February 25, 2014

IN DEFENCE OF ALEC BALDWIN

Several months ago, I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed and I saw a  venomous post about Alec Baldwin. Apparently, he’d used an anti-gay slur, and it wasn’t the first time. I did a little research on what happened, and I learned that the actor appeared to have yelled the word at a paparazzi who was stalking him outside his NYC home. Baldwin had just won a case against a female stalker who had made his life hell for two years by claiming she’d had an affair with him. Which must have put an enormous put a strain on his marriage, especially since his wife was pregnant. What woman wouldn’t love to carry the baby of a possibly cheating husband? I felt sorry for Baldwin.

Flashback to a decade when I was the faggot popping up in Baldwin’s face with a camera. Although since I was in a wig, make-up and women’s attire, I suppose a better term for me would a draggot. It was at a chaotic red carpet event in LA, with a zillion flashbulbs popping. He turned around and there I was, a big drag queen inches from his face. I asked him if I could snap a photo of the best looking guy that night and he said “Sure!” and posed. I said “Could you please move—he’s right behind you.”  Alec giggled at my little joke. Drag queens have a highly-developed sense of gaydar, since some of us do have the nerve to cruise straight men. We have to interpret body language, clothing pheromones or whatever to determine if any particular heterosexual guy is gonna screw our brains out or beat our brains out. Even as I, a stranger, had attempted to jokingly insult him, Alec came across as extremely warm and personable and not homophobic in the slightest. I remember thinking “Here’s a A-List Hollywood leading man with all of the looks and talent yet with none of the attitude that you’d expect to go with it.”

So based on that brief but telling personal encounter, I was mystified by the vitriol of all the “Baldwin’s a homophobe” posts, which rapidly multiplied. To protest his hate speech, gays were throwing around all kinds of hate speech back at him: his career was finished, he’d sucked in his last few roles and he wasn’t even hot any more. Was the fact that he’s nice-looking and perceived as insulting gays what triggered the immense backlash? Let’s not confuse the fact that gay men are exactly like straight men in that they lose interest after in whoever they see as less screwable. I have zero reason to be a fan for Alec Baldwin. I couldn’t name a movie or play he’d been in and had only seen snippets of 30 Rock—which seemed fun. But no assessment of his career answers the question at the center of this controversy—is he a homophobe?

I spoke to my faggot friend Dan Mathews from PETA who’s worked with Alec for twenty years and Dan claims that he’s a total sweetheart. Should we really be decimating the man’s entire career over a few angry words that flew out of his mouth during an angry exchange at the end of a draining trial during which had his hair literally turned grey? As Dan said, “We often revert to high school-era insults when we’re deeply upset.” As far as I’m concerned, a member of the paparrazi had acted inappropriately and got an inappropriate response from the actor he was stalking—who had just won a two year case against a different stalker, for chrissakes! Baldwin even claims that the shutterbug almost hit his infant’s head with the camera’s lens. Now I know that stars welcome photographers into their lives when they become public figures, but I also know that people are human and even the kindest people on earth have a breaking point. You tell me that you’ve never gotten on a train with a load of luggage or shopping, desperate for a seat, when someone takes the very last perch available. Unless you’re a saint, you might easily take the most noticeable characteristic about that person and spout off: that old biddy, that black bitch, that thoughtless snob, that stupid kid or that fat whore. (Don’t ask me how I know about the last one.)

But does an occasional slip-up make you a bigot? Should you lose your job for a few heated words? Alec has denied that he used the word fag or faggot and at one time claimed to use the word maggot. Who cares? Is the guy actively crusading against gay rights? No! He’s a progressive liberal—the only straight group who supports equal rights for gays across the board. And we can’t cut an ally any slack? Nope, he’s suddenly a demon from hell bent on destroying gay lib. Hey gays! Would it make a little more sense to focus on the people who are truly out to get you? There are obvious targets like Chik-Fil-A and Vladimir Putin. But many more exist who are, unlike Baldwin, out to destroy any advances gays have made in recent years. Arizona governor Jan Brewer is currently brewing over whether or not to veto or sign into law a bill which would permit businesses to discriminate against gays if we offend their religious beliefs. Similar bills have tanked in Idaho and Kansas, and there’s another one being debated in Utah. What would impact more people—an insult flung at a photographer who may have deserved it, or legalized discrimination in multiple states? How do you think the right wing think tanks get the money to lobby against gay rights in the first place? We pay the companies who donate to them every day with the food and drinks we choose, our shopping choices from toiletries to clothing to electronics and our cellphone carriers. I’m always unsettled when I perform on the road at a gay bar and they house me at the local Marriott. As in the mormon-run chain that gave millions of dollars to support Prop 8, which crushed gay marriage hopes in California. Other big donors included eBay, Reuters and Aetna. Use any of those? If you’re gay, you’re paying for ammunition which is used against you and your rights. Yet getting Baldwin off the air is gay America’s most pressing goal. 

