Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Gay couchsurfing

Gay couchsurfing = couchsurfing for gay people. Couchsurfing = forgoing the traditional hotel or hostel experience and staying with locals instead. In this week’s blog, we investigate why couchsurfing is appealing to more and more people in the gay community and why gay couchsurfing is becoming such a trend!

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“Couchsurfing” is a travel trend that has been growing for a number of years now. The idea: instead of booking a hotel or hostel, you travel around the world staying in the homes of other like-minded people, and when you get back, maybe host a few travellers yourself. Cheaper than a hostel or hotel, and you get a personal host and a potential new friend for life.

As the couchsurfing community has grown, the types of guests and hosts have become more various. The name “couchsurfing” of course comes from the idea of staying on peoples couches, and maybe you need to stay for one night in the centre of Berlin as cheaply as possible, and are happy to sleep on the sofa of a cool guy’s flat for a couple of Euros. Or maybe you’re happy to spend $200 a night for a multi-bedroom palatial Manhattan penthouse that comes complete with a  New Yorker who wants to share all the best party spots with you. Maybe you’re hosting to supplement your income, and you’ll keep yourself to yourself and leave your guest to their own devices, or maybe you’ll be doing tequila shots with them, cooking them your local cuisine and inviting them to party with your friends. The truth is, all of these are okay. The important thing is to be honest and up front with what you want from the experience, whether it be through an online profile or through direct communication with a potential couchsurfing buddy. In this way, you’ll find somebody you’re going to be comfortable with and there will be no awkwardness later on. 

Likewise, as couchsurfing has increased in popularity, the number of couchsurfing networks have grown, and websites like Gay Homestays now offer a couchsurfing database designed exclusively for the gay community. So what can couchsurfing offer the gay community?

Couchsurfing as a concept does attract laid-back and liberal people, and there’s every chance any straight couchsurfing host would be totally cool with your sexuality. But when you know you’re staying with someone the same sexuality as you, its a weight off your shoulders, especially if you’re travelling abroad to a country where the level of acceptance of gays may be different to that of your own country. In this way, couchsurfing can feel even more safe than staying in a hostel, as you know there’s going to be another gay person there, and that you’re going to be accepted and not have to think about hiding who you are or “coming out” to your fellow travellers. If you’re worried about what the local attitude to gay people could be, it’s great to know that you have a safety net, and an opportunity to talk with someone directly about what it’s like to be a gay person in another part of the world.

Furthermore, by staying with a gay person from the local area, you can get the low-down on the best places to go. Maybe you’re going somewhere with a huge gay district, and your host can tell you what’s hot and what’s not. Or maybe you’re going to somewhere with no gay district at all, and your host can tell you where the off-the-map hangout is. Either way, your host can be your link to the scene, and many guests and hosts make long-lasting friendships from sharing the secrets of their city with each other.

Of course, if you’ve never done it before, the idea of staying with a complete stranger can be intimidating. Make use of features of couchsurfing websites like the reviews. The couchsurfing community tends to review much more than hotel guests: if a guest has had a great host, they want to help them out and leave them a good review, and help out their fellow travellers with the information too. Gay Homestays also has an optional host verification system, where hosts can provide the site with information such as a copy of their passport to receive an extra stamp of approval.

So what are you waiting for? Get out, see the world, and make some new friends along the way.

Review: The Bodyguard, the musical

In 1992, Rachael Marron was brought to life as one of the most iconic divas on the silver screen in the 90s by, funnily enough, one of the world’s most iconic divas of all time – Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” was a huge commercial success, grossing over US$400 million worldwide and its soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all time, with over 45 million copies sold. Then, since 2012, not long after the untimely death of Whitney, a musical based on the film (that had been in production for several years already) directed by Thea Sharrock (the 2007 adaptation of “Equus” starring Daniel Radcliffe) and produced by David Ian (“Cats” and “The Sound of Music” among countless others) and Michael Harrison, was launched.

Tony award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley originally starred in the lead role and the musical was a critical and box office success, which continued after British soul singer Beverley Knight took over as Miss Marron and Tristan Gemmill replaced Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer in September 2013. But how did Beverley fair in her first major acting role and her West End début and how does the musical compare to the film? We recently went along to see the show in London’s Adelphi Theatre on The Strand to see for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised that are high expectations were met.

