Will Neil Patrick Harris Be The Gay Shepherd Of Hollywood?

How do I love Neil Patrick Harris? Let me count the ways. I love him for his incessant high-fiving on “How I Met Your Mother” and for making me actually feel empathy for the world’s ultimate cad. I love him for suiting up in a white tuxedo to host Sunday’s Emmy Awards. I love him for his diabolical turn in Joss Whedon’s too-fun-for-TV “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.” I love him for having a kick-ass voice and doing the Broadway thing with ease. I love him for his cameos in “Harold and Kumar” movies. I love him for the sexy creased brow. I love him for playing a teenage doctor who posed deep questions about the meaning of relationships to his computer eons before Carrie Bradshaw.

But more than anything, I love Neil Patrick Harris for being openly gay. Several years ago, I interviewed Neil for a magazine. My assignment was specific. I wasn’t there to ask him about his new projects or about his childhood—I was supposed to get his advice on three relationship questions from readers. I’d heard rumors at that point that he was gay, and like a good (read: insanely nosy) journalist, I tried to push him to tell stories of his own love life. “Tsk-tsk,” he said. “I don’t talk about my personal life.”

Until about a year later when he did, in an issue of 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,” he said. (Oops. Sorry to be one of those, Neil. It’s the job.) “I 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.” This was followed by a feature in Out Magazine.

As Emily Nussbaum wrote in her genius cover story on Neil in this week’s New York Magazine, the only problem with his timing was that he was starring in “How I Met Your Mother” as the ultimate sleazy womanizer. Were people really supposed to believe that a gay man would go to such insane expenditures to sleep with and then ditch women? Yes, they did. Because he’s an actor. And actors convince us of all sorts of things that they aren’t on a daily basis.

I truly hope Hollywood takes note of the fact that women love Neil Patrick Harris. And yes, love in a want-to-have-sex-with-him kind of way. There is an insanely small number of out actors out there—lan Cumming, Nathan Lane, T.R. Knight, David Hyde Pierce, Ian McKellan, Rupert Everett (why, oh why, did he get that plastic surgery?). As Nussbaum puts it in her piece, for male actors, coming out is considered “a career death sentence.” But Neil is kind of proof that it isn’t.

In the story, Neil talks about meeting his boyfriend, David Burtka. They were both in Broadway plays at the time, though Burtka was dating and raising twins with a long-term partner. “I sort of gazed from afar until that had run its course,” he said. “It was all very quick and fast and I’m still head over heels and we’re five-plus years in.” Now the two routinely appear on red carpets together. And they’re freaking adorable. I guess the real test of whether that disqualifies Neil from being a straight heartthrob would be whether he could still carry the lead in a romantic comedy. Hey, I’d be WAY more into seeing him in one than, say, Matthew McConaughey.

Actors like Rock Hudson lived their entire lives in the closet. You’d think more would have changed by now. But a huge number of actors have gay rumors swirling around them—Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Chace Crawford, Eminem, Zac Efron, etc, etc, etc. Are the rumors true? Probably in 90 percent of the cases, no. But I hope, for anyone who is, that Neil can serve as a positive example that being gay doesn’t mean their career is over. Because that really sucks. [NY Mag]