No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What would the folks in the emergency room say about this?

Remember when you were a little kid and your mom said you had to wear clean undies with no holes in them because what if, heaven forbid, you were in an accident and when they rushed you to the hospital all the doctors and nurses would see you had holes in your underoos and your mother would die of embarassment? No? Just me?

Uh, okay, then... the point is, I've been thinking about that little warning a lot lately. Seems there's an epidemic of Hollywood It girls running around with no panties on at all. First it was She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named flashing the paparazzi all over the world. Then Lindsay showed off the famous firecrotch. Now, newly single, mom of 2 Britney Spears has flashed us for 4 freaking days in row. While its nice to know that the bikini waxers in Hollywood are doing a steady business, is it too much to ask for these gals to throw on a thong occasionally?

I'm not saying I'd never go commando. But I'd think twice about it if I was wearing a short skirt, needed to get out of a car and was surrounded by dozens of photographers. Wouldn't you? But then, maybe that's why I'm not a Hollywood It girl. I knew there must be a reason. Stupid underoos.

Who will it be?

The Liberal Leadership Convention is starting!!! Yup, that's three exclamation points you see there. Why so excited over a stodgy, dull, procedural convention? Well, because this convention actually promises to be anything but dull!!!

Okay, maybe that's an overstatement; it'll have plenty of dull moments - there are always those endless hours between ballots, wherein the networks fill the air with blathering pundits and panels of political has beens and never weres. But the fact is, we're going into a race that is still anyone's game. Ignatieff blew his lead and now Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion all have a legitimate shot at the top job. And that's the really top job we're talking about here. Prime Minister, don't ya know. Because we all know that's what this convention is all about... Whoever wins this weekend has a damn fine chance at moving into 24 Sussex next year.

And , if the Liberal Party decides this weekend to change the leadership election rules to a one-member, one-vote system like the other parties, this may be the last traditional leadership convention Canada ever sees. No more frantic backroom deals, no more dramatic shifts in momentum on the floor, no more electoral surprises. And that's a sad thing. Oh, sure one-member, one-vote is more democratic (if you're into, like, democracy) but a convention has got the drama. What's not to love?

So this weekend, it comes down to four very different men. Once the also-rans - Hall Findlay, Dryden, Volpe and Brison - bow out (after the first ballot, most likely - though Dryden may hang on longer), they'll each proclaim their support for one of the top four and all heck will break loose. Will the backmarkers' delegates follow their candidates? Who'll generate the most second-ballot support? Not Ignatieff, surely, which is why he looks to be in big, big trouble here. Who's got what it takes to win? Let's run it down:

Michael Ignatieff
The race was his to lose and, well, he lost it. He's done. He finishes second. Thanks for coming out Iggy. I hear Boston is lovely this time of year. (But if I'm wrong and the delegates actually elect Iggy, we should get really comfortable with Stephen Harper in the Prime Minister's office. There is just no way this guy can win a federal election - what with one foot always in his mouth and the other stepping in something smelly.)

Bob Rae
It's been a good week for Rae. He got the support of the Toronto Star - bastion of the mushy Liberal centre. He got the support of respected party stalwart Ralph Goodale. And he seems best positioned to benefit from the anyone-but-Iggy movement. He's still hurt by his NDP past - haunted both by his party's poor management of the Ontario economy and by the sense that he's a Liberal-come-lately. Still, he's just as smart as Ignatieff, with a good deal more common sense, and his appearance on the Mercer Report was pretty damn funny. It bodes well.

Gerard Kennedy
His French is just bad. He came out against Quebec-as-a-nation. But, he's young, fresh and energetic. He probably wins the next Liberal leadership convention. For now, though, he's probably too weak in Quebec to be viable.

Stephane Dion
The dark horse and the biggest threat to Bob Rae, he has the support of a lot of Martin era Liberals and an endorsement from the Globe and Mail. His English isn't always great, but he has a high profile as a former cabinet minister and Martin's Quebec lieutenant. If the bottom four throw support his way, or if Kennedy does, he has a legitimate chance. The biggest mark against him is this: after Trudeau, Chretien and Martin - with just a brief respite for Turner - the party may feel it is time for leadership from outside Quebec.

So that's it. It's down to Rae and Dion. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. Party on.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Bad Day for Quebec Sovereignty and Gerard Kennedy

Poor Gilles Duceppe.

