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    November 05, 2006

    Doogie digs dudes

    Posted by: Chris

    The mainstream media is reporting that Actor Neil Patrick Harris, famous for playing teen prodigy doctor "Doogie Howser M.D.," came out this week to quell rumors that he might be straight — which would be an interesting twist on the usual way these things work. But it's not at all clear that's how it actually played out. Harris told People:

    "The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships.

    "So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love."

    DoogieburktaBut the rumors that frustrated the actor aren't that he's straight, as the media are generally reporting the story. It's gossip that he got a gig on his sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" for actor David Burkta, described in an Oct. 23 gossip item by Canada.com as "his longtime sweetheart." (Photo of Burkta, 31, with Harris, 33, via Towleroad).

    After the Canada.com report, Harris' publicist Craig Snyder was quoted on ContactMusic.com as saying, "He's not of that persuasion."

    The problem is that ContactMusic lives and breathes on unattributed stories and quotes like this one. In some cases, the U.K.-based site steals legitimate stories without attribution. But I'm convinced, after watching the gay-related info on ContactMusic.com for a long time, that they also routinely invent quotes from whole cloth. The practice is so rampant on the site that I refused to run any information from ContactMusic in the gay publications I edited unless it could be independently confirmed, which was almost never.

    Credit goes to the gossip mavens at Defamer.com for pointing out that Harris' publicist is actually Craig Schneider, not Snyder, and for adding this gem about ContactMusic: "A grain of salt free with every suspiciously underattributed celebrity news item!"

    My guess is that Schneider (a.k.a. Snyder) never said a damn thing about Harris' sexual orientation, considering an exhaustive Internet search turns up ContactMusic as the only outlet reporting the initial denial (under either spelling), until a zillion un-thinking media outlets repeated ContactMusic's unattributed report. And without something more from the actor, it's hard to believe he was referring to his own publicist when he told People he was frustrated with, "those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me." The better bet is that the object of his ire was Canada.com.

    At this point, we also don't know whether Burkta is in fact Harris' "longtime sweetheart," as Canada.com reported, or whether Burkta is also "proud to say" he's "a very content gay man," as Harris told People. Still there's some irony that Harris has come out before openly closeted actor Sean Hayes, who as Jack on "Will & Grace" managed to drag Harris' character from running a meeting for "ex-gays" to joining Jack for a man-on-man shower.

    Just don't look for Hayes to come out on ContactMusic.com, or closet-crushing has-been the Advocate. In fact, the Harris exclusive for People magazine makes a recent trifecta: first N'Sync's Lance Bass, then "Grey's Anatomy's" T.R. Knight, and now Harris. Since the departure of celebrity-obsessed exec editor Judy Weider, the Advocate has been missing out on all the big coming-out interviews.



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