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The storyline is very similar to the original film, with a few minor changes – the predominant ones being a small shift in the roles Rachel Marron’s sister, Nikki (experienced theatre actress Carole Stennett) and her stalker/assassin plays (the rather ruggedly handsome Michael Rouse). In addition to songs from the film’s original soundtrack, a number of other well-known Whitney Houston songs are included in the production and are cleverly weaved into the narrative in one way or another, like “Saving All My Love for You”, “All The Man I Need” and “One Moment in Time”. The musical also manages to give this romantic thriller a comedic and light-hearted edge that wasn’t in the film, which was perhaps aided by cheeky and more adult-based humour and one-liners and the introduction of more fun and uptempo Whitney songs such as “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know” and the show’s closer “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.

While the whole cast, bar Beverley, consists of seasoned screen and stage actors, singers and dancers and none of them, including Beverley are bad actors at all, we were a little unsettled by some of their overly fake American accents, though this thankfully did not take anything away from their overall performances. Beverley, who has never really acted before, did surprisingly well in fulfilling the role of Rachel Marron and taking over from Heather; we already know she can sing, but her acting was pretty impressive too, particularly as we see her stepping out of her usual humble and down-to-earth persona and become a world-class diva (in fact, very similar to Whitney, whose acting début was in the film). And sing she does. Known for her combined rich and beautiful tone, extensive range, vocal power, agility and control, technical skill, intricate musical and lyrical interpretations, and the soul and emotion she put into her songs, Whitney will forever be hailed as one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. But Beverley is most certainly a vocal force to be reckoned with herself, possessing similar traits Whitney had and showcasing them brilliantly throughout the show. Not only does she retain the integrity, meaning and emotions of the original recordings but she also puts her own little twist to a few of them as well, some of which are given a slight re-arrangement to suit a musical setting and a theatrical performance – and she does so without a missing a note, a riff, run, trill or a beat. Carole Stennett also proves she’s a fine singer as she steps into the spotlight on a few occasions to sing solos and duet with Beverley, the latter of which showed great vocal precision and beautiful harmonies from the pair of them.

Though we felt (in a similar way to the film) that the story did lack a bit of depth and detail and there was little character improvement (except for Nikki Marron), it was definitely compensated by its slick direction and production, a great all-around cast and ensemble and of course its musical numbers that at times made it feel more like we were at a concert than a stage show. It was however, a shame that so many other great Whitney songs that could have been included were not and that there is no cast recording available to buy, though despite this we were left with a rush of tingles up our a spines and an energy that the cast gave us as they sang and danced their way through some of the biggest and catchiest pop songs of the past 30 years. And we’re sure Whitney Houston would have enjoyed it too if she was still alive to see it today.

“The Bodyguard” is currently taking bookings until 30th August and Beverley Knight will finish her run on the show on 31st May, with former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke taking over on 2nd June. The Adelphi Theatre is located on The Strand in the Westminster area of London near Covent Garden and is around a mile from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The area is not far at all from a number of London’s top gay bars and clubs, so is perfect for those wanting a night out in the city after watching the show. Check out our guide to gay London and see a full list of London’s gay scene, as well as view our 300 properties there right here.

Overall rating: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 3/5
Choreography: 4/5
Production: 4/5

Gay Homestays’ top 14 favourite but obscure LGBT musicians

If we were to ask you to name some of the world’s most popular out LGBT musicians, the first names that would pop into your head would probably be the likes of Freddie Mercury, Elton John, George Michael, Adam Lambert, Ricky Martin, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Tegan & Sara, Jessie J and Lady Gaga, right? But what about the lesser-known artists or those who have kept their sexuality more private and under the radar? Here are some of Gay Homestays’ favourite LGBT musicians who are perhaps not as famous for their sexuality as they are for their careers or discographies that we think you should take a listen to:

Bessie Smith

“Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith was married but both she and her husband were known to have affairs – and she allegedly did so with both men and women. However, she never publicly announced her sexuality but bear in mind this was during a time when such ideas about LGBT people – particularly from the black community – were not condoned.

Dusty Springfield

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Soul and blues singer Dusty Springfield helped change the face (and sound) of these genres as one of few white artists to record this kind of music, especially being British and female. She was openly bisexual, a risk she took at the time when LGBT people in the media and in the public eye were frowned upon.

