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The Gay Mafia or Velvet Mafia is a term to describe the amalgamation of gay lobby and rights groups in politics and the media. The "Gay Mafia" and "Velvet Mafia" are typically associated with the upper echelons of the fashion and entertainment industries, and the terms are also used humorously by gay people themselves, some looking to David Geffen as the unofficial head. The term was widely used in the 1980s and 1990s, and could often be seen in the pages of the New York Post. The term was also used by the British newspaper, The Sun, in 1998 in response to what it claimed was an over-representation of gay people in the Labour British Cabinet.

Origin of the term

The term "Velvet Mafia" was first used by author Stephen Gaines in the 1970s, to describe the influential gay crowd that gathered at Studio 54. This "mafia" included Calvin Klein, Truman Capote, Halston, Andy Warhol, Jann Wenner. The term was tongue-in-cheek, describing a "powerful social clique, not some truly devious alliance ruling either an industry or our politics."[1]

The Michael Ovitz scandal

Gradually, "velvet" came to be replaced with "gay". The term may have gained wider social prominence after it was used in a Spy magazine article 1995 and became notorious after an interview with one-time Hollywood talent agent Michael Ovitz in Vanity Fair in 2002 in which Ovitz claimed that an organized group of gay men was singling him out to ensure that he would "never [work] in [Hollywood] again".[2]

Ovitz who, according to some, had a reputation for being homophobic during the height of his career in the 1980s and 1990s, claimed that DreamWorks SKG co-founder David Geffen, former New York Times reporter Bernard Weintraub, various former employees of Ovitz at the Creative Artists Agency such as CAA co-founder and Universal Studios President Ronald Meyer, and former Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner, among others, were part of a powerful group that conspired to end his career.[2]

The Velvet Mafia in popular culture

New York City's Legendary Dean Johnson fronted the band The Velvet Mafia and created an incredible underground rock and roll scene at CBGBS called HOMOCORPS for the gay and lesbian community.

In one episode of the Emmy Award-winning British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, main character Edina seconds her best friend Patsy's accusation of a "gay mafia" conspiracy to explain their professional failures.

An episode of television sit-com Will & Grace revolved around the Gay Mafia, with singer Elton John as its boss. Details Magazine subsequently ran a story on the Gay Mafia in which it humorously claimed that Max Mutchnick, co-creator of Will & Grace, was a "gay godfather-on-the-make." The article also identifies several other "pink power brokers," including GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) -entertainment director Scott Seomin.[3]

Robin Williams also referenced the Gay Mafia in his Live on Broadway special, referring to it as the "Mauve Hand", and portraying a "fairy Godfather" as Marlon Brando, quipping "Does this pistol make my ass look big?"

In the Emmy award winning episode of The Simpsons entitled "Three Gays of the Condo", Homer Simpson refers to his two gay roommates as the "Velvet Mafia" to his wife Marge when they make him margaritas and his subsequent drunkenness causes him to be late for the reconciliation dinner planned by his wife.

In another episode of The Simpsons entitled "Jaws Wired Shut", there is a float during the gay pride parade titled "The Velvet Mafia."

A Los Angeles improvisational and sketch comedy troupe call themselves The Gay Mafia. [1]

A Velvet Mafia is the name of an ezine founded in 2001 that features alternative literary queer fiction and erotica from new gay writers, edited by Sean Meriwether. Velvet Mafia: Dangerous Queer Fiction.

In the episode "Sorry, Ari" of the HBO series Entourage, the character Lloyd says: "The gay mafia has been replaced by the gay assistant corps, Ari. We know all."

In RTÉ's The Panel, Dara Ó Briain makes reference to the Gay Mafia led by Graham Norton.

In a season 5 episode of Nip/Tuck one of the main characters talks with his publicist of how pandering to the Gay Mafia can bring in more business for their clinic.


External links

See also

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