The history of the Velvet Mafia

7 Feb

Whether you’ve heard it called the Velvet mafia or the Gay Mafia. by now you have heard of it. Like many things in the LGBT world there is always speculation as to what the Velvet Mafia really is and how it was formed. Some ideas are rather devious in nature, others are pretty much on the money, and a few mix the two sides up for a half truth view of sorts. Here however you will be introduced to a little bit of each and left to decide what is the truth concerning the Velvet Mafia and its history using your own best judgement.

For starters let’s dispel a few myths so the field is level when we begin looking into the Velvet mafia. The first time anything was actually recorded on tape or print about such an organization even possibly existing was in 1967 when Kenneth Tynan alluded to “faggotisimo” taking over the art world in a Playboy interview. He didn’t actually use the term Velvet Mafia, but rather Homosexual Mafia which is the same save the semantics. The term Velvet Mafia is actually credited as being coined by New York Times writer Steven Gaines in the early to mid 1970’s. He felt it was a slightly more elegant term to use to refer to a group of powerful gay men that frequented Studio 54 in New York City.

Who is the gay Mafia? Some would say it is only very rich and powerful gay men while some say lesbians and even some transgender persons have wormed their way in. Others say it is a global phenomena in which any LGBT person with an agenda for gay rights is a member. As there is no headquarters or official registration page who is to know? The truth be told, the people that were originally cited as the Velvet Mafia were David Geffen, Calvin Klein, Truman Capote, Barry Diller, Andy Warhol, Jann Wenner, Sandy Gallen, and Halston. This was the core group of people that frequented Studio 54. Over the years though many more were added to the list including Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen Degeneress, and basically anyone that was gay and garnered some level of success.

Over the years references to the Velvet Mafia became more widespread. Many were in jest for comedic value as was evidenced by spoofs on The Simpsons, Will and Grace where Elton John portrayed “The Don.” Even Robin Williams and other stand up comedians got in on the joke. For the most part that is all it has ever been. The key phrase however is “for the most part” as somee believe it is a real organized movement designed to elevate some and destroy others.

It wasn’t just Tynan all those years ago that felt this, Former power-broker and agent Michael Ovitz felt the Velvet Mafia was out to destroy him. He was serious. In a 2002 interview with Vanity Fair he actually said that a group of gay men had conspired to ensure he would never work in Hollywood again. While Ovitz did make some insensitive remarks in reference to a few gay people on the record it certainly didn’t seem to be enough to unite a group of people to destroy him. Some argue his career was on the decline as an agent already because he failed to add new more in demand clients to his stable. Which seems more logical to you?

At this point we have established there is no real Velvet or Gay Mafia. It was simply a term to describe a group of gay friends that enjoyed the party lifestyle on New York City. Or is it? Some accept that while that may be the true origin that the Velvet mafia actually did spring into existence from that and that they are trying to push an agenda of gay rights and acceptance on a global scale. Some have said that the first step was to infiltrate pop culture and push gay centered entertainers and themes until people finally submitted to it as “normal.” Some say that the rise of Rosie, Ellen, and such talk shows have proved that. Not to be outdone some even say American Idol is aimed at trying to “recruit” youngsters by pushing gay contestants. There are even those that say the Velvet mafia is looking to take over politics because some LGBT persons now hold elected and appointed positions in government.

Is there any truth to all that? Nobody will ever be able to 100% say yes or no. You can’t prove or disprove something like this. All it takes is two gay people together and an active imagination for such myths to be born. Like so many other things this seems like a prime example of how something innocent has been turned into a scapegoat for those who simply need someone to place the blame for their own failures or dislikes on. The Velvet Mafia, Gay Mafia, or “Mauve hand” as Robin Williams jokingly called it is a myth that lives because people need something, someone, to blame. That is it, or is it? I am saying it is nothing more than a fantasy, but ultmately you have to decide for yourself.

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