Arts & Icons

All-Time Best Celebrity Quotes

Richard Burnett
Rufus Wainwright

To kick off 2017, a look back at some of the most entertaining celebrity quotes from my interviews in this column over the past decade.

Jean-Paul Gauthier“Condoms are the most beautiful clothes to wear. AIDS affected a lot my entourage, close friends, coworkers and my partner who died from it in 1990. I started being involved with AmFar in 1992 when I did a benefit fashion show in L.A to fight against this terrible disease. People need to be educated about safer sex. Because even if you can take medications and (can) control it, you still cannot cure it. So awareness is very important.” – French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier (August 2011)
“For any comic, doing The Tonight Show is huge. For me, it was a delicious way of proving people wrong. I was urged by different managers to drop the gay content of my act. They said it would prevent me from having a career. I knew other comedians who were gay but afraid to come out due to homophobia in the industry and in general. I’m proud that I was brave, and when I learn I’ve inspired someone else to be brave, I pat myself on the back.” – Trailblazing stand-up comedian Bob Smith (November 2016)
“The lesbian chic era was a very exciting time. Now that I look back upon it – we never knew it at the time, we were just scared and trying to make it in the entertainment business – at the time there were pool parties at my house with Rosie and Ellen and kd and all of us were hanging out. And we talked about what it might be like if we all came out. We were (already) so out within the industry and to all our friends that it just made sense that we would cross the line. We did. And each time we did it made us all reexamine our lives. In doing so, each of us united a whole community and hopefully gave other gays the strength to come out. Because that’s what changes the world, our coming out.” – Rock star Melissa Etheridge (September 2015)
“I’m flattered when people call me a living legend but I’m so over me.” – 1980s Canadian pop icon Carole Pope (December 2011)
“When I’ve done drag I’ve always rejected terms like female impersonator because that’s not what I’m doing. As for drag queens being bitchy, they’re just being themselves! If I am parodying anything at all, it is the tools our society expects women to use to express their femininity. What I’m really doing is taking those tools – make-up, big hair and sequins – that our society decided women have to use and that men are not allowed to use.” – Irish drag queen Panti Bliss (March 2015)
“Where they need Pride parades isn’t in Provincetown and San Francisco, it’s in communities that are the most Republican and most restrictive. To me, every day is Pride. I think heterosexuals should march in Provincetown because they are the minority! Sometimes I like to go to straight bars, to feel like an outsider.” – Filmmaker John Waters (September 2016)
“I’m sure Montreal’s gay scene is treacherous today, it’s always been. I remember it was pretty down and dirty, especially since, with AIDS, New York kind of shut down. But Montreal remained pretty decadent and open. So I would come up (to Montreal) from New York to continue the lascivious fun!” – Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright (June 2016)
“The best advice I ever got in terms of losing a parent – especially losing your mother – is that essentially your mother gives birth to you twice: once when you are born, and once when she dies. Anne-Marie McDonald She gives birth to you again. That’s the best way I can explain it. It’s just a whole new world. There’s always the sadness, but there is also a whole new perspective. That’s life continuing.” – Singer-songwriter  Rufus Wainwright (June 2016)
“I feel like a minority in my own home now. I talk about it a lot in my act, it’s just odd because I’m this strong black woman with historically black roots and all, I went to a historically black college and now I have a white wife and two white kids. I realize when I look around, I wonder, ‘How did all these white people end up in my house? What the hell did I do!’ Then again, my kids are so colour blind, you realize that’s how we’re supposed to be. When they are born, kids look at people as people. They don’t categorize like we do. I’m trying not to put my crap on them. It’s kind of hard because I see shit in the world. But I am learning a lot from my kids.” – Stand-up comedian Wanda Sykes (July 2015)
“We were doing a revival of Hosanna at Place des Arts in 1975 and this English CBC reporter surprised me by asking asked me, ‘By the way, are you gay?’ So, just to brag, I replied, ‘Yes, by the way, I am!’ It was on TV that night. The next morning I got phone calls saying, ‘If you said it in English, then you have to say it on French TV tonight!’ So I went on live TV. You know, if I was a singer, I’d ask myself, ‘Should I come out?’ Seducing audiences is not part of my life, my job. But it is for actors and singers. Less now, but in the 1970s I would never have come out. But I did. Strange thing was after I came out everybody on the streets, it didn’t matter to them. They kept on waving and saying hello to me.” – Quebec literary icon Michel Tremblay (March 2010)
Larry“I had the mixed blessing of being away at boarding school at 11-years-old, after that I was accepted at the University of North Carolina at the age of 14, then I went directly from there to Juilliard. So I was away from home from the age of 11 and never went back. That’s been wonderful because I have had the support of my family but it also meant I could explore my own sexuality. I didn’t have to come out in the same way that a great many people do. Besides, I came from a home of radical free-thinking people. There was no question in my mind that I would be accepted.” – Musical prodigy and concert-hall organist Cameron Carpenter (January 2016)
“The concept of coming out is a very dangerous one because it is not the most in-depth thing. It’s like a firecracker that goes off. Then what happens afterwards? Sexuality and identity have been the ingredients of my music and lyrics since the beginning. It was always there. It’s just that my figuring out was done in a different way and under a lot of pressure, a lot of negative pressure, which was the worst possible thing that could be done. Developing a sense of candidness takes time. I’m really happy that I (now) have the freedom to deal with the concept of sexuality, labels and breaking those preconceptions and how you are supposed to deal with it.”  – British pop star Mika (June 2015)
“When I came out I had to deal with racism in Canada, and with the hierarchy of beauty in the gay bars. There is always a hierarchy no matter where you are or where you go. When I came out (in the early 1980s) you could still discriminate against gay people. AIDS was a big issue, so we all developed strong survivor instincts. I also think in our early twenties that identity is important to you: ‘Who am I?’ You are released from your home, your family, the rigidness of your high school years. All of that has been cut from you. So as an intelligent young person you ask yourself the question. I admire that in young people. Those who don’t deal with this angst I think are dull people. But I never thought about my gay identity as such – I just lived it. I think how you identify first depends on which identity is under threat. Then that identity becomes primary. When it’s not under threat, then it takes its place in you.” – Author Shyam Selvadurai (November 2013)
“My being a queer writer is an indivisible part of who I am. You can’t draw a picture and point to that part of me. It’s completely porous. There’s no difference. I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me straight.” – Author Ann-Marie MacDonald (December 2014)
“Straight people have trouble with everything to do with us and we have learnt not to let that bother us. People also laugh at me when I say Lincoln was gay. But I say, ‘How dare you laugh? Why is it impossible and why is it funny?’” – Literary legend and LGBTQ icon Larry Kramer (October 2009)
“There is some bootleg film footage going around which shows Bette (Midler) pulling me out of the crowd at the Continental Baths in 1971 and at some point – this was all set up beforehand by (composer and lyricist) Jerry (Blatt, Midler’s long-time collaborator) – she sort of sings to me, looks down at my crotch and says, ‘Oh, you’re disgusting!’ and pushes me back into the crowd because I had a hard-on at that point, but it wasn’t from her!” – The Godfather of Gay Lit, Felice Picano (May 2015)
“Gay men love me because I love them so much. I was one of the early ones. I was one of the first to come out and say gay men are fabulous. And it’s true. They gave me a career.” – Pop icon Joan Rivers (August 2013) 
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at