It may be 2007 but the world still isn’t an easy place to live as a gay or a lesbian, especially if you’re famous, if the amount of ‘out’ stars is anything to go by. While stars such as sportsman Ian Roberts and music reporter Molly Meldrum are happily gay, many others spend their spotlit years in the closet, living a straight public life and coming out as bisexual or gay much later on when they’re less famous or when they’ve been outed. We’ve seen a lot of progress over the last decade or so but there is still a lot to achieve if we want to create an environment when a star’s sexuality is not going to affect their sponsorships, roles or the size of their fanbase. Same Same has looked into the lives of a few famous closet cases from the 1950s through to today, and found that it’s not uncommon for celebrities to prefer to live a lie for a career’s sake.
An early example of an actor keeping his sexuality in the closet, Salvatore ‘Sal Mineo Jr was perhaps indicative of his era’s attitudes towards sexuality and stardom.
His swooning good looks made him the focus of much female attention while he was red hot in the mid ‘60s. The actor played alongside James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause as the teenager Plato, whose character was smitten by James Dean’s Jim Stark.
Gay men at the time recognised the sub-cultural message of the film, but Sal continued to receive thousands of letters from adoring female fans nonetheless, who were unaware of his sexuality. He maintained this facade by dating some of the most beautiful actresses of the time.
Dropped from the big time by the late ‘60s, by the ‘70s Sal was dropping serious hints towards his homosexuality such as the gay-themed play he produced and a role as a gay burglar in a ’76 stage comedy.
Sal was stabbed in the heart on his way home from rehearsal one night in ’76 and after they found gay porn in his apartment the police concluded that the murder had a gay motive. His killer later claimed that he had no idea who Sal was and that the murder was in fact a mugging gone wrong.
Another actor from the 1950s and ‘60s celluloid closet, Rock Hudson became a face of AIDS and one of the most famous gay men ever.
The handsome actor won a swag of titles such as Favourite Leading Man for roles such as playing a bad boy redeemed in Magnificent Obsession, alongside James Dean in Giant, and as Doris Day’s love interest in Pillow Talk.
He married Phyllis Gates in ’55 and was divorced by her three years later for ‘mental cruelty’. Although in a biography released after his death it was claimed that Phyllis also had a secret homo existence.
Before succumbing to AIDS in ’85, Rock had reportedly bedded Marlon Brando, Armistead Maupin and Burt Lancaster, amongst others.
After his death Doris Day said that she had never known that he was gay.
Although his first role was as a gay schoolboy in a West End production in ’82, it wasn’t until ’89 that Rupert Everett actually came out as gay.
His heart throb status to the female race was ignorant to facts like his prosituting himself out to men as a teenager.
As a bisexual, Rupert bedded Paula Yates and remained her lover for six years. As an incredibly good looking 20-something, it was not hard to see how Rupert could attract lovers of both sexes.
An actor, former pop star and novelist, Rupert’s career was revived by playing gay roles in the late ‘90s in movies My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Next Best Thing.
After witnessing him camp it up in these movies, it is hard to think of him being cast as a leading man in a straight romance flick any more.
It took a while for the Australian Idol singer to get out of the closet, but after he was inadvertently outed on radio earlier this year, he was greeted with nothing but support from both the gay and straight communities.
But back in ’04 there was less pride from the Idol; Anthony told a writer from The Age that “at the end of the day I think the most important thing is that as long as your family knows the truth and your close friends know the truth, that’s all that’s really important to me.” So what is the truth, asked the wised up journo. “That I’m not (gay).”
Now Anthony is freer to be who he really is and cut the crap, but his video clips and lyrics continue to portray him as straight – well, in a Ricky Martin kinda way.
While past song titles include When You Were My Girl, the new Anthony Callea is a little more ambiguous. The recent video clip for Addicted To You features Anthony and his band performing on a city rooftop in Sydney with various onlookers checking him out. They range from an apartment-dwelling woman in her bathrobe looking lustily out the window, but there’s a distinct queer moment where a guy with a camera phone films Anthony and the singer looks over and appears to give “a look”.
Where Anthony goes creatively from here will be interesting.
The craziest days of George Michael’s career as a singer for Wham! in the ‘80s were spent in the closet, with rumoured dalliances including Brooke Shield, Whoopi Goldberg and female Wham! dancers.
The Greek Cypriot / English-born singer (born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) and his Wham! co-partner Andrew Ridgeley were big time sex symbols, but no one really noticed what was going on until George’s charade came crashing down much when he was busted cracking onto an undercover cop in a toilet block in ’98.
Of course, this presented a creative boon for George’s songwriting, witness Outside, but it also gave older songs such as Father Figure a newer, gayer meaning.
George managed to keep some incredibly dramatic moments private, including the ’93 death of his then boyfriend to AIDS, which was happening simultaneously to George having an anti-war hit with Jesus To A Child. He continues to dedicate this song to his lover on-stage.
A doco released in 2005, George Michael: A Different Story, sought to get answers to George’s double life. He reveals his dilemma he had when he was a closeted star: “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m a massive star and I think I may be a poof. This is not going to end well’,” he said. In the documentary he also predicted a far quieter life than the one we have witnessed: “I think the future is a much more behind-the-scenes affair for me,” he says. “That won’t really be a matter of privacy, it will just be a matter of me not being around. I just thought it was very important to explain myself before I disappear.”
With British tabloid photographers’ merciless pursuing of George Michael’s every move since, it seems unlikely that his intention to disappear from the public eye will be possible, in this lifetime at least.
George is boyfriend to longtime partner Kenny Goss and hopes to marry in a civil partnership ceremony later this year.
The world’s number one queen was married to German music engineer Renate Blauel in Sydney in ’84, which was then as well as now one of the gayest cities in the world. In ’76 Elton (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight) had told Rolling Stone magazine that he was bisexual. However, in ’88 he and Renate divorced because neither could continue to deny that the fact that Elton is actually gay, not bisexual.
Elton has been with partner David Furnish since ’93, and the two lovers entered a civil partnership in ’05.
Comparisons are easy to make between Wham’s George Michael and Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes: both were the more energetic and more talented half of a pop duo, both left to go it alone and both came out as gay after a number of years racking up female attention as closeted pop stars.
The former Savage Garden singer came out when his personal assistant asked outright if he was gay after observing Darren’s giddiness whenever a certain gent was around. An emotional Darren went home that very night and confessed to his wife Colby Taylor that he ‘may be bisexual or gay’. The couple divorced in ‘99. The former husband and wife team did not speak for a year, but in an interview published on the weekend Darren reveals that he and Colby are in fact very good friends, and that he had two obstacles to admit to get to his current state of happiness: that his father was an alcoholic and that he was gay.
Darren’s insecurity over his identity affected his post Savage Garden solo career with the exception of 02’s Insatiable. But with fresh wind in his sails and a new album coming out in August, featuring the poptastic new single On The Verge Of Something Wonderful, it seems that Darren’s relatively early addressing of his sexuality has resulted in a solo career that may yet scale the heights promised by Savage Garden.
Darren married his partner Richard Cullen in a civil union in Britain in June last year.