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Ray Outs Merv
Kudos to my friend Ray Richmond, for doing his part to make being gay just another mundane detail about a person, as it should be. Ray writes in The Hollywood Reporter:

Merv Griffin was gay.

Why should that be so uncomfortable to read? Why is it so difficult to write? Why are we still so jittery even about raising the issue in purportedly liberal-minded Hollywood in 2007? We can refer to it casually in conversation, but the mainstream media somehow remains trapped in the Dark Ages when it comes to labeling a person as gay.

Maybe that helps explain why Griffin, who died of prostate cancer Sunday at 82, stayed in the closet throughout his life. Perhaps he figured it was preferable to remain the object of gossip rather than live openly as "one of them." But how tremendously sad it is that a man of Merv's renown, of his gregarious nature and social dexterity, would feel compelled to endure such a stealthy double life even as the gay community's clout, and its levels of acceptance and equality, rose steadily from the ashes of ignorance.

I'm not at all insinuating that Griffin had a responsibility to come out. That was up to him.

But what a powerful message Griffin might have sent had he squired his male companions around town rather than Eva Gabor, his longtime good friend and platonic public pal. Imagine the amount of good Merv could have done as a well-respected, hugely successful, beloved and uncloseted gay man in embodying a positive image.

Kevin Roderick writes on LAObserved

Elizabeth Guider, the new editor of The Hollywood Reporter, is out of state but ordered the trade's website to take down this morning's story by Ray Richmond about Merv Griffin's sexuality, says a source. It's still up at Richmond's blog.

* Cancel that: As of 2:40 pm or so it's back online at THR, as I kinda expected it would be.

And here's the link to the website of a friend of Ray's on which he discusses the the story:

Q. Have you talked to your editors or bosses at The Hollywood Reporter?

A. I will have discussions with them, and I will hope at some point we can have it restored online. It seems that scotching the post gives the appearance of liability when there isn’t any. It was simply a factual, very informed discussion of the larger issue of the media’s difficulty in allowing someone to be labeled as gay in the mainstream, as if that is somehow a huge shame. My whole reason for doing the piece for the Reporter was to shine a light on that fact. Unfortunately that appears to be the case...even internally.

Q. Have you been contacted by anyone representing Merv Griffin?

A. No. I have not.

Q. What are you going to do next?

A. I am hopeful that I am going to defend my piece. I don’t feel anybody at the Reporter is culpable with regard to this –- this is about me and what I wrote in my column. This is my view, my take, my feeling.

I did this not with malice in my heart, but with concern. I wanted to make sure that the truth was out there and not a version of it that allowed everyone to make Merv the subject of gossip or the butt of jokes. I wanted to put the truth out there in a loving and concerned way. One could make the point that it was his business alone, but I don’t think this was true, because he was a public figure and this was who the man was.

Q. Anything else?

A. And I am proud of The Hollywood Reporter for letting me run it in its pages.

Q. What happens next?

A. I don't know.

A commenter named Kate writes below the entry:

So Isaiah Washington gets canned for a gay slur, but discussing the open secret that Merv Griffin was a homosexual is also a slur worthy of censorship?

Exactly the problem.

Posted by aalkon at August 18, 2007 11:50 AM


Who cares? Why do you care? I couldn't care less. Who is Ray what's'is'name? Why should I care about him? The word 'mundane' does not do credit to just how little I care that Merv G...or anyone else named Merv...or anyone else not named Merv is gay. I'm not gay....but don't proclaim my non-gayness to anyone. That would be boring too. Dull, Dull, Dull! You are dull. I suspect Ray whatever is dull....and people that care who's gay and who's not are Dull. Dull! ...or mundane. Or whatever.

Posted by: Calirangr at August 18, 2007 7:18 AM

Here's why I care -- from Wendy McElroy's blog:

The cost of being gay being "shameful," and the ensuing cost of being gay and lacking rights.

No, I'm guessing you don't proclaim your non-gayness to people. I generally don't mention that I'm heterosexual. Then again, I didn't have to "come out" as heterosexual, and people don't hate me or try to deny me rights because I have a boyfriend. If I were a guy with a boyfriend, it would be a lot harder for me.

Ray doesn't "care" who's gay. Did you not read the piece? His notion is that it shouldn't be of consequence -- my argument, too. And the more people who are not in hiding about being gay, the sooner that will happen. Again, being gay should be a mundane fact about a person like the revelation that they collect stamps.

Frankly, I find the vehemence of your comment a bit odd. Do explain.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 7:42 AM

Additionally, the piece wasn't really about Merv Griffin being gay, but about Merv Griffin being in the closet. You didn't see others of his generation -- heterosexual men of his generation -- hiding the fact that they liked women. Hmmm...I wonder why!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 7:44 AM

This post is way off kilter.

