General News

EXTRA: Out of Bounds?

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Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 6, 2000 - The over-scrutinized sexuality of Academy Award-winning star Kevin Spacey has been over-scrutinized. Again. In the April 11 issue of the Star, the tabloid-par-excellence goes full tilt with a centerfold report featuring one salacious headline ("Revealed! Oscar winner Kevin's mountaintop tryst with young male model") 12 pics, and several groaner captions (including "Male Bonding," "Gay Old Time," "Out and About" and - yeesh - "Going Down"). The report all but says the sexual preference of the actor is really of the same-sex variety, despite what he insistently professes -- i.e., that he's strictly hetero.

So, has tabloid journalism sunk to an unprecedented low?

"Well, I actually think it's a slightly more problematic issue," says Jeannette Walls, MSNBC gossip columnist and author of the just-published "Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip" (Spike). "We gossip columnists will report a lot thing about a lot of celebrities, but why can't we report about that part of their lives."

"I have very mixed feeling about this, particularly when it regards the press. We [journalists and gossip columnists] are in a weird dilemma, I am not speaking about Spacey, but if we find out about someone's sexuality, and know it's not true, do we ignore it or report the truth?"

Walls says it's hypocritical to say the media doesn't (or can't) report on stars' private lives. "Where do we draw the line? I think it's a problem that plagues journalists and gossip columnists [alike]."

And to further compound the issue of journalist ethics, Walls pointed to the changing attitude toward what can or cannot be reported in the field of entertainment journalism today -- one which continues to erode the difference between tabloid and non-tabloid publications.

Asks Walls: "Did Star sink to a new low -- how about the Esquire article?"

Indeed, Star is far from the first to dish dirt on Spacey. The same is-he-or-isn't-he angle was given a once-over by the men's magazine Esquire (not exactly your typical lowbrow fare) in a slightly less salacious 1997 cover story that teased: "Kevin Spacey Has a Secret."

And though Spacey vehemently blasted the magazine for what he termed a "mean-spirited" and "homophobic" article, this time, his camp is refusing to dignify the Star report (which reprints the Esquire cover, natch) with a specific comment.

"He has said all is he going to say on the subject and people are going to believe what they want to believe. We don't have any further comment," the actor's publicist Stacey Wolfe says.

Curiously, neither did the Star. The blabby tab shooed us away with the catchphrase de jour, "No comment."

Yet despite our snub, the tab's editor-in-chief Tony Frost was quoted in another tab -- the New York Daily News -- as flagrantly boasting that, "Mr. Spacey will be pleased that we left out one or two images that were far more graphic."

"We showed considerable restraint."

Oh, really?

The Star report leaves little to the imagination, flat-out declaring that its pics of Spacey and one digitally obscured "well-toned hunk half his age" in a Los Angeles public park "[appear] to rip apart the straight image that Spacey has carefully cultivated in a bid to head off persistent rumors that he is gay."

Saturated with suggestive descriptions, the article is a rather painstaking and detail-heavy catalogue of the day in question (reputedly, March 19), beginning with the second Spacey drove out of his Hollywood Hills residence and hooked up with a "21-year-old male model ... [and] wannabe actor."

And what was the pair doing? The tab spares no details.

"At one point, Kevin's head was in the boy's lap and later the young guy put his arms round Kevin and cuddled him," the Star quotes an "eyewitness" as saying. "A little while after that, Kevin gave the guy a full-body massage starting at his thighs."

This account, all in the name of "considerable restraint," of course.

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