He thought he found a way to sucker punch the federalist parties and wound up dropped to the mat himself. Last week, Duceppe announced that the Bloc Quebecois would introduce a motion in the House of Commons declaring that 'the Quebecois are a nation'. He had picked up on nascent division in the Liberal party and thought he could exploit it to his own quirky separatist ends.

See, not so long ago, the Quebec arm of the Liberal Party adopted a platform that included the recognition of Quebec as "a nation within Canada" and the creation of a task force to officialize that status. Anyone with a good memory could guess where this was heading - constitutional talks. More Meech Lake. More Charlottetown. More, God help us, referendums on the constitution inside and outside Quebec. The platform quickly showed the potential to be a political quagmire when Michael Ignatieff stepped in a big, steaming pile of controversy by supporting it. Bob Rae, a veteran of constitutional talks, expressed concern not so much with the idea of Quebec nationhood but with the idea of reopening the constitution. Duceppe saw his chance to drive a serious wedge in the Liberal Party and to force those silly Anglos to once again say no to special rights for Quebec.

The notion of Quebec as a nation is nothing new. We all know that Quebec is a distinct society, that the Quebecois are a unique people. They eat poutine, for goodness sake, we know they're different. The problem has always been the balance between symbolic recognition of nationhood (as in Scotland) and legitimate nation-like powers. Canadians have traditionally been hesitant to offer the former out of fear that it will only feed demands for the latter.

So when Duceppe threatened to introduce his bill on Quebec as a nation, it could have been ugly. Yet, in one fell swoop, Stephen Harper stifled the debate, all but eliminated the divide in Liberal party and took all the wind from Duceppe's sails. The PM introduced his own motion, echoing the Quebec Liberal party in calling for recognition of Quebec as a nation within Canada, but with no mention of that tricky 'officializing' issue. He quickly garnered cross party support.

Now, Duceppe is in the nasty situation of having to support the bill - and in doing so is for the first time acknowledging that the federal government may have some say in the status of Quebec. It's an important concession from the rule of the absolute self-determination that has been part of the separatist playbook for years.


Yet, now, Liberal contender Gerard Kennedy has spoken out against the bill.

I understand why. I really do. As the fourth-place guy in the race, he needs a rallying point. He needs a wedge to draw delegates. But whoever advised the only guy in the race who can't speak French past a fourth grade level to take a stance against Quebec nationhood is thinking a little too much about the leadership race and not enough about the next election.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Measuring up

I had a loud chortle when I first saw the official Tom and Katie wedding photos. In the shot shown round the world, Tom is clearly an inch or so taller than Katie - who as we all know normally has at least an inch or two on the love of her life. She's all hunched down to make her eternal beloved seem like a towering presence, rather than the teeny tiny man we all know he is. Vanity, they name is Cruise.

It actually reminded me of the scenes in War of The Worlds between Cruise and Tim Robbins. It was like Spielberg had used reverse Hobbit technology. Let me explain: When filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson hired short actors as hobbits, tall actors as everyone else and used tricks of staging and photography to amplify the difference. In War, Spielberg did all he could to minimize the height difference between teeny Tom and towering Tim. Robbins is a tall, tall guy. There'd be at least a foot difference in height there. Not in the film though. 'Cause we have to believe that Tom could beat Tim's ass. Hmmm. Maybe if he just scrunched down a bit...

Hurrah for Mr. Murdoch

Some people consider these multi-billionaire media moguls to be the moral equivalent of pimps, earning a lucrative living of the degradation of others. Not me though. Lately, I've even come to admire a few of these guys. First, the CEO of Morgan Creek publicly tells off eternally stoned, habitually late starlet Lindsay Lohan. Then, Sumner Redstone essentially fires Tom Cruise for crossing the line from slightly icky leading man to raving-mad cult promoter and Joey-Potter imprisoner. Now, Rupert Murdoch pulls the plug on what may have been the most crass, tasteless TV spectacle ever, or at least since that Michael Jackson special.

Recently, it was announced that Harper Collins imprint ReganBooks would publish a book by O.J. Simpson entitled "If I Did it," which would detail how the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman might have gone down... were Simpson the killer (which, of course, he continues to deny that he was). A TV special would follow on Fox. Happily, the network often decried for plumbing the depth of humanity (with shows like Cops, When Animals Attack and Married with Children) felt this was too low even for them. The book and special have been shelved by Murdoch et al in the face of increasing public pressure.

