e g r e g o r e s

"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

"I’ve found a more personal, pagan kind of religion to satisfy the spiritual side of things."

“We were very provocative,
very disdainful and superior.
It must have been annoying.”

. . . .
Star Foster (of Patheos fame) tweeted this quote last Friday from Julian Clary: “I’ve found a more personal, pagan kind of religion to satisfy the spiritual side of things.”

As soon as I saw it I had to track down the source. It’s such a perfect little quote — I was afraid it wasn’t real. Too perfect. You know? And on top of that, it is usually given without any specific attribution.

But it is for real. It’s from a piece about Clary written by Elizabeth Grice for the UK Telegraph: ‘Revenge was always my motivation’. It first appeared on June 6, 2006. Here’s an excerpt.

There was never a moment when Clary told his Roman Catholic parents he was homosexual, nor did they bring the subject up. Perhaps it was just too obvious. Perhaps their levels of tolerance and belief in personal privacy were unusually high. They sound like amazing people. Concerned mainly about his health and happiness, the nearest they came to criticism was: “Don’t be quite so obvious. It’s not a problem, but you don’t have to go on about it.”

But the point about Julian Clary is that he did have to go on about it. It was his deliberate way of dealing with taunts, even as a prepubescent schoolboy. At his secondary school, run by Benedictine monks who beat him, he and his gay friend, Nick Reader, exaggerated their effeminacy to an outrageous degree. “The bullying was hideous and relentless,” he says, “and we turned it round by making ourselves celebrities. We found humour in the situation. We were very provocative, very disdainful and superior. It must have been annoying.”

When he started to draw cabaret audiences for being the very thing he had been persecuted for, revenge was sweet. “It was a reversal of all I had experienced at school. I was vindicated. It was all about wanting to get revenge. Pathetic, really, but it still is the motivation.”

For a time, he carried on going to church with his mother when he went home at weekends, “just to keep her company”, but he found it traumatic to be stared at. “I thought they were staring at me because I was gay. But it was because I was on the telly.” Though he’s currently “in an interesting correspondence with a nun about forgiveness”, his links with homophobic Catholicism have dissolved. “In a way, I miss it. But I’ve found a more personal, pagan kind of religion to satisfy the spiritual side of things.”

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