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Interview with a
vampire

Interview with a
vampire

Moretti

David Moretti may be new at being out, but the star of Here network's latest romp The Lair already knows a thing or two about being a sex symbol.

David Moretti may look like an Italian film star, but he's just like you and me: He puts his cock sock on one ball at a time. Or at least that's how the 26-year-old actor describes the way he dons his "privacy patch" for his role on Here network's upcoming Dante's Cove spin-off, The Lair. For those of you not in the business, the privacy patch is basically a condom that also covers the scrotum, thus keeping your genitals from touching those of your acting partner during a "love" scene--reportedly pinching off all circulation in the process.

It should be noted that it took two hours of sweet talk and trust-building over lunch at the Hotel Sofitel near West Hollywood, Calif., to drag that cock sock secret out of Moretti. And then he whispered it in a voice so low it could barely be heard in the loud dining room.

Showered and shaved, with his muscular build practically bursting out of an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt and tight jeans, Moretti arrived at our pride weekend Sunday lunch with an aw-shucks grin. The Cranston, R.I., native is polite, reserved, and by his own admission, nervous as hell--this is his very first interview for his very first real acting role. Still, he is forthright and earnest like most of us were while fresh out of the closet, when everything in the world seems possible.

Moretti's story isn't new: Young man with big dreams moves to Hollywood, signs with an agent, and lands his first big acting gig. What's different about Moretti is that he has decided to start his career out of the closet, beginning this afternoon, with me and my tape recorder.

Which brings us back to the cock sock: "They just threw Jesse [Cutlip] and I into a room and told us to put it on," says Moretti. "We had no idea. But the trick is to put one ball in first, then the other, then to pull it over your member."

He has trouble with this last word, his mouth contorting into a tight smile, eyes wide. Moretti has the good sense to know he shouldn't have given me such a salacious quote. Throughout the conversation he will reveal himself to be modest, but definitely not stupid.

Moretti was straight, or at least pretending to be, all the way through his undergraduate studies at the University of Southern California, where he majored in English with a minor in film and belonged to the Delta Chi fraternity. (Notorious for its gay membership, the frat later earned the nickname "Date a Guy.") After Moretti graduated in 2002, a fraternity brother spotted his picture--hat pulled low to obscure his face--on a networking site where Moretti had identified himself as gay. The brother sent an e-mail outing him to his entire fraternity class. Ironically, Moretti was only testing the waters when he posted the profile; he hadn't even kissed another guy yet. Nevertheless, what followed was one of the worst periods in his life--the struggling actor broke up with his college girlfriend, came out to his friends and family, and ultimately had to face himself.

"I was freaking out," he says. "I needed that year of transition in my mind to sit with it and accept it. But when it's forced upon you, it's the worst feeling. Your stomach drops; it's like the carpet was pulled out from under you."

Moretti was struggling, as many of us did, with the idea that being gay would fundamentally change him, particularly his masculinity, a word he drops frequently in the conversation. He was initially attracted to his boyfriend's masculinity and the idea that Moretti couldn't tell if he was gay. He tells me later that he thinks audiences want their leading men to represent "the epitome of masculinity." And his primary aversion to gay sexuality, he says, was his inability to identify with all the "flamboyant" gay men he'd met. One of my first questions to him is to ask if he identifies as gay, to which he says, "Yes, absolutely. I am as gay as the day is long," then quickly adds, "but not in a flamboyant sense."

Moretti was hesitant about answering an open call to audition for The Lair, a vampire-themed gay soap opera. He had never seen its antecedent, Dante's Cove, the occult show that proved so popular Here president Paul Colichman decided to turn it into a franchise. Colichman personally chose Moretti for the lead role of "Thom" on the day of his audition, giving him just 24 hours to decide if he would be gay for pay. Moretti called everyone he knew in the industry to ask whether accepting the role would be the end or the beginning of his career, and reaction was fifty-fifty. His manager at the time told him it would be career suicide. A prominent agent told him that if he took the role he would never have the same opportunities as his A-list clients. However, a closeted actor friend who is quite well-known--and whom Moretti prefers not to name--gave him perhaps the most surprising advice: "You're 26 and you're not the new lead on ER," he said. "I realize it's contradictory, but my career's established. There are going to be a lot of opportunities for you."