The whole idea of the book, which publisher Judith Regan defends as finally eliciting a "confession" from a man who got away with murder, was just every kind of wrong. To pay Simpson for his story, to enrich a man we all know is guilty of murder, to sell books over the dead mother of that man's children - well, tasteless doesn't even come close.

The Simpson case has been an American obsession. It had everything - love, race, celebrity and lots of blood. Simpson was one the greatest running backs of all time - a Heisman trophy winner who emerged from his playing days as an amiable pitchman for rental cars. He'd basically been a star since he was a kid, and had developed the overweening sense of entitlement that celebrity so often entails. That Simpson thought he could get away with murder should surprise no one. That he did should shame us all.

Fox had originally bet that morbid curiousity and lingering fascination with case would mean big ratings and huge book sales. Now, we'll never know. But thank you to Rupert Murdoch for finally acknowledging that some things - like, a lingering shred of dignity and decency, perhaps - should matter more than profits.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Tom and Katie Show

What to make of it all?

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married yesterday in an opulent ceremony at a fairy-tale castle in Italy. Along for the ride was half of Hollywood - John and Kelly, Mark and J. Lo, Jim and Jenny, Jada and Will, Posh and Becks. Not there? Sumner Redstone, for one. He's the Viacom chairman who turfed Cruise from a long-term deal with Paramount because, well, Cruise gave Redstone's wife the creeps. Also not there: Oprah Winfrey, whose couch Cruise abused as he declared eternal love for Kate on national TV.

It's been a long strange trip. Not so long ago, Cruise was Teflon Tom. He was the biggest movie star in the world. He'd already made 4 movies before he really hit it big in 1983, sliding into the public consciousness in Ray Bans, socks and skivvies in Risky Business. With Top Gun, he became a legitimate action star. In Born on the Fourth of July, he garnered his first Oscar nomination. Throughout the 1990s, he reigned, along side Hanks, Gibson and Roberts, as box office gold.

He married starlet Nicole Kidman in 1990 and the two became staples on the red carpet - beautiful, toothy and glamorous. They adopted children and Cruise made huge hit film after huge hit film. He became a producer with Mission Impossible, swelling his already vast fortune. Simply, he could do no wrong.

By 2001, cracks started to appear.

He had already sued a German magazine for printing allegations that he was gay. After he and Kidman divorced, Cruise dated a series of starlets before meeting the "love of his life" in April 2005. The story goes something like this: Cruise was single and on the look-out. Katie had just split from long-time fiancee Chris Klein. Cruise heard about an article in which Katie spoke of her childhood dream to marry Tom Cruise. He arranged a meeting and the rest is well-documented history. They became engaged at the Eiffel Tower in April, had baby Suri a year later and finally married yesterday.

Along the way, Cruise suffered an unprecedented perfect storm of negative publicity. He had recently fired the public relations guru who had helped shape his public image and who tightly controlled access by the press. Cruise hired his sister as his new flack and took a new, very open stance with media. He spoke about Scientology. He criticized Brooke Shields for taking Paxil to deal with postpartum depression, saying that vitamins would have been more effective. He called Matt Lauer glib after Lauer defended the practice of psychiatry. And he infamously jumped on that couch on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Cruise released two films - War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible III. Though War made $200 million and Mission more than $100 million, both underperformed and fingers pointed straight at Tom. His erratic behaviour, many said, had hurt both films. Sumner Redstone certainly thought so. It was all just too much. Too big. Too implausible.

Suddenly, Teflon Tom was a joke. What were once hushed whispers entered the mainstream. Cruise was gay, they said, and Katie was under contract. Suri was fake, adopted, created in vitro or the daughter of Chris Klein. Gossip bloggers took the question of Cruise's sexuality as fact.

Is Cruise gay? Is Katie under contract, like Nicole Kidman before her? Is Suri really his? That these questions are so widely asked says a lot about how far Cruise has fallen. I watched him on Oprah that day and remember thinking that he was making an absolute fool of himself, and of poor, poor Katie. She looked stricken when he pulled her out from backstage at the end of the show. It was, in every way, ridiculous.

