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Broadway legend Elaine Stritch had just become aware that she was a gay icon in last year of her life

Broadway legend Elaine Stritch had just become aware that she was a gay icon in last year of her life

The late Elaine Stritch, who died Thursday (17 July) at the age of 89, had legions of gay fans.

But it was only in the last year of her life that the Broadway legend began to realize the depth of that popularity.

She did several gay press interviews earlier this year in connection with the release of a documentary about her life called Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me and found them to be educational as far as learning of her exalted standing among gays.

‘I’m just becoming aware of it – by articles such as this one,’ she admitted to PrideSource magazine.

‘I really have become very much aware, first of all, what great audiences they are. And it isn’t that I finally discovered that gay people understand me and straight people don’t – oh, no no no. Not a word of truth in that. I can’t tell you how many straight people I know that think I am the cat’s pajamas.’

But the gays, who forever follow their icons, had long loved Stritch’s sass, brutal honesty, brassy and powerful voice in such shows as Company, Sail Away, A Delicate Balance, A Little Night Music and her Tony Award winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

‘It sounds like I’ve lost my mind, but I feel like I’m becoming aware of it,’ she insisted.

But she had long appreciated the senses of humor of a lot of gay men: ‘I think gay people have extraordinary humor. Extraordinary! I’m talking deep, deep, deep humor.’

Stritch was once in love with one of the most famous gay men who ever lived: Rock Hudson. The two got very close while making the 1957 film A Farewell to Arms.

‘Did we have an affair? No,’ she said. ‘He was nuts about me, and I felt it, knew it. And I was madly in love with this gorgeous guy. But I couldn’t have reacted in any real way because I don’t think he was truly in love with me. I think he just loved me and loved that we had fun and loved to be with me.’

It was not until 1985 that Stritch learned that Hudson was gay – and that was shortly before his death when the world learned he had AIDS.

‘I mean, that’s really sad. I got off easy, I think. Not by not being gay, but I just got off easy.’

Whether or not she was aware of her gay icon status or not, Stritch never had any hang ups about gays during any point of her 70 year career which also included three Emmy wins for her television work (she played Alec Baldwin’s mother on NBC’s 30 Rock).

‘I don’t care who’s gay and who isn’t! I liked everybody! I had a ball in my life!’

Below are an assortment of Elaine Stritch performances and moments: