Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is It Really the End of the Beard & Merkin Era?

Rock Hudson and his lesbian wife, Phyllis, laugh at the stupidity of the public.

On the heels of last week's New York Times article about gay actors finding work in Hollywood comes this piece by MSNBC contributor Michael Ventre, who declares the "days of Rock Hudson-style facades over" while acknowledging that discrimination remains an issue for entertainers seeking an audience of millions. The latter part we're in agreement about; when it comes to the former, I don't know what the heck he's talking about.

Unquestionably, there has been a shift over the last few years in how closeted Hollywood celebrities conduct themselves in the media. Rather than going through the elaborate charade of cooking up fake heterosexual relationships for public consumption (not that those things don't still happen as well), more celebrities seem to be adopting the "my private life is off-limits" approach their British counterparts have long taken, an efficient way of avoiding both coming out and being actively closeted.

However, the American way of doing it sometimes seems to miss the point. You're not preserving your personal integrity when you tell reporters your private life is off-limits and then proceed to spend 20 minutes yakking about your children, all the while failing to mention the fact that you had them with a partner -- the same partner who was probably making sure they did their homework while you were off on a press junket pretending to be a single parent. What that ultimately exposes is an astonishing lack of integrity, made only slightly more palatable by the fact that a phony heterosexual love interest wasn't dragged into the mix.

That more gay celebrities seem resistant to the idea of entering into sham relationships is certainly encouraging, but I question how much of it can be directly attributed to that optimistic, familiar standby that society is evolving. When it comes to the public embracing openly gay entertainers, that evolution can only happen as quickly as famous gay people allow it to. They have to keep coming out if we're ever going to get anywhere, and when you compare the number of gay Hollywood stars to the number of out Hollywood stars, it's clear there is still a great deal of progress to be made. And it's only natural to wonder how many recent comings-out have been completely organic and how many have been the function of an increasingly invasive, 'open 24/7 on the Internet' tabloid media.

Are celebrities rejecting the Rock Hudson facade on their own, or is Perez Hilton rejecting it for them? I think the two are inextricably linked, but I'm also cynical enough to believe that the significant challenge of being a public figure and remaining closeted in the year 2008 has led to more recent outings than any newly unearthed altruistic impulses on the part of gay celebrities. Which leads us to another point of Ventre's that I have to disagree with:
When gays and lesbians in the entertainment industry come out these days, they’d probably be advised to throw lavish coming-out parties to ensure that attention will be paid. In the year 2008, when tolerance levels appear to be at an all-time high — not ideal by any means, and with lots of room for improvement — such an announcement is often quickly consumed by the 24-hour news cycle, and digested by a more enlightened populace.
How many lavish coming-out parties has Hollywood ever held? More often than not, at least in recent memory, a short statement is released, or a matter-of-fact acknowledgment is made in an interview, and the blogosphere takes it from there. Heather Matarazzo, Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, T.R. Knight, David Hyde Pierce, Neil Patrick Harris -- none of them were looking for a media circus when they came out, and few had the stature to warrant one, though the "Same Sex and the City" headline opportunities presented by the Nixon story were too great for most newspapers to resist.

Clay Aiken bucked the trend last week with his double whammy People cover and "Good Morning America" appearance, but most celebrity outings remain relatively low-key affairs -- and are likely to stay that way when the majority of those electing to come out are faded pop stars or actors who work primarily on stage or in television.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Those Crazy Brits and Their Silly Headlines

From yesterday's Guardian:
Gay TV host is liberal queen of US news
No, they're not talking about Anderson Cooper -- he isn't a pundit, silly. And the "liberal" rules out FOX's Shep Smith, which leaves us with the brilliant Rachel Maddow, whose new MSNBC show has garnered impressive ratings for the network since premiering earlier this month. It also has the distinction of being the only show on TV that my teenage sister and middle-aged father watch together, which I think could form the basis of an inspiring ad campaign.

You could start off with a family sitting in awkward silence at the dinner table. When they do speak, their comments are terse and accusatory. The teens are surly, the dad seems exasperated, the mother defeated. But later that night, as Maddow's show is about to start -- she can stand in front of a standard-issue network promo backdrop and smile benevolently with her arms crossed as this happens -- the parents put down their copies of Nixonland or What's the Matter with Kansas? and the teens silence their cell phones and lower their laptop screens for the first time all day.

They watch the show as a family, wearing similar expressions of slack-jawed disbelief as a torrent of clips showing John McCain referring to himself as a maverick plays (or maybe it should be a clip of Sarah Palin talking about Alaska's participation in the Russian civil war and how they bravely rode into St. Petersburg on dinosaurback to fight on the side of Union because slavery was taking jobs away from Americans -- I'm sure CBS has something like that on the cutting room floor). Then Maddow would offer some kind of wry commentary and the family would relax and find themselves united in laughter. At which point one of those deep-voiced announcers who tries to make everything sound heartwarming would say: "Rachel Maddow, bringing families together in living rooms across America." Accompanied, perhaps, by a small picture of Rachel at the bottom of the screen and a quickie voice-over: "I'm Rachel Maddow, and I approved this ad."

Can you tell I've had too much time on my hands today?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"I Can See Dinosaurs from My House!"


