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'Cojo,' in NBC 'Today Show' Banter, Softens View Toward Gays

  • Brent Thompson Baptist Press
  • 2004 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
'Cojo,' in NBC 'Today Show' Banter, Softens View Toward Gays

NEW YORK — Fashion maven Steven "Cojo" Cojocaru must be pretty funny and loads of fun to be with. How else to explain the gales of laughter from "Today Show" co-hosts Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales on a Christmas gift segment Dec. 16 titled, "Test the heat of your holiday kiss?"

Ann Curry: So! Speaking of which; talk about unmentionables that we may want to mention. What's that about?

Steven Cojocaru: Well, you know, they say, I don't know who said this, but I think my mother once said to me, 'Every woman should have expensive French lingerie once in their life.' Those were my first words: 'Women's French lingerie.' (Laughter) Anyway, so --

Natalie Morales: What's that in French?

Cojocaru: I don't know. (Stammers in mock French accent) Lingerie du France? I don't speak French! Je ne sais quois! Anyway.... (Giggles from co-hosts) So, where are they?

(Cojo picks up a pair of thong underwear and holds them up for the camera and co-hosts to see.)

Cojocaru: So, now I want to introduce you to the most decadent French lingerie: cashmere. The cashmere thong. Cashmere panties. And these, I swear to you, are all the rage in Paris right now. They are really, really hot. For men, for women: yeah.

Matt Lauer: How much are those?

Cojocaru: They are expensive. They are $168.

Morales: 100 percent cashmere?

Cojocaru: Yes, they are. They are 100 percent.

Lauer: Machine washable?

Cojocaru: Yes, they are. Matt, (lighthearted scolding tone) I've done my homework, OK? They are machine washable. You will be glad to know that they breathe.

Lauer: How would you know that?

Cojocaru: Um. Because I tested them. I wore them last night to bed. There is no spontaneous combustion. They are beautiful. And --

Lauer: OK. (Curry and Morales continuously giggle)

Cojocaru (voice rising): And I want to stop talking about them because --

Lauer (trying to help): You feel like --

Cojocaru (mock exasperation): I feel like I'm really (loud laughter from the female co-hosts) a dirty joke is coming or something!

Lauer: No, no. It's not.

Cojocaru -- Who?

Many people who see Cojocaru on television for the first time mistake him for a woman. Perhaps it's the haystack hairstyle: hazel brown with blonde highlights obviously coiffed by a high-priced hair stylist. He even joked about it on the Christmas gift segment.

Cojocaru: In honor of the holidays, I tweaked my hair a little. Doesn't it look like a little Christmas tree? (Laughter all around) Or like a Hanukkah bush?

Lauer: It looks like, though, that you need to water that Christmas tree. (Laughter)

Cojocaru: Yeah. I told my hairdresser, "Make a nice little nativity scene in there."

Cojocaru's makeup is what women might describe as "tastefully applied" to accentuate lips and eyes. Rouge, lipstick, foundation, eye shadow and mascara set off brown eyes and a smile that seems to contain a panorama of bleach-white, perfectly aligned teeth.

The 5-o'clock shadow and Adam's apple provoke a double-take. Then the voice that holds "s" sounds just a little too long; it's somehow deep yet feminine at the same time.

Cojocaru is America's fashion expert du jour. The 40-something Montreal native made a name for himself by going to entertainment award shows and making sassy, some would say catty, evaluations of what Hollywood stars were wearing. He makes regular appearances for television shows like Today, "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood." He is the "West Coast style editor" for People magazine. This past year he authored an autobiography titled, "Red Carpet Diaries: Confession of a Glamour Boy."

Is Cojocaru gay? He deliberately avoids answering that question. He says nothing of his sexual orientation in his book. Instead, he characterizes himself as a freak or different.

Cojocaru states that he is proud to be "a sissy," believing that looking and acting the way he does gives children who feel different and out of place someone with whom to identify.

"I don't want to blow this out of proportion," Cojocaru said in a 2003 interview with Gia Kourlas of the entertainment-themed Time Out-New York magazine, "but sometimes when I'm on Today and I say something really saucy, I feel, 'That's one for the misfits. One crazy train-wreck mental case managed to slip through.'"

In an interview with Hank Stuever of The Washington Post in 2003, Cojocaru was quoted as saying, "I think to walk around and talk about being gay-gay-gay would just ... trivialize what I am. Better to just be it and not talk about it."

Stuever, describing Cojocaru as a role model for homosexuals in "post-gay" America, wrote: "Smart, covert gay banter is taking over, without crossed signals or viewer protest. Cojocaru, who says there is no boyfriend or partner in his life, pretends -- on air and perhaps a smidgen for real -- to have a crush on Lauer (who is happily married). Lauer appears comfortable with this, under a safe sheen of mock hetero horror. [Today Show co-host Katie] Couric and news anchor Ann Curry turn into a giggly Betty and Veronica during all this."

