Janet Jackson and Celine Dion

LORELAI: Hey, where were you after you broke off from the group?
MICHEL: Oh, I sat at a table with Janet Jackson and Celine Dion. Very nice guys.

Janet Jackson (born 1966) [pictured] is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress who has been a prominent figure in popular culture for thirty years. The youngest of the famous Jackson family, she began her career on The Jacksons variety show in 1976, and appeared on other television shows in the 1970s and ’80s, including Fame, previously mentioned. After signing a record contract in 1982, she became a pop icon in the second half of the 1980s, and a sex symbol in the 1990s; she was one of the biggest recording artists of the 1990s. One of the best-selling musical artists, she holds the record for the most consecutive entries in the US Top Ten singles chart by a female artist, at 18. A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, she received special praise for her 1997 album The Velvet Rope, which spoke out against homophobia and embraced same-sex love. The albums’s second single, Together Again, is a tribute to the loved ones Jackson lost to AIDS, with a portion of sales going to AIDS research. She has received several awards for her charity work on behalf of AIDS education, and suicide prevention among gay youth. She is currently working on a documentary about transgender people.

Celine Dion (born 1968) is a Canadian singer. First becoming a star in the French-speaking world as a teenager, she gained international recognition in the 1980s when she won the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival, and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, where she represented Switzerland. In 1990, she released her first English-language album, Unison, establishing her as a star in North America and the rest of the English-speaking world. She has had several #1 hits, including My Heart Will Go On, and The Power of Love, and has won five Grammy Awards; Dion is the best-selling Canadian musical artist. She is a resident performer in Las Vegas, and is the highest-paid, receiving $500 000 per show. Michel getting along well with a drag queen dressed as Celine Dion seems to be the beginning of his obsession with the singer. Although Celine Dion does have a gay following, her inclusion seems to be in tribute to Yanic Truesdale, who plays Michel, as they are both French-Canadians.

Max’s “General” CD Collection

While trying to discover if Max is “worthy” of Lorelai, Christopher asks what his CD collection is like, and gives an “Uh oh” when told he has “kind of a general collection”. Christopher thinks that means “a dozen soundtracks”, and “a generic fifty”. (I can feel Daniel Palladino’s own musical judgements contributing to this section – Palladino was the writer for this episode).

Unfortunately for Max, all Christopher’s derogatory assumptions about Max’s musical tastes turn out to be on point, with Lorelai unable to defend her fiance in any serious way. It may seem shallow and silly, but Christopher’s criticisms of Max’s CD collection seems to make quite an impression on Lorelai (even though she had earlier criticised Christopher’s musical tastes). Is Lorelai so immature that Max’s CD collection is a real problem, or is she clutching at any excuse to dump him?

The Beatles, previously and frequently mentioned, were an English rock band formed in 1960, with their classic line up being John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They are widely regarded as the most important and most influential band in history, and are the best-selling band of all time, with sales of over 800 million worldwide. They have had more #1 albums in the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act, and are the best-selling musical act in the US. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score (for the 1970 film Let it Be), and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting. The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with the individual members inducted between 1994 and 2015.

Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman (born 1941) is an American singer-songwriter who has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. He is most famous for his 1960s folk anthems of the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests such as The Times They Are AChanging, and Blowing in the Wind. One of the best-selling musical artists all all time, he has received numerous awards throughout his career, including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Alanis Morissette (born 1974) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter known for her emotional singing style, giving her the title of “Queen of Alt-Rock Angst”. She brought out two dance-pop albums in Canada in the early 1990s, but gained mainstream success after moving to the US with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which sold more than 33 million copies, won the Grammy Award for Best Album, and is her most critically acclaimed work, with hit singles such as Ironic and You Oughta Know. I think this is the “first album” which Lorelai says many people bought in a knee-jerk reaction, including Max, it seems.

