“This ain’t Johnny [Carson], I ain’t gonna run from it. I’m going to deal with it.”
In 1991, late-night talk show host Arsenio Hall got into a heated exchange with gay rights activists from Queer Nation after they disrupted his show. The protesters were angry at Hall for not featuring gay guests on The Arsenio Hall Show. In the exchange, Hall took a firm pro-gay stance, which was a rarity on television 25 years ago.
“You think I haven’t had somebody on my show because they’re gay? What’s wrong with you, man?” Hall yelled at a protester. “The one thing that I would not do is discriminate against a guest because of their sexual preference. To be honest with you, there are a lot of gay guests on this show, but it ain’t none of your damn business that they’re gay.”
Two years ago, Hall gave an interview with the Logo cable network, explaining why the protests bothered him so much. “It’s because I knew who I was. I knew a lot of my friends didn’t come to my defense when everyone was in the closet,” Hall says. “I can give you 20 guests on my show in a month [who were gay], but they weren’t talking about it. Luther Vandross ain’t talking about it. He can’t at that time. Louie Anderson can’t then. Ellen can’t then. Rosie can’t then.”