I don't know what it is that draws gay men to Tina Arena. A less kind person could say that its all part of the infantilism of popular queer culture, and adoring a woman best remembered for being a child-star is par for the course. Think Judy, think Kylie, think Elizabeth.....
And perhaps there is something to this. A person - particularly a woman - who has grown up surrounded by the machinery of popular culture creation is bound by adulthood to have a slightly skewiff perception of what it means to dress, to sing, to perform - to undertake everyday life, even. It is almost inevitable that such a person should carry with them everywhere an indomitable element of self-conscious performativity, which is never more than a breath away from camp.
The glorious Ms. Arena is by now a bona fide diva, a state of being exacerbated by her insistence on living abroad, her personal interest in campy torch songs and the album releases that never quite make the big time.
I'm in love with her most recent album, where she covers a whole host of queer favourites, including The Look of Love and Kate Bush's The Man With the Child in His Eyes. The thing is (and this is a measure of the woman's innate diva-dom), I don't think she cynically chose songs that would appeal to the gay men who must overwhelmingly make up her target market these days. No, she actually likes these songs herself, proving that the lady is camp personified, and worthy of world-wide queer adoration.
My lifelong Tina highlights? Revelling in the high-drama s&m lyrics of Chains, and years later watching the sublime Paulini do the same on Australian Idol. And one drunken evening at the Imperial boogying away to Soulmate # 9 and deciding that this was the best song, ever. And I still stand by that judgement.
A few years ago, while working as a functionary in the entertainment industry, a very dear and very heterosexual workmate was offered some free tickets to a Tina Arena concert at the State Theatre. Naturally, I was the first person he telephoned, and I jumped at the chance. It was an hilarious evening, the audience being filled with gay men and B-List Australian celebrities (including my favourite Geraldine Turner). My poor young friend blushed at all the knowing looks he was subjected to, and a couple of middle-aged bears sitting in front of us seemed to have consummated their relationship to every single one of Tina's hits, so amorous did they get as the evening went on.
But divas don't survive on adoration alone. Ms. Arena was once engaged to perform at the Italian Festival at my hometown of Ingham, North Queensland. Being unused to the inclement weather of the tropical North, Ms. Arena became furious when it rained in the afternoon, and refused to perform till the skies cleared up, leaving scores of honest country folk damp and hot and desperate to hear a few bars of Now I Can Dance. Ever since then her name has been mud in North Queensland.