The gay kiss on “The Today Show”
Remember when Will and Jack smooched in front of Al Roker on an episode of Will & Grace that had them going to watch The Today Show to make a political statement about men kissing. It turns out that episode was inspired by a real life incident on the show in 1999 also involving Roker.
Brian Patrick Thorton recalled the lip-lock with then-boyfriend Rich on his blog. Here is part of it:
It was to be ambush theater at its best.
Rich and I were two young, hot-headed queer activists in love. We’d met in the aftermath of the terrible October 1998 Matthew Shepard political funeral, during which dozens of mourners were arrested by New York City police. Since then we’d protested other hate violence, as well as police brutality in the city.
So kissing on TV? That was nothing.
We bandied a few ideas around, including throwing the Today producers the raw meat of two military men in uniform, an idea I vetoed because my father was in the Army, and it seemed like it would muddle the issue. Were we protesting TV kisses or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?
We finally settled on the live-TV bait that is a marriage proposal, which is how that Monday morning at 6 a.m., we were standing in the Rockefeller Plaza with a sign that read: “Jill, Will U Marry Me?” The outdoor producer loved the idea of a man proposing to his girlfriend back in Ohio, and sprinted inside to run it by the higher-ups.
But that morning, the first three Al Roker weather segments passed us over. We thought they must have figured us out as homos, despite our wearing our most heterosexual outfits. (Mine included an ill-fitting Structure polo shirt.)
But then, in the 8:30 half-hour, Roker walked over to a couple celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary. What’s your secret, he asked. Pray, the husband answered.
That finished, Roker barreled down the line of gathered fans, proclaiming that there was a guy who had something to ask. And with that, the camera and microphone were thrust in Rich’s and my faces.
“Jill, I’ve got something I have to tell you,” I stammered. “I’m so happy that I love … Rich!”
And with that, I turned to Rich, and we mashed our lips together in what is possibly the most awkwardly fashioned kiss in TV history. But it was history: the first (real) gay-male kiss broadcast in the U.S.