There’s a game they play.
My partner and a close friend of ours sit around and recite the names of b-grade actresses. The rest of us listen dumbfounded, having no idea who these women are. And it’s not a challenge that goes by quickly. They have been known to go for hours naming these forgotten ladies of the silver screen, while many wine bottles are emptied.
And then there was this novel…
David Pratt’s Looking After Joey which featured a camp character assembling a curriculum of essential gay knowledge for a young guy whose own background never put him in step with this kind of education. I read the novel, enjoying it immensely, but never really grasping the divas mentioned along the way. Later, my partner read it and of course, he knew every faded star.
Victoria Beckham camping it up
So do I lose in my search for camp sensibility?
As a teenager I didn’t follow Cher, although I did discover Madonna in my twenties, after I learned she could dance. But in those pimple infested years I was a New Wave guy. The New Romantics with their over the top fashion and their cinematic videos had me daydreaming about art for art’s sake. Surely there’s something camp about the loose fitting tartan in Spandau Ballet’s clip ‘To Cut A Long Story Short.’
Then I discovered the gay scene.
But did I change? No. I had boyfriends who would reluctantly dance with me to an Ultravox album track that I’d requested, or the Psychedelic Furs song that just hit the charts. But as they carried on about some new bimbo making an impact among my young peers, I often made fun of the minor celebrity, laughing at their lack of talent. I must have sounded brutal.
Camp icon, Mr Humphries from ‘Are You Being Served’
The first time I heard the word ‘camp’…
An article in whatever music journal described David Bowie as camp. As they explained why, it was the first time I began to understand the term. And this was during his tragic Let’s Dance period.
Then I grew older.
To me, camp still has to have talent behind it. Watching some wannabe trying to be a star doesn’t appeal to me. And singing along to musical numbers just doesn’t float my boat. Although I have been known to sing ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’ with a friend while drunk in the back of a taxi. Plus I have enjoyed Ru Paul’s Drag Race, although it reeks of fake sentiment too often.
So I guess I’m saying…
I guess as gay men, we kinda get camp in our own way. Some things appeal to us. Some things don’t.
What do you consider camp? What do you consider camp that others may not?