Eurovision Song Contest : The gayest event in the world
Our correspondent happened to be in Düsseldorf this May to attend the Eurovision Song Contest and found a gay gathering much bigger than any pride parade in the world
Eurovision. A word most of our Indian readers are not familiar with (unless you happen to have a cousin in UK or a school friend who’s doing a Masters program in Germany).
The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is undoubtedly the biggest song-related competition in the world (in terms of participation and involvement of countries and audience). It is watched all across Europe and has votes pouring in from the countries of the EU, EEA, and some more (Israel, Armenia, etc).
This year 43 countries took part in the Eurovision Song Contest with one participant from each country, generally chosen through a national primetime song competition (much like our own Indian Idol). A gala event divided into 3 days of song and madness, the ESC is passionately followed by viewers from all age groups and across continents (now broadcasting in Australia also).
The winning country from last year’s contest gets the chance to host the competition this year, which is why Germany got the privilege of opening its gates to tens of thousands of fans, which does not include the ones queuing at every random pub in the streets of Düsseldorf (which had ESC theme parties going on along with live broadcasts) just to get a glimpse of the ongoing proceedings at the Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf. A fan following only rivalling that of football in Germany. Or beer lovers.I happened to get a splendid chance to go check out the ‘behind-the-scenes’ events, being part of the International press.
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The first thing that one observes when one enters the press arena, with a seating capacity of 1200 press members and crew, is the lack of women. And the extremely friendly men. Born with a terrible gaydar, which malfunctions every now and then when I travel abroad, I thought it best to keep a low profile and not to jump to conclusions. Cultural differences, I told myself, as I saw two middle aged men with tight t-shirts and protruding beer guts in the press jump enthusiastically and greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. A sight replayed every 5 minutes during the 10 preparatory days leading to the event.
But soon even my senses of direction and orientation came back and I realised that I was possibly the youngest of the press members (I’m 21), and evidently a Eurovision virgin. This killer combination ensured much repetitive glances from other press members, smiles, winks, and extremely odd flirtatious conversations, not that I enjoyed it at all. As said truly by another press member, the only other one of Indian origin, “It’s tough being a straight man here. We are just a handful in number, and in this kind of an environment it is really difficult to convince a nice hot girl you meet at a party that you are a press member and not gay. They look at you as if you’re an alien; it’s an impossibility to find a straight press member”
So I started off asking people who’ve been around much more than I have about what makes Eurovision so gay. One middle aged volunteer (yes! People from all walks of life volunteer for this event. This one’s been following ESC since 1979) whom I happened to corner and ask some questions answered beautifully “The queerness of the event is in the history. Imagine a grand scale all-Europe song contest with songs that would befit Celine or Mariah Carey being performed with amazing orchestral performances; which self-respecting gay boy in the early 70’s would not automatically tune in to their radio sets or televisions and follow it with passion! The fan following has grown to be much more due to the advent of digital media, and nowadays songs in Eurovision are more about entertainment. We do see a lot of straight fans, but that’s seemingly overpowered by the gay boys and the girls.”
Being a press member from a non-European nation in a European song contest does ensure a lot of curious people asking questions “Ooh India?” “What’s Pink Pages?” “I didn’t know Indians followed Eurovision” etc, etc. I had the fortune of having the company of Blair Martin and Aaron Holloway, two press members who were from an Australian queer radio station in Brisbane, with me throughout the duration of the ESC. Aaron and I both used a popular iPhone app, which lets you know about other gay users nearby with proximity information. It was hilarious when you opened up the app and saw atleast 25-30 users within the 0m to 100 m range. Something that blew up during the days of the actual event (due to fans in the Arena). Blair, our resident funny man, was always the one with the perfect words to say –
“The straight boys have the World Cup. We have the Eurovision Song Contest”
“I’ve been and competed at the Asia-Pacific Outgames in Melbourne, the World Outgames in Copenhagen, and the Gay Games in Cologne, but I’ve never been anywhere as gay as the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf! This is gay heaven!”
The above lines might give you an idea. But I’m just getting started.
With every ESC come the parties. These grand parties are organised for the journalists, volunteers, and of course the participants and delegates from all different countries. They include the regular every day parties, special parties organised by different country delegations in attempts to woo the journalists, and of course the official post-event parties, which are VIP only.
The one thing that was common with all the events and parties was the same – the massive proportion of gay men! In someone’s words (I forgot who said this golden line) “90% of the people involved with Eurovision are gay men. The rest are women”. Every party was full of gay men (30 plus generally) grinding and dancing and being gay (pun definitely intended). If anyone’s seen Bablyon on QAF, you’d know what I’m talking about. Except the age group (imagine poor lil me, 21, in a sea of men. That pun wasn’t intended).
And if that’s not gay enough, there has been a long history of ESC participants who came out a year or more after their stints at ESC, one of the cutest being last year’s Israeli participant Harel Skaat, who came out a few months after ESC 2010, and of course this year’s Duncan James (from the boy-band BLUE, representing UK) who’s bi. Glen Vella, this year’s participant from Malta, was the only one who was completely out, and actually came with his boyfriend. And then again Dana International, this year’s contestant from Israel, who’s a transsexual, and won the song contest for Israel in 1998. Fabulous gal. Her song ‘Ding Dong’ wasn’t that coy either. Though speculations about the handsome Russian multitalented contestant Alex Sparrow (singer, dancer, ice-skater, actor) came true later when his Facebook profile mentioned “Interested in : Men and Women”, people are still betting on Eric ‘Popular’ Saade, the contestant this time from Sweden. The others generally are good eye-candy; definitely an incentive. Plus randomly running into some of those gorgeous boys at these parties, and sometimes even in the washroom while taking a leak, is something that you won’t get to do in day-to-day life. Go Google the names and check ‘em out. And then thank me.
And for those who’re not just about the boys, the girls were HOT! Getter Jaani from Estonia, Emmy from Armenia, the Slovakian twins, and Maja Keuc from Slovenia were amongst the hottest babes on the stage. And their outfits DID do them justice. The dresses, the setup, the stage, the VFX, everything. 2011 is considered to be one of the best Eurovisions in the history of the contest.
At the end of it all, the event was an amazing success. The final after party was a VIP only affair, for which I managed to get a pass (through a Dutch ‘admirer’). Mingling with the crowd, the participants (stars for a year only), and with the ‘who’s who’ is interesting, but at the end of the day after fabulous parties, reducing the blood level in your alcohol stream, and dancing till your body hurts, all one craves is the bed. My own I mean. Let’s not get into others’ beds. Not yet.
As for next year, it’s in Baku, Azerbaijan. Cheaper flight I guess, plus hail Asia…we got Eurovision coming. The Azeri winner this year is also kinda cute…and most definitely gay. Any bets on when he’s coming out? I already have mine placed.