Gay were upset by the Sochi Olympics being hosted in Russia, with it’s new legislation against gays. In a tepid move, Obama decided not to attend the games instead of taking a strong stand against Russia. And you may have heard about the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda. An American conservative group called The Family partnered with Ugandan leaders to helped craft these laws. And on February 6th, Obama dignified these hate-mongers by speaking at The Family’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, as every president has done every year for decades. Breaking bread with the enemies who are orchestrating death to gays in other countries—possibly as out-of-town trials for a US run of similar laws? These are our real enemies who reach all he way up to the president—and you’re focusing on Alec Baldwin cursing a photographer? What a waste of your time if advancing gay rights, not celebrity gossip, is truly your goal.

While I can understand my friends’ snarky comments on Facebook, our news should be held to a higher standard. Yet the media was dying to catch a falling star and this alleged anti-gay slur was to be the nail in Alec’s coffin. Anderson Cooper slammed Baldwin for showing “his true colors yet again.” Anderson, your true colors are that you didn’t come out of the closet until your hair was white. Now you’re an activist? May I suggest that CNN’s ratings were in the toilet and so Anderson grabbed at any celeb gossip to parade it as news—now that he’s finally open about his own sexuality? Gay blogger Andrew Sullivan called Baldwin a “raging, violent bigot”. Violent? Who did Baldwin physically attack? And I’m really going to believe a neoconservative gay blogger, like Sullivan, who privately trolled the internet for bareback sex while publicly denouncing it as having the gay community’s best interests at heart. TMZ hammered the actor when he retaliated against George Stark for chiding Baldwin’s wife for tweeting during James Gandolfini’s funeral. For that, Baldwin called Stark a “toxic little queen” and threatened to fuck him up. So Baldwin has anger issues. Maybe he deserves to be angry if people are timing his wife’s tweets as a sign of disrespect. But that doesn’t make Alec a bigot—and if “toxic little queen” and “cocksucking fag” are all that Baldwin said, I’d say definitely give him a pass. Maybe our tabloid-ized news would prefer to focus on making Baldwin the bad guy so that they can ignore the huge corporations which funnel fortunes against anti-gay groups because those corporations advertise on their networks. 

Here’s the saddest part of all. The article titled Good-bye, Public Life begins with Alec contacting a gay rights group in Hawaii. Here’s the question he asked when he got someone on the phone.

“Who would you say, by your estimation, is the most homophobic member of the entertainment industry currently in the media?” 

Here’s the answer he got: “Um … Alec Baldwin?”

Alec then met with the group to learn more about the hate speech and it’s effects. It sounds like he’s sorry for the perception of the slurs—regardless of whether he actually made them or not. Or whether they were even that harsh. Here’s an enlightened straight guy who has openly supports gay rights. A few choice words and our junk news sent him into a free fall which he seems to still be trying to understand. I don’t know or care anything about Shia LeBeouf or that part of Baldwin’s rant. I also did not enjoy the one episode I caught of Alec’s MSNBC talk show with Debra Winger, since that network is already infotainment enough and doesn’t need a Piers Morgan celebrity soft-pedal hour. But even slightly unhinged and in this free fall pattern he perceptively hit this nail on the head when he said: “I think Rachel Maddow is quite good at what she does. I also think she’s a phony who doesn’t have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air.” Actually, she is only concerned with one truth ON the air. I’ve been a big fan of Rachel since she was a radio jock on Air America. She’s brilliant. But no one with a brain can deny that she has totally turned her show into the Chris Christie hour at the exclusion of every other story for weeks. I understand that her reporting on the bridge closure may have uncovered evidence which is leading to a GOP presidential hopeful being discredited, but there are other important news stories happening. And while Chris Christie’s unravelling is a fascinating mess, Obama and democrats are making plenty of messes themselves which a truly progressive network ought to be exposing. Did ya hear the one about Obama trying to fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership through Congress without debate? Or that it would kill jobs and wages for generations and force US workers to compete with Vietnamese workers making 29 cents an hour? No, but I’ll bet you can name every mayor and state senator in New Jersey if you regularly watch MSNBC. I stopped watching in disgust after one MSNBC segment asked “Which Christie employee should get the axe next?” Who cares? Let’s focus on stopping the “democratic” president from outsourcing tons of our jobs overseas. If a few lanes on a bridge closing in New Jersey for less than a week this summer impacts the nation so heavily deserves a solid month of non-stop coverage, then MSNBC is the “news” network for you.

I guess Maddow’s Chris Christie coverage gets ratings. Maybe that’s why Anderson Cooper took Baldwin to task—Baldwin was beating his numbers in the same time slot. Maybe conservative news outlets jumped all over this in order to smear a progressive. And that whipped gays up into such a frenzy that suddenly Baldwin is our number 1 enemy. How are gays going to know how to fight their true enemies if they can’t even identify them? So this member of the gay community would like to offer a sincere apology to Alec Baldwin. Hell, he’s shone so much light on the charlatans, including some high profile gay ones, which masquerade as news that I’d suggest giving him a GLAAD award! Watch your temper, Alec, but thank you for consistently supporting our rights among the many enlightened causes you’ve lent your name to.