If Fall Out Boy is the toast of the emo-rock scene, bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz is the butter and the jam. Riding the success of its latest chart-topping CD, Infinity on High, and its lead single, “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” the 27-year-old exhibitionist told us about his gay posse and the one little thing keeping him from sealing the deal with a dude.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Were you aware of your big gay following?
Pete Wentz: Someone told me that one of our songs got played in gay clubs a lot, but I didn’t realize that we had that big of a gay following. I have a lot of gay friends, though. Like my friend Nate, he’s pretty rad. I go a lot of events where I have to go on the red carpet, and pretty much the only things I wear are hoodies and jeans, so he’s my stylist. I didn’t feel comfortable with a female stylist because I was getting a lot of weird stuff pulled out for me, and he’s got this awesome style. Since he’s been styling me I don’t end up on as many “worst” lists. [Laughs] But we’re also tight buddies, and I have a couple friends from New York and Chicago that are gay. It’s weird because — and I’m sure everybody says it all the time — I don’t really categorize my friends, because it’s not like my friends are continually trying to sleep with me, gay or straight.
Gay bloggers seem smitten with you, especially Perez Hilton. Do you read those blogs?
I’ll read ’em when I’m in ’em. It’s always like a bummer when you’re in ’em, but everyone wants to read ’em when other people are in ’em. I like Perez and everybody over at Pink is the New Blog. Those are the only guys I really know, and they’re always nice to me.
You made a lot of gay fans happy when you admitted that you’d kissed boys because “anything above the waist is fair game.”
[Laughs] I actually mean it. That’s just kind of how I am. I’m a little bit of a makeout king. I don’t discriminate too much.
Do make-out opportunities present themselves often?
Not really, because the traits that I find attractive in people are so bizarre. Like, you have to be really pretty, but you also have to have a brain. Those two often don’t go hand in hand.
What’s the closest you’ve ever come to taking the boy-on-boy action to the next level?
I haven’t really ever gotten that close, ’cause honestly, I’m not a real big fan of penises. Like my own, whenever I look at it, I just don’t find anything attractive about it. I can’t believe girls are into it. It blows my mind a little bit. So that’s the biggest problem. I’d love to share clothes with a dude and have all those benefits, but I just can’t get past that thing. It’s just weird-lookin’.
Penises aside, any dude crushes?
I don’t have an issue finding guys attractive. I was with my friend last night watching The Prestige and she’s like, “Christian Bale is so hot.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s a good-looking dude.” There’s nobody specific, but if you just named off dudes I could tell you if I thought they were hot or not.
I’ll spare you. You’ve also said that people who aren’t a fan of yours will sometimes call you an antigay slur. Why is that?
I don’t know. I think it’s a real cheap, easy word. In high school it bothered me a lot when it got yelled at me and stuff, but it’s completely unoffensive to me now — it doesn’t hurt. But when I think about my friends who are gay and that it does bother them, that’s when it bums me out. There are so many good words to call people that to resort to sexual preference is kind of boring and stupid. I think part of it is ’cause at some point when we were doing this band I was like, “You know what? I’m going to be the most androgynous person that I can possibly be. I’m going to wear girl pants and makeup.” I looked to David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and people like that, and I was like, “That’s what’s missing in all the bands that we’re playing with right now! You need this effeminate edge.” Did Mick Jagger and David Bowie make out? Probably. Who knows? And that’s kind of what I was going for, but people took that to the next level. We have a song called “Gay Isn’t a Synonym for the Word ‘Shitty’” [on import versions of Infinity on High], and people take it in a weird way, like no one could ever be pro-gay rights who isn’t gay — which I’m fine with, because it puts the issue in peoples’ heads and forces them to confront it, like, “Can I be into this guy who’s on the cover of Tiger Beat and who I think is gay?” But I think sexuality is a lot more ambiguous and more of a blurred line than people make it out to be. People are always like, “It’s black or white,” but I don’t really feel like it is. I feel like people come across all parts of that spectrum. I think there are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily gay or straight or even bi; it’s just whatever moment or mood you’re in, you find different things attractive or cool.
Which insults would you prefer to be called?