Fergie

Though married to handsome actor Josh Duhamel and being a Catholic who says she attends church regularly, Black Eyed Peas singer and rapper Fergie came out as bisexual in 2009.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s statement of having once been in love with a man was a landmark in the history of hip hop music, being the first out LGBT person from this industry – or at least the first to admit he has been in love with a person of the same sex (even though he says it was unrequited).

Janis Joplin

Soulful rocker Janis Joplin was known to have dated both men and women even though she never officially came out as bisexual. Joplin was one of the most influential female soul, blues and rock artists of all time.

Johnny Mathis

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In 1982, legendary crooner Johnny Mathis allegedly came out as gay saying “homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to” though this statement was later retracted. Since then he has rarely talked about the subject but has said he had to stop due to death threats and so has kept his personal life as hidden as possible from the public eye.

Kele Okereke

Lead singer of British indie rock band Bloc Party Kele Okereke came out as gay in 2010 but has not discussed his sexuality or private life much since then, admitting he is extremely shy and dislikes being interviewed.

Ma Rainey

Like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey – “the Mother of the Blues” – was involved with women during a hard time for LGBT people, but unlike Bessie, Ma was unafraid of making sure people knew about it in her songs.

Patrick Wolf

English singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf is openly gay and well-known among the British LGBT community, but outside of it and the UK he seems to have yet received credit we believe he deserves. Since his début in 2003 he has released six critically-acclaimed albums.

Queen LAtifah

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Though she is not officially out, rumours always seemed to have pointed to actress, singer, rapper and TV personality Queen Latifah as a lesbian so we believe she deserves a place on this list. Latifah was one of the biggest and most influential female rappers of the late 80s and throughout the 90s but has proven to be multi-talented as a singer and actress as well – as she showed us in “Chicago” as Matron “Mama” Morton.

Sam Sparro

Another well-known name among the LGBT community, Australian artist Sam Sparro has been praised by critics but has not yet hit the big time on a mainstream level, though his first single “Black and Gold” did peak at No.2 in the UK.

Steve Grand

American country-pop singer-songwriter and former model Steve Grand hit headlines in 2013 when his song “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube. It is an autobiographical song that immediately cemented him as the music industry’s potentially next big openly gay star, despite not being signed to a label. He has since released two more singles and has been raising money via public donations to record his début album.

Sylvester

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Dubbed as an “honorary” Queen of Disco in the 1970s, Sylvester enjoyed a successful career in the US on the dance charts throughout the disco era and through to the 80s, and his flamboyant nature and outrageous outfits certainly fitted well with the genre. He was famously out and proud but is perhaps a little less well-known compared to many other “disco divas” or other LGBT musicians who were around at the time.

Tracy Chapman

Like Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman’s sexuality has never been confirmed but the singer-songwriter did openly date writer Alice Walker in the 90s, though details of her private life since then have not been in the spotlight.

Gay Homestays’ Top 10 Halloween songs

So, it’s that ghoulish time of the year again – 31st October, a.k.a. All Hallow’s Eve (or Halloween) so we thought we’d compile a list of our top favourite 10 Halloween songs or songs that remind us of this fun annual event and are some of the most popular you’d hear at a Halloween party. Some of the songs are perhaps quite predictable (yet still classic!) but we’ve also included a few of them which you probably wouldn’t have thought of off the top of your heads. Check them out below and let us know what you think of our list:

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10) “Better The Devil You Know” by Kylie Minogue

This is obviously not a Halloween song but we thought we’d add Kylie to this list as we’re sure the gay community will approve of this Queen of Pop being mentioned just for the song’s apt title!

9) “Voodoo People” by The Prodigy

The Prodigy were well-known for their crazy songs and videos that resembled “trippy” visions or even nightmares and “Voodoo People” is a great example of this and probably one of the lesser-known Halloween songs people could think of.

8) “Bat Out Of Hell” by Meat Loaf

“Bat Out Of Hell” may actually be a song about love but much of the lyrics, the composition of the song itself and the video are very much Halloween-themed.

7) “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC

Another song that isn’t related to Halloween – “Highway To Hell” apparently reflects AC/DC’s gruelling touring schedules – but the heavy rock genre sound and lyrics could resemble this annual festival.

