Spark on fire

Spark on fire

Michael Novotny,
the protagonist of Showtime’s Queer as
is so convincingly mousy that you forget
he’s fictional—until you meet the man
who plays him. When I greet Hal Sparks, he’s
carrying a Chinese sword. It’s his own, not some
fake from a prop house. For his Advocate photo shoot,
the 34-year-old star has just finished whipping the
weapon through a dazzling set of the kung fu moves he
began to master at age 8. That was before he posed
naked with a rainbow flag.
This behavior would be way too cool for Michael.
Sure, the mild-mannered Pittsburgh comic-store owner
is the secret of down-and-dirty QAF’s
success—the everyman has anchored the story
through three seasons and into a fourth now shooting in
Toronto. Amid a presidential campaign that’s
whipping gay marriage around like a saber, Queer as
’s message of “us and them”
has never seemed more relevant.
Chicago, is charismatic, decisive, irreverent,
sexy, and scary-smart. He is also straight, and right
off the bat, when the QAF cast did its first
round of press, he ran into a rough patch: Asked in an
interview what it was like to kiss another man, Sparks
compared it to kissing a dog. Outrage ensued. The
comment tapped into gay fears that the hetero ex-host
of E!’s cheeky Talk Soup might not be
sufficiently respectful of a role on TV’s
boldest-ever series about gay life.
But Sparks hung in and paid his dues. For a time
after QAF’s debut, the talk shows and
game shows where Sparks formerly exercised his quick
wit stopped calling. They didn’t want to mention the
word “queer” on the air. He says the
ostracism never shook him: “I live in such a
fearless space in my life, I really don’t give
a rat’s ass what most people think about me.”
Besides, he’s busy: Weekdays he’s
shooting long hours on the QAF set; weekends he
does stand-up. He’s now mixing the debut CD of
his heavy metal group, the Hal Sparks Band, for a spring
release through his own record label. “I decided a
long time ago that I was the president of my own
corporation,” Sparks says of his supersaturated
schedule. “I’m a blue-collar actor. I’m
in the med school phase of building a career.”
Now, with QAF’s third season newly
available on DVD and its fourth season set to start
airing in April, Sparks’s schedule and The
have finally come together. Over a seared-tuna
salad in a Venice, Calif., restaurant, he gives me a
glimpse inside his energetic mind. On the page, Sparks
may come across as abrasive; not in person. He
radiates benevolent energy and higher purpose: For a comic,
the man is disconcertingly spiritual. But his stand-up
rhythm kicks right in as he starts riffing on
homophobes, the Bible, Enron, his future mate, anal
sex, and the coma that made him funny.

Let’s start with politics. What do you think
about Bush’s backing a constitutional amendment
against gay marriage?
I think George Bush is to Christianity what the Enron
accountants are to capitalism. They use the laws to
their advantage when they can, and when they
don’t, they break them. Bush is using this to ignite
his conservative base to get them to vote. It is
absolute posturing. But I think it’s going to
turn on him.

How so?
The big case they’re always making is,
“We’re protecting the sanctity of
marriage, which has always been between one man and
one woman.” Well, yeah, tell that to the Mormons, for
one. Secondly, if gay marriage hasn’t been
around till now and marriage is at a 50% divorce rate,
obviously gay marriage isn’t the problem.
Let’s say there are gay people who’ve forced
themselves into straight marriages. They’re
just now getting divorced because they’re
awakening to who they truly are. You could cut down on the
divorce rate by allowing them to be who they are from the
start. You want to protect the sanctity of marriage?
Allow gay people to marry gay people.

I know the show strives to reflect the news. Will
Michael and Ben decide to get married?
I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, I’m
expecting it, in many ways.

After three seasons, Queer as Folk still
seems to get people hot under the collar. Why?
There’s so much fear around this show—from
both the gay and the straight side—that I feel
like it’s a responsibility to back away from
the fray and say, “Can we all settle down and
look at this for what it is?” Those who are against
it need to look at the import of the show, the genuine
desire to do some good in the world [on the part of]
myself, the rest of the cast, the execs. And then give
everybody involved the benefit of the doubt.

