Anderson Cooper says Richard Gere helped him realize he was gay

Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper (Photo: Shutterstock)

Anderson Cooper has revealed the role actor Richard Gere played in his sexual awakening.

On Friday he appeared with his pal, Andy Cohen, on the latter’s Radio Andy. To mark Pride and the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, they broadcast from the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

News presenter and journalist Cooper is famously the son of the late fashion designer, Gloria Vanderbilt. When he was a child, her gay friends, including Truman Capote and Gore Vidal, would visit her.

On another occasion, the photographer Paul Jasmin and his boyfriend took Cooper, to see a Broadway performance of the play Bent. He recalls being aged 11 at the time he saw it.

It starred Richard Gere, who was beginning to make waves in Hollywood.

“And they took me to see Richard Gere in Bent, which if anyone doesn’t know about the play Bent, it’s about two gay guys in the concentration camp,” Cooper recounted. “I mean the opening scene… It is the gayest thing you can imagine.

“And this was Richard Gere in 1977, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. He was so beautiful. And I’m there. My mom didn’t go. It was just me and my mom’s two gay friends,” he continued.

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He explained how the opening scene features a man getting out of bed naked, after sleeping with another man, and putting on an SS uniform.

“And I just remember being like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gay. … I’m totally gay.’ And afterward, Paul Jasmin was friends with Richard Gere,” he said. “Cause Paul Jasmin took the pictures for American Gigolo and we go backstage and Richard Gere is shirtless in his dressing room.

“And I couldn’t speak. And I had my Playbill and I wanted to get him to autograph it, but I was too — I just couldn’t stop staring at his chest. And so, fast forward to 10 years ago, I was interviewing Richard Gere and I took out the Playbill … and I told him the whole story and I had him sign it. Yeah. He was very tickled with it,” Cooper added.

Cooper’s memory of dates might be a little off. According to Playbill, Richard Gere starred in Bent on Broadway in 1979. Cooper, born 1967, would have been 13 at the time of that run.

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Cooper said that he told his mom he was gay right after he graduated college, but by that stage, he’d already had a boyfriend for around three years that his mom had met and who had stayed over for sleepovers.

“I stupidly said, ‘I think I’m gay.’ I should have… but I wanted to couch it. And she said, ‘Huh. Well, don’t make any definite decisions.’”

Cohen expresses surprise at this.

“It was kind of surprising,” Cooper agrees. “She was cool about it but she was like, ‘Don’t make any definite decisions’, which was not the response I was expecting.”

He decided not to raise the subject again for a little while, but also explained why the issue of homosexuality may have been something of an issue for his mom. He told Cohen his mom’s mom, his maternal grandmother, had a lesbian affair in the early 1930s, which resulted in her losing custody of Gloria as a child. He suggested this was another factor in his mom not immediately rushing to embrace the news.

Check out his recollections below.