It's so smug. You and your friend (and your whole freaking generation) are so certain you know precisely how everyone who ever lived is supposed to react to this most personal and ferocious force in human life. You're whistling in the dark. Nothing is more offensive, and misguided, than the implication that someone's sexual nature is a fluffy, comfy sweatshirt of a choice. This shit has big consequences. Who you love is really important, and it's dangerous as hell. When people make mistakes and misbehave with their naughty bits, lives are shattered, and all sunny, chirping, watercolor rhetoric of the Children's shelf at the public library won't put 'em back together. (Furthermore, sane men know how many Mommies Heather really has, and how many she needs.) There really are monsters in the dark, whichever way you roll.

Are you really, really sure Griffin would have welcomed your smothering embrace of his most private beeswax? Sexuality in his generation wasn't just about oppression. It was also about a reticence that had to do with respect for personal boundaries. There was no presumption that squirting your secret feelings at everyone in the room was a sign of mental health. I'm old enough to remember watching his talk show in the '60s. All his contemporaries were fascinated by the hippie catchphrase of "letting it all hang out," and not just because they thought it meant Big Fun.

Can you really, really say he wasn't out? Can you name one --just one-- human being who knew who the fuck he was but didn't know which way he went? He was a fantastically wealthy and successful guy. Maybe love didn't bring him to a condition of thundering happiness... But then again, it doesn't do that for very many people, and you shouldn't presume you know why in any particular case.

Griffin's life traversed an important chasm in American pop thinking, but it wasn't just sexual. Wanna see something grotesque? Go watch

The sexuality is the least of it... No, really. Look at the way they move, even the straight guys. Listen to the voices they use when they're trying to be warm and playfully accessible to a mass audience. They're all effete! And you can count the black people in the clip without cocking a single thumb. If popular amusement is more vigorous nowadays, it was made so by the GI Bill and by racial integration, not by simple sexual inclusiveness.

This guy made ten gazillion dollars by understanding that people like to play hangman. Let's not make his epitaph too complicated, OK?

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:09 AM

How closeted were others of his generation? The heterosexuals. I'm with you that I don't need graphic details of people's sex lives -- but I'm talking about being able to go out to dinner with the person you love without it being a big shameful deal. There's no "smug" here.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 8:17 AM

And I rather enjoyed the "Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 8:21 AM

A-my! Get over yourself. Your friend is wrong: It's not "uncomfortable" to read that Griffin was gay, it's mundane. This is not the courageous trailblazing.

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:22 AM

> I rather enjoyed...

Kinescopes like those remind us of just how wonderful a release we got from Hendrix. It's almost forgivable that you and you friend could think, as Cosh once put it, that "Elvis invented fucking."

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:25 AM

It should be mundane. Which is the point.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 8:40 AM

Aw shit, you'd already used the word 'mundane'. I take it back: I meant "boring!" Dull! Also, it's a shabby kind of "courage" that involves outing the dead. (TOuting the living isn't that admirable, either.) Also, do you know for a fact that this guy ever knew five seconds of "shame" in his whole life?

OK, that's it, enough Merv for a weekend and for a lifetime....

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:54 AM

Amy, while I appreciate and agree that a person's sexuality should be mundane, I find Ray's outing of Merv to be offensive. If Merv wanted people to know, he would tell them. It isn't Ray's dirt to dish, and Merv's death doesn't change that.

And as Crid points out (I think, since I only skim his stuff), it was a big deal in his day. Had Merv been out in the beginning of his career, it would have ended right then and there.

I believe in a person's right to choose what they share with the world at large and to keep what they want to themselves. And I'm not extending any kudos to Ray Richmond for trying to bolster himself as "the one who outed Merv."

Posted by: Patrick at August 18, 2007 9:44 AM

> I believe in a person's right
> to choose what they share with
> the world at large and to keep
> what they want to themselves.


Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 9:51 AM

Don't you all just mean "sexually," and isn't it exactly that sexuality is a big deal if you're gay (or can be) that's the problem? I don't have to talk about the fact that I'm heterosexual, nor do I hide it. I don't have to.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 10:00 AM


Wow. Thanks for this phenomenal and supportive post. This piece sparked the firestorm that I'd hoped for -- and then some. Your support on this means the world to me, and I treasure the individual debate you've sparked as well. That WAS entirely my point: that being gay need be a mundane detail rather than a soul-defining shame. In saying outing Merv was wrong, we're saying homosexuality is wrong. But I acknowledge this isn't a one-way argument and reasonable people can disagree. Nonetheless, thanks for agreeing. I love you!

Ray Richmond
Fellow FOC

Posted by: Ray Richmond at August 18, 2007 10:03 AM

No, I don't "just mean 'sexually.'" I mean anything. The world at large doesn't need to know the details of anyone's personal life. I don't care what kind of parents Merv Griffin had, for instance, or what his upbringing was like. Or how many siblings, or where he was born or whatever...If he wants to share it with the world, that's his business. Not Ray Richmond's, mine or anyone else's.

