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Queerty: LISTEN: This closeted ’80s pop star had us wanting to boom, boom (and go back to his room)

Paul Lekakis poses in dim lighting, wearing a leather jacket and white t-shirt in the cover for '80s single "Boom Boom."

A pretty face won’t get you everywhere… but it got you pretty damn far in the ’80s. 

And it certainly helped gay musician Paul Lekakis, who went from upstate New York waiter, to model and professional party boy in Milan, to international pop star in 1987 with a little bop called “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room.)”

Ring any bells? It will certainly resonate with those who survived its ’80s dance-floor domination… and anyone who’s attended a Pride party in the past five years.

And for good reason! There’s something unforgettable about those bombastic, throbbing synths, a cheesy spoken intro, and that sticky, lustful invitation of a chorus: “Boom boom boom / Let’s go back to my room / So we can do it all night / And you can make me feel right.” Woof! We’re simultaneously clutching our pearls… and pressing replay.

After all, before Vengaboys were rhyming “boom” with “room” in the ’90s, Lekakis had laid the blueprint. The single cracked the top-10 in countries like Australia, Japan, Italy, and Canada, and hit No. 1 and No. 43 on the United States’ Billboard Dance Club Songs and Hot 100 charts, respectively.

In the age of Wham!, A-ha, and Whitney Houston, “Boom Boom” hit all the marks of a dance-worthy chart-topper. VH1 even ranked it at No. 83 on their list of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the ‘80s. Still, it’s remained timeless for another reason: that shamelessly sexual message. “It’s been described as a disco ditty, but it expressed the spirit of promiscuity of the time,” Lekakis told POZ in 2000.

But that’s not to say the song was always an explicitly gay anthem. In the ’80s, Lekakis was ambiguously sexual –– sporting blonde locks, a chiseled torso, and skinny jeans –– but he was secretly closeted and dealing with an HIV diagnosis at the peak of success.

“By the time I got my album deal, I knew I was positive,” he told POZ. “I was really scared people would find out. Back then, it was like a death sentence.”

And unfortunately, a crooked contract meant he earned nothing from his hit single’s larger-than-life royalties. “I was young and stupid,” he admitted. “I, however, thought I was fabulous.”

Nevertheless, this ’80s heartthrob persisted. After scoring a deal in the States with Sire Records, he released his debut album Tattoo It in 1990, but was eventually dropped. “Warner Brothers [Sire’s parent company] wanted to market me as a teen idol,” Lekakis later explained. “But I was, you know, gay.”

#fbf West Village – #NYC 1988

— Paul Lekakis (@PaulLekakis) March 17, 2023

What followed was a handful of rough years performing on the nightclub circuit: “I went from being a singer who strips a little bit to a stripper who sings,” he revealed to POZ.

And when that success fizzled out, Lekakis found himself in West Hollywood battling addiction. He turned to sex work to support himself until his early thirties, when he joined a 12-step program and got clean in 1997.

Nowadays, Lekakis is out, proud, and still living in WeHo.

The video for his latest single (aptly titled “Rainbow” and remixed by SolarCity) finds him sporting a tight, sparkling purple shirt and dancing with a rainbow umbrella — a far cry from the popster forced to pose alongside female co-stars and bikini-clad models in the ’90s

In this way, he represents a one-hit-wonder success story. Despite trials, tribulations, and finding superstardom at a time where LGBTQ+ people couldn’t live authentically, Lekakis is finally living his best life.

“Rainbow means a lot of things to a lot of people,” he recently told The Aussie Word. “Celebrate the rainbow, celebrate gay pride, celebrate your friends, celebrate with family, celebrate with new friends you meet, celebrate the joy, the love.”

He’s still got those blonde locks though.

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