Margaret Cho on coming out as bi, serving as ‘prime minister of the gays’

Drop Dead Diva, EP 504

Every season, the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva goes out of its way to include a specific gay storyline for its lawyer character. This season’s episode, which aired last night, featured a pro baseball player who is hiding his homosexuality — even though it may get him convicted of murder.

Co-star Margaret Cho and executive producer Josh Berman sat down with the media to discuss the episode, gays in sports … and whether Cho is really the prime minister of the gays.

If you missed the first several episodes, you can catch up either on-demand or on iTunes. You can watch a clip of last night’s episode here. Below is a transcript of the chat with Berman and Cho.

Question: Josh, you tackled gay proms, gay sperm … was gay sports just the next arena that you needed to dive into for this episode?  Josh Berman: Well I think gays in sports is certainly a hot topic right now. We started working on this episode before it became such a prominent issue and getting such coverage in the news. So I’m thrilled that we are hitting this zeitgeist shed again with gay and lesbian issues. I do think that, you know, sports is one of the last frontiers where men and women feel they unfortunately need to be closeted. So it was important for me to address that issue.

Margaret, you’re all over this episode whether you’re helping Stacy with sperm donors or helping Jane with her case .…  Margaret Cho: Terri is always doing anything and everything. She’s kind of like a cross between like Alfred and Batman — she’s kind of like the enabler for everything. But what I really love about this episode is that it really talks about an issue that’s very timely, which is, athletes being able to come out of the closet. And I must note that there is a lot of sexism when it comes to this kind of stuff because Martina Navratilova came out as a lesbian over 25 years ago. Martina Navratilova came out when Reagan was in office. I really want to make sure that her contribution to sports, to the LGBT presence in sports, is really noted. And I’m really, really proud of this episode because it goes into the story about how we look at men in sports and we have to sort of have an idea of who they are and what they’re supposed to be. And I think sports in general is quite a homoerotic art form unto itself. So it’s surprising that there’s not more [athletes who are] out actually, but I love this episode because it really talks about some of these very current issues.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queens of the deserted

‘Project Runway’ alums Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice go ‘On the Road’ in the American heartland —and the Midwest may never be the same

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Ont the road
TWO WRONG FOOLS | Thanks for everything, guys: Your traveling fashion reality series is a hoot.

4.5 out of 5 stars
ON THE ROAD WITH AUSTIN AND SANTINO
airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Lifetime.  Watch episodes online at MyLifetime.com.

There are three big surprises about the new Lifetime Network series On the Road with Austin and Santino. First is how damned entertaining it is; second is how Lifetime made no effort to market it to the gay press; and third is how that it is on Lifetime at all — it seems ideal for Logo or Bravo.

Come to think of it, the third may explain the second. But let’s stick with the first.

For those who haven’t been addicted to Project Runway for a few years, Austin is Austin Scarlett and Santino is Santino Rice, also-rans in the first two seasons of the series but fan favorites for their personalities: Austin, the fey, face-powdered Quentin Crisp dandy; and Santino, the butch, cutthroat bisexual. Sharing the screen, they present as a queer Felix and Oscar, i.e., ones who know how to throw a half-lip stitch and cut on the bias.

The premise of the series is a kind of traveling Queer Eye for the Straight Gal, where the fashionistas visit small-town tomboys and make for them one faboo gown to wow their friends and family.

That’s the premise, but it’s not what the show is about. No, it is about the fish-out-of-water picaresque that puts a flamboyant odd couple in the heartland: RuPaul’s Drag U Meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
And it’s effin’ brilliant.

After only three episodes (the fourth will air after press time) — one of which was to nearby Weatherford — On the Road already deserves cult status. The highlight of the series so far: Austin flouncing into a general store in rural Antlers, Okla., beret jauntily askew, and sashaying through the aisles of Wranglers and gingham while the stunned proprietor and his son stare — polite stares, but stares nonetheless.

Not only is the show touching in the predictable but effective Queen for a Day tradition (with the added sweetness of Austin and Santino’s sometimes prickly but loving pas-de-deux), it’s a remarkably empowering bit of social acclimatization, as two queer men withhold judgment on Red State America while Red State America withholds judgment on them. Could it be gay acceptance has come so far that even in the “deer capital of the U.S.” two fashion designers can be welcomed with open arms and open hearts?

It is if this show has anything to say about it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens