This is Page 2 of Part 3 of Chapter 116 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "Inside Out -- Part 3", the previous page.
So, I thought that my little song and dance with Henry Townsend was excruciating? Well, that was nothing! Because on Tuesday afternoon, at 3:00 sharp, I face Fleet Street's finest, as well as various press from the U.S. and most of Europe, Japan, and Australia. There is even the guy from Germany representing 'Volkstern' who wrote the cute little captions for the photos of those 'Gay Boat Romps'! I think my favorite was -- as Ron roughly translated it -- "Movie star Kinney and his pretty blond boy enjoy a night at the seaside," which accompanied a graphic picture of Justin deep-throating my dick! Yes, these guys are out for blood. Let's just say that Marie Antoinette had a more compassionate crowd on her way to the guillotine.
First, the cops have to call up reinforcements to control the number of people trying to get into the Dorchester's ballroom. I had joked about doing the press conference on the sidewalk, but I should have scheduled it for Hyde Park! At least everyone would have FIT there! Then, once they get inside, they are all crushing to the front, like some kind of nightmare Who concert. I see Henry Townsend from 'The Independent' talking to some guys with video cameras -- yes all the television networks and entertainment shows are here, too. But Townsend scooped this whole gang with his interview and you can tell that a lot of people aren't happy about it.
Our party -- Jimmy, Ron, Dorian, Howie Sheldon, who arrived very early this morning, and Justin and I -- can barely get into the place, let alone up to the stage, which is already jammed with a bank of microphones, a podium, people from the hotel, publicity wonks from the studio, and fuck knows who else! Naturally, once Jimmy is on the stage he heads straight for the main microphone. I have no idea why he is even here, except that there's a crowd of reporters, photographers, and video cameras and Jimmy Hardy is the world's biggest egomaniac.
Howie Sheldon, who is here representing Terra Nova Studio, stops Jimmy and suggests that Dorian is the most logical person to be the moderator of this shindig. Dorian is well-respected in the British film industry and he knows a lot of these reporters by name, so he can call on people to ask their questions and attempt to control this zoo. Dorian tries to make them all come to order, but, unfortunately, the whole thing breaks down into a free-for-all in a matter of minutes. Everyone is just yelling at once and I can't even hear the fucking questions. Even Jimmy looks flustered by what's happening, and it takes a LOT to fluster Jimmy Hardy! And Justin -- he stares at the crowd like he's looking into the Gates of Hell. I didn't really want him to stand up here and face all these people, but he insisted on being beside me.
Finally, I've had enough of this shit. "Listen up! Everyone!" I scream into the microphone. "I'm going to end this before it even begins if there isn't some kind of order here! I came to answer some questions and not listen to a bunch of shrieking banshees!" I turn to Dorian. "You know who's here -- pick the people and I'll answer their questions. And if it doesn't start to work, then fuck 'em -- Justin and I are leaving!" And I say it into the main microphone so they all know I really mean it. Amazingly, they begin to settle down.
"Bri, I think you should make some kind of statement first," suggests Jimmy. "As a way of introduction. You know -- to break the ice."
I don't want to do it, but Justin nods. "I think it's a good idea, Brian. Then you can have the first word -- and then the last word, too. YOU'LL be in control -- not them."
And he's right. Control. That's what it's all about. A good strategy. It's just that impromptu speaking isn't exactly my forte. But I take a deep breath and plunge in anyway. "I want to thank you for all coming over here today to my little 'Welcome to London Party'...." And I pause as they all laugh. "Of course, you've all seen the photos from my last party. They weren't the best quality, but then that's the problem with candid snapshots." And they all laugh again.
"You're doing great," whispers Jimmy. "Keep them laughing! They won't write rotten things about you if they like you!" Which is, of course, the whole secret of Jimmy's fame.
"Since I don't know most of you, Mr. Folco will call on questioners and I'll try to answer. Okay?" I nod to Dorian and he picks out a reporter near the front.
"Mr. Kinney," says the first guy. "How do you feel about those photographs taken of you and your boyfriend in some very... er... private moments?"
Leave it to the Brits -- so polite even while they are going in for the kill. "How do you think I feel? Shocked. Humiliated. Embarrassed. But at least they caught my good side. And Justin, naturally, has nothing but good sides." And they laugh at that, too. Justin reaches over and touches my hand. "But seriously, I feel it's such a total invasion of my privacy. Think about how you would feel if someone came and took pictures of you in your home, which is what my boat is to me -- my home. If they took pictures of you making love to your wife or husband. I don't mind so much for myself -- that's part of the price of fame and I have to be willing to pay it if I'm going to be an actor. But I am certainly sorry that Justin had to be dragged into all of this. Because he doesn't deserve to be embarrassed and I apologize to him for that." I turn and look at his face. And I realize how very sorry I am that I dragged him into my lousy mess.
