Wednesday August 12, 2009
Until Charles Perez made stormy headlines several days ago—the news anchor claims he was fired from his Miami station because he’s openly gay—I didn’t even know he was still on TV.
His fame was far greater in the mid-1990s when he had a nationwide daytime talk show, which I appeared on as a drag-queen guest. It was an odd experience, mostly because he had a twisted relationship with the proverbial gay closet.
By the time I came on, many in the queer community were grumbling about his show. There was no doubt that Perez was gay—he had appeared in a groundbreaking homo TV moment—going on a date with housemate (and my pal) Norman Korpi during the 1992 debut season of MTV's Real World. But for his own show, Perez had been deliberately degayed—one can only assume that he was in on the masquerade—and there was nary a peep on the program about his true nature.
Perez started Out and then he was dragged back In!
Norm Korpi all grown up.
His new persona was so ridiculously false that it seemed like a slap in the face to queers everywhere, especially during an era of intense activism, which included outing closeted celebrities.
As far as my experience… Perez’s show was no Jerry Springer, but the episode I was on was typical manufactured controversy, with members of various minority groups pitted against each other (buppies vs. hip-hoppers, a Jewish square vs. some Jappy suburban girls, etc.). It was dumb.
In the green room with a gay leather guy (who the producers decided not to bring on stage—he was bummed) and the "Japs."
Me, the savage drag queen, battled it out with a gay Republican, and I got a few zingers in to satisfy the producers who kept urging us off-camera to really go at it (I was getting paid.)
However, the producers (many of whom were gay and lesbian) had an even bigger concern: I might blurt out something about Perez’s “situation.” I was told in no uncertain terms that this was a big no-no.
I must say I was tempted, just to spite them. But I figured that anything I'd say would be edited out. Besides, even if Perez had sold his soul, he was nice in a bland kind of way. Who was I to rock his world?
Simpson and Perez
Fourteen years later, how ironic is it that Perez’s firing is the new gay cause celebre? Perhaps his fears of being out really were true. Or maybe karma is a bitch. Or maybe, like many people, he just needed some time before he could feel comfortable letting the world know his true self.
How's that for a talk-show "final thought?"
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