Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fight the Real Enemy

Pursuant to this post I wrote a couple weeks ago about gay celebrities coming out (or more prominently out than they are now) comes this editorial accompanying the annual Out 100 list. In it, co-cover boy Adam Lambert, and more pointedly his publicity team, are taken to task for their extreme skittishness about whether Adam would agree to be on the cover, and with who, and in how gay a context.

During the immediate aftermath of the Idol season, I had written about my frustration with the coyness of the Lambert camp when it came to just saying what was already plain as day to any casual observer. Adam did eventually verbalize his gayness in that much-publicized Rolling Stone article, but the hesitancy and the overly-managed nature of his public coming out lingered with me and was on my mind while I was writing the above linked post about Matt Bomer.

Now, I like Adam well enough. I really like Matt Bomer. And I was having a hard time expressing my frustrations with them while at the same time affirming that I rather appreciated them and their (apparently) nonchalant attitudes about their sexuality. Maybe all I needed to do was to separate those men from their publicity teams and vent my frustrations in the direction they belonged. In the Out letter -- and even more explicitly in this follow-up letter by Adam's interviewer -- the contrast seems pretty clear: an open, engaging, an unself-conscious artist surrounded by frightened, controlling publicity types.

On the one hand, they're the ones I should be annoyed with, if anyone, for keeping these celebs closeted. On the other hand, aren't publicists supposed to be frightened and controlling and gun-shy, while it's up to the artists to be bold and honest? Maybe. In the case of Adam and Out, he certainly seemed to balance out his publicists by being fairly candid.



whammo said...

Meh. It's pretty convenient for OUT to be able to feature Adam on the cover and in his interfview then bash him on the editorial page for not being sufficiently out for their tastes, no? Who's being coy there?

And, Levi probably didn't go full frontal because his front wasn't all that full. Republicans are like that, you know.

Joe Reid said...

Well, that's not what coy means, for one. And I'm not sure it benefits Out to risk alienating one of the buzziest gay celebs in the world for no reason, you know?

jessica said...

Yeah, I'm not convinced Levi has all that much to brag about, frontal-wise.

Kirk said...

Hey, thanks for linking to this, Joe - I didn't know about it.

The publicist vs. media thing is certainly nothing new, but for some reason, the people at Out really felt like they needed to speak up, huh?

Which raises a question - this simply cannot be the first time that a publicist has told them what to do/say/write, so why the umbrage now?

The big-picture discussion is another matter, but in terms of this specific instance, I catch a whiff of cynicism around the whole thing. Both parties are benefiting from the exposure - heck, the end result was that I gave Out a bunch of page views, then sat down and listened to to Adam's record for the first time.

(Separate subject, and one I'll have to write more about on my own - I really enjoyed it. I've always liked Adam, but I wasn't expecting the album to be as good as it is - a few of the songs, in particular, are so good I can't believe it.)

The other possibility that I get from the letter's vibe (and more so from of the interviewer's follow-up) is smaller and less jaded. It could well be that a particular member of Lambert's handlers was just a massive assface to everyone at Out, and he/she inspired such personal ire that they couldn't help but write about it.

Joe Reid said...

I dunno, maybe I'm being very naive. The general response to this whole kerfuffle has been decidedly different than mine. Lots of rallying to Adam's defense (he looks to have gotten just as much publicity as Out, if not more). My thing is, even if we stipulate that Out was breaking some publicity/editorial code of silence, does that make it any less disappointing that Adam/his team demanded that he be on the cover w/ at least one hetero lady so as not to appear "too gay"? Because thus far, that's been undisputed. And if everybody's free to not be beholden to a singular gay standard, what's with this wagging finger at those of us who might dare question Adam?

Kirk said...

Totally. I'm also being particularly cynical. There was just something about that follow-up letter that seemed a little bit exaggerated to me. Especially since Krochmal presented her anger as a clear-cut, one sided thing, but then closed with a paragraph that summed up the actual, ambiguous reality of the situation perfectly:

"I think Aaron's very right to point out that this scenario -- a pop star at this level out from the get-go -- is basically unprecedented. I've seen such striking change in even the last two or three years of how comfortable industry gatekeepers and their clients are in handling such new territory. We're witnessing a changing of the guard, and it's bound to overlap a bit in the middle, creating these strange moments where we work with both proudly out stars and their reluctant handlers, sometimes at odd [sic] with each other even when they have the same ultimate goals."

But the larger questions - particularly about the cover, and the fact that these PR people are worried that one can appear "too gay" in... Out Magazine for crying out loud - are important, it's a credit to the Out writers that they broke whatever PR/writer code there is to talk about them.

As far as Adam goes, I would imagine that he's just feeling things out, and at this point, I can't really blame him for relying overmuch on his team and label to manage his PR.

It's impressive enough that he came out of the gate such an incredibly assured performer, and as Krochmal points out, for a pop star to begin his career at this dizzying level is indeed unprecedented. So, I cut him some slack for not being quite up to managing his personal image on the national stage just yet.

Based on that interview, though (and others I've seen, particularly Slezak's), it seems like it's only a matter of time before the vibe of his entire public persona, as well as those who handle it, relaxes hugely, cause the guy just seems pretty damn cool.