Anderson Cooper explains how a shirtless Richard Gere made him realise he’s gay: ‘I couldn’t speak’

Anderson Cooper and a topless Richard Gere performing Bent in the 70s.

A shirtless Richard Gere is how Anderson Cooper first realised he was gay.

During an appearance on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM show, Radio Andy, Anderson Cooper reminisced about seeing a young Richard Gere in a play when he was 11 years old.

Gere starred in a Broadway production of Bent, Martin Shermen’s play about the persecution of homosexuality by the Nazis, which centres around two gay men.

The CNN anchor told Cohen: “I just remember being like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gay. … I’m totally gay,'”.

The play begins with a naked man waking up after spending the night with another man, before the protagonist then gets dressed in his SS uniform.

“I mean the opening scene… It is the gayest thing you can imagine.” Cooper added. “This was Richard Gere in 1977, [around the time of] Looking for Mr Goodbar. He was so beautiful.”

Anderson Cooper, now 55, explained how he attended the show with the artist Paul Jasmin and Jasmin’s partner at the time, who were friends of Cooper’s late mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.

Due to Jasmin already being acquainted with Gere after photographing him for the film American Giglio, the trio were able to head backstage to meet the actor.

“We go backstage and Richard Gere is shirtless in his dressing room and I couldn’t speak.” Cooper recalled. “And I had my playbill and I wanted to get him to autograph it, but I was too — I just couldn’t stop staring at his chest.”

Although Cooper wasn’t able to get his playbill signed that night, 10 years later while interviewing Gere, Cooper was finally able to get it signed.

“I told him the whole story,” Cooper said, “and I had him sign it. Yeah. He was very tickled with it.”

Anderson Cooper came out publicly in 2012, in an article posted on The Daily Beast. In the first-person essay, Cooper said he had felt conflicted about coming out, explaining that while he valued his privacy, he also wanted to be an example for young LGBTQ+ people.

Having addressed the false idea that he was ashamed about revealing his identity, he said: “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud”.