Thursday night was the Out 100 party, celebrating Out Magazine's issue in which its editors honor 100 influential out figures from all walks, the most famous of which get the cover treatment. (This year, Edie Windsor, Jim Parsons, Lee Daniels and the very recently out Wentworth Miller made the cut.)
I'd never been invited to this party before, and kept complaining and being told, "Next year!" Finally, I got the invite, so no way would I miss what Kenneth swears is the year's most fun party.
The venue is conducive to having a fun party with live acts (Debbie Harry was headlining, with Steve Grand, The Dolls and Charli XCX of Icona Pop fame supporting), but not so great for a red carpet. Still, Out did a nice job with a second-floor carpet, my only complaint being that the DJed party music drowned out the interviews somewhat.
I was surrounded by nice people, except for an inconsequential sourpuss who looked about 12 years old who was frowning his way through the night for ET, and being near sane individuals helps loads.
The first person down the carpet was Sharon Needles, looking more glam (and alive) than ever. My question for everyone was to describe their best and worst coming-out experiences (see video above), but she said hers had all been good because she'd been "gay as hay-ull" since age 4 and had a supportive family who knew she liked dick. The most X-rated "awww!" ever.
Lea DeLaria, who is apparently on Orange is the New Black (I know...I need to watch), was remarkably short in her answer, but she felt very naughty saying her best was on Arsenio Hall's show and her worst was, "[Cough] Tonys."
Jinkx Monsoon is a cut above most drag queens—she's an artist with fake boobs, and there's a difference. Chatting with her was lovely as always. Her best experience was with her grandfather, who told her, "I don't understand everything you do, but I support everything you do."
Charming Michael Urie gave me a thoughtful coming-out answer, saying that he was most touched when a friend said, during their conversation, "I'm glad we're talking about this."
I asked Maulik Pancholy off camera if he would mind commenting on Alec Baldwin. The recently out star of 30 Rock said he'd really rather not, but seemed grateful I warned him instead of springing it on him. I loved his coming-out story! His cousin, when they were both in college, simply said, "Do you want to meet my cadaver?" (She was a med student.)
Adorable Paul Iacono was supersweet, reacting positively when I mentioned I knew the producer of his upcoming (surprisingly HILARIOUS) film G.B.F. and telling me his professional coming out was a highlight because it allows him to be himself, more so each day. I regret not getting to say hi to him again inside. He's a bright guy and has a lot of potential in film. And he needs to be accidentally touched inappropriately.
A lot of the younger stars were saying they had smooth sailing coming out, something older gay people might find unimaginable. Denis O'Hare confessed his parents reacted nightmarishly, but at least his brother told him it was totally fine. O'Hare was also one of the only people of the night to concede that the issue of outing people in the media is complicated (most said no way to it), though he did say the thinks anti-gay politicians should be outed. (I've never liked that as the rule because it's punishment-based, whereas I think reporting on someone being gay is factual or gossipy, both things of which I approve.) Great guy to speak with.
I grabbed Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims, a gay Dem, to ask my most probing question of the night: How do you react to being called a sex symbol? I don't know where, but I thought I'd heard he was uncomfy with it. Wrong! He was charmingly bashful, but admitted that he eats it up. Anyone who finds him bear-adjacent will love that he said while he felt less good-looking than his twin brother growing up, maybe "I'm growing into my paws." Woof! He actually said he loves every minute of the sex-objectification. Smart man!
Gerald McCullouch told me he was against outing in the media, but it was hard to concentrate on his views because he's the ultimate silver daddy. Is that shallow of me? Sue me...it was a long night.
My buddy Steve Grand, who was just dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on that restraining order against me (I've seen him like five times recently!) was in great spirits. As an honoroee as well as a performer, he had a huge grin on his face and was the night's classically best-dressed man. We all know he had a rough coming out (his parents discovered his Internet chats at 13), but he said his favorite coming-out experiences were when friends said it "doesn't matter."
Steve also said his advice for musicians thinking of coming out is: Come out. He argues that you can always find your own audience these days, with advances in social media.
Next up was the central cast of HBO's new series (January!) called Looking. The show is about three gay men in San Francisco, and has been described as having a post-Sex and the City vibe. It's directed by the man who brought us the thoughtful, sexy Weekend, so I expect big things. (A trailer shown later looked promising.)
The first guy I got was Murray Bartlett. Hello! What a handsome devil. He used to be on a soap, so he has that impossible handsome quality, yet now he's on an edgy series so...guilt-free crushing! Murray was tickled when I challenged him to say something that would make me have to watch Looking. "Well, I hope it's gonna be really good," he laughed. "It's not like a huge, dramatic set-up. But what's different about it is it's a very real, raw look at these characters who just happen to be gay." His own coming-out was easy as pie...his mom asked him if he might be gay when he was a youngster, so all he had to do was say, "Yes."