Salon's David Talbot scared me like Freddy (the world needs a Sugababes reference every now and then) two weeks ago with his article "The Pastor Who Clashed with Palin," which explained why even 80-year-old retired Baptist ministers think the Governor of Alaska is "Jerry Falwell with a pretty face."

The article detailed Palin's interest in book banning (gay books, natch), her work as an anti-choice crusader, and her wacky creationist belief that man and dinosaur walked the earth at the same time in what had to have been an Odd Couple-esque "Dinosaur = Oscar Madison, Humans = Felix Unger" arrangement. Then there was the issue of her reported response to Philip Munger, an Alaskan political acvitist, when asked if she believed in the End of Days. According to Munger, "She looked in my eyes and said, 'Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.'" (What about Elvis and Tupac?)

Now comes an article in today's L.A. Times that determines Palin "treads carefully between fundamentalist beliefs and public policy." It quotes John Stein, who helped her early in her political career, as saying "She's got a fine-tuned sense of how far to push."

Allison Mendel, an attorney who sued the state of Alaska seeking mandated health insurance benefits for same-sex partners of state employees, says Palin "has been careful not to squander all her political capital on social conservative issues." All the Times has to say on the insurance matter was this:
Palin also did not challenge an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that mandated health insurance benefits for same-sex partners. Instead she signed a nonbinding referendum that asked voters their opinion on the issue.
While it's true she didn't challenge it, she had a few things to say about it, all pandering to bigoted voters.

The part of the Times article that really got to me, though it may seem trivial to some, goes back to Palin's comments about dinosaurs. Bill McAllister, her chief spokesman as governor, is asked about it:
McAllister said that he never heard Palin make such remarks about dinosaurs and that Palin preferred not to discuss her views on evolution publicly.

"I've never had a conversation like that with her or been apprised of anything like that," McAllister said. He added that "the only bigotry that's still safe is against Christians who believe in their faith."
If ever a statement deserved to be met with a chorus of boos and the throwing of rotten tomatoes, it's that crap about "the only bigotry that's still safe" being "against Christians who believe in their faith," but I wouldn't expect the anti-gay, anti-choice crowd to understand that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Are Gays on TV

"Why are you looking at us like that?"

Having spent yesterday caught up in debate mania, I missed this Times article about the progress openly gay actors have made in landing TV roles. It doesn't say much that gay viewers don't already know (the headline is "Out in Hollywood: Starring Roles Are Rare"), but it's nice to see actors like Bryan Batt of Mad Men and Jasika Nicole of Fringe mentioned alongside the usual suspects like T.R. Knight and Neil Patrick Harris. One thing that did catch my eye:
Never before have gay story lines been so prominent. Nor have there ever been so many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters on television — 83 by a recent count from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, not counting reality shows, daytime dramas or gay-oriented cable networks.

Hollywood, with its depictions of cowboy lovers and lesbian neighbors, has done much to make gay men and women part of mainstream American life.

That makes things sound much rosier than they are. Gay characters in general and lesbian characters in particular don't have nearly the kind of visibility on network television such reporting would have you believe. Or, if you will: There are gays on TV, you just have to strain your neck to see them.

If you haven't already, you can dig through GLAAD's findings yourself. For the record, there are currently zero lesbian leading roles to be found in scripted broadcast programming. (We're typically underrepresented on network reality shows as well.) In supporting roles you'll find zero confirmed lesbians, though FOX's Bones and House each have a bisexual supporting character and ABC's Grey's Anatomy has something brewing between the heretofore heterosexual doctors Torres and Hahn. (I've already weighed in on that; my expectations are low.) NBC's Knight Rider, meanwhile, has a supporting character who is either bisexual or lesbian; as AfterElton's Michael Jensen reports, the creative geniuses behind that show aren't sure of her orientation. With cancellation looming on the horizon, they're running out of time to make a decision.

That leaves the recurring character category, the paltriest category of all, and naturally that's where we make a showing with the town mayor on NBC's Friday Night Lights and Marge's sister Patty on The Simpsons. There will also be a lesbian couple on The Goode Family, Mike Judge's upcoming animated series on ABC, voiced by former SNL-ers Laraine Newman and Julia Sweeney. But never before have gay storylines been so prominent! Yay for gays! That lesbian chic thing has really taken off, hasn't it?

John McCain's No Sandra Bullock


Just wanted to remind you all, in case you missed it any of the eight thousand times he pointed it out last night: John McCain was never voted Miss Congeniality.

McCain seemed to wear this failure like a badge of honor, not realizing it was both a groaner of a line and a repeated reminder of his appallingly unqualified running mate, who isn't allowed to take questions from reporters but used to put on a swimsuit for a panel of judges in hopes of winning a tiara.

