Howard Greenfield – “Howie” to his friends, one of the biggest hit song writers of the first couple of years of the sixties, along with his song writing buddy, Neil Sedaka - was a homosexual. This isn’t just Hollywood – or in this case, Manhattan – gossip. If you are going to get into a bit of Howard Greenfield, it’s an important thing to know.
The Brill Building: where they churned out hit after hit, virtually all of them extolling a perfect world of perfect heterosexual relationships. Hit after hit of boy meets girl. Hit after hit of boys and girls getting married. Which was something that boys and boys were simply not allowed to do.
Howie didn’t seem to take it personally, churning out hit after hit of his own, virtually all of them featuring boys meeting girls, or visa versa. A gay man’s take on straight American society.
Howie seemed particularly enamoured with the way that teenage boys seemed to wake up one morning
suddenly realizing that girls were quite wonderful beings to behold, and indeed, they suddenly wanted to hold them. This after spending their entire little lives having no interaction with girls outside of pulling their pony-tails and worrying that they might catch "girl germs."
Now Neil Sedaka on the other hand… well… after decades of debate, from the school yard disputes of the 60s, to the online forums on the 00s… nobody seems to know exactly.
And so the debate continues…
On the “Neil Sedaka is gay” side, there is his mannerisms and rumours of a secret Russian boyfriend.
Proponents of the “Neil Sedaka is straight” theory point to the fact that he’s married and has kids, but probably the most convincing evidence of his heterosexuality is in the video for “Calendar Girl”, in which spends much of time looking up short dresses, licking his lips, thrusting his hips inappropriately and just looking pretty damned happy with whoever came up with the idea of doing a video with a lot of half-naked blondes in it.
Just look at these facial expressions! This is a man who likes what he sees!
Neil’s attitude to girls seems to be akin to that of a kid who had just discovered a naked girl wrapped underneath the Christmas tree. He seemed to constantly live in that boy-meets-girl-with-butterflies-in-his-stomach moment, and was consequently the perfect person to sing Howie’s songs, particularly given that he wrote the melodies and could play a mean piano.
When not sung by Neil however, Howie’s songs were far less giddy and optimistic, and full of perfect love. They were also usually for Connie Francis, pretty much the biggest female pop star in the world at the time, and the recipient of all of Howie’s songs about how much love could suck. Because for Connie Francis, love totally did suck. Because her Daddy wouldn’t let het her experience it. When Connie got a boyfriend, her Daddy got a gun. Howie could relate. Society wouldn’t let him experience love either.
Here are the trio together!
The first of these songs was “Stupid Cupid,” (a Number One in the UK in 1958) in which – if you read very carefully between the lines – Howie/Connie argues that it isn’t their fault who they fall in love with, it’s out of their control, and if their feelings aren’t right then why did Cupid make him/her that way.
Later on Howie came up with two more similarly themed hits and US Number One singles: “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” (which also went to Number One in Australia) and “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own.” Neil didn’t help with these songs, which may explain why they are not up-tempo smiley face numbers, but slow motioned heart-broken country dirges. They also happen to be songs that shine out amongst the seemingly endless collection of slow motion heartbroken country dirges that Connie sang in the early 1960s.
Then there was “Where The Boys Are,” – a No.4 hit on the US charts and No.5 on both the UK and the Australian charts in 1961 – and apparently something of an anthem amongst gays of a certain and rather old age. It wasn’t really meant to be a gay anthem. It was just meant to be the theme song to a 1960s beach movie in which most of the characters spend most of the time trying to snag a rich husband, whilst simultaneously not lose their virginity. But the way that sheltered-old Connie sounded so taken away with the idea of being around boys, that she pronounces it with a definite capital B, that suddenly it turns into an anthem for anyone suffering from an unfortunate lack of boys. Which, it is well known, was a predicament which Connie Francis tended to find herself in.