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Mervgate: writer Richmond sets the record 'straight'

Over at Past Deadline, the blog written by Ray Richmond, whose yanked-then-restored Hollywood Reporter piece on his working relationship with the late Merv Griffin that dared to mention the mogul’s orientation, does a wrap on the debacle. Some key points:

* the timing of the piece, which fell on the day of Griffin’s memorial service, was not intentional slight of some kind on Richmond’s part, that’s when the column publishes.

* the column was pulled briefly from both The Hollywood Reporter and his blog (also owned by the Reporter) after movers and shakers were angered. It was later restored after about an hour.

* Richmond says that there were not radical edits to the piece, but that there were two different headlines — the original, “Griffin Never Revealed Man Behind the Curtain,” and what Reuters used — “Merv Griffin Died a Closeted Homosexual.”

More after the jump. Richmond also mentions the the troubling issue I raised on Saturday of of a major news service — Reuters — caving to pressure on the story when it placed this message on its blog:

“This was a story from The Hollywood Reporter that ran as part of a Reuters news feed. We have dropped the story from our entertainment news feed as it did not meet our standards for news. GBU Editor”

Since the piece had already run and then pulled — what standard for news did Richmond’s piece not meet after they already approved it for publication —  it must have passed those heralded standards before the irate calls came. As I told Larry Buhl for his piece for the Advocate:

“The Hollywood Reporter is beholden to its masters in Hollywood, so they have to make nice to keep their access,” Spaulding said. “But if a mainstream news service pulls a piece like this due to pressure, it makes you wonder who else can lean on Reuters and have an influence on them on other issues, like on the Iraq war.”

As far as the larger picture about Hollywood powerbrokers and the exposure of the industry’s homophobia and paranoia, Richmond is pensive.

What I continue to wrestle with is the whole question of how such a gentle, respectful utterance could provoke such a severe and polarizing reaction. I naturally acknowledge that there are two ways of looking at this, and one is that I had no right to override Griffin’s personal decision to keep his private life his own business. I opted instead to err on the side of truth and candor, with the idea that disclosing Merv’s being gay can’t personally impact him after death and — unless we attach shame to it — ought not to taint his legacy in any way. I still firmly believe that and would retract nothing I wrote in the column.

I have to wonder if the response in defense of keeping Griffin’s secret life a secret post-mortem would have been as acute had he died penniless and forgotten. It would seem there is a direct relationship between the size of one’s estate and the level of security guarding his or her heretofore undisclosed sexual preference. It appears that $1.6 billion will buy an awful lot of closet space.

* The Blend/Pandagon:
The dangerous closet of ‘The Mogul
Hollywood trade mag discusses Merv’s closet
Merv Griffin passes away at 82

* Mike Signorile:
Merv Griffin’s Dangerous Closet
Tom Shales speaks out on Merv
The Truth on Merv Bubbles Up
—  Hollywood Reporter Pulls Merv Griffin column!

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding