Farewell Dirk Shafer, Kelly Osbourne

Empire

Life has a funny way of putting things into perspective. Last weekend I was down in South Florida attending the Winter Party, an annual fundraiser for the LGTBQ Task Force. While going through my extensive wardrobe, I was bemoaning the fact that I did not lose the 10 pounds I gained while recuperating from surgery (and which had nothing to do with indulging in my holiday addiction of peppermint bark). In the midst of my pity party, I got a call telling me that my friend Dirk Shafer had passed away. Talk about a reality check! Dirk — the Playgirl model who looked better in and out of clothes than most people who have ever walked the planet — was dead. I suppose I’m a terrible gossip columnist; my first thought was not to share a scoop with my readers, but to mourn a friend. The next day, a sanitized account of his passing hit the web. While there’s more to the story, that’s ultimately unimportant. He was a man who had success in his field, was blessed with beauty inside and out and yet he faced the same issues, insecurities and demons we all do. Rest in peace.

For those of you not keeping track (or who simply don’t care) it’s been widely reported that Kelly Osbourne quit Fashion Police because Giuliana Rancic said that Zendaya’s dreadlocks looked like they smelled of patchouli oil and weed. First, the “joke” — Giuliana didn’t come up with it, it was scripted for her by the writers. Did anyone think to ask what the hell Zendaya was doing at the Oscars anyway? But that’s beside the point.

I can tell you (exclusively) that Kelly only returned to Fashion Police this season at all because she was contractually obligated to. I hear that when Kathy Griffin got the gig as primary host, she wanted a clean slate and new people. E! was obliged to use Kelly and Giuliana, but both knew that they weren’t really welcome. Adding insult to injury, the raise Kelly was promised didn’t happen, allegedly due to the money E! was spending on Kathy. Osbourne let it be known that she was thinking of quitting, and E! let her know that she was more than welcome to — but she couldn’t do any other television for the length of her contract. It was all very ugly. The one person who stood up for Kelly was Melissa Rivers. As executive producer, Missy fought for Kelly to stay, primarily because Joan Rivers looked on Kelly as a protégé. She cajoled Kelly into making the best of it … for a while. But from the beginning, the chemistry wasn’t there, on camera or off. Even worse, the ratings have been down roughly 25 percent from last year. So this whole Zendaya thing is all just a convenient excuse for Kelly to leave.

Like the rest of gay America, one of my guilty pleasures is Empire. While people are comparing this show with nighttime soaps of yesteryear like Dynasty, it’s clearly more Shakespearean, borrowing more than just a bit from King Lear, with hints of The Merchant of Venice thrown in. While everyone in the cast pulls their weight, the delicious Taraji P. Henson, pictured, gets the lion’s share of attention, and with good reason. She’s simply sublime.

But according to Mo’Nique, she was offered the part of Cookie first — though that claim has been disputed. “[Lee] Daniels offered me the part of Cookie, and I have the e-mails and the sides to go along with it.” She claims to have been waiting for information on where the screen test was supposed to be, but no details were forthcoming. However, the executive producer and co-creator of the show tweeted, “Monique is so talented she’d be great in almost anything. But Cookie was always @TheRealTaraji.” I’m sure it was simply one big misunderstanding. Maybe someone simply offered Mo’Nique a cookie!

I had reservations when HBO’s Looking started. While I still think it’s somewhat plodding and cringe-worthy, the cast has kept me engaged, and that includes sexy Russell Tovey. But in a recent interview, the openly gay actor earned some ire after making the following comment: “I feel like I could have been really effeminate, if I hadn’t gone to the school I went to. Where I felt like I had to toughen up. If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now. I thank my dad for that, for not allowing me to go down that path. Because it’s probably given me the unique quality that people think I have.” The interviewer prefaces Russell’s quote with this observation: “Tovey thinks carefully about what he’s going to say next. If I had to guess, watching him fidget, I’d say he’s weighing up whether to be honest at the risk of causing offence, or whether to divert and say something bland. He chooses to risk offence.”

And offend he did. His depiction of gay stereotypes has not gone down well with some, including a few notable gays. Christopher Rice wrote: “Dear Effeminate Gay Men. Don’t listen to Russell Tovey. I love you … sometimes too long and too hard but nobody’s perfect.” Dan Savage wrote, “I’ve always been into tap-dancing freaks who sing in the street and prance when they feel like prancing.” Tovey himself took to Twitter to apologize: “I surrender. You got me. I’m sat baffled and saddened that a misfired inarticulate quote of mine has branded me worst gay ever. If you feel I have personally let you down, I’m sorry, that was never my intention. I’m proud to be who I am and proud for others. We’re in this together. I want you to know whatever you think I meant, I didn’t. I’m gonna ride this out, and one day we will all look back on this moment with a half smile of fascination and amusement. Until that day, I’m gonna carry on being me.”

If you have a question for me, send it along and I promise to get back to you before Dominique Devereux turns up on a very special episode of Empire.

Until next time, remember: One man’s filth is another man’s bible.

Have a question for Billy? Send an email to him at  Billy@BillyMasters.com.