Eurovision’s Conchita: The Queen Of Gay Christmas

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 6.05.04 PMBy Dennis Hensley

Imagine getting to Vienna and finding out you had just missed “Gay Christmas.”  That’s the nickname local entrepreneur Bernd Seiser, founder of the website Gay In Vienna, has given to his favorite TV event of the year, the 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest.  “I always remember watching it, even as a little boy,” muses Seiser over a cappuccino in the historic and very gay Café Savoy, home to the two largest single-pain mirrors in Europe (Just imagine the cruising refractions there.)  “We all come together to watch,” he says of the contest, whose past winners include Abba (1974) and Celine Dion (1988).  “It’s like gay heaven.”

This year was especially heavenly because the winner was one of the Viennese gay community’s own, Conchita Wurst.  (Click here to see the winning video.) The bearded drag queen and powerhouse vocalist took it home for Austria with the James Bond-esque empowerment anthem “Rise Like a Phoenix,” written by Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski and Julian Maas.  “When she won, you could hear people outside in other houses screaming like it was a football game,” recalls Seiser, who credits her triumph to a perfect storm of talent and timing.  “It was one of the best songs and she had the best performance of all the contestants.  She even designed her own dress.” 

“And the political situation was also in her favor,” he continues.  “Each participating country gives points to the others countries and every country that gave Russia a point was booed because of the Ukraine situation and the anti-gay laws.  I think Conchita is reflecting a change in attitudes about gays in European countries because she was getting votes from countries that never vote for Austria, like Greece, Israel and Moldova, some really conservative countries.”

And she’s making political waves at home, too. “One week after the contest, Conchita was invited to meet the Chancellor and then walk outside on the balcony of the Federal Chancellory,” he explains.  “The last time that happened it was with an Olympic skier Karl Schranz and that was many years ago.  Even though it was raining a little, there were 10,000 to 20,000 people outside.  She was waving like the queen of Austria.”

Conchita’s win and the ensuing media exposure seem to have brought renewed fervor to the long-simmering push for full marriage equality in Austria.  (At the moment, Austria has something akin to U.S. civil unions, with approximately 40 fewer rights than full marriage.)  “Every month the discussion comes up again and again and again,” explains Seiser.  “But I think the conservative party has to recognize the public opinion right now because many young voters are changing parties.  The Vice Chancellor promised it and we will see soon.”

Which means by next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, when Conchita’s successor is named, gay and lesbian Austrians could be celebrating equal marriage rights.  What’s more, because the winning Eurovision country usually hosts the next year’s contest, Gay Christmas is most likely going to be in Austria in May, 2015, so book those air tickets now.  And rest assured Conchita Wurst will be there in all her beautiful bearded glory, just as she will be at Vienna Pride later this month.  “What I love about Conchita is that even though she has inquiries from all over the world now, she didn’t cancel any of her local gigs,” says Seiser, when asked what qualities set Miss Wurst apart.  “She has an imperial flare and charm and she’s very friendly, not bitchy at all.  In short, Conchita is very Austrian.”

Conchita’s website:


Published by edsalvato

Educator, marketing, communications and travel safety expert; LGBTQ Pavilion at the New York Times Travel Show; public speaker; expert panel organizer and moderator

2 thoughts on “Eurovision’s Conchita: The Queen Of Gay Christmas

  1. Oh Ed!! You found the Eurovision Song Contest. It must be said that an item has been added to my bucket list – watching this event with you. I sit riveted to my telly watching this making remarks to myself and clapping and cheering. It might be gay Christmas but it is a wise-asses wet dream.


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