INTOLERANCE DESTROYER: Aggro bachelor HENRY ROLLINS discusses his rumored sexuality, his animosity toward homophobia and what it's like to be a gay hero
BY DANIEL KUSNER | Feb. 23, 2001
Punk stud Henry Rollins understands the allure of post-modern sex symbols — like Tom Cruise, Troy Aikman and Richard Gere.
Rollins rose to stardom as Black Flag's often-shirtless, raw-voiced frontman.
He's also distractingly buff.
So it's reasonable to believe that Black Flag's male fans have confronted being attracted to Rollins' physical magnetism.
In the past year-and-a-half, gossip mills began spilling rumors that Rollins was expected to come out of the closet on MTV's "Alternative Nation."
That grapevine also claimed Rollins would reveal his alternative sexuality during a CNN press conference.
However, Rollins has unleashed two signature rants — both queer-themed and previously recorded.
First, there was the release of "Think Tank," a live spoken-word album.
Then he issued "You Saw Me Up There," the video edition of the "Think Tank" tour, which Rollins taped in Los Angeles.
"When I got that whole 'gay rumor' thing, it didn't bug me that much. It was more humorous than anything. But I think it was something that needed to be said. Because it made me more aware of how evil homophobia is," Rollins says from his California office during a recent phone interview.
Although Rollins has been sweating it out as a thrash singer for more than 15 years, in 1995, he won a Grammy for Best Spoken-Word Album.
And the indie-punk king's multimedia creds keep ramping up.
On top of running a publishing imprint 2-13-61 Publications (the company's named after his birthdate), Rollins is turning into a celebutante, who now models for Macintosh, Nike, The Gap and General Motors
His acting career is also in bloom — with cameos in films like, "Lost Highway," "Heat" and "Johnny Mnemonic."
In whatever medium, Rollins' outspokenness is part of his appeal.
Although Black Flag's music doesn't often make playlists at gay discos, Rollins is aware of his die-hard queer following.
"I get a lot of letters from gay fans. And I do a lot of interviews with gay publications. They always tell me that I'm a hero to them, which I consider an honor. I would never be exclusive or dismissive to anyone who appreciates my work," Rollins says.
Rollins is almost apologetic when he's obliged to clarify to fans that he's straight.
"I always take it as a compliment when gay guys hit on me, which happens fairly often. I always feel bad for them because they'll ask, 'Are you sure?' And I'm like, 'Yeah ... I'm definitely sure.' They're usually so bummed. Then I tell them that I'm really sorry," Rollins says.
Though Rollins says he's not gay, he's vividly familiar with Tom of Finland's erotic illustrations.
Come to think of it ... Rollins fits the TOF mold perfectly.
Abundant tattoos caress his bulging, beefcake frame, which compliments his butch, military haircut that practically screams, I'm A Proud-But-Bossy Bottom.
"Oh, what? Like I'm a big, macho cop with a cum-catcher mustache getting it in the ass from a sailor?" Rollins laughs. "Actually, we have his work in our office. Someone sent us a Tom of Finland picture. And we ended up framing it and hanging it up on our wall. It's kind of a joke, though. People send us all kinds of stuff."
Rollins can easily joke about being a passive slut.
But being pegged as gay isn't always funny.
Rollins knows all too well.
He was confronted with sexuality suspicions during a nightmarish tragedy.
One December evening in 1991, Rollins and his roommate, Joe Cole were returning to their Venice Beach home after a grocery trip.
On their porch, two gunmen stepped out of the darkness.
Rollins and Cole were marched inside the house.
Cole was shot point-blank in the head and died.
The assailants fired at Rollins, but missed and fled.
During the homicide investigation, police asked Rollins if he and Cole were lovers — or if Rollins was bisexual.
"As soon as they found out that we weren't gay, they were much more friendly. But that's the LAPD for you. So typical. That's not anything that surprised me," Rollins says. "But it goes without saying that was not a very fun night."
Although Rollins might appear fiercely enraged, he insists his work isn't filled with anger.
He aims for strong performances.
While speaking, Rollins shares plenty of hysterical anecdotes about his adventurous life. But it's his disgust for narrow-minded bigotry that endures.
In Rollins' rant — titled "The Gay Thing" — he compares homophobia to racism and explains how he intends to to destroy all discrimination.
