I'm used to Lighting Dimensions readers expressing their opinions — if I wasn't, I'd be in the nuthouse or in another job — but I was taken aback recently when an advertiser asked me, “How could you run that article about that rave guy? Do you know what goes on at those parties? It makes me sick to think about it.”
He was referring to the profile of Guy Smith in the June issue. Among other things, Smith lights gay circuit parties. As the article pointed out, circuit parties have been criticized as hotbeds of drugs and sex. This advertiser doesn't fall into the category of the easily shocked — or so I thought. I pointed out that these parties use tremendous amounts of gear. I also noted that many clubs and concert venues that cater to straight audiences can be pretty gamey, too. His response: “Oh, I know. We supply gear to plenty of gay events.” He paused and then said, “Maybe I'm a homophobe.”
Actually, I don't think so. For one thing, he was only being honest. He wasn't angry, confrontational, or threatening. He expressed his opinion and that was that. More importantly, by his own admission, his company supplies gear to gay events. If he was a homophobe, he wouldn't have anything to do with gay clients, no matter how much money they might be willing to spend.
When it comes to covering projects we tend to follow the gear. Our criteria: Are new products being used? Are a lot of products being used? Are they being used in a unique way? We've covered political conventions, houses of worship, sporting events, and war memorials. The Pope or Cher, Thoroughly Modern Millie or Aerosmith, the Queen's Jubilee or the WWE's latest Smackdown — it's all about the creativity and the equipment.
Nevertheless, this conversation highlights a singular — and, to me, fascinating — aspect of this industry's anthropology. On the manufacturer/distributor side, the vast majority — not all, mind you — are heterosexual. On the user side, a significant number of designers — not a majority, but not a small number, either — are gay. On the surface, this doesn't matter; people get along because it's good business to do so. But you can't have an industry made up of people — often eccentric, highly individual personalities — constantly interacting, without little fault lines appearing from time to time.
Then again, people can be awfully hard to pin down. The last time I spoke to him, Guy Smith had just finished his most recent project — a 9/11 memorial concert for the right-wing Christian group Focus on the Family. (I can only imagine the comments I would get from some readers if we'd covered that event.) It's further proof that this industry often creates very strange bedfellows indeed.