It’s Christmastime and you’re probably having no trouble recalling that most famous reindeer of all thanks to the local mall playing his theme song ad nauseam. But do you recall back on the 1st Gay of Xmas when I said I was considering telling you about the origins of some of our more beloved Christmas carols? No? Well I did. Even if I haven’t yet. And while the obvious choice would be to remind you that Silent Night and Crystal Night are not the same thing (the latter was neither holy nor very silent despite both being rather festive for German Christians) instead I’m gonna bow to the gods of popularity. And Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer will finally quit playing in your head. You can thank me later. Preferably with a cash donation.
So while I’m taxing your brain cells, do you know what the last Christmas/holiday song to reach No. 1 on any US singles record chart was? How about the only Christmas song to win three Grammy Awards? The only Christmas record to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart? The third best all-time most downloaded Christmas/holiday digital single? The only Christmas song to be used in a Rocky movie? No? Let me give you a hint:
Yeppers, The Chipmunk Song (aka Christmas Don’t Be Late) holds all of those records as well as Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. (a.k.a. David Seville) who wrote and sung all the voices being the only composer of a Christmas song to appear standing next to Alfred Hitchcock in one of his famous signature cameo appearances in one of his own movies. But as not-so-illustrious as Bagdasarian’s career was, the true stars of this holiday classic are the chipmunks: Simon, Theodore, and the trouble-making Alvin, whose sole desire for a Christmas present is a hula hoop.
Now before I get to the heart of the matter of this holiday tale, let me remind you of the song’s opening lyrics. Just so that you’ll have a new Xmas ditty playing in your head well into the new year:
Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We’ve been good, but we can’t last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop!
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don’t be late.
So you’re probably wondering what The Chipmunk Song has to do with donning your gay apparel. Other than that like Winnie The Pooh the Chipmunks often appeared naked from the waist down and should also be banned as was that silly old bear recently in Poland for his “dubious sexuality” and “inappropriate” dress. And the answer is it’s Lucille Ball’s fault. Or at least the fault of the gay news website Towelroad, which recently tried to claim Lucy as a gay icon. Granted, I never loved Lucy much anyway, but trying to pin the gay icon label on the comedian just because she was a “comic victim” whose “kooky ideas that always seem to backfire” “inspired generations of gay men” is pure rubbish. ‘Cuz if there ever was a beloved comedic figure known for wacky schemes destined to go wrong, it’s Alvin. And while he never over-dosed on downers like Judy, when it comes to gay icons Alvin and the Chipmunks deserve their due.
Let’s start with The Chipmunks being the original boy band, before the group’s name changed from “The Chipmunks” to “Alvin and the Chipmunks” ala The Supremes being shuttled aside in favor of Diana Ross And The Supremes. And while all Lucy is known for is screeching her husband’s name while breaking into tears, Alvin once boasted the Chipmunks were “bigger than Mickey Mouse”, inspiring John Lennon – in a show of one upmanship – to claim the Beatles were more famous than Jesus. Alvin’s enthusiasm was boundless and his despair bottomless. While Lucy’s scattered brain approach to life was always good for a laugh, impulsive, charming, and musical, Alvin referred to his often illogical or crazy plans as “challenging the ordinary”. And if that’s not the attitude that inspired generations of gay men, I don’t know what is. Then there’s the whole Chipettes thingy, which as far as I’m concerned was just the boys performing in drag.
By the way, did you know Amy Poehler played the youngest sister of the Chipettes, Eleanor? You really need to brush up on your Alvin & The Chipmunks trivia or you’ll be turned away at next year’s Gay Pride Parade. Even if you are wearing your tiara.
And it wasn’t just Alvin who paved the way for gay men who came after him. Nerdy brother Simon’s dry sense of humor and keen wit is the stuff that camp was made of. And shy, loving, sensitive, chubby, gullible, trusting, and naive brother Theodore was the square peg trying to fit in a round hole that every budding gay man could identify with. And he was probably gay. ‘Cuz only a gay chipmunk would demand to be called Theodore instead of Teddy.
Sure, if it wasn’t for Lucy I would never have had that gay teenage crush on Desi Arnaz Jr., but that was more about raging hormones than self-identity. Alvin, on the other hand, taught me the importance of being true to yourself. No matter what trouble it caused you. Not to mention how to stuff more in my cheeks than ever seemed possible. So this Christmas raise your glass in a toast to Alvin, the gay icon. Like you need an excuse to have another drink. And if anyone asks, tell ’em you want a hula hoop for Christmas. It’s more subtle than saying that you are a friend of Dorothy, and it won’t be just the guys over the age of sixty who will get your drift.