I’m pretty short, so call me “gremlin” or a hobbit, I don’t know. There are just so many different things you can say about me that are way funnier and that would actually bother me, because I can’t really do anything about being short. And I’ve got a big mouth — not just in the press, I literally have a big mouth.
Can you fit your whole fist in there?
I probably could. I kind of have big hands too, though. The main problem with it is that I have a big mouth but I have a lot of teeth. I have a weirdly proportioned body.
As popular as your band is, especially with young females, would you come out if you were gay?
This is hard to say because I don’t know what it would be like to have grown up gay and how it would’ve changed my character if I’d been hiding it for all these years, but as of who I am right now, I think I would come out for sure. Because I’m pretty much a loudmouth person. Like, dude, I’m on the cover of Rolling Stone with my shirt off, not because I look great with a shirt off but because I know that it’s going to piss people off. It continues to divide people and set off the lovers and the detractors. And if I was truly gay, coming out of the closet would do the same thing, probably. And, like most of the things I do, hopefully it would empower younger people who are in similar situations. We get a lot of e-mails from people who are like, “Oh, my God, after you said this onstage I felt comfortable coming out of the closet.” I don’t necessarily think that’s our end goal in general, but if we reach people in that way, that’s cool.
For the record, my people don’t mind when you take off your shirt.
[Laughs] Right on, right on.
Some questioned your sexuality when those nude pictures that you took of yourself in front of a Morrissey poster leaked onto the Internet.
[Laughs] Yeah, everyone was like, “There’s no way he’s straight!”
Didn’t you know those pics would surface? Has Paris Hilton taught us nothing?
The weird thing is that it was taken a year before it was released, so my band and who I was was a very different situation. If it got out when it was taken, it would’ve been this little thing because nobody knew or cared who we were. I actually just got an e-mail from Morrissey for the first time today. He didn’t mention that at all, but the e-mail is fuckin’ glorious, dude. It’s Morrissey, man!
Do you still wear those Fruit of the Loom underwear? Because you’re too rich and cute to be rocking FTLs.
[Laughs] No, and that’s what I’m telling everybody all the time! Honestly, if I took these pictures now, I’d probably take better, more flattering pictures, but you know, whatever.
Do you manscape?
I do! And I hadn’t in those pictures at all. And I totally would’ve... I dunno, it’s out of control.
Many of your peers, some with whom you’ve been seen partying, are winding up in rehab. Should we be concerned about you, Pete?
My partying’s a lot more low-key than that. Mostly I’ll bring my friends out and we’ll laugh about everything. And then the other aspect is that I only get photographed when I go in and out of clubs, and only if I’m with a girl or something. For the most part, I hang out in my backyard with my dog, but there’s no paparazzi trying to check that out. Or me going to Barnes & Noble. So I don’t think anyone has too much to worry about. The warning signs haven’t gone up yet.
OK, but who’d you rather be in rehab with: Lindsay or Britney?
Well, I don’t know Britney, so I’d have to say Lindsay because we could hang out and talk because we know each other. But I hope to not be in rehab with any of them because I hope none of us have to be in rehab.
I’m not a beautiful young starlet, so how can a regular gay guy like me break into your posse?
Yo, gay guys have the easiest time breaking into my posse! For example, we go out the other night to Les Deux [Café in Hollywood] and we’re sitting there stuck behind a car because the people are taking forever to get into their car. I’m freaking out because I just want to leave, so Nate leans out the window and he’s like, “Move your car! You’re fucking tacky!” And coming out of that dude it sounded amazing, perfect, witty, and they got in the car and left, but if I had leaned out the window and said that I would’ve gotten punched in the face. I love characters and people with style who are fun to hang out with. Like my [gay] friend Carlos. He rages all the time and he’s always saying funny stuff. The other night I was like, “Yeah, I hate it how places here close at 2 a.m.” And he’s like, “No, it’s perfect, everybody gets boring at 1:45.” Saying shit like that is awesome.
If you were a paparazzo, who would you stalk?
I’d probably stalk somebody’s pet. Finding out what people do with their animals is a lot more fun than what they do with themselves. Or, actually, I really want to meet Michael Jackson so badly. I’m Michael Jackson–obsessed. All I watch is Moonwalker — it’s my favorite movie of all time.
The Advocate, April 2007; extended online version.