Bob Schwartz

Tag: gay

Coming Out: How Cosmetic Surgery Is Like Being Gay

South Park - Tom Cruise

In case you haven’t noticed, the noise surrounding Renee Zellweger’s about face sounds just like the conversations we have about celebrities being gay: did she or didn’t she, is he or isn’t he?

There are three kinds of cosmetic surgery: the public kind that can be explained as the result of exercise and nutrition (body shaping and toning), the public kind that is hard to explain that way (obviously enhanced breasts), and the private kind that is (sort of) meant to be private (vagina rejuvenation, penis enhancement).

Questions about the public kinds can be met with a variety of replies, all of them valid:

Yes.
No.
No comment.
It’s none of your business.

This remarkably parallels the situation of those who are “suspected” of being gay. Sometimes it is made public, sometimes it is kept private, sometimes it is treated matter-of-factly: it is what it is, it’s my life, take it or leave it, so what?

Admitting to plastic surgery is in many contexts (including and especially entertainment) as delicate as admitting to being gay—even if the fact is relatively obvious. One of the many reasons the late Joan Rivers was so beloved, why what was obnoxious in others was endearing in her, is that the fact of her many plastic surgeries was a prime subject of her own bits. As with other topics, she just gave you the finger, laughed, and had you laughing too.

In the scheme of all but the tiniest matters, Renee Zellweger’s face is inconsequential. But as with all the tongue wagging about the sexual preferences of some celebrity, it exposes unanswered and mostly unspoken questions about how people feel about certain things. Many people still don’t know exactly what they think about major or minor voluntary body mod, any more than they may have totally resolved their deepest puzzlement about homosexuality, no matter how genuinely progressive and tolerant they are.

For better or worse, we are actually seeing a bit of that in the Renee Zellweger situation: along with an avalanche of typically mindless chatter, there has been some useful discussion about the nature of celebrity, privacy, aging, feminism, and health. It is unfortunate that this has to fall on a single individual’s shoulders, with so much collateral and gratuitous hurt. But if we are careful, we might just learn something, mostly about ourselves. How rare and valuable an opportunity is that?

Illustration: The obvious illustration for this post would be yet another photo of Renee Zellweger, which neither the world nor she need. Instead, above is a frame from South Park, the 2005 episode called Trapped in the Closet. It is widely considered the show’s most controversial episode, which is saying something. In it, the fearless and brilliant and culturally incorrect Parker and Stone managed to skewer (eviscerate?) both Scientology and the rumored homosexuality of Hollywood stars. In this scene, Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet (where he will ultimately be joined by John Travolta). Nicole Kidman, his then-wife, is trying to talk him out. As I said, culturally incorrect, and probably intolerant and spiteful in light of all that’s written above. But it is funny, and not surprisingly, it is the equally fearless and funny Joan Rivers who also took on the very same subject. Laughing and thinking. What a combo.

Steve Lonegan: I Personally Like Being a Guy

Steve Lonegan
I’m strictly a male male
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a lovely female
Who’ll enjoy being a girl having a guy like me.
Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, I Enjoy Being a Girl

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln

Newark mayor Cory Booker is running for the U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey, left empty by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg in June. Booker’s Republican opponent in the October16 election is Steve Lonegan.

Booker is unmarried, does not talk about his sexuality, though he has made reference to girlfriends past. He is, along with many politicians and Americans, a supporter of marriage equality. There has been discussion and innuendo that Booker may be gay, something he has not directly addressed.

Enter candidate Lonegan, who is twenty points down in the polls, and very unlikely to win, whatever he throws at Booker. Without comment, here are some of the remarks made by Lonegan in an interview with Newsmax.

Maybe one comment: Lonegan’s “I personally like being a guy” is one of the stranger things said in the midst of political discourse. And that is saying something.

“It’s kind of weird. As a guy, I personally like being a guy. I don’t know if you saw the stories last year. They’ve been out for quite a bit about how he likes to go out at 3 o’clock in the morning for a manicure and a pedicure…Maybe that helps to get him the gay vote, by acting ambiguous. That I can’t address. All I know is I don’t like going out in the middle of the night, or any time of the day, for a manicure and pedicure. It was described as his peculiar fetish, is how it was described. I have a more peculiar fetish. I like a good Scotch and a cigar. That’s my fetish, but we’ll just compare the two.”

A final comment: Steve Lonegan, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And then again…

Clinton, DOMA and GLAAD

Bill Clinton
People—including some politicians—hate politics, for a thousand reasons. Every one of those reasons is valid.

The answer to these reasons is the often cited quote from Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

Oh principles, oh pragmatism. We honor and admire the idealists, but in the end we support those who get things done—especially the things that we want done.

This is a timeline. The common thread is one of America’s current political dynasties.

