SETTING MY SCARED NEIGHBOR STRAIGHT
by Gabriel Rotello
- NY Newsday, March 10, 1994
I KNEW I WAS IN
TROUBLE with my neighbor Thompson the minute Roseanne Arnold and
Mariel Hemmingway locked lips on network TV.
Thompson lives next
door, and he's always razzing me about how promiscuous we gays
are. "You gays,” he always says. "You're just so promiscuous.”
I'll be getting off
the elevator with my arms full of groceries and kitty litter and
he'll be walking that sniveling dog of his and he'll bark out,
"Backs to the wall, mates!" To his dog, no less, which I don t
find amusing at all. But there's no talking to Thompson. He's
convinced that the only reason we gays don't constantly put the
make (or worse) on unwilling heterosexuals is because we live in
hostile territory, and that as soon as we're on our own turf -
say, inside a gay bar - straight people become just so much raw
Now, I don't want
to complain too much about Roseanne’s famous kiss. I know there
are people out there who think we gays complain too much already
and that we'll never be satisfied until a repentant pope marries
Martina Navratilova to k.d. lang in a Vatican cleansed of fig
leaves, and I don t want to feed into that. I have boundaries,
even if my friends don't.
So, yes, I freely
admit that airing the kiss episode was a victory in the
political department. And the fact that Roseanne visited a
lesbian and gay bar on national TV was certainly a victory in
the visibility department. But when I realized that the bar was
having something called "Convert a Hetero Night," I knew I was
in trouble in the Thompson department. And when the character
played by Mariel Hemingway sucked Roseanne into that lesbian lip
lock without asking for permission and I heard this muffled "Ah,
ha!" through the thin walls of my apartment, I realized the
situation was grave indeed.
Sure enough, the
morning after the episode aired, I went out to the hall to get
my mail and there was Thompson, waiting. "You see," he
snickered. "Even that fat old Roseanne isn't safe."
I decided that the
only way to shut him up was to take him to an actual gay bar.
"Thompson," I said, "come with me. I'm taking you to a gay bar."
"I may not be able
to control myself when they all start pawing at me," he warned,
but I wasn't worried. Thompson hasn't darkened the door of a gym
since college, lo these many years ago, and there's his
spreading bald spot, which I personally don't mind, but who am I
That evening I took
him to a bar in Chelsea called Splash. The men there, like the
men in most gay bars, essentially fall into two categories:
nubile twentysomething swimmerbodies, and chiseled
thirtysomething studpuppets. Poor Thompson wedged his spreading
fortysomething waistline into this washboard jungle with that
I-know-you-all-want-me smirk some straight people affect around
homosexuals, and placed his back defensively against the wall.
As I expected, not
only did nobody notice him, they went out of their way not to
notice him. You might even say he was rudely ignored. After ten
minutes he was nervously examining his face in a mirror for any
embarrassing food trapped in his front teeth. It was clear that
his vanity circuits were dangerously overheating and his
hypothalamus, such as it is, had no way to process what was
About a half-hour
later his entire belief system collapsed. I left him muttering
in the middle of the floor, drinking heavily, absorbing a hard
lesson the writers of "Roseanne" apparently have yet to learn:
Unless you look like Marky Mark, you can't get picked up in a
gav bar in 1994.
Trust me. I know.