Can Cruise come back? Who knows. He's got a ton of money and a lot of power left. His new deal at United Artists positions him well. Most importantly, he's got a new staff of professional PR folks, who will hopefully keep him off the topic of mental health and off of any sofas. Good luck, Tom and Katie. I think you'll need it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Box Office Profits are Down - It's Oliver Stone's Fault

Sure, some people will argue that movie ticket prices have risen past a critical tipping point, such that it only makes sense to visit the multiplex for big event movies and to wait for DVD for everything else. Others argue that the advent of truly ass-kicking home entertainment systems (complete with surround sound and high definition plasma screens) have rendered theatres, with their sticky floors, over-priced Twizzlers and some stupid kid kicking the back of your chair, justifiably obsolete.

Nope. Those theories are so much twaddle. I have long suspected the reason for the box office doldrums. And this weekend, my little theory was confirmed. Lately, movies suck. Seriously. They just suck.

Hubby and I watched Alexander at home this weekend. Oh good gravy was it bad. So bad, I kept watching to see if if it could possibly get worse. It did. I honestly could not believe that a major studio would put out a film so laughably inept, so poorly paced and so badly edited, a film that so profoundly mangled a truly amazing story. I mean, Alexander the Great conquered half the freaking world by the time he was 25. There's gotta be a cool story there. Yet, 20 minutes into the three-hour film (three freaking hours!!) I was checking my watch. The acting? Well, let's just say that Angelina Jolie was in a film of her own, playing Lady Macbeth does Oedipus Rex, wrapping those pillowy lips around the only Greek accent in the film. Everyone else was doing an accent that lay somewhere in the British Isles - 'cause that's what all ancient Macedonians and Babylonians sounded like, don't cha know - yet there was Angelina sounding huskily Mediterranean. Bizarre, yes. But no more bizarre than putting Colin Ferrell in a bad blond wig and sending him out to conquer the world. His scene in which he "inspires" his troops to fight the good fight in Persia was the real problem. He rallies the troops from horseback in a presumably deliberate echo of Shakespeare's Henry the 5th. Here's the downfall - the scene in Shakespeare is iconic to begin with - one of the best representations of true leadership ever written, and written beautifully to boot. And then, Kenneth Branaugh took what was iconic and made it indelible with a lovely, perfect performance, forever preserved on film. So when Colin tried to get his troops to go in and win one for the gipper, he looked laughably small in comparison. The clumsy writing didn't help, but Ferrell couldn't summon enough passion to convince me that he could win a bar fight.

And speaking of passion - I'm not sure I have ever been so personally insulted by a film. The film seems to suggest that a man - Hephaistion - was the love of Alexander's life. This supposition is deeply controversial in Greece, but no one can argue that the Ancient Greeks, as a group, had nothing against a little Brokeback action. Yet, in terms of love scenes, we are presented with raw, naked sex between Alexander and his necessary-to-bear-an-heir wife Roxane (Rosario Dawson) and nothing more than a few hugs and longing looks between Alex and Heph. Because I can't handle it, Oliver? Is that it? Because audiences have such little, closed, closeted minds? It looks like that's what the studio thought, perhaps because they have little, closed, closeted minds. Yet, according to imdb, Alexander made just $35 million in the States (on a budget of $150 million). That compares to a domestic $85 million take for Brokeback Mountain (on a teeny budget of $15 million), which hopefully shows that Americans are more offended by bad movies than by gay men.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stranger than Kaufman

This week's most-talked about new movie is Stranger Than Fiction. In it, Harold Crick (played by a thankfully-less-manic-than-usual Will Ferrell) begins to hear the voiceover of an author (Emma Thompson) narrating the events of his life. The narrator details Crick's work-a-day existence and, before long, foretells of his death (much to Crick's chagrin, as you can imagine). Crick's subsequent attempts to cheat death and find his narrator propel the story along.

The film looks delightfully loopy and, indeed, it's gotten some fairly rapturous reviews, most of which note that it is Kaufman-esque. The Kaufman in question? Not Andy, though delightfully loopy he was. No, that'd be Charlie Kaufman, enigmatic screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and the sublime, Academy-Award-winning Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind. More than one reviewer has suggested that Stranger than Fiction is very much a Charlie Kaufman sort of movie. And it's true. When I first saw the previews on TV, Kaufman's name immediately leapt to my mind, though he has no involvement in the film.

So what exactly does that mean? What the hell is a Charlie Kaufman-type movie anyway?

