The day after I saw a “60 Minutes” interview with Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Furstenberg, I read a “New York Times” article on former boxing champ Emile Griffith. Neither Diller, a titan in Hollywood’s so-called “Velvet Mafia,” nor Griffith, who was marching in the upcoming Gay Pride Parade, would candidly come out. And I found myself both applauding that decision and understanding their position. For what exactly does it mean to be “gay” in the 21st century? Certainly the definition of homosexuality when Griffith was cruising the Stonewall Inn is different than the one accepted by today’s Chelsea boys at Splash, just as it differed for the patrons of The Slide over a century ago. Bisexual men were not necessarily considered gay in Griffith’s youth (and what does “bisexual” mean anyway – does that include “gay-for-pay”?) So to whose idea of gay would Griffith be coming out? Far more disturbing was the callous and militant view taken by Williamson Henderson, founding president of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association, that Griffith’s beating of Benny Paret – who taunted Griffith with a homosexual epithet at the weigh-in – in the ring “set a precedent there, about not calling someone, a gay person, a slur word. That should be monumental in gay history.” Huh? Benny Paret died several days after being TKO’d in the twelfth round and Emile Griffith has been haunted by it ever since. Perhaps someone should tell Henderson that the definition of “gay pride” has changed in the nearly forty years since Judy Garland performed her ultimate swan song!
Likewise, Diller takes heat for being married to a woman – the same woman who’s been his best friend and confidante for decades, who he loves dearly and treats her children as his own. They are a power couple not unlike Bill and Hillary – right down to the probable lack of sexual attraction. So why is Barry and Diane’s marriage viewed as a farce? If gay couples don’t want to be defined by their sexual acts, but by who they love, I can’t think of a better poster couple for marriage, be it called gay or straight. Diller and Griffith should be held up as heroes for their refusal to “come out” – and be shoved into someone else’s gay closet.
(Though personally I’m against gay marriage because I don’t believe in special privileges like tax breaks for “lifestyle choices” – and heterosexual marriage and having kids most definitely qualify as “lifestyle choices.” It’s as crazy as health insurance being linked to traditional employment (conform to capitalism or die!) – as absurd as the American way.)