Πρόσφατα διάβασα ένα εκτρωματικό βιβλίο για της ανάγκες της δουλειάς, το "Brangelina" του "δημοσιογράφου" Ίαν Χάλπεριν, το οποίο υποτίθεται ότι αποκάλυπτε άγνωστες πτυχές της ζωής του διάσημου ζεύγους Τζολί - Πιτ (αλλά στην πραγματικότητα ήταν μια βαρετή μίνι βιογραφία της Τζολί με αδιευκρίνιστες πηγές). Το μόνο ενδιαφέρον σημείο από κουτσομπολίστικη άποψη ήταν ένα κομμάτι εντελώς άσχετο με το υπόλοιπο βιβλίο: Κάνοντας "έρευνα" για άλλο βιβλίο, συμμετείχε σε ένα παιχνίδι πόκερ κάποιων σημαντικών εργαζομενων στο Χόλιγουντ "υποδυόμενος τον γκέι". Οι συνδαιτημόνες του, μέλη της γκέι κοινότητας του Χόλιγουντ, του εξήγησαν γιατί η συντριπτική πλειοψηφία των ηθοποιών που βλέπουμε σε τηλεόραση και σινεμά είναι γκέι. Αν και ο τύπος αυτός δεν είναι και η πιο αξιόπιστη πηγή, και αν και δεν μπορείς να πάρεις τοις μετρητοίς τίποτα από όσα γράφει, ωστόσο μερικά από τα επειχηρήματα που αναφέρονται έχουν ενδιαφέρον. Διάβασε παρακάτω αποσπάσματα από το απόσπασμα -περιέχουν ενδιαφέρουσες αναφορές στη Σαϊεντολογία (που υπόσχεται να θεραπεύσει την ομοφυλοφιλία -του Τραβόλτα ας πούμε), ιστορίες παλιών γκέι ηθοποιών όπως του Τζέιμς Ντιν και του Κάρι Γκραντ, ονόματα μερικών -λίγων- σταρ του σινεμά που δεν είναι γκέι και, βέβαια, το πώς βγαίνει το "75%".
While posing undercover as a gay actor, I was invited to attend the weekly Hollywood Hills poker game of a group of gay Hollywood insiders who called themselves the "Queers of the Round Table." I was replacing a well-known former sitcom star—the only actor of the group—who couldn't be there that week because of a work commitment. The first thing Ι told them is that I didn't believe that the actor I was replacing, a reputed womanizer, was really gay. "Queer as a three-dollar bill," came the reply from Lenny, the host, who worked as a location scout for TV and movies. "He's an actor. What do you expect?" "What's that got to do with it?" I asked. "All actors are gay," came the response. "Actually, that's not true, although a lot of people think they are. In reality, it's probably closer to seventy-five percent." I found the statistic hard to believe.Let me ask you this," said Karl, a set designer. "What percentage of male hairdressers do you think are gay? And figure skaters, ballet dancers, interior decorators, flight attendants?" "Don't forget lesbians," Lenny added. I thought about it and conceded that most of the men in those professions are probably gay, likely even more than seventy-five percent. But acting isn't the same thing, I told them. "Honey, you are naive," said Christopher, a script editor. "Acting is one of those trades where it just helps to be flamboyant, not to mention sensitive. Gay men are just drawn to it. Tell you what, go to any drama school in this country and talk to the boys. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single straight male. And what's more, it's obvious right away. Just about every student is a swishing queen." "Here's a good rule of thumb," said Karl. "Take the résumé of just about any movie star and look where they started out. If they took drama in college, the odds are they're queer. If they started in theatre or did a stint on Broadway, especially musical theatre: bingo, they're gay. And I'm not talking seventy-five percent, I'm talking ninety-five percent." "Like who?" I asked somewhat sceptically, trying to think of a single movie star who seemed less than heterosexual. This simple question released what felt like a verbal stampede, as all three of them started tossing out famous names, one after another, some of them A-list superstars. I'm not exaggerating if I say they went on for at least fifteen minutes. Karl finally put a stop to it. "You know, this might go faster if we just listed the heterosexual stars." Then they started tossing out those names, and indeed the list was noticeably shorter. "Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell." At the next name offered by Christopher, though, Lenny broke in.