Castmate Frankie Alvarez, the straight dude in the trio, agreed with Murray's Looking assessment, saying it's very realistically shot, a slice of (gay) life and not about "rich people's problems." Well, that's very post-Sex and the City.
At this point, I was impatienty waiting for Jonathan Groff, the series star, and one of two people set to walk the carpet that I had to have. (The other being Wentworth Miller, who never showed.) A sweet PR was trying to get me to talk real quick to Charli XCX, even just about her outfit, but I had to firmly decline because I've been in situations before where I needed a star and lost them because of an ongoing interview. She really pushed and I just had to say no way. I felt bad because I'm normally happy to speak to everyone. I later saw Charli's "I Don't Care" performance and wished I could have gotten her somehow earlier or later.
But it was all about The Groff! First, he is so cute in pictures, but in person, he is like a perfect human—gorgeous hair, mesmerizing eyes and a hot body. Plus, he exudes openness in a way that's not dissimilar to Steve Grand. He just seems very sweet, and was kind enough to answer three quick questions where I had been asked to keep it to one. (Sorry, cute publicist.)
"I would say go for it!" was Jonathan's reply when I asked him about what he'd say to actors considering coming out:
What's interesting about the night's carpet for me is how many of the actors told me they were not behind the media writing about stars being gay until the stars come out on their own, and how many of the younger people told me they think we're already at, or will soon be at, a place where even having to say someone is gay is old-fashioned and unnecessary. At the Out party, mind you. I really think that's wishful thinking. We seem pretty far from that day, still. In some ways it's good (being gay shouldn't be a non-issue any more than being a woman is), and in others it's just that I don't think we're there. We're more there on the coasts than in the homes in Middle America, which we tend to forget.
Debbie Harry had earlier snuck right behind the press line (bumping into me), but she returned to walk the carpet. I wasn't a fan of her teased 'do, nor was I a fan of the old-school directive that she would only do the biggest media (the ones like Extra, who won't even run the Debbie Harrys of the world) and sk ip the blogs and smaller outlets (who will).
Left the carpet once it was made clear to me that Miller wasn't coming, but then it was time to duke it out with security, who insisted press leave (I was press but also a guest, and my own guest was in the building so...no). I did manage to say hello to the wonderfully talented and nice Frankie Grande, who was talking to Groff...and that's how I scored my pic-with. Thank you, Frankie. And thank you, Jonathan. Two Glee stars in a week!
The upstairs was packed, so we made our way around and own, grabbing Kenneth and his partner along the way and running into various outlebrities.
Downstairs was way less crowded (even with a Buick parked in the middle of the place...they were a sponsor). I missed most of the performances (I could only hear Steve Grand's set while interviewing on the carpet, boo), but then had to endure The Dolls (they weren't for me).
The evening's brief program itself was emceed by Michael Urie, who did a bang-up job considering people had a hell of a time getting out on the stage when summoned.
Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), who's come to every gay event I've ever been to, was given an award. Her excitement was palpable, as was the excitement of the female admirer who pushed in front of everyone to record it...and then stayed in front of everyone. Good for Laverne! A hot and nice chick who is finally getting some much-deserved attention.
For me, the highlight of the program was when Edie Windsor was introduced by David Mixner, who stressed that she's the one person he's ever met who has truly made an enormous social change all on her own. And he's met Bobby Kennedy, y'all. Edie was moved by the rounds of applause, thanking the gay community and giving us a history lesson about how Stonewall brought gays and lesbians together, AIDS brought us together and now marriage has done the same.
I only wish I'd gotten her on the carpet, but she was elusive and pretended not to know I was trying to call her over. More power to her for skipping a blog called "Boy Culture."
Jim Parsons had sent a video message of heartfelt thanks for being honored, so when the Looking boys came out to present an award to director Lee Daniels (whom I knew was also not there), it seemed strange. Something was up. Turns out they were there to introduce the person who would accept on Lee's behalf: Mariah Carey.
I'd never been in the same room with Mariah, so this was gonna be fun, I thought. The room erupted and everyone rushed forward when her name was mentioned, but then she didn't come out for like 10 minutes! The guys stalled, with Alvarez cheekily reading from her Wikipedia (including her birth year—the same as Stonewall!—and the important of Tommy Mottola in her career, ouch).
When Bartlett referenced Glitter, I wondered if she'd ever show up (she later referenced it herself, oddly). But she did, and was doing her usual Mae West vamping, fanning herself. Her best line was:
"I'm a straight girl...I don't really know why they asked me to be here...but my boobs have been out for years!"
She was only there a couple of minutes, but it had really dropped a bomb on the place, excitement-wise.
Everyone was drunk and dancing soon after, and were warmly appreciative (if not at the Carey level) when Debbie Harry emerged to do four songs—two new and two old ("Call Me" and "Heart of Glass.")
It ain't over until the blonde lady sings...so once she sang, and once I congraulated Out's dapper editor Aaron Hicklin, we were Out the door. Fun night Out.