What in the world drew this heterosexual comedian,
Hal Sparks, to a show called Queer as Folk?
The main reason I took the job was because nobody else
would. That fall I could have—and this is not
arrogance—gotten a sitcom and been on it for
the last three years. But it would’ve been a
seven-year contract, and at the end some people
would’ve said, “Yeah, but can he act? Is
he going to do anything important instead of just fluff?”

How did you hear about the show?
My manager said this script was floating
around—had been for, like, seven weeks.
I’d been on Talk Soup and I was fired,
and then two weeks later I got Dude, Where’s My
and they were looking and looking again for
Michael. They couldn’t find Michael, they
couldn’t find Brian; they’d found a Ted and a
couple of Emmetts. Apparently they weren’t having
much trouble finding lesbians, so the girls really get
the kudos for being chosen out of a large group, but
for the rest of us it was fairly refined. And I was
one of the few people who had any kind of a name who was
willing to do it. The pilot script was very touching,
very emotionally extraordinary. And my manager, to her
credit, said, “This is
important—it’s worth going up for.” She
said something very interesting and, I think, true:
“It’s either going to be a phenomenon or
it’s going to disappear.” There was going to
be no middle road with Queer as Folk.

What was it like meeting Dan Lipman and Ron Cowen,
the American show’s creators and executive producers?
They were at the auditions. They were very sweet. But
you have to think back to that time: I didn’t
know these people from Adam. [If I agreed to do the
series], they’d have power over my career for
six years, because that’s how long our contracts
were. As a businessperson and as a human being, you
are taking an enormous leap of faith.

That must have been terrifying. What convinced you
to do it?
I had a long phone call with Ron and Dan, and they were
great and very reassuring. I was like,
“We’re going to enter into a sort of
gentlemen’s agreement that this show—and
Michael, the character that I’m
playing—will remain heart-oriented, as opposed
to head or penis. Because the minute we shift to head or
dick, you’re done. It’s a waste of time.
You can rent better penis stuff, and nobody needs to
be intellectualized about this.”

What do you mean?
You can’t argue on an intellectual level with a
fanatic. But if you can touch their hearts, the armor
falls away. We get letters from parents and children,
like “I hated my son for being gay; my wife had
me watch this; now I love him more than I did before I found
out he was gay, and I miss the time I could have had
with him.” That’s why you do this show.

When we met at the spring Television Critics
Association press tour, I said you had made a negative
comment about kissing another guy. And you said,
“No, I didn’t.”
I said something that was construed as being negative
when I was trying to be purely descriptive. Somebody
asked me what it was like to kiss a guy. Keep in mind
that at this point I had not kissed a gay man—I
had kissed Gale Harold and another guy. Two straight guys.
So if you think I’m referring to kissing
gay men as like kissing a dog, then
you’re wrong on that count, and let’s
start there.

OK, go on.
Secondly, the point I was trying to make was, have you
ever seen somebody who has a dog and they love
their dog? They have so much emotional connection to
that dog and they kiss it right on the
face—right on the mouth. And they can conjure up all
this emotion about how much they care about this
animal, but they don’t want to fuck it.
That’s what playing a gay man and kissing other men
is like. As much as I can conjure up the emotion of
caring and love and support, I don’t want to
fuck them.

So you had good intentions.
It’s important that people know that, because a
lot of people think gay is contagious. In most of the
interviews I do in the straight press, they keep
asking the same questions over and over
again—“Are you straight, are you
gay?”—even though they know I’ve
answered it a hundred times. The reason, on a
sociological level, is that they are answering the big fear
that most of America has, which is “Are you gay
yet? Have you caught it yet?” My point in
answering those questions is “Don’t be
afraid of it. They are who they are; you are who you are;
it’s OK. It’s not the flu.”

Tell me about meeting Robert Gant and starting to
work together.
They brought him up to Toronto because they really liked
him. We read a scene together, and it was
great—he was very good, very on. I liked him
immediately. He’s a genuinely cool guy and really
excited about the project.

I have to ask about the sex scenes.
Working with Bobby has been the easiest and best
relationship stuff I’ve had to do on the show.
Not just because he’s a really good actor, but
we’re both very respectful of what the other needs
in a scene. Shooting a sex scene is not sexual at all,
especially—especially—if you want to
convey emotion and you want people to feel that
there’s some connection going on.