David “Dave” Matthews (born 1967) is a South African-born American singer-songwriter, best known as the lead singer of the Dave Matthews Band, formed in 1991. During the early 2000s, his band sold more tickets and made more money than any other act in North America, and nearly all their studio albums have gone to #1 in the US. Matthews has also brought out solo albums, and won two Grammy Awards. Lorelai says “a couple of his things are good”, but I’m not sure which “things” she means, or even whether she means a couple of his albums or a couple of his songs.

Buena Vista Social Club is a group of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The group’s self-titled album was released in 1997, rapidly making them an international success, with performances in Europe and the US. Wim Wenders made a documentary about them called Buena Vista Social Club, and when it came out in 1998 it received critical acclaim and sparked a revival of Latin American music, helping to increase tourism to Cuba.

Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, anglicised as Enya Brennan, and known as Enya (born 1961) is an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. Her music career began in 1980 when she joined her family’s Celtic band Clannad, and left in 1982 to pursue a solo career. She has numerous top-selling and critically acclaimed albums, with her 2000 album A Day Without Rain, and its lead single, Only Time, experiencing a great success in the US after the September 11 attacks in 2001, making it the best-selling New Age album of all time. Enya is Ireland’s most successul solo act, and has won seven World Music Awards, four Grammy Awards, and an Ivor Novello Award. She is also known for writing and performing the song May It Be for the 2001 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

In general, Christopher is putting down music that experienced sudden mass popularity, so that many people jumped on its bandwagon. How this differs from the very popular bands which he and Lorelai favour is not particularly clear, and his music snobbery may seem rather hypocritical. He also doesn’t seem keen on world music.

True

This 1983 pop song plays while Emily tells the company the touching story about her love for Richard just before they got married, right through until Lorelai phones Christopher.

True is the title track to the third album by British new wave band Spandau Ballet. The song was written by Gary Kemp, and although it sounds so romantic, was written about his platonic relationship with Clare Grogan from Scottish band Altered Images, previously mentioned. It contains tributes to both Marvin Gaye and Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita.

True went to #1 in the US, and was #1 in the UK, Ireland, and Canada. It has been voted both one of the favourite #1 hits of the 1980s, and one of the worst songs of all time. Like Altered Images’ Happy Birthday, the song features on the soundtrack to the teen movie Sixteen Candles.

Spandau Ballet have a following of gay fans, thanks in part to the androgynous image favoured by 1980s new wave bands, and are vocal supporters of LGBT rights.

“He was my Burton and I was his Taylor”

EMILY: I must say, I admire your composure. The week before my wedding, I was a wreck.
MISS PATTY: So was I, before all of mine.
SOOKIE: How many was that?
MISS PATTY: Well, uh, there was St John, John, Sergio, St John. Three men, four times.
SOOKIE: Do you regret any of them?
MISS PATTY: Well, St John was a let down the second time, but he was my Burton and I was his Taylor. Just wish I could’ve found a little Mike Todd there in the middle.

Miss Patty is referring to actress Elizabeth Taylor, previously discussed, and her multiple marriages. She married actor Richard Burton in 1964 [pictured], then for a second time in 1975.

Elizabeth Taylor married theatre and film producer Mike Todd in 1957, a third marriage for each of them. Famously, he was her only husband never to be divorced; he was killed in a plane crash in 1958 – Taylor had meant to fly with him, but he told her to stay home as she had a cold. Although they had a tempestuous relationshop, in later life Elizabeth Taylor always claimed that she was happiest with Mike Todd than any other of her husbands.

We learn a little of Miss Patty’s personal life here, that she has been married several times, including a remarriage to her first husband, St. John. She seems to be divorced, as the marriage was a “let down”, and probably for several years at least, from the tone of Sookie’s questions.

Tony Manero

MICHEL: So, is there no dancing here? I was hoping there’d be dancing.
SOOKIE: You need to strut, Tony Manero?

Anthony “Tony” Manero (John Travolta) is the protagonist of the 1977 musical drama film Saturday Night Fever, directed by John Badham, and based on a 1976 New York magazine article by British journalist Nik Cohn, Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night. In the 1990s, Cohn admitted he’d faked the article on New York disco culture, basing the main character on a man he had briefly seen in a doorway, and an English mod he’d known in the 1960s.

