Once upon a time, Reg posed as one of the lads. Unlike his contemporaries the Dame and the Wizard, Reg was not one for in-yer-face effeminacy. He had initially been a sensitive sort at the piano, riding the crest of the singer-songwriter wave at the turn of the decade that made him; then some fearless souls opened the dressing-up box and he could tentatively dip his toes in – once those burly bruisers from the Black Country showed it was possible to do so while maintaining one’s masculine credentials, of course. Rather than re-emerge as a fully-fledged drag act, however, Reg went for the pantomime football hooligan look and cranked up the guitars as he penned an ode to the delights of fighting on a Saturday night. Staying in was still easier to handle than coming out when a career could be killed. His pal Freddie followed suit.
They loved him Stateside; he was far bigger there than he ever was here, topping the Billboard Hot 100 on numerous occasions – occasions no doubt memorised and quoted verbatim by his pal Paul. Therefore, despite investing in his hometown team to keep his laddish end in, Reg finally felt it was safe to tiptoe out of the closet, though even then he hedged his bets and went for the half-and-half option as the Dame had long before him. The disappearance of the frills and elaborate goggles, followed by the focus on a hair transplant that was forever hidden beneath a hat, distracted attention from sexuality as the 80s approached and some wondered if it had been a convenient hitch on a passing bandwagon.
Marrying a lady seemed to confirm the bi bit had been a sign of the times for Reg when it had been chic to declare so. The barriers broken down in the 70s had been a step too far for some, however, and there was a vociferous backlash in the new decade. It’s easy to forget how hostile the mainstream media were to anything ‘poofy’: Boy George skirted around the bleedin’ obvious, stating he preferred a nice cuppa, whereas the other George did his utmost to come across as macho as possible. With the insidious incursion into the national consciousness of AIDS and then Clause 28, it was not the time for household names to be out and proud, with only a small handful of newcomers such as Little Jimmy Somerville braving the animosity. The death of Mr Mercury in 1991 was greeted in at least one Fleet Street tabloid with a ‘you got what you deserved after the lifestyle you led’.
As the 90s progressed, it no longer seemed to matter, however. Both Georges had finally kicked the closet door open, with the Michael one now aware the teenage girls who had viewed him as a dream date had moved on from gazing lovingly at his image on their bedroom walls. It was safe to come clean at last, and Reg no longer pretended he was anything other than a raging queen. By the turn of the Millennium, with the likes of Will Young being open from the start and his honesty not affecting his popularity one iota, Reg could afford to enter into a relationship that there was no need to hide anymore. When civil partnerships and then gay marriage were enshrined in law, Reg was at the head of the queue and had cemented his place as the Queen Mother of British pop culture.
Revelations in the US media this week that Reg’s missus had been playing away and then invited Reg for a three-way tie with the other party had provoked slavering relish in the dark heart of Murdochland, but a super-injunction has been taken out to prevent the British press from publishing the names of those involved, even though social media has made a mockery of the law by naming, if not necessarily shaming. The quaint shock-horror tactics of the press seem to perceive the story as being in the public interest, presumably just as Max Mosley’s S&M shindig was. They paid the price for publicising that, just as they were successfully sued for libel by Reg in the 80s for accusing him of attending an all-boy’s gang-bang.
Personally, I couldn’t give a toss. What has Reg’s private life got to do with anyone else? Just because he has paraded him and his spouse through the Hello and OK doctor’s surgery gallery, does that mean we are entitled to know every behind-closed-doors detail? Murdochland imagines we do. One cannot help but wonder, however, if this is another symptom of old mistrust resurfacing in a new guise, just as Harvey Proctor hinted the witch-hunt that unjustly returned him to the spotlight was a hangover from the bad old days. How long before ‘a victim comes forward’ whose accusations against Reg are viewed as ‘credible and true’?
© The Editor