Strange Bromance — Why Did Elton John Perform at Rush Limbaugh's Wedding?

Saturday February 20, 2021
Originally published on February 19, 2021

Elton John
Elton John  (Source:Associated Press)

When Rush Limbaugh passed away earlier this week, some in the media claimed that his friendship with Elton John was proof that people of widely different world views could maintain a friendship. Others feel differently.

According to PEOPLE Magazine, John took the invitation from Limbaugh's fifth wife Kathryn Rogers to perform at the couple's June 2010 wedding. Fielding the invitation, John's agent wrote to the singer: "Well, I know you won't want to do it. How do you want to handle it?" John surprised him with his response: "Oh, no, no! I do. I most certainly do want to do this."

His reason for agreeing? His husband, David Furnish, told PEOPLE in 2010, days after the wedding that it turned out to be a genuinely sincere invitation. John said, "Life is about building bridges, not walls."

John ended up performing for about 80 minutes, closing with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" from "The Lion King." Guests also received a copy of his greatest-hits album, PEOPLE reported.

Limbaugh explained how the invitation came about after the wedding to his radio audience, Politico reported in 2010. Rogers wanted him to perform, but Limbaugh wasn't sure how to approach John about it. As it happened, the Limbaugh and John were staying in the same luxury Hawaii hotel when the late talk show personality had a medical emergency and was sent to the hospital. When he was released three days later, Limbaugh's agent said John was making inquiries about his health. "Was he hoping I didn't survive?" Limbaugh asked.

Rush Limbaugh  (Source: Associated Press)

Instead John's concern was genuine, which prompted Limbaugh to have Rogers reach out to him to perform. He agreed. But keeping "John's performance a secret was hard," wrote Politico, "and Limbaugh said during the rehearsal dinner luau, people tried to guess the identity of the surprise performer, but repeatedly got it wrong. Everyone, that is, except Justice Clarence Thomas, who guessed correctly it was Elton John."

John was paid $1,000,000 for the gig, which he contributed to AIDS charities.

During his performance, John was quoted as saying, "I suppose you all wonder why I'm here tonight?," Furnish told PEOPLE in 2010. "But ultimately, it's a bit like an olive branch, I guess."

If that was the case, John failed miserably. Limbaugh's anti-gay rhetoric, which over the years included him mocking AIDS victims by naming them over pop songs with sarcastic titles, continued. "Last year Limbaugh mocked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay major presidential candidate, as 'Booty Judge' and suggested Donald Trump would 'have fun' with Buttigieg's sexuality, PEOPLE wrote.

Limbaugh had also once said, "When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it's an invitation."

But Limbaugh's biographer Zev Chafets wrote on the Wall Street Journal that "On some social issues, like abortion, Limbaugh is a conventional conservative. On others he sounds a lot like Barack Obama. In an interview last summer he told me that he regards homosexuality as most likely determined by biology, considers other peoples sex lives to be none of his business and supports gay civil unions. I'm pretty sure that Elton John's sexual orientation never even crossed Limbaugh's mind."

On Twitter, some found the strange bromance refreshing, but many slammed both Limbaugh and John.

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