I must confess, I love myspace. It's the only place I can think of where one can form a social network that includes studly muscle bears, reigning monarchy, dead celebrities, fictional television personalities, 80's rock groups, and the odd animated figure or two. In other words, it is an exact replica of gay life.
So while surfing the music sites I stumbled across a site for Josie Cotton. From the picture, it looked like THE Josie Cotton but all of the songs were unfamiliar to me and there was no mention of her BIG hit.
The year was 1982. I was making my first trip to LA as an adult, travelling with my college buddy Darren. We flew out to spend a week with his brother who had moved to LA the previous year. It was my pre-graduation gift to myself, and I was looking to get as far away from my Michigan roots as possible. I had spent the last year scratching at the closet door but in southern lower Michigan, everything was very clandestine. The few people I encountered seemed to be living secret lives. One guy I met explained how he was afraid to plant flowers in front of his house, because the neighbors might figure it out. Please, Mary- they weren't blind. The prospect of life there was not very affirming.
All that seemed to change in Los Angeles with the crank of a radio knob. Darren's brother Steve loaned us his 1972 Buick Skylark, which he had brought with him from Michigan for unknown reasons. It was the only rusty car I had seen in LA, a source of no small embarrassment in the land of sparkling clean 380SL's. But it had four relatively matched wheels, and even better, it had a radio. Unknown to me, Steve had the radio station preset to KROQ. The first day, I turned it on and there was Rodney on the Rock, playing a song I had never heard- it was called "Johnny, Are You Queer", by an artist named Josie Cotton. There it was, out loud for everyone to hear, proof that there were gay people in the world. At least that is what it said to me.
I found her album, Convertible Music, at Tower Records on Sunset. She was reclined on the seat of a sexy red 63 Thunderbird wearing kicky black and white checked shoes. It was so eighties-in-LA that I could scream. I bought it on the spot and packed it into my luggage, along with the revelation that I wasn't the only one out there. I heard the song many times that week. I never moved the radio knob past KROQ.
My next glimpse of Josie was in the movie "Valley Girl", in a sexy black skirt with racing cars on it singing "Johnny" in the high school prom scene. It was the bomb. From there, I didn't seem to hear much about Josie but I kept the album in my collection.
Fast forward to 2007. I dropped her a note on myspace asking if she was the same Josie and got a very nice personal reply that indeed she was, along with a link to a blog about the history of the song. We exchanged a few more emails and I asked if she could possibly post the song, because of its historical significance. Apparently a lot of people were asking, because only about a week later, I got a bulletin that she had posted "Johnny, Are You Queer" on her myspace. I immediately linked it to my page. Check it out at www.myspace.com/josiecottondisastermusic .
Thanks, Josie, for posting it. And for all it meant to a confused yet deeply fabulous 22 year old in the middle of midwestern straight purgatory. It was enormously helpful to me all those years ago.
And yes, this Johnny is Queer.