chapter  1
10 Pages

Introduction: Celebrity Talk, Lesbian Style

Ever since I began my research on lesbian celebrity, I have been surprised at the interest the topic provokes among friends and colleagues who do various kinds of intellectual work. I assume that they will find it a subject too frivolous for scholarly study, barely worthy of serious discussion, and I may have not always been successful in convincing them otherwise. Just the same, I routinely find that social occasions become opportunities for intense discussions when I mention the topic. What has intrigued me most, though, is the kind of curiosity I most frequently encounter. The typical question concerns who I am doing, as in, “Are you doing Ellen? k.d.? Lily? Are you going to deal with Jodie’s refusal to admit she’s a dyke? And what about Whitney? Why do you think it took Rosie so long to come out?” After a couple of awkward attempts to answer queries of this sort, I adopted a standard reply: my project isn’t intended as a series of biographical sketches, I explain, but rather an inquiry into the social factors that inform lesbian celebrity. By reciting this clarification I hope to earn forgiveness for not dealing with the controversies that swirl around prominent lesbian performers and short-circuit any disappointment they might experience after they find out that I’m not “doing” any of these famous lesbians, even though the names of one or two may appear in the following pages.