Deemed too litigious for print when the 1st edition of ACTING: Make It Your Business was released an entertainment industry power-player included in my book for actors strapped them-self to entertainment industry’s St. Andrews Cross: the gay mafia. Do attorneys have too weak a gag reflex?
To protect the identity of the interviewee–and my pauper assets of two cats and a single winery tasting takeaway glass–the power player’s identity here is concealed.
“Pet peeves?” I asked.
“The gay mafia,” Name Withheld [hereinafter referred to as N.H.] begins to name past and present casting directors, directors, who were/are both powerful in the industry and gay. “They’ve locked up the business which in my world, at least, is oriented towards a narrower perspective.
“There is a sense of their work that is limiting,” NH continues. “For example certain directors hire the same actors. Now I am the beneficiary of that and the opposite of that. I’m not casting any aspersions about homosexuality. I [work in the arts]. I know how to camp with the best of them. I was in the dressing room for five years. I have no problems. None. Except for,” and N.H. speaks of a past Broadway play, its lead and director, both male, whose relationship N.H. feels was, “a weird relationship with director and actor that had nothing to do with the play. Not to say it doesn’t exist elsewhere, it does, but in the theater, particularly, and I’m not talking about myself but women have been so discriminated against. Remarkably so.”
N.H. begins to name gay male directors of high visibility within the theater. “I’ve seen women suffer. Heterosexual and homosexual. The sadism of that,” N.H. then begins to impersonate a director who consistently snapped his fingers as a means of directing an actress. The snapping is relentless. No words spoken, and then, “There’s always a whipping boy somewhere in the production. Always. More often than not, it’s the woman of a gay director or a guy of a straight director. It’s bizarre. I can’t explain it to you. I abhor that,” N.H. discards with distinct disdain.
“The gay casting director is a perfect example of the gay mafia,” N.H. asserts. “It’s not sexual gender. It’s vision. You want the role to be realized based on the talent and character of the actor.”
In our conversation I mention the gay casting director who asked of me to give him a massage. N.H. affirms that is the type of power giver who happens to be gay of which he speaks.
Though gay by coincidence myself I do understand N.H.’s complaint. But I never tagged abuse of authority by gay colleagues as being the gay mafia. What would be the warning-sign of bitchiness you’ve disrespected the lavender mob? Keds in your bed?
I voice to N.H. that the phenomena is aligned to a general abuse of power no matter to whom the gate-keeper raises their heels to heaven to. Power brokers (gay or straight) giddy with misplaced gate-keeper regency place themselves in a position of uncompromising authority; fashioning themselves as the givers and destroyers of careers.
The casting director who continually harassed me sexually is one such person. I recall to N.H. the day when my gay employer was on the phone with an agent. The casting director of TV and Broadway with his bloated face flushed red barking into the phone to the agent, “Do you know who you’re talking to?! Do you know who this is?!” His tirade ending with his slamming the phone unapologetically into the cradle, and then demanding I haul my “hot ass” to him “pronto.” One could remark that that same gay casting director had self-respect issues. He routinely discriminates against gay actors, proudly chiding that he will not audition gay actors of whom my former employer remarks as being, “too much of a faggot.” Yet on the other hand with erotic excitement he’ll verbally exercise his imagination about the straight male actors he wishes the chance to bed.
“Gay/straight is not the issue,” N.H. continued. “The issue is the foibles of man, in our perceptions. The director is heterosexual, and beating up on a woman with snapping his fingers; he’s paid a cost.”
N.H. goes on to reflect of a play that he/she did in New York. “It became corrupted by Friday night dates [between the director and their actors].” N.H. then points to this type of “professional” behavior spurring his own career path alteration. “I went away from musicals because I didn’t like entertainment,” N.H. states.
I laugh in agreement, “There’s a lot of that today.”
“Exactly,” N.H. shoots back. “Entertainment wasn’t as interesting to me as art. Call me Julliard. Call me arrogant, call me whatever. Art to me has a responsibility. There’s a social contract with art. Us as artists to our audience. And the audience to the stage. That social contract I relish. And when it’s corrupted — gay, straight, yellow, green, doesn’t matter — that bothers me,” N.H. reflects with disappointment but not with naïveté.
“I’ve seen many actors who get the job not because they’re brilliant but because they’re the friend of the director. Director’s fire and hire actors because they’re the friend of. That corruption bothers me.
“I’m talking about the corruption of the promise of art. Lawrence Olivier, when I was doing [title withheld], came backstage and he said about actors, ‘What are we? Angels and whores.’ We’re a little bit of both. The whore aspect of myself and the business I’m in, that’s what bothers me. I’m not speaking from a high moral plane. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do that. This is the place and time for it, whatever it is. I’ve been in too many shows where a lot of the time the show’s [been] corrupted by both straight and gay. The opportunities that present themselves that,” N.H. repeatedly slaps hand to desk to emphasize the following, “have nothing to do with the purpose at hand.”
Our conversation drifted back to my inquiring further on defining ‘the gay mafia.’
“I don’t really mean the gay mafia,” N.H. responds. “What I mean is the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers have a different point of view and different purpose than what I think they should have.”
N.H. references a quote by a once powerful Broadway casting director; “He said he would cast all day and then go to the bar at night. And he made mention that when he would die you could always find him at Rawhide.”
N.H. points to an example of academia to demonstrate his/her view that it’s the gatekeeper and not necessarily the sexual preference of the person in ‘power’ that rules decisions.
“Michael Kahn was the dean of the Julliard school of Music; the drama department,” N.H. begins. “Most heralded school in the country, creating the next generation of artists. The word on the street is that the graduating class of late; they’re all pretty boys, coming out of Michael Kahn. That’s not acting. That’s not what the theater needs, necessarily. If they’re pretty boys and the best actors he can find, I have no contest. That is why it’s not the gay mafia, per say. But it’s that perspective, that inhibits, the promise of the theater. Whether it be gay or straight.” Then N.H. smirks with sarcasm, “Cause God knows there have been no straight people who have taken advantage of women. Hence the casting couch in LA to say the least. It’s the promise that’s corrupted that I can’t stand. Because of, and I’ve been guilty, I haven’t slept with [talent] I was going to hire. I’ve never done that. But God knows I’ve slept with [talent], who I was working with to get something out of them for the role that I was playing. So I’m as guilty. But that corruption, which I’ve now come to realize, is awful.”
What’s more curious and possibly just as corruptible
are the gay gate keepers of talent (casting, talent reps., directors and producers) who are turncoat against fellows gays like Jews turning-in Jews to Gestapo in order to delay the inevitable gas chamber.
Paul Russell’s career as an author, casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned three decades. His projects involve major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul teaches acting class annually at MFA and BFA acting programs in the U.S. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. In addition to his books for actors Paul has written several gay fiction novels including a murder mystery. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.
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