Well, it could actually mean a few different things. On the simplest level, it could be complex, dense storytelling that usually takes a head-scratching twist (Eternal Sunshine was, almost literally, a head trip and Adaptation took a sharp, knowing turn into Jerry Bruckheimer land about half-way through). It could mean a smart screenplay and brilliant casting that tweaks our perceptions of Hollywood in general and its cast in particular (Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper in Adaptation, Cameron Diaz in Malkovich - to say the least, these are not their typical roles). Or it could mean a screenplay that takes a meta leap, becoming as much about itself as about its purported subject. Here, Adaptation is the best example; it features a writer named Charlie Kaufman trying to write a script for his new movie and fighting against the Hollywood blockbuster instincts of his twin brother, Donald. The writing credits for the finished film include both Donald and Charlie Kaufman.

I think its this last element that is truly Kaufman-esque, and the one that most columnists are referencing in relation to Stranger than Fiction. The meta move, which both adds to the storyline and demolishes it at the same time, invites the viewer to enjoy the movie while winking at the machinery of moviemaking and examining the absurdity of the whole process, including the viewer's own role in it. It's a head trip all right.

A stranger to Kaufman? Run, don't walk, to rent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Perfect cast. Beautiful, haunting story. Filmic perfection. Go. Now.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Coming Apocalypse: Sign 151

So, 6,000 people bought Kevin Federline's record last week. Most news reports have dwelt on the lowness of the number, labeling it embarrassing for Federline.

Low? Once again, that's 6,000 people. Assuming all of Federline's friends, family, kids, dope dealers and baby mamas bought it, that's still probably 5,652 total strangers who paid actual money to purchase the album. What they hell were they thinking? I saw Federline's Teen Choice Awards performance. He's not so-bad-he's-good bad. He's my-ears-my-ears-why-are-my-ears-bleeding bad. Poor-man's-Vanilla-Ice bad.

And still, 6,000 albums sold. That's 6,000 more than you or I will ever sell. Those are almost Ryan Malcolm numbers, people. 6,000 Federline fans. Who are these people? Are the medicated? Should they be?

Federline embarrassed? I can think of 6,000 people who deserve to be a lot more embarrassed than him.

Income Trusts: Why Should you Care?

Well that was quite the hullabaloo wasn't it?

Last week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty changed the rules on Canadian income trusts, going back on a campaign promise to leave them alone. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed. So what's the deal, and why should you care?

What the hell is an income trust anyway?
An income trust is a way of structuring a company; you can be a public corporation, a limited partnership, an income trust and so on. The idea of an income trust is pretty simple. Instead of re-investing profits back into your company to increase growth, you pay the money out to unit holders. They get a nice income stream and the company gets a big break on taxes. Basically, instead of the company paying tax on all those profits, the individual unit holders pay the taxes, at a rate lower than the company likely would have paid. It can be a win-win.

So what's the problem with income trusts?
Income trusts were designed to be used by certain kinds of companies. These are companies that have significant up-front capital investments and then a fairly steady stream of profits with little need for further capital investment. Think of a real estate company - you buy some land, pay a ton of money to develop it, and then it sits there generating revenue at very low on-going cost to you. Income trusts were particularly designed to address companies that generated more on-going profit than they could logically reinvest - it makes sense for a company in this situation to pay out the cash to shareholders. Sounds good so far. Here's the problem: because of the tax regulations, it became very, very attractive for companies to become income trusts -even companies that did not fit the high-initial-investment, low-on-going-capx criteria. Companies that wanted to save on corporate taxes - which are pretty damn high in Canada - could convert to trusts. This was likely to cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes (due to that personal/corporate tax differential). Plus, most companies need to reinvest in order to grow and remain competitive. An income trust structure has the potential to stifle research and development and actually hurt companies in the long run.

Why now?
Flaherty had to act because the problem was getting bigger, not smaller. Telus announced a move to the income trust model. Once they did so, BCE really had no choice but to do the same thing. And BCE is one of the most widely held stocks - and biggest companies - in Canada. The impact would be huge. Then EnCana started making income trust noises. The dominoes were falling. Flaherty simply couldn't let it go on. He made a tough but, ultimately right, call. Could he have left the tax incentives in place for those companies that had already converted to trusts? Probably, but no-one's perfect. Trust me, it pains me to praise a Tory, but I'm doing it! He just had to do it.

