To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘Stay’ – Shakespears Sister
by Scott De Buitléir
When ‘Stay’ by Shakespears Sister was released in 1992, it shot up to Number 1 in the music charts in the UK, as well as in Sweden and Ireland. At that time, I was a month away from my fourth birthday, but I remember how I felt watching the music video so clearly. A love in danger of being lost, a bare-chested man lying unconscious, and an utterly fabulous Death trying to take the young girl’s man away from her. It was like the precursor to Desperate Housewives … or Charmed, I can’t tell which.
The guy in the video was quite possibly the first half-naked man I noticed on television, although Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ certainly caught my attention some three years later. Then still only a seven year old, I was beginning to notice that it was definitely guys I noticed more than girls. Still, I remember being fascinated by the patient in the otherworldly room in the ‘Stay’ video, feeling so sorry for him and wanting him to come back to life just as much as the singer, his girlfriend. I pictured myself singing for him to come back, just as she was. When he did at the end, I wanted to hug him just as she did. At that point, I didn’t know that such a feeling would be so controversial to some people.
Looking back at the video some 21 years later, I realise that the song and the video was camp and artistically ‘queer’ in equal measures, solely because of singer Siobhán Fahey playing a sequined, eccentric and melodramatic Death character, with a crown of thorns thrown in for good measure. She fights with the girlfriend for her lover’s soul, and when Death gives up, she rolls her eyes in a fashion that must have inspired countless drag artists around Europe. I was absolutely terrified of Death in this video, the alarm in me building with each step she took down the stairs. Now that I think about it, I sometimes react the same way with some drag queens, too.
Retrospectively, my fascination with ‘Stay’ and its video was possibly the first little hint that I was gay, though I was far too young to put a meaningful label on my reaction. In fairness, I never realised just how camp the video actually was until I looked back at it as inspiration for this piece, but maybe that was just a trait of the ’90s …