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The Gay Mafia or Velvet Mafia is a term used to describe the amalgamation of gay 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. "Lavender Mafia" has been used to describe perceived homosexual elements within the Catholic church.


Origin of the term

An early use of the term was when the English critic Kenneth Tynan proposed an article to Playboy editor A.C. Spectorsky in late 1967 on the "Homosexual Mafia" in the arts.[1] Spectorsky declined, although he admitted that "culture hounds were paying homage to faggotismo as they have never done before." Playboy would run a panel on homosexual issues in April 1971.

The term "Velvet Mafia" was first used by author Steven Gaines in an article in the entertainment section of the Sunday New York Daily News in the 1970s to describe the executives at a British film and record company. Gaines later used the phrase in a roman à clef about Studio 54 called The Club in reference to the influential gay crowd that became the club's habitués. This "mafia" included Calvin Klein, David Geffen, Barry Diller, Truman Capote, Halston, Andy Warhol, Sandy Gallen, and 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."[2]

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 article in 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."[3]

Ovitz, who 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.[3]

Gay Mafia in popular culture

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 sitcom Will & Grace revolved around the Gay Mafia, with singer Elton John as its boss. Details 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 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation entertainment director Scott Seomin.[4]

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?"

References to the Gay Mafia appeared at least three times in the animated series The Simpsons. In the Emmy award-winning episode "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 the episode "Jaws Wired Shut", there is a float during the gay pride parade titled "The Velvet Mafia", presenting them as a gay parody of a stereotypical Italian mafia. In another episode entitled "Bonfire of the Manatees" Homer mistakes the Springfield Mafia, led by Fat Tony, for the Gay Mafia, thinking they wanted to make a gay porn movie in his house.

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

Lavender Mafia

The Lavender Mafia has been used as well as the gay mafia to refer to an informal network of homosexual executives in the entertainment industry[5].

Lavender Mafia has also been used to refer to a faction within the leadership and clergy of the Catholic Church that protects and advocates for the acceptance of homosexuality within the Church and its culture.[6]. This has been popularised by the liberal novelist and Catholic priest Andrew Greeley in the clerical context.[citation needed]

Cozzens describes "a heterosexual exodus from the priesthood", and claims this is partially because of unrestrained gay subcultures in some seminaries, which puts potential heterosexual seminarians off from joining the priesthood.[7]. Randy Engel documents the history of homosexuality in the Catholic Church and the Vatican.[8] Michael S. Rose describes how discrimination operates against people who are heterosexual, including screening out genuine candidates with traditionalist views in favour of those with progressive views.[9].

Phillip Jenkins, in The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, looks at the focus on the gay or lavender mafia in the context of anti-Catholic prejudice in the USA; acknowledging that clerical homosexuality is a real issue, he says "its exploitation in anti-Church polemic is often so outrageous as to constitute blatant anti-Catholic polemic".[10] Writing in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd also believes that "the constant stress and exaggeration of clerical homosexuality harks back to a millennium-long tradition of anti-Catholicism, denouncing priests as unmanly, effeminate and therefore unworthy". [11]

See also


  1. ^ Kenneth Tynan Letters (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994)
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Lyman, Rick (July 3, 2002). "Ovitz Bitterly Bares Soul, And Film Industry Reacts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  4. ^ GLAAD:
  5. ^ George De Stefano, An offer we cant refuse: the mafia in the mind of America, New York, 2005
  6. ^ Gould, Peter (2005-11-28). "Vatican fuels gay clergy debate". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  7. ^ The Changing Face of the Priesthood
  8. ^ Abbott, Matt C. (2006-03-25). "Book details gay, pederastic clergy". RenewAmerica. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  9. ^ Johansen, Rev. Robert J (2002-05). "Goodbye, Good Men, by Michael S. Rose". Culture Wars. Retrieved 2010-01-07. 
  10. ^ Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Oxford University Press, 2003
  11. ^ Maureen Dowd, "Father knows best", New York Times, March 20, 2002

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