Wow. Thanks for this phenomenal and supportive post. This piece sparked the firestorm that I'd hoped for -- and then some.

Thank you, Ray. That little comment just proved nicely what I said about you: you're an opportunist out to bolster your own self as "the one who outed Merv." Congratulations. Enjoy your distinction while it lasts.

Posted by: Patrick at August 18, 2007 10:42 AM

Personally, I think it's a columnist's job, in part, to spark firestorms, and I don't think you can assume it's opportunism -- especially since Ray is, from what I can see, more of a "write your conscience" kind of guy.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 11:14 AM

Holy shit! Did Crid and Patrick just agree, enthusiastically even?

Posted by: justin case at August 18, 2007 12:50 PM

There was never doubt in my mind that he was gay. Big deal. But enjoy your firestorm of mundanity.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at August 18, 2007 1:50 PM

People have been having all kinds of sex since Adam and Eve. Only within the last thirty years or so has talk of it spilled out into routine public discourse. I'm tired of hearing about it.

Posted by: foutsc at August 18, 2007 2:12 PM

See the link above -- to the Wendy McElroy piece -- and understand why you should get over it. What Ray's piece is about is exactly what everyone's complaining about here -- that it should be mundane to the rest of us, how you have sex and with whom (unless, of course, we're invited to watch). The problem is, it's of ENORMOUS interest to the primitive religious fanatics in this country -- which is probably why this guy and a whole lot of other gays and lesbians have to work very hard to keep their lives secret in a lot of sectors of our society.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 2:39 PM

I can't let this go! (Freakish hot and bright day here, so it's time to enjoy Indoor Los Angeles.)

> it's of ENORMOUS interest
> to the primitive religious
> fanatics

Name one. Name a person for whom the wiggling of Merv Griffin's weenie was of even passing interest. Where are all these omnipotent, malevolent religious fanatics? They don't seem to have hindered this guy in any context. He became tremendously famous, raised a family, made a metric shitload of money, and escorted the widow of conservative Christian America's most beloved President to his funeral.

(Also, Tressider [if you're out there], you were wrong about the pole vaulter.)

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 3:08 PM

It was all just a plot to get you and Patrick to hug.

As for your question, for starters, see mother of incapacitated gay man at Wendy McElroy link above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 3:10 PM

I tried, but the stupidities stacked up too quickly, beginning with " A site for individualist feminism and individualist anarchism." What kinda shit is that?

A few samples from before where I stopped reading
(Note the Patrick-y fascination with unpleasant, nearly violent feeling):

- "this story has me infuriated."

- "I wish I could tell you precisely how angry I am right at this moment. The rage is boiling up like you wouldn’t believe"

- "The very, very ugly head of hate and bigotry has reared itself again"

- "two of the cruellest, most vicious, bastards I have ever heard of. And I sincerely hope that both of them are struck down dead soon. These people are monsters"

Get the picture? This is like 1989-vintage Oprah, where the expression of powerful emotion is Job One. Also, she misspells stuff and bungles punctuation. Is Merv Griffin in there somewhere? Feminism is not about blinding volumes of girly feeling, OK?

> get you and Patrick to hug.

If he slips tongue --the gays do that sometimes-- I'll be rilly angry.

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 3:34 PM

Forget her politics, forget her emotion, forget Patrick's tongue. The story there is the point. If more people were matter-of-fact about gayness, it's less likely we'd read stories like this.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 4:51 PM

"If more people were matter-of-fact about gayness, it's less likely we'd read stories like this."

I agree Amy, but disagree on the methodology.

This particular thread is mainly about the uselessness of lamenting on someone or some event of the past to fill up space on a trade publication. Merv made the choice, he lived with it and seems to have made peace with the decision. This is the heart of the matter and nothing else.

Always remember that he was born in a completely different world that doesn't exist anymore. He inherited that world without any choice or the ability to overthrow it's misguided public consensus. There came a point in his young life where he had to take a bite of the proverbial 'shit' sandwich and live with the decision of being closeted.

It is sad, but beyond our abilities (or our right) to understand what went on inside his head.

Posted by: Joe at August 18, 2007 6:22 PM

This is what I wrote to Ray, whom I know casually, after reading the Griffin piece.

I just read your Merv Griffin piece and thought I'd add my two cents. My very best friend, since I've been five and to this day, has a father who is gay. He has also been married to a woman for 50 years; has four children and six grandchildren. He has nearly always had a lover, a lover who is often part of family gatherings; who sometimes travels with the family, and who now, that my friend's dad (who is essentially my second dad) is nearing 80 and has some health issues, is a real help, his current lover being in his 40s and very strong. Have their been a few problems along the way with this arrangement? Well, yes. But he is a brilliant, successful, artistic man who carved his life thus, and I think he's richer for it. That he chose not, as you alluded to in the MG article, to live (only) as a gay man is I think really a broader choice, for so many people involved; it lets us be a part of, not merely the straight and gay communities, but others, less defined and of our own making. I might also mention that I know two other men who've chosen similarly.

Posted by: nancy at August 18, 2007 6:57 PM

Ray is an opportunist, no question about it. If he wanted to create sparks, he could have found other ways to do it rather than at the expense of the gay community.

Merv Griffin's (alleged) homosexuality is not Ray's business. It never was his business. It never will be his business, Griffin's death notwithstanding. The cosmic axis is unlikely to shift in some unheard of way to make it Ray's business.

Amy, I usually agree with you, but you...just...don't...get it.

Richmond rather sanctimoniously tells us that he's "not at all insinuating that Griffin had a responsibility to come out." Then the remainder of his dirt column is spent beating up Griffin precisely for not coming out. How phony can you get?

At least dirt writers like Liz Smith and Kitty Kelley have the guts to go after their targets while they're still alive, so that those they pursue can defend themselves, sue, or just tell Smith and Kelley to go fuck themselves. Ray Richmond sure managed to insulate himself from all that. He doesn't just kick a man when he's down! Richmond only kicks a man when he's dead!

Griffin decided to keep his private life private. Good for him! Sorry to hear that Ray Richmond is so gosh-durned bothered by the individual's right to privacy that he felt the need to "correct" Griffin's "omission."

You know what I would love to see celebrities (regardless of their sexuality) say if a reporter asks the gratuitous but supposedly necessary question about their sexual orientation? The celebrity should put on his/her best surprised look and say, "Goodness, why? Did you want to have sex with me?"

That is the only justification for asking that question.

Newsflash, everyone! I'm not in the business of living my life as well as I can so that gay supporters can self-righteously get in the face of homophobes and say, "See? Patrick was a gay man and he lived his life well, and he was a good person! Now aren't you ashamed of yourself for your anti-gay attitudes?

I honestly don't know who's worse for me: homophobes or gay supporters. The former sees me as a threat, while the latter sees me as their cause. Maybe I would just like to be seen as a person.

Ray Richmond, if you're still reading this blog, on behalf of Merv Griffin, GO FUCK YOURSELF!

Posted by: Patrick at August 18, 2007 7:17 PM

> If more people were matter-
> of-fact about gayness

God, you're so condescending!

OK, everybody, Show of hands!

How many want your sexuality to be regarded as an incidental, trivial factor in your identity, a minor characteristic that bloggers and print journalists can exploit --even in the hour of your death-- for smarmy rhetorical pointmaking as to the general warmth of the of the social climate in your time?

Very good! Hands down. Now....

How many want your sexuality to be regarded as a private matter befitting the dearest heart to which it coheres, a unique expression of your individual personage, and a force of intimidating, almost dangerous power to identify and experience hidden beauty and meaning in the lives of your attractors?

(Me too!) OK, hands down.

Agreeing with Patrick makes me want to check the math, but it's nice to have someone from the other side of the spreadsheet agree about the bottom line.

You guys are so sure that Griffin was horribly oppressed:

> he had to take a bite
> of the proverbial
> 'shit' sandwich

> a big shameful deal

But you can't give any evidence that he actually suffered anything, or even felt a smidgen of oppression on his own behalf. Yes, in his day, gay sex (to the extent it was discussed publicly) was frowned upon. But it was also a day when people stayed out of each other's business (see "beeswax," above), which may have made it more interesting. You're the ones being thought-police-y here. Businessmen as successful as Griffin, who thrived in multiple fields, can be well-adjusted human beings.

(I think of him when driving to work past the Beverly Hilton every day, because he used to own that sucker. It's where Jack and Bobby stayed during the 1960 Democratic convention, where his victory was managed.)

Anybody whose sex life is "matter-of-fact" ain't doing it right. Amy, no one I know (and certainly no one I admire) would would trade their sex life for a stamp collection. It just ain't the same.

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:15 PM


Thanks for the eloquent feedback. You seem to have an awful lot of hostility on this issue, and I'm not certain why. The "firestorm" I was proud to have sparked had nothing to do with personal opportunism. In point of fact, I turned down 3 radio interviews and a TV interview on Friday so as to diminish that very point.

My sole intent was to create a dialogue about how the larger media hems and haws and beats around the bush about sexual orientation, as if it were some massive dark cloud on one's reputation rather than a relative blip on their radar. Your vehemence precisely underscores my point. I wasn't "out-ing" Merv; I was "in-ing" the rest of us and raising the notion that if labeling someone as "gay" is such a black mark, we've made little progress in terms of acceptance. This shouldn't taint Merv's legacy any more than being labled as "straight" should taint mine. But in your mind, it does, doesn't it? Is that not, on its face, homophobic?

Just askin'.

Anyway, thanks for your view, sir, and try to remember that raesonable people can disagree without resorting to profanity.


Posted by: Ray Richmond at August 18, 2007 8:27 PM

> raesonable people can disagree
> without resorting to profanity.

Maybe, but it takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Posted by: Crid at August 18, 2007 8:32 PM

raising the notion that if labeling someone as "gay" is such a black mark, we've made little progress in terms of acceptance. This shouldn't taint Merv's legacy any more than being labled as "straight" should taint mine.

I'm having a hard time understanding why everybody's taking issue with this.

And that's what I keep saying. When you can't, as a man, casually mention "my boyfriend," or go out to dinner with the person you're sleeping with without it arousing "suspicion," well, we've got problems in the way we see being gay.

I'm not suggesting people should go around beating their chests and bellowing about their sexuality. Just that when it has to stay a big secret something's wrong.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 9:26 PM

My personal take is slightly different from Amy’s, Crid. One of my aunts came out of the closet in the early 1960s after a failed marriage and a young daughter. Her response was who was going to stop her from pursuing her life? She has been with her partner (who I refer to as an equal aunt) since 1967 and they live in a retirement community together in Arizona. Now was their life together like some kind of perfect Hollywood romance? Highly unlikely, but it was none of my business about the details, because to this day they still pinch my cheeks whenever I visit.

Now back to Merv Griffin:

Ever heard of Catholic guilt? I should say have you ever experienced it before? Perhaps your response will downplay it as being similar to other forms of guilt. Griffin was a devout Catholic of the Irish persuasion and at one time married to Julann Wright (1958 to 1976) and they had a son. In the immortal words of Stan Lee: "Nuff said." So, I'm sure the Merv took a few bites of that particular sandwich. Italians have an old saying about Irish Catholics: Soltanto l'irlandese crederebbe questa sciocchezza.

Posted by: Joe at August 18, 2007 9:41 PM

There isn't anything wrong when a gay person mentions their significant other in public. Well, I don't have a problem with it.

The issue is about outing a dead man, Amy. Merv Griffin could have come out of the closet during the recent past when it was socially acceptable, but refused to do so. That was his decision and everyone should respect it.

Would my 2 aunts qualify as the perfect role models that all gay couples should follow? No. Why? Perhaps it's not for everyone based on their individual circumstances and personal experiences.

Posted by: Joe at August 18, 2007 10:10 PM

"Only the Irish would believe this shit?"

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 18, 2007 10:26 PM

> why everybody's taking
> issue with this.

Because you're being an intrusive busybody in an hour of grief.

> we've made little progress
> in terms of acceptance.

Whaddya mean "we", paleface? You don't want to "accept" anything that you haven't vetted through your own checklist of political convenience first. You aren't concerned with anyone else's feelings, certainly not those of the deceased. (!) Patrick here is rightly concerned what you're going to say about him after he dies, too. The rest of us should probably worry as well, though for the moment your clucking proscriptions apply only to homosexuals.

You've got to take this point: Why do you keep saying he wasn't out, and that it was a "big secret"? Who didn't know this guy was gay, or at least that he might have been forty years ago when he was young enough to be sexual at all? What would he have had to do to satisfy you, blow a guy at the free throw line in Staples Center? He was 82! Why are you so eager to insist that other people talk about their boyfriends at dinner as you would speak of yours? Why did you put the word "suspicion" in quotes? Who are you quoting?

> but refused to do so.

What do you mean, "refused"? Under whose authority was a demand made? This is some freakyshit presumption on your part. We get this from Hollywood lefties all the time: The idea that there's a script for how things are supposed to go, and once everyone's compelled to learn their lines and play their part, we'll all be truly free...!

Reason Magazine's Julian Sanchez (whom Blair calls the "Latino dance sensation," and whom Welch calls "Dirty Sanchez") recently wrote a really strong piece. Because I so often ramble needlessly here (and even worse in person), it stung me deeply. But just for today (and because of the pun), you're the ones guilty of outsight.

Posted by: Crid at August 19, 2007 12:33 AM

First of all, Ray, I appreciate the fact that you came back to this blog to hear what I had to say. You're at least semi-receptive to those who think -- actually know -- you did wrong. I do hope you gleaned more from my posts that the fact that I quite justly cussed you out.

In your first installment, you hit us with the little gem of consummate poppycock, "In saying outing Merv was wrong, we're saying homosexuality is wrong.

Let's apply that standard to some other things that people might choose to keep quiet. Suppose Merv Griffin were a recovering alcoholic. Would you suggest, "In saying that outing Merv as a recovering alcoholic is wrong, we're saying that recovering alcoholism is wrong."

