Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tabloid Baby's Person of The Year for 2005: Anderson Cooper, Brokeback Anchor

Anderson Cooper is Tabloid Baby’s Person of the Year!

It is a year in which the era of the pompous, macho “Network Anchorman” ended in death, disgrace and the takeover of Nightline by Michael Jackson’s Oompaloompalike betrayer.

It’s also a year in which Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O’Donnell played husband and wife in Fiddler On The Roof, Elton John married his boyfriend, the new Superman is reportedly planning to leap out of the closet, and Brokeback Mountain leads the Oscar contenders.

Who better to represent 2005 than America’s first openly gay TV news anchorman?

Okay, Anderson Cooper plays it coy when fellow journalists ask about his sexuality (and they ask all the time), and fellow journalists who know better compromise by referring to him with a wink as “metrosexual” (a bitchslap because of the “sissy” implications, and Coop’s no sissy even though he cries on TV).

But in the offices where he works, in the public spaces in which he plays, Anderson Cooper is known to be gay. That’s not important. There have been, and are, gay network reporters. Even NBC’s wise John Chancellor reportedly had a men’s room arrest in his past (though he popped out of his closet only sporadically in later years, demanding his name be pronounced Chancel-LOR, not CHANCE-eler).

What makes Anderson Cooper different, special and Tabloid Baby's Person of The Year, is that Anderson Cooper reads “gay” on the air. Not “flaming,” like most all of the cloned male correspondents on the ET-Access-Extra infotainment shows, not “screaming,” as he was when he hosted The Mole (back when newsreader kingship seemed as realistic a dream as his mom marrying her consort Bobby Short), but so undeniably that everyone refers to him as “metrosexual.”

It’s revolutionary-- as revolutionary as Maury Povich leading A Current Affair, and points to the future of television news.

Uneasily wearing the crown on CNN, Anderson Cooper is the standard bearer as eternal boy-- a poor little rich boy at that-- fleeing personal tragedy and demons by running toward the world’s danger zones; an inquisitive silver-haired manboy who mixes with the common folk like Truman Capote in Kansas; an otherworldly Little Prince who can be politely indignant when he’s lied to; a youthful visitor who leads with his heart and isn’t afraid to show Earthlings how to cry. He’s Michael Jackson, circa Thriller.

And he’s leading Ted Turner’s old news network! Person of the Year!

It’s fitting that Coop broke out in the coverage of the New Orleans disaster, days before the Southern Decadence weekend.

Ironically, Coop’s cable news nemesis (another man with two last names) was already in place for the festivities, set up in a small hotel in the French Quarter, enjoying breakfast, serenaded by a pianist, when the levees broke and the city began to flood. With other TV reporters cut off from the action, Shepard Smith was blocks from the convention center, where, in a bizarre parallel to Cooper’s performance, he briefly “came out,” unleashing his Blanche DuBois accent, emoting, raging, and even snapping back on air at Sean Hannity.

All Shep got for his trouble was an outing by the editor of the Washington Blade.

Credit due

Credit for the Coop coup goes to Jon Klein, the new president of CNN, who made the bold move of dumping Aaron Brown and replacing the fey with the gay.

Klein has always been known for a sense of humor that’s both wicked and puckish. He even appears in Tabloid Baby, Chapter 20, in a story about the time he recommended a female producer to Hard Copy. She turned out to be a ticking timebomb who exploded all over Elton John, who in turn exploded all over Hard Copy. (For those with an interest in how the news business really works, both story and book are worth the read.)

The future

There is method behind the move. Jon Klein has big plans.

Stay tuned for 2006. There will be a time, soon, when Anderson Cooper will “come out.” It will probably take another big story, a 9/11- or Katrina-sized story that all the honchos will feel the need to stamp with brand personification, and then, Anderson Cooper will drop his guard and let us in on who he is.

By then, America, even those who don’t watch CNN, will be comfortable enough with his presence onscreen and in the media, that no one will care.

That’s the culture shift we’re looking at, those are the barriers he is breaking, and that’s why we salute Anderson Cooper, Tabloid Baby’s Person of the Year for 2005!

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