacrifices to live openly and paved the way for the queer artists of today.
Published: 29-Mar-2020 by Alex | Last Updated: 24-May-2022