His friend Jason David, then a talent agent at Venture IAB, gave him similar guidance. "Do it," Moretti recalls him saying. "You have the opportunity to be on the cusp of a movement."

So Moretti took the plunge for a second time and a few months later found himself filming six episodes of The Lair in about 11 days. "It was another of those moments when I said, Screw it. It was absolutely the best decision I ever made. I am talking to you at the Hotel Sofitel right now, setting a positive example for my peers, not to mention having fun."

Moretti's decision to do the show, even his decision to do this interview, seems motivated by a genuine if ambitious desire to recast the mold for actors in Hollywood. "I refuse to accept the norm of the way that Hollywood is," he says pointedly. "I am here to make changes; I am here to give us all the same opportunities that we deserve. And I want to work in mainstream film and television."

But for now he'll take premium cable. On The Lair, Moretti isn't just playing gay, he's playing gay in a genre many consider soft-core porn. Remember the cock sock? The premiere episode of The Lair features a lengthy shower scene in which Thom's boyfriend spies on him soaping up his buttocks and abs. The scene serves no purpose but to show us skin. In a later episode the leader of the vampire coven (Peter Stickles) introduces a new recruit to his flock of muscular half-naked men who conveniently perform nonstop orgies for his viewing pleasure. When Stickles leaves the room the camera pans back to give us a couple of minutes of naked kissing and groping before returning to the "plot."

Colichman doesn't see Dante's Cove or The Lair as soft-core porn. In fact, he finds the suggestion downright insulting. "That is a double standard," he says. "This kind of sex on-screen has been going on in pay television in the straight community now for decades." (Well, maybe not the full-frontal nudity part--unlike Logo, Here is a premium subscription channel that doesn't rely on advertising--but we get the point.)

You won't be seeing Moretti's nether regions anytime soon, thanks to a clause in his contract prohibiting full-frontal nudity. "That would be pushing the line a little too far at this point," says Moretti who calls the overt sexuality in The Lair playful and camp. "I'm a modest boy, and I am just not at a point where I am ready to show the world my penis." Still, that's about the only part viewers won't see of our demure friend, who kicks off the first season with some lengthy oral sex courtesy of Cutlip, whom Moretti believes is straight. He spent some time prior to filming trying to figure out his on-screen boyfriend's personal boundaries. "You know, Are you going to be weird if I kiss you that way?" Moretti says. "I didn't want him to be like, Cut, cut, this guy is raping me."

According to the network, it was neither his looks nor his sexual orientation that landed Moretti the role. "Finding guys who look good with their shirt off in this town is not a problem," says Colichman. "The first thing I look for is a role model who is a great representation. I thought he was a terrific actor; I didn't know he was gay till later."

It sounds like a pat response, but the truth is, Moretti does stand out on The Lair. That could be the result studying acting at Janet Alhanti Studios, where his classmates included Ashley Simpson, Nicole Richie (then known only as Lionel's daughter), Kristanna Loken, Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson, and even Paris Hilton (who "didn't stick around long"). After college he blanketed the town with resumes and head shots, landing a big-time old-school agent with an independent shop and a laundry list of successfully launched careers. But the agent sent Moretti on only two auditions in two years and spent most of his time sexually harassing him. "I was like, Is this how it works? It gave me a bad impression of gay culture and a bad impression of Hollywood. But when you're 20 years old and you look like a deer in headlights--but you're a cute boy--you are going to get a response that isn't the most professional."

Moretti should have no trouble finding an agent now, but will his optimism about a sea change in Hollywood match the reality faced by a young gay actor with a gay soap opera on his resume? The answer is anyone's guess, and he knows it. But Moretti was dragged out of the closet once, and now he intends to walk out on his own two feet.

"You see all these closeted actors who feel this mental anguish and internal struggle, and you just really feel for them," he laments. "Which is why I'm coming out right in the beginning, because I don't want to be outed. I don't want to have to sacrifice my social life. I want my boyfriend with me on the red carpet. And if I'm going to miss out on a couple of big blockbuster movie roles, then so be it."

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