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GLAAD PR director Richard Ferraro says his organization “reached out” to Holland after his comments at Outfest. In his statement, Holland says nothing specifically about not again offering such advice to actors. Ferraro seemed fine with the statement.
“Holland stated: ‘It’s important for people to live openly and authentically.’ GLAAD agrees with this,” Ferraro wrote to the Weekly in an e-mail. “He also apologized for his ‘poorly chosen words.’ GLAAD works to raise the ‘honest, thoughtful conversations’ that he mentions.”
Karen Ocamb, news editor of Frontiers and a kind of dean of gay journalism in Los Angeles, isn’t so satisfied. “If [Holland] really wants to have an honest, thoughtful conversation about the significant barriers to being an out actor, as he says — well, then let’s do it. Let’s have a big, blowout conversation — with out actors and agents, and PR guys, and studio heads. Let’s get at the truth. We don’t need a Hollywood version of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell.’ ”
And SAG weighed in, citing its efforts to eliminate discrimination through public forums such as panel discussions, as well as privately by educating casting directors. SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland e-mailed his comment that the Guild is looking into the idea of “private get-togethers with key industry leaders to encourage greater inclusiveness” and sketch out some kind of nondiscrimination plan.
The Holland dustup is far from over. Within the Hollywood machine — casting directors, agents, studio execs — many assume that there’s a bias against gays in middle America. Many decision-makers don’t want to risk multimillion-dollar projects by hiring openly gay actors, who may turn off those moviegoers.
But as critics of the Holland viewpoint have noted in recent days, advising young gay men to “stay in the closet” if they want to succeed in Hollywood creates a vicious cycle in which that secrecy tends to feed what some call “institutionalized” homophobia in Hollywood.
“There’s still a lot of prejudice in this town,” publicist Howard Bragman says. The gay founder of Fifteen Minutes, a high-powered public-relations firm in Los Angeles, Bragman has worked in the entertainment world for 30 years, with such clients as Stevie Wonder, Ricki Lake and Benjamin Bratt. And his book Where’s My Fifteen Minutes? includes a chapter dedicated to “coming out.”
But Hollywood, he says, and in particular the business of casting, is driven by a process of rejecting and weeding out. “Casting is a red-flag business,” explains Bragman. “It’s often a process of elimination, and what you don’t want to do is give people one more reason not to pick you.”
So, Bragman says, gay actors try to keep their heads low in an effort to improve their odds of being cast in a major movie or TV show — he says, much to their agents’ and managers’ relief.
Not only do gay and straight agents follow that practice, so do casting directors. “They won’t tell you that,” says Bragman, but he’s heard “horror stories.” In fact, he offers, “some of the biggest offenders” in promoting institutionalized homophobia in Hollywood “are the gayest people in town.”
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.