The Fire Island outpost of Oak, the New York boutique frequented by stylish gay men, sells a T-shirt bearing the words “New York 1987.” Seth Weissman, the young co-owner of the Fire Island Pines, wore the shirt on a recent Saturday night and was bombarded with one repeated question: What did “New York 1987” mean? “It’s the year I was born!” he told one friend. (Not quite—the boyish Mr. Weissman graduated Wharton in 2005.)
Turns out the phrase is a reference to the title card of Jennie Livingston’s legendary 1991 documentary, Paris Is Burning. The film, for those—like Mr. Weissman—who need a refresher, is a seminal tract on a very specific sort of gay power. It follows a number of competitors through a series of underground drag balls in Harlem—battles for supremacy in which one-upsmanship is achieved through a gaze, a flawlessly executed pose and the ability to, as they put it, “throw shade.”
One competitive event shown in the film, known as “Executive Realness,” involves an elaborate pantomime of corporate life with contestants outfitted in business suits and swinging briefcases. “The fact that you are not an executive is merely because of the social standing of life,” one aspirant explains. This is, emphatically, gay power of an older vintage, power conjured through artifice and self-invention, by men defining themselves at an oblique angle to the society at large.
Complete article at Observer : http://bit.ly/iyIwqr