A crowded bar in Hells Kitchen, New York, channeled the fervor across Europe this evening, as revellers cheered and yelled for 25-year-old Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen from Austria as she stormed to the top of this pan-European song festival. Coming after the Sochi winter Olympics, and at time of heightened tension over Ukraine, the win for Austria, the country's first since 1966, was widely viewed as a statement of support for diversity and tolerance after some eastern European groups demanded Wurst resign from the competition. One Russian petition complained that Austria was turning the show into a "hotbed of sodomy" (which would make a great name for a band competing in next year's contest).
In contrast to the exuberant support for Austria, boos rippled through the festival venue in Copenhagen when Russia's votes were announced, underlying tensions between Russia and Ukraine-as well as antipathy towards Russia's homophobic legislation. Among the countries that gave Austria top points this year was Israel, which famously won the contest in 1998 with Dana International, a transgender musician defying the odds, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters back home.
Wurst's song, "Rise Like A Phoenix," a power ballad that would be well-suited to be a James Bond theme, was written by Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski and Julian Maas.
"This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom," Wurst said. "You know who you are -- we are unity and we are unstoppable."
Twitter is on fire with support (and some criticism) for Wurst. Dan Savage summed up the fact that two big LGBT events happened on the same night well by tweeting:
\u201cGay guys who confirm the stereotypes, gay guys who shatter them - both exist, room for both, both can succeed! #MichaelSam #ConchitaWurst\u201d