'Closet Party' promoters hit back over Thorpie controversy
Promoters behind a controversial queer party in Melbourne this weekend have called on talkback radio host Neil Mitchell to “attend one of our parties before slagging them off” after the radio star stoked controversy by claiming the use of an image of Olympian Ian Thorpe to promote an upcoming event was “an absurd public insult”.
This Friday night’s version of the regular monthly ‘Closet Party’ at Fitzroy’s First Floor nightclub not only attracted the ire of the high-rating 3AW Mornings host but also David McCarthy, the president of LGBTI radio station Joy 94.9, after an image of the swimmer wearing a tie and leather jacket was used with the word ‘Closet’ superimposed across it with the word ‘Party’ barely legible.
Despite denials to the contrary, including in his biography, This is Me, released last year, Thorpe has been consistently dogged by gay rumours ever since coming to public attention as a 14-year-old when he was selected in 1998 as the youngest ever male swimmer to represent Australia.
“They (the promoters) don’t realise the impact that this can have on young gay and lesbians that are wanting to come out,” McCarthy told 3AW yesterday.
“This sort of stuff is just a gutless attack and they are just trying to generate some publicity which unfortunately that's what they are doing. I think they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Since being relaunched last July, ‘Closet Party’ promoters have used images of actors Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise and Kristen Stewart and US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey to advertise previous parties. Jackman admitted only earlier this month that his wife of over 15 years, Deborra-Lee Furness, was growingly increasingly frustrated by never-ending rumours about his sexuality.
One of the promoters, known as Freddie Closet, told SX that the use of Thorpe’s image was simply a light “tongue-in-cheek homage” to celebrities much loved and sometimes talked about by the gay community.
“Hundreds of young LGBT people in Melbourne and Sydney come to our parties, and have a great time,” he said.
“We’re sorry if certain radio presenters aren’t among them or have no sense of humour, but perhaps they should attend one of our parties before slagging them off on talkback radio.
“We’re not claiming to know what goes on between the sheets of any celebrity – gay, straight, out or closeted.”
Asked by SX if they were worried about a potential defamation suit, promoters pointed to a recent court decision in New York, USA where a judge found it was not defamatory to say someone was gay as that would imply that being gay was bad.
“Well we never said Ian Thorpe, Neil Mitchell or anyone else was gay.
“We wish Ian and Hugh all the best – including with their marriages and kids. We hope they continue to be inspirations in their fields, and well loved by the gay community,” Closet said.
“If a celebrity – or indeed anyone – happens to be any of the colours of the LGBTIQ rainbow, we hope they are proud of who they are, and we think it is a shame if anyone anywhere still feels being gay or lesbian, bi, queer, trans or intersex is something to be ashamed of.”