Friday, June 17, 2011

She came, she sang, she conquered!

Yes, Stefania Joanne Angelina Germanotta, otherwise known as Lady Gaga, conquered the hearts of thousands of fans—some say close to 1 million—who flocked in droves to Rome’s legendary Circus Maximus at the end of a very colorful European Gay Pride parade which snaked its way through the heart of the Eternal City.

With the (very) strong backing of the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, David H. Thorne, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who coined the now-famous phrase in defense of gay rights: “Human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights”), Italy’s gay associations were simply overjoyed and excited at the idea that this new icon and advocate of LGBTs (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) would make a quick yet very significant guest appearance at the conclusion of this all-important event for Italian gay rights.

The day began with not one but three U.S. ambassadors (to the Italian State, to the Vatican and to the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization) who gathered in Rome’s central Piazza Repubblica along with thousands of other participants for the start of the 4 p.m. parade. The parade itself, which consisted of 37 vehicles which transported a kaleidoscope of people and very loud sound systems, made its way through the main avenues of Rome up to and all the way around the Coliseum (was it just a coincidence as the ancient arena contained the following word on its façade: “Nerone” (Nero), perhaps a gay emperor or one who had discriminated against gays during his reign of Ancient Rome?) and then finally all the way to the nearby Circus Maximus for the final show starring Lady Gaga.

Organizers knew rather well the Italo-American's “eccentric” tastes in clothing and were somewhat worried that she would possibly come out clad as the pope. This would have been a big no-no in trying to sway the Vatican over to the side of gay rights. Well, she didn’t and with truly exquisite tastes and incredible charm, the 25 year-old Lady Gaga—deemed by Forbes magazine as now the world’s richest under-30 celebrity with 90 million dollars per year—strode out on stage (after a 2-hour entertaining performance by gay and lesbian dancers) wearing a superb gown designed by Donatella Versace, the sister of the late, great fashion designer Gianni who had been gunned down in the U.S. The outfit itself was part of a 1992 Versace collection. To add a certain effect to Lady Gaga’s own personal “halo” she also donned a green wig.

Her short but highly intense two-song show was preceded by a 15-minute speech in which she yelled out and enthusiastically demanded “A world that is equal for all, now!”. She also stated “Urbi et Orbi” (“To Rome And To The World”) that: “I’m here to defend love…This isn’t just a party or a peace demonstration, this is an event regarding the spirit of basic human rights”! The New York native also explained how her hometown back in 1969 saw the birth of gay rights and how still today countries such as Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Lebanon and other Middle East countries are continuing to ignore gay rights. Lady Gaga also added that: “Many people throughout the world are victims of discrimination. Many are isolated and have trouble finding work whereas others even commit suicide. I ask the world to consider the changes that are taking place. The social problems are real and have an effect on all humanity”! One part of her speech which really enthralled the immense crowd consisted of the following: “We’re here to defend love, let’s make a love revolution. I’m the daughter of diversity and every time that I face these topics I’m asked if I’m a lesbian. That’s not the issue: I’m someone who feels the moral obligation to make the world a better place….”!

Fans, who came from all over Italy and other parts of Europe and represented all walks of life: young, old, gay parents, heterosexual, etc. seemed to not only be mesmerized by what she said but were simply overjoyed at the idea of also seeing live (and for free!) what this correspondent has now dubbed “The new Madonna of the 21st century” in one of Rome’s most historic settings (n.b. in days of old the Circus Maximus would not only attract up to 300,000 spectators for the chariot races but after the races emperors would also indulge in some of the ladies that populated the nearby brothels!).

With her speech now over Lady Gaga took to the piano and without a back-up band sang à-la-MTV-Unplugged “Born This Way”, which has become a sort of “national anthem” for the gay community worldwide. This was followed by “The Edge Of Glory”. Yes, just two quick songs but they were indeed enough to capture the hearts of all those present. As this small but highly energetic performer got up from the piano she tore off the Versace gown and left her in a very long, tight and sensual black dress. Bidding “arrivederci” to Rome and to her adoring fans, she exited the stage and left the Eternal City aboard her private jet for nearby France (she arrived in Rome the very same day during the wee hours of the morning and stayed in a hotel near Piazza Repubblica).

With local organizers wearing a “Habemus (we have) Gaga, be proud” t-shirts, the hot and sunny day couldn’t have ended in a better way. And the Vatican? Well, it apparently lay rather low but was nevertheless not all that amused by all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the gay parade. But then again, how in light of recent cases of pedophilia among its priests around the world could Vatican officials possibly criticize the likes of Lady Gaga and her ever-growing army of devoted followers (the parade coincidentally made its way right in front of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, which is headed by a the former bishop of Boston whose very own dioceses was involved years ago in cases regarding pedophilia)?

On a final note, and what would Pope John Paul II have made of all this? Well, ironically the parade began right under the new statue of the old Polish pope, which is located directly in front of Rome’s main train station, Termini (many Romans are dismayed by the design of the statue and even the Vatican has distanced itself from the artist). Was it perhaps just a coincidence that thousands of LGTBs more than happily paraded right under the saddened look of the recently beatified pope?

The final icing on the cake comes from the June 4th Economist article on her leadership skills ("The Angel And The Monster", p,80) followed by a very interesting article in the Financial Times by Peter Aspden, "The School of Gaganomics"! Lady Gaga stands in 2011 alone to take home some 100 million dollars and quite possibly surpassing the likes of super-groups U2! Not bad for just a 25 year-old, eh?

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