Written by Karen Rabinovitz, Photographed by Tony Duran
As alter ego Brian Kinney, he's gotten head in a nightclub, devirginized a 17-year-old boy, and shoved his tongue down dozens of men's throats-just another day at the office for Queer As Folk's Gale Harold.
Gale Harold is afraid to out himself.... as a straight man. The impossibly gorgeous 31-year-old plays Brian Kinney, a smokin'-hot sex fiend who beds five men a week on Showtime's anal-positive, gay sitcom Queer As Folk. Since the show began, Harold has given millions of hungry gay men (and women) a delicious taste of his naked body-we've seen scrotum and cotten-candy lips. He's gotten head in a nightclub, devirginized a sweet 17-year-old boy, and shoved his tongue down dozens of men's throats-some of the most graphic guy-on-guy action ever seen on TV (Shaving Ryan's Privates not included).
So the first real question I ask the rising star, when we met on a brisk afternoon at a quaint wine bar in the West Village, was, appropriately, "Gay or straight?" He takes a bite of his goat cheese panini and points to my tape recorder, motioning me to shut it off. We sit in silence. He turns his head away, rests his square-toed brown boots on the window ledge, and contemplates.
"I can't figure out what to do with this question. Most of the gay men I work with assume I'm straight, so..." More silence. He sips his merlot and eventually continues. "It's funny. No, it's just...trying to answer this question is hilarious." "But you didn't answer," I probe. More silence. "I'm straight. I'm begrudgingly revealing it. I guess it's just that I was thinking which publication I should reveal this to," he finally admits, as if being straight is a crime. He's also single.
Harold's a total guy's guy. He's wearing black Levi's, a knit-wool hat with a cobra snake patch, a black V-neck sweater, a leather cuff bracelet, and a fierce tatoo on the inside of his middle finger that reads "Resist." He won't discuss the marking. "Don't talk about that."
Harold does, however, talk lovingly about his truck ("I can finally afford to pay for it," he says). Before his big break on cable, he spent three years doing odd jobs, construction work and carpentry in Los Angeles. He went to American University for a year-and-a-half on a soccer scholarship. He's obsessed with Italian motorcycles. And maybe it's the bong hit he confessed to doing before our interview or his Southern upbringing-he's a good ol' Atlanta boy-but he has a mellow, refreshingly laid-back quality that reminds me of Matthew McConaughey.
He puffs on an American Spirit as he speculates, upon my urging, the difference between kissing men and kissing women: "Kissing a man...it's more animalistic. There's a primal drive with men and you can feel that the second you start kissing. It's much more visceral than kissing a woman. Women take their time. There's more play. It's not a mad dash to get your rocks off. And kissing men who, even after they've shaved, have the roughest skin. I've got the worst fuckin' burns on my face."
While most straight men would probably go on about how it's difficult to make out with guy after guy after guy, even for the sake of their art, Harold is very "whatever" about the whole thing. "For a while, the gay thing seemed like such a big deal. But now, I don't think it is. It's just a comedy-drama about people who live in the United States. It's a slice-of-life. I play a character-that's it. But I was well aware of the gay lifestyle before the show. I've been hit on in a really strong way by gay men who've tried to convert me, and a lot of my heroes are gay. William Burroughs, Lou Reed. Well, I guess Lou Reed is bi. The point is, it's 2002, gay life is no longer that shocking."
But some of the things television's new boy toy witnesses on the set are rather-um-shocking. "The shit that goes on! I could be walking by the set, eating a doughnut, and there's 30 gay men rolling around. It's actually hysterical," he says, adding that he doesn't mind being objectified for the camera. (In one scene, Harold slowly strips off his clothes, pours water on his head, and asks a strapping young lad if he's coming or going...or coming and then going...or coming and staying.)
"I think it's good that men are being objectified because since forever women have been objectified. We're flipping the coin because things have been lopsided on TV and film for so long. Another good point to the show is that it portray's men's sensuality. They're not just all about sex and only sex," he philosophizes.
He's right. The show isn't only about sex. It's also about-well-oral sex, which makes us happy as folk.
Photography: Tony Duran for Art Mix The Agency, LA
Styling: Randy Smith for Art Mix The Agency, LA
Grooming: Steve Daviault for Link, NY
Picture on stairs: Shirt and tie by D&G Dolce & Gabbana
Picture underneath TV: Jeans by Helmut Lang, Belt by Leather Rose, NY
Picture on matress: Vest and jeans by Helmut Lang