In his new memoir, Andy Cohen flatly asserts that Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey is gay. “I still get enraged when I think about [Spacey] talking about being in love with that woman on 60 Minutes,” he writes. “Come out, sir.” Given the Bravo host’s stature, the passage has caused a ruckus in gay and entertainment circles. (The book carries a glowing blurb by none other than Anderson Cooper.) Still, Cohen’s statement hardly lacks supporting evidence—such as a few long-lost photos published nearly 15 years ago.

You may have already heard, of course, about the infamous 1997 Esquire profile (titled “Kevin Spacey Has a Secret”) whose author strongly insinuated Spacey is gay. Or the actor’s strange 2004 mugging in London. Or the 2008 photos of him grabbing some guy’s butt in Croatia. But these events are either circumstantial or inconclusive. What about concrete proof?

Read enough about Spacey, and you’ll come across references to a particular incident in the early 2000s involving an unnamed young man. “In 2000, Kevin was pap-snapped with a young male model he’d met in a restaurant and then driven to a Los Angeles park,” reads the National Enquirer. “In 2001 pictures emerged of Spacey holding hands with a male companion in a park on the outskirts of Los Angeles,” says the Daily Mail. Read further, and you’ll eventually discover that Star magazine published a series of photos documenting the incident in April 2000—a few weeks after Spacey won the Oscar for Best Actor at that year’s Academy Awards.

What makes these photos unusual is that they’re impossible to find on the Internet. There is no trace of them or the accompanying story on Star’s current website, and the magazine doesn’t sell any back issues. Google Images turns up nothing. A few months ago, however, an (apparently rare) copy of the April 11, 2000 issue of Star surfaced on eBay. So we bought it.

Here’s what the cover looks like:

Inside, the centerfold story begins:

These are the revealing images that Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey hoped the world would never see. They show the star of American Beauty spending an intimate Sunday afternoon with a good-looking, well-toned hunk half his age in a public park. And they appeared to rip apart the straight image Spacey has carefully cultivated in a bid to head off persistent rumors that he is gay.

Later on:

For two hours, the pair chatted, held hands, cuddled, stroked, and massaged each other hidden behind a rock in Oakland Memorial Park near Topanga, close to where Spacey grew up. Says an eyewitness: “It was a very intimate rendezvous. At one point, Kevin’s head was in the boy’s lap and later the young guy put his arms round Kevin and cuddled him ... Let me put it this way—if my wife saw me with another man like that, she would be divorcing me.”

The item’s authors, Bob Smith and Martin Gould, later tracked down Spacey’s companion:

When approached by Star outside his home, the young man confirmed that he was friends with Spacey and admitted he had been in the park with him. He denied he was Spacey’s lover, and he refused to answer any of the questions about their relationship.

(The magazine did not name the young man, and as seen in the top image, digitally obscured his face.)

Which brings us to the photos, thirteen in all. The first few are standard paparazzi fare: Spacey buying magazines and walking around L.A. (albeit with his unknown companion). He’s wearing a black Jersey Records baseball cap and sunglasses; his buddy is wearing a yellow t-shirt and baggy cargo pants. The photos taken of the two men in the park are a different matter.

One depicts “a tired Spacey rest[ing] his head in his buddy’s lap”:

Another shows Spacey “giving his pal a massage”:

This one shows Spacey “being touched in return”:

These two photos capture the pair’s “final cuddle” before they descended the rocky bluff:

Curiously, Spacey refused to respond to the photos—which all but confirmed their authenticity. His publicist simply told other outlets: “He has said all he is going to say on the subject and people are going to believe what they want to believe. We don’t have any further comment.”

Even more curiously, Star claimed it had acquired, but not published, even more incriminating photos of Spacey and his companion. Tony Frost, the tabloid’s editor at the time, bragged to the Daily News: “Mr. Spacey will be pleased that we left out one or two images that were far more graphic. We showed considerable restraint.”

Most curiously of all: The photos didn’t exactly puncture the mainstream perception that Spacey was exclusively attracted to women. A year after Star’s story, New York magazine’s Maer Roshan observed: “The same reporters who gleefully picked up Frank Gifford's famous indiscretion didn’t touch this Star exclusive. Instead, they continue to devote column inches to [Spacey’s] very public romance with Helen Hunt.”

This was no accident. Following the 1997 Esquire profile, Roshan noted, Spacey mounted an aggressive campaign to appear straight to American audiences:

He began being photographed with a series of attractive women, talking to Playboy about how the gay rumors had improved his sex life (“Women want to be the one to turn me around. I let them.”) and generally proclaiming his heterosexuality to anyone who’d listen. His macho makeover culminated last spring with an appearance on 60 Minutes. Responding to a question about the Esquire cover, Spacey insisted he wouldn’t talk about his private life—then spent much of the rest of the interview reassuring America that he was 100 percent straight.

These days, Spacey is considerably more relaxed (though still circumspect) about insinuations regarding his sexuality. “Let’s let people live their lives and do it the way they want to do it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in April. “All the chips will fall in the end, and we’ll all be judged by a much higher power than Entertainment Weekly can.”

“Remember When?” is a new series in which we remember things long forgotten.

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