By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Witeck sees an entertainment industry that’s surprisingly brittle and outmoded, “behind on cultural change,” and which is, despite spending huge sums on audience surveys and marketing, still not able to properly “calibrate” its audiences the way professional pollsters do. “The world has changed,” Witeck says, “and Hollywood needs to catch up.”
On the day the documentary crew’s cameras started rolling, and the young producer started with a question about a gay slur, Howard Bragman had already been pondering the difficulties facing gay actors who stay in the closet. He figures it’s becoming increasingly impossible to live a public life that’s separate from a personal one.
“Clearly, we live in a very different time,” the publicist says. “You can bet that if you’re a gay actor and show up at a gay bar, someone will blog about it or Twitter it.”
To wit, in 2006, blogger Perez Hilton was first to report that Neil Patrick Harris is gay and, of course, TMZ revealed (with Bragman’s cooperation) Chastity Bono’s plan to become a man. Hilton regularly blogged about actress Lindsay Lohan and her relationship with Samantha Ronson, which eventually led to Lohan’s public confirmation in 2008 that she was dating Ronson.
“If you look at many of the cases of people coming out,” says Michelangelo Signorile, a gay writer who became famous in the 1980s and ’90s after outing entertainment mogul David Geffen and gossip columnist Liz Smith, and who now hosts a weekday talk show on Sirius/XM with a gay take on current affairs, “it’s happened because of the Internet.”
Signorile says that in the past he was only “reporting” a “truth” that mainstream media were either ignoring or actively distorting by claiming a gay man was in a serious relationship with a woman when that was not the case. “At the time,” says Signorile, who made big news when he claimed magazine mogul Malcolm Forbes is gay, “you had people outright lying. Journalists have to treat gay public figures the same as straight public figures. I called it reporting, not outing.”
TMZ’s Harvey Levin says he doesn’t try to find out if someone is gay. “We’re not bedroom bullies,” says the executive producer. “Celebrities do have zones of privacy. There are limits.”
Asked if TMZ has ever perpetuated the myth that a gay actor is straight, Levin says not to his knowledge. But he doesn’t think that “bold statements”— the kind that Bragman practices — are always best, and suggests that TMZ’s daily coverage allows the public to better connect with gay — or straight — actors as real people. “We show the day-to-day life of people over years.”
Kirby Dick, the documentary filmmaker, doesn’t necessarily see it that way. “A gay celebrity has more impact on the culture than a gay politician who comes out.” He calls such an event a “real boon” for gay rights.
By contrast, Signorile, author of Queer in America, about the power of media on gay life, says that when actors stay in the closet, “it puts out this idea that gay people in Hollywood don’t exist.”
Unless famous gay actors seek out Bragman, Hollywood will never dismantle its closet, says journalist Hernandez. “It’s up to the actors to do it. They have to not care about professional repercussions. They have to believe in their talent and be willing to possibly lose some jobs. They can change the system, and they have to come out to do it.”
Perez Hilton, who recently encountered a huge backlash from the gay community when he posted sex photos of Dustin Lance Black, the openly gay, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, offers up an even more dramatic vision of the future: “If every single gay celebrity came out at the same time,” Hilton says, “it would rock this world.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
People are in fact becoming much more tolerant out in flyover country (where I live).
A gay athlete's or politician's (or coworker's -- assuming 'out' doesn't mean 'in your face')orientation has utterly no bearing on their job.
However, that's not quite the case for an actor trying to portray a character in a het romantic relationship (if a significant part of the story), it most definitely has some bearing on the job, requiring an extra level of suspension of disbelief above and beyond the norm when viewing the performance. 'Bigotry' has nothing to do with it.
Yes, some actors might pull it off, but concern on the part of casting directors and producers is hardly irrational..
Thanks for the interesting article. I'm glad to hear that you are supportive of trans issues, but wanted to add my support to the earlier comment regarding trans pronouns etc. partway through the article. Simple rewording which respects the trans person's preferences about pronouns etc is almost always possible. Here (just to spell it out) it would have been more appropriate to say: "The phone interrupts him � it�s someone calling about one of his newest clients, Chaz Bono, child of Cher and Sonny Bono. Raised as Chastity, Bono is making the personal and public transition to becoming a transgendered man, and may become the best-known American person to do so. Bragman has been working closely with Bono, advising him to disclose his gender reassignment, but says, �We�re keeping our powder dry until the time is right, and our time is not right yet.� Other than that... thanks very much for the article, and for including trans issues!
Excellent article. It would be interesting to see if any studies could be done on the true perception of the audience. It's fascinating, for example, that Adam Lambert now has women throwing their panties at him onstage after he's come out officially. I believe many women "get it" that they'll never sleep with that star or celebrity whether they're straight or not, but have fun playing the game. Straight men, however, might have a harder time accepting a gay man as romantic straight lead. On the other hand, younger straight men now, to a large degree, don't seem to care who you sleep with. They're even open to the idea of having a gay fling or even romance. So, a lot of Hollywood's perceptions are dated as far as the younger demographic goes (which is ironic, considering that's their target market).
Hi Know It All,
It's funny...gay audiences are not turned on by straight sex, but we get over it, get into the characters, and watch the movie. You've fallen for the outdated notion that gay sex is somehow ugly or wrong or unnatural, where that's the furthest thing from the truth. It may not be something you like, which is fine. But don't push that attitude on us and try to make us feel inadequate, or give it as a reason for us to stay in the closet and deny our full, true selves. We'd never demand that from you, and we expect the same courtesy.
GREAT ARTICLE...well done...could have done without ending it with a Perez Hilton Quote...he is such a scumbag for the gay community and you just gave him PR that he craves.