What about all those pensioners who lost tens of thousands of dollars?
Give me a break!!! Anyone who is retired or near retirement who had a portfolio over-weighted on income trusts is a moron. Balanced investing - ever heard of it? Changes to trusts were going to come eventually, and these folks were gambling big time. But the Tories promised, say the pensioners. Hmm... trusting your retirement on a campaign promise. Interesting choice there. How did these people ever earn enough money to retire if they are this dim?!? Payments shouldn't be affected for 5 more years - ride it out and a lot of the trusts (if they were fundamentally good trusts to begin with) will rebound just fine. And to those crying pensioners? Suck up the loss and buy some bonds for Pete's sake.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Perez Keeps on Outing Them

Related to my celebrities and sex post below - celebublogger Perez Hilton is quite pleased with himself that Neil Patrick Harris is finally out (Perez had been on Doogie's case for a while, it seems). Now, Perez is naming names of other closeted Hollywood celebs he wants to see come clean. Check out the nastiness, here.

Why are Perez and fellow gossiper Ted Casablanca so obsessed with the Hollywood closet??? Seriously???

Faith Hill is pissed

Who says country music is boring? Or that awards don't matter? Watch Faith Hill share her true feelings on losing an award to American Idol Carrie Underwood. Maybe Faith isn't as sweet as her public persona would suggest, after all?

Love it!

UPDATE: Faith says she was joking. Umm hmmm.

Sex and Celebrity: The Outing of America

Last week, Neil Patrick Harris - still best known as TV's Doogie Howser, his career resuscitated by a filthy-mouthed turn in Harold and Kumar go to White Castle - came out of the closet. A few weeks ago, T.R. Knight - sad-sack George on the enormously popular Grey's Anatomy - released a statement acknowledging that he is gay. And not so long ago, former boy-bander Lance Bass announced that he is gay, and in a relationship with out-and-proud reality show winner Reichen Lemkel.

Seems like a good thing... Perhaps Hollywood is finally coming out of the closet. Break out the rainbow flags! But hold on just a second with that flag-waving celebration of diversity. Turns out, all three men didn't so much choose to step out of the closet as they were pushed:

Harris' statement came after a gossip column on noted that he had secured a role on How I Met Your Mother for "long-time sweetheart David Burtka." At first, a publicist denied the item, saying of Harris: "He is not of that persuasion." Harris, who had never publicly commented on speculation about his sexuality, quickly stepped forward to downplay the publicist's denial and set the record, well, straight. He told People: "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love." That's a lovely sentiment - but would he have said anything if his publicist's comments had not been picked up by the mainstream media?

The T.R. Knight case was a tricky one too. It all began with a fistfight on the set of Grey's between the McDreamy Patrick Dempsey and co-star Isaiah Washington. In the age of instant online gossip, reports quickly surfaced that Dempsey and Washington had come to blows when Washington got worked up over a co-star's lateness to the set. The first reports named Knight as the offending latecomer. But just hours later, new reports emerged on other outlets that Dempsey had been standing up for a co-star whom Washington had labeled a f-ggot. The second reports didn't name Knight, but it didn't take gossip-hounds long to put two and two together. A few days later, Knight issued his public statement, also to People: "I guess there have been a few questions about my sexuality, and I'd like to quiet any unnecessary rumors that may be out there. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me."

Then there's Bass. A former member of multi-platinum selling boy-band *N Sync, Bass came out of the closet shortly after he began dating Lemkel, a former winner of The Amazing Race. He noted that he hadn't come out before because it was not just his livelihood to consider but those of his bandmates (which is a bit specious if you ask me, given that gay men made up a huge portion of the boy-band fanbase but, whatever). Bass' reason for coming out? Many suggest that it was on-going, less-than-subtle innuendo on the Perez Hilton gossip site. Hilton repeatedly referred to an affair between "The First Reich" and "Princess Frosty Locks." Nice. When Hilton was criticized for essentially outing Bass, he argued to Access Hollywood that "I know there is some controversy about outing people, but I also believe the only way we're gonna have change is with visibility. And if I have to drag some people screaming out of the closet, then I will. I think that lot of celebrities have an archaic fear that being gay will hurt their career but look at Rosie. Look at Ellen."

