Black and white photo collage that features pictures of the cast of the 1987 movie "Mannequin"

Songs That Soundtracked the AIDS Crisis: Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”

My memories are a sacred place. Some may say I am addicted to nostalgia, and maybe, on some level, I am. But aren’t most people? My visitations to yesteryear are not rooted in the longing to relive the past but rather a way for me to time travel and have conversations with my younger self. Conversations about what we both have survived, what we both witnessed, and, of course, re-examining the songs that got us through. 

In the late 1980s, I shared a bedroom with my mother and three young brothers. While that sounds like a crowded situation, I remember spending a lot of time alone. This solitude allowed me to sing and dance to songs blasting from our clock radio. One of those songs was, in my opinion, one of the greatest pop songs in music history, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship. 

Released in January 1987, a month ahead of the film, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was the theme song to “Mannequin,” a whimsical and oh-so-campy romantic comedy about a struggling artist who falls in love with a 4000-year old Egyptian woman who is reincarnated as a mannequin, who only comes to life for him. Hilarity ensues, and people soon think he is “weird.” He finds an ally in a co-worker by the name of Hollywood Montrose. Portrayed by the late Meshach Taylor, Hollywood Montrose is a Black, flamboyant, openly gay window-dresser who, on the surface level, is the comedic relief but is a central part of the film and its narrative about living fearlessly. 

Fun Fact: In a 1990 interview, Meshach Taylor shared that his portrayal of “Hollywood Montrose” was informed and inspired by friends he made as a cast member during the National Tour of Hair in the early 1970s. 

The film’s soundtrack is anchored by the Diane Warren co-penned and produced by Narada Michael Walden gem, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” A power ballad without the schmaltz, the song perfectly encapsulates the magical vibe of the feel-good film. At first listen, the song’s message of love’s perseverance can come off as cheesy, but in the context of when it was released, coupled with the queer representation of the character Hollywood, the song’s lyrics resonate even more deeply. 

“Let them say we’re crazy
What do they know,
Put your arms around me
Don’t ever let go,
Let the world around us
Just fall a part 
Baby, we can make it
If we’re heart to heart”

“Mannequin” was a box-office success that captured the hearts and imaginations of movie goers. While not a critical darling, it was a reminder that sometimes the most fantastical stories that invite us to suspend our beliefs, are the most touching. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was just as successful, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in April 1987. The following year, the song was also nominated for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards. 

I remember watching this film over and over at my grandmother’s house. I loved everything about it: Kim Cattrall’s portrayal of “Emy,” the beautiful mannequin that comes to life; the music (seriously, the soundtrack slaps!), and, of course, Hollywood Montrose. I was also moved by the friendship shared by Hollywood and the film’s protagonist, Jonathan Switcher, portrayed by “Brat Packer” Andrew McCarthy. It was, for me, one of the first times I saw a loving relationship shared by a gay man and straight man that was rooted in genuine camaraderie and support. In 2024, this is modeled in most TV shows and movies, but in 1987, this dynamic challenged the norms of the time.

Yes, there are valid critiques about “Hollywood” and the stereotypes surrounding gay characters in cinema. But as a child, I adored Hollywood and his audacity. Hollywood was a cultural touchstone, a joyful and bold representation of the LGBTQ+ community during a pivotal time in history. This is what my younger self loved but didn’t yet have the language to express. In the late 1980s, there wasn’t much for me to choose from in terms of queer representation in mainstream films, especially during the years when the AIDS crisis was escalating. 

I am grateful that my younger self saw a character like Hollywood in a movie that the entire family watched. I am grateful that as an adult I have been able to watch this film with my son and be reminded that Hollywood was a Black gay character that was vibrant and ALIVE during a time when so many were dying.


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