Signorile, Michelangelo, 1960-....

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1960-12-19

Biographical notes:

In 1988, at the age of 27, Michelangelo Signorile was a gossip columnist covering the wild nightclub scene of the 1980s, searching out the scene of the moment-whether it was Area, the Limelight, or the Palladium-in hopes of the hottest celebrity tidbit. Political activism may have been the farthest thing from his mind as he jotted down every juicy detail, but one night-as he describes in his first book, Queer in America -he was enticed into conversation by a pair of attractive, muscled members of ACT UP. Weeks later, he joined a group of activists at St. Peter's Church in midtown Manhattan for a protest of a speech by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Although he had joined them somewhat apprehensively, the harsh words of the vocally anti-gay leader soon drove him to wave his fists and shout to the shocked cathedral that Ratzinger was "no man of God." The afternoon ended with the sudden activist, and five others, in handcuffs.

As Signorile explains, the experience at St. Peter's proved to be a pivotal one. "My nightclub life almost completely stopped… It seemed pointless to go to these plastic affairs and have dull, irrelevant conversations after spending all day on ACT UP… I was feeling powerful about being gay." His new focus on gay activism sent his writing career on a political, oft-times controversial direction. By the summer of 1989, Signorile had become one of the founding editors of Outweek, a weekly gay magazine, where his all-cap diatribes against the right-wing and the gay closet would soon help fuel a national controversy on the ethics of "outing." In the process, it would also firmly establish his career.

A New York resident for the majority of his life thus far, Signorile was born to an Italian-American family in 1960, spending his youth in Brooklyn and Staten Island. He was educated at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Staten Island. His work as a publicist for an entertainment PR firm eventually led to his nightclub-circuit gossip column in Nightlife magazine. At Outweek, Signorile penned a weekly column called GossipWatch, wherein, amidst other topics, he would demand that gay and lesbian celebrities stand up for their community by publicly declaring their homosexuality.

The outing debate hit the national media via Outweek 's pages with the posthumous outing of Malcolm Forbes, the renowned publishing tycoon. Signorile felt that the media's praise of Forbes as an American success story was consciously leaving out an important aspect of his life-that he was gay. The Outweek exposé sparked a debate on the ethics of outing and raised the question of whether there was a double standard in the way the media approached individual privacy. After the abrupt closure of Outweek in 1991, Signorile joined The Advocate as a columnist, where he gained further notoriety by outing Pete Williams, lead spokesman for the Pentagon during the Gulf War. He pointed out an apparent hypocrisy in Dick Cheney and the Pentagon's tacitly accepting Williams' homosexuality while they simultaneously led a military that banned all gays and lesbians.

Signorile's politically-charged writing at Outweek and The Advocate eventually drove the creation of his first book, Queer in America, a part-autobiography, part-reporting work published in 1993. In the book, he confronted institutionalized closets in the media, Hollywood, and the United States government-"the Trinity of the closet"-and examined how damaging closets could be for individuals in power and for the American society they affected.

Two years later, the press suggested that Signorile had softened his image after he published his second book, Outing Yourself, which described 14 steps towards coming out of the closet. Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, he worked as a columnist for Out magazine, and later returned to The Advocate as an editor-at-large. At Out, columns on topics such as pro-life gays, animal rights, gay marriage, and bareback sex continued his knack for controversy. In a 1994 column, "Unsafe Like Me," he sparked an important debate on unsafe sex amongst gay men by admitting that he himself had recently had unprotected sex. His third book, Life Outside, published in 1997, continued his analysis of gay behavior in the 90s with an investigation of the gay circuit-party scene, its emphasis on body image and drugs, and the search for life outside of it.

In 2003, at 42 years old, Signorile writes "The Gist" published weekly in New York Press and on www.signorile.com, wherein he tackles a spectrum of national issues, often returning to the unfinished battles of gay activism. He plans to publish a book on Italian-Americans on Staten Island later in 2003.

Sources:

Queer in America, New York, NY: Random House, 1993. Outing Yourself, New York, NY: Random House, 1995. Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles and the Passages of Life, New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1997.

