October 4, 1999 16:37

DIVA DEBACLE

Disco diva plays London gay megaclub after alleged comments about "God's retribution" on AIDS sufferers for their "sinful lifestyle"...

DIVA DEBACLE
Radical direct-action gay and lesbian rights group OutRage! have said that they will not picket Donna Summer's London appearance despite earlier reports that they were planning to do so.

Summer angered many gay men over over alleged comments she made some 15 years ago that AIDS was "divine punishment" on gays for their "sinful lifestyle".

Her appearance, the first for more than 10 years in the UK, is ironically at London's premier gay club night GAY at the London WC1 Astoria.

Although Summer has subsequently denied making such comments, OutRage! last week challenged her to "publicly disassociate herself from such bigotry and make an explicit declaration of support for lesbian and gay human rights", or scrap the gig.

It's alleged that Summer made the comment in 1983 after an American concert when she invited fans backstage to talk about her then recent conversion to 'born again' Christianity. Although she admits a row did occur and words were exchanged, what was actually said has become something of a pop urban myth.

But OutRage! spokesman Peter Tatchell said in a statement last week: "We want to end confusion and animosity that has persisted since the mid-1980s. It is our wish to work with Donna for the benefit of the gay community and people with HIV."

In a statement to nme.com yesterday, he said that OutRage! had been in touch with the organisers of GAY and Donna Summer's magnagement.

"Our request has been received with sympathy", he said. "We are hopfeul that Donna will offer her backing for lesbian and gay civil rights, either during press interviews after her arrival in London or live from the stage at GAY".

A spokesman for Donna told nme.com that she felt the issue was done and dusted.

He said: "At a press conference in LA in October 1991 she flatly denied those comments and said 'I did not say it, I do not believe that'... Since this time Donna has reached out to the gay community and played an endless series of charity dates and fundraisers that have helped heal the wounds on both sides."

Summer, famed for disco classics such as 'I Feel Love' and 'Love To Love You Baby', is coming to the UK to promote new single 'I Will Go With You', released October 11 followed by an album 'Live and More Encore'.

Richard Smith Of Gay Times magazine told nme.com: "I think a lot of gay men are surprised - if not bored - that this old chestnut is still doing the rounds. I've spoken to many people who know Donna well - including Giorgio Moroder - and all have told me they think she is sincere in her remorse over the whole episode."

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