And with Bobby you’re kissing a gay man.
Yes. It’s easier to work with Bobby, hands down,
because the gay men are more at ease with the actual
kissing and the actual contact. A lot of straight guys
have that “dodge” reflex: If a guy leans
in to kiss you, your first reaction is to twitch
back—“What’re you doing, dude?”
Bobby always spots it too. He’ll go to kiss me
naturally in a moment, and if I’m not aware
that we’re going to kiss, I have to watch that
flinch reaction. A couple of times it has actually worked in
the scene, where Michael is angry at Ben—so we
kept it.

What do you say to people offended by two men kissing?
You know, wackos on both sides can go fuck themselves. I
don’t live my life by caring what they think.
Once you know that, then all the attacks, the
Christian right people who are threatening to throw acid in
your face—

Wait. Christians actually threatened to throw acid
in your face?
Yeah. Then you’ve got gays who think all we do is
promote promiscuous gay sex or that our characters are
drugged up—just watch the show, for chrissake.
My character’s been in an
HIV-positive–HIV-negative relationship for two years.
As for the promiscuous sex scenes, kiss my ass.
It’s just annoying.

Is it hard for you to play the guy who’s
being penetrated?
The bottom? Not necessarily. Sometimes when I play
Michael, I’m not playing a gay man, I’m
playing a woman. I’m playing the feminine in
the relationship. A lot of the mannerisms and stuff that I
built for Michael, I’ve gotten from my mom and my
aunt Karen.

Some people do seem to think “playing the
feminine” would be harder.
It’s just fear, that’s all. I think in the
general populace more people are afraid of anal sex
than death—of being on the receiving end of it.
When people talk about going off to prison, they never
talk about being killed in prison. [Anne laughs] Your
chances of being killed in prison are pretty high. But
that’s not what everybody’s worried
about, are they? No. It’s always about being
raped by some big guy in the showers.

I think people are appalled by the idea of doing
something in the same canal that you defecate through.
Yeah, but we piss with the other one. I don’t
know what the big deal is. Most people just live in
fear of being discovered. That’s what the
really hard-line Christians are afraid of: The only way they
can divert attention away from their sins is to point
at yours: “Look, I may have thought about
cheating on my wife, but that guy’s a
fag!” It is so funny that of all the things that God
supposedly hates in the Bible, they manage to make
that one of the top ones.

Isn’t it great?
It’s retarded. I was a born-again Christian,
baptized when I was 11; I was a Bible scholar and the
whole deal. Believe me, there is a lot more in the
Bible that supports just being open and loving of people
than the two verses that they rattle as a saber. The truth
is, they’re dying off and they’re
freaking out about it. The fundamentalist idea is a
factor of old people watching their system die. The
big rise in the religious right is the dying gasp of Jason
Voorhees at the end of Friday the
—you think he’s dead,
completely, and he’s got that one last lunge at you
to scare you a little bit. [Anne laughs]
Because he’s really got nothing left.

What was the first thing you wanted to do? Music?
Comedy? Shooting film? Martial arts?
Hmm. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 8
years old. It just makes my heart beat correctly.
There’s no want in doing it, and I
wouldn’t be so crass as to call it a
need—it’s just part of who I am, and it
was, probably, before I was born. Same thing with
being funny. You know, I almost died when I was 5 years old.

Drug overdose. My sister was on this medication.
She’d take half a pill every three days. They
tasted like mint, and I ate 12 of them. I was in a
coma. It was like new Beatles/old Beatles: After the
coma, my mom said, “You were funny after that.”

That’s hot. Tell me another formative experience.
When I was 13, maybe 12, I looked in the mirror and I
said, “Well, you’re ugly. Get used to
it. But you still want to get laid, find the girl
that’s right for you, and all that. What are
you going to use?” I thought, OK, I’m
funny, I’ve got a decent personality, and
I’m caring and honest and truthful.