I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO IS GAY OR LESBIAN. WATCHING A MOVIE LOVE SCENE, WHEN YOU KNOW THEY ARE GAY/LESBIAN, RUINS THE WHOLE THING. ALL YOU CAN THINK OF IS HIM SUCKING SOME GUYS DICK OR HER LICKING SOME DAMES CUNT!! HOW CAN THEY EVEN STAND TO KISS EACH OTHER FOR THE MOVIE??
If this is some attempt to restore Mr. Bragman to respectability among the gay and lesbian people he betrayed with his embrace of Doug Manchester, please forget it- it is as cheap and hollow as Mr Manchester's insulting offer.
Mr. Bragman has betrayed himself, his spouse, and every LBGT citizen in California, if not the world.
His embrace of Mr. Manchester proves that there may be a shortage of out gay men in Hollywood, but the supply of prostitutes remains ample.
The odd thing about the ridiculous argument that a gay male actor can't be "convincing" as a leadin man is this: An ACTOR is supposedly praised because he is convincing in a role that is DIFFERENT from who he is in life.
So, what could be a better display of acting talent, then, than a gay person convincing audiences that they are romantically interestd in a member of the opposite sex?
Kate Winslet won the Oscar! She's as A-list as they come. How's that a poor example? :)
In terms of Chaz Bono and transgender folks, I have the utmost respect for him and the transgender community, and I've written about their struggles for other publications. But thanks for the reminder.
It's easy for people to say "come out, come out" but these people have mortgages and car payments and perhaps they are taking care of their parents and siblings. They can't afford to lose money. Perhaps I'm naive but, I just don't think it's all that important for someone to announce their sexual orientation to the world, and personally, I don't care!!!
As for worrying about box office decline . . . it can't get much lower with the drivel being put out these days so I don't think the honchos need to worry. (And Kate Winslet hasn't had a hit since "Titantic" so that was a pretty poor example!!)
Hollywood is completely out of touch with reality. They don't like openly gay/lesbian actors. They don't like openly conservative actors. They don't like openly Christian actors. They don't like non-white actors. The funny thing is that most Americans are probably more accepting and tolerant than Hollywood.
I'm REALLy surprised at Paris Barclay for saying that. I thought he had his act together. But apparently many directorial (and other behind the scenes) talents don't. Could it be that Barclay, Holland and Roos are re-living painful coming-outs of their own and are projecting their fears onto everyone else? If they are there's no excuse for it.
Really, really sad.
I'm enjoying this article, but it could do a little better with regards to trans folks - using proper pronouns is really important, and it's really invalidating to see the article referring to Chaz Bono with "woman" where the word "person" would do. Same goes for using "she" instead of "he," and Chastity instead of Chaz.
Great article. I think if your a good actor or actress it doesn't matter who you sleep with. Also actors as well as sports figures are role models. I think people should come to terms with themsleves. The world is changing and era of purple marriages and hired beards needs to go bye bye.
Thanks for the nice words everyone.
I'm a little surprised no anonymous actor or producer or whoever has written in this comments section that the closet in Hollywood is still necessary.
I attended a SAG function the other night, and some of the panelists were basically saying that if an actor wanted to be a leading man, they have to consider staying the closet. Director Paris Barclay, in fact, ended up defending Todd Holland, a fellow TV director who said gay actors should "stay in the closet" if they want to make it in Hollywood.
It was a strange night. Even more so since no one backed up their points with hard data--i.e., 68 percent of America (just a number I'm throwing out there) hates gays and lesbians, according to the such-and-such poll. There was none of that. Just guesses and hunches and nothing scientific.
Hollywood has some major catching up to do. No wonder the studios rarely make a decent movie these days. The studio heads and others are completely out of touch with their audience, no one is taking any risks, and no one really knows what the rest of America wants, believes, or cares about. With this kind of working atmosphere, it's hard to believe that the gay closet will end any time soon in Hollywood.
Quite true about the Disney chief. That's a biggie. And equally big is Chris Colfer, who plays the gay kid on "Glee." He's gay -- and out -- in real life.
Despite any number of stragglers the closet is collapsing. Not just in Hollywood. Everywhere.
Might be nice to include an update with the news that the new head of Walt Disney Studios, Rich Ross, is an OPENLY GAY MAN.
Good job. A tough subject handeled with sensitivity and frankness. I have been around for quite while and can attest to how hard it is talk about this in the 'hood. I personally tried to get some actors I know to talk about this for this piece, and even assured confidentiality, they declined. This is more than the ususal closet issue.
This is one of those upside down descrimination cases. The public image of a profession and a surround "Hollywood" as liberal and free wheeling -when the reality is just the opposite. Ironically, this only closes the closet door more tightly.
This is so prevalent that an older actor I spoke to, who is firmly retired, largley due to age related health issues, would not speak to Patrick under any circumstances due to a fear about how his work might be viewed retroctively. That's right - how he might be viewed in films and TV he already did a number of years ago.
This is, I believe, all of a piece with the still very lopsided presence of women and people of color throughout the industry. This is still a bastion of the white male, despite certain well known exceptions. The vast majority of players are white males. No offense guys - some of my best friends are white males, but a lot of you all are a well known of bastion of a certain kind of conservatism, even if many to most of you don't realize it.
It is telling that one of the actors speaks of women having less fear of casting him. Fact is, that Patrick is dead on when he uses the ephit "faggot" as an exemplar of the problem. Too many adults are driven and haunted by school yard taunts into adulthood and unto death. Most of us doin't even realize how much the ghosts drive us.
I think the military will probably get freere of this "don't ask don't tell" stigma sooner than Hollywood. That was certainly true in racial and gender issues.
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