Hysterical hunt for the only gays in the media village
My name is Tracey and I am not a lesbian. Well, except for 15 minutes in 1987. At university. Does that count?
Everyone is at risk of being ‘outed’ these days, as tabloid media organizations eat their own to get the next exclusive story.
Last week, journalists were salivating at the mouth at the prospect of using the name ‘Tracy Grimshaw’ and ‘lesbian’ in the same sentence, following Gordon Ramsay’s outburst.
Tracy has publicly denied the allegation, but she will be forever haunted by a claim that, until now, was only whispered by carpet-strollers in TV corridors.
A fellow TV presenter, Peter Hitchener in Melbourne, suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune last year after being shoved from the closet.
Well-liked, respected and high-rating, the Channel 9 newsreader kept his private life to himself, until a newspaper journalist uncovered a Ballarat police report about two men sitting in a car late at night.
A check of the vehicle’s rego showed it belonged to Hitchener.
The police officer reported nothing untoward but, according to independent website Crikey.com.au, the journalist used that report to threaten Hitchener with a Page 1 beat-up.
Frantic, high-level meetings between Nine’s publicity department and the newspaper’s editor led to a ‘self-outing’ – a discreet, dignified interview in the body of the paper.
“That is part of who I am and with that disclosure, or acknowledgment, I just also need to say I am still the person I was yesterday,” Hitchener said, no doubt through clenched teeth.
So why does the media choose to out some celebrities, but not others?
There is an equally well-liked, high-rating TV presenter whose homosexuality is widely known, within the industry.
One gossip columnist tried to ‘out’ him last year, only to be told he was untouchable because he’d never sought publicity about his private life.
The elephant in this particular room is the annual sport of trying to ‘out’ Ian Thorpe.
It’s become a seasonal page-filler, akin to the cheese-rolling, bog-snorkelling and tomato-throwing contests.
For the uninitiated, this is how it works:
Step 1. Contact international paparazzi agency to find damning photos.
Step 2. Send shots to Thorpie’s agent, warning there’s “more to come”.
Step 3. Threaten to print the most explicit shot on Page 1, unless Thorpie makes a statement.
Step 4. Sit back and rub hands with glee while one of our national heroes is put through profound emotional turmoil.
Step 5. Print less-damning photo on Page 5, accompanied by Thorpie’s repeated denial.
The beautiful, talented and likeable Deborah Hutton suffered a similar fate in 2007, thanks to a Sydney newspaper.
After years of less-than-subtle jibes, the paper printed a picture of the former face of Grace Bros with her long-term girlfriend, Danni Roche, reporting that the pair had split up.
Hutton has kept a dignified silence on the issue, but friends are quoted as saying she’s looking “smoking hot” at the moment, and looks forward to getting back into the dating scene with “Sydney’s most eligible men… definitely men”.
It begs the question: do we really care?
Aussies are a pretty open-minded lot.
Surveys show we would still love Thorpie, and Hutton, even if they were gay.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say.
Frankly, I like my celebrities to be a bit more interesting than your white-bread, middle class, heterosexual chap with a loving wife and 2.2 kids.
I think we all prefer those on the box to be a bit more octagonal in shape, rather than square.
Real life can be banal.
Groundhog Day is more bearable, peppered with vicarious experiences, courtesy of the larger-than-life.
The question then becomes: to publish, or not to publish?
As a journalist, I believe that anyone who uses their personal life as publicity fodder is fair game.
But we should respect the privacy of those who refuse to sell their stories to women’s magazines.
It’s quite simple.
I have no respect for celebrities like Nicole Kidman, who pleads for privacy while her publicist calls selected paparazzo to tell them where the actress is having lunch.
That’s why her ex-husband is a constant target.
Tom, you can’t have your lamb roast and eat it too.
The last word goes to that great channeler of the minds of the Australian public, Homer Simpson.
“I like my beers cold and my homosexuals flaming.”
- Tracey Spicer is a journalist, Sky newsreader, MC, keynote speaker and media trainer.
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