Yes, let's look at Rosie. Rosie O'Donnell went from the Queen of Nice to vilified dyke when she and partner Kelly Carpenter made the case for same-sex marriage. Yes, she was strident and shrill, and, yes, the scary haircut and hanging out with Boy George didn't help, but it seems plausible that merely coming out cost her some fans among her suburban mom base. She's back on TV with The View, but her 'likeability' stats have taken a serious hit. And Ellen? When she came out it was big, big news. Cover of Time Magazine big. Her TV character came out too, and after a big spike, ratings quickly dropped. The show was cancelled. It was too much about the gay thing, people said, and not very funny. Ellen's back with an enormously popular talk show, but her own relationship - with the stunning Portia de Rossi - is much more on the down-low than her previous high-profile affair with Anne Heche. And is a female stand-up comedian coming out quite the same as a marquee leading man? It remains to be seen what effect coming out will have on the careers of Harris and Knight (let's just accept that Bass has no career, be he gay, straight or in between) - and there is, as of yet, no test case for a superstar coming out. Cheating, drug abuse, violent tempers, yes - but a little man-love, not so much.

Hollywood is terrified to come out of the closet. That's all there is to it. Back in the day, stars like Rock Hudson and even Liberace put on a hetero face and the media played along - in the same way they turned a blind eye to President Kennedy's affairs. Everyone knew, but no-one talked about it. They just let them play it straight. Not so any more. With the advent of the gossip blog, rumours have taken on a lofe of their own. Online "is he gay?" storied have dogged any number of stars, despite high-profile romances with women. An on-again, off-again relationship with Kirsten Dunst has done nothing to stop the "Toothy Tile" rumours about Jake Gyllenhall. A photograph of married-with-kids John Travolta greeting a male friend with a kiss on the lips was greeted with knowing nods and smirking gloats. Richard Gere and the hampster, Orlando Bloom, Keanu Reeves and so on. The mainstream media has jumped on the outing bandwagon too - South Park famously and repeatedly urged Tom Cruise to come out of the closet in an episode last year. Even athletes like Jeff Garcia, Peyton Manning and Mike Piazza have been the subject of whispers about their sexual orientation. Today's bloggers seem intent on printing all the innuendo they can, always in 'blind' but obvious references like Ted Casablanca's Toothy Tile items on Gyllenhall.

It seems clear that stars worry that coming out with hurt their box office and diminish their appeal as a leading man. I don't know about that. I'll buy Tom Hanks as an astronaut and a World War 2 soldier, and I bought him as gay man dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. I don't really care who he's sleeping with. (Though now that you mention it, the idea of he and Antonio Banderes as a couple is kind of hot - don't tell Rita Wilson I think so). Yet, Hanks is a different kind of star - his movies don't bank on his sex appeal. I suppose it really could hurt a dreamy young star like Bloom, who counts on lovestruck tweens to his box office.

That said, I have no problem with stars who want to keep their private life private. Keeping who you love to yourself is one thing. But hiding who you are by showing up at the Playboy mansion with a busty babe on each arm is just stupid, and hypocritical. By pandering to the lowest-common denominator, such stars are propagating the belief that their orientation is something worthy of being hidden - something dirty, something shameful. And that's just wrong. It's almost as ridiculous as the idea of a gay man so self-loathing he'd pay a former teen-star to pose as the couch-jump-inspiring love of his life, baby mama and wife, just to prove his manliness.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My new best friend

Have you ever met someone, or even just seen them speak or seen them on TV, and wished you could be their new best friend? Bright, witty, razor sharp, they just seem brighter, wittier and sharper than everyone you know? Life, with them as your shiney new bosom friend, would just be that much better?

The idea of the freebie 5 is well known - that you get 5 famous people you 'allowed' to sleep with and your spouse can't object (well accepted too, given the percent likelihood of actually meeting, let alone doing the deed with someone on your list is somewhat less than 0.000001% - unless, apparently, Ryan Philippe is on your list). The ultimate dinner party notion -which 5 people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner? - is pretty ubiquitous too. But this is a deeper connection. It's not just cheap sex with Brad Pitt or a chat over Oysters Rockefeller with Sigmund Freud.

You see, I want Malcolm Gladwell to be my new best friend.

I saw him speak at school, I've read his books, his blog and his articles. I have marveled at his prose and at his hair.

Simply, I love him.

He's so much smarter and more articulate than me, it's startling. Startling too that I don't hate him for it - usually people who are smarter or more articulate than me are just evil.

I haven't told my real-life best friend about my new best friendship with Malcolm. I think she'd be jealous, no matter how much I assured that the New Yorker articles mean nothing to me. It's a tricky thing, rejection for an imaginary relationship. My feelings for Malcolm are real and deep and complex. It's not a crush exactly, nothing sexual underlies it. I just want to hang out with him and listen to him talk for a few more hours or, you know, forever.