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literature

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DeCaro, Frank (b. 1962)  
 
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After graduating from Northwestern in 1984, DeCaro sought work as a print journalist. During an interview for his "first big job," writing the menswear column for the Detroit Free Press, the hiring editor, he recalled, "asked how I felt about the 'faggot factor' of the job, and my jaw nearly hit the table." The editor, a woman, told him that "a male fashion writer is immediately assumed to be gay" and wondered if he could "handle that." DeCaro, then not out except to friends and family, recovered sufficient aplomb to tell the editor that he had "never done typical boy things" and that he did not "think that the 'faggot factor' [would] be a problem." What he did not tell her was the pain that he had felt hearing "that word five days a week for nine years."

DeCaro went on to write about fashion, entertainment, and popular culture for numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine, USA Weekend, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Newsweek, Out, Elle, In Style, Spy, Esquire, Martha Stewart Living, and the Advocate.

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In the early 1990s he wrote a gay humor column, "Frank's Place," for New York Newsday, and in the later years of the decade he had a biweekly "Style over Substance" column in the New York Times, in which he dealt with an eccentric mix of topics from Cher in widowhood to artificial Christmas trees.

In addition to his memoir, DeCaro authored Unmistakably Mackie: The Fashion and Fantasy of Bob Mackie (1999), a richly illustrated look at the wide variety of costumes that the designer has created for the stage, the screen, and television. He also contributed comic essays to Out, Loud, & Laughing (1995, edited by Charles Flowers), Out in All Directions (1995, edited by Lynn Witt, Sherry Thomas, and Eric Marcus), and How to Live a Sitcom Life (1999, edited by Mark Bennett).

In a 1996 interview DeCaro commented, "There's a lot of pain in my humor. I believe in that old chestnut that comedy is tragedy plus timing." He sees comedy as "a great way to build bridges to the mainstream community," noting, "If you're funny and charming, people will open their arms to you and not be so scared . . . . I've always worked in the mainstream, and if you take people by the hand, show them a good time, and make them laugh along the way, a lot of them will come with you."

DeCaro's work in theater, television, and radio has won him such fans. From 1996 until 2003 he wrote the "Out at the Movies" segments for the Comedy Central network's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on which he played a critic who could find a gay subtext in just about any film. Peter Keepnews of the New York Times declared that DeCaro's "campy and often catty film reviews . . . are among the funniest things on television." Beginning in 1999 DeCaro hosted and co-wrote five hilarious Oscar preview shows called The Fabulous Big 'O' Special for the same network.

DeCaro cited Erma Bombeck as a model for his witty writing style. "She captured suburbia so perfectly and was so down-to-earth about it," he stated. "Actually, I wanted to be Elton John writing Erma Bombeck's column . . . . My sense of being amused and my sense of being horrified run so close together."

He called Paul Lynde a model for his Daily Show character but said, "I'd never want to be that bitter a queen." Nevertheless, he listed Lynde as a person who had influenced his comedy style, along with Charles Nelson Reilly, Rip Taylor, and Alan Sues, whom he considers greatly underrated as a comedic talent.

Also among the performers he admired was Elton John for his combination of glamour, outrageousness, and pure joy. When DeCaro met John at a Gianni Versace show in 1994, he expressed his appreciation: "You don't know how much you meant to all of us. You gave us strength and courage . . . even before you came out. You told us it was okay to be ourselves."

DeCaro has appeared as a guest on numerous entertainment programs such as Showbiz Tonight, Inside TV Land: Tickled Pink, and VH1 countdown shows. On a more serious note, he hosted an episode of the PBS glbtq magazine show In the Life.

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