Frank met Michael through the Donna Summer Fan Club. ‘Official members’ of the club paid annual dues to receive backstage insight into the life of the ‘70s disco superstar. A monthly newsletter, printed on what was obviously stolen copy paper from the editor’s 9-5 job didn’t offer much news on Donna Summer. Frank and Michael knew everything there was to know about the music icon but they paid $30 a year just to be sure they didn’t miss any gossip regarding the music industry’s first ‘Bad Girl’.
There was a classified “let’s become Donna Summer pen pals” section on the last page of the tacky, Xeroxed fan club paper. That’s how they met, as pen pals, through the official Donna Summer fan club. I thought their union was creepy.
“I’m going to write this guy,” my lover Frank explained while reading the newsletter in a lawn chair in the back yard. I was picking lady bugs from my pumpkin vines and releasing them into the yard next door.
“You should write him. The two of you are the only two Donna Summer fans still alive,” I said while watching a tiny red bug with black dots on its wings slowly walk around the tip of my finger.
Michael owned a vinyl copy of a rare Donna Summer record– “Sometimes Like Butterflies” that Frank just had to get his hands on, so Frank popped a letter in the mail to the New York resident who placed an ad in the quarterly indicating that he had in his collection an original copy of Frank’s favorite song in the world. (The song was actually on the “B” side of another Donna release from the early ’80, but because technology was changing, it was nearly impossible to find a copy of the record.
Three days later, Michael came to our house. I was busy preparing steak au pauve on a gas grill while the two became acquainted.
Our little dinner party was like a reunion of Star Trek junkies. They spoke of Donna’s music and ignored my pleas to change the music on the stereo to something with more of a slow tempo.
Frank quickly ran inside, removed a cassette tape that was playing the song “She Works Hard for the Money,” and put on “Hot Stuff” as if none of us had ever heard the song.
“There. Is that better?” He asked me. “He just loves this song, Michael. He loves it. He can’t get enough of it.”
“That’s not what I was requesting,” I said while slamming down my outdoor spatula right in front of where Michael, a Hawaiian was sipping an ice cold glass of Jack Daniels whiskey.
We had a guest. I had to bite my tongue, Frank thought. My parnter of eight years gave me a scolding look. I couldn’t just storm into the living room and put on George Michael’s “Faith”. I had to pretend I was enjoying “Hot Stuff”.
Our guest Michael couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The music was blasting and Frank had so much to say. I was worn out from listening to Frank talk about Donna Summer for almost a decade. Michael was a fresh set of ears, attached to a heart, that loved Donna Summer. I knew my lover was excited by making a new friend who appreciated the Queen of Disco.
“Do you think he’s gay?” Frank asked after Michael left the house.
I rolled my eyes like a bad girl and didn’t say a word.
Frank managed to squeeze Michael’s copy of “Sometimes Like Butterflies” from his pen pal’s collection. Frank traded his autographed copy of the album “Bad Girls” that Donna Summer signed for him personally when he was 16. (Actually it was not an original Donna Summer autograph, Frank signed it on her behalf, like secretaries sometimes do for their bosses.)
The trade was what both subscribers to the Donna Summer fan club were looking for when they first paid their annual dues to the members only newsletter organization. We had Michael over for dinner a lot over the years. Frank and Michael became as inseparable as Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer on the cover of twelve inch single, “Enough is Enough”.
They started to leave me out of conversations over dinner in the back yard as they talked on and on about false news reports claiming that Donna Summer was really a man.
“Yes! You are absolutely right, Frank,” Michael said. “That drag queen story nearly ruined her. You have to admit, in that wig, she looked like a man.” At that moment my suspicions were correct. Michael was a flaming Donna Summer queen too.
“She never should have told the world she was born again,” Frank explained. “That was the cake she left out in the rain. She had no idea that it was gay men who made her famous, with other performers of the 1970’s like the Village People, Queen and Elton John.””
“Do you remember when the claim surfaced that Donna Summer made the statement– “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve shortly after her born again claim?” Frank asked.
“Yes. They burned all her records in a bonfire in the West Village. Gays were so upset with her for saying that AIDS was God’s way of punishing gays,” Frank suggested to Michael. I was too busy cooking and listening to them trying to come up with ways to relaunch the disco queen’s fading career to suggest that perhaps her loss in popularity had more to do with her former record label, and not an angry gay mob. I remembered what happened to George Michael in 1990 when he decided to change his pop image– how the owners of Sony decided not to effectively promote the follow-up to “Faith”. Perhaps the same thing happened to Donna.
Frank blasted Donna’s latest CD “Mistaken Identity” the moment I was about to offer my theory on the has-been disco diva.
“The album is quite good,” I had to admit to my lover and his friend. “It’s such a shame that nobody is going to buy it,” I predicted.
“She sounds a little like Stevie Nicks,” I said while placing a fresh salad on the plastic outdoor table.
Michael and Frank were shocked. I never had anything to say nice about Donna Summer– especially after all the comments she supposedly once made against gays.
“So you are admitting it Charles?” They asked while trying to get me to admit that Donna’s music is irresistibly fabulous.
“No, I’m just trying to get you to shut up and listen to other artists without prejuice,” I explained while chaning the CD on the stereo …