By George, Clooney’s Got Us
BY Brandon Voss
February 29 2012 5:00 AM ET
What was your first exposure to gay people?
When I was about 13 or 14, my dad was performing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in Harrison, Ohio. He was rehearsing Fiddler on the Roof, and I got to meet everyone in the chorus. Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, it was the first time I understood that there was this whole other culture and society, and I found it very interesting. I’m so lucky to have been raised the way I have, because my parents believed that everyone had the right to their own feelings, opinions, and existence; as long as they weren’t harming others, you had to defend those rights. Although the Catholic Church didn’t teach us those things, that’s how I was raised.
Were gay rights in particular addressed while you were growing up?
There were so many fights going on with women’s rights, anti-Vietnam protests, the drug counterculture, but gay rights wasn’t an issue in my circle, certainly not growing up in Kentucky. Not that there was an antigay movement, but it just wasn’t on my radar. I grew up in the most time-changing era of the 20th century, the ’60s and early ’70s, when even the most conservative old cats were wearing leisure suits and scarves. Everybody was a little more open to a freer society, there was a sexual revolution, and there wasn’t a great appetite to chase down people who seemed different. That all changed after Watergate, of course, and it certainly closed up once Reagan was in office, but there was a good solid moment in time there where everyone was just sort of letting things happen.
A controversial 2010 Newsweek article about gay actors asked the question, “If an actor of the stature of George Clooney came out of the closet tomorrow, would we still accept him as a heterosexual leading man?” What’s the answer?
It’s a good question, and I remember reading that. I don’t know. It’s obviously not the same as if it were the ’50s and ’60s with Rock Hudson. Look at Neil Patrick Harris. He’s a big star on a hit show, and no one’s telling him he can’t play a straight womanizer. I use Neil as an example because I’ve spent time with him and I like him a lot. People like Neil and Ellen DeGeneres have opened the door to making it easier for everyone, and now each person just has to figure out his or her own path. Maybe it’s as simple as a gay actor going to work and getting the job done.
The gay rumor has followed you for years.
I think it’s funny, but the last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, “These are lies!” That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community. I’m not going to let anyone make it seem like being gay is a bad thing. My private life is private, and I’m very happy in it. Who does it hurt if someone thinks I’m gay? I’ll be long dead and there will still be people who say I was gay. I don’t give a shit.
You’re right, because some people are still trying to make the case that Cary Grant was gay.
Oh, I know. I met Cary once, I read his daughter’s book, and I’ve gotten the sense that he would’ve laughed at that and not cared what people thought. He was a confident enough man to feel perfectly fine in his own sexuality and in his own life. Compared to other stars, he seemed much more together in a way. You know, you live your life well, you treat people well, and you hope that other people won’t make stories up about you, but they will anyway. It is what it is.