“My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them”
Edited by Michael Montlack
c.2009, Terrace Books $24.95 / $29.95 Canada 304 pages
You’re not a painter.
You’ve never, in fact, had any desire to pick up a brush other than one for your hair. But still, the second you gazed upon that picture, it strangely, suddenly felt like everything in your life shifted into place.
Or maybe it’s music that inspires you, or a poem or story that makes certain emotions hit you hard. Perhaps it’s a film or play that you could watch over and over and over and never see the same thing. Whatever it is, there might not be anyone else who understands, but you’ve found something that makes life somehow right.
Who’s your muse?
In the new book “My Diva”, edited by Michael Montlack, you’ll read about the women who changed the lives of 65 gay men.
In his introduction, Michael Montlack says that he always felt a book like this was waiting to be written. “The book just seemed to make sense on so many levels,” he writes. “Gay men and divas – like Gertrude and Alice, smoke and mirrors, Patsy and Edina. It was sure to be organic….”
So he asked around and within two weeks, forty contributors had responded. Eventually, sixty-five gay men ages “twenty-something to eighty-something” from various places around the world shared their love; most of them, for women they’d never met.
Writer Patrick Letellier writes about his muse, Elizabeth I. “I told myself that if Elizabeth could withstand the Spanish invasion with grace and grit, surely I could survive the loss of a dear friend [to AIDS].”
Musicians and singers are highly represented in this book, including Cher and Cyndi Lauper; Bessie Smith (“defiant, strong, and dominant”); Eartha Kitt; and Montlack’s own Stevie Nicks (“an adopted fairy godmother”).
And then, there are the divas of TV and screen: Jessica Lange, with the laugh that poet Allen Smith can never forget; Auntie Mame, who made author Lewis DeSimone feel protected; and TV’s Endora, whose witchy powers were there for a young boy who needed them.
The interesting thing about “My Diva” is that, individually, the stories feel rather voyeuristically weird. Many of the authors admit to having spent all their money on music, watching movies dozens of times, never missing a TV show that starred the diva. The tales border on a fan’s obsession times ten and if you were only to read one of them, you probably wouldn’t much like it.
But collectively, these stories blossom into a full-fledged love letter to women who inspired, written by men who were once boys that badly needed encouragement. Filled with short chapters of thoughtful sentiment, they capture sadness and joy, confusion and wishing, friendship and adolescent longing, as well as a sort of “thank-you” to women who were supportive, even if they didn’t know they were.
“My Diva” is not the kind of book you’ll want to rush through. It demands to be savored, begs to be identified with. This is the kind of book you take to the sofa with a blanket, for a quiet afternoon’s worth of a-muse-ment.