Michael Musto: Dish Warmed Over
BY Brandon Voss
September 07 2011 4:00 AM ET
I wondered how AIDS affected your column — if you struggled to achieve a balance between being a respectful reporter and providing fluffy distraction.
Well, in the early days of AIDS it was hard to find the right tone, because I was covering Pee-wee Herman parties at the same time I was not only covering but also engaging in ACT UP rallies. It was the height of political correctness, and my column took on a very preachy tone: Anybody who crossed me or the community was in for a real drubbing. Then, two paragraphs later, I’d be writing about some crazy club kid, so maybe that’s what made me unique among the gossip crowd: It was a very bizarre mixture of seeming fluffiness and angry commentary on current events.
When you first began at the Voice, did you consciously decide how openly and candidly gay you’d be in your column?
The Voice gave me free rein to do whatever I chose with the column, and it was with that freedom that I got gayer and gayer. When I started the column, I also had a band called the Must, where I was the lead singer doing cover versions of Diana Ross songs all over New York, so it’s not like I wasn’t openly gay already. But the freedom of being able to go as far as I wanted — combined with the developments in the community such as the AIDS crisis — drove me like a cannonball out of the closet. At this point, I’m gayer than Eleanor Roosevelt.
Did that openness hinder your career in any way? Did you encounter homophobia?
I’ve always gone through life expecting to be bullied and mocked, but it doesn’t happen that much. But there are definitely drawbacks to being an openly gay columnist, especially in 1984, when there weren’t openly gay people in the media and when gay issues were barely addressed in the press. Even though it may have marginalized me in some ways, being openly gay made me special, and I’m the one people turned to for insight on gay issues.
You famously outed Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres in your column, and you wrote an Out cover story titled “The Glass Closet” in 2007. Has your position on celebrity outing changed at all over the years?
No. I’ve always felt that since celebrities are in the public spotlight where their lives get dissected, to leave out their sexuality is extremely hypocritical and in fact homophobic. I’m not as angry as before because so many more people have come out since I started, and because there are so many other places on the Internet you can go for outing; I’m no longer carrying the whole thing on my shoulders. But I still think it’s ludicrous for celebrities, even the glass closet ones, to not just say that they’re gay on the record. Don Lemon has certainly proven that you can be a CNN anchor, a TV personality, and an out gay male.