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Sure he’s a neat dresser, seems a little fussy and appeared in Broadway musicals. But it wasn’t the pressure of general “gaydar ” speculation that led Neil Patrick Harris to follow T.R. Knight and declare his homosexuality to sob sister People magazine yesterday. Doogie Howser‘s proud “coming out” statement followed days of frantic attempts at spin control, after one of his publicists inadvertently “inned” the actor– whose sexual preference hasn’t exactly been a secret in the Industry.
It all came to a head last week, after a Canadian website reported that Harris had “pulled strings” to get “longtime sweetheart” David Burtka a role on his sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. Harris’ publicist became an instant laughingstock when he responded by stating: “He’s not of that persuasion.”Whether the flak meant the “nepotist persuasion” wasn’t clear, but the statement was taken as a challenge by gay- and gossip-themed websites, which have been reporting on Harris’ gay escapades for years– like bringing Burtka as his date to the Emmys (CBS reportedly forced them to sit in separate rows). The publicist’s boner got the gay and gossip media all riled up, and led many to label Harris a hypocrite. Some of the more hilarious reader comments (and scandalous accusations) can be found on the gay Towleroad site, which led the charge.
More amazing than Harris’ announcement is the fact that his management team and CBS allowed him to make it. Once again, TV leads the way in giving viewers the credit to accept gay actors in hetero roles. While no “leading man” in Hollywood movies has gone public with his homosexuality, prime time television now has at least two openly gay actors portraying heterosexual, sexually-active– and in Harris’ case, womanizing– characters.
Now, we have to wonder: Who’s next? In Washington and Hollywood alike, it’s open season on closeted public figures– and not just by fringe media. Comcast & Disney’s E! Online columnist Ted Casablanca makes a living with thinly-veiled blind items. Still scurvier web gossips have been openly “outing” one prime time dramatic action star for months now. How long will take until he… or another TV fave… is approving a statement for publication in People?