She wore an outrageous outfit and she did an outrageous thing.
I'm talking about Lady Gaga, on stage in HSBC Arena, March 4, 2011.
The outrageous outfit? Let's just say it had a sexy, science-fiction vibe, and could not be described as opaque.
The outrageous thing? The pop star stopped her rollicking concert and, with great seriousness of purpose, urged the sellout crowd to email State Sen. Mark Grisanti to show support for New York's then-pending gay marriage law. And then she slowly spelled out the fledgling legislator's email address.
Thousands of her adoring fans immediately bent to their smart phones. Three months later, Grisanti, a Republican, ended up casting a key vote in favor of gay marriage, which is now the law of the land in New York.
For performance-art chutzpah, and savvy political activism, the Lady Gaga moment could not be topped.
Here, in my second annual list of personal arts-and-entertainment highlights, are a few more from the year just past.
1. Amid the torrent of words about Apple founder Steve Jobs after his Oct. 5 death, I was most captivated by those of the Washington Post's Hank Stuever: "Under his leadership, Apple's subliminal selling point was: Let it go. Let go of the uneasiness about computers. Let go of ugly, antique technology. Let go of the fantasy future of personal rocket ships. Let go of the expensive, shiny new phone that you bought last year for the slightly less expensive, shiny new phone that's coming out this year. But let go of something deeper, something resistant in you that romanticizes the past."
In that perceptive piece, Stuever nailed something essential -- beyond the gadgetry -- about why Jobs mattered.
2. Sometimes live pop music thrills me to my soul, and 2011 was an especially concert-rich year. At Kleinhans on Nov. 4, Joan Baez covered Steve Earle's brilliant "Jerusalem," her soaring voice and her history of peace activism giving new meaning to this moving song with its hopeful vision: "There'll be no barricades then/ There'll be no wire or walls/ And we can wash all this blood from our hands/ And all this hatred from our souls/ And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham/ Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem."
3. Later that night -- a few miles (and a couple of light-years) away -- I found myself at the revamped but still wonderfully gritty Sportsmen's Tavern on Amherst Street. My friend Michael Oliver (formerly a priest, always a rocker) introduced a song by saying that "the editor of The Buffalo News" had suggested that he take a break from writing dreamy ballads and get back to upbeat, three-minute pop tunes with great hooks. "Anyone But You" was just that, and I appreciated the shout-out.
4. Partly because my children attend schools in New York City and Boston, I get to those cities on a regular basis. In 2011, I was lucky enough to see three Broadway shows -- all wonderful in their own way. Highlights: Billy Crudup's high-energy, show-stealing turn as an eccentric Byron scholar in Tom Stoppard's century-hopping "Arcadia," and the mesmerizing script and performances in Stephen Karam's dark comedy, "Sons of the Prophet."
5. At Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, last fall's Degas exhibit was fine, but really cool was "The Clock," a 24-hour video that uses scene fragments from thousands of movies in which watches and clocks show the actual time on the day you are watching. In effect, the video itself functions as a timepiece. You stop in, stay for a while, and leave shaking your head at Christian Marclay's originality and ingenuity.
6. At a small gallery in lower Manhattan called Salon 94 -- a pristine white cube in a converted industrial building -- an artist named Marilyn Minter last fall displayed huge photographs embellished with metallic paint. Her scale is such that details become enigmatic monuments: a high-end designer shoe -- the size of a tool shed -- is splashed with mud; a cherubic toddler, crawling through a silvery sea, dwarfs the room. So much art is forgettable. These are haunting.
7. Speaking of work that haunts, among my favorite books was Joan Didion's "Blue Nights," about her daughter's death; its introductory pages are sheer poetry. I also admired Stephen Greenblatt's "The Swerve," a historical study of how a long-lost poem may have sparked the Renaissance. Don DeLillo's "The Angel Esmeralda" -- the title short story in a strong collection of nine -- truly qualifies as literature. I loved Martin Amis' review of the collection in the Nov. 21 New Yorker: " the gods have equipped DeLillo with the antennae of a visionary. There is right field, and there is left field. He comes from third field -- aslant, athwart."
8. And finally, back to music: In the gorgeous, sun-drenched summer of 2011, the place to be was Erie Canal Harbor. In that magical spot, the transplanted Thursday at the Square concert series flourished; Canada's Tragically Hip drew a huge crowd on July 30; and you didn't have to wait in line for beer if you were willing to drink Blue Light Lime. My fondest memory is of the Elvis Costello show on June 25, where the prodigiously talented singer/songwriter and his band, the Imposters, played everything from "Every Day I Write the Book" to the Who's "Substitute."
I texted a friend, "I am very happy. Very." At least once that night, I called to Costello what I consider the ultimate compliment at a rock show: "Play all night!"
Sadly, he did not. Such moments are fleeting, but the delights of 2012 beckon.