Diversity Rules Magazine welcomes Michael Musto as its October feature interview.
Michael Musto is an American journalist who has maintained a prevalent presence in entertainment-related publications, as well as on websites and television shows. Musto is a former columnist for The Village Voice, where he wrote the La Dolce Musto column of gossip, nightlife, reviews, interviews, and political observations. He is the author of the books Downtown and Manhattan on the Rocks, as well as a compilation of selected columns published as La Dolce Musto. His subsequent collection, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back, was published in 2011.
Musto is starring in Eric Rivas’ remake of his cult-classic film, “Japanese Borscht,” which premieres in New York City at Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave) on October 5 at 8 pm. Musto plays a gay Mafioso named Uncle. According to Musto, “He’s barbaric — he’s a mobster — and his sexuality proves that some very rotten people can be gay.”
JRK: Before we get into the interview can you tell readers a bit about Michael Musto, where you are from and all that good introductory stuff?
MM: I was born in NYC, raised in Brooklyn, went to Columbia, and have been a diehard New Yorker my whole life. I have always pursued both journalism and entertainment, so I’ve become a sort of columnist/personality who can review a play as well as appear in a movie or a duets show. For 29 years, I wrote the “La Dolce Musto” nightlife/show biz column in the Village Voice and was given great freedom to explore my voice and break boundaries with it. Today, I write a weekly column for NewNowNext.com and am involved in many other exciting projects as well.
JRK: Your most recent project is the role of a gay Mafioso named “Uncle” in the cult classic “Japanese Borscht.” Can you tell us about the movie and the character you play in it? How did you get cast in the role? Was it a role you actively sought out?
MM: The movie is a remake of Rivas’ previous film of the same name. Rivas had used me as a crazed doctor named Hedda Hopper in Vamp Bikers 3, the last film in a very edgy trilogy, and I really camped it up. He called upon me to play Uncle, and I said yes, loving the idea of playing a gay mafioso who may not fit into stereotypical ideas of machismo, but who definitely gets the job done and who has a strict moral code, even if it’s basically quite immoral. It was fun to inject some sensitivity and vulnerability into a guy who’s essentially a brute.
JRK: The film premieres in New York City at Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave) on October 5 at 8 pm. What exciting stuff is planned for the premiere? What will you wear? Who will you bring as your date?
MM: I guess there will be a red carpet and maybe speeches and definitely photo ops. I will wear something blindingly sparkly since it’s a premiere, not a wake! And I will come alone because the friend I brought to the Vamp Bikers 3 premiere left in the middle, holding his stomach (which I actually thought was a good review).
JRK: In addition to your acting career, you are also a prominent gay writer, who for 20 years wrote the popular entertainment column “La Dolce Musto.” Can you tell us about that and what inspired you to start writing the column?
MM: As a kid, I came from a relatively nonverbal home and I was painfully shy, so I learned to express myself through writing. I would go to see movies and then come home and write little reviews on index cards, just for myself. I quickly realized that this would be my best form of communication, so I pursued that as a career and did well with it. But I also now talk a lot and am asked to do so on TV and in documentaries, so in general, communication has become my livelihood, my catharsis, and my gratification. I got the Voice column in 1984 when there was an opening there and I pitched myself, having done pieces for them before. They had me do a sample column and they liked it, so they gave me the freedom to use my space (which eventually included blogging, in addition to the column) in liberating ways. The Voice wanted someone to write up the clubs of the moment, as well as movies, theater, and everything else in the culture, and I was plugged into all of that and delighted to inject my personal voice into it as well as political spin. As for TV, in the ‘80s, I did segments for MTV, and in the ‘90s, I became a regular on E!’s The Gossip Show. It’s been a wild ride ever since.
JRK: You have a reputation as being the “world’s most outrageous columnist.” How did you earn such a prestigious title?
MM: I have long been pretty fearless in being openly gay, wearing outrageous outfits, and writing things the mainstream media wouldn’t dare to go near. I have also celebrated outrageous personalities on the club scene, long before some of them became household names. I have a strong affinity for people who live on the edge and have the boldness to tap into their inner fabulous diva and help the nightlife sparkle. I feel like part of that family as much as I am part of the button-down media.
JRK: While with The Village Voice, you are credited with bringing national media attention to the murder of Angel Melendez by club kid king Michael Alig. Can you tell us what that was all about?
MM: I had long admired what was good about Alig’s club kid caravan while also critiquing the increasing amorality and wantonness. Alig called to tell me he was fired from Limelight and was out of his apartment, and he truly sounded like a hopeless mess. I asked around and heard the murder buzz about Alig and Freeze (Robert Riggs) having killed Angel in a scuffle. I put in a reference, then followed that with my infamous blind item, and Page Six picked up those, and a New York magazine item. The upshot of this horror story was that nightlife without any boundaries can lead to great harm, though that was then, and used to a crackdown on clubs, which are now practically like gift shops at Disneyland.
JRK: As per one of your book descriptions, you were “the first openly gay gossip columnist who encouraged closeted celebrities to come out for years before it became okay to address performers’ sexuality in the daily columns. You were reviled, and called a “gay Nazi” by Rosie O’Donnell.” How did you handle all the repercussions from those who were not ready to come out? What was the motivation to “out” entertainers in such a fashion?
MM: I long felt it was ridiculous for celebrities to cower in the closet, and especially absurd for the media to go along with that. The gossip media writes all sorts of invasive and negative things about public figures, but when it comes to queer sexuality, they are suddenly, hypocritically silent. And as AIDS kept mounting in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a lot of the community had no patience for that. Michelangelo Signorile was a great mentor to me as far as blasting open the celebrity closet by simply telling the truth. We didn’t make these celebrities queer, we were just saying they are. Most of them ended up coming out, and Rosie even hosted a roast in my honor in 2017 and we are now aligned.
JRK: Do you think the resistance to come out has lessened any since that time, given the greater acceptance of LGBTQ actors and performers?
MM: So many queer celebrities are out now that, yes, the resistance to such a thing has gone way down. It seems like you’re in the minority if you’re still in the closet. It’s lonelier than ever.
JRK: We are in very trying times at the moment politically, with racism and prejudice running rampant, especially against LGBTQ individuals. What advice do you have for those being persecuted by those empowered by the toxic rhetoric coming out of the White House and from other right-wing politicians and fake Christians?
MM: It is horrifying that our rights are at great risk, largely thanks to godsent haters who only read the parts of the bible that can oppress already marginalized people, and who ignore the positive messages, not to mention the passages that would label Trump a hellbent sinner who violates most of the Commandments. I’d say keep trucking, keep your spirits up, be vocal, fight back, don’t be complacent, and VOTE, and we will soldier through this mess. There will always be hate-mongering, but we’ve been through too much to sit back and take it anymore.
JRK: What advice do you have for aspiring writers (yours truly included) who are struggling to make their marks in such a competitive profession?
MM: It’s a difficult time for a writer to make a living, so I’d advise that you have a backup plan (or family money), but still, if you have a passion for writing and are good at it, and are not terrified of deadlines, pursue it! Just write a lot (whether on a blog or wherever you can), pursue editors with links of your work, and become connected to the world of media. If you are able to deliver a well researched, structured and written article on or before the deadline, you’ve already won half the battle.
JRK: Do you have any parting thoughts you would like to leave readers?
MM: Go out there and find your voice and then express yourselves! I’ll love you for it!