12. aug, 2019

Gay Icons: Jobriath

''Asking me if I'm a homosexual is like asking James Brown if he's black'' - Jobriath (1946-1983)

Jobriath (born Bruce Campbell), was an American singer-songwriter, best known as the first openly gay rock musician to sign a major recording contract and as one of the first stars to succumb to AIDS. 

In the mid 1960s, Campbell went AWOL from the U.S. Army, reemerging in L.A. with a new name: Jobriath Salisbury; soon after recording an album with his first band, Pidgeon, Jobriath was located by the military police, leading to a 6-month stint in a military psychiatric hospital. 

In 1972, promoter Jerry Brandt heard Jobriath's demo and rushed to California to find him. Brandt secured Jobriath a record deal with Elektra for a rumored $500.000 and undertook one of the most ambitious campaigns ever seen, culminating with the appearance in Times Square of a 41' by 43' billboard of a nude Jobriath.

Plans were announced for a lavish debut in Paris, a show set to involve a model Empire State Building ''suddenly transforming into a giant spurting penis to ejaculate a figure (Jobriath) dressed (as) King Kong (and) the mysterious figure shedding the ape costume and emerging as the most fabulous Marlene Dietrich you've ever seen.'' With a price tag of over $200.000, Elektra cancelled the show. 

The album ''Jobriath'' (1973), could never have lived up to the expectations, though it received reltively good reviews. Jobriath did a small tour - with some ecstatic crowds and some, like the one at Nassau Coliseum, who shouted ''faggot'' until Jobriath left the stage - before announcing his retirement. 

In 1975, Jobriath reemerged as ''Cole Berlin'', working as a cabaret singer and sex worker. Jobriath died of AIDS-related illness on August 4, 1983; he was 36. 

In the end, most agree, it wasn't the hype that ended Jobriath's career, and it certainly wasn't a lack of talent, it was that the world wasn't ready for an openly queer star.

''Sometimes the groundbreakers'', one friend said, ''all they really get to do is break the ground.''

Source: LGBT History