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The "Gay Mafia" and the "Velvet Mafia" are pejorative terms for the expansion of gay rights groups in politics, media, and everyday life—and are most often used when those efforts include boycotts and similar efforts to stifle opposing viewpoints on issues affecting gays. The "Gay Mafia" and "Velvet Mafia" are typically associated with the upper echelons of the fashion and entertainment industries, and the terms are also used humorously by gay people themselves. The term was widely used in the 1980s and 1990s, and could often be seen in the pages of the New York Post. The term was also used by the British newspaper, The Sun, in 1998 in response to what it claimed was a representation of gay people in the Labour British Cabinet. "Lavender Mafia" refers to the perceived homosexual elements of life within the Catholic church.
Origin of the term
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An early use of the term was when the English critic Kenneth Tynan proposed an article to Playboy editor A.C. Spectorsky in late 1967 on the "Homosexual Mafia" in the arts. Spectorsky declined, although he admitted that "culture hounds were paying homage to faggotismo as they have never done before". Playboy would run a panel on gay issues in April 1971.
The term "Velvet Mafia" was first used in an article in the "Top of the Pop" column in the entertainment section of the Sunday New York Daily News in the 1970s by journalist Steven Gaines to describe the executives at the Robert Stigwood Organization, a British film and record company. The phrase was later used by the same writer in a roman à clef about Studio 54 called The Club in reference to the influential gay crowd that became the club's habitués. This "mafia" included Calvin Klein, Truman Capote, Halston, and Andy Warhol. The term was tongue-in-cheek, describing a powerful social clique, not some truly devious alliance ruling either an industry or politics.
Gradually, velvet came to be replaced with gay. The term may have gained wider social prominence after it was used in a 1995 Spy article and a 2002 Vanity Fair article, wherein Michael Ovitz, in an interview, blamed the aforementioned group for his company's failures.
The Lavender Mafia has been used as well as the gay mafia to refer to an informal network of gay executives in the entertainment industry.
- Kenneth Tynan Letters (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994)
- Burrough, Bryan (August 2002). "Ovitz Agonistes". Vanity Fair.
- Lyman, Rick (July 3, 2002). "Ovitz Bitterly Bares Soul, And Film Industry Reacts". The New York Times.
- George De Stefano, An offer we can't refuse: the mafia in the mind of America, New York, 2005