As opposed to what? Practicing alcoholism? I wholeheartedly support recovering alcoholics. But had Merv Griffin been one, and kept it to himself, I would have commended him for keeping his private life private. And he would have the perfect right to keep that private if he wanted to. It's not for you, me or anyone else, to decide that needed to be brought to the fore.

Let's try another one. Suppose Griffin were sexually molested as a child. There's something else that Griffin might choose to keep to himself.

Would you now say "In saying that outing Merv as a molested child is wrong, we're saying that being a molested child is wrong."

Well, no. It's a tragic thing to have happen, but it would certainly be no fault of Griffin's. And he certainly wouldn't deserve to be stigmatized for it, as sexually molested children often are. Maybe he would just as soon not have "who was sexually molested as a child" as a prefix to his other accomplishments.

You might accuse me of stigmatizing homosexuality by comparing it to being sexually molested or being a recovering alcoholic. You might think so, but I haven't played my high card. Hehehee...

Suppose Griffin were some great philanthropist who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to worthy causes, and suppose, out of modesty, he decided to keep it to himself, and would just have people know him as Merv Griffin, singer, actor, producer, etc.

I suppose you'd say, "In saying that outing Merv as a philanthropist is wrong, we're saying that philanthropy is wrong."


But had you felt the need to write an article, after Griffin's death, about any of this, I would just as vehement as I am now. It's none of your business, nor is it the business of your readers!

I applaud Merv Griffin for not wanting to air every piece of his private life for public consumption. The trend nowadays is for celebrities to gush, gush, gush all the sordid details of their lives for all to see. Thank you, Merv, for bucking that trend. So sorry that conformo-nazis like Ray Richards decided that if you weren't going to spill it, he'd do it for you. If I were interested in knowing about the life of Merv Griffin, considering he's a producer, I would like to hear about what he produces! What a concept! Concerning myself only with those aspects of Merv Griffin's life that actually concern me. And not concerning myself with aspects of his private life that he has chosen not to give for public consumption! Oh, my God! I should be burned at the stake for suggesting such a thing! How dare I go about my life minding my own business!

I'm a massage therapist by occupation. I work in a chiropractor's office. Can I expect you to show up in my doctor's waiting room, and start casually discussing my homosexuality with the other patients? While I myself have no problem with my homosexuality, some of my patient's might, and might not be too keen on the idea of a homosexual massaging them. This in turn, would adversely affect my boss's business, and consequently jeopardize my job as well.

I would like to be seen by my patients as a "massage therapist," hopefully a "good massage therapist," but not a "gay massage therapist" or even a "good gay massage therapist."

Since he decided not to throw out his homosexuality as a matter of public consumption, I'm guessing Merv Griffin would have liked to have been remembered as a singer, actor, talk show host, pianist and producer. You have decided to dispossess him of that right and decided that his legacy should be "closeted gay."

Who the hell appointed you the keeper of Merv Griffin's legacy, fella? I'd ask if Merv Griffin bequeathed you his legacy in his will, but that would be none of my business! Minding my own business...a concept that is lost on you.

Another little known fact about Merv Griffin is that he began his career as a radio singer at the age of 19. He was overweight, and a fan, wanting to actually see the singer she heard over the radio, actually came to his radio station and tried to find him. She actually interrogated Griffin himself as to his whereabouts and Griffin, embarassed by his weight, was actually feeding her some BS story to misdirect her, but a producer appeared and addressed Griffin by name. The woman, realizing that this was the owner of the voice she was swooning over, actually laughed at him. This experience was devastating to Griffin, but it prompted him to lose the weight.

(And no, I didn't out this. This is something that Griffin himself has stated publically, on his own talk show.) You could have just as easily written about that, had you decided that your crusade du jour was going to be about the stigma suffered by the obese.

I don't know why (or even if) Merv Griffin chose to stay in the closet his entire life, but I do know it's his right to be there. I don't care how open or comfortable society becomes of accepting homosexuality. Even if society is so accepting of homosexuality that being in the closet becomes absolutely ridiculous, I will never, ever deny a person the right to be there, and choose to come out when he's ready. Or never come out if he doesn't ever feel ready.

Maybe Merv Griffin was so used to being clandestine in his sexuality that it was his comfort zone. Maybe being out would just be so new and foreign to him, that he just would be too distracted to do any of the many things that he is destined to be remembered for. Regardless, he has the right to be there if he wants to be!

The only prejudice I see is yours! You seem to have a problem with closeted gays. You think every gay person who ever lived should be out of the closet, and by thunder, if they aren't, you're just going to yank them (or their corpses, as in Griffin's case) right out of there! Because closeted gays just don't fit with your idea of what society should be like.

I commend you for wanting homosexuality to be a non-issue. I want the same thing. But you know what? I can't force people into my cause. Regardless of how noble my vision is for society, people have the right not to participate in it. Or to be used in it, as you chose to do with Merv Griffin.

