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Michael Musto on His 10 Best Scoops in “The Village Voice”

The NYC-based writer worked at the beloved, just-folded alternative weekly for some 30 years. He helped make the city gossip central.

Photo by David Shankbone/Courtesy of Michael Musto

The Village Voice is now defunct. Owner Pete Barbey made it web-only last year, then last week discontinued the website, too (though it may yet be sold and live on). As people lament the loss of the country’s most famous alternative weekly, now seems like a good time to pat myself on the back and talk about some of the best scoops I ladled in my many years there.

1) I had harsh things to say about Roseanne Barr’s crass behavior…

…and her talk show (1997–2000), which led to Barr herself leaving two messages on my answering machine, reading my review on the air (without insulting me), and even booking me to call in on the show! And the show improved! Back then, she listened and learned, and from then on, we had a great rapport, with Barr giving me funny and enlightened interviews. So what the hell happened?

2) I dished a lot about Madonna’s career…

…and love life through the years, thanks to my proximity to her world and my relentless following of her every move. (At one point, her publicist had blurted to me that Madonna had slept with Vanilla Ice. I also covered Madonna’s gal-palling around with comic Sandra Bernhard, and also with Bernhard’s girlfriend.) In his book Encyclopedia Madonnica, Matthew Rettenmund called me “the ultimate downtown gossip insider” and wrote: “A close observer of Madonna from the beginning, he has heaped praise and scorn on her from time to time, affectionately sending up Sex with a nude image (tuck, yeah!) shot by Catherine McGann on a New Jersey street shortly after that book came out.” Cops pulled up wanting to bust me for indecent exposure, but we simply showed them the Sex book—which was almost impossible to get at that point—and they were thrilled and rode away!

3) I outed Rosie O’Donnell…

…George Michael, Jodie Foster, Whitney Houston, and many other celebrities, who all eventually came out (and O’Donnell became a friend and ally). Even if not everyone at the Voice agreed with my outing public figures, they gave me the freedom to do so. My friend Michelangelo Signorile, the king of outing, empowered me to help change the gossip landscape by not making sexuality taboo. After all, the gossip press reported all kinds of personal things about celebrities—including many things the celebs didn’t want in print—but when it came to gayness, they drew the line. We aimed to shake that up and stop reporters from acting like sexuality was dirty and verboten. And we weren’t making these people gay, we were just saying they were.

I had to chuckle over the fact that Jerry Falwell and I actually agreed on something—that Tinky Winky was gay.

4) In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres was pretty obviously dating Anne Heche…

…but the squeamish media was being shy about going there. I got exclusive info about their canoodling at a lesbian bar, so I phoned that and other stuff in to Page Six (for credit) in order to get it out immediately and stop the evasions. Later, I interviewed Heche for a magazine, and she and DeGeneres called to thank me, so all was good in lesbian land—for a while.

5) In 1995, the documentary The Celluloid Closet came out…

…based on activist-author Vito Russo’s book detailing the gay subtext in Hollywood, and it was narrated by Lily Tomlin (who had helped raise money to produce the film). Well, I got Armistead Maupin—who wrote Tomlin’s narration—on the phone and he was livid! Maupin said that Russo—an out-and-proud presence who had died of AIDS in 1990—must be rolling in his grave to know that Tomlin, a closet case, had narrated his film. Maupin said Tomlin had agreed to come out so as to make sense as narrator of this particular effort, but she didn’t—not till much later. The celluloid closet indeed.

6) In April 1995, I ran an interview with spiraling club-kid leader Michael Alig…

…who said he’d been fired from the club Limelight. I included his point of view, but also added that there was missing-person chatter about someone in Alig’s sphere. That same month, I ran my famous blind item detailing buzz regarding the grisly murder of a drug dealer by Alig and a friend. Page Six picked up my stuff, plus a New York magazine item, and the rest is very sad history.

7) In the ’80s, a woman contacted me to say that there had been a shooting outside the World…

…the popular East Village club, and that she had desperately run into the club to ask the co-owner to use the phone (this was before cell phones), and he refused. The victim died. In defense, the co-owner later told me that all sorts of people came into the club bothering him for stuff and he simply couldn’t accommodate them.

8) With only half tongue in cheek, I told Entertainment Weekly that Tinky Winky…

…the purple Teletubby with the red purse, served a great message “not only that it’s OK to be gay, but the importance of being well accessorized.” However, televangelist Jerry Falwell had a different take; he felt that Tinky’s effeminacy was a menace to society. As I landed in the middle of this hilarious contretemps, I had to chuckle over the fact that Falwell and I actually agreed on something—that Tinky was gay.

9) In 2012, Paul Iacono…

…best known from MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger, came out in my Village Voice blog, La Daily Musto. He called himself both bisexual and a gay man, explaining, “I am attracted to girls. I’m just attracted to guys much more.” Celebrities usually came out with cover stories in national magazines, so I was delighted to have this exclusive in my blog.

10) In 1999, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani met nurse-fundraiser Judith Nathan…

…and the next year, he separated from his wife, Donna Hanover. Well, I had run a blind item about the family-values-toting mayor hooking up with his lady friend in a hotel every week to watch The Sopranos, to name just one activity they engaged in. This was back when few knew about Nathan. Ironically, the hotel was in Times Square, which Giuliani had vowed to clean up!

See more of our Musto pieces here!