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Sleeping with gossip.

I cannot tell a lie. I love gossip. I can't wait for Murgatroyd's juicy tidbits in Movieline. I live for Michael Musto's all-blind-item columns and then spend way too much time trying to figure out who's who. I have every New York gossip column bookmarked on Netscape. I'm also not ashamed to admit that I grew up on a steady diet of the Star, The National Enquirer, and People.

I never really cared much for the real people in People who lost fingers to frostbite or invented a new mousetrap, but I voraciously consumed information about Princess Di, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah's diets, Jackie O's fashions, and various celeb weddings, divorces, deaths, and bouts with rehab.

Yes, I'm deeply superficial, but it's fun.

In fact, when Michael Jackson's child-molesting scandal hit the front page of USA Today, I knew it was OK to pursue a career in "soft news," or what we now call entertainment journalism. I never wanted to chase fire trucks or visit crime scenes anyway. Suddenly stories about pop stars and their legal troubles or sexual peccadilloes were no longer relegated to the women's pages. They're now legitimate news.

I remember thinking that we'd passed another benchmark in 1999 when the mass media "discovered" the Latin music explosion and Ricky Martin did a round of television interviews. Martin's good looks and pneumatic hips had the supermarket tabloids on fire, but it still caught me by surprise when Barbara Walters asked the Puerto Rican superstar straight out, so to speak, about those gay rumors. (Martin hemmed and hawed.) And then Oprah asked if, ahem, he had a girlfriend. (He said he was single.) Surprisingly, neither interviewer appeared embarrassed in asking the question; I'm certain both would tell you that his fans wanted to know. Yeah, but it's still just gossip.

It's remarkable that after 60-plus years of gossip--from Hedda Hopper to Walter Winchell to Liz Smith--we're still chiefly preoccupied with sex and who's having it, particularly if it's hush-hush. The best gossip at work, at school, or in Hollywood is always about who's sleeping with who--especially if both whos are the same sex. Sure, it's fun to speculate about what Meg Ryan sees in Russell Crowe, who by most accounts is degrees removed from a Neanderthal. But wouldn't you be more interested if Crowe got caught in an elevator making out with, say, Leonardo DiCaprio? God knows, I would.

In the early days of the 21st century, when news travels faster than a whisper via the Internet, gossip has become particularly virulent. Hot tidbits can go from E-mail to Web site to Page Six to 60 Minutes in a nanosecond. We live in an E! True Hollywood Story age, all of us looking for any excuse to share the rumors and innuendo we've heard as we breathlessly gawk at the red carpet royalty.

But gossip's march to the front pages has been a mixed bag for gay people. Sure, Oprah can now ask--in a roundabout way--if you're gay, but it's still a loaded question. Because whether you're a celebrity or not, there's still some risk in telling the truth about same-sex sleeping arrangements. It's exactly that stigma that keeps everyone curious. And when you can't answer Oprah honestly and in full, it just encourages the whispers that fuel an industry.

For gossipmongers, the closet is a cash cow. There's a reason tabloids thrive on "Who's Gay in Hollywood" special issues, their covers plastered with photos of the usual suspects. I guarantee you they wouldn't sell a single copy if everyone in Hollywood were out.

While openly gay celebs get some ink when they change partners, we're even more drawn to those guys and gals who turn up at awards shows with their mother or their Scientology adviser. Not that I want to out anybody, but I'll tell you this: As long as a celebrity keeps a secret from us--the adoring, unsequined masses--we must know it.

Right now, for example, I'm consumed with finding out what A-list movie star has been caught--twice--coming on to his masseur at an upscale spa. Yes, I know, I've gotta get over it. But none of us will until all of us can be comfortable living our lives as who we are--famous, almost famous, or not.

Jones writes the Movie Scoop column for E! Online.
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Author:Jones, Anderson
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 5, 2000
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