You weren’t really ugly, right?
I was Hispanic-looking in Kentucky. Some people think
I’m a New York Jew or part Italian. I get most
of my looks, I think, from the Native American stuff
in my family. But in an area of the South where there
were a lot of redheads with freckles and blond
people—you know, country-lookin’
folk—I was just naturally an outcast. [But]
once I went, I’m OK with this; I just want to be
who I really am inside
—then literally
within a year my face changed. I grew 2 1⁄2
inches. I think that that choice, to be an expression
of myself, affected me physically. But also, on a
metaphysical level, being OK with who you are [allows
you to] become a better expression of who you are.

So martial arts came first with you?
And then funny came second. I loved the fact that I
could make my family and my friends laugh, because you
know you’re making everybody feel better.

Did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
I didn’t realize till I moved to Chicago that you
could make a living as a comedian. I was just a
smart-mouth pain in the ass up until that point. I
went to New Trier High School, and a woman named Suzanne
Adams, whom I loved dearly, was my acting teacher. She
recognized that I had some talent beyond just being
funny. She was really focused on “Look, you
already know what your natural talent is—grow the
part of you that doesn’t come naturally or
doesn’t feel like it does.” So I did
True West and The Glass Menagerie,
things that built up that other skill.

We still haven’t talked about how you
started in music.
I used to give little concerts when I was 8 years old to
the hill in front of our house. I would move the
stereo speakers out and do Kiss concerts. My dad cut a
flying-V guitar out of plywood and put a banjo neck on
it and gave it to me. I would just dance around on the
porch. Then in high school I became the singer in a
band that did Kiss covers. I was terrible. But
I got better over time.

What’s the experience of the Hal Sparks
Band? It’s metal, right?
Some people think I’m opening doing comedy until
they come in and see the band, see the black
fingernails and the smoked eyeliner, and hear the
riffs. And they’re amazed.

You seem incredibly motivated, even driven.
What’s your motor?
I believe with all my heart that human beings have
almost unlimited capabilities inside ourselves in so
many different areas. But we have been crowbarred into
this idea that you must pick your path and stick to
it. Nothing could be further from the truth. My way of
living is, if I do something, I will do it to the
greatest extent of that ability.

Are you such an altruist that you’d have
done this for gay people in the abstract, or was there
someone in your life that motivated you?
It’s a combination. Two friends I had from when I
was very young are both gay and came out among their
friends but couldn’t come out to their parents.
I didn’t know they were gay until after
I’d moved away from Kentucky. Imagine [having] a
friendship with someone for a long time and yet they
still had to keep such a secret from you. You just
wish you could’ve said, “Man, you
could’ve told me, and it would’ve been
OK.” When I worked with [spiritual author and
lecturer] Marianne Williamson—

How did your friendship start?
I came to her lectures for the first time in ’92.
I saw her and fell madly in love with her immediately,
because any woman who can put “God” and
“fuck” in the same sentence is OK in my
book. At that point she was doing her work with AIDS Project
Los Angeles and Project Angel Food. Marianne was
sitting vigil at so many deathbeds. [At her lectures]
we had to deal with [AIDS] every night, with a
different person in a wheelchair having to come in. She
helped facilitate the crossover for a lot of people.

You began to take an onstage role at her lectures,
didn’t you?
Yeah. My role was just to be a goof and raise spirits. I
was Mr. Bright Smiles, as best I could be, in the face
of some really difficult stuff.

Does your message of support for gays ever get misinterpreted?
I really go out on a limb when I do it. I did this
interview for DirecTV that I took a hit for, where
they asked, “How do your parents feel about you
being on the show?” I said, “Well, they
live in the South—they probably deal with harder
issues than cast members whose families live in New
York or L.A. But my parents are the kinds of people
who, if you were gay, would love you anyway.”
People took the word “anyway” to mean
“Oh, gay people are mentally retarded”
or something.

Like “My parents would forgive me for
being gay.”
Yeah. What I meant was “My parents are the kind
of people who wouldn’t give a shit. They would
love you. You’re their son, you’re their
daughter—that’s who they are.” I
give them a lot of credit for that. But it was immediately
spun by some of the people who read it as being
negative and me backing away. You have a group of
people who have been marginalized their whole lives. And the
minute I say something that could be read two ways,
they’ll take it the harshest way as proof that
“I’m always getting fucked by the system
because of the nature of my life.”

