By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
MEL GIBSON looked terrific in his mug shotnot just because plugs are much easier to control than actual hair, but because, though he had just been drunkenly screaming epithets at uniformed law keepers, he cagily remembered to gently smile for the camera. What a star! The resulting photo is reminiscent of that last image of Norman Bates in Psycho, where he's eerily grinning in the police station, with the corpse's teeth superimposed on him, as you hear his alter ego think, "I wouldn't hurt a Jew," I mean "fly."
But while the photo wasn't that messy, Mel's initial claim that he isn't anti-Semitic, he was just drunk, definitely was. I had no idea that an open bar is all it takes to turn Mother Teresa into a hair-plugged Hitler. My aunt the nun had better stay off the sacramental wine or she might end up grabbing a rifle and mowing down children in the nearest ghetto. We'd all better lay off the booze or, at perfectly sophisticated dinners, we'll suddenly find ourselves singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" with right arms extended. That could be embarrassing.
Mel's excuse prompted a friend of mine to snicker, "Well, he must have been plastered when he made The Passion of the Christ!" And he must be shooting down doubles because, let's remember, his filmography also reads like a laundry list of big-budget slaps in the gay face. There was his icky spoof of a flaming hairdresser in Bird on a Wire; his draining all the gayness out of the tender The Man Without a Face; the controversial Prince Edward II character, whose lover was thrown from the castle, in Braveheart; and of course the mincingly buffoonish Jesus baiter Herod Antipas in Passion. (He wasn't portrayed like that in the Gospelsin fact, he was a rabid womanizerwhich tends to deflate Mel's Jews-killed-Christ defense: "But that's what it said in the Bible!")
What's moreas is now legendwhen a 1992 interviewer asked what Mel thinks of gay men, the star pointed to his rear end and elegantly replied, "They take it up the ass. This is only for taking a shit." (No, in Mel's case, that would be the facial orifice.) In the same delightful quiz session, Gibson revealed that he had worked with gays at acting school, and "they were good people, kind. I like them. But their thing is not my thing." In fact, he remembered freaking that people might think he was one of thembut magnanimously enough, "I became an actor despite that." And the world breathed a huge sigh of relief! "But it would be hard to take me for someone like that," Mel added, perhaps sardonically. "Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them? What happens is when you're an actor, they stick that label on you." No, they stick the label homophobe, you friggin' anti-Semite. (Update: Poetically enough, in the upcoming movie Under and Alone, Mel gets to play a character named Billy Queen. At least he isn't Billy Queenowitz.)
Mercifully, Mel will be undergoing sensitivity trainingwhich reminds me that in 1997, he did some gay penance by working with GLAAD and allowing queer filmmakers on the set of Conspiracy Theory for a seminar. They must have been thrilled to get to know his paranoid-nutjob car-driving personalityin the movie, that is.
At a press dinner at Geoffrey Zakarian's Country restaurant in the Carlton Hotel, a guest claimed that GQ is dropping Mel as their man of the year, and Zakarian quipped, "They should make it Manishewitz of the year." Some of us then expressed empathy for Mel's publicist, ALAN NIEROBwho's reportedly the son of Holocaust survivorsthough there's a feeling Mel has calculatedly used Nierob's Jewishness to soften his own blows. And Nierob turning this into a "fighting for his life" issue for Melalong with a "source close to the Oscar winner" telling a reporter that Mel was suicidal because he was "helpless to alcohol"verges uncomfortably on more blame-game spin. It makes Mel the victimmuch like Jim McGreevey's "Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity" speechrecasting an unsavory wrongdoer as a deeply ethical person who's poignantly struggling and finding himself utterly "helpless" (though admittedly Mel has sought help in the pastfor his boozing, anyway). With each apology, though, Mel's gotten a little closer to a full disclosure. "It's like playing Operation," Zakarian cracked.
But let me get back to that dinner, where I was absolutely helpless to Diet Cokewith a wickedly corrupting lemon wedge! As we enjoyed Zakarian's "arpeggio of feta cheese," the restaurateur moaned that golfers used to dress much snazzier, before LEE TREVINOchanged everything into "an elastic orgasm of crap." I was suddenly tempted to point to my gay butt and exclaim, "That's what this is for!"
Culture is coming out of everyone else's. Nightlife legend FRED ROTHBELL-MISTAhas launched a plucky quarterly pullout magazine called No Status Quo, featuringamong many other thingsan interview with rock icon RICHARD HELL, who gets queasy when asked if he's bisexual or still does drugs. Either way, he'd be a perfect No Status Quo reader. Exults Rothbell-Mista, "I want left-wingers, right-wingers, drug addicts, everything. There's no target audience because that's what ruins magazines. We have no target anything!" That way your demographic can't possibly desert you.