"I'm just so sick of homophobia. How people get their asses kicked for something that's as natural as eating. Just because you're a guy who likes guys, you can lose your job. Or have people tell you that the Bible says that you're a bad person," Rollins says. "When someone started those rumors [about me], they did it as a putdown. You never hear, 'Oh, he's straight." And have it be a putdown. But I realized how homophobia is just a symptom of ignorance and weakness. It's really something we can all do without."
Henry Rollins speaks on Jan. 19 at The Galaxy Club, 2820 Main St. in Deep Ellum. Tickets $15. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. 214-373-8000.
Literary giant, stunt-casted closet-case GEORGE PLIMPTON gets huffy while unthreading his stitched-together CAPOTE bio
By DANIEL KUSNER
A new work about gay author and gadfly Truman Capote hit the shelves recently, an “oral biography” edited by literary lion George Plimpton.
Like Plimpton’s first foray in this genre — a joint effort with Jean Stein on Edie Sedgwick, the ’60s superstar from Andy Warhol’s camp — the new Capote bio is cobbled together from interviews involving celebrities and other folks who knew the diminutive, squeaky-voiced Capote in some capacity or other.
The format of Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career is chatty, even gossipy.
The idea is to make the reader feel like a guest at a swanky cocktail party, overhearing various bitchy-to-tender-to-hilarious anecdotes assembled in chronological order from Capote’s anchorless childhood (his parents abandoned him and he was shunted about to various relatives) to his death as a lonely man whose friends had mostly deserted him.
Plimpton, something of a gadfly himself, is the 70-year-old editor of The Paris Review — which features works by and about the biggest names in 20th century culture, from Hemingway to Angelou — and one of the acknowledged literary giants working in the second half of this century.
A celebrity sports enthusiast, Plimpton is also well-known for his bit parts in certain movies.
There’s a cameo in Nixon, and he recounts memories of Muhammad Ali in the award-winning documentary When We Were Kings.
Most recently, he portrays a closet-case psychologist whose gayness is quickly perceived by the misunderstood but smartass genius played by Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting — one of the film’s quickest but most hilarious scenes.
But when it comes to discussing his latest book, Plimpton turns defensive, even combative. Perhaps he’s stung by the wave of criticism which met Truman Capote’s publication two months ago.
Several reviewers said Plimpton’s excursion into Capote’s life bears a distinct been-there-done-that flavor. For instance, The New York Times Book Review says the interviews “have the flat, regurgitated quality of people who have been talking about their subject for way too long. Capote knew better than anyone that for gossip to be good, it has to be fresh.”
The Austin Chronicle said the book “doesn’t add all that much to the dialogue that hasn’t been covered already.”
Plimpton began working on the book about seven years ago, he said during a telephone interview from his office in New York.
“It’s more like stitching that it is writing. It’s an interesting way of presenting a biography, I think,” Plimpton chirped in his otherworldly Northeast Establishment-via-Cambridge voice.
Despite Capote’s effeminacy, his frank acknowledgment of his homosexuality in his later years and his classic remark about the subject (“A faggot is the homosexual gentleman who just left the room”), Plimpton’s book fails to index the subject at all — a fact Plimpton, remarkably, doesn’t seem to recall, since he referred me to the index to locate the book’s few references to the subject.
With his open hand, Capote once nailed a drunken belligerent who was making fag jokes and disparaging Capote’s voice.
On yet another occasion, Capote grilled a biographer of British writer E.M. Forster for not including references to the author’s homosexuality.
Still, Capote “wasn’t overtly militant about homosexuality,” Plimpton maintained. “He hated the word ‘gay.’ He thought the term was inappropriate, so he reversed it — he called them ‘yags.’ But . . . you’ll see there are some rather interesting things he had to say about it, particularly his defense of those who are [homosexual].”
The fact that Plimpton’s name is on the cover gives the book an instant cachet it fails, perhaps, to deserve.
Plimpton’s original contribution amounts to a brief letter to the reader.
The remainder of the book is given over to the interviews themselves, and the author credits seven others for substantial work on the final product. (Plimpton himself refers readers to Capote, the definitive biography by Gerald Clarke, for a complete picture of the fabled author.)
This is probably why Plimpton seems unfamiliar with some of the book’s details.
For instance, he is unaware of whether Capote ever met Dorothy Parker — yet the book contains Norman Mailer’s recollection of appearing on the David Susskind television show with both Capote and Parker.
And former Esquire editor-in-chief Lee Eisenberg describes a bitchy piece about Parker, which Capote submitted for the magazine’s 50th anniversary edition.
If his oral biography is a bit like “stitching,” it’s apparent other tailors played a substantial role in the final product.
