$1 MILLION AT STAKE IN FOX'S 'PLAYING IT STRAIGHT' REALITY SERIES
By Kim McNabb
Mixing gay men and straight men is the hot trend in reality TV. First the Fab Five turned hopeless straight men into more fashionable, cultural, romantic and suave lads. This week on Comedy Central straight men return the favor and challenge and help some gay guys pass as straight for a day and pursue their "blue-collar" dreams. This past summer Bravo aired the gay dating reality show "Boy Meets Boy" that had a gay guy choosing a partner, the twist being some of the potential winners were straight men. Now it's a straight woman's turn to choose a man on Fox's "Playing it Straight." The catch is that she's choosing from 14 men, some straight and some gay, and no one knows who is what. If in the end she manages to choose a straight man the couple will split the $1 million prize. If a gay man manages to fool her to the end and is chosen, he wins the $1 million.
The host of "Playing It Straight" is comedian Daphne Brogdan, a brassy bombshell who likes all men. She says the show will keep audiences buzzing over who is gay and who isn't. It also shows gay men and straight men together in a new way, she says.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between gay men and straight men just by looking at them, Brogdan says. Straight men and their newfound "metrosexuality" and gay buff boys confuse previous standards of identification.
"It can be hard. I dated a guy in college who I thought might be gay, but he was super fine and we had a great time together. He got busy and everything seemed to work," Brogdon said. "He came out a couple of years later. Now, I am great friends with him and his boyfriend. Brogdon once questioned a straight man before dating him because she thought he was gay. "I finally said to him straight out, 'you seem really gay!' he said he wasn't," she said. "Odd though. He flipped his hair a lot and pursed his lips all the time. He is still dating women."
Brogdon thinks sexuality is not as black and white as it used to be. "Last weekend in Palm Springs a gay guy started French kissing me. Sexuality isn't black and white. Short answer? Yes, it's very hard to tell," she said.
Once filming began Brogdon could not confidently say who was gay and who was straight. "I was often wrong," she said. "One guy-I saw his picture before they arrived and I was screaming, 'Hello Nelly!' and I was wrong. There were several that had me going back and forth the whole time. A few I was sure were gay, but weren't and vice versa. A couple made my jaw drop. And the gay guys could be better flirters...with me. Remember the gay guys didn't know who was gay or straight so it's not like I would come into the living room and see a hot oil massage orgy...not that I would have minded-our guys were cute."
Brogdan stated that most of the good "dirt" from the filming ends up on screen. "A surprise departure, a visit to an emergency room, a battle over a blow dryer. You know, the kind of stuff you expect from a house full of boys," she said.
Along with Brogdan the crew enjoyed watching the behind-the-scenes shenanigans. "The crew and the production staff had their favorites on the show-those we wanted to stay and those we wanted to go. We could only watch them like lab rats," she said. "We often thought, 'I can't believe she's going to fall for the old line, it's as old as dirt.' I was surprised how emotional I got after some of the guys were eliminated. It got hectic. Especially when people are talking about true feelings and coming out of the closet."
With 14 guys living together so intimately, attractions and relationships popping up between contestants seemed a likely possibility. Brogdan says that didn't happen, though it was discussed. "No one hooked up on camera. There was a conversation about something of that nature, well, you...girls do talk," she said.
And as one of only two women around the group of men Brogdan enjoyed her time flirting with the guys, including the gay ones. "Hey, why limit myself to the straight ones?" she said. "I think a roll in the hay with me is not too big a price to pay in order to win a million dollars. That's a lot of turquoise. Hell, for a million we could have a ceremony in Providence. Seriously, though, I was dating someone when we were filming and secondly, more importantly, I am a professional."
Brogdan said putting gay men and straight men together in this way challenges some misconceptions of how gay and straight men relate to each other. She said that men will not necessarily divide themselves along gay and straight identities. "Straight guys can sell each other out and so can gay guys," she said. "People divide along character, not sexual orientation. Another couple of misconceptions I'd like to clear up is that the cutest guys are always gay. Also, that gay guys don't like to be sexual with a woman. If I get any more specific I think I will give some of the game away."
Also, the biggest queen on the set was not a gay man, but a straight one, she said.
Brogdan appreciates what both gay men and straight men have to offer.
When Brogdan was asked, "Would you rather spend your life with a caring, sensitive, cultured gay guy who's not interested in sex or a schlubby, straight, couch-potato sex maniac?" she answered, "I'd spend most of the time with the gay guy, but I'd go home and climb on top of my couch potato like I was scaling Mt. Everest."