| Cruise Not Gay!
The Judge Has Spoken
The news that the besieged world has been awaiting
is finally here, although it's taken some time for the
impact of the revelation to sink in because of its cataclysmic
enormity: Not only is actor Tom Cruise not gay, he "is
not, and never has been, homosexual and has never had
a homosexual affair." So agreed a Superior Court judge
in accepting a stipulation to that effect. In exchange,
Cruise dropped a $100 million defamation suit against
the publisher of Bold Magazine for claiming to be in possession
of a picture of Cruise having sex with another man. Cruise's
lawyer trumpeted the victory: "[Cruise is] not gay, and
the judge so ruled." (See "Cruise, Not Gay, Court Rules
in Actor's Lawsuit," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 4, 2001.)
The judge so ruled! Never before has a court of law been called upon so overtly to establish the sexual orientation of a party. Although ludicrous, the matter carries nasty implications.
Cruise's rise to fame began when he danced in his shorts in a movie called "Risky Business." Although then he was a somewhat pudgy ordinary young man--not yet extravagantly re-made--that scene allowed viewers to peek in on the naughty boy-next-door, arousing what is for some a gay fantasy. (Ironically, the truly sexual presence in the movie was sensational Rebecca de Mornay, and if that remark is interpreted as an indication that this writer is heterosexual, he will claim defamation and ask a judge to rule that he is gay).
Cruise's court action is not the first involving such libelous overtones. In 1956, Liberace sued a London columnist for implying he was gay. Under oath, the performer swore he was not. Legend claims that with the money he collected--$22,000--he gave the gayest party in Hollywood history.
Nor is Cruise the only actor pursued by intimations of homosexuality, incorrect or not. In the past, several movie star careers were compromised, some wrecked, by such implications. Rudolf Valentino was derided after he was labeled a "powder-puff." Singer Johnny Ray was destroyed by an article in the infamous Confidential Magazine that implied he had attempted a drunken pass on a man.
Other movie stars were able to overcome the rumors, even disregard them; some used them to enhance their sexual reputations--Errol Flynn basked in the aura of polysexuality. Tab Hunter survived a report of an arrest at a gay drag party. Rumors did not impede Laurence Olivier from becoming a British Lord. Cary Grant flourished as a romantic leading man while living openly with Randolph Scott; Photoplay Magazine featured the couple "at home." Grant even seemed to acknowledge his sexual orientation in one of his films. ("I've gone gay!" he blurts in "Bringing Up Baby" while donning a woman's nightgown.) Rock Hudson was widely known to cruise gay bars, and that did not affect his heterosexual image. In his autobiography, Marlon Brando informed that he had had a few homosexual affairs when he was young and that he was "not ashamed" of the fact.
Tyrone Power, Gary Cooper, even stalwart John Wayne and quintessential heterosexual idol Clark Gable were objects of similar rumors, and all survived them. Throughout the years, virtually every new young male star has been labeled gay, often only wistfully. Even performers who have made
reported homophobic statements have come under suspicion, and they apparently remain uncompromised, including ex-Calvin Klein underwear model Mark Wahlberg, rap singer Eminen, and Eddy Murphy (even after being apprehended with a Santa Monica Boulevard transvestite).
Many of today's performers who find themselves objects of such rumors feel unthreatened and so are able to deal with the matter without panic. Recently Barbara Walters, all knifey smiles and arm-locking hugs, tried to coax Ricky Martin into declaring whether or not he is gay. Martin answered with cool composure that the matter of his sexuality is private. Though few seriously believe that they are other than close friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon disarm the innuendoes by joking about them, even allowing themselves to be photographed on the same bed. Being called upon to deny being gay, each has stated, is an insult to gay people.
What sets Cruise apart from all this is the stridency of his reactions, the bombardment of statements vaunting his exclusive heterosexuality, the numerous defamation suits, threatened and actual. Perhaps dictated by those who influence his career, Cruise's magnified responses insult gay people (including gay fans he apparently welcomes at the box office) by conveying that it is so devastating even to be thought to be gay that one must go to court to be declared otherwise--and seek $100 million for the gross insult. Although Cruise, through one of his spokes-people, has denied harboring ill attitudes toward homosexuals, his actions resound in contradiction. Perhaps the worst aspect of those actions is the negative impact the offensive implications must have on young gay men struggling to come out.
Paradoxically, Cruise's conduct fuels the accusations. In a paraphrase of Shakespeare, "The
laddy doth protest too much." It is not the scurrilous stories about him that find their way into the mainstream media. It is his response to them. Otherwise the gossip would be relegated only to tabloids barely glimpsed by most people while they wait in grocery-store check-out lines, gossip quickly disregarded along with tales of folks dining regularly with green aliens. Before Cruise's court action, who had heard of Bold Magazine?
Now that a court of law has asserted his heterosexuality, Cruise would gain stature if he ignored any more gossip about him with silent dignity, secure in his court-decreed heterosexuality and knowing that such accusations are staples in all public careers and that most people view them as such.
It might surprise Cruise to learn that very few people, including the vast majority of gay people, care whether he is gay or not, and that many within that gay majority have long hoped that he is not.
Los Angeles, California
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Original material by John Rechy appears
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