"No, you can definitely cross him off the list. I know for a fact that he's fucking [a well-known Hollywood producer]." I suspected they were abusing my naiveté—or perhaps their list was merely wishful thinking—so I finally interrupted the litany. "First of all, half the people you mentioned are married." This prompted shrieks of laughter from my new friends. "He's a babe in the woods," said Karl. The three of them then decided to give me a tutorial on the way things work for a gay actor in Hollywood. "Like we said," Christopher recapped, "drama schools are almost all populated by gays, at least the men. That much is easy to prove because at that point in an actor's career there's no reason for him to hide it. In fact, at that stage, it's almost an advantage to be gay because a straight guy is in the minority. And, by the way, that's why the sexuality of most stars is common knowledge. At some time they were openly hanging out in gay bars or cruising online, and their 'secret' is known by a large segment of the gay community wherever [they attended drama school]. By the time they head back into the closet after hitting it big in Hollywood, it's too late." He then asked me to list the male Hollywood stars who were out of the closet. I could list them on one hand, with fingers to spare. "Now, how is it possible that thousands of drama students—the overwhelming majority, in fact—and most Broadway actors are demonstrably gay, yet virtually every movie star is a raging heterosexual? The answer is, it's not." Then they started with a history lesson. I expected they would begin with the obvious—Rock Hudson—but instead they cited the example of James Dean, the ultimate male Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s, who I didn't even know was gay. "Not only was he gay," explained Lenny, hut his sexuality, which he supposedly didn't even bother to hide, was causing shit-fits at the studio. They'd had plenty of experience handling gay actors before, but here they had this incredibly bankable star, worth millions, and he was cavorting around town with every fag you could think of', including another one of their biggest stars, Montgomery Clift. They were terrified the news would get out and his box-office potential would go down the crapper. So they pretty well forced him to start dating starlets, while their publicity department went to work portraying Dean as a great cocksman." "The stakes were huge," he continued, "and there was enormous pressure from the studio for Dean to get married. Their preference was Natalie Wood, who was perfectly willing to act as Dean's beard [a companion of the opposite sex specifically chosen to distract from one's true sexual orientation], but both Wood and Dean were apparently reluctant to go along with the nuptials." Here I interjected. Did they really think America was so homophobic that people would stop going to his movies just because they thought he was gay? "Well at that time, yes, definitely. But that wasn't the real point with Dean," Lenny replied. "The fact is that part of his huge box-office appeal was that American girls were so in love with him that they would go to his pictures over and over again. Ironically, gay men did the same thing, but that's just an interesting side fact." Lenny then named a superstar actor of today and drew a parallel to Dean. "Look at [one of the top box-office stars in the world]. At the beginning of his career, he had a lot of quirky roles and was never really seen as a leading man, so he didn't really bother trying to hide his gayness very much. But all of a sudden he starred in [a hugely popular film], and almost overnight he became a sex-symbol superstar. The studio surveys showed that fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls were going to the movie over and over again, some as many as twenty or thirty times. And why? Because they liked to fantasize that they were his leading lady and that he was seducing them. If they knew he was gay in real life that was all threatened. So, the next thing you know, he's dating supermodels and going to strip joints, while his publicist makes sure the news is plastered in every newspaper in the world. Funny, though, you never heard of him having a girlfriend during the first ten years of his career." Christopher explained that it is not necessarily homophobia per se that keeps actors closeted today, but rather this phenomenon of both men and women attending movies to fantasize about bedding the star—in short, economics. "Look what happened to Anne Heche after she came out as Ellen Degeneres's girlfriend. She had already been signed to star opposite Harrison Ford as his love interest in Six Days, Seven Nights. When the film came out, it completely tanked. Not because it was terrible, but because men could no longer go to her movies and picture themselves boffing her. And not long after that, look what happened. Heche broke up with Ellen and, surprise, she's straight again." Lenny interrupted him. "Well, it's not entirely true that homophobia as nothing to do with it. Look at all the black fags who don't dare come out because the American black community is so homophobic." He names la black comedian with a penchant for transvestites. "He's not really a sex symbol; he's a comedian. So technically he could come out, but if he does, he can say goodbye to his black fan base forever. Kaput!" At this stage, I pointed out that the star was married. I could understand why he got married; he needed a beard. But what's in it for the woman'? I asked. 1 "Ah, that's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question," answered Lenny. "We spend a lot of time debating that very point, and nobody can agree on the answer. In some cases, we know for sure that the women do it for career reasons. They are basically promised that if they marry a particular superstar actor, they are guaranteed that their own acting career will take off and they will be offered juicy roles because their new husband has . so much clout with the studios. That much makes sense. What we don't know is how many of these women are actually lesbians."
