True story: a friend of mine exchanged birthday cards with Zelda Rubinstein

You have to give it to the gays: we love our underdogs. Many, if not most of us grew up feeling like outsiders, like guests at a party thrown by a friend of a friend: anxious and unsure. Maybe this is changing, what with all the positive role models GLBT kids have these days; the Gays are everywhere now, or at least they’re far more visible and likable than the handful of cautionary figures I remember from childhood: that crazy dude from Soap. The clubgoers in Cruising. Wham. And after Rock Hudson died from AIDS-related complications, things got worse.
But back to the point. Underdogs and outsiders: the Gays love them. I’ve started calling it the Glee Phenomenon (though I’m not sold on the name), because as overwrought as Glee can be, in some ways, it’s a pretty accurate depiction of the social food chain I experienced when I was in — yes — high school show choir:
(That’s me on the far left. Ugh.)

There were a handful of cool kids in the music room, but they were totally outnumbered. The closet cases stuck together near the back of the risers  — us and the fat kids. (There was some overlap.) Even when I stopped singing in college, my allegiance to nerds and other social misfits remained strong. It still does. I have family and friends who run with the Cool Kids, but I’ve never felt comfortable in those packs.

Holy crap, I keep getting sidetracked. This is not meant to be about me. This is about Zelda Rubinstein, the woman perhaps best remembered for her turn in Poltergeist, but also a devoted friend of the LGBT community and one of the first Hollywood types to become involved in HIV/AIDS outreach and education. Short and heavy-set, with a curious voice, she was an unlikely actress — an outsider if ever there was one — but maybe that’s why we loved her so much, and why the feeling was clearly mutual.

I was sad to hear of her passing yesterday, but kind of excited to learn that one of my friends used to exchange birthday cards with Zelda. It’s like a brush with a brush with amazing fame.

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