Get me to the church on time!

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Jeffrey is where a priest, played by Nathan Lane, explains to the protagonist that the protagonist’s ideas about god came from the album cover of the original cast recording of My Fair Lady. He further claims it’s where most gay men got their notions about god.

My Fair Lady Original Cast AlbumHis reasoning is: most parents in the 50s and 60s had a copy of the album*, most gay kids went through at least a phase of listening to musical soundtracks (and even if they didn’t, they all at least saw the cover art), most kids didn’t realize that the man in the clouds on the cover art manipulating the stars like puppets on strings was supposed to be George Bernard Shaw (the man who wrote the play upon which the musical was based), they believed it was god. “It was your parents’ album. You were little. You thought it was god!” Then he goes on to explain that god doesn’t run the world like that.

Part of why that scene cracked me up is because I did go through a phase of listening to the soundtracks of musicals—musicals that in many cases I had never seen. I’m not completely sure why my folks owned several sound track albums, but they did. I do know that my mom had a tendency, if she saw a movie adaptation of a musical, to buy the original broadway cast album instead of the movie album. Anyway, My Fair Lady was one of those albums that I listened to a lot as a kid, but I had never seen the show.

I wound up making up my own version of what happened between the songs. I also imagined my own versions of the choreography and costumes, guided by whatever photographs were part of the album cover, or in some cases, versions of the songs I’d seen on TV. There were a lot of musical variety shows on the air when I was a kid, and stars of movies and broadway shows would often be guests on the variety programs, and might perform a version of (or parody of) a scene from the musical, with regulars from the variety show filling in for various characters.

So in my head, the song “Get Me To the Church On Time” was not primarily about the wild last night of partying that Eliza Doolittle’s long-widowed father wanted to have before he married in the morning. I didn’t know enough of the play to know the context, for one. I think the album only identified the character as “Alfie” so I had no way to know he was supposed to by Eliza’s father. The lyrics talk about having a whopper, and kicking up a rumpus, but somehow I thought it was about celebrating the marriage itself—partying because he was overjoyed to be getting married, rather than a last night of debauchery because he would never be having fun again.

It was also about all the people around him, friends and strangers alike, joining in on the joy and exaltation.

It’s that imagined version of the song and dance that kept popping up in my head last Tuesday night as I saw that Marriage Equality was winning at the ballot box. It was that image of friends, family, neighbors, and complete strangers shouting “hurray!” that came to mind as I thought of the hundreds of straight people who manned those phone banks—calling strangers and patiently explaining that the law explicitly exempted churches and religious institutions from performing same sex marriages (not that the law needed it, it’s already established in other laws and court decisions; churches can choose to turn away opposite sex couples for whatever religious reason they want, too). The thousands of straight people who donated to the campaigns. The thousands of straight people who urged neighbors, co-workers, and family members to give equality a chance. The hundreds of thousands of straight people who voted that way.

Depending on which statistics you believe, gays and lesbians make up somewhere between 3 and 10 percent of the population. There’s no way we could have voted this in for ourselves. There’s no way we could have handled all of the ground game: the canvassing, the pamphleting, the phone banking, and so on.

It was my imaginary version of “Get Me to the Church on Time” that was playing in my head when straight friends told me, “I thought of you and Michael while I was filling out my ballot.” It was the soundtrack to the images I saw on TV of the straight couples joining in the party at the campaign headquarters on the news.

It’s what comes to mind when I re-watch the tearful speech of the straight, Republican state senator explaining why she was voting for the law that kicked this off last spring. Or when I read stories of the way, the last few years, many straight couples have taken a moment in their wedding ceremonies to acknowledge that they have friends and loved ones who are denied the right to choose to enter this important institution, and asking their guests to join the fight for equality.

Yes, part of the reason there were tears in my eyes on Tuesday night when I saw the news that marriage equality had won in Maine, and then in Maryland, and that it was leading in my home state of Washington was because I’m looking forward to finally getting to marry (rather than “domestically partner”???) Michael. But that was only part of it.

The rest of those tears of joy was the realization that a majority of my fellow citizens–not just my fellow homos, or my friends, but a bunch of people who don’t know me–has our back.

Thank you.

And I hope you all get invited to a lot of weddings, because you deserve to celebrate with us.

UPDATE: I started this the morning after Election Night. Because of craziness at work, I didn’t finish it until a day later. And I didn’t see this column by Dan Savage on the same topic until Thursday night. His is definitely worth a read.

* Remember, Jeffery is a comedy, it’s not a real statistic.

2 thoughts on “Get me to the church on time!

  1. What an interesting way to experience a musical! I’m a big fan of musicals, but I’ve seen them before hearing the soundtracks. Now I’ve got to find some I haven’t seen and listen to them first!

    1. Back then there was no YouTube, or even video rentals. So the only way to see a movie was if it was in a theatre near you, or if they showed in on TV. Where we had only four (sometimes five) stations.

      And since we lived in tiny towns far from anywhere, I don’t think I saw a live theatre performance of a play other than the time my second grade class went on a field trip to a nearby town? I’m not sure where we went, really.

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