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2 min

Gay of the day: Jobriath

Jobriath, rock's truest fairy, lived a short, excruciating and beautiful life. He became the first openly gay rock 'n' roll star in the early '70s and was one of the first famous people to die of AIDS, in 1983.

Born Bruce Campbell in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, after being conscripted into the military, he relocated to Los Angeles and renamed himself Jobriath Salisbury. His career started with a role playing Woolf in Aquarius Theater's production of Hair. He joined a band, Pigeon, which released one album through Decca Records. The group then disbanded, and Jobriath was arrested by military police. Following a breakdown, he spent six months in a military psychiatric hospital.

When major Hollywood manager Jerry Brandt heard Jobriath's demos, he tracked him down in Los Angeles, where he was living as a prostitute. After changing his name once again, this time to Jobriath Boone, Jobriath was signed to Elektra Records by Brandt and label president David Geffen. At the time, the $500,000 contract was the biggest in music history. Jobriath's album was built with intense marketing hype. Brandt was known for saying, "Elvis, the Beatles and Jobriath," and Elektra Records spent millions of dollars on publicity — including a giant billboard in Times Square. Despite the heavy promotion and mostly positive reviews, Jobriath failed to sell commercially, and the blitz quickly faded.  

By 1975, Jobriath had retired from the music industry. He tried to resume acting and spent his final years as a cabaret performer and prostitute. He lived in an apartment with a pyramid-topped rooftop at the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City until his death. 

Jobriath AD, a documentary on the rock star's life and legacy, is screening at the upcoming Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Check out the trailer: