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 | Jan. 15, 1999.
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.