Kevin Spacey as the president of United States in his Netflix series “House of Cards.” | NETFLIX.COM
Kevin Spacey tried to make no fewer than four “jokes” about being in the closet while hosting the Tony Awards, but was shown up by multiple out gay and lesbian winners and presenters — calling attention to his immature and offensive insistence on not owning up to his gay identity.
It started with Whoopi Goldberg opening a door and Spacey saying, “Whoopi, how long have you been in that closet?”
Knowing laughter ensued as Goldberg has had her own issues around identity, telling an LGBTQ audience in 2002, “There was a time I played on both sides of the street. Now I just go straight down the middle of the street.”
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But in 2014, when asked about her bisexuality, she told Out Smart magazine, “If they wanna believe I’m bisexual, and it makes them feel better, fine.”
Next, Spacey got up as Norma Desmond and sang, “I’m coming out!” to a “Sunset Boulevard” tune.
Then addressing Chris Cooper, nominated for “A Doll’s House, Part II,” Spacey said, “Last time I saw Chris we had such a good time. He kissed me in the garage and then he shot me in the kitchen. And then we did a film called ‘American Beauty’ together.”
Finally, Spacey, infamous for hitting on younger actors on his sets, introduced presenter Orlando Bloom “hailed for his Broadway debut in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ where he played the pretty one.”
The times are too serious for “humor” like this when LGBTQ rights are being decimated by the Trump administration here and gay people in places from Honduras to Chechnya to Saudi Arabia face government roundups and executions. It’s one thing to just refuse to talk about it, but those who do refuse haven’t earned the right to joke about it.
To some, Spacey was poking fun at his own closetedness. But the question is why a 57-year-old man in America — in the theater world, no less — behaves this way.
Spacey told Playboy years ago that he is not gay, took a girlfriend to the Academy Awards in 2000, and told Gotham magazine, “I’ve just never believed in pimping my personal life out for publicity. I’m not interested in doing it. Never will do it. They can gossip all they want; they can speculate all they want. I just happen to believe that there’s a public life and there’s a private life. Everybody has a right to a private life no matter what their profession is.”
Kevin Sessums wrote a famous piece in 2010 confronting Spacey.
“We gay men have always proudly claimed you as a member of our tribe, and yet you don’t proudly claim us back,” Sessums said.
Spacey replied, “I don’t live a lie. You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie.”
He compared “exposing” people like him to bullying gay teens.
We can all agree that someone’s truly private life is his or her own business. We are not entitled to know the details of anyone’s sex life — though these are fodder for the tabloid press when it comes to heterosexual celebrities and Spacey made the cover of the National Enquirer with pictures of him canoodling with a guy in the Hollywood Hills. A double standard by some media about this treats homosexuality as if it is something dirty, disgusting, and shameful.
Spacey has been “joking” about his closet for a long time. When he lived in London, he was mugged while out cruising at 4 a.m. in a Southwark park. At a pre-scheduled press conference the next day about his directorship of the Old Vic (where he did a terrific job, by the way), he ignored all questions about the incident saying, “I just want to thank David Beckham for getting me off the front page” with a juicier scandal.
Spacey has never acknowledged that he has benefited from the work of millions of people who have come out and tens of thousands of LGBTQ activists who made it possible for him not to be arrested for expressing his sexuality and, if he so chooses, marry a man he loves. His lack of solidarity with his own people stands in sharp contrast to many of the Tony winners and presenters on June 11.
Out Cynthia Nixon, Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for “The Little Foxes,” said, “I share this with my God-sent wife [Christine Marinoni] and our beloved children, Sam, Charlie, and Max. It is a privilege to appear in Lillian Hellman’s eerily prescient play in this specific moment in history. Eighty years ago, she wrote, ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it and other people who just stand around and watch them do it.’ My love, my gratitude, and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”
Out gay Gavin Creel, Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for “Hello, Dolly,” paid tribute to his teachers, made a plea for theater scholarships, and said to his partner Henry Gottfried from the cast of “Waitress,” “Henry, I love you so much!”
Out gay producer Scott Rudin, a winner for Best Revival of a Musical” for “Hello, Dolly,” thanked “my husband John Barlow who literally has listened to every extant version of ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes’ without complaining too much. Thank you!”
Out lesbian playwright Paula Vogel introduced her nominated play “Indecent,” a theatrical backstory about “God of Vengeance,” a play from a century ago where “during a lyrical love scene in the rain between two women, the entire cast is arrested for obscenity.”
A scene from William Finn’s now-closed “Falsettos,” nominated for Best Revival of a Musical, was performed by the cast featuring a gay male couple and a lesbian couple. (The show will be in cinemas starting July 12 — visit falsettoscinema.com — and on PBS in October.)
Ben Platt, Best Actor in a Musical, said, “To all the young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anyone but yourself because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”
Spacey also turned the Tonys into the Kevin Show, doing his Johnny Carson imitation, his Bill Clinton imitation, and playing his character from “House of Cards.” He’s a good actor, but this made the show more about him that the world of Broadway that the Tonys are supposed to celebrate.
And as long as I’m judging the Tonys, let me just say that Bette Midler’s acceptance speech as Best Actress in a Musical for “Hello, Dolly” flouted time limits but was absolutely hilarious and the hit of the show. It is, after all, just a trade show, but she and several of the other winners such as Cynthia Nixon made it about so much more.