Truthfully, a Miss Congeniality title could only help his campaign at this point; McCain's irritability and juvenile unwillingness to even look at Obama during the debate hasn't played well with voters. Plus, if box office returns are any indication, America loves a bumbling but ultimately competent beauty pageant contestant. McCain seemed to have the bumbling part down as he informed us of the advanced age of his pen (which appeared to be a Sharpie) and launched into countless meandering anecdotes of dubious relation to the topics he was asked to discuss. What he didn't do was convince anyone he could foil a terrorist plot as ably -- or dare I say as adorably -- as Sandra Bullock.*

* Well, I'm assuming she foiled the plot in Miss Congeniality. I've only seen about ten minutes of that movie but the fact that a sequel was made indicates everyone survived. Bullock, come to think of it, is no stranger to battling terrorism. There was Dennis Hopper in Speed, Willem Dafoe in Speed 2, cyberterrorists in The Net, the beauty pageant terror plot in Miss Congeniality, and I won't even get into Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. She's a one-woman Department of Homeland Security.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sarah Silverman Wants You to Threaten Your Grandparents



And she's right. Your grandparents, if they are registered voters, are loose cannons, potential menaces that must be kept in line. Let's look at this logically: They're afraid of robots and they pour iced tea into gigantic old people diapers. Sometimes they drive around parking lots with 3-year-olds on the roofs of their cars. If they're anything like my grandma, they've been known to accidentally buy dog food for their cats -- and then pass it along to you, sighing, "I don't know, Pepper wouldn't touch it, but maybe yours will like it." That's crazy, right? It makes you question their mental competency almost as much as the hideous sweaters they give you each holiday season.

The sad fact of the matter is some grandparents aren't qualified to make important decisions, like who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, on their own. That's where we come in, for reasons Silverman helpfully explains in this video. I'm fortunate in this regard. My grandparents, while insane, are not insane enough to vote for John McCain. But they are Jewish septuagenarians, a group McCain was hoping to frighten into supporting his bid for the presidency by having other right-wing sleazeballs suggest that Obama has some kind of secret, religiously-motivated political agenda that would threaten Jews. Fearmongering is, as Karl Rove taught us in 2004, an effective way of grabbing votes; but the only candidate capable of terrifying Jews this election season is Sarah Palin, whose church is tied to all kinds of things that most Jewish voters would find alarming. (See: this and this. My grandparents aren't Internet-savvy, so I've been printing these types of stories out for them to distribute to their friends.)

If your grandparents need a swift kick in the ass, take a page from Sarah Silverman's book and tell them what's what. If that fails, you could always point out - respectfully, lovingly, and of course with great tact - that odds are they'll be dead in 10 years and you'll be around for another 50. Which is why it's monumentally important they don't fuck this up for you. And if they let you down, it's off to Shady Pines.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Briefly (Or Maybe Not), Thandie Newton

"You're a wanker, number nine!"

Famous women can never cop to having lesbian experiences without someone questioning if it's a bid for publicity, can they? I've never understood the derision and disbelief that often follows these revelations; I don't think an actress has ever landed a development deal after telling a magazine reporter she fucked a girl in college. Not to mention it seems rather quaint when people act like lesbian experimentation is so incredibly exotic that women must be lying when they admit to having tried it. It's not like they're saying they were spies in WWII or something.

Sometimes a story will seem a bit suspect, like Megan Fox's brilliantly calculated Russian stripper romance, but my general philosophy on lesbian 'sperimentation (which I'd know a thing or two about, being a seasoned professional) is this: it's common. Very common. And that's just among "civilian" women. Throw ridiculously gorgeous women like models and actresses into the mix and it practically becomes an inevitability. You might think I'm joking, but really, how often do you think Greta Garbo used to get turned down?

My point, if I ever had one, was that it's silly to doubt every attractive actress who says she's had a Mulholland Drive moment. When I read that Thandie Newton (who I'm in lust with, as some of you might remember) recently told The Advocate that she had a lesbian experience as a teenager, I figured I wouldn't have to visit many websites before finding someone who wondered if she was lying. The comment I found, over at Defamer, turned out to be funny rather than dismissive: "Was this other girl a Russian stripper? Hmmm. I'm waiting until I hear what Thandie's mom has to say." (Megan Fox's mother, when asked about her daughter's foray into lesbianism, said she had no idea if the story was true.)

Still, there has to be someone at some website who will declare him or herself unconvinced. Normally I wouldn't care, seeing as this is a trivial matter, but Newton's comments to The Advocate reminded me of an interview she did with The Scotsman back in 2007, when she talked about embarking on a relationship with her significantly older Flirting director John Duigan at the age of sixteen. The Scotsman interview caught my attention because Newton was so honest with journalist Craig McLean, telling him of her time with Duigan:
"I was involved in a relationship which really relied on my insecurity, so that I wouldn't ever think, 'What the fuck am I doing with an old bloke?' And that insecurity was fueled all the time. 'It must be because you're black.' Seriously. 'Don't worry about it because I'm here to...' Bollocks! 'It's because I'm 18 and you're 41. Everyone's looking at us because this sucks. And I'm thinking they're looking at us because I'm black.' Isn't that fucking awful?"
What she told The Advocate, in response to the question "Have you ever experimented with a woman?" was this:
"Yes, I had my rite of passage. I was 16, and I wasn't really in control of the situation, if you know what I mean. It was much more about a male fantasy of seeing two women together. But I loved the girl a lot; she was one of my closest friends. I think falling in love is actually more about falling in love with an individual. We're all potentially bisexual; it all depends on your circle, your upbringing, and all kinds of things. Or maybe I'm just talking about myself. I could've easily fallen in love with a woman over a man. My husband Ol's kind of a man-woman. Look, I once loved Tim Curry, so there you go."
It's presumptuous to make the connection, I know, and it's entirely possible I'm barking up the wrong tree. But I thought it was worth pointing out that maybe, just maybe, actors tell the truth sometimes. Also, you know, Thandie Newton is hot and I'd hate to pass up an opportunity to post a photo of her. She's much nicer to look at than Bullwinkle.