So What?

Ed Vitagliano, a spokesman for the American Family Association, sees the Cojocaru phenomenon as presenting a thorny problem for Christians: Cojocaru is a manifestation of gay activists' deliberate plan to utilize the media to "homosexualize" America.

"In the late 1980s, a book called 'After the Ball' was published by a couple of homosexual activists," Vitagliano said in an interview with Baptist Press. "Their goal was to use entertainment not necessarily to get Americans to love or embrace gays. Instead, they wanted to get Americans to simply shrug their shoulders at them. That's what's happening [with Cojocaru]."

Cojocaru is "a likeable guy," Vitagliano said of the intentionally androgynous media personality. "The plan of the gay agenda is to get the emphasis off what he does in his bedroom.... 'Forget about what I am' is part of that whole attempt.... It demonstrates how successful the homosexual movement has been to get discussion off the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room. They have captured the ground for defining the debate."

The Parenting Challenge

The prevalence of Cojocaru, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Will & Grace," Ellen Degeneres and other friendly, funny gays in entertainment means that Christian parents must face the issues head-on, Vitagliano said.

"This issue is ubiquitous," he said. "Christians can't isolate themselves."

Vitagliano advises parents to teach their children about the biblical design for men, women and human sexuality.

"Arm them with the truth," he said. "Build for them a biblical case for why this is wrong."

Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual, sees the challenge is for Christian parents as teaching their children about holiness, not heterosexuality.

"It is a lie to say that the remedy for homosexuality is heterosexuality. That is heresy. That is as Paul says in Galatians 'preaching a different gospel,'" said Wilkins, founder of Cross Ministry, based in Wake Forest, N.C., which conducts "More Than Words" conferences for assisting the church "to evangelize and disciple the homosexual."

"In a real sense, sexuality is not the real issue here. The real issue is a broken image," Wilkins told Baptist Press.

"For the past hundred years or so, psychologists, psychotherapists and everybody else have been dealing with the wrong issue. Even those who thought homosexuality was wrong and abnormal, their focus has been on how to become heterosexual. We have missed the boat. Even the Christian community thinks that is where freedom comes from."

Wilkins, who has been married since 1993 and is father to three children, says churches must teach purity and holiness.

"The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality. The opposite of homosexuality is holiness," Wilkins said. "The only sexual relationship that existed before the fall of man was the husband-wife relationship. After the fall of man, counterfeits to God's creative design emerged. Some of those counterfeits were adultery, fornication and homosexuality."

Behind the Laughter

Back on Today, Matt Lauer comments to Cojocaru: We know that you love us, but apparently there is a way you can actually show us.

Cojocaru: Now, scientifically, I am going to show (exaggerated voice) how much I love you guys en masse. Forget about mistletoe. Mistletoe is so last year. This is the next level of mistletoe.

Ann Curry: Are you going to get to something?

Cojocaru: I am. I am. Matt, get ready.

Curry and Natalie Morales: Aaah! (Laughter from being clued in)

Lauer: Three choices on the couch, but I have to be singled out!

Cojocaru: OK. But don't get thrown by the word. It's called a "Love Tester," which sounds a little naughty. This is a Love Tester. (Cojocaru holds up a six-inch, bulbous glass tube with a rounded base filled with colored fluid) It's a stocking stuffer. It's 10 bucks. And you put it in the palm of your -- (trails off; Cojo puts the rounded glass bottle in the palm of his hand and encloses his fingers around it) and it's filled with liquid. I believe it's Angelina Jolie's blood (Laughter), two for the price of one (Laughter), or Billy Bob's [blood] (Laughter). Put it in the palm of your hand, and you point it at the person you think you -- (trails off; Curry and Morales coo knowingly as Cojocaru points the object at Lauer) Matt, I -- (Trails off, laughter)

Cojocaru (screams as the object fails to perform): Matt, I don't love you! (Laughter; then, as Cojocaru waves the glass bottle around, the contents appear to bubble up) See, I love all of you! It boils over. Why don't you test it on each other to see how you feel about each other?

Vitagliano suggested that the fact that so many Americans are laissez-faire about Cojocaru and "flamboyant, flaming" homosexual men in general is evidence of a darkened spiritual condition that is enveloping the culture.

"If there is no God," Vitagliano said, "and if there is no design to human gender and sexuality, then they [the homosexual movement] are correct in saying that being gay is no big deal.... Too many Christians are loathe to bringing the argument back to the elephant in the room, back to whether there is a God. The culture has moved beyond the place where we can have those discussions."


© 2004 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.