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Silver fox

Silver fox


Louis Virtel shares his unhealthy obsession with Tim Gunn. Hey, he's not alone.

I could be in therapy, but I'm writing this article instead. My ailment: devotion. My subject: that pinstriped Project Runway minx Tim Gunn. My shame: none. None. Vaccines are futile. I've got both fever and chills for the man. It sounds like malaria, but it feels like love.

Technically, Tim Gunn is 32 years older than I am--that is, if we accept that he's mortal. I'm on the fence--and meeting him at the Bravo premiere party for Tim Gunn's Guide to Style was no help.

Fortunately, even off my medication, I know I'm not alone. Gunn's ageless allure first received national attention when Project Runway season 1 contestant Mario Cadenas called him a "hot bitch" during a reunion special. Since then, Gunn's become the breakout star of the show, eclipsing yawn-loving judge Nina Garcia and even host Heidi Klum. He's penned a self-help personal style book, helmed an addictive Runway podcast in which he bookishly coos words like "epaulets" and "preposterous," and graduated from his position as chair of the fashion design department at Parsons (where Runway is filmed) to become the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc. Everyone's taking notice of Gunn--maybe not like I am, but close enough.

The question remains: What is it about this man? He's not overtly sexual, saucy, or even excitable, yet he's something of a gay-father-figure pinup. I decided to meet him in person to investigate--and if there was time, propose marriage.

When I first spotted the crystal-skinned sage from afar, as he posed with new cohost Veronica Webb, I froze. Something was ridiculous about him. Seeing Tim Gunn in person is like watching George Washington descend from a painting to start waxing about chiffon--except hotter. He's so stately, so luminescent, sprung from a bygone era where people call each other things like "Mr. Darcy" instead of "biatch."

Tim Gunn bestows blessings on the author.

Luckily, some Project Runway alums and Bravo faces on the red carpet helped me diagnose Tim's vim.

"I think he can hit every generation," said Runway season 2 vet Nick Verreos. "Not just the twinkies but the daddies as well, and the in-between. He's the new Charles Nelson Reilly, except younger, better, and more stylish." And less ascot? "And less ascot. But the same sort of affable personality."

With all due respect to Verreos and St. Nelson Reilly, I can't picture Tim on a game show panel smoking a giant pipe. I needed a second opinion.

"I think Tim Gunn is the antidote to all the booze-soaked-whore celebrity train wrecks," added season 3 saucepan Robert Best. "You would imagine Tim Gunn to know exactly what utensil to use at all times, and would never be caught showing his beaver in public." Knock on wood? "You're right, it's a slippery slope," Best admitted. "First he gets his own TV show; the next picture we see is him passed out in someone's convertible."

I had to laugh, but not for long--talking about Gunn in vain breaks my personal commandment. I'm bursting out in stigmata just thinking about it.

"You know, I think it's the hair," said season 2's Andrae Gonzalo. "If diamonds weren't clear, they'd be that color. What I think is so marvelous about Tim Gunn is he has this structure that kind of keeps his charisma very, very poorly in place. He's trying desperately to control it, but he's oozing it." So what's Tim hiding underneath that "structure"? "It's white-hot, like the hair," Gonzalo said.

Damn it, he's funny. And so agonizingly right. But I had no time to mull over his adages or mysterious Britishness. Tim Gunn approached me--like out of nowhere, or in a Bravo-sponsored dream--with Veronica Webb at his side. He looked at me like I was a journalist, not a fan obsessed. I pretended to have real questions to ask, and they were fooled.

Webb proved she was privy to the flirty attention Gunn gets. "Tim's the silver fox," she said. A bold statement considering Anderson Cooper all but claims that title. Still, Webb didn't flinch. "He never had it," she insisted with a wide grin.

Gunn couldn't resist commenting. "You reduce me to a puddle!" he chirped to the both of us. I thought he meant he saw me peeing myself, then I realized he just talks that way. Fortunately, Webb offered her learned analysis.

"The je ne sais quoi of Tim Gunn is that no matter what time of day it is, he's always the same," she said. "He's always generous, he's always gracious, he's always analytical without being critical in a mean-spirited way."

A nice thought, but it still doesn't explain why I sometimes see Tim Gunn in my croissants.

Webb went on to say that Tim Gunn's Guide to Style will more directly unravel a darker dimension of Tim Gunn that only peeked through in glimpses on Runway, namely his temper. In one episode of the style makeover program, a woman shows the hosts her bizarre wedding dress.

"He went into a vortex of fury," Webb recalls. "And I could not stop him."

"My viscera took over," Gunn added. "It was a vortex of visceral horror."

We laughed and gabbed some more, but then they darted off. I could only hope she wasn't off hooking him up with unworthy suitors. She knows what he and I have, after all.

Tim Gunn can have all the visceral attacks he wants, since apparently gay men--including me--respond to something beneath his dignified veneer. It conceals, among other things, a burning intensity, intellect, and temper. Maybe the "je ne sais quoi" of Tim Gunn is better off an unsolved mystery, but at least the hot in "hot bitch" will finally pierce the surface when we finally see him boil. I think I'm obligated to share Gunn with the rest of the gay male populace. And not just because I'm clearly insane but because Tim Gunn's most astonishing accomplishment remains being the one gay male icon most of us can agree on. And that's worth going batty over.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Louis Virtel