Letter: Nana Mouskouri and other gay icons

Sir: I was interested to see the interview with Eartha Kitt and the accompanying article by David Lister ('Alluring qualities that make a gay icon', 3 October).

Defining the qualities that make a 'gay icon' is as impossible a task as defining camp; and in my capacity as Features and Reviews Editor of Gay Times, I have been subjected to snowdrifts of unsolicited articles on women whom individual writers consider icons (the most startling was on Nana Mouskouri), but have never yet worked out exactly what it is that elevates a female performer to this particular status.

What I most emphatically would disagree with Mr Lister about is his contention that 'icons are generally all women, all of whom are heterosexual'. It has long seemed to me almost a prerequisite that a very high proportion of female icons represent either sexual ambiguity or downright bisexuality - witness Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Garbo, Billie Holiday (and almost any of the black female singers from that period) or Judy Holliday (to offer a random sampling). Nor are histories of sadness, rejection and loneliness essentials - it would be possible to list another group of icons (Bette Davis and Streisand will do as two examples) who have become such because of sheer toughness and grit. It is fascinating, however, to see the question of gay icons aired in a national newspaper.

Yours faithfully,

PETER BURTON

Brighton

3 October

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