Thursday, 29 October 2009

One Gay at a Time

Page Six today has a not-very-thinly-veiled item about Anderson Cooper going on a very gay vacation with his very gay boyfriend who owns a very gay bar. Enough: Anderson Cooper is very gay. It's time he said it.

Anderson Cooper's see-through closet is such a joke that it doesn't make sense to call him in the closet anymore. If he won't say it, we will: Anderson Cooper is officially out. There's no difference between him and Neil Patrick Harris. They both play it straight at their day jobs and then openly go about town with their boyfriends and do TV interviews about how much they love Kathy Griffin and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

It's not like Cooper's in a club all of his own, either. He is part of an increasingly large crowd of notables who won't come out but have given up trying to hide that they are gay. Queen Latifah denied that she was going to marry her girlfriend, a girlfriend who she tries to pass off as her "trainer." Kevin Spacey got busted lying about being mugged in a London cruising park. Ricky Martin has stopped even trying to fight the gay rumors. Jodie Foster has never said she's a lesbian out loud, but she basically came out when she thanked her partner in an acceptance speech.

These gay-not-gay celebrities are different from the Hugh Jackmans, John Travoltas, Tom Cruises, and Kenny Chesneys, who are all constantly plagued with gay rumors that they strenuously try to deny or deflect. If they're gay, they're doing it in secret. Cooper and his set of cohorts live openly gay lives — and that's a good thing — but they refuse to acknowledge what the public already knows.

In Anderson Cooper's specific case, we sort of understand why he won't open his mouth and let the rainbows fly. All the guy has ever wanted to do was be an old-fashioned newsman and unfortunately him coming out would make him a part of the story. Every time he tried to cover something having to do with gay civil rights (or Madonna or Fire Island) plenty of people would claim that his reporting was biased because of his sexual orientation. It's not fair: Katie Couric doesn't have to worry when she covers pay inequality for women, and neither does Harry Smith when discussing new medicine that will eradicate baldness.

Coming out would open Cooper up to irrational accusations from those waiting to pounce on the "liberal media" just as quickly as A.C. pounces on his muscle man in an Indian hotel room. That sucks, but it's the way it currently is. How does it get changed? Well, by having some major national news figures come out and show that they can still get blown over in a hurricane or report live from a war zone without breaking into a anti-Prop 8 rant.

That's right, Anderson, it's going to take you to change it. Rachel Maddow has paved the way, but all the baby gays out there need you to man up and be our Jackie Robinson. The first step is the easiest, you just have to say what everyone already knows.

Source: Gawker, Anderson Cooper Is a Giant Homosexual and Everyone Knows It

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hollywood's Coming Out Guru

An LA Weekly profile of Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman asks a provocative question: is the time ripe for an A-list male actor to come out of the closet? Bragman thinks the answer is yes.

Patrick Range McDonald writes that Bragman, openly gay himself, has helped numerous celebrities and pro athletes with the "tricky and, for decades, risky terrain" of coming out. He currently works with Chaz Bono, whose gender transition from female to male was recently reported on TMZ. He's brought out actor Mitchell Anderson and NBA player John Amaechi. But now, he says, it's time for someone really big. McDonald writes,

"The publicist hasn't brought out an A-list, gay male actor - yet. But Bragman says that day is coming, and after the first superstar decides to reveal himself, a fundamental shift in American acceptance of gay leading men may not be far behind. He's currently working with a famous musician who's still closeted from the public, but who will come out next year. And the manager of one major movie star approached Bragman a year ago and asked about his client's possibly going public, but the actor still refuses to pull the trigger.

"I felt a little frustrated with that superstar," Bragman says in reflection, "because it had to be 'handled.'"

Bragman's frustration aside, Hollywood remains "a surprisingly conservative entity." Stars mobilized for a "No on Prop. 8" campaign, but McDonald says "the big studios and their mostly male chiefs - and the scores of socially liberal men and women who play key roles as casting directors and agents - have together created a kind of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which places enormous pressure on gay, male actors to remain in the closet." Bragman is confident this can change — he even says, "coming out can be used as a marketing tool." And McDonald cites some hopeful statistics — 89% of Americans now believe that gay people should have equal job opportunities, and 72% say they would not change their opinion of an athlete if they found out he was gay.

Still, gay actors face some challenges. Foremost is the fear that, as McDonald writes, "audiences would be uncomfortable seeing a known gay actor like Cheyenne Jackson kissing or fondling Kate Winslet, and box-office earnings would nose-dive." Neil Patrick Harris is famously both out and doing well, but he says that for years, "I wasn't thought of in a sexual way, which is easy when you have big ears and are called Doogie all the time." If someone who was a sex symbol and a "superstar" to boot chose to come out, the response might be different. And the process would be even more complicated if said superstar also had a high-profile heterosexual cover relationship, as it's safe to assume at least a few do.

Then again, the fiction that no one — or almost no one — in Hollywood is gay can't last forever. It's already been much remarked-upon that while straight actors can "play gay" (like Sean Penn in Milk), only a very few gay actors are permitted to "play straight." Given that the entire film industry is based on audiences agreeing to believe for a few hours that someone very famous is actually someone else, this seems obviously ludicrous. And perhaps it's true that if one "superstar" — one with enough clout to get movies made regardless of sexual orientation — actually came out, everyone would have to confront the ridiculousness of Hollywood's straight-washing. Still, when the movie industry can campaign against Prop. 8 one day and enforce a "don't ask, don't tell" policy the next, it's no surprise that no one's clamoring to be the first.

Sources: Jezebel, When Will A "Superstar" Come Out Of The Closet?
Mediabistro, LA Weekly Discusses Hollywood's Closet
LA Weekly, The Secret Lives Of Queer Leading Men