Queer Scandals of The ’90s That Will Make You Say, “Huh?”

These wacky celebrities are always getting into kooky situations!

The ’90s were a crazy, crazy time — especially for queer scandals. Given that society was slightly more conservative than it is now and folks didn’t really have much of the internet to distract them from the rat race, scandals were a huge culture in and of themselves. So much of the ’90s were filled with made-for-TV cultural moments like the OJ Simpson Trial and The Menendez Murders. The nostalgia of that era has driven me to compile a few of the most curiously queer scandals for you to sink your teeth into. Enjoy!

Assassination of Giani Versace

If you’ve watched “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” you won’t be surprised that the scandal was plastered all over the place in the summer of ‘97. Andrew Cunanan shot the famous designer at point-blank range on the staircase of his Miami mansion after a 3-month killing spree. If that’s not enough of a jaw-dropper, Cunanan targeted famous gay men of the era (whether closeted or out), often leaving their bodies in compromised, sexually lewd situations. Keith Morrison of “Dateline” wrote, “What Cunanan did was: bludgeon to death a close friend, shoot a former lover in the head, torture, and viciously stab to death a pillar of Chicago society, shoot — merely for the sake of a getaway car — a kindly cemetery caretaker in New Jersey, and blow away — execution style — an icon of modern fashion design.”

The entire country was on high alert after the very public murder of Versace. Cunanan was all over the news with Police searching for any sign of him, which likely made escaping after the murder that much harder. Cunanan killed himself only a few blocks away from Versace’s mansion a week later.

Sinead O’Connor As A Person

Sinead O’Connor is a wily but decidedly lovable singer with an even more wily but decidedly lovable evolution story of her sexuality. She’s also no stranger to queer scandals. In 2000, she came out as a lesbian and, among other things, a Catholic priest! But, not to be pigeon-holed, she then elaborated in Entertainment Weekly in 2005 that she was “three-quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay.” Whatever that means, she’s since maintained that she’s essentially “label-free.” As an artist with a certain knack for small rebellions, she also made big headlines in 1991 for refusing to accept a Grammy, becoming the first person ever to refuse such an honor through non-attendance. Despite having earned 4 nominations that year and having been set to perform her hit song, “Nothing Compares To You,” she skipped the awards altogether, later stating in a letter to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences,

To this day, she remains the only artist ever to have refused a Grammy. 

If that wasn’t enough scandal, the press tour for “Nothing Compares To You” met one more bump in the road when Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of the Pope during an appearance on Saturday Night Live imploring the audience to “Fight the real enemy!” For O’Connor, it was an effort to speak out against the alleged sexual abuse of children among authorities in the Catholic church. For most of conservative ’90s America, as with many of antics during this era, it was totally scandalous and a controversial confirmation of the singer’s insanity. O’Connor later disclosed to Dr. Phil about the incident that the 10 years after were a blur of “people treating [her] like [she] was insane.”

“Yep, I’m gay.” – Ellen Degeneres


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“Yep, I’m Gay,” Ellen DeGeneres makes it official, Time magazine, April 14, 1997. @time. On April 14, 1997, a few weeks before her sitcom-alter-ego, Ellen Morgan, came out on national television, Ellen DeGeneres put to rest months and years of speculation by appearing in Time magazine’s cover story under the headline: “Yep, I’m Gay.” Despite not knowing what would come of her decision to introduce the first openly gay lead sitcom character, DeGeneres seemed at ease: “For me, this has been the most freeing experience because people can’t hurt me anymore. I don’t have to worry about somebody saying something about me, or a reporter trying to find out information. Literally, as soon as I made this decision, I lost weight. My skin cleared up. I don’t have anything to be scared of, which I think outweighs whatever else happens in my career.” After Ellen Morgan came out, DeGeneres’ career suffered, as did the careers of some associated with the coming out episode (straight actress Laura Dern, for example); nonetheless, before, during, and after her comeback, Ellen DeGeneres has been among the LGBT community’s loudest and proudest voices. #yepimgay

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It’s hard to believe that, in today’s comparatively sexually laissez-faire culture, it was ever a scandalous thing to be just plain old gay in the public eye. But it certainly was when Ellen Degeneres came out in 1997 on the cover of TIME Magazine with the statement “Yep, I’m Gay.” The sentence reads almost as comedic to us now, but, back then, it was a major queer scandal. Admitting to being gay even to your own family, no less the entire world, was basically career suicide. To make things even more meta, Ellen Degeneres wrote a coming out story for her character Ellen Morgan on ’90s sitcom “Ellen.” It happened almost simultaneously, only a few hours after an interview on Oprah’s Talk Show aired with the real Ellen discussing her sexuality for the first time on television. American viewers who weren’t super keen on the idea of LGBT-anything were suddenly having a surprise one night only coming out extravaganza all about Ellen. She was already a household name by that point, but, after her night of dominating primetime television, she was practically a one-woman media bonanza. The incident made her a lightning rod for everyone’s hopes and fears.

It was a HUGE deal, and for some years afterward, it became hard for Ellen to book gigs in Hollywood. Soon after coming out, her sitcom was canceled. Then, there were even more ups and downs. Ellen obviously went on to have her ridiculously successful talk show, but it didn’t get the smoothest start. In 2000, she had to contend with an extremely messy and very public, sudden break-up with actress Anne Hache (who then wound-up having a mental breakdown, getting banned from the Ellen show set, and writing a book disclosing intimate details about their relationship). Anne Hache is a minefield of intrigue all her own, to be honest. She’s one wacky lady — if you’re into that sort of thing. If you want to get the 411 on that, check out Hache’s 2001 book, “Call Me Crazy.” Despite all the drama with Hache, most consider their relationship a footnote in Ellen’s wildly successful career. Certainly, her adorable and long-standing relationship with actress and art reproduction business-woman Portia De Rossi makes up for all the insanity.

It’s truly amazing to see that with everything that Ellen went through in the ’90s and beyond, she’s managed to triumph over adversity and became the cultural juggernaut that we know her to be today. So, never give up, right?!

The moral of the story is, these wacky celebrities are always getting into kooky situations, and luckily, we here at GO have the bandwidth to keep y’all informed about the kookiest queer scandals. Stay vigilant, lezzies!!

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