Illustration of Kevin Spacey by Ramachandra Babu.

A few years ago, before Kevin Spacey last year had his cultural collision with the #metoo movment’s gay version, I asked him about his being gay.  He pushed back claiming I was asking him about his sex life.  I tried to explain to him that I was instead asking who he was on the sidewalk or at the table where we were then sitting.  It was none of my business what he did behind a locked bedroom door.  But he kept conflating his gay identity with the old-school idea that it only meant his being a sexual creature.  Another conflation he made once he got accused of sexual assault by several young men was his conflating that with his being gay since he used the original story to come out of the closet officially.  I knew when we talked a few years ago – even though I got lots of flack in the media for my having talked about this with him – that the closet, no matter how cracked its door, can curdle one’s life.  Below, you can listen to us having the earlier discussion before his curdled.

It began this way:

SESSUMS:  Casino Jack , the film you just made, has a tribal motif running through it.  There is the main character lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s taking advantage of the Native American tribes and playing them off each other.  There is the tribe of lobbyists in D.C., which is itself a tribal town.  And there is his deep identification as a Jew, which almost takes on tribal aspects in his religiosity. As I sat in the screening watching all these tribal narrative streams blend together, I began to feel compelled to put this to you.  We gay man have always claimed you as a member of our tribe and yet you don’t claim us back.  Why?

SPACEY: Look, I might have lived in England for the last several years but I’m still an American citizen and I have not given up my right to privacy.

Listen to our conversation about this in the restaurant that day:

As I was trying to find the above segment of our interview on the tapes in my files, I came across this segment that I found even more enlightening in its way than the back-and-forth Kevin and I were having about what it means to be gay.  Here, as we discuss what draws him to the plays of Eugene O’Neill, Spacey discusses the tragedy of the life of James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, as well as the advice Spacey tells me his mother once gave him.



  • Kevin Sessums is the author of two New York Times bestselling memoirs, Mississippi Sissy and I Left It on the Mountain.

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