A few weeks after Entertainment Weekly published a cover story reporting on the increasing ease in which gay celebrities were coming out, 45-year-old Anderson Cooper's "me too" announcement on July 2, 2012 (buried in an e-mail) was a bit flat. And, unlike Chief Justice John Roberts' upholding of Obamacare, it was hardly a surprise. Sometimes when very old celebrities die my reaction is, "He/she wasn't already dead?" Upon Cooper's announcement, no doubt quite a few had a similar reaction, except the word "out" replaced "dead".
Career wise, there was little risk for him since ratings for his primetime news show on CNN had tanked (lesbian Rachel Maddow trounces the "It Boy" with her show on MSNBC) and the audience to his syndicated talk show was so tiny that it was cancelled after two seasons. (I'm surprised he has hadn't tried his hand as a game show host.) What his announcement did get him was coveted media attention and a slight ratings blip, but only for a few days.
Perhaps Cooper's ratings challenges have been due to a lack of a clear identity among viewers, i.e., is he a hard-news reporter covering the Arab Spring or Kathy Griffin's BFF? Does he aspire to be Walter Cronkite or Graham Norton? And while "the gays", as Griffin lovingly refers to us, may find him the cutest thing, the rest of the population may require more than a giggle and a shy smile as a reason to tune in.
This story reminded me of when Lance Bass came out in the summer of 2006. He was one of the singers from boy group N-Sync and when he came out his career was largely over, so his coming out seemed more like an attempt to stay in the public eye just a bit longer - regardless of its reaction. He entered the world of "professional gay."
So who's left who hasn't officially come out? When I first wrote this post two years ago I listed Jodie Foster, Barry Manilow, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Queen Latifah and Kevin Spacey. Since then Foster and Boitano have opened their closet door. As an article in Gawker pointed out shortly after the Cooper news, it's almost gotten to the point where it's more embarrassing not to be out.