From the guide to the Michelangelo Signorile Papers, ca. 1985-2000, (New York University)

In 1988, at the age of 27, Michelangelo Signorile was a gossip columnist covering the wild nightclub scene of the 1980s, searching out the scene of the moment-whether it was Area, the Limelight, or the Palladium-in hopes of the hottest celebrity tidbit. Political activism may have been the farthest thing from his mind as he jotted down every juicy detail, but one night-as he describes in his first book, Queer in America -he was enticed into conversation by a pair of attractive, muscled members of ACT UP. Weeks later, he joined a group of activists at St. Peter's Church in midtown Manhattan for a protest of a speech by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. Although he had joined them somewhat apprehensively, the harsh words of the vocally anti-gay leader soon drove him to wave his fists and shout to the shocked cathedral that Ratzinger was "no man of God." The afternoon ended with the Signorile and five others in handcuffs.

As Signorile explains, the experience at St. Peter's proved to be a pivotal one. "My nightclub life almost completely stopped… It seemed pointless to go to these plastic affairs and have dull, irrelevant conversations after spending all day on ACT UP… I was feeling powerful about being gay." His new focus on gay activism sent his writing career on a political, and often controversial direction. By the summer of 1989, Signorile had become one of the founding editors of Outweek, a weekly gay magazine, where his all-cap diatribes against the right-wing and the gay closet would soon help fuel a national controversy on the ethics of "outing." In the process, it would also firmly establish his career.

A New York resident for the majority of his life thus far, Signorile was born to an Italian-American family in 1960, spending his youth in Brooklyn and Staten Island. He was educated at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Staten Island. His work as a publicist for an entertainment PR firm eventually led to his nightclub-circuit gossip column in Nightlife magazine. At Outweek, Signorile penned a weekly column called GossipWatch, wherein, amidst other topics, he would demand that gay and lesbian celebrities stand up for their community by publicly declaring their homosexuality.

The outing debate hit the national media via Outweek 's pages with the posthumous outing of Malcolm Forbes, the renowned publishing tycoon. Signorile felt that the media's praise of Forbes as an American success story was consciously leaving out an important aspect of his life-that he was gay. The Outweek exposé sparked a debate on the ethics of outing and raised the question of whether there was a double standard in the way the media approached individual privacy. After the abrupt closure of Outweek in 1991, Signorile joined The Advocate as a columnist, where he gained further notoriety by outing Pete Williams, lead spokesman for the Pentagon during the Gulf War. He pointed out an apparent hypocrisy in Dick Cheney and the Pentagon's tacitly accepting Williams' homosexuality while they simultaneously led a military that banned all gays and lesbians.

Signorile's politically-charged writing at Outweek and The Advocate eventually drove the creation of his first book, Queer in America, a part-autobiography, part-reporting work published in 1993. In the book, he confronted institutionalized closets in the media, Hollywood, and the United States government-"the Trinity of the closet"-and examined how damaging closets could be for individuals in power and for the American society they affected.

Two years later, the press suggested that Signorile had softened his image after he published his second book, Outing Yourself, which described 14 steps towards coming out of the closet. Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, he worked as a columnist for Out magazine, and later returned to The Advocate as an editor-at-large. At Out, columns on topics such as pro-life gays, animal rights, gay marriage, and bareback sex continued his knack for controversy. In a 1994 column, "Unsafe Like Me," he sparked an important debate on unsafe sex amongst gay men by admitting that he himself had recently had unprotected sex. His third book, Life Outside, published in 1997, continued his analysis of gay behavior in the 90s with an investigation of the gay circuit-party scene, its emphasis on body image and drugs, and the search for life outside of it.

As of 2003, at 42 years old, Signorile was writing "The Gist" published weekly in New York Press and on www.signorile.com, where he tackled a spectrum of national issues, often returning to the unfinished battles of gay activism. He planned to publish a book on Italian-Americans on Staten Island in 2003.

Sources:

Queer in America, New York, NY: Random House, 1993. Outing Yourself, New York, NY: Random House, 1995. Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles and the Passages of Life, New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1997.

From the guide to the Michelangelo Signorile Papers, ca. 1985-2000, (© 2009 Fales Library and Special Collections)

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Subjects:

  • Catholic Church

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Washington, DC. (as recorded)
  • Oregon. (as recorded)
  • Oregon. (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Washington, DC. (as recorded)
  • Italy. (as recorded)
  • Italy. (as recorded)
  • New York (State) (as recorded)
  • New York (State) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)