Oh Elton, Elton. I am so confused, but I just can’t quit you. Remember when his remark about being very happy with civil unions became a rallying cry for Prop 8 and anti-equality forces? Once there was a hue and cry about his
naivety ignorance of basic facts, he came around and ended up playing an amazing concert as a fundraiser for AFER and becoming a spokesperson for marriage equality. Then he played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for huge fee. (I’d like to hope that he donated that fee to pro-equality groups as a puckish fuck you to the forces at the EIB, but I guess I’ll never know).
Elton John played Sun City in South Africa during apartheid, and yes that was 30 years ago. He played Tel Aviv just three years ago saying:
Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.
Then Sir Elton thumbed his nose at China’s cultural politics by publicly dedicating his 2012 concert in Beijing to to “the spirit and talent” of dissident artist Ai Weiwei, prompting the Chinese culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China. Sir Elton told the Guardian:
“Ten thousand people went ‘Eugh!’, but how could you not?. He’s become a friend, and what he’s suffered as an artist is unbelievable. During and after the show, my tour manager was interrogated for three hours, and what he said to them was true: I bought a beautiful Ai Weiwei piece, I was grateful and we’ve become friends. I didn’t feel in any danger.
Sir Elton adds a new item to his wish list: He’d like to go back to China and talk to the government about AIDS. According to the performer:
the country’s leading AIDS activist has claimed that the government’s estimate of 650,000 HIV cases is barely a 10th of the real figure.
Elton John wanted to play in front of the Pyramids of Giza, but claims be was banned because he is gay. And his very public gayness has ruffled feathers in other locales, the Guardian reports:
a church in Tobago organised a protest against his appearance there, while he received threats from an Islamic group when he played in Morocco.
So what about his proposed December concert date in Moscow?
Listen, I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time: I had an interpreter that they’d clearly set up. Actually, I ended up having sex with him on the roof of my hotel. I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.
Elton John certainly flies in the face of Putin’s ban on homosexual propaganda. He and longtime partner David Furnish united in a civil union ceremony in 2005, one of the first in Britain, and are planning weddings in Britain and in California now that it is legal to do so– and the couple has two children Zachary and Elijah. In 2009 the Ukrainian government block Sir Elton’s adoption of an HIV+ baby, citing his age and single status; the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex unions. Adoption officials had another point of view:
Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.
How will Putin and Russian government deal with Elton John, a venerable and flamboyant, visibly gay figure in pop music who refers to himself as the Queen Mother? Madonna and Lady Gaga played St Petersburg and spoke out from the stage, violating, according to the Russian government, the terms of their visas. Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban fans under 18 years old from Gaga’s concerts. Madonna and Gaga are post-modern hetero-normative, basically straight ladies who like teh gheys, have a platform to speak out, and do. Elton John is waaay more risky–he’s clearly queer and the very act of playing in Russia is pretty subversive/transgressive, especially given his outspokeness on stage and off.
In July, 2103 Elton John was scheduled to play a concert in Krasnodar, Russia which caused great consternation.
Local party leader Mikhail Abramyan recommended that Elton don a knee-length kaftan, knee-high leather boots, and a fur hat for the July 14th gig.
He said: ‘It would be more respectable. We have suggested it to the promoters and we hope he’ll wear it.’, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.
Despite calls from Krasnodar clergy to ban Sir Elton’s July 14th concert because the singer represents homosexual propaganda, no ban was issued. Rather the concert was postponed, then cancelled due to the singer’s illness.
Somehow I think, and maybe I am just an optimist, that Elton John playing Moscow is his attempt at activism, and is motivated by the desire to make a positive change, rather than to line his pockets. It will be interesting to see what bombshells, like that in China, he drops from the stage–maybe playing “All the Young Girls Love Alice”? And I wonder if Edward Snowden will be backstage! Now that would be a Facebook photo op!