Gay Ski Week in Aspen is an event that always makes me take a closer look at my own sexuality, sometimes even putting it into question. For example, what if I look at another guy’s ass? How about those closeted rainbow suspenders I own or my new favorite hobby, sewing. Are these subtle instances a form of machismo kryptonite or simply God’s way of telling me I’m gay? Or maybe it’s the fact that I own the only business in town where I can go into a gay couple’s hotel room, tell them to take their pants off, and then ask them for their credit card — and like homosexuality, it’s all perfectly legal!
We’ve all experimented sexually or had someone else’s sexual agenda foisted upon us at some point in our lives. Usually it’s in college, where the circumstances are ripe: a naive youthful exuberance, curiosity, uncertainty, a seemingly endless search for your own identity, and lots of alcohol. Sexually, finding out what you don’t like is every bit as important as discovering what you do. That’s why I learned a lot about my own sexuality from TV, the movies and the music business.
As a small child I can vividly remember watching Liberace on TV at my grandmother’s house, having absolutely no idea or concept of homosexuality, but boy was he fascinating. As a teenager the stakes got higher, including seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the fantastically transsexual Dr. Frank N. Furter played by Tim Curry.
But the real learning started when I was lucky enough to be a roadie for Def Leppard in the mid/late ’80s. That’s where the tangible sexual discoveries were made.
One of my roadie mentors once told me that “a crew that lays together, stays together.” It was a homosexual innuendo meant more in jest than anything else. Then the legendary naked disco parties began. Imagine a kid from Aspen getting on a tour bus after work to find the front lounge filled with 10 middle-aged British men, all buck naked, dancing wildly to a disco hits tape they bought at a truck stop in Des Moines, Iowa. It all seemed like a perfectly normal way to blow off steam after a long day of work. He also told me, “Don’t knock it ‘till you tried it.” And try it I did.
For me, sexuality all boils down to who or what you want to have sex with. Looking back at all of the bizarre sexual experiences I’ve had in my lifetime, it’s incredible I’ve ended up as sexually ordinary as I have. This summer I was in town with a friend, and we were trying to figure out if someone was a man or a woman. He told me regardless, “It’s all the same when the lights are off.” It may very well be, but ultimately the lights always come back on — then what?
Recently I was caught off-guard by the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The reviews were terrible. I dutifully went as a fan of Queen and to appease my haunting fascination with the performer Freddie Mercury. I was blown away by the movie. If you’ve never seen footage from their live performances, seek it out. He makes a compelling case for being homosexual. There’s an oddly homoerotic element to seeing him prance around stage in the context of what we perceive as a largely heterosexual, macho classic-rock setting. Trying to reconcile what you’re hearing with what you’re seeing is a sexual contradiction. Never before have I seen a gay man so in command of a rock-n-roll performance.
And you know what Queen’s Aspen tie-in is? It’s my father, Lorenzo Semple Jr., who wrote the screenplay for the epic 1980 cult-classic movie “Flash Gordon,” right here in Aspen. Queen scored the movie’s title track “Flash!” and did the entire soundtrack. There’s even an Aspen shoutout: The main battle ship is named “Ajax.” There’s a Flash Gordon comic book around here somewhere my dad used for research. It’s autographed to my sister by Queen, not that she needs to know I have it.
As my gay-dar continues to spin out of control this week while skiing and walking around town, it’s nice to know we live in a town that embraces our own funky brand of lifestyle, including homosexuality. My thoughts have always been that every week is Gay Ski Week in Aspen; we only celebrate it once a year. Maybe I’ll bust out those rainbow suspenders again after all, even if it means getting hit on in the Silver Queen Gondola.