Can Anyone Translate?

I've watched this clip of Sarah Palin trying to explain her foreign policy experience to Katie Couric twice now, and I've read the transcript more times than that, and I still don't know what the hell she's saying. All I got out of it is that Sarah Palin can't form a complete sentence, and that I've heard drunken winos -- and Tracy Morgan -- make more sense than this elected official who somehow ended up the Republican vice presidential candidate.

For example, what's this business about "our next door neighbors," which are "foreign countries," being in Alaska? My elementary school must have had really crappy geography textbooks, because I thought Anchorage and Juneau were in Alaska. I didn't realize foreign countries were also wedged into the state. Makes all those stories my grandparents used to tell me about their grandparents fleeing to the U.S. from Russia to escape anti-Semitism seem kind of meaningless, doesn't it? Turns out they were in "the state that [Palin is] the executive of" all along. And Canada? Also in Alaska. My sister, a baby dyke who's obsessed with Tegan and Sara, and Canada by extension, will be disappointed to hear that. She was looking forward to visiting Montreal one day and it might dampen her enthusiasm to learn she'll really just be going to Fairbanks.

Palin's comment about Vladimir Putin and how he "rears his head" in Alaska by coming into their airspace is equally fascinating. Hopefully Couric followed it up with questions about whether he does so in a helicopter with Natasha Fatale at his side. If Palin answered yes, that raises all kinds of other questions, like why she hunts moose when we need Bullwinkle to thwart the Russians, and whether she advocates aerial squirrel gunning. If Bullwinkle must die to make burgers for Bristol and Trig, we at least need assurance that Rocky is safe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Claymate Madness

"I thought you were good, Clay. But you're not good. You're just another lying old dirty birdy."

"Clay has such a power over me that I couldn't turn away from him if I wanted to."

So says avowed Clay Aiken fan ClaysCutiePie14 over at the Clayboard, and I know how she feels because that's how I feel ... about the Clayboard. I can't stop visiting that website. I've already compiled a companion piece to my previous post about the Claymate reaction to Aiken's coming out, but I won't have everything ready until tomorrow. Still, I couldn't wait to post this, the campiest Claymate post of all time. It starts off slow, but stick with it and I promise you won't be disappointed:

"This is an extremely upsetting time for me, so this will be my last post on this board, or any other Clay board... because the music and a part of me died yesterday.

"Like so many of his fans, I have invested over five years of promoting him in every way I knew how, especially to young people, including my three young nephews and four teenage nieces. But he lied to us for those five years... presenting himself as someone that he is the very opposite of.

"I have lost all respect for him... I will never be able to look at him the same again.

"I will never be able to listen to him sing, "O Holy Night," knowing he desires unholy nights."

That's really something, isn't it? That's the kind of line only Divine could deliver. It was post #1267 in this thread, and there's more to it than what I quoted (the user asks for her account to be deleted) but none of it tops that.


9/25 UPDATE: Here are the additional quotes I was talking about. Fan reaction was more negative yesterday than it had been the night before, but there were still many more posts in support of Clay than posts condemning his decision to come out. They're still crazy as hell, but not as homophobic as one might expect.

"I specifically woke up early to read what People had to say and I am so glad I did. It's just amazing to me that he is so concerned with his fans in taking this courageous step. Clearly this wasn't an easy thing for him and he knows it won't be easy for some of his fans. Clay truly is a man of integrity. He's my hero and I love him with all my heart. Always and forever."

"It breaks my heart that some will chose not to support him any longer. THIS is what I am having a hard time accepting and not the fact that he is gay."

"Why is he courageous know? Wasn't he courageous when he said he was a christian,virgin and not gay? I am still asking myself this.............."

"I think the way this whole drama has been played for the last 5 years just stinks. IMO, he chose the role as the mistreated victim using his dysfunctional childhood, acting like the naive country bumpkin and hiding behind the kind skirts of a misguided fan club. And now, IMO, using his precious, innocent baby to shield him from the blows of his deceit, his manipulation, and his cowardice. I am so tired of the derogatory comments Clay so intentionally makes in almost all of his interviews and I am even more tired of the affect it has on the "poor Clay" label his fans are too eager to extend to him. His baby is the true victim in this last chapter on Clay Aiken's sexual orientation. Harsh post, yes, but I have a right to voice my perceptions just as those who find a need to defend his honor have the same right."

"I came for the Voice. I stayed for the Man.....he said so many times he was. I am sad to be slowly leaving for the man he now has proclaimed to be."

"i am horrifed that some think he is using Parker to deflate the impact of this news. I think he truly feels this is his story and journey for the last 5 years and he is FINALLY ready to talk about it. Parker gave him the courage-children make you a different person-you are not the number 1 priority anymore. I actually can understand that and why he chose now."