  • 1996 – President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • 2003 – Hillary Clinton votes for the Iraq War Resolution.
  • 2008 – Hillary Clinton runs for President.
  • 2011 – Bill Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – The Iraq War ends.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton calls DOMA unconstitutional.
  • 2013 – DOMA is argued before the United States Supreme Court.
  • 2013 – Hillary Clinton comes out in favor of marriage equality.
  • 2013 – Bill Clinton to receive the Advocate for Change Award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
  • 2016 – Hillary Clinton runs for President?

People who do things for political reasons, or support those who do, should never be ashamed of that. Otto von Bismarck, unifier of the German Empire in the nineteenth century, certainly wasn’t.

But the “art of the possible” does create some tight and twisted places that Houdini might have trouble escaping from. Unless, of course, he had help.

Bill Clinton’s statement before signing DOMA includes this: “I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.”

Here is DOMA, which has been the law of the United States for the last seventeen years, and may or may not still be the law after the Supreme Court decision.

The statute reads:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

It also changed the definition of marriage in U.S. law:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word `marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word `spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Evolution—political, philosophical, or most other kinds—can be a wonderful thing, particularly if it leads to freedom and fairness. But evolution presupposes a prior state, which might be called “less evolved” or “unevolved.”

Some people approach this by pretending that the pre-evolutionary state didn’t exist. They may also be unwilling to acknowledge that the pre-evolutionary state was politically motivated, or that the evolution itself may be. Remember, the art of the possible is only possible by paying no attention to the man, or woman, behind the curtain. Once in a while, they even apologize for it, or contort themselves as John Kerry did, well-meaningly, about his prior support for the Iraq War: “I was for it before I was against it.”

Still, this is America. We love second chances and second acts. Consider the late Senator Robert Byrd, who emerged from the depths of racism to become a champion of Constitutional rights. But while it may not be fitting to punish people for having once upon a time acted in a powerfully less enlightened way, this doesn’t always mean they have to be rewarded. Or awarded.

Marketing To “The Gays”


In the 2005 comedy The Family Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker plays an uptight New York businesswoman. She is at a family dinner with her fiancé’s gay brother, who is planning to adopt a baby with his partner. Trying to prove her open-mindedness, she says every wrong thing, and finally blurts out: “I love the gays. Gay people. They know that.”

This article appeared in a recent Billboard:

Why The Wanted Play Gay Clubs: Marketing, Music And The LGBT Community’s Mainstream Music Clout

When the Wanted was looking to book its first major U.S. gigs in January, the British pop group didn’t just call up Live Nation or AEG to reach the tween- and teen-girl fan base courted by the generations of boy bands that had come before them. Sandwiched in between 10 midsize-club dates, the group made a quintet of special appearances booked by a boutique PR and events company called the Karpel Group to help reach what has arguably become an even more powerful audience when it comes to modern pop stardom: the gays.

The article is a straightforward business and marketing story: here’s an identifiable market, here’s how the artists and labels are marketing to it. Among the reports:

For music, bloggers like Perez Hilton, Andy Towle (Towleroad) and Jared Eng (JustJared) wield a lot of influence and Sirius’ Out Q (hosted by former Billboard editor Larry Flick) has been a satellite-radio mainstay since 2003. Even Clear Channel has a Pride radio network that serves 19 markets with gay-friendly pop music as well as across iHeartRadio’s digital network.

And this:

Gay buying power, often touted for the consumer group’s supposed affluence, remains a bit of a misnomer. “There’s no data that suggests gay people are wealthier than anybody else,” Witeck Communications’ Bob Witeck says….

They also not only appreciate being marketed to directly, they expect it — particularly when it comes to music. Labels are starting to develop dedicated gay-marketing strategies for certain artists, much as they already have for reaching Hispanic or African-American audiences.

And this:

“Five or six years ago it was almost uncomfortable. Now I sit in label meetings and someone in the room will say, ‘We really have to drill down on this market,'” says Scott Seviour, senior VP of marketing and artist development at Epic Records. “On a business level and an industry level, there’s a greater respect for that consumer. You’ve seen them break an artist and make names. They’re passionate and they can move the needle.”

Business is business, markets are markets, and if you can identify and reach consumers who might buy and promote your products, that is the game. As is pointed out, the practice of marketing to all sorts of groups is common. And in a consumer-driven economy, being recognized and courted is at least a show of economic respect, if not of social acceptance.

But there are caveats too. Being targeted is not necessarily a sign of enlightenment, though it is better than ignorance, invisibility or hate. There is also a general challenge with identity marketing. It’s a thin line between identity and stereotype, a line that’s always in danger of disappearing—if it’s there at all. It can be legitimate and effective to target consumers on the basis of what you know about them and how that works with the products you are selling. But it is easy to fall unwittingly into treating people of any kind as a market and not as people.

The proposition “If you are a (fill in the identity), then you will/must like/want this” is problematic. That’s why “the gays” and “they” and even “gay-friendly” are so cringeworthy. Substitute your own or anybody else’s identity there—woman, black, Jew, etc.—and you’ll see.

We’ve come a long way culturally, moving closer to seeing and treating all people as individuals. It’s too late to turn back or slip back now.