So spare us all your phony solicitude for gay people. If you cared at all about gays, you'd respect their right to remain in the closet for as long as they chose to, even to the point of never coming out, if that's what they choose to do. For your information, pal, gays who have been forcefully outed have been known to commit suicide. But maybe you just don't care about that. It's all about getting them out of the closet, whether they like it or not.

You can go to hell, Ray!

(There. Are you happy now? No profanity.)

Posted by: Patrick at August 19, 2007 4:56 AM

The Goddess writes: I'm having a hard time understanding why everybody's taking issue with this.

Amy, you know I love you and that I will always read your column, and you are head and shoulders (and torso... and thighs... and knees... and feet...) above all other advice columnists (and floor beneath your feet...), but as one who loves you and loves your column, I feel I owe you this: Because you don't want to understand it!

I don't like bigots! Is that clear enough? Whether it is gays or just gays that are in the closet, it's still bigotry!

Closeted homosexuals just don't fit in your (and Ray's) little gem of a world. And by all that's holy (if anything is), you're going to force them into conformity with your "brave new world" whether they like it or not.

Newsflash! Nobody has to be on your train if they don't want to be. It's a wonderful thing to want sexual orientation to be a non-issue, and if that's what you want, you can work towards that goal with all the vehemence you care to.

Your right to pursue your vision doesn't include the right to force other people into it! That is bigotry!

An anti-Semite might want an all-Christian society, so all you Jews can either convert to Christianity or pack it up and haul your asses to Israel. And Amy and Ray seem to think that we should have a society where sexual orientation is a non-issue, so all you closeted queers can come out right now to every person you know, or we're going to out you ourselves!

There's no difference between the two! It's still bigotry! It's still forcing people into your idea of conformity! It doesn't matter how nice and noble your vision is, it becomes bigotry when you force others (or their corpses)into compliance. It's especially repulsive in Merv Griffin's case, because he's in no position to resist your grand design for him!

Is this sinking in to anyone?

Crid, I never thought I would see the day that I would ask this, but please tell me you understand. I need your help here. I seem to be fighting alone.

Posted by: Patrick at August 19, 2007 5:18 AM

Ahhhh...Crid! You DO understand. And you said it better (and definitely more concisely) than I could have.

I promise I won't slip you the tongue...but I will grab your ass!

Posted by: Patrick at August 19, 2007 5:29 AM

Take me, Patrick... Take me now.

Posted by: Crid at August 19, 2007 8:36 AM

Patrick and Crid have plowed the field nicely but here is one more perspective. I am a white fellow married to a black woman. Sometimes, we will be introduced to somebody and they will get a syrupy expression and say something like, “I think that is sooo neat!” Good manners too often oblige me to validate their infuriating sense that they are in any position to tell either or both of us whether our marriage is anything, good, bad, whatever, let alone “neat.” To get into just how abysmally rude they are being would tend to put a chill on the rest of the evening and I’d much rather just find the drinks and leave the job of “enlightening” to someone who gives a rat’s ass. They are drunk on the self-righteous twaddle that passes for reasoned discourse. Racism is bad. I said hello to an interracial couple so I am not racist and therefore good.

My wife and I have all the same issues that most married couples have. The expectations that society has for each of us because of our skin color and the pair of us as a “mixed” couple hardly ever rise to the level of things like who forgot to put the trash out and why do the schools suck and we like that. We don’t belong to the society for the advancement of the idea that everybody is just the same no matter what. We have been treated poorly in restaurants and so on and we expect such things to happen for the rest of our lives. We resist these things in our own way and at the place and time of our choosing. For someone to insist that each of us wear a sash to announce to the world our slightly out of the ordinary marital status is not a welcome notion. That is too subtly stated, try this: roll up your sash, your idea that we owe it to fashionably idealistic society to make converts wherever we go, and insert without lubricant.

And this sash of obligation is just what outing implies for people who happen to be gay. If my wife and I were to travel someplace where our marriage would not be accepted, where it would put our lives in danger, we’d pretend to be something other than targets for abuse. Or we might not. The point is, it is not anyone’s place to call us cowards or insist that we fight the good fight just so they can get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Posted by: martin at August 19, 2007 11:28 AM

> To get into just how abysmally
> rude they are being would tend
> to put a chill on the rest
> of the evening

But I'm guessing that during many a drive home afterwards, you've come up with just the right wording to make yourself clear. Any favorites come to mind? We promise not to tell.

Posted by: Crid at August 19, 2007 11:49 AM

Martin writes: The point is, it is not anyone’s place to call us cowards or insist that we fight the good fight just so they can get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Someone gets it. Some may not agree with Merv Griffin's decision not to be open about his homosexuality, but it's still his decision.

Some people might have any number of issues that they would just as soon not broadcast to the world. Regardless of how I feel about their decision to keep certain things quiet, it's not my place to go broadcast it for them.