"It wasn't until I saw Clay in Spamalot that I became convinced that he had not been telling us the truth (I can't put my finger on what it was, exactly, but I just felt it in my gut for the first time during that performance); then when the story about the baby was reported I believed it was confirmation that he was, in fact, gay and I had allowed myself to be deceived all those years. Now I think that Clay wants to have his cake and eat it too: He wants us to continue to love him and to support him even though he is not the person we were led to believe he was, and he wants us to embrace the person he always was but is just now admitting to being and who I would never have supported if I had been told the truth in the first place! I know he wants me to feel sorry for him but I don't. I think he has known since puberty. I just wish he would have kept quiet about it instead of blabbing in a major publication. Now I have to endure the humiliation of being proven to be incredibly STUPID! I have donated all my Clay Aiken tee shirts, CDs, etc. to charity and some of the stuff ended up in the landfill, which is a good place for it. To Clay I say: Depart from me, I never knew you."

"During Idol and maybe the year after I just told myself he wasn't gay because I didn't want to think he was because he was just too cute and I was so into him, but then I couldn't go on any more fawning over him and whatever because it felt weird. All the signs were there, even the gay community tried to tell people and of all people, they should know. I'm just amazed that as the years went by people still thought he was straight. Serious denial going on by many of his fans..."

"I remeber a time when everyone used to say his personal life was his own, and what he did in it was NO ONES business. Not even ours and that if he was happy we would be happy. What happened to THAT? Did some of y'all LIE when those words were spoken as well?"

"In the midst of joy, profound hearbreak. In the relief of releasing truth, a realization that part of our community has died. I won't pretend that everything is fine and dandy when so many are hurting. I keep going between knowing Clay is happier to being aware that so many have been hit with a painful shock to their hearts."

"Wow. Didn't see that one coming. I mean people say stuff, but hello, every musician/actor has that said about them at SOME point."

"How sad that he lived in a prison that we built for him. I'm glad he's found the strength to finally knock down the door and breathe real air. May peace surround you today and every day. Clay I forgive you for lying"

"Umm, I'm 58 and the only things that surprise me are (1) that anyone is surprised and (2) that anyone in 2008 is still calling being gay a "lifestyle"."

"I really did not care to post how I feel about everything but I have to. I first want to say I am sad, and I cried all night, and I am still crying, my tears now are for some of the hateful things being said about him."

"My sweet husband sent me flowers today because he knew that I am being bombarded by "I told you so" emails yesterday and today. He is my true love. I will continue to buy Clay's cd's, and go to concerts because I LOVE his music. Today's been hard for me but I will get over it."

"I don't post much, but I check this site every day. I was one who was sooooooooooo sure Clay was straight. But you know what? After the initial shock that lasted maybe one minute, I found myself holding back tears of joy because I hit me that he was setting himself free and releasing a burden. This mad-talented, intelligent, compassionate, quirky guy deserves peace and happiness. I love him more today than yesterday and I can't wipe the grin off my face."

"I actually feel like my fandom for Clay has been renewed, because I felt that all this time he has not been true to himself and I pretty much have a new found respect for him for finally coming forth and being honest about who he is."

"Clay thinks it was okay to lie to his fans but it's not okay to raise his son with a lie and that's supposed to be 'courageous'? 'Courageous' would have been admitting it to the gay community when they wanted him to be a role model for them. Instead he shunned the gay community. He wouldn't have anything at all to do with them. He was too good for them. IMHO his sole purpose for not admitting it until now is because he knew that he would not have had a career otherwise. He knew how some of the fans he courted from the beginning with his claims of wanting to be a role model would react to the truth and so he deliberately deceived them."

"I'm so glad I wont have to read fantasies about him marrying Jaymes or any other woman ever again. What a relief."

Claymates Face the Music

Pop idol Clay Aiken or Indigo Girl Amy Ray? You be the judge.

Now that Clay Aiken has officially come out of the closet, calling the move "the first decision I made as a father," his most outspoken fans, the oft-mocked Claymates, are slowly inching from bargaining to acceptance. I've been observing their reactions from afar since last night, when the ban on the People cover story discussion was lifted at The Clayboard and members started consoling each other and weighing in on the announcement.

Claymates have always fascinated me. Their willful ignorance on the matter of Aiken's sexuality sometimes manifested itself in the darnedest ways, like the vitriolic, homophobic e-mail campaigns they'd launch when bloggers accused Clay of being closeted. Anyone who maintained the singer was gay was labeled a "basher" or a "hater," presumably because a significant number of vocal Claymates (many of whom are devoutly religious) could think of nothing worse than being called gay. How could you see the Claymates in action and not be amused by their inability to recognize their own homophobia, particularly as they declared their undying love and devotion to a man who could very well be the love child of Barry Manilow and Jim Nabors?

As it turns out, the Claymates aren't as crazy as I thought. They're still delightfully eccentric, employing frequent use of group hug emoticons (appropriately, the image is somewhat rainbow colored) to deal with Clay's coming out, but overall they seem to be coping just fine. The overwhelming sentiment on the Clayboard has been "I came for the voice and stayed for the man," and a few fans admitted they saw the writing on the wall when the baby arrangement was announced months ago. One fanatic who has long believed Clay to be gay even went to a "gay & lesbian ministry workshop at a religious education conference" so she would "understand & love him better." (Her long and very supportive post is one of the highlights of this thread.)

