I have been following a number of blogs and articles on the recent death of Merv Griffin at age 82 and the various attempts to sanitize history to avoid a direct discussion of his sexual orientation. Unlike closeted anti-gay politicians who, in my view, deserve to be outed due to their hypocrisy, Griffin certainly had the right to stay in the closet during his lifetime if that is what he chose to do. However, I am surprised at the strong reactions and threats of lawsuits to the mere reporting of what was apparently an open secret among some circles in Hollywood and elsewhere. I also do not understand the threats of libel suits since, in general, one cannot libel a dead person. Moreover, truth is an absolute defense to a libel or defamation claim, and if factual evidence existed to back up the story, then no one in the press should have been afraid of a libel suit.
In any event, via Pam's House Blend and America Blog, I found this post at QueerTwoCents.com (http://queertwocents.blogspot.com/2007/08/gay-merv-griffin-ray-richmond.html) that looks at the changing news reporting on Griffin's death and the obvious efforts to down play his homosexuality. It is a bit surprising that in Hollywood in 2007, some are still apparently terribly worried about being labeled as gay. I can perhaps understand some young rising star, but Griffin was long retired and largely out of the public eye. It is truly sad that in this day and age, people still feel ashamed of who they are through no choice of their own all because of the bigotry of others. Here are highlights of the post:
Early this morning I posted a very insightful article by The Hollywood Reporter writer Ray Richmond entitled, Merv Griffin Died A Closeted Homosexual. His piece has caused quite a stir. Later in the day, a reader alerted me that my link to the article was no good; I knew I would have to put on my sleuthing cap to figure out what was going on. I soon discovered at the site of my favourite blog mistress, Pam (Pam's House Blend), that both The Hollywood Reporter AND Reuters had pulled Mr. Richmond's article.
Fortunately, one of Pam's House Blend readers, Stephanie, in Victoria, posted the still active link at canada.com for the Reuters piece, with the original article, here .
This afternoon, writer/editor Kevin Allman posted an interview on his blog after speaking with Ray Richmond about the removal of the article. He asked Mr. Richmond, "Do you think they were pressured to take it down?" He replied, "Sure. I’m sure it was taken down because there was fear of litigation, and that the post was libelous and/or defamatory. And I certainly don’t believe that to be the case." Mr. Richmond added that he hoped to speak with his bosses at The Hollywood Reporter, stating, "I will have discussions with them, and I will hope at some point we can have it restored online. It seems that scotching the post gives the appearance of liability when there isn’t any. It was simply a factual, very informed discussion of the larger issue of the media’s difficulty in allowing someone to be labeled as gay in the mainstream, as if that is somehow a huge shame. My whole reason for doing the piece for the Reporter was to shine a light on that fact. Unfortunately that appears to be the case...even internally." Mr Richmond also said that he has not been contacted by anyone representing Merv Griffin.
I wanted to put the truth out there in a loving and concerned way. One could make the point that it was his business alone, but I don’t think this was true, because he was a public figure and this was who the man was."
Mr. Richmond made some excellent points. Does anyone else think that the idea of suing to keep the lid on someone's not so well hidden sexuality is absurd? Talk about the truth being in jeopardy. Sadly, however, Merv Griffin is not the only deceased celebrity in recent history to undergo a straight-wash attempt by mainstream media.
Later this afternoon, The Hollywood Reporter restored the article. Mystery solved, or so I thought. I decided to investigate some more and this is what I discovered: the original title, "Merv Griffin Died A Closeted Homosexual" had been CHANGED to, Griffin never revealed man behind the curtain, AND the text of the original article itself had been ALTERED. Some text was DELETED and some new text was ADDED.
See the revised story (with highlights of the modified language at QueerTwoCents.com