Lou Reed’s recent death at the age of 71 also marks the passing of the first out rock star who talked about being bisexual.
He walked on the wild side since he was in love with a young man when he was 19. Born in 1942, he was a bit older than the David Bowie and Mick Jagger bi pack, but he was certainly enamored by them as much as they were influenced by him.
Best known for songs such as I’m Waiting for the Man, Satellite of Love, Heroin, Perfect Day, Pale Blue Eyes and Walk on the Wild Side, he was also fascinated by women and married artist Laurie Anderson in 2008.
His glam rock years explored his androgynous side, and his time with Bowie is legendary.
Reed is quoted as saying:
“If people have homosexuality in them, it won’t necessarily involve makeup in the first place. You can’t fake being gay, because being gay means you’re going to have to suck cock, or get fucked. I think there’s a very basic thing in a guy if he’s straight where he’s just going to say no: ‘I’ll act gay, I’ll do this and I’ll do that, but I can’t do that.’ Just like a gay person if they wanted to act straight and everything, but if you said, ‘Okay, go ahead, go to bed with a girl,’ they’re going to have to get an erection first, and they can’t do that.
“The notion that everybody’s bisexual is a very popular line right now, but I think its validity is limited. I could say something like if in any way my album helps people decide who or what they are, then I will feel I have accomplished something in my life. But I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t think an album’s gonna do anything. You can’t listen to a record and say, ‘Oh that really turned me onto gay life, I’m gonna be gay.’ A lot of people will have one or two experiences, and that’ll be it. Things may not change one iota. It’s beyond the control of a straight person to turn gay at the age he’ll probably be listening to any of his stuff or reading about it; he’ll already be determined psychologically. It’s like Franco said: ‘Give me a child until he’s seven and he’s mine.’ By the time a kid reaches puberty they’ve been determined. Guys walking around in makeup is just fun. Why shouldn’t men be able to put on makeup and have fun like women have?”
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Reed’s biographer tracked a number of same-sex liaisons, most notably Billy Name from the Factory. He supposedly also had a longterm relationship with a male-to-female transsexual named Rachel.
Reed referred to Rachel as both genders, perhaps most perfect for a bi guy, with quotes about Rachel like: “Nothing could impress her. He’d hardly heard my music and didn’t like it all that much when he did.”
Whereas other biographers of rockers try to pigeonhole superstars as gay, or just “dabbling” occasionally, Reed’s biographers only seem to label him as bisexual.
He’s been referred to as “a bisexual student of Dostoevsky,” “a bisexual Factory burnout,” and a “bisexual speed freak.”
Ultimately, though, he was simply very cool.