Sunshine, Lollipops, Rainbows, and a Simplified Pricing Scheme

Attention all professional (and do-it-yourself) outraged social conservatives! JCPenney is now officially f*cking with you.

We all remember your impassioned pleas to the big-box retailer to drop their tacit endorsement of the homosexual agenda, embodied by their hiring of arch-lesbian Ellen DeGeneres to appear in a series of ads touting the chain’s revolutionary (giggle) new pricing scheme. Not only did they refuse to back down and give the job to someone more appropriate – like Elizabeth Hasslebeck – but recently, they’ve taken your hero Sarah Palin’s advice (Don’t Retreat: Re-Load!) and opened a new line of attack on family values. A stealth attack, even! Like the big bad wolf dressed up as sweet old grandma, JCPenney’s latest endorsement of the morally bankrupt gay lifestyle is dressed up as sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Or rather: “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” the 1965 Top 20 hit single by Lesley Gore (from the movie Ski Party, starring Frankie Avalon!).

Lesley Gore “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” (1965)

Lesley Gore is most famous for a pair of singles (produced by a very young Quincy Jones), “It’s My Party” and its sequel “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” The two songs chronicle a love triangle between Lesley, her boyfriend Johnny (who seems like a total nob), and her duplicitous best friend Judy who shows up to Lesley’s birthday party wearing Johnny’s ring (it’s all good – Johnny goes back to Lesley!). Over the course of eight albums released by Mercury between 1963 and 1967, this Jersey girl covered an encyclopedic range of squeaky clean (and, it goes without saying, totally heterosexual), romantic teenage drama, each two-minute song a self-contained soap opera.

In “Hey Now”, she tells off an indecisive beau (it’s like a 20-year-pre-emptive reply to The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” with an even more contagious groove). In “She’s a Fool”, she calls out another girl for mistreating her boyfriend (upon whom Lesley is crushing). In “Maybe I Know,” she admits she’s in denial about her cheating boyfriend (“deep down inside, he loves me!”), but won’t DTMFA. And in the darkly fabulous “You Don’t Own Me”, she asserts some pre-feminist girl power: “Don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display.” (In 1987, the song was covered by the British synth-soul group The Blow Monkeys for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack – that was where I first heard it – and I remember my sister and I being scandalized/titillated by the way lead singer Dr. Robert sang it without changing the gender of the verse: “Don’t say I can’t go with other boys.”) Here she is, having just turned 19 years old:

Lesley Gore “It’s My Party”(1965)

“But, Paul,” the conscientious social conservative might ask, “these are sweet, wholesome, totally heterosexual songs sung by a sweet-faced pre-sexual revolution teenage girl.” But are they? Are? They? The fact is – correction: the superfabulous fact is… that Lesley Gore is gay. She hasn’t had a hit single since 1967 and for the last 40 years she’s mostly been retired from recording. (She has occasionally released new music – her most recent album was 2005’s Ever Since, a collection of torchy jazz interpretations, including a great new version of “You Don’t Own Me”) But in 2004, she started hosting the PBS LGBT newsmagazine In the Life, and came out publicly soon thereafter. That’s right,! JCPenney now have two lesbians shilling for their newly simplified pricing schemes!

Of course, like Ellen DeGeneres, Lesley Gore is one of those people it’s extremely hard to dislike, much less hate. When I was 11 or 12, and receiving my allowance in 45 rpm records (I would give my Mom a list), my mother snuck in a reissue “oldies” single of “It’s My Party” b/w “She’s a Fool” in between the latest hits of Duran Duran and Culture Club, and I became an instant Lesley Gore fan. And that was long before I’d ever heard “Sometimes I Wish I Were a Boy“! And really, how do you protest against sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows?