Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview: Michael Musto

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Michael Musto
  • Patrick McMullan
  • Michael Musto

Longtime Village Voice columnist/man about town/gay hero Michael Musto will be in town next weekend for Southern Decadence, when he'll host a party for his latest book Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back (Vantage) at the Country Club Sept. 4. The book is a compilation of Voice columns, blog posts and a few original essays spanning the last two decades. My full story on Musto will run in this Sunday's Gambit, but here's a few excerpts from my amusing conversation with him.

On his first impressions of New Orleans (he came here once before in the early 90s): I have to say, when I did stumble onto Bourbon Street I was a little horrified. I didn’t know what to expect but — they didn’t have Girls Gone Wild yet, but it was definitely the pilot for Girls Gone Wild. I just remember it was like a gigantic parade of people drinking beer, wiping muffuletta off their faces — and that’s fine. Festivity is what my life is all about. But I was a little scared. (note: Musto did really enjoy New Orleans, for reasons you'll find out if you read the article.)

On gay pride events such as Southern Decadence: Not so much (into them), because I feel like every day of my life is Pride. It’s like every night is Halloween, and I’m not big on Halloween and I hate New Year’s. But I’ll do all of above, because you have to eventually submit to the mass mentality. But in general I’m not much of a joiner, I don’t do line dances, don’t belong to that many clubs. Because I’m perennially the outcast, that’s what I do. I’m the observer. I’m the person on the outskirts looking in.

Me: But don't you feel like you've achieved some celebrity status in your own right?

Gosh, I hope so … As someone who covers celebrities, you’re going to get a modest celebrity following. But you’re never going to be as big as Hilary Duff. That’s really sad.

Me: Is she big?

No, but I’m not as big as her.

On reality TV stars, celebutantes, club kids and other non-celebrity celebrities: I kind of make fun of that, but I’ve always celebrated the 15-minute type of celebrities who are famous for the sake of being famous. Back in the '80s there were nightclub personalities ... I never thought there was a problem with that. So when I complain about it now it’s kind of with tongue in cheek, because I think it’s fine and I don’t think those kind of people take away from the Meryl Streeps and Helen Mirrens of the world — there’s room for everyone. There’s room for all types of celebrities, whether they be just disposable or really deeply talented and meaningful.

Musto talks a lot of about celebrities living in the "glass closet," meaning they live as gay people, but aren't officially "out" to the public in order to avoid any career repercussions for being gay. (He wrote a great article about the topic in a 2008 issue of Out.) On why celebrities might not come out of the closet: I think a lot of them are under pressure from people around them — a lot of whom are gay, by the way, and project their own fears and prejudices and think you can’t get away with it. But for example, Neil Patrick Harris is an out actor who is starring in the Smurfs movie and is doing great. ... I don’t know why people still cower. To me the glass closet is almost as annoying as the cement closet because they try to have it both ways, and they try to act like they’re out, but not really. You’re not really out until you say so on the record, and I don’t see why celebrities can’t just do that once and get it out there.

... Since (celebrities) are public figures and they talk about their private life like crazy and are examined by the media, they should just level the playing field and say, "Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with being gay," and that would be the end of it. But I think a lot of them are afraid of being defined by that or afraid of whatever obstacles that could put up. You know, I’ve been openly gay from day one. I’m not a movie star but if there have been any drawbacks, I deal with it because I am gay. And the positive has outweighed any potential negative, anyway. I wish everyone would just join me out in the lavender field of openness.

On how long he sees himself writing for the Village Voice: I used to say, "Oh gee, when I’m 40 I’ll be retired" or something, but here I am over 40 and I just feel like I’ve found my ideal job. This is enchanting. Not only do I get to meet celebrities, run around and cover the most amazing events and personalities, I get to write whatever I want about it at the end of the week. So I just want to do it forever. I don’t want to just take down time or relax — to me, relaxation is far from relaxing. It’s horrifying. And there isn’t anything else I can do. I don’t have any other skills. I can’t suddenly become a neurosurgeon or some great fiction writer or something.

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