In 2006 Charlie Crist became the first bachelor governor of Florida in 40 years. He had been married once — for six months in 1979 — but took a vow of celibacy for many of the years to follow. Shortly after being elected governor Crist finally gave up that vow for former Miss South Carolina Kelly Heyniger. The two broke up in 2007. Heyniger was recently approached by Kirby Dick, the filmmaker behind the new documentary Outrage, to comment on their relationship.
“I think I should keep my mouth shut,” Heyniger told Dick. “Contact me in 10 years and I’ll tell you a story.”
It seems that Dick beat Heyniger to it. The story goes something like this: Crist, who campaigned for a same-sex marriage ban, openly supported Florida’s ban on gay adoption and has appointed two hardline antigay justices, is gay.
But you already knew that, right?
“If you’re not following politics closely, a lot of this should come as a real surprise, even if you’re gay,” Dick says in an interview following the film’s premiere late April at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (its Canadian premiere is at Hot Docs on Thu, May 7). “I mean, I was surprised that some audiences were really caught so off guard by this information. And that points to the question, ‘Why?’”
Dick believes the mainstream media has refused to investigate claims that Crist, or the dozens of mostly Republican politicians like him, are closeted homosexuals.
“The gay press has covered it for 20 years,” Dick says. “The mainstream press has not, and that has allowed the closet to exist. I’m hopeful that by a film coming out with this significance, if you will, that the mainstream press will start writing about this and in 20 years the closet will be much less of an issue in American politics.”
The film, which Dick finished cutting just five days before its premiere, has already been making strides. The Los Angeles Times has already covered it and as the film begins to open across the US in May and Canada in June it’s sure to ignite a bit of a storm. Through interviews with politicians’ former lovers, statements from both investigative journalists, notorious bloggers and a few rare openly gay politicians (including outed New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who attended the Tribeca screening and was reportedly unimpressed with the inclusion of interviews with his ex-wife, Dina), Dick firmly exposes truths about not only Crist, but a campaign manager of a recent US president, a West Coast congressman, a former New York City mayor and many others.
Dick found a serious challenge in getting people to speak on record. “First of all, we had to convince them that this wasn’t a tabloid film,” he says. “But I think in the end, the reason so many people jumped on board was that they’d experienced this — either in the closet or out.”
Dick’s previous doc was on film censorship, This Film Is Not Yet Rated. “It was a story that I knew because I worked inside the film business,” Dick says. While promoting that film in Washington, DC, he says he “thought there must be many stories in DC that only people in DC would know.
“So I started asking around and very quickly people started talking about these rumours about closeted gay politicians. And I think it became significant when it rose to the level of hypocrisy. They were voting antigay but were in the closet themselves.”
Dick acknowledges there were many people he chose not to discuss in Outrage, drawing the line at hypocrisy.
“If somebody’s in the closet and voting antigay then that was worthy of reporting on,” he says. “Arguments can be made to go beyond that. For example, there are discussions around the outing of celebrities. I mean, perhaps major movie stars have more power than even a senator and that, if they came out as role models, they could actually change the climate in this country. That is a more complex issue and there are arguments to be made on both sides. I couldn’t include that in my film because I really had my hands full with Washington.