Elton John to perform in Russia – will he speak out against gay crackdown?

Elton John just told the Guardian that he’s going to keep his December concert date in Moscow, even though the Kremlin is sure to use the world’s possibly-most-famous gay man as a major propaganda pawn.

Russia, as you might know, is in the middle of a massive anti-gay crackdown intended to bolster President Vladimir Putin’s poor standing in the country at large.  The Russian government needed an enemy, so this time they chose gay and trans people.

Sadly, for Putin, something went wrong on the way to the pogrom.

The world woke up towards the end of July, and suddenly Russia’s anti-gay campaign was getting a lot of really bad publicity that cast a pall on Putin’s G20 summit earlier this month, and even worse (for Putin), the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this coming February.

So all of that plays into Elton John’s decision to sing in Moscow.

Elton John, photo by David Shankbone

Elton John, photo by David Shankbone

Now, there is a healthy debate as to what the best way is to influence Russia’s government, but simply showing up in Moscow and permitting them to use you as a poster-boy of hate is no one’s idea of the best approach.  No one wants to see the Russian government use the world’s most famous gay as proof that they’re really not anti-gay at all, and that their anti-gay “propaganda” law, and the proposed law to take children away from gay parents, aren’t really that bad because, hey, gay Elton is coming to sing!  So what about all the young gay kids getting kidnapped, raped and murdered!

Keep in mind that Elton John has two young sons.  The new law under consideration in Russia would remove his children from him, were he a Russian citizen.

And that’s exactly what’s going to happen when Elton John comes to Moscow.  Unless Elton John figures out some crafty way to make an enormous statement against Vladimir Putin’s draconian anti-gay crackdown.  But will he?

Elton John is not known for taking controversial play dates in order to make important political statemenst.  He famously performed at Rush Limbaugh’s most-recent wedding.  And he also played at South Africa’s notorious Sun City resort in the early 80s when much of the world was boycotting the country’s apartheid system of government.  So, understandably, folks aren’t terribly confidant that Lord Elton will find a way to make a big political statement during his time raking in the bucks in Moscow.

Which is too bad.  Elton John will be performing in Moscow right before the 2014  Winter Olympics begin.  It would be the perfect time for him to make a big statement about the anti-gay law.  But will he?  His statement to the Guardian is less than inspiring:

“I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December,” he says. “I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.”

If he’s “got to go,” then he’s got to make a huge political statement during his concert.

My friend Michael told me years ago that Americans were the only people who thought art should be separate from politics (meaning, the old “why do I want to hear what some movie star thinks about gun control?” argument).  Russian apologist Johnny Weir comes to mind.  In the rest of the world, Michael argued, politics and artistic expression are intimately intertwined.

Elton John isn’t American, he’s British.  So what’s his excuse?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • vonlmo

    Elton probably signed that contract a few years ago. He can’t back out. Remember what Putin did to the Russian whistle blower a few years ago? He was poisoned w Polonium & died a horrible death from radioactive poisoning. If Putin is wack enough to threaten Saudi Arabia w bombing should Obama bomb Syria, do you think he’d let Elton John dis him?
    BTW pay no attention to those reports in Japanese media that Putin “likes” children of the male persuasion.

  • Luigi Proud DemoCat!

    Sir Elton should go back in the closet where all self-loathing butt-boys for bigots belong.

  • JayRandal

    If Elton says nothing about persecution of Gays in Russia, then I will dump all of his CDs in the trash. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk Elton otherwise a hypocrite.

  • Anonymous
  • dula

    The Vodka boycott was simply to get the Russian anti-gay laws in the news. It’s no longer needed. Now the story has legs. Who needs Vodka when you have the Olympics.

  • AdmNaismith

    Elton John is too insulated by wealth and fame for any of this to matter to him. His past actions make that quite clear.

    Sadly, I think it is purely about the payday for him.

  • Julien Pierre

    Maybe we should boycott Elton, then ?

    How about boycotting Russian oil ? I bet that would be a little more effective than boycotting Vodka.

  • Monoceros Forth

    A friend of mine once described Elton John as “politically gay”. To be honest I’m not sure exactly what he meant but maybe he was referring to behavior like this, being openly gay only when it’s politic, but more than willing to abandon his self-respect and pal around with bigots.

    Has he done anything good in decades, anyway? He should have stayed on the drugs perhaps.

  • Bill_Perdue

    He has a thing for bigots.

  • Clevelandchick

    Yay, now Russia can point to Elton John and say ‘See we don’t hate gays, we let one do a concert here!’. He’s going to be their “beard” and nothing else. They’re about to pass a law to take away, not just adopted children, but the biological children of gay Russians. Their law enforcement isn’t doing anything about gay people getting beaten, raped and murdered by rabid extreme nationalists What’s that’s going down there is shades of Nazi Germany (yes, I broke Godwin’s law, so sue me). Everyone who cares about equal and civil rights should be boycotting everything Russia.

  • Anonymous

    I want to believe he will, but I doubt it. He might even skip the glasses and earring.

  • chris10858

    As for him performing at Rush’s wedding (well, one of the 4 weddings), I say it was a great thing to do. Would we be happier if they had gotten some homophobe to perform? I liken it to a gay pride celebration going on in the middle of an FRC conference.

    Plus, as they say, it becomes harder and harder to denounce and hate a group of people when you actually interact with one of them.

  • chris10858

    I don’t know.. normally Id say he should not perform BUT I then remember the flamboyantly awesome costumes he used to wear in his concerts back when I was a boy of the 70s and 80s. Maybe if he came out decked in some of that gay-fabulous, over the top queer regalia, then it might just be a fuck-you to Putin that he’d perform in Russia. I doubt he’d do that but he used to be very brave. Remember, he came out long before it was cool to be out and proud.

