You might wonder why I’m so obsessed with the story of a troupe of Burlesque dancers performing to the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic, that I’m making a film about it. (You also might not wonder, which speaks more to how well you know me, or how weird you are. Or both.)
I spent my formative years (the 1980’s) in Northeast Philly (yo!) attending Catholic school (for 12 years) where I was bullied to hell while trying to learn things (like how to use parentheses.)
The motto of the schools I attended seemed to be clear to everyone else but me: “Blend in or else.” As you might guess, I did NOT blend in. I wasn’t into sports...
I wore glasses. I was rail thin with crazy hair and, to put it mildly, I was a freakin’ weirdo.
This was also illustrated, of course, by the fact that I was a HUGE fan of, you guessed it, “Weird Al” Yankovic. Here was a guy who not only did NOT blend, he seemed to be succeeding by genuinely being himself. Looking back, that confidence was something I lacked, but admired in him – though I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time.
As I got older, I realized that I was different in yet another way. You know…the gay way. And while I’m out and proud now, at the time this was NOT a welcome addition to my already long list of Things That Made Me Stand Out™ when All I Wanted To Do Was Hide.®
I was not very good at hiding.
I spent much of high school panicking about this development while we were taught that being a gay person was pretty much on par with being a murderer as far as The Bible© was concerned – at least, according to our religion classes, which is where we “learned” about sexuality. That messaging was perhaps not great.
But it wasn’t all bad – I did meet some of my very best friends in high school, and college was even better – I found my people: The weirdos. The oddballs. The Weird Al fans. People I still love and trust to this day. Yet at the time, I remained closeted, spending a lot of energy trying to hide my true self from everyone around me by screaming as loud as I could about how gay I wasn’t.
And I do mean screaming.
In my early 20’s, I moved to Los Angeles where I spent about a year trying to come to terms with the homosexuality that I had been trying to hide. Everyone knew, of course, and no one cared, but 12 years of Catholic school maybe did some harm to my psyche. Regardless, I finally started to timidly step out of the closet.
My pal Jerry kindly offered to take me to my first gay bar when I was ready. One Sunday afternoon, we went to Micky’s, a West Hollywood video bar/club. We walked in and some thumpy dance music was playing, but on the monitors scattered through the club, something weird was happening, quite literally. The video for Weird Al’s “This is the Life” was playing.
A major hit this song is not, so I was a little confused as to why it was running. It's not exactly a gay anthem, and the audio wasn't on anyway. But there it was. My confusion only grew when the video for "Like a Surgeon" immediately followed. I realized they were playing the then-recently released “Weird Al” Yankovic: The Videos DVD
I’m not really much for ‘signs’ but I’ll be damned if I didn’t think there was some cosmic force at work that day. I asked Jerry, “What is this happening here? Is Weird Al a gay icon or something?” Jerry said no – that he’d never seen a Weird Al video in Weho before (and then I never saw another one there since.)
But at that point it dawned on me that one of the reasons I was so drawn to Al and his music throughout my life is that there’s a braveness he exhibits by being proud of who he is. And while Al isn’t gay, his message of self-acceptance is extremely empowering whether you’re in the LGBTQIA community or not.
A lot has changed since I came out of the closet – people are generally more accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, with the recent full-on assault on women’s rights, trans rights, and, for some ridiculous reason, drag queens orchestrated by right wing extremists, I think we are headed for a dangerous time for anyone who doesn’t blend in – including people like me, people like the Tight & Nerdy Troupe and probably people like you, if you’ve read this far.
These people are also not blending.
I think that if a weirdo movie like Showgals, which aims to illustrate self-acceptance, inclusion and the value of embracing your weirdness came around when I was younger, it would have been enormously helpful. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent years in my own mind trying to find ways to just NOT be true to myself.
I see myself in these performers, but more importantly I see these performers as people. And I think you'll see yourself in these people as well. And really, shouldn't we always be striving to see the other humans for the people they are? Wonderful, one of a kind and, yeah, weird.
Maybe the weirdest.
Last thought: We ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to get the funds to make this film - and I want to thank you for coming out in droves and supporting us. It truly means the world to our weird little team.
So thank you again – see you at the movies! (or maybe on a streamer somewhere…. Who knows?)