Hollywood’s Closet Still Closed for Business
Posted on Nov 26, 2008
By Larry Gross
Confidential was published monthly, occasioning a periodic shiver of apprehension among Hollywood’s closeted fraternity. Hudson’s friend and fellow actor George Nader recalled, “We lived in fear of an exposé, or even one small remark, a veiled suggestion that someone was homosexual. Such a remark would have caused an earthquake at the studio. Every month, when Confidential came out, our stomachs began to turn. Which of us would be it?” (Hofler, p. 244).
Actors today don’t have the comfort of knowing when something might be published, as the 24/7 news cycle and, above all, the Internet, know no downtime between issues. At any moment, the paparazzi might catch one in an unguarded moment and a closet-busting picture might be flashed around the world in seconds. How can they keep young actors back in the closet after they’ve seen Perez Hilton?
Despite their apparent and sometimes real antagonism, the celebrity media and the celebrities are symbiotic systems. The media routinely violate a cardinal principle of journalism by printing stories they know to be false—part of the price they readily pay for access to the stars their readers want to read about. But today, in the age of blogs and YouTube, the détente and even collaboration between the producers/agents/talent supply side and the demand side of celebrity gossip newspaper columns and magazines has broken down.
Unlike their counterparts in earlier decades, when everyone was in the closet and coming out publicly was as rare as it was dangerous to one’s livelihood, many young actors have generally been openly gay since their teens, at least in their private lives, and they have become accustomed to the benefits of being able to live an open life in a gay-friendly social world.
For these aspirants to a show business career, the choice is not whether to come out, but whether to go back into the closet, or at least move into the sort of “glass closet” that the press used to respect. And it’s not only actors, but anyone in the media spotlight. Ask Anderson Cooper.
The Off-Broadway play, “The Little Dog Laughed,” tells the story of a young actor whose career is taking off. His agent, a lesbian, is pushing him to pursue his career by ditching his boyfriend and playing straight. In the end, that’s what the young actor does, choosing the life of a closeted, bearded movie star.
When the play was produced this winter in Hartford, Conn., the actor was played by Chad Allen, one of the few openly gay actors in Hollywood, who told the gay Web site AfterElton.com, “I think it’s entirely likely that any of us, myself included, could wind up so embedded in the Hollywood machine that it would be impossible to be true to yourself. I’ve seen it happen over and over again—not just with sexuality, but with drugs or the whole cult of personality that’s created around a star. It’s scary, but I get it, because I wasn’t that far from losing myself to it at one time … . It can be so hard to find that voice and step away from what the world tells you is your role, especially if you couple that with lots of money and fame. For me, personally, there was never a question. There was a time when it was actually said to me, ‘You know, we can get you a girlfriend. We can make that happen.’ But that’s not in me. I can’t live a lie.”
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