Anderson Cooper revealed a shirtless Richard Gere helped him realize at age 11 that he was gay.
While speaking with his friend Andy Cohen on Cohen's Radio Andy podcast, the news anchor and television personality was chatting about his privileged childhood as a Vanderbilt, surrounded by the many queer friends of his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, such as Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Photographer Paul Jasmine, one of Vanderbilt's friends, and his boyfriend took the 11-year-old Cooper to see a hit Broadway play that would change the future CNN anchor's life.
"They took me to see Richard Gere in Bent," Cooper revealed.
"Are you kidding me?" asked Cohen. "When you were 11?"
"If anyone doesn't know about the play Bent, it's about two gay guys in a concentration camp," Cooper explained. "The opening scene is the gayest thing you can imagine."
Cooper continued noting this was Richard Gere in 1977, when he was working or about to work on movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar and American Gigolo, a period Cohen described as "prime Richard Gere."
"He was so beautiful," Cooper gushed. "And I'm there, my mom didn't go, it's just me and my mom's two gay friends and I'm watching this thing and literally the opening scene of Bent, like there's a guy in bed who's just ... picked up some guy the night before, and the guy he's picked up gets out of bed completely naked and then puts on his SS storm trooper uniform. And I just remember being like Oh, my God, I'm gay like this is. I'm totally gay."
Jasmine, who photographed Gere for the movie American Gigolo, then took the impressionable 11-year-old Cooper backstage to meet Gere.
"We go backstage and Richard Gere is shirtless in his dressing room and I couldn't speak," Cooper said.
"How come I have never heard this?" asked an incredulous Cohen.
"I had my playbill and I wanted to get him to autograph but I was too..." Cooper trailed off. "I just couldn't stop staring at his chest."
Anderson revealed that he eventually did meet Gere.
"So fast-forward to, I don't know, 10 years ago," Cooper said. "I was interviewing Richard Gere and I took out the playbill and I had the playbill still and I told him the whole story and I had him sign."