"Brian...." he starts to say. But I shake my head to stop him. This isn't the time for that.
"So, the boy, Justin Taylor, IS your boyfriend, then?" calls out another reporter.
"Well, he's not my girlfriend," I say, trying to sound flip. "And he's not a boy. He's 20 years old and a man in every way."
There's a rustle through the crowd. "Is it true that Justin Taylor was only 15 years old when you began a sexual relationship with him?" yells out a guy in the back.
But before I can answer, Justin pushes by me and speaks into the mike. "I was 17 years old -- almost 18 -- at the time I met Brian. And I knew exactly what I was doing! Anyone who says differently is a liar! I was over the age of consent in Pennsylvania and that's the truth! And our relationship was MORE than just sex right from the very beginning -- if that's even any of your business! I think that's obvious because we are STILL together!" Justin glares at the reporter defiantly.
"Justin, please let ME answer the questions!" I tell him.
But he tosses his head and all that blond hair flying around is making me hard, even in front of all these vultures. "I want people to know the truth, Brian! What they are repeating is just a bunch of gossip!"
"That's what we're trying to do here," I say. "Tell them the truth, Justin."
"Okay, then," says Justin. But he stands right next to me, staring down each reporter. He really IS a fucking little pitbull! The reporters are talking to each other and pointing at Justin. At least some of them are impressed with him and his passionate defense of a slob like me. So maybe there is SOME good in me, after all, if a person so beautiful can see some kind of value in me. Maybe.
Dorian indicates another man in the middle of the mob. "Mr. Kinney," he says. "Do you think these pornographic photos will jeopardize your new film, 'The Olympian,' or your future film career?"
"Well, I hope not. Since 'The Olympian' is a movie about gay life and history, and since I'm a gay man playing a gay character who has sex in the film -- I mean, what's the big surprise if you guys find out that I actually have sex in my real life, too? And I don't even think the photos are all that 'pornographic,'" I add, trying to sound brazen. "Haven't you ever seen two guys fucking before? Believe me, it happens every day! So, if you think that's inherently 'pornographic' or more obscene somehow than it would be if it were me with some woman, then that's your problem, not mine."
The same reporter pipes up again. "But Mr. Kinney -- since you have been forced out of the closet by these revelations...."
"Hold it! Please! I have to correct that statement by saying that I've never been IN the closet." I glance back at Howie Sheldon, who is standing just behind me, next to Ron. Both of them are squirming. They should be in MY shoes! Fuck! "Read your own newspapers. I was out in my personal life. I was out at my advertising agency in Pittsburgh. I was out when I first came to Hollywood a year ago. And I was out here in London while I was making 'Hammersmith' last summer. You all have photos of Justin and me walking around, in restaurants, sightseeing, holding hands. I saw them in your papers! So, does that sound like someone who is in hiding? Because, believe me, Justin and I haven't been hiding anything! Obviously!"
Another voice comes from the side of the room. "No, but you have never declared outright that you are gay, Mr. Kinney."
The migraine is starting up in earnest now, right in the middle of my head. "And have YOU ever declared outright that you're heterosexual -- or whatever YOU are? Maybe you never needed to. Well, I don't feel the need to tell everyone I meet every detail of my sexuality. And as for articles and interviews -- I've NEVER been asked directly if I was gay. Because if I had been, I wouldn't have hesitated to answer. But people assume you're straight and they go from there. Why should I correct them? It's the reporter's job to get the information and to get it right, not mine!"
"But don't you feel that you are sinning by omission?" a woman calls out.
"Sinning? I don't feel anything I've ever done is a sin, but I especially don't feel that NOT talking about being gay is a particular sin. Or being gay, for that matter. That's other people's conception of sin, not mine. I just have this to say -- I'm an actor. I play characters. THAT is what should be important and NOT my personal life. Whether I'm gay or straight or undecided, I still believe that unless I'm fucking YOU, then it's none of your business."
The same woman keeps it going. "But since the infamous photos have made your sexuality an issue, Mr. Kinney...."
"No," I assert. "The PHOTOS haven't made anything an issue, ma'am. YOU in the press have made my sexuality an issue! Which is why I'm standing here!" I feel myself getting steamed -- which I can't let happen. Justin squeezes my hand, steadying me. "I'm just trying to address your questions, not justify my entire existence." Now I'm starting to get tired. This whole fiasco is really getting to me.
Dorian points to a man in the back of the room. "Mr. Kinney, do you feel that you are a proper role model for the gay community?"