We do look for conversational clues on whether
somebody dislikes gays, it’s true, so that we can
figure out if we’re safe.
Yes, absolutely. [But] what self-respecting homophobe
would be on Queer as Folk for more than two
days? Seriously. Granted, we have had people come on
the show who peeled through for a couple of episodes
here and there or whatever who were absolutely that way.
They think a shot on Queer as Folk will give
them a boost careerwise, and as long as they
don’t have to do too much, they’ll do the
“seven-day gay” in a movie, a miniseries,
whatever. But to do a series like this—this is
years. This is a multiyear commitment. There
aren’t any Mormons out there who would sign up for
“gay college,” and that’s what
this is. This is four years of Homosexuality 101.

Forgive me, but there’s one way in which the
show seems dated. It still feels very “us and them.”
Oh, yeah. We don’t have any straight friends. It
drives us crazy as a cast.

So what’s up with that?
That’s something you’d have to address
with Ron and Dan. I decided when I chose to do the
show that I would not affect the story. I broke it
once, in that I wanted Michael to stay in the closet longer
because there are a lot of people who are represented by
that story line. But it blows my mind that we
don’t have straight friends. Daphne is pretty
much the only straight person, and the parents.
That’s one of the uncomfortable spaces to be a
straight performer on the show, when you hear Brian
saying, “There are only two types of straight
people: those that hate you to your face and those that hate
you to your back”—you’re like,
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute.”

Exactly. I don’t really get it.
I think the main reason for it is the lack of time, and
to create a relationship with a straight person
doesn’t necessarily tell us one more story
inside the gay world. This is a dramatic series. It’s
meant to be the most difficult, provocative, and harsh
moments in their lives. If you start showing
acceptance, it undercuts the drama. If you are realistic—

Then they’ll want to leave Pittsburgh!
Yeah. Well, I think they should.

Is there somebody special in your life right now?
No. I broke up with my girlfriend a couple of months
ago, mostly because of time constraints—I live
in L.A. half the time and Toronto the other half.
It’s really hard to maintain a relationship. At
some point, I will be what I consider a white-collar
comedian, a guy who can do three movies a year and some TV
appearances. But if you want to get to that point,
something’s got to give, and in my case
it’s been my love life. But the work I’m doing
now is creating a career that will carry me for the
rest of my life. It will put my kid through college;
it will bring my wife and me a home when that time comes.

What is your martial arts practice?
Right now I study wu shu, a Chinese martial art that
comes from Shaolin kung fu. Specifically, it’s
Shaolin in a northern long-fist style. It’s
what Jet Li does—the pretty, kind of flamboyant,
big arm movements, big leg movements stuff. The art that I
study as my fighting art is called kung fu sansu,
which is a street-fighting art. It’s very brutal.

You’re about to start being Michael again. What
does he need in this fourth season, and what
challenges does he face?
Well, Michael ran off at the end of last season with
Hunter—he’s running from the law. He’s
a gay man who’s taken an underage gay youth
away from his mother and the police. The danger of
having his entire life ruined is so high. Michael is
one of those guys—this has been since the
beginning—who will die for you. But he’s
always been that way in a service-oriented space:
“I will do this for someone else.” Now
he’s using who he is and what matters in his life and
his own strength.

Michael’s learning.
Yeah. I want Michael to be a man in and of himself at
the end of this show so that the guy he was in the
pilot, who was kind of annoying and sheepish, has
blossomed into a human being, an actualized gay man who is
comfortable. He’s not picking a fight about being
gay, he just is. And that’s it.

What has playing Michael taught you about Hal?
I used to have this doormatty, altruistic, “do
nice things for other people at the expense of
myself” [nature], and playing Michael has
taught me not to do that. The other thing is that
I’ve never felt as at home in my
heterosexuality. I’m a little more aggressive
physically with women, which is nice because it’s a
more honest expression of who I am. And certainly
healthier, instead of being in a doting, fearing,
“I hope she likes me” situation. And
I’ve had better relationships because of it.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you
want to say?
You cannot try to win everybody to your side.
Don’t bother, because they’re not the
cool guys and this is not high school. The
fundamentalist Christians and the Catholic Church and the
Republicans and the Bob Jones University assholes and
the Fox media guys, they’re no fun to hang
around with. They’re mean, and you can’t have
a normal conversation with them. So why bother?
[Outtakes from this interview are on the next