There are also fans who feel betrayed on moral grounds. Think of all the teasing they've endured over the last five years as they've defended Clay's non-existent heterosexuality to every friend, relative and coworker who'd listen. So far, few of these "I feel so ... used!" people have stopped to consider that they might have been the very reason Clay felt it necessary to stay in the closet, but once the dust settles and their Claymate hearts have mended, they might open their eyes a bit. The percentage of fans who've been openly bigoted seems relatively small, and they're generally smacked down by a chorus of detractors within minutes.

Below, a bonanza of quotes culled from the massive "Upcoming People Magazine Cover and Article" thread on the Clayboard. As for Aiken's announcement itself, I applaud him for finally coming out. I've criticized him in the past, both out of a general disdain for closet cases and a particular intolerance for closeted celebrities who pander to a homophobic fan base, but I respect what he said when asked why he's coming out now: "I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn't raised that way, and I'm not going to raise a child to do that." There will be people who say he used his child as a prop, but it's virtually impossible for a public figure to come out without someone somewhere finding a reason to complain about it. I like that he's pictured with his son, and I hope this becomes an important magazine cover, maybe the sequel to Ellen on TIME, that paves the way for other gay celebrities to come out and raise their children honestly.

Fan reaction:
"please tell me I'm not the only one who is shocked beyond belief! I feel numb I'm so upset. This can't be real!! How can you guys say this won't change anything? This changes EVERYTHING. I don't even know what to think right now."
"It is 2.57am here, just cant sleep. I have cried, tossed and turned, but have had a feeling about this for a long time, being Christian does make it harder, but I have decided not to judge anyone ever again, and it is Clay that has taught me this, and unconditional love, and I do not even know him. He still has the voice that I adore, and he is the bravest classiest, and the least vulgar person I have ever seen."
"Looks like I've got the hots for a gay man. I'm not going anywhere - I fell for Clay because of his voice and his heart - those are still the same."

"Can't imagine how hard this has been for him. I really admire the courage this takes. It makes no difference to me and hope he sleeps well tonight."
"I've cried a river of tears and truthfully do not know where I stand right now. I am envious of those who can take this news and continue to state their unconditional love and support for Clay. Right now all I can think of is that he is a fantastic entertainer but I took him at his word and it appears that his word isn't what I thought it was."
"I just feel rather silly now having spent the last 5 years drooling over and being fan girly for a singer I thought was straight and now finding out he is gay. It does change my perception of who he is and how I see him. We always called him our boyfriend and that won't be happening anymore. I just am sad, disappointed, and because he is not what I thought he was in terms of his sexuality and how he portrayed himself. He still is a great singer and humanitarian but my "crush" on him is over and that hurts."

"I don't feel at all that I was lied to. If there was a question about how to answer the rumors, I believe that he did as he was directed by his producers and RCA. Then, perhaps he wasn't absolutely sure of his own preference at the time, since he hadn't been around a lot, and later realized his true feelings.. Maybe he has met somone, who knows? It's his business."
"I'm slightly shocked at some of the comments and emotion coming from some of Clays fans tonight. I used to always think of this fan base as an open-minded quagmire of women who loved a man for his voice, talent and his unending ability to make people just feel good. Clay coming out and saying he is gay does not change him or all that he stands for, it just adds a little bit more to the man he is."

"I don't quite know what to say. It hasn't fully sunken in yet. My dad was the first person to break the news to me when I came home from an errand this evening. As soon as the news reached my ears, the blood drained from my face and a literal rush of shock surged through my body. My face fell. For a few milliseconds I felt...nothing. Not long after that, I shut myself up in my room and wept silently, my heart breaking. This has all happened during a rough time in my life so that makes it all the more painful for me. I just...I don't know what to do. I'll probably never hear the end of it from my dad. Part of me still thinks this is all a dream, yet the whole of me knows it isn't. I will be withdrawing any financial support of him, as my beliefs do not condone his lifestyle. However, I will continue to pray for him and await further details on the situation."

"I cannot continue to support him financially now that I know he has chosen this lifestyle"

"That just means that when I buy my ticket I'll be one seat closer to the stage."

"IF homosexuality is not a choice, to have gay sex still IS a choice. So I would say that a person can be gay, that is, be attracted to other men, and still choose not to have sex. If Clay does say in his interviews that he is gay, I hope and pray he chooses that route -- abstinence. But its his decision, of course. "

"I feel sad that he may lose some fans because he came out, but perhaps he'll gain new fans because of his coming out."

"I do not have any problem with anyone being Gay. I have in my library CDs of Elton John, K.D. Lang (who sings some of the most beautiful love songs), Melissa Etheridge and I LOVED GEORGE MICHAEL in the 80s. What hurts so bad is that CLAY LIED. For 5 yrs now he's been lying"

"He is still the same person he always was. Had he not told us, we would have noticed no change. He's still Clay, people, no matter who he decides to give his heart to. I know that when I love somebody, even if I don't really -know- them, I just want them to be happy. I just want Clay to be happy. I think now he finally can be, and that is a blessing. Love is the greatest thing that God has given us. Who are we to deny somebody that?"