  • Richard

    Given John’s past performances for the likes of Rush Limbaugh, etc., it would seem that it all about the bengies for him. He knows he doesn’t have to live under the Russian boot, he gets to go home to England……… with a large pocket of money no doubt.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Haters are quite good at compartmentalizing their denial.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Good one!

  • Bob Thayer

    We know that he will sell himself out. That is what he did when he performed with Eminem, who has anti gay lyrics in the song “Kill You”. Anything for a publicity stunt. Two extremes coming together causes a lot of publicity.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I”m not sure how much Liberace did to expand gay rights in the 40s, 50s 60s and 70s. People simply ignored the obvious fact that he was gay. Haters are quite good at compartmentalizing their compassion.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Sell-out. Pure and simple.

  • The_Pagan_Perspective

    EJ didn’t speak up in Sun City, South Africa during Apartheid… (except to say, “in Krugerrands, please…” And, he won’t speak up in Moscow… (except to say, “in Krugerrands, please!)

  • The_Pagan_Perspective

    Not to be outdone my washed up NBA freak-boy, Dennis “Does-this-wedding-gown-make-my-butt-look-big” Rodman nestling up to mass murder and terrorist supporter Kim Jung Un… Elton John apparently can’t stand sharing the “Where are they now that they are not relevant?” headlines.
    EJ performing at Sun City, South Africa during Apartheid was strike one… Elton John performing at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding was strike two… This gay pentagenerian is knows how to count to strike three! But, apparently the old, washed up EJ’s ego can’t let the headlines go, and age gracefully! Elton is off my playlist, and on my boycott list!
    The issue is bigger than money, fame, ego, or sports. Not only are people’s freedoms at risk, people’s lives are at risk. Just like they were during Apartheid, and just like they are every time Rush “Limp-bough” Limbaugh spews his racist, sexist, misogynistic, elitist, and homophobic rhetoric.

    It is time that, if the UN and US State Department won’t draw the line… The consumers do! Boycott EJ, boycott his sponsors and tour producers; boycott Rodman; and any publications that promote them! They are thriving on any attention… Don’t play along!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Elton John is a parvenu member of the elite and will claim that art trumps politics.

  • Polterguest

    Elton John will do anything for money. He doesn’t care a bit for the gay men and women in Russia.

  • voltronforce

    I am totally against this. I hope he makes a pro gay statement during the performance but I won’t hold my breath.

  • skwcw2001 .

    I see both sides one in which i dont want to see russia make any money, on the other we need to expose them to gays that they cant kill who can speak up for the sake of the gay folks that have to be silent to see that they are not alone.

  • judybrowni

    His excuse: Stockholm Syndrome.

    Forced to live in the closet for the first decades of his career (even, briefly, marrying a woman for show), Elton has obviously become identified with his oppressors.

    Not a good excuse, mind you. But the only reason I can come up with.

  • nicho

    I’m pretty sure that if you get out your calculators, you’ll find that he is a member of the One Percent.

  • FLL

    Who might be disadvantaged if artists don’t show up in Russia to perform? Gay people in Russia or the Russian government? You could easily reword Elton’s statement about “the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws” if he were really concerned about the negative effects of a boycott on the Russian government rather than gay people in Russia. It all depends on Elton’s true motivation. The reworded statement would look like this:

    Do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving leaders of the current Russian government in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave the leaders of Russia’s government on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

    I’m not saying that this necessarily is Elton’s real motivation, but it could be. The proof is in the pudding. If he doesn’t use the occasion of his December concert to publicly slam Russia’s anti-gay laws (while he is actually in Russia), then he certainly knows that he is aiding and abetting Putin’s regime and anti-gay pogrom. If that is the case, Elton’s own statement is dishonest and my reworded statement is more accurate. We’ll see.

  • LilKip

    “bun control?” lol. Elton needs to donate all the profits of this concert to LGBT organizations or else he’s just a greedy bastard.

    And yeah, I’m actually FOR bun control.

  • bbock

    He was also a supporter of Apartheid in South Africa. Well, he crossed the boycott of Sun City to perform there. Elton John has his pet causes and screw everyone else.

  • bbock

    That greedy bastard also supported Eminem at the height of his homophobia. Remember THIS was the song that ass sang:

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eminem/criminal.html

    http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.12747/title.elton-john-explains-supporting-eminem-against-homophobic-claims

  • Indigo

    His priorities are very clear: 1. money, 2. money, and 3. money.

  • Anonymous

    I said that because people might actually care about Elton. Lol

  • StraightGrandmother

    One thing I learned, a leopard never changes his spots.
    Elton John has already demonstrated what he will do for a fee.
    I give a Thumbs DOWN.

  • ronbo

    Hasn’t Elton participated in anti-gay-for-pay activities before? Snuggling up to Rush Limbaugh? I’m not sure;but, the green seems supreme to Elton.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if John was treated like other gays in Russia?

  • jomicur

    The next Jesse Owens? If I had to place a bet, I’d bet that he’s more likely to be the next Johnny Weir.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s laughable that the IOC is doing damage control by inviting Cher and Elton John to perform. (Cher already declined.)

  • worfington

    David Neiwert has a very powerful article on crooks and liars connecting the dots between the American far right and Russia’s anti-gay pogrom. Maybe someone should send Sir Elton a link:

    http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/russias-gay-bashing-politics-look-de

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