Popping Off: Celebs’, or anyone’s, sexuality should be a non-issue
If you haven’t seen it by now, chances are good that, by the time the weekend is over, you will have.
I’m talking about the National Enquirer photo of John Travolta kissing a guy. It’s not a lurid, grainy shot or anything. The photo shows an unknown fellow who looks as though he’s getting a peck on the lips from Travolta as he boards a small plane in Hamilton, Ontario.
So why is this a big deal?
Good question. It’s not, except, that it is. Because despite the fact that it’s 2006, being gay is still a big freakin’ deal.
Canada.com, the umbrella Web site for several major Canadian newspapers, including the National Post, ran a story detailing the decades-long history of Travolta’s battles with the gay rumors. It involves a lawsuit or two, a porn star, an artist and rumors of an amorous overture in a hot tub. Like I said, big freakin’ deal.
I’m not repeating any of this in order to argue that Travolta is or isn’t gay. Like Tom Cruise, he’s one of those actors who have always been suspected by some people — presumably folks who don’t have anything better to do with their time — of being gay and leading a closeted life.
As with Cruise, Scientology often is blamed for how Travolta handles his supposed true sexual orientation. Whatever.
The fact is that, in Hollywood, being a Scientologist is OK. Being gay, especially for a male action star, is not, although others in the entertainment industry also find themselves in the peculiar position of setting the record, uh, straight when it comes to their sexual orientation.
Oprah Winfrey, for example, is no macho action star, but in a sense, she has a lot in common with a guy like Cruise. She’s a powerhouse. Her franchise and her success are based on her appeal to women.
But, like the toothy blockbuster hero, she has been surrounded by gay rumors for years. In a long piece in last month’s issue of O magazine, the talk-show host denied having a sexual relationship with her best friend and right-hand gal, Gayle King.
"I understand why people think we’re gay. … There isn’t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. … (H)ow can you be this close without it being sexual?"
King added, "The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you, because there’s nothing wrong with being gay."
Of course, there was more to it than that — TV interviews and exhaustive online chatter about why Winfrey still hasn’t married her longtime beau, Stedman Graham. With children and in the absence of a high-profile female friendship, these rumors never would have popped up. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell aren’t married, and, like Graham and Winfrey, they’ve been together for years. So, in case that wasn’t clear, certain unmarried women might be gay, but certain married men are only so because they’re gay and closeted. Both scenarios are lame any way you cut it, as is trying to guess someone else’s sexual orientation.
I don’t try because I seldom have reason to care and my gaydar is about as accurate as the U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s WMD stash. Even if you were wearing an "I AM TOTALLY GAY" T-shirt, I’d assume that maybe it’s one of those ironic tees they sell at Hot Topic.I’d have better luck guessing someone’s zodiac sign.
But, just for a moment, let’s assume that Winfrey is gay. Would it matter? Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres is gay, and keeps winning Emmy after Emmy. Then again, Ellen is no Oprah. Where DeGeneres entertains, Winfrey advises. She’s a lifestyle guru to millions of (mostly) women who live and breathe by her decrees.
Besides, celebrities handle rumors of homosexuality in different ways. Winfrey used her magazine as the vehicle to respond, the San Diego Padres’ Mike Piazza, when he was a New York Met, held a news conference in 2002 to say he’s straight, and "Desperate Housewives" star Marcia Cross refused to comment on the rumors, letting her publicist issue a statement. Cross just went about her business and recently got hitched. To a guy.
The unfair damage done to their names (being gay shouldn’t be a liability) might be why celebs care, but why do we?
As of Friday afternoon, Travolta’s official Web site had not made any reference to the photo and I’d be surprised if the actor would bother to comment. He has in the past, but the rumors remain. Plus, I get the impression that even if the guy was gay, he’d never come out of the closet.