Now I take a really deep breath -- and I feel Justin taking one, too. We both know what -- or WHO -- this is all about. "I'm not now nor have I ever been a role model for ANY community. I'm just a person. I'm not Rosa Parks or Harvey Milk or Susan B. Anthony. I'm not a symbol and I've never claimed to be anyone's role model. I'm just a fag actor who got caught with my pants down. End of story!" And the reporters laugh again.
"Good save, Bri," Jimmy whispers. But it's not over yet.
"But gay social commentator Howard Bellweather has said that you are...."
I see Justin flinch at the mention of that fucking name and he recoils slightly. "Hey!" I cut the guy off. "Howard Bellweather spouts off on any issue that will get him free publicity. And if Howard Bellweather has a problem with me, then he should have the balls to come HERE and face me! But he doesn't! He hides behind his pose of being some kind of 'Gay Conscience' -- whatever the fuck that is! Excuse my language, but it's true. I've never set myself up to speak for any community the way he has. I've NEVER posed as some kind of gay paragon of virtue or queer values or any of that... that crap! And neither should he! But when he tries to use Justin's bashing -- which I'm sure you all know about because it's been covered extensively by the media -- as a pretext to denounce me and the way I choose to live my life, and when he now uses this unfortunate incident to continue his attacks, then you all ought to know that...." I'm just about ready to spit out what I know about Bellweather's barebacking and the sex clubs and parties other stuff when I feel Justin's hand on my arm.
"Brian," he whispers. "Howard Bellweather isn't worth it. Please don't start something that will just cause us more grief. Please?"
Justin is right, as usual. Why should I stoop to that fucking hypocrite's level? I don't need to play his game. So I take another deep breath. I'm doing that a lot today. "Well, all I can say is that Bellweather must have tried to hit on me one time and got rejected -- badly. And when he sees me with a beautiful boyfriend like this...." I grab Justin's hand and hold it up so that everyone can see our fingers laced tightly together. "That's why he must be such a bitter, jealous man." And now Justin gives the whole crowd that Sunshine smile. How could they not love THAT?
Then an arrogant voice rings out. "Mr. Kinney, you may not put yourself up as a role model, but you ARE in the public eye. You ARE a celebrity -- of sorts. People look at what you say and do, and they may deem that as acceptable behavior. You readily admit in the interview that came out this morning in 'The Independent' that you have been a male prostitute in the past. And that you were featured in a low budget film about male prostitution made by the same man who later directed 'The Olympian,' Mr. Ronald Rosenblum. Suggestions have also been made that you may have used sex to acquire acting roles, including your part in 'The Olympian.' That you have used your long-term, on-going sexual relationship with Mr. Rosenblum to further your career in films. Do you deny those allegations, Mr. Kinney?"
"I... I think that...." And I have to stop and gather my thoughts. "There are just so many falsehoods in your statement that I don't even know where to begin," I say, finally. But I'm really starting to sweat in that packed, stuffy room. And my fucking head is pounding.
Suddenly Ron is at the microphone and fire is coming out of his eyes. "Excuse me, sir, but I'm Ron Rosenblum, the director of both 'Red Shirt' and 'The Olympian,' so I think you should address those fucking lies to ME and not to Brian!"
"Then I will do so, Mr. Rosenblum," says the arrogant reporter. "The so-called star of both of your films is an admitted drug addict and male whore. Those are the facts as we have them. Who knows what else he may turn out to be before this story is finished? Mr. Kinney also seems, by many accounts, to have used his lengthy sexual relationship with you, Mr. Rosenblum, to get film roles, while at the same time he was corrupting this young boy and who knows how many others? From what I can see Mr. Kinney's main talent seems not to be acting, but instead promiscuity and an utter lack of morals."
I hear Dorian gasp, while Jimmy mutters, "Asshole!" And Justin is deadly pale and totally silent.
But Ron is shaking, he's so angry. "Then you know nothing about film or about the art of acting, mister, or you wouldn't make such a fucking stupid statement!" Ron blasts the man. I can see that many of the other reporters are frowning, uneasy with what this guy has been saying. I feel Justin squeeze my hand tighter.
Dorian leans over and whispers to me. "That's Julian Brithewaite. He's a well-known conservative columnist. He's just here to stir up trouble -- which is why I didn't call on him. He's famously homophobic, Brian."
"Swell," I say. "He would be the one to bring up all the 'Red Shirt' stuff."
"Brian, let Ron take the heat," suggests Dorian. "Just step back. Brithewaite is baiting you purposefully! Everyone here knows him and his methods -- and they all detest the fellow."
"Nevertheless, Mr. Rosenblum," Brithewaite says, smugly. "Deny that what I've said is the truth. Not all of us are so blinded by Mr. Kinney's 'charms' that we cannot see him for what he really is -- a degenerate homosexual whore."
