Out of Sync, the new memoir from former ‘N Sync member, failed cosmonaut and gay American Lance Bass, comes out on October 23. (It’s surprisingly good.) Over the phone from New York – where he’s living while starring in Broadway musical Hairspray as Corny Collins -- and speaking in a slight Southern twang, he was very congenial. We talked about his critical words for Justin Timberlake in the book (he felt “completely betrayed” when JT broke up the band for a solo career), coming out and dating the actress who played Topanga on Boy Meets World.
You’re said to be a very private person. Was it hard to spill for the book?
It started out being really hard. Last year was a real confusing year for me, just because when I did decide to make it public that I was gay, it was very scary, because I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be. But, because the reaction was so positive and I got so much support I’ve been the happiest person ever. That’s when I decided to write this book. I wanted to show how proud I am that now, in 2007, people are just so much more accepting than they were years ago.
Are you worried that the media is focusing on your relatively brief critique of Justin Timberlake?
Well, of course. That was my biggest concern. I didn’t write the book to talk about the breakup of ‘N Sync, but the story had to be said. I couldn’t just skip over it, because people would be like, ‘Are you kidding me? We’ve been asking that question for how many years, and you’re just going to skip over it?’ So, I had to tell the story like it was, and I had to share my emotions. So, when I talk about that time in Miami when Justin told us he didn’t want to do it anymore, I wanted people to feel what I felt at that time. And it did feel like betrayal. I felt heartbroken. All these emotions went through me. Today, I’m really happy, and Justin and I are really great friends. I don’t hate him at all. And I understand what he was going through, and it was as hard for him as it was for any of us.
Were you surprised that Justin became such a huge solo star?
Oh no, not at all. We all knew Justin was going to become a huge solo artist. He’s a super talented guy. I thought any of the guys doing a solo album at that point would be huge. I thought JC’s [Chasez] album was going to be just as big as Justin’s, but it wasn’t. That’s just how much I love the guys and want to support them.
Your faith is a big issue in the book. Do you still go to church a lot?
Not as much as I want to. Especially here in New York I haven’t found a place, and I really can’t because we have Sunday shows. But back in L.A. I have a church, Bel Air Presbyterian, actually, and I’m not even Presbyterian. But it’s a great church and they have really great music, that’s kind of why I chose it. They have this awesome rock band that plays.
What religion were you raised?
I was raised Southern Baptist. Which probably explains why it took me so long to come out. [Laughs.] There are great people in the south, and religion was a huge part of my life.
Could you elaborate a little bit more on your theory as concerns God and homosexuality? In the book, you say you believed the two jive, as God created you to be gay. Do you ever quote scripture on this issue?
No. I just kind of stay out of it. I don’t want to try to change people’s minds on their own religion, because all you do is piss people off when you talk about politics and religion. And I don’t know that much about politics or religion, so I just play dumb. I just believe what I believe. I consider myself Christian. I believe in God. I have my own personal relationship with my religion, and it really has nothing to do with any group of people. There’s a lot of things I believe from Christianity, there’s a lot of things I believe from Buddhism, from a lot of different religions. I’m lucky enough to be able to travel around the world and meet all different kinds of people of all different religions. Like I said in the book, around 5 years old I knew [I was gay], when I first started having memories. And that tells me right there that I was made this way. Nothing in my life ‘made me gay.’ I remember in as a 5 year old kindergarten, there was a boy in there I had a crush on. So, right then I knew I was different.
Do you stand by your description of yourself as a “straight-acting gay” – e.g. someone not obviously or stereotypically homosexual -- even though gay activist groups have criticized it?
No. Especially back then… I’m so new to terminology and all that kind of stuff, I’m going to say things that are probably dumb, that are probably going to be scrutinized. People need to understand, I don’t know all the answers. I haven’t been schooled in what to say. I’m a gay guy, I’ve always been gay, and now people are really interested in my story. I try not to talk about it -- that’s why I really didn’t do any interviews last year, except for one because I didn’t want to embarrass myself or the gay community. In that one interview, I talked about how my friends always call me a ‘sag’ (straight-acting gay) instead of a fag. That was just a personal thing I shared. What I was trying to say was that the only type of gay that used to be portrayed on film and television was just the stereotypical gay community. I was trying to say that there are so many types of gay people, just like there are so many types of straight people. And that just didn’t read well. I didn’t explain it well.
How come you don’t talk about Danielle Fishel [aka Topanga from Boy Meets World] in the book?
I don’t know. It’s something that, in hindsight, I can’t believe I skipped over. This week, when I did Tyra, they surprised me by bringing Danielle out as a guest. And then it dawned on me that I didn’t even talk about this relationship [in the memoir]. It would have been so good to put in the book. Because so many people in the gay community go through having a girlfriend, and then realize, ‘I’m gay -- why am I with this girl?’ And they realize how mean it is to put that girl through that.
On Tyra we brought all that up. We talked about every intimate detail of that relationship, and I think that’s going to help a lot of gay people in relationships like that. Like, ‘Oh my God, that’s exactly what I’m going through. I need to stop this.’
Did you guys sleep together?
No. We talked about that -- when we were going to. I talk about how she was a virgin at the time. I didn’t want to do anything, because I knew I’d come out of the closet eventually, and I was thinking ahead, and didn’t want her to say, ‘I lost my virginity to a gay guy.’ All that stuff goes through your head, and it’s so tormenting.
Have you ever had a sexual relationship with a woman?
Back in high school, the early days of ‘N Sync, before Danielle, I did. You try to play that part. You had to do that. I just never loved them, and it wasn’t ever someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Has anyone in ‘N Sync read your book yet?
I don’t know yet. They all have the book. I sent it to them like two weeks ago. They all said, ‘We’re reading it,’ but I don’t think they read. [Laughs.] But I know for a fact, Joey’s manager, and Justin’s mom, all of them have read it. So people around them have read it, which is good so they know exactly what’s in there. I didn’t want anyone to look bad in the book.
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So how much of the book was written by you and how much by Mark Eliot, who wrote the forward?
Oh Mark, he helped a lot. I have great ideas and I can speak, but I can’t put a sentence together. I’m terrible at that. That’s just the way I work. Mark was just so great about that, where I would just dictate everything, and he would put it down into book form, where everyone could read it and it would make sense.
Have any desire to ever go back to Russia and try again for space?
I do, actually. I got so close. I went ahead and got certified. It’s definitely still a dream of mine. It’s coming back up. Everyone’s kind of talking about it, within my group. A lot of sponsors have come forward and wanted to do a documentary and different studies. It might happen in the next few years. -- Ben Westhoff