Lenny explained that while the overwhelming majority of male actors are gay, the same is not true for females. Hollywood is not like the women’s golf or tennis tour, he joked. “If seven to ten percent of women in regular society are dykes,” he said, “then that’s probably the percentage in Hollywood as well. Now we all know for sure who some of the famous dykes are.” He named a multiple Academy Award winner who was living openly with her long-time girlfriend (they have since split up), though she has never officially acknowledged her sexuality.
“And then there’s Rosie O’Donnell-a perfect example. When she started out, she was as far from a leading lady as you can get. She made absolutely no attempt to hide her sexuality. When she was starring in
Grease on Broadway, she began a long-time relationship with one of her female co-stars. Then she’s hired to front a popular day-time talk show, watched by a lot of conservative Midwest housewives who wouldn’t be very keen on watching a dyke host. Suddenly, she starts talking about the crushes she has on various male actors. She constantly refers to one in particular as her “boyfriend.” Then, when her lesbian friends call her on this, she tells them she’s obviously joking, especially because the star in question is widely rumoured to be gay. So the whole thing is an elaborate inside joke. Then within days of the show coming to an end, Rosie finally announces that she is a lesbian.”
Then there were the countless women who date or many gay actors.
“The most famous Hollywood beard today,” said Lenny, “is [a well-known, Oscar-nominated actress], who has been reported to be dating a number of different-list actors over the years. Everybody in Hollywood knows she’s a dyke. You can be sure that if you see an item in the gossip columns reporting that she’s dating some actor, then that actor is a fag.”
He shot off the names of three famous actors, each of whom has been reported to be a notorious womanizer. Sure enough, all three of them had “dated” the actress in question within the previous few years.
“But what’s in it for her?” I asked.
“That’s easy,” said Lenny. “Just as the gay rumours get dispelled whenever these actors are reported to be dating a beautiful woman-or more often when they are photographed with her in public-she gets to look like a breeder whenever it’s reported that she is dating this or that handsome actor. Meanwhile, she has been dating [another well-known Hollywood actress] for years with the public none the wiser. So, it’s basically a win-win situation for a lesbian actress to date or marry a gay actor. But then there’s another subject we can never agree on-bisexuality.”
“There’s no such thing!” yelled Karl.
“Oh, shut up,” Lenny replied. He explained that nobody really knew how many of these gay actors were simply dating and marrying beards, and how many of them were actually bisexual. This debate, he said, had been raging since the beginning of Hollywood.
