By Rex Wockner
LOS ANGELES -- Officials of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation met with Hollywood superstar Mel Gibson May 22 to discuss Gibson's tarnished image in the gay community.
In attendance at the hour-plus meeting at Gibson's office, in addition to the actor, were his publicist, Al Nierob, two other Gibson staffers, GLAAD head William Waybourn and GLAAD staffers Tamra King and John Henning.
"We talked about issues of mutual concern, about how we could work together," Waybourn said. "I don't want to say we made progress, that we were encouraged or that we anticipate things will be wonderful ... but I'm optimistic. We anticipate more meetings."
"It was talk," says Nierob. "It was a very good communication. It was mutually beneficial. We'll see what happens. It was important for GLAAD to get to know Mel Gibson directly versus who they think he is or what they think he is."
Gibson first got in hot water with gays because of a December 1991 interview he gave to the Sunday magazine of Spain's largest newspaper, El Pais.
Asked his opinion of homosexuals, he said, "They take it up the ass." According to El Pais, he laughed, got up, bent over, pointed to his butt, and said, "This is only for taking a shit."
The interviewer noted that Gibson previously had expressed fear people would think he is gay because he's an actor. He responded: "With this look, who's going to think I'm gay. I don't lend myself to that type of confusion. Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?"
Two months later, on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," Gibson refused to apologize for the remarks and claimed he had been quoted out of context.
"If someone wants my opinion, I'll give it," he said. "What, am I supposed to lie to them?"
Nierob refused to discuss the Spanish interview.
"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "It was very irrelevant to what we're doing today."
Gibson's reputation among gays suffered further with the release of his Academy Award-winning film "Braveheart," which was denounced by activists as homophobic.
"We talked about stuff that has happened in the past and we agreed it is awkward to go and get into the past," said Waybourn. "Clearly what we're talking about is where do we go from here. ... There is some patience and dialogue that has to occur until we can feel comfortable enough. There's got to be some trust built before we can go on.
"We left it with the importance of sharing information and working toward some resolution," Waybourn said. "If we can come to a mutual agreement to work together, it will send shockwaves through the industry and set the standard for the rest of the industry."