"I think many will realize tomorrow that he is saying he is Happy = Gay. Happy about his new son, Parker. Not that he likes men. "

"Goodbye, Clay. I truly wish you and Parker all the best."
Here's one of the thread's"Oy, homophobes" epic bitchslaps:
"Are YOU kidding ME?!?! One day, ONE DAY... that's all it has taken you to change your mind from thinking Clay Aiken was the epitome of kindness, compassion, intelligence, humour and warmth... into thinking that he should be SHAMED for who he is and for bringing a child into the world. Talk about judgemental! I'm sorry, I know that everyone handles this sort of news differently, but how can some of you think this way? If you don't condone homosexuality, fine, that is your belief. But how you can possibly say that he is dysfunctional?? Or EVER believe that homosexuality is a choice? Something he chose out of gay peer pressure and not being able to find "the right girl"?

"Give me a break. Have a little more respect for the man who for FIVE YEARS you and others have found to be a great humanitarian. And if you think it's hard for you to come to terms with this, just imagine the strength of character he must have to be able to come to terms with this, and still remain an upbeat, positive role model and lovely person. I'm not disappointed in Clay Aiken. I'm disappointed in people who make such unfair judgements on him and his family. And before anyone else gives out about him being a liar, allow him the benefit to explain. And think about how hard it would be for YOU to come to terms with something so life changing - and in the public eye no less. It's not like falling down a hill in front of a hundred people, or farting in front of your boyfriend on the first date... it's telling the WORLD that you are gay. That's not an easy decision for anyone to be able to make. /rant"
And my personal favorite, a high school student putting things in perspective:
"Y'know, it's funny, for years I thought that, despite the fact that %50 of my male friends are gay, and are like my best friends -ever-, that I would be extremely upset if he ever revealed he was. Despite my better judgement, I believed Clay when he told us other wise, and defended, much to my own mockery, him and his sexuality for five years. And whenever indications would come up, I would find myself getting upset.

"I'm seventeen now. I don't know weather or not it's because I've grown as a person, or because I made a bigger deal of something in my head than it actually was, but I'm completely and totally fine with this. Happy, even, because now I know that, once the storm blows over, he will be happier than ever in his new life, and can finally be with somebody without worrying if tabloids would unwillingly out him to the public, family, and friends.

"And, really, I don't think that the response will be that bad. Sure, there will be some close minded people, people who think that a gay man shouldn't raise a child, but the majority of people who have made snarky comments about Clay's sexuality, made fun of him, etc, the same people I defended him against.. will either not care, or support him now. Because what they have always said is "I don't care if he's gay. I really don't. I just wish he'd admit it." And just as the storm blew over with Lance Bass, the storm with Clay will, too, in time, fade away, and he can just be who he is both privately and in the public eye.

"... Now with all of that being said... Is it weird that I want to go boyfriend shopping for him now?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seriously, WTF?

From "The Clayboard," a fan forum dedicated to k.d. lang's younger sister, Clay Aiken:
"Clay fans are brave and loyal and loving, and sometimes they are truly tested. Hugs to everyone who has weathered the storm."
Honestly, I'm surprised. I was expecting all kinds of crying and carrying on, but apparently the subject of Aiken's appearance on the cover of People magazine -- he is shown cradling his newborn son alongside the headline "Yes, I'm Gay" and the words "The Idol star opens up about his emotional decision to come out: 'I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things'" -- is verboten until the authenticity of the story has been established.

For the record, a USA Today entertainment blogger has already posted that while People doesn't have the cover on their website yet, "they confirm it's real." And there is currently a red breaking news style banner running across the top of the magazine's website that advises readers to "Come back Wednesday for the full scoop on Clay Aiken at 7 A.M. EDT."

What I'm wondering is whether we'll see any open despair and gnashing of teeth from the sad kooks who've claimed Clay as their heterosexual son or imaginary boyfriend if, at 7 A.M., that cover is on the People homepage. Or will they try to be cool and casual about it, pretending they've had their suspicions for years but didn't think it was polite to gossip? (A move that is, by my estimation, the virtual equivalent of your elbow slipping when you go to lean against the wall, so you end up slamming your shoulder or performing a spastic gymnastics routine to keep from falling, and then you look up and everyone is staring at you and all you can offer is an unconvincing "I meant to do that..." Happens to me all the time, but then I have the coordination of a drunken kindergartner.)

I also wonder if maybe, just maybe, this means that middle-aged, Bible-clutching heterosexual women from the heartland will stop trying to tell gay people who's gay and who isn't. Because, if I can address you directly, middle-aged, Bible-clutching heterosexual women from the heartland: I've been surrounded by you my entire life, and your gaydar fucking sucks. You know how I know that, beyond the William Lee Adams study thing? You still ask my mom if I have a boyfriend. Even those of you who know I came out to my parents years and years ago still ask if I have a boyfriend. You're hopeless.

Also hopeless? The hipper-than-thou commentators on every frickin' blog that has covered this latest Lindsay Lohan/Samantha Ronson business, who continue to dismiss their relationship as a PR stunt. Because, if I can address you directly, smug commentators: You think you're better than the "Claymates" who request virtual hugs to deal with the prospect of their heartthrob coming out of the closet. You feel confident that you're superior to them because you have gay friends (or you're a bitchy, jaded queer yourself), and you mistakenly believe that trivial crap like seeing Gregg Araki movies or listening to Antony and the Johnsons means you're in touch with gay culture. But when it comes down to it, you harbor many of the same misconceptions about sexuality and public image as the people you mock. And it's even more annoying when you make stupid comments about someone's homosexuality or bisexuality, because you should know better.