The film revolves around Tony, a young working-class Italian-American man who spends his weekends drinking and dancing at a local disco in Brooklyn. While in the disco, he is the champion of the dance floor, and this helps him cope with a dead-end job, family squabbles, racial tension in his community, and a general restlessness, while he dreams of a better life.

The film begins with an iconic scene where Tony is strutting down the streets of his neighbourhood with The Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive playing. Both scene and song are referenced in the film’s less-regarded 1983 sequel, Staying Alive.

Saturday Night Fever was a massive box-office success, and the #4 film of 1977. It received excellent reviews, and critics named it as one of the best films of 1977. It helped to popularise disco music, and made John Travolta a household name. The soundtrack, featuring songs by The Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling movie soundtracks of all time.

“Gay Icon” Waitresses at the Queen Victoria

The waitresses at the Queen Victoria are in drag as popular gay icons. Joan Crawford serves Emily, they walk past Marilyn Monroe on their way to the table, and Mae West takes Lorelai’s order.

Joan Crawford, born Lucille LeSueur (1904-1977), and previously mentioned. Beginning her career as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway, Crawford signed her first film contract in 1925. She usually played hard-working young women who found romance and success, making her films popular fodder in the Depression era, so that she became one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. Her career foundered, but she made a comeback in 1945 in Mildred Pierce, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award. She continued acting through the 1940s and ’50s, gaining huge box-office success with the 1962 horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Crawford has been described as the “ultimate gay icon” for her sex appeal, bitchiness, and complex personal life.

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortensen (1926-1962), and previously mentioned. Famous for playing comedic “blonde bombshells”, she was one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1950s. After beginning as a pin-up model, she had small parts in films before signing with Fox in 1951. By 1953 she was one of the most marketable Hollywood stars, with leading roles in Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire in this year alone. One of her biggest successes of her career was The Seven Year Itch, a 1955 comedy where she wears the iconic white dress that the waitress models. Critically acclaimed in Bus Stop (1956), she gained both critical and commercial success with Some Like It Hot, a 1959 comedy involving cross-dressing. That was a big boost to her as a gay icon, as well as her sex appeal, vulnerability, and tragic demise.

Mary “Mae” West (1893-1980) [pictured] was an an actress and sex symbol whose career in entertainment spanned seven decades. Starting out in vaudeville and the theatres of New York, she moved to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer, with appearances in film, television, and radio. She is considered one of the greatest female stars of classic American cinema. She was often controversial, having problems with efforts to censor her – she usually found a way for this to bring her greater publicity, such as a brief stint in gaol for writing a play named Sex, which made her a media darling as a “bad girl”. The characters she played in films tended to be sexually secure and liberated women, and by 1935 she was the highest paid woman in Hollywood. West reportedly got her image, style, and famous walk by copying female impersonators, and she could be seen as a “female drag queen”. Brassy, busty, and ballsy, ultra-womanly yet somehow androgynous, with risque wisecracks and impeccable comic timing, Mae West was a lifelong supporter of gay rights, and a natural fit as a gay icon.

Get Happy

When the company enters the bar for Lorelai’s bachelorette party, a drag queen dressed as Judy Garland is lip-synching on stage to this song.

Get Happy is a song written by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Ted Koehler; the lyrics mimic gospel and evangelical songs. It was first performed by Ruth Etting in the 1930 Broadway show Nine-Fifteen Revue, and although the musical was a disastrous flop, Get Happy was successful and recorded several times, including by both Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker.

Judy Garland sang the song in the 1950 musical film Summer Stock, her last movie for MGM. In a let’s-put-on-a-show plotline, Garland performs the number wearing a tuxedo jacket, fedora, and stockings and high heels in the movie’s most iconic scene, often copied by other singers and dancers.

Judy Garland had been a gay icon since The Wizard of Oz became popular TV viewing, so having this song playing as they enter is a stereotypical way to signal it’s a gay club.