Talkback star now in Closet after Thorpe controversy
The battle between Melbourne talkback radio host Neil Mitchell and promoters of a queer party this weekend seems to have reached an uneasy truce after those behind the ‘Closet Party’ at Fitzroy this Friday night decided to replace the controversial image of Olympian Ian Thorpe advertising the event with one of Mitchell himself.
Billed as an inclusive party for “homosexuals and those who love them”, the ‘Closet Party’ events have been held monthly since being relaunched last July. Promoters have previously used images of actors Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise and Kristen Stewart and US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey to advertise their events.
Their choice of using the image of Thorpe – who has consistently had to deny gay rumours ever since a teenage member of Australia’s swim team – however upset Mitchell, host of 3AW’s high rating Mornings program.
“[It’s] an absurd public insult to Ian Thorpe,” Mitchell his listeners on Monday morning.
The use of Thorpe’s image also earned the ire of David McCarthy, the president of Melbourne’s LGBTI radio station JOY 94.9.
“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,” McCarthy told 3AW on Monday.
“I think they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Promoters told SX that their choice of using an image of Thorpe wearing a tie and leather jacket was simply a light “tongue-in-cheek homage” to celebrities and others in the gaze of pop culture.
“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,” they said on Tuesday morning.
“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.”
The continuing furore sparked by Mitchell resulted in promoters sometime on Tuesday afternoon deciding to replace their image of Thorpe with one of the radio star instead.
The move forced Mitchell into providing an official statement on 3AW’s website declaring that he was happily heterosexual.
“I have to declare this. I find I have no choice,” he wrote. “I am not gay. You can ask my children … I am not gay.
“But I am now a poster boy for a gay night.”
Mitchell said that he felt his treatment at the hands of the promoters was “a bit rough” considering he was a supporter of marriage equality and had also held a joint show with JOY 94.9 last May to raise awareness of LGBTI youth mental illness and suicide.
“They (promoters) claim they weren’t saying anything about Thorpe. That’s nonsense,” Mitchell wrote.
“Thorpe’s sexuality has been a matter of great discussion and they used a huge picture with the word closet above him.”
Mitchell however said he was “fine” with the use of his image to promote the event to be held at Fitzroy’s First Floor nightclub on Friday night.
“Nobody thinks I am gay and that is the point,” he wrote.
“People have speculated about Ian Thorpe and to add to that speculation is wrong and potentially hurtful.”
‘Closet Party’ promoters told SX today that they “won’t be providing further comment on this”.