[Outtakes from the printed interview]

What has playing Michael taught you about Hal?
It taught me…I don’t know. On a
psychological and physical level, it’s had a
great effect on me. I’ll explain it as best I
can: Let’s say you have a lot of anger in yourself,
and you get a role on a TV show because you’re that
kind of a guy and you play an angry character. And
every day, 12 hours a day, you’re pushing anger
chemicals through your body and just using up all this
anger inside you to carry this character. When the weekends
come, you’re a giggling mess. You just turn so happy,
because you’ve used up this storehouse of anger
that you’ve been carrying around in yourself.
And guys who play villains often are the nicest guys
you’ve ever met, because all their villainous stuff
has been used up. They’ve been able to
experience it, while the rest of us keep it hidden
someplace and try to suppress it. They’ve burned
it out; they don’t care anymore, so they’re
just back to being good-natured.
And in sort of a similar way, playing Michael, I
used to have this kind of doormat-y, altruistic,
[nature], and playing Michael has taught me not to do
that, to burn it out, to use that. It’s not
healthy, it’s not helpful, and it makes you
feel sick. So I’ve really grown more into myself by
getting rid of some of the traits that we all find
annoying in Michael. I never had as much as he did,
but what I did have, I had to use all of it to portray
him. So that’s gone.
The other thing is that I’ve never felt
as at home in my heterosexuality. There’re guys
out there, I think, their homophobia is based on the
fact that if they kiss a guy, what if they like it? Well,
I’ve done it and I don’t, so what’s the
big deal? I know who I am, and I have no expectations
that a gay man would kiss a woman and suddenly be
straight, ’cause I get it. So I don’t
have that fear anymore. I’m a little more aggressive
physically with women, which is nice because
it’s a more honest expression of who I am. And
I think certainly healthier, instead of being kind of a
doting, fearing, I-hope-she-likes-me situation, I’m
just being myself more honestly, which is great. And
the response has been better, from whom I’ve
been with—I’ve had better relationships
because of it.
I’ve learned a lot of what not to do from
Michael. I’ve also learned that a lot of people
live under this veil—it’s that Thoreau
idea of quiet desperation. That is so alien to me in my
life. I get asked the question a lot,
“What’s one of your guilty pleasures? Do
you have any guilty pleasures?”—because I
don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do
drugs—“You must do something, what’s
your thing?” I’m like, “Well,
I’ll tell you what some of my pleasures are,
but I don’t have a whole lot of guilt ’cause I
don’t subscribe to the same mores that say I’m
wrong that a lot of people do. If I did, I
couldn’t do this show. Just because I do stuff
that you may not agree with doesn’t mean that I have
shame or guilt about it. Don’t project your
feelings onto me.”

Your publicist told me you had trouble getting talk shows
at first.
Oh, yeah. Oh, man.

And she said, “God bless Jay Leno.”
Yeah. Well, they were pretty cool about it, although you
could tell, man, he was nervous about the subject
matter and the idea of it, but they really were bold
in that respect. And that’s NBC—arguably,
CBS is part of the Viacom family, which owns Showtime, so
you’d think we could get on Letterman.
Uh-uh. But I got back on Hollywood Squares
recently, for the first time since I got Queer as
—I was on there a couple of times doing
Talk Soup—and a lot of stuff just
dried up as soon as I was on Queer as Folk
because people didn’t want to put the word
queer on their TV show. ’Cause they put “Hal
Sparks, Queer as Folk” when they promo
what show you’re on, and the word queer
was just such a bad word for a long time. And then two
things happened: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and
I Love the ’80s on VH1. And suddenly
I was much more acceptable to a broader audience
again, and they were like, “Oh, yeah, he’s a
comedian too, and he just happens to be on Queer as
and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy…

