Check out this very insightful article, written by Michelangelo Signorile for the Advocate. It's a long but worthwhile read. It dates back to 1999, before Hillary graced the U.S. Senate with her presence, but much of it remains true today.
Some highlights, with a few comments from me:
"[Ethel] Merman, [Bette] Davis, and [Joan] Crawford are, of course, among a slew of female Hollywood legends who have become icons for gay men and a great many lesbians. They often wore the 'battle-ax' label like a badge of courage, in their roles on-screen and in their offscreen lives as well. Battle-axes threaten straight men in a big way, thus empowering everyone else."
"And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton has always stirred up a lot of excitement in the lesbian and gay community—particularly now in New York State, where she has all but announced that she will run for an open U.S. Senate seat next year...."
And run she did -- twice, and successfully.
"The most obvious indication of her gay icon status is the fact that in informal settings gay men and lesbians rarely use [then] first lady’s last name when referring to her—not the case with Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush. Like Jackie O—and like Barbra, Liza, Diana, and many other (but not all) gay icons—her first name says it all: Hillary."
"The connection is as much about empathy as it is about star power and glamour. Just as Cher recently made a comeback as a gay icon by belting out a disco tune about the man who done her wrong, Hillary, for obvious reasons, pushes a similar button in many lesbians and gay men. “All things considered, she projects an independent intelligence to lesbian voters, who tend to value these qualities, and an ‘I will survive’ fortitude that gay men have clicked with back to Judy Garland,” observes Sarah Pettit, openly lesbian arts and entertainment editor at Newsweek."
So true. Consider all that HRC has survived, enumerated back in December in Mark Leibovich's New York Times article:
'She has seemingly spent much of her waking life weathering public storms, each known by shorthand: Gennifer, Paula, Monica, Cookies and Teas, Travelgate, Filegate, Pardongate, Troopergate, Whitewater, Cattle Futures, Impeachment.'
Add the "2008 Iowa Caucus" to the list of storms weathered. Just when it looked like her presidential bid was finished, Hillary pulled out a stunning victory in New Hampshire, giving new life to her candidacy after the Iowa troubles.
Back to Signorile's article:
[Despite her early stumbles during her husband's presidency,] many of us were willing to give her another chance, particularly since she was willing to give us several glorious makeovers. Hillary learned the secret that today’s gay icons have long known: In the fast and media-mad 1990s, one has to be a quick-change artist, à la Madonna, constantly reinventing oneself, particularly when the previous incarnation grows stale or isn’t working.
I've also compared Hillary to Madonna (a conclusion I reached independently of Signorile, whose piece I didn't read until tonight).
[A]lmost overnight, Hillary turned into the dutiful, very social wife of a powerful man—the Grace Kelly routine—someone who knew her place as well as her place settings. But she seemed to be doing it with a wink and a nudge, as if she wanted some of us to know that it was part of a grander, meticulous plan. It was something the right wing continually pointed out, and in the end they were right because, well, now she’s running for the U.S. Senate.
That was written back in 1999. Now, of course, she's hunting bigger game.
Even if short on natural beauty, Hillary transformed her physical appearance as she became more confident: Think Bette Davis in Now, Voyager, the dowdy intellectual evolving into the dazzling and cosmopolitan woman posing for Vogue. Her life has certainly had its share of drama, as if she were Julia Roberts during her thriller period, starring in a succession of films with exciting and intriguing titles: Filegate, Whitewater, It Takes A Village.
In each one she gave us an Oscar-worthy performance, reciting lines that will always be remembered: “I’m not sitting here as some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette”; “Don’t do it until you’re 21, and don’t tell me about it”; “This vast right-wing conspiracy… has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.” (The envelope, please!)....
It is these grand diva performances that have many gay men and lesbians ready to renew Hillary’s contract and send her back to Washington even after Bill Clinton loses his status as her above-the-title costar.
Now, of course, we can add The Breakdown to the long list of Hillary's Oscar moments and "grand diva performances" -- and the one with the most profound effect upon her political fortunes.
And who could forget Hillary’s own All About Eve? During the Monica Lewinsky affair, she gave perhaps her greatest comeback performance, not unlike Ms. Davis (for whom the 1950 film was a comeback of her own). Monica was the conniving young upstart, the hidden menace slowly moving in on her territory. But Hillary had seen Monica Lewinskys come and go; they are a dime a dozen in Washington as well as Hollywood. She persevered and used the public’s sympathy and her first-lady status to her advantage, garnering enormous support from her adoring fans.
Not surprisingly, I love this comparison. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is my favorite character in All About Eve, my all-time favorite film.
Here is Signorile's conclusion. Replace "Capitol Hill" with "the White House," and "Senate chamber" with "Oval Office," and you have prose that could have been written today:
[M]aybe what Capitol Hill needs right now more than anything is a stylish and gritty Hollywood-style “battle-ax,” someone who can be cut-throat and sweet at the same time—an industrious Joan Crawford for the new millennium who will march into the Senate chamber and tell the crotchety old guys that this is not her first time at the rodeo....
Viva la diva!
Hillary: Viva la diva! [The Advocate]