ON November 24th the Religion of Antinous celebrates the outrageous life of St. Freddie Mercury.
St. Freddie Mercury whose death from AIDS on this date in 1991 shocked the world, was a courageous performer whose gayness, while not always stated, was a visible part of his persona. He served as an inspiration for millions of gay men, particularly those who, like him, fight ethnic prejudice every day of their lives.
St. Freddie, who was of Indian Parsi descent, and who was born on the island of Zanzibar and grew up in India, has been referred to as "Britain's first Asian rock star."
Like all great showbiz artists, St. Freddie was acutely aware of his public image and went to great lengths to cultivate the persona of Freddie Mercury -- and to hide any trace of the little Parsi boy named Farrokh Bulsara. Freddie Mercury -- or rather the showbiz image called Freddie Mercury -- was beyond all definitions of ethnic origin, or sexual orientation or political affiliation. Not surprisingly, many people were confused and sometimes irritated by the image.
People criticized him for "hiding" his ethnic background. But as a friend told an interviewer after Freddie's death, "[Farrokh] Bulsara was a name he had buried.
He never wanted to talk about any period in his life before he became Freddie Mercury, and everything about Freddie Mercury was a self-constructed thing."
People also criticized him for not "coming out" publicly. But again, Freddie Mercury (the showbiz image) was beyond gender limitations.
In fact, Mercury referred to himself as "gay" in a 1974 interview with NME magazine. He was frequently spotted at the cruisiest gay bars across Europe, the UK and America. On the other hand, he would often distance himself from partner Jim Hutton during public events in the 1980s.
Freddie Mercury (the rock icon) was too big to be contained in one gender mold.
He was diagnosed with HIV in 1987. Everyone knew he was sick and everyone surmised the reason. But Freddie Mercury (the image) could never die.
And so it was, that Freddie Mercury never acknowledged his illness until November 23, 1991, when a tersely worded statement was issued announcing that he had AIDS.
A few hours later, he was dead. At the age of 45.
Although he cultivated a very flamboyant stage personality, several sources (including people of my own acquaintance who knew him "intimately") refer to Mercury as having been very shy in person. He also granted very few interviews. Mercury once said of himself: "When I'm performing I'm an extrovert, yet inside I'm a completely different man."
One man was an Indian Parsi kid called Farrokh Bulsara who had been born in Zanzibar.
The other man was FREDDIE MERCURY:
Farrokh Bulsara died on November 23, 1991.
Freddie Mercury will live forever.
The Religion of Antinous honors Freddie Mercury as a Saint of Antinous because he embodies the artistic genius and the flamboyant courage that inspires each of us to strive to be a "star". St. Freddie Mercury admonishes us to strip off the guise of conventionality and the put on our "star" outfits and to take the stage of life. He teaches us to live each day as if it is forever.