He cites the example of Cary Grant, one of Hollywood’s greatest sex symbols, Grant, he says, was reportedly in love with the movie star Randolph Scott. “Literally everybody in Hollywood knew it. They would sit there in the Brown Derby till all hours, staring longingly into each other’s eyes and holding hands. They even shared a beach house together. Yet Grant was married five times. His wives had to have known about him and Scott, not to mention his lovers over the years. One book claimed that he even had an affair with Marlon Brando, another rumoured bisexual. So why would anybody marry him in the first place? Were they lured by the promise of the fabulous glamorous Hollywood lifestyle and the money, or by the potential impact on their own acting careers? After I actually remembered an incident in the early 1980s when Chevy Chase was being interviewed by Tom Snyder and he said of Grant, “l understand he’s a homo.” Grant sued him for slander and won, although details of his affairs came out after his death. It raised the question, how does anybody prove anybody’s actually gay, short of catching them in bed with a man?
Karl mentioned one of the world’s most famous sitcom stars who is gay and married. “They live in this huge mansion, but according to people who have been there, he and his wife occupy half the mansion each, and they never have anything to do with each other. Very convenient, but again, why did she marry him? I hear that the way these things work is the woman agrees to put in a certain amount of time before tiling a divorce. ln exchange, she is guaranteed a platinum credit card for the whole marriage and a generous settlement after the divorce. Hell, I’d marry some rich dyke looking for a beard. She wouldn’t have to ask me twice.”
“Then there’s [a recently married superstar actor], who was a little too close to being outted publicly for his own comfort. The story goes that he actually interviewed a series of women and offered them a huge sum of money, not to mention prime roles, in exchange for staying married to him for a certain number of years.”
He continued, “The saddest part of the Hollywood closet for the gay stars who aren’t bisexual is that they live a life of perpetual sadness.
They can never really have an open relationship, so they end up having sex with high-priced Hollywood call boys for $2,000 a night.”
“Unless Scientology gets its hands on them,” Lenny says.
The mention of Scientology piqued my interest.
“What do they have to do with anything?” I asked.
“Well, if you pay them enough money and you’re gay, they promise to convert you,” Lenny explained. “Or so I hear.”
Lenny was not exaggerating. Scientology has many followers in Hollywood, among them stars such as John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, and Priscilla Presley. But while the majority of the
church’s adherents may not be gay, part of the appeal of Scientology to some celebrities may be its alleged promise that it can turn a gay person straight through an elaborate and expensive, science-fiction-inspired regimen called “auditing” In its May 6, 1991, issue, Τime magazine published a controversial cover story about the sect, which alleged that some of Hollywood’s most famous actors had come under the sway of the Church because they were afraid their secrets would be revealed. The most shocking passage concerned John Travolta:
Sometimes even the church’s biggest zealots can use a little protection. Screen star Travolta, 37, has long served as an unofficial Scientology spokesman, even though he told a magazine in 1983 that he was opposed to the church’s management. High-level defectors claim that Travolta has long feared that if he defected, details of his sexual life would be made public. “He felt pretty intimidated about this getting out and told me so,” recalls William Franks, the church’s former chairman of the board. “There were no outright threats made, but it was implicit. lf you leave, they immediately start digging up everything.” Franks was driven out in 1981 after attempting to reform the church. The church’s former head of security, Richard Aznaran, recalls Scientology ringleader David Miscavige repeatedly joking to staffers about Τravolta’s allegedly promiscuous homosexual behavior. At this point any threat to expose Travolta seems superfluous: last May a male porn star collected $100,000 from a tabloid for an account of his alleged two-year liaison with the celebrity. Travolta refuses to comment, and in December his lawyer dismissed questions about the subject as “bizarre” Two weeks later, Travolta announced that he was getting married to actress Kelly Preston, a fellow Scientologist.
The controversy over Travolta was re-ignited years later, in 2006, the National Enquirer published a photo of the Pulp Fiction star on the steps of his private plane, kissing a man on the lips. The man turned out to be his son’s nanny.
Since my encounter with the Queers of the Round Table, I came across a University of Maryland study that indicates my poker-playing companions were less informed about gay women in Hollywood that they thought. The study found that lesbians and bisexual women are actually eight times more likely to enter theatre and film than their straight counterparts.