Gay consultants set men straight on all aspects of fashion, style

Thursday, July 10, 2003

— Want help in transforming a schlub of a husband or boyfriend into one who's attractive and socially adept?

Get the right man for the job -- the right gay man. That's the premise of a Bravo series in which style-challenged straight men are overhauled by experts whose credentials include being gay.

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," playing 9 p.m. Tuesday with two back-to-back hours, is a clever and entertaining twist on the newly popular makeover shows. It even manages to impart a message.

Straight and gay men "are just guys, and they want to feel good about themselves," said David Collins, the series' creator. "We all do."

In "Queer Eye," gay and straight men forge a new kind of brotherhood, one cemented by properly applied hair gel.

Gays, at least the ones featured in the series, are leagues ahead in knowing how to achieve lifestyle perfection. The straight men are a group of sad sacks in need of rehab, Eliza Doolittles one and all.

They don't know how to dress or groom themselves properly, make their homes comfortable or entertain for business or family.

"Let's talk about the shaving, or lack thereof," one "Queer Eye" experts tells a stubbly subject. "Shaving is one of the simple things you can do to make it look like you've given some thought to your look."

Family members are far less diplomatic.

"He looks like a clown," a wife says in lamenting her unkempt spouse.

While there is some stereotyping at work in "Queer Eye," Collins emphasizes that each of the style mavens -- dubbed the "fab five" -- stands on their professional credentials and not their sexual orientation.

"We were very specific about the fact that just because you're gay doesn't give you style, taste and class," Collins said. "Just because you get your gay card doesn't mean you know how to arrange flowers."

The pros include food and wine connoisseur Ted Allen, co-author of Esquire magazine's "Things a Man Should Know" column, and Thom Filicia, named by House Beautiful magazine as one of America's top designers. Culture maven Jai Rodriguez, "grooming guru" Kyan Douglas and fashion sage Carson Kressley round out the advisory board.

The experts, however, are quite serious about helping their straight charges look, feel and live better. In the first episode, they get a scruffy artist ready for a gallery exhibit. The second hour features a scruffy husband -- there's a trend here -- and his home getting overhauled in preparation for the wife's birthday.

The series has already drawn criticism from the Washington-based Traditional Values Coalition. It was asking its 43,000 member churches to protest it.