Ron glares down at the man. "Anything that Brian had to do to survive when he was a homeless 16 year old kid has nothing to do with 'The Olympian' or his life now! And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with those photographs!" Ron says with fervent passion. "If you had actually SEEN my documentary 'Red Shirt' then you'd know that Brian -- 'Jack' -- disappeared before the picture even finished filming in 1988. I was afraid that he was dead. And I did everything I could -- I even hired detectives -- to find out who 'Jack' was and what had happened to him, but it was no good. I didn't even know what his real name was. All I knew was 'Jack.'" Ron stops and swallows. His face is so haunted.
"Ron, you don't have to...." I start to tell him, but he just shakes me off.
"I never saw Brian again until I accidentally ran into him at a film festival in Pittsburgh a year ago. At that time he was no longer a whore OR a drug addict OR a scared kid doing what he had to do to survive! He was a successful advertising executive, living a very successful life." Ron pauses again, licking his dry lips. I can see that his hand is trembling slightly as it grips the microphone stand. "So there was no 'on-going relationship.' That's just a lie. And Brian never sought me out to 'help' his acting career. That's also bullshit! He wasn't using me at all! When we got together he didn't have an acting career and had no intention of having one. He'd never even heard of 'Red Shirt' before that film festival. He never knew that the footage I'd shot had ever been made into a film, let alone an award-winning documentary. And he never had any idea that I'd been... been trying to find out what really happened to him... That I been searching for him all those years." Now Ron's voice breaks and I feel like someone has just stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it. "He... he didn't know. He never knew. That's the truth." Ron stops. "That's all." And he turns away, his head down.
"Ron, I...I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry!" I say. But he won't look up at me. And Ron's right. I had no idea that he'd been looking for me. I made the decision when I went back to Pittsburgh that I wasn't going to contact him. Both Tim Reilly and Vic tried to convince me to give them Ron's name so they could find him and tell him where I was. And it would have been so simple just to let him know I was okay. But I thought Ron was better off without me. That he would quickly forget all about me and that would be the end of that. I never imagined how much he'd been hurting because he lost the person that he loved. Hurting as much as I was hurting myself.
Now the whole place is in a total uproar, with everyone shouting at once. Jimmy pushes Ron aside briskly and grabs the microphone. "In fact, it was all MY idea to cast Brian in 'The Olympian'! I met Brian when he came out to Hollywood and was staying with Ron at his house in Beverly Hills...."
"Jim, why don't you just shut the fuck up?" I breathe.
But Jimmy is on a roll. "When Ross Preston had some... ah... other obligations, and we needed to recast, I was the one who felt that Brian would be absolutely perfect for the role of Bobby. Why, Brian didn't even want to do the part at first! Ron and I had to twist his arm to get him to accept it! So the idea that he used his personal relationship with Mr. Rosenblum to further his career is just crazy! I'd seen 'Red Shirt,' so I knew he had an awesome screen presence, and I also knew he had the personal charisma necessary for the part. And I think any of you who have already watched 'The Olympian' will agree with me. So if any of you guys want to suggest that I was having a 'gay old time' with Brian and that's why I cast him in my film -- well, you better ask my wife Tess about that first!" A murmur goes around the room until Jimmy turns on his famous Hardy Grin -- and then they all laugh. All except Julian Brithewaite, that is.
"That creep and Howard Bellweather ought to get together and compare notes!" Justin says grimly. And I shake my head.
"Any final thoughts, Mr. Kinney?" asks a man right before I'm ready to step down from the stage. I recognize Billy Brenner, the gay entertainment reporter from 'Access Hollywood.'
"Only that this is my life and not just today's big story," I say, appealing directly to him. I know Brenner is a nice guy at heart. "You people will go on to the next scandal tomorrow, but I still have to live and work and try to pick up the pieces of my career and my personal life after having the most intimate details of my past and present flung all over the streets and the airwaves. What I've told you is the truth -- and fuck you all if you still want to make an issue out of it!"
"Hey! I think that's enough questioning for now, folks!" says Jimmy, smiling and nodding from the podium. "You all have a great evening and come to the premiere of 'The Olympian' tomorrow at the Leicester Square Odeon! It's a fabulous movie with an important message, right, Bri?"
"I think they get it, Jim. You can turn off the commercial now," I tell him, quietly. Justin takes me gently by the hand and leads me off the stage. Security clears the way for us all to leave the ballroom and get back on the elevators, heading up to our suite in the Forbidden Tower.
Continue on to "Inside Out -- Part 4", the next section.
©Gaedhal, July 2003.
Updated July 29, 2003.