Anderson Cooper has opened up about his sexual awakening as a pre-teen and credited Richard Gere to realising he was gay.
The Anderson Cooper 360 host appeared on the Andy Cohen Live Pride Special on SiriusXM’s Radio Andy on Friday and recalled how meeting a shirtless Richard Gere at age 11 helped him come to terms with his sexuality.
He explained that two friends of his mother, late fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, photographer Paul Jasmin and his partner, took him to see a play called Bent, which Gere starred in. Bent revolves around the persecution of homosexuality in Nazi Germany and takes place during and after the Night of the Long knives.
Meeting Richard Gere
Cooper described the play as one which was about two gay men in the concentration camps, emphasising the opening scene as the “gayest thing you can imagine.” The opening scene features a man appearing out of bed naked and putting on an SS uniform after sleeping with a man from the previous night.
He spoke about his initial reaction to seeing the scene as a striking realisation, “Oh my God, I’m gay. I’m totally gay.”
After the performance, Jasmin took Cooper backstage to meet the actor as they had worked together on the film American Gigolo. It was then that 11-year-old Cooper saw Gere shirtless in his dressing room when they met for the first time.
Starstruck, Cooper said that he couldn’t speak when he saw Gere. “I had my playbil and I wanted to get him to autograph it, but I couldn’t stop staring at his chest,” Cooper told Cohen.
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Cooper publicly came out in 2012 via an essay published on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast blog, explaining that he felt divided between keeping his personal and public life separate, and serving as an example for young LGBT viewers.
“It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid,” Cooper wrote.
“This is distressing because it is simply not true…The fact is. I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”