With famous names being dropped left and right, it’s also difficult for the reader to keep track of who is and who isn’t of any real importance to understanding Capote.
Most of the anecdotes yield more heat than light. Giving the bulk of the book up to gossip rather than illuminating the harrowing twists and turns of Capote’s life — a path which ultimately led to alcoholism, drug abuse and death.
During our interview, Plimpton also reveals himself as a puzzling, prickly character. He admits he has no use for the internet.
“I’m not very good at it,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I’ve tried research on it, but I’m so poor at working the machine that I’d much rather do the research by going to the library.
“I don’t know how to use the internet,” he proudly declares, as if this fact grants him additional stature.
Asked about his appearance in Good Will Hunting, Plimpton is equally glib.
He says when he accepted the role, he didn’t even know who director Gus Van Sant was.
And he hadn’t read the first-time script by the twentysomething stars (Damon and Ben Affleck), a work whose precision and insight has left Hollywood breathless.
Instead, he says, it was the famous comedian Robin Williams who attracted his interest.
“I thought that anything with Robin Williams in it would be sort of interesting,” Plimpton said. “But I had not seen Gus Van Sant’s first film or second film — whatever it is, the one about Missouri. My Own Private Missouri?”
Is he fucking kidding?
I would like to have known more about Plimpton’s book, but that turned out to be impossible.
Plimpton became increasingly combative during our brief exchange, abruptly terminating the interview by hanging up his telephone when I disagreed with his assertion that renowned jazz pianist-bandleader Bobby Short was no celebrity.
But there’s no question about Capote’s celebrity (if he were still alive, you could just ask him, since discussing himself was one of the author’s favorite occupations), and no question that the celebrities he rubbed shoulders with have plenty of recollections about this colorful, if tragic, literary figure.
Truman Capote is an alluring book — easy to pick up and put down whenever you like.
At $35, it seems a bit expensive for readers looking for more than recycled information and gossipy recollections.
Straight people we love — CRYSTAL WATERS says voguing houses helped her come out of her shell and ‘come on down’
BY DANIEL KUSNER: Aug 31, 2001
After taking a four-year break, Crystal Waters — the diva with the narrow vocal range and wispy timbre — is launching a comeback.
She’s tight-lipped about her new single. But since Waters creates some of the strongest, hard-edged commercial beats, Waters is sure to win … the Showcase Showdown.
“The song is called ‘Come On Down.’ All I’ll tell you is that we sample the theme song from 'The Price is Right.’ And I’m Lady Luck,”she laughs from a cellphone after finishing a photo session where she was showered with gold-glitter.
Born in New Jersey, Waters comes from a distinguished line of musical ancestry. Her great aunt was singer-actress Ethel Waters, who popularized “Stormy Weather.”
“I never even got to meet her. Unfortunately, there was a family rift. And we weren’t allowed to speak to her,” Crystal explains.
But Ethel wasn’t the only influence in the Waters family.
During girlhood summer breaks, Crystal went on tour with her dad, jazz musician Junior Waters.
Crystal graduated high school early and earned a computer science degree from Howard University.
After college, she scored a job with a musical production company and initially wrote a song intended for Ultra Naté. But Waters’ idiosyncratic vocal stylings on the demo recording convinced producers to turn Crystal Waters into a solo artist.
The song was “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless).” And Waters' cool-cat jam about poverty became the summer anthem of 1991.
Waters found her own sense of “home” within the gay community.
“Growing up, I was taught not to speak unless spoken to,” she remembers. “But the gay community was my first fan base. I didn’t have a clue as to why they liked me. But they took me in like a family member.”
Waters says she used to be painfully shy.
“It was the drag queens from the House of Milan and the House of Revlon who helped crack me out of my shell. They gave me lots of tips. Like how to have a stage presence. To have a good time and kiki it up,” Waters beams.
Waters’ crew is legendary for having fun — especially in the Lone Star State.
Just ask her back-up dancers…
“Texas is where the rumor started…. The rumor that after my shows, all my dancers have a big orgy. I believe that was in Austin,” she laughs.
Although she can lace hit-songs dealing with consciousness-raising issues like homelessness or chilling tales of child abuse (“Daddy Do”), when it all comes down to it, Waters says dancing to straight-up pop is a social necessity.
“Dance music gives people an outlet. Just to let go of some stress. And smile. Even if you’re dancing by yourself in your living room,” Waters says. “It makes me happy to think that somewhere in the world — at any moment of the day — there’s somebody dancing. At all times. Just people getting together to dance.”