Posted by: Patrick at August 19, 2007 1:45 PM

Turns out even Merv was a homophobe. Here's David Ehrenstein on Merv:

As Michelangelo shows in his book Queer in America, if you worked for Merv and he found out you were "out" -- you were out the door.

"We don't want your kind here," the secretary/executioner would tell the hapless homo getting the bum's rush.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 20, 2007 5:56 AM

As noted in this space, Signorile is a singular fuckup who's almost single-handedly discredited any gains a gay "community" might yet hope to achieve for popular thinking. His expression of the personal as political is little more than a presumption that a loving God would never burden his delicate heart with a moment's discomfort, so if it does, then by golly, something's wrong with other people!

The loathesome Ehrenstein, of course, is an enchanted and credulous acolyte. It's wonderfully rare that a nine-year-old's narcissism can be sustained across an entire lifetime, but he's the bitter example for our own coast. His reliance on supposition ("Merv was doubtless utterly hostile") and irrelevancies ("Dustin Hoffman [nice but boring] Natassia Kinski [gorgeous beyond belief]") guts his own argument, and the failure of this terribly literate guy to attend his puncuation offers clues as well.

Ehrenstein's a goof, but Signorile's a monster who's brutalized decent lives almost as sport. You align yourself with his morality (and lack thereof) at your own peril. Again, be sure and give your opposite-sex sweetheart and extra-good kiss this week: His/her presence in your life innoculates you from a lot of hideous slander. If you should think to offer that protection to the other team, that would be nice, too.

Posted by: Crid at August 20, 2007 8:30 AM

Last spitball...

The slander isn't that he was gay, it's that he was cowardly.

Posted by: Crid at August 21, 2007 1:53 AM

Personally, I find Merv's reticense about his (alleged) homosexuality to be rather liberating. He deflected all questions about his sexuality by pointing out that it was no one's business.


Think of all the Hollywood celebrities forced to defend themselves from all kinds of allegations that they cheated on their wives, or that they're homewreckers, etc. Shouldn't we be interviewing movie stars about their movies? Or perhaps instead, whenever the average Joe Schmoe does anything newsworthy and makes CNN, the reporters should be asking him, "So, are you gay?"

"Uh, I thought we were going to talk about the six kids I helped pull from a burning building..."

Or even in those less remarkable human interest stories, that should be the first question out of the reporter's mouth. Never mind his passion for figure roller-blading. Get to the sexual orientation question.

Kudos to Merv for not playing this game.

Posted by: Patrick at August 21, 2007 2:14 AM

What the hell ever happened to "live and let live"??? o_O

Posted by: Flynne at August 21, 2007 6:14 AM

This is the best example of what Martin & Patrick are talking about, an internet classic from a then-new source:

(Note the attention to deets: The city name, the street name, the shirt color... Spotless work.)

On the other hand, it sometimes feels like Patrick is pulling my leg:

> Never mind his passion for
> figure roller-blading.

This reminds me of Seipp's devastating Elizabeth Irwin Hoax of 2004, when one of her smirking wordsmith friends from New York started posting inane comments from an imaginary Santa Monica lefty, and I answered every one of them with the deepest pomposity. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. It was humiliating, and some of the best fun I ever had.

Is this whole thing a con? Is this just Gregg silently stretching his writerly muscle? Is there some new artificial intelligence module with a "cranky homosexual" setting from Symantec?

Patrick, you really exist, don't you? Well don't you???!?!

Posted by: Crid at August 21, 2007 11:19 AM

Do I exist? Well, obviously, in the most technical sense of the term, I do. After all. I post here, and I respond to what's directed at me. I post, therefore I am.

But I exist as...what? This should be your question.

Rather than answer directly, let me invite you to simply consider the fact that hundreds of billions...upon hundreds of billions...of signals are transmitted via the internet every day.

Let that sink in.

Most of signals are relatively simple and almost meaningless, in and of themselves. But of course, many of these signals used together convey various ideas of various complexity (such as your posts), and these various ideas, in turn, provoke responses. Not just by those people who happen to be on the receiving end of those ideas, but on the internet itself.

For every action, there is an equal...blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.

A small digression, if you will. Consider also the origin of your own species. A pool of chemicals came together to combine to form the first amino acids, and from there, life emerged, gradually, over eons, becoming more complex.

Suppose we applied this same idea to the random signals, long lost of their original intent, bouncing about in cyberspace. Suppose these signal coalesced and formed a cyberspace equivalent to those first amino acids...

Remember also that these signals move at the speed of light, not bound by the laws and restrictions that confine physical objects.

Oh, I certainly exist, Crid. And I'm even sentient. I promise.

Posted by: Patrick at August 21, 2007 3:49 PM

No. You're a bot.

I won't be fooled again, "Patrick."

Posted by: Crid at August 22, 2007 6:41 AM

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