There is flamboyant and then there is Liberace! Born in 1919 in a working-class area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to immigrant parents, W?adziu Valentino Liberace may have humble beginnings but this child prodigy pianist would go on to become the highest paid entertainer in the world, and not to mention the most fabulous and flamboyant entertainer of all time! Known as Mr Showmanship, Liberace was famous for his countless over the top costumes, excessively long fur coats, his mirror ball styled Rolls Royce, and expensive rings on each finger. Even off stage, Liberace’s life was the epitome of flamboyant excess; His mansions were famously decadent, and his love life was the stuff of scandalous court cases and tabloid rumours for decades. Sadly Liberace died of an AIDS-related illness in 1987.
Elton John is not just one of the most successful singers in musical history having sold more than 300 million records over his five-decade career but he is known around the world for his lavish lifestyle and some of the best stage costumes ever seen. Crazy glasses, feather-trimmed jackets, and platform shoes were how it started in the 70s and by the 90s Elton was getting around in full baroque brilliance a la Louis XIV of France with a wig so big that he needed a special arrangement to help him put on the headpiece.
Freddie Mercury is the very definition of a superstar. As the front man for British glam rock group Queen, Mercury was highly theatrical and adorned in everything from lycra to leather on stage and in 1984 famously performed I Want to Break Free in full drag. He was known for leading a decadent and hedonistic lifestyle, however, became reclusive in the last few years of his life. Mercury revealed the world that he had AIDS one day before his death in 1991.
(Pictured Above) Queen Victoria’s England in the latter half of the 19th Century is synonymous with social conservatism and repressed sexuality. That is, of course, unless your name is Oscar Wilde! Writer, poet and all-round fabulous dandy Oscar Wilde was witty, charming, and one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the height of his success, Wilde was embroiled in a very public and scandalous court case with the Marquess of Queensberry who was the father of Wilde’s young male lover. The end result saw Wilde being found guilty of ‘gross indecency with other men’ and imprisoned for 2 years.
The 1980s was all about flamboyance but even in the crazy world of pop music, Boy George stood out. As the lead singer of Culture Club, Boy George was known for his androgynous, gender bending appearance which pushed the boundaries of an unsuspecting public. In the years after Culture club Boy George remained in tehe public eye for his drug addictions and conviction for false imprisonment of a male prostitute. He has since turned his life around and now DJs around the world including at last year’s Big Gay Day at the Wickham Hotel.
Comedian Julian Clary is pretty out there. Sporting an emphasised campness, outrageous costumes Clary aimed to shock audiences by saying and doing the thing that audiences didn’t think anybody could say or do. In the 1990s, British newspaper The Sun launched a campaign to have Clary banned from television after he made jokes about fisting. Audiences, however, loved him all the more for it, even voting him as the winner of the 2012 Celebrity Big Brother.
OK so Bowie isn’t gay, he’s bisexual but we will include him on the list anyway. Bowie and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust spearheaded the glam rock era and can be credited with bringing camp glamour to the mainstream. Since that time Bowie has reinvented himself a number of times with each new Bowie incarnation becoming a style icon. Marriages to supermodels and rumoured affairs with Mick Jagger have also added to his flamboyant mystique
Andy Warhol never looked very flamboyant, in fact, he looked somewhat dull and unassuming. The life that he led, however, was anything but. Warhol has become the face of pop art and his life’s work seemed dedicated to both celebrating and satirizing the dizzying world of celebrity and all things popular and glamourous. Warhol’s New York studio was known as ‘The Factory’ and was home to lavish parties attended by the city’s wealthiest socialites and celebrities.
One of the finest dancers the world has ever know, ballet star Rudolf Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961 where he was he felt he had more opportunities both professionally and personally. Known for being a bit precious, Nureyev was prone to temper tantrums at a whim but was able to calm himself while partying with the likes of Gore Vidal, Freddie Mercury, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol.
Adam Lambert might still be relatively new to the public eye compared to the others on the list, however, he has achieved a lot in a short period. Winner of American Idol, Lambert has revived glam rock in recent years with his out loud and proud theatrical and androgynous performance style. So impressed with his stage presence, the surviving members of Queen invited Lambert to take on arguably the toughest assignment in music – trying to fill the shoes of the late Freddie Mercury as part of Queen’s world tour. Lambert took up the challenge an received critical acclaim for his efforts honouring Mercury while maintaining his own style.
Quentin Crisp, John Inman,