6) “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett

A firm holiday favourite that surely needs no more introduction as one of the most popular Halloween songs of all time?

5) “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

Taken from the blockbuster film of the same name, “Ghostbusters” is another of the most famous Halloween songs ever that we couldn’t not add to this list.

4) “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell/Beatfreakz

Originally released in early 1984, a couple of months after Michael Jackson’s smash hit “Thriller” (MJ also provides backing vocals on this song), “Somebody’s Watching Me” managed to cement itself as a timeless Halloween song. The Beatfreakz version – which samples the chorus – was also popular when released in 2006 and the video pays homage to Michael’s “Thriller”.

3) “The Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Show”

We don’t think this iconic Halloween-themed song from one of the most iconic Halloween films of all time needs more of a reason or description as to why we’ve added to our list, do you? Though, we wish we could have included more than just this one…

2) “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Perhaps one of the most well-known Michael Jackson and Halloween songs ever, “Thriller”‘s lyrics, composition and music video were like that of a short Halloween horror film and nearly always tops every list of top Halloween songs. However, while it’s great, we’ve put it at No.2 – just to be different…

1) “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins/Nina Simone/Bette Midler in “Hocus Pocus”

Originally written and performed by rhythm and blues musician Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956, “I Put A Spell On You” has been named one of the most iconic and inspirational songs to shape rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. It has since been covered by numerous other artists, most notably jazz legend Nina Simone in 1965 and Bette Midler’s comical yet equally brilliant version from the film “Hocus Pocus” in 1993.

Do you like or agree with our list? What songs do you think should have made the cut? Let us know in the comments section below!

Top 10 singles from 10 Mariah Carey albums

Today marks the 20th anniversary since the release of one of Mariah Carey’s biggest singles (well, one of her many hit singles), “Dreamlover”, taken from her most successful album, Music Box. The song became her 7th Number One single (of her overall 18 chart-toppers) in the US and the album has sold an astounding 30 million copies worldwide. Mariah is still one of the world’s top-selling artists of all time, especially for a female, with an estimated 250 million records sold, so what better way to celebrate her achievements and this landmark date as well as to anticipate the release of her upcoming fourteenth studio album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, with a rundown of 10 of her best singles from 10 of her albums – one for each? Albums not included in this are her two Christmas albums, the soundtrack to the film Glitter and her as of yet unreleased album.

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“Vision of Love” from Mariah Carey

Her début single, “Vision of Love” immediately secured Mariah her first of many hits and put her on the map as a vocal force to be reckoned with.

“Make It Happen” from Emotions

A tale about her past that tells us of her trying to scrape money together to record a demo, this is Mariah’s “rags to riches” story that is full of gospel gusto.

“Hero” from Music Box

Probably arguably her most popular song to date, “Hero” remains as one of Mariah’s signature songs and is one of the most covered songs of all time on talent shows.

“Fantasy” from Daydream

One of her first forays into full-on R&B music and hip-hop, “Fantasy” helped Mariah shift into the urban music scene with ease.

“My All” from Butterfly

Connecting with her Latin/Hispanic roots, “My All” was a musical masterpiece that had influences of Latin music, used Latin/Spanish instruments and further showed Mariah’s versatility.

“Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” from Rainbow

Mariah released two versions of this Phil Collins classic – a solo version and a duet with Irish boy band Westlife, which was more successful (particularly in the UK) than the first one, giving her her second No.1 single in Britain.

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” from Charmbracelet

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” is another cover by Mariah, this time of the song by rock band Def Leppard. This remains one of Mariah’s best covers and one of her first and rare songs that has a rock element to it.

“We Belong Together” from The Emancipation of Mimi

After a shaky few years, “We Belong Together” – a huge torch ballad of a song that was the second single from this album – saw Mariah back in top form and on top of the charts once more and almost beat her own record of the longest-running Number One on Billboard. It also earned Mimi her fifth and sixth Grammy awards.

“I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” from E=MC²

After many years of sticking to R&B and hip-hop, “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” hinted at more pop and soul elements, which Mariah first started off with at the beginning of her career and has been seen by many as a standout track from this album.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

Another cover of a rock ballad, Mariah’s version of “I Want To Know What Love Is” adds more gospel influences to the song and dispelled rumours of her voice having suffered a huge decline.

What are your favourite Mariah Carey singles? Let us know in the comments section below!