September 26, 2012

Sir John Gielgud

Sir John Gielgud

Other 100s besides Spacey include Gielgud, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Ian McKellen, Charles Laughton, Rupert Everett, David Hyde Pierce, and Raymond Burr.

What about more questionable 100s such as Tony Randall and Peter O”€™Toole? Randall was quietly married from 1942 until his first wife’s death in 1992. At age 75, he married a 25-year-old blonde with whom he then had two children. So maybe he wasn”€™t as gay as his typecasting as a finicky fellow would suggest.

As far as I can tell, O”€™Toole doesn”€™t appear to be gay. But T. E. Lawrence, whom O”€™Toole famously played in Lawrence of Arabia, was. Moreover, O”€™Toole has idiosyncratic mannerisms that are unusual, if not particularly effeminate. But it’s hardly surprising that Google users wonder.

This doesn”€™t mean that all the 100s make sense. Some seem particularly lunkheaded. (And certain low scores seem unperceptive.)

Methodology alert: I”€™ve set the Google Gaydar scale so that if the first prompt offered is “€œgay,”€ the score is 100. If it’s the second prompt they score 90, the third 80, and so forth. If none of the ten auto-completions is “€œgay,”€ then add the letter “€œg”€ after the name, with one point for each ranking up from the bottom.

For example, “€œDanny DeVito”€ produces no “€œgay”€ prompts on the first pass and only the tenth prompt among words beginning with “€œg.”€ This gives him a Google Gaydar score of 1 out of 100. (By the way, Google varies the order of these prompts frequently, so if on the day you read this he’s a 0 or a 2, don”€™t get excited. He hasn”€™t changed.)

Keep in mind that single-digit scores frequently reflect random types of noise, not that there’s anything wrong with that. For example, Jerry Seinfeld scores a 4 and Larry David a 7, but some of that consists of users trying to look up that famous line from Seinfeld.

Let’s look through a few comparisons, starting with actors named Hugh.

Hugh Jackman scores a 100 due to various rumors and his Broadway roles, while Hugh Grant scores an 8. It has taken Grant decades of manly bad behavior to get over the initial impression made by his English toffishness and his early roles as a homosexual.

Speaking of stars who have been arrested with prostitutes in their cars, it helps if the hooker isn”€™t a man in a dress, as Grant’s 8 versus Eddie Murphy’s 73 suggest.

How about actors who play mobsters? Al Pacino is a 6, Robert De Niro 5, and Joe Pesci 0.

Famous Scientologists? John Travolta 100 and Tom Cruise 73.

Former teenybopper pretty boys turned superstars? Johnny Depp is at 8 and Leonardo DiCaprio at 0.

Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are both at 0.

Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton both clock in at 5.

It’s become fairly common since 1969’s Midnight Cowboy for young male actors to play gay roles. This doesn”€™t necessarily have a permanent impact on their images. Dustin Hoffman today scores 18 and Jon Voight only 8. (It probably helps to have fathered a famous movie star like Angelina Jolie.) The late Heath Ledger starred in the homosexual romance Brokeback Mountain but only has a 9. On the other hand, Jake Gyllenhaal from the same movie still scores a 100.

What about the TV stars I would run into at Parents”€™ Night at school? Are they living complex secret lives, or are they really suburban dads just as they appeared? On Google Gaydar, both Gary Sinise and Mark Harmon score 0. (The first five g-word prompts for Harmon, who quarterbacked UCLA in 1972-73, are “€œgun control,”€ “€œgenealogy,”€ “€œgolf,”€ “€œgirlfriends,”€ and “€œgrandchildren.”€ Sounds straight to me!)

And actors I”€™ve run into at the golf course or driving range? (I have an elaborate theory that gay men seldom like golf.) Ernest Borgnine 7, Judd Hirsch 8, George Wendt 9, and Will Smith 100. (Hmmhhhmm. All I know is that he was hitting the ball plenty straight.)

Famous singers: Bing Crosby 0, Frank Sinatra 4, and Elvis Presley 6.

Famous dancers: James Cagney 4, Fred Astaire 7, and Gene Kelly 100. (This would drive Kelly crazy.)

Jewish comedians: Groucho Marx 5, George Burns 0, Jack Benny 8, Jerry Lewis 9, Mel Brooks 6, and Billy Crystal 4. Interestingly, the fey, mannered style of Benny’s 1950s TV character struck viewers in his own time as hilariously snobbish, but it tends to set off modern viewers”€™ gay alarms.

Excellent stage diction is considered suspicious these days, as indicated by Kevin Kline (82), Billy Crudup (64), Daniel Day-Lewis (91), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (55).

Conversely, what about mumbling method actors of the 1950s? Method acting was promoted after WWII as a liberation from the unmanly phoniness of traditional stage acting. And yet many of the method classics, such as On the Waterfront, can strike contemporary viewers as a little queer-looking, sending them to Google to see if anybody else has noticed. Thus, Marlon Brando scores 100, Montgomery Clift 100, James Dean 91, and Paul Newman 82.

I wouldn”€™t have taken Newman’s 82 seriously (after all, he had six children) until I finally got around to watching his most famous role, The Hustler. I can see why Newman’s performance as a pool shark drives movie encyclopedist David Thomson (author of the esteemed New Biographical Dictionary of Film and a rare straight Hollywood history maven) nuts, especially in comparison to the masculine dignity of George C. Scott (0) and Jackie Gleason (0). Yet that reveals more about the prestige acting style of his time than about Newman.

Last, what about John Wayne? Unfortunately, the methodology completely breaks down here because most of the prompts refer either to Orange County’s busy John Wayne Airport or to gay serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who raped and murdered 33 teenage boys.

Yet John Wayne Gacy only has a Google Gaydar score of 7. And that may tell us more about the modern mindset and the control of culture than any other number.



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