December 31, 2014 at 12:00 pm EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Pop culture countdown 2014
gayest moments, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo of Sam Smith courtesy Bigstock; photo of Laverne Cox by Melissa Hamburg; production photo of Jonathan Groff from ‘The Normal Heart’ courtesy HBO; Washington Blade photo of Ellen DeGeneres by Michael Key)

Here is our countdown of the entertainment world’s Top 10 gayest moments of the year:

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Sam Smith is nominated for six Grammys.

 

10. Citing powerhouse divas such as Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and more as his influences, it was no huge surprise when British singer Sam Smith came out to E! in May. Known for his work on Disclosure’s “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” the breakout star has had the kind of career aspiring pop singers dream of: his debut studio album “In the Lonely Hour” was an international smash. Last month he found out he’s up for six Grammys. His single “Stay With Me” hit the top 10 in 10 countries.

9. Though stylistically they couldn’t be more diverse, two male country singers came out last year. “What Mattered Most” singer Ty Herndon, 52, a veteran whose first album debuted in 1995, came out in November in a People magazine exclusive in which he referred to himself as an “out, proud and happy gay man.” He’s been married twice previously to women but said he’s been in a relationship with a man in recent years. Former child star Billy Gilman, now 26, rose to fame with his debut album “One Voice,” released in 2000 when he was just 12. Though not nearly as active in recent years — his last album was in 2006 though he had several singles since then — Gilman came out in a video post in November and said he’s gay and is dating.

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Ellen DeGeneres’s 2014 Oscars selfie is said to be the most re-Tweeted photo ever. (Image courtesy Twitter)

8. Though it drew mixed reviews, Ellen DeGeneres returned — in one of pop culture’s most demanding and thankless jobs — to host the 86th annual Academy Awards in March, her second time at the helm of filmdom’s biggest night. Among her more memorable moments were a “selfie” taken with Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Meryl Streep and several others on the star-studded front row, aping another Hollywood lesbian (the late Billie Burke) when she strode onstage in the famous Glinda gown from “The Wizard of Oz” and, in a rare moment of edgier comedy, suggesting Liza Minnelli, there with her sibs for an “Oz” tribute, was actually a drag queen. Though just slightly miffed, Liza said later she found the joke a little “mean.” “Gravity” was the evening’s big winner but Ellen deserves some of the kudos — it was the most-watched Oscars since 2000.

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Neil Patrick Harris (Photo by Angela George; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

7. It couldn’t have been a bigger or better year for red-hot out jack-of-all-trades Neil Patrick Harris. Not only did he win yet another Emmy for hosting the Tonys this year, he also won a Tony for his lauded turn in the gender-bending “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. He had a deliciously creepy role as Desi in the box office smash movie thriller “Gone Girl,” released his own “choose-your-own-adventure”-type memoir, wed long-time partner David Burtka (with whom he has two kids) in September, wrapped a groundbreaking run playing straight on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and agreed to host the Academy Awards in February. The 41-year-old is widely considered the most successful out actor on the scene today.

6. If Neil Patrick Harris is the most high-profile gay actor, Laverne Cox is undoubtedly the most high-profile transgender actress in Hollywood. Emmy nominated for her role as Sophia on the Netflix smash “Orange is the New Black,” Cox has used her platform to raise awareness of trans issues. The documentary “Laverne Cox Presents: the T Word” aired on MTV and Logo in October. In June, she made history as the first trans person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. In January, Cox had the world’s attention when a clip of her answering a personal question from a clueless Katie Couric was widely shared on social media saying discussions of “transition and surgery objectifies trans people.” Cox told the Blade in October she credits social media with the boon in trans visibility. “[It’s] really given the trans community a platform and a voice and a support that has just reverberated in a different way,” she said.

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Joan Rivers died at age 81. (Photo by David Shankbone; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

5. The gay community suffered a bitter blow when one of its all-time favorites, legendary comedian Joan Rivers, died of cardiac arrest at age 81 during an outpatient throat procedure. She died Sept. 4 after several days in a medically induced coma. Though initially known as a regular on “The Tonight Show” in the ‘60s with Johnny Carson and later her own “Late Show with Joan Rivers,” it was her biting stand-up celebrity-skewering wit and fashion critiques on the red carpets of major award shows that endeared her to a legion of gay fans. In 2013 she declared herself “Queen of the gays” (nobody argued) and she was a long-time advocate of gay causes. “I remember when I was working at the Duplex in Greenwich Village in New York at the beginning of my career,” she told the Advocate, “and the only ones who would laugh at my jokes were the gay guys. I think if I had started out in straight clubs and bars, I never would’ve gotten anywhere.”

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in ‘Imitation Game.’ (Photo courtesy Weinstein Co.)

4. With a Rotten Tomatoes 88 percent positive index, a Time magazine cover story and more than $19 million in box office before it went into wide release in the U.S. (on Christmas Day), “The Imitation Game” was among 2014’s highest profile gay-themed releases. The biopic tells of the late Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), the gay British WWII-era codebreaker famous for his intellectual brilliance but who had a tragic downfall in an era grossly ignorant of gay rights. Already a critical darling, the film has five nominations pending at the 72nd annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11.

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Jonathan Groff stars in HBO’s ‘Looking,’ which returns Jan. 11. (Photo by Mercia Oliveira; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

3. Although nothing new, LGBT themes continue to have wide representation on new TV shows. “Looking,” an HBO comedy/drama, gained attention for its frank portrayals of the lives of three gay men living in San Francisco. Out actor Jonathan Groff stars as Patrick, a video game designer. The show, which has drawn mixed reviews, returns for a second season Jan. 11. “Transparent,” though initially unveiled in February, debuted its full 10-episode season run in September. Already renewed for a second season, it tells of Mort/Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), a retired professor who comes out as transgender to her family. It’s available through amazon.com.

2. Straight actor Jared Leto culminated an impressive award show streak that included a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award and many more, with an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for playing Rayon, a trans woman with HIV who helps Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) in his quest to smuggle unapproved AIDS drugs into the country circa 1985. Leto, returning to movies after a five-year hiatus, paid homage to “the 36 million who have lost the battle to AIDS and to those of you who have ever felt injustice for who you are or who you love — tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you.”

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HBO’s ‘Normal Heart’ is nominated for three Golden Globes. (Photo by Jojo Whilden, courtesy HBO)

1. Though earlier efforts languished for various reasons, in May, Larry Kramer’s landmark 1985 play “The Normal Heart” debuted in film version in a star-studded, Ryan Murphy-directed version starring Mark Ruffalo, Jonathan Groff, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts and more. The blistering work, which tells of a group of gay New York men in the summer of 1981 as AIDS starts its toll, won an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie in August. Three Golden Globe nominations are pending. Rolling Stone called it “a blunt instrument that is also poetic and profound.” It joins “The Band Played On” and “Angels in America” as among the best AIDS-themed works.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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