Maybe they all think it’s the same show!
Exactly. Everybody’s suddenly OK with parts of
it. But for two, two and a half years, there were just
a lot of shows where they’d say, “Well,
if we can, we’ll get you in here” or
whatever, but on the sly, they’d say, “No way.
No way.” And there’s a lot of jobs you
lose because of it—you’re not going to
do a family Disney movie anytime soon. And I understand
that—not just because of the homosexual aspect, but
because you’re on a highly sexual show.
I’m not gonna be in the next Santa Claus movie,
because little kids see you and they’re like,
“I like him!” and then they’re flipping
around and a 10-year-old TiVo’s you, and
suddenly it’s like, “Eep! What is he
watching?!” [Anne laughs] And we have a lot of
really young fans, which is really disturbing—that a
13-year-old can describe my butt to the police.
I’m going to be like Michael Jackson;
I’m going to be on TV going, “I absolutely did
nothing…” [Anne laughs] It’s one
of my big fears—it’s like,
“That’s his butt!” and picking it
out of a lineup. “It’s on the Web! It’s
on the Web!” “Come with me, sir.” [Chuckles]

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you
want to say?
I’m sure there is, ’cause I can talk
forever. We almost didn’t address it before,
that idea that if people think a guy is gay, they
can’t see him in a romantic way. Well, I got the same
thing from the gay community on Queer as Folk.

I’m sure you did.
And to some degree, I still do. So it’s less
about people’s attitudes toward homosexuality
and more about sexuality.

That’s so interesting—of course you did. Of
course you did.
There’s a lot of double standards, and
that’s completely understandable. But I
absolutely got the same thing: “You can totally
tell he’s faking. You can totally tell.”

Well, listen, my neighbor told me, “Oh, Hal is not
straight! There’s no way he’s
straight!” So you certainly went over with him.
Well, yeah—that’s my job.

And a lot of other people.
Well, the whole point is…everybody used to ask
me, “Aren’t you
word—“Aren’t you afraid that people
will think you’re gay?” And I go,
“Well, first of all, no, I’m not
afraid—I’m not afraid of you, I’m not
afraid of much at all. I’m not afraid of people
thinking I’m gay, because the people who would
think that I’m gay just because I’m on
Queer as Folk playing a gay character are
mentally the same people who think that mimes are
actually trapped in boxes.” You have to
understand who you’re appealing to. You cannot
try to win everybody to your side—it’s just
not gonna happen. Gay Catholics blow my
mind—why the fuck are you going to them? They
hate you. It’s like black
Republicans—what are you thinking? Don’t
try to convert them—there are way more people
who love you and respect you than you even know. You really
don’t know how many people are out there who are
totally cool with who you are. Stop beating on the
closed doors trying to get in. Fuck ’em. Their
party is boring anyway. Don’t go. Find like-minded
people and grow the genuine crowd. Don’t try to
convert old systems to your way of being. It’s
not gonna happen. Let it die.

Let it die.
This nonsense with the Episcopalians splitting off and
these people acting like it’s a big deal.
Churches have been splitting off into sectors for
years. Hello—Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists,
evangelical fundamentalists, Church of Christ…none of
these people like each other, and they supposedly
follow the same guy. Fuck ’em. Step away. If
you respect the teachings of Christ, just learn them on
your own. There’s nothing wrong with that. You
don’t have to pay some guy in a big hat to let
you be in heaven. It doesn’t work that way. It
amazes me that people want to be liked by people who hate
them. Don’t care. Don’t bother, because
it’s a small group and they’re
not the cool guys. This is not high school. The
fundamentalist Christians and the Catholic Church and the
Republicans and the Bob Jones University assholes and the
Fox media guys, they’re no fun to hang around
with. A lot of them are drunks and drug addicts and
wife beaters and assholes. They pretend to be family
men, and they scream at their kids. They’re mean, and
you can’t have a normal conversation with them.
They’re morally vacuous; they do things that
are horrible and then totally cover it up and point at
somebody else’s. So why bother? Why follow the
extremity into hell? Why go down with that Titanic? Just go
to the guy in your office who smiles at you and is
cool, who’s straight and is totally OK with
you. Well, don’t go, “Hey, wanna go to a gay
bar with me sometime?” any more than you go up to the
sports guys in the office and go, “Hey, I wanna
go watch the game with you guys just to prove
I’m not as gay as you think I am” or some
bullshit like that.
Stop going to extremes and just look at the
people around you who love and support you on a boring
level, on a normal level. Because they’re
voluminous—they’re everywhere. Queer as
has a huge audience, and the majority of our
audience is straight. I find that the truth is
inspiring. Lies are frightening, but they’re
also frail, they’re also flimsy. The lies of the
Christian right and the Republicans are so frail.
That’s why they have to repeat them so hard,
because they don’t have any scaffolding.
It’s like an old Western facade in an old cowboy
movie. It’s the front of a general store, so you
gotta buttress that motherfucker or it won’t
stand up to anything because there’s no real
building there. And they know it, and that’s
why they have to scream so loud.
You don’t have to scream loud when you
know you have an argument. Just look at them for the
fool that they are and dismiss them, and go with the
people who respect you and speak with them on an honest,
factual level. I love that you guys had Wesley Clark
on the cover. I love that guy. Whether Kerry just runs
away with it because the Democrats are too stupid to
run anybody with real change in their blood, I’ll
vote for him, it doesn’t matter.
Everybody’s going to vote for the Democrat this
year, it’s gonna be a landslide.

