August 17, 2011

Richard Gere

Richard Gere

It seems like I’ve had this conversation at one time or another about most male celebrities other than, maybe, old linebacker Dick Butkus.

Granted, I am as interested as anybody else in gossip about whether or not Mr. Big Name is secretly homosexual. But I’m also interested in the more statistical question: Overall, how many famous male entertainers really are gay?

I don’t know. So I’ve been trying to think through the various possible explanations for the scant data we have. In this two-part series, I’ll lay out the potential scenarios, all of which are likely true to some extent. I’ll conclude next week with a rather disturbing possibility that doesn’t get much press coverage, perhaps because it would violate the media’s current Prime Directive of portraying gays solely as powerless martyrs.

First, maybe straight guys just make up rumors about celebrities they envy. Sylvester Stallone acknowledged in 2006 that Richard Gere still blames Sly for making up the popular rumor about Gere and the gerbil. But it’s only a rumor, Sly said.

We’ve seen something analogous to this with the bizarre rumors among blacks that white fashion designers such as Gloria Vanderbilt in the 1980s and Tommy Hilfiger in the 1990s and 2000s had gone on television talk shows to proclaim their hatred of black people.

Presumably these allegations start when some black teens are out trying on designer clothes, and one girl who doesn’t want to admit she can’t afford them makes up an excuse about how she won’t buy any Tommy Hilfiger items because she saw him on Oprah talking about how much he loathes blacks.

Or maybe gays like to make up fantasies about handsome straights. Consider baseball players. I’ve read gay rumors about Sandy Koufax, Mike Piazza, and Keith Hernandez, all of them handsome and none of them—I would bet a sizable amount of money—gay. In contrast, one of Hernandez’s teammates on the Mets was a much more plausible candidate for the distinction of best gay ballplayer ever, but he’s almost never the subject of rumors, possibly because he’s a little pudgy.

Or perhaps all those rumors are always floating around because a lot of stars really are gay. Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.

For example, back in 1972, everybody in my 9th-grade class knew that Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors (the flamingly effeminate star of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.) had gotten “married.” That wasn’t exactly true, but it was closer to the truth than outsiders normally get. According to the Standard Narrative, the entire world was amazed in 1985 when Hudson announced he had AIDS. Yet as a former 9th grader, I can’t say I was terribly surprised by the news.

(to be continued)


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