The accompanying story, titillatingly titled "Kevin Spacey Has a Secret," opens with writer Tom Junod explaining how his mother "knows" that Spacey is gay.
In short order, Junod goes on to say how "sophisticates" in New York and Los Angeles repeat "the very same rumor, as though my mother, on this count, were truly in the know;...as though the only thing one could possibly say about Kevin Spacey is what everyone has already said, which is that he is supposed to be very smart, that he is supposed to be very private, that he is supposed to be extraordinarily committed to the protection and development of his extraordinary gifts as an actor, and that he is supposed to be gay. And that is all he's supposed to be, by advance billing; that is it."
So, by the second page of the story, readers who might not travel in the same circles as the writer's mom or big-city insiders, have been bombarded with the "rumor" that the L.A. Confidential star is homosexual. Even though the titillatingly titled article never directly supports the rumor and, in fact, spends much of its time discussing not the actor's sexual preferences but his new status as Movie Star.
Spacey calls the article "dishonest and malicious," likening it to a communist witch-hunt. "Esquire has made it abundantly clear that they have now joined the ranks of distasteful journalism, and this mean-spirited, homophobic, offensive article proves that the legacy of Joseph McCarthy is alive and well," the actor said, in a statement.
And Spacey's ill will might have a trickle-down effect on the magazine. The actor's high-powered agent, Brian Gersh of William Morris, is urging his celeb clients to avoid Esquire, according to the Washington Post, one of several journals that have reacted to the piece.
In his column Monday, Post media critic Howard Kurtz says the catty cover story is "a journalistic 'outing' of the kind that became popular in the late '80s and early '90s" and there is no justification or compelling reason to out movie stars.
While the Esquire story juxtaposes speculation with Spacey's own comments to, in the words of its writer, "play with questions of what is identity and where does life end and art begin," critics like Kurtz claim such tactics are deceiving and that Esquire is "outing" Spacey with rumor.
For example, one passage begins coyly: "He came out last spring...when he had no more use for his disguises, when he relaxed by drinking a few vodka-and-tonics and then stood up and finally allowed people to see him for what he was, or at least for who he had become." If you keep reading you realize that doesn't refer to Spacey's own revelation, though, but to the character he plays in the upcoming Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
For its part, Esquire defends its cover story. Editor David Granger tells the Post that criticism over the outing of Spacey is "total bull." He insists his magazine is not "peddling" rumors. But he does say, "When you consider Kevin Spacey, this is the thing you're confronted with, whether it's rumor or perception...The lead is about rumors. It's acknowledged in every sentence."