I sincerely hope so.
It will. Believe me. There are Republicans who
aren’t gonna vote for Bush. Lots of
them. And lots of nice Republicans who are just fiscal
conservatives, but these people are liberals. George Bush is
a fiscal liberal. Don’t kid yourself. The guy spends
money willy-nilly, throws it down the drain,
he’s never had a business that worked in his
life, and he’s always lived in the red and
that’s how he runs the government. All of his oil
companies have failed; all of his little baseball team
bullshit, that’s all failed. So he’s
doing the exact same system. If you can’t
balance your checkbook when you’re in college,
you’re not going to be able to do it when
you’re president. There’re not enough
people to help you. It’s obvious.

I love what he called his oil company:
“Arbusto.” It even sounds like
“we’re going bust.”
Oh, yeah. Totally. But the point being, I think there
are more and more emboldened, strong people who make a
genuine argument out there, people like Michael Moore,
people like Al Franken. People like Wesley Clark, who
are just stating their truth without being shrill like Ross
Perot, and that temperament is growing. In many ways,
America lapsed back for the last few years into the
England that the Puritans left: one church, one idea,
one monarchy, all for the wealthy and none for the
serfs, that kind of idea. And it doesn’t last very
long before you get your Thomas Jeffersons popping up
and going, “This is fucked. I’m not
listening to you anymore, and for every one stupid lie you
tell, I’ve got 10,000 honest reasons why it
won’t work, why what you’re saying is
wrong.” And I think that’s happening
more and more.
In 1995, I remember very distinctly going,
“What is it gonna take to get people to vote?
What the fuck is the matter with people? Aren’t
gay people and black people and Hispanic people and
agnostics and Wiccans and the metaphysical people and the
yoga people and all these people who care about the
environment and the world and closeness and
camaraderie…why the fuck are they sitting at home
while all these old religious right nut cases in their
walkers roll down there and keep Strom Thurmond in
office until he’s nearly dead? What is it gonna
take?” I’ll tell you what it’s gonna
take: It took George Bush. He is the answer to our prayers
on a liberal level, because he is a motivating factor.
In a superhero story, the hero is defined by his
villain. If you have a weak villain, you will never
use all your powers. And the minute the real villain
shows up, you’re tested your mettle. He was
necessary, because we were lazy. And that’s the
truth, whether people like it or not. We made him. The
left not wanting to get along and wanting to give the
finger to anybody with any kind of religious beliefs because
they viewed everybody as fanatical, eliminated anybody with
a spiritual side, and allowed them to take the word
“family values” when they definitely
have family values: They value a white family that has a
lot of money, and they value black families and gay families
and Hispanic families that have a lot less money.
Value is a sliding-scale word. It is a nondescriptive
word. It’s generic.

“Pro-rated” must come in there somewhere.
Yeah, absolutely. You can tell by their tax code who
they value.

I hope you’re right.
I’m absolutely right. It doesn’t matter.
And if not, when I’m president…

I’ll run for office at some point.

Will you? Good!
I’ll be the first guy to run whose butt is
available on the Internet. [Anne laughs] Well,
maybe not the first, but the first whose is on there
too much to buy back.

Tags: World, World

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