The Glass Closet
By Michael Musto
In the case of the Windex people, says Bragman, 'A lot of actors are afraid of being defined by their sexuality. In Hollywood they don't cast by positives, they cast by negatives: 'This one's too this or that.' And actors don't want to give red flags. They're actors and want to talk about their mutability, not their personal lives.' (Except for their adorable children, their busy workload that precludes any relationships, and their utter admiration for Kylie Minogue.)
These glass-housed actors, he adds, 'are comfortable with their decision because they feel like they're living honestly.' But if someone who's struggling with the sexuality issue comes to Bragman, he'll advise them to totally come out. 'Their career may be different and less lucrative,' he says, 'but everyone I've seen come out has been happier as a result of it.' Of course, in Hollywood 'less lucrative' and 'happier' don't generally appear in the same sentence.
Bragman handled the coming-out campaign for former NBA star John Amaechi, who Bragman says has lived openly but never came out publicly because it would have thrown the team balance off-kilter in the same way a straight headline-grabber like a divorce does. But the basketball star is now retired and promoting his new book, Man in the Middle, so the glass is no longer required.
In a phone interview the U.K.-raised Amaechi'who played for the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz and now works as a psychologist'explains to me his longtime lifestyle. 'I was a regular at gay places on the road,' he says, 'from WeHo to [the New York City bar] Splash. It's not as if I was hiding.' And he'd bring gay friends'and even a partner once'to the backstage area where his teammates would invite their wives and girlfriends. What's more, he says, 'If someone asked me if I was gay, I'd either joke and say, 'You're not pretty enough. You've got nothing to worry about,' or I'd tell the truth. I never lied. I even told a reporter once, but he didn't report it.' Through much of the '90s the 'Peter Allen free pass' was still in full operation across the boards.
But why stay covered in glass and not come out even more openly back then? 'I talked to people about it'my friends, mostly,' Amaechi says. 'Some suggested it was a very good idea to not come out. I was worried about my career and what it would be like walking through stadiums. In 30 states I could still have been fired for being gay, without recourse. There's no protection for discrimination'though that's going to change with the new Congress.'
A different type of stadium star, singer Clay Aiken, parried a question from Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America:
Sawyer: For three years now, everyone has assumed the right to ask if Clay Aiken [is] gay? Everybody assumed that what has really been happening in these last few years with you and what's probably going to happen right here today, in this next couple of weeks, is that you are ready to come out and say you're gay.
Aiken: That would not make any sense for me to do that.
Not long afterward, on Larry King Live, when the host asked him 'hypothetically' if it would affect his career if he were gay, he responded 'hypothetically, I don't think so.'
A longtime target of Web gossip, Aiken has become adept at deflecting questions about his sexuality'often by phrasing his answers as questions. But when a man came forward last year professing to have hooked up with Clay for sex after responding to an ad, the press went wild ('Clay Is Gay,' trilled the National Enquirer). As other celebrities have discovered, in cyberspace no one can hear your denials. Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris broke out of glass last year partly because of intensive Web chatter, and neither seems the least bit hurt by his emergence.
But at least'yeah, there's that phrase again'he hardly denies it anymore. Maybe Clay figures that takes him a step away from his most famous song title, 'Invisible.'