Are you really that immersed in tabloid culture that you think Lindsay Lohan's life revolves around you paying attention to her? Do you honestly believe she has spent months (or possibly years, as she was first linked to Samantha Ronson long before the mainstream media outed them) of her life concocting elaborate ploys with no discernible purpose other than to keep a bunch of fuckwits on IMDB talking about her personal life? Maybe I'm the crazy one here, but that strikes me as ridiculous. As ridiculous as insisting that Clay Aiken is straight, when anyone with working eyes or ears knew from the second he auditioned for American Idol that he wasn't.

An odd thing has come from all this mass devouring of glossy magazines and the constantly-updated gossip blogs they compete with: the narcissism of the public, convinced they're always in the thoughts of the celebrities they read about, has eclipsed the narcissism of celebrities, who presumably place some value on their privacy. Said the girl who is eager to see if the Internet melts like Robbie Grey when the People website is updated tomorrow, but never mind that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gospel According to Margaret Cho

It's hard to pick a favorite quote from Margaret Cho's new blog post addressing the religious wackos -- or, as she calls them, "racist homophobic misogynist fake Christian shitheads" -- who've been on her case since she criticized Sarah Palin last week. (Because, you know, it's totally Christian to make rape victims pay for their own forensic exams, as Palin did when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. How offensive of Cho to suggest otherwise! Silly comedian, thinking she could have an opinion about something...) Do you choose the one about God being "a serious bottom," or the one about God's love of profanity?

The profanity one is somewhat majestic ("He doesn't give a shit about the profanity. The bitch fucking invented profanity. He thinks it is hilarious"), but ultimately I think the winner is what she closes with:
If you truly believed in Jesus, you would try to be like him and love us, fags and dykes and feminists all. God bless you, even you. You fucking fuckers.
It has a certain Dickensian quality, doesn't it? I read it and imagined Tiny Tim saying "God bless us, every one! Even you, you fucking fuckers."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The U.S. Open, Presented by Vince McMahon

When Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic meet tonight at Arthur Ashe, will they be clad in neon spandex and trailed by an entourage of menacing, mullet-sporting goons as WWE music plays in the background? We'll find out soon enough, but in the meantime I just wasted a good five minutes looking for a picture of a wrestler holding a tennis racket. Didn't turn up anything useful, FYI, and I wasn't even directed to a bunch of adult-oriented websites featuring straight college jocks getting it on with each other. It's like the Internet is broken today.

Related: Roddick, Djokovic have an edge

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palinpalooza

After everything that came out this weekend about a certain crazy-eyed, caribou-hunting vice presidential candidate, it would be really easy to ramble on for a few dozen paragraphs about this Sarah Palin character and the repulsive way she has thrown her teenage daughter under the bus in exchange for heightened fame. (Is she not, in a sense, the Michael Lohan of politics?)

In fact, there's so much to say about Sarah Palin -- the corruption scandal; the incalculable sexism of a campaign that thinks female voters who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton would consider voting for an anti-choice, anti-gay politician simply on the basis of her possessing both a uterus and sassy go-go boots; her bizarre decision to spend the critical hours leading up to her son Trig's birth performing more tasks and traveling more miles than your average Amazing Race contestant -- that I'm not sure Blogger has the bandwidth to contain all of it. I'm also not sure my sanity could survive such a task, as I'm a pretty impatient, all-around disagreeable sort to begin with, so I'll leave the heavy typing to Salon's Rebecca Traister, who covered all the bases quite nicely yesterday.

And while you're at Salon, why not stop to take in what Thomas Schaller had to say about Sarah Palin and John McCain's support of abstinence-only education programs. If you're too lazy to click, this it it:
What's galling is this: When the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, minority teenage mother growing up in some (presumably Democratic) urban area, that pregnancy becomes fodder for lectures from conservatives about bad parenting, the perils of welfare spending and so on. But when the subject is a pregnancy to an unwed, white teenager from some small town in a Republican state, that pregnancy is...a celebration of the wonders of God's magnificence--and choosing life!
That is a bit curious, isn't it? I'm just hoping that CNN anchor Campbell Brown, fresh off her "live vivisection" (as Josh Marshall put it) of McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds on the issue of Palin's foreign policy experience, gets the chance to shock and awe another hapless McCain staffer with a few choice questions about reproductive rights, sex education (the kind that talks about common sense things like birth control instead of the Bible. If Bibles really kept people from having sex, don't you think hotels would've removed them from all of those bedside tables by now?) and how you can make a five-month old baby with Down syndrome a prop in a political campaign while simultaneously telling the media to back off the story of his 17-year-old sister.

To be clear, I agree with Barack Obama's statement that the children of political candidates should be off-limits. Sarah Palin's daughter, who didn't choose to become a public figure, doesn't need to be criticized by the world for having sex and getting pregnant. Her body is her business. But my body is also my business, which is something anti-choice politicians like John McCain and Sarah Palin don't seem to understand. That's what the media needs to be focusing on right now, not how many expletives Palin's future son-in-law uses on his MySpace page.

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