Winnetka's Roy Scherer Jr was renamed and remade by a Hollywood gay impresario and total mess whom you can read about in dastardly detail in The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson. Although in his first movie, Fighter Squadron, the 6'5" hunk needed 38 takes to nail his only spoken line, with coaching he became an affable, natural superstar. He reached a new high with Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession in 1954 and the next year barely dodged certain doom: The tabloid Confidential threatened to report his secret gay affairs. Instead, Willson gave them dirt on two of his other, less lucrative clients, Rory Calhoun (prison stint) and Tab Hunter (arrested at a gay party five years earlier), and shoehorned Hudson into a sham marriage with his secretary. In 1956, Hudson and fellow closet case James Dean both earned Oscar nominations for Giant opposite Elizabeth Taylor, who would 29 years later be galvanized by Hudson's death to force an unwilling nation to confront AIDS. As much as his public acknowledgement finally "gave a face" to the disease that had already killed thousands, it also fueled a panicked distrust of all gay men because he had hidden his status from his sex partners like Marc Christian and his kissing co-stars like Linda Evans. Succumbing just before he turned 60, he lives on in celluloid glory and in the pages of his friend Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City as the virile icon Blank Blank.
Like any other future drag star born in 1960, RuPaul Andre Charles spent his childhood in San Diego lipsynching Supremes songs, being called names, avoiding sports, and winning the two most important prizes in junior high: Best Dancer and Best Afro. High school didn't go as well (he was expelled for not attending), until he moved to Atlanta with his brother and sister-in-law at sixteen. He began to blossom, thanks largely to drama class, though his attendance in every other subject was still a problem. Eventually he dropped out, got his GED, started community college, and quit. When he was twenty-two he appeared on the American Music Show with two girls as RuPaul and the U-Hauls. When he was thirty-two, the nation was coming down from twelve years of Reagan-Bush, grunge was peaking, and RuPaul put on her best blond wig, her brightest jewels, her fiercest heels, and taught the whole world to sing, "Sashay, chante!" "Work it, girl!" and "You better work!"
Oddly, that hit, Supermodel, only reached #45 on the pop charts, but it remained in heavy rotation on MTV forever and became a cultural moment. Whereas most drag representations before her were catty and bitchy, RuPaul's message was love everybody; everybody, love! Subsequent singles milked the same bouncy vibe but failed to catch on with the masses, though Back to my Roots is an essential history of black hairstyles in three danceable minutes. Adding to her list of drag queen firsts, RuPaul became the face of MAC cosmetics and sang a duet with Elton John. She co-hosted KTU's popular morning show for two years and hosted her own tv show on VH1. Her super popular RuPaul's Drag Race begins its fifth season on January 28, 2013.