Sex Comedy To Open Gay Film Fest

Jim VerrarosHe has gone from “American Idol” to gay icon, and with a little luck, Jim Verraros will be a matinee idol.
With a boy-next-door quality, Verraros, a Crystal Lake native, was a contestant on “American Idol’s” first season.
While he hasn’t left music behind (his first album was released last year, and a follow-up is due in 2007), he is pursuing acting. His second film, a sex comedy called “Eating Out 2,” opens the Reeling Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival tonight.
“I still keep in touch with everyone from that first season,” he says. “Of course, it’s getting harder and harder now that we’re all doing our own thing, but there are a few people I talk to regularly, or in Kelly [Clarkson’s] case, we talk through our people.”
Verraros, who lives in East Dundee with his partner of several years, will attend tonight’s screening and post-party, as will the film’s director and co-writer, Phillip J. Bartell (an Illinois native and a graduate of Columbia College’s film school).
Bartell wrote the script earlier this year with Verraros in mind. “I got to pick my favorite characters from the first film,” Bartell says.
In the first film, Verraros’ character Kyle helped his straight roommate pretend to be gay to get the attention of a girl. For the sequel, a series of circumstances has Kyle pretending to be straight.
Brenda Webb, founder of the Reeling Film Festival, says the film represents a new type of queer cinema.
“There is a younger generation that doesn’t strictly define their culture or themselves in strict gay or straight terms,” she says. “People aren’t as defined by their sexuality anymore, and this film really speaks to that audience.”
Being less obvious about his sexuality is something he has experience with, thanks to “American Idol.” While he never hid his sexuality from the producers, he says they were less than thrilled.
“All the staff, the other contestants and the executive producers knew I was gay … ,” he says. “Were the producers threatened by it? Of course they were. With ‘American Idol’ being the title, the show had to be safe and with a cookie-cutter appeal. There was no place for an out gay performer.”
Verraros had his first taste of homophobia growing up in conservative Crystal Lake. “Middle school was the worst three years of my life,” he says, “and the torture started the minute I got on the school bus and didn’t stop until I got off.”
If there is a silver lining in the gay bashings he received while growing up, he says thay prepared him for his career in music and film.
“People will love you or they will hate you,” he says. “You have no control over it, so the only thing you can do is be true to yourself.”
from The Chicago Sun-Times

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