But almost as soon as the Travolta photo hit the Internet, forums and blogs were ablaze. "Man … I will never be able to watch ‘Pulp Fiction’ the same way again," one person posted on Popsugar.com, a pop-culture site. Another wrote, "But he’s Italian — and some people are brought up to greet, part ways, etc., with a kiss. Michael Douglas and his father always kiss on the lips. I agree, it’s disturbing to see this photo, but there’s no way Travolta is gay! NO WAY!!!!!" Ooh-wee. Talk about not being equipped to handle the 21st century. People this clueless shouldn’t even bother speculating about the sexual orientation of others.
Clueless or not, no one else should give a second thought as to which set of genitalia Travolta’s sexual partners have because, ultimately, unless they’re in direct "danger" of an unwelcome advance by the actor, it in no way affects them.
Whether Travolta is gay or not is no one’s business but his and his family’s.
Whispers about John Travolta’s sexuality that have blown through Hollywood for years are getting louder now that the actor was caught kissing another man here in Canada.
In photographs published in the newest issue of the National Enquirer, Travolta is seen planting a kiss on the lips of an unidentified man on the steps of his private plane at an airport in Hamilton, Ontario.
Travolta, 52, has been flying his Boeing 707 in and out of Hamilton as production gets underway in Toronto on the remake of Hairspray, in which he plays Edna Turnblad.
The tabloid noted that Travolta, whose left arm is on the man’s back, got “up on one toe while puckering up with his pal.”
While the kiss could be nothing but a friendly peck (Travolta is, after all, half Italian) the pictures are fueling longtime speculation about the star’s sexual orientation.
Travolta waited until he was 37 to get married and become a father. Shortly after the Enquirer
Barresi, who reportedly received $100,000 (U.S.) from the tabloid, later retracted his story after discussions with Travolta’s lawyer.
“I was having a nervous breakdown,” Barresi told Jim D’Entremont of The Guide, a gay publication. “I just wanted it to be over. But when the dust settled, I regretted the retraction a lot more than I regretted that initial call to the Enquirer.”
The allegations have not been limited to tabloids. In a 1991 cover story in Time entitled “Scientology: A Thriving Cult of Greed and Power,” the magazine reported that, according to former Scientology security head Richard Aznaran, Church leader David Miscavige repeatedly joked about Travolta’s alleged “promiscuous homosexual behavior.”
In 1998, Travolta was named in a lawsuit from a gay man who claimed the Church of Scientology promised to “cure” him of his homosexuality and cited Travolta as a success story.
Michael Pattinson alleged he “reasonably relied upon” Travolta’s marriage to Preston as proof that “Scientology processing and courses would ‘handle’ my own homosexuality.”
Responding to the lawsuit, Travolta’s lawyer Jay Lavely told the New York Daily News: “Travolta is a happily married man, which proves he isn’t gay.”
Only five years ago, a business executive alleged in Globe that Travolta made a pass at him in the sauna of Spectrum Club, a fitness gym in Valencia, California. (Travolta made several visits to the club while filming Swordfish nearby, it was independent confirmed.) Mark claimed he rebuffed the actor’s alleged advances because he was chubby and “really hairy on his back, upper arms and chest.”
Travolta is one of six children born to Salvatore and Helen Travolta in New Jersey. Showing an interest in musical theatre at an early age, Travolta was enrolled in a New York drama school. By the time he was 16, he was starring in a production of Bye Bye Birdie. Two years later, Travolta had a role in Grease on Broadway. This was followed by a part opposite the Andrew Sisters in Over Here on Broadway. published claims by porn star Paul Barresi – who alleged he had a two-year affair with the actor – Travolta married actress and fellow Church of Scientology follower Kelly Preston. The couple has two children: Jett, 14, and Ella Bleu, 6.
Travolta moved to Hollywood and landed a few minor roles in film and TV before he was asked, at 21, to play teenager Vinnie Barbarino on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. The series lasted four seasons and made Travolta a star.
His movie career took off with leads in Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Urban Cowboy. In 1978’s Moment by Moment, Travolta played a young man who falls in love with an older woman, played by Lily Tomlin – who has since come out as a lesbian.
For his role in Hairspray, Travolta has to dress as a woman. His character’s husband is played by Christopher Walken. The film, which is shooting in Toronto through December, is due for release next summer.