There’s an unspoken rule in Hollywood that when you need some good press, you go for a walk. In a city that only ever drives, a quick stop to the bank in $3,000 worth of Prada or leaving the recording studio decked out in diamonds can change your public image overnight.
After Reese Witherspoon’s 2013 disorderly conduct charge — when she iconically asked a cop, “Do you know my name?” — the actress hit up every single grocery store sporting a bright smile and a Peter Pan collar. Taylor Swift spent 2014 romping around Lower Manhattan during her well-documented move to New York. She’d leave the gym in full glam: hair done, heels on and high-waisted shorts tailored to perfection, or tote around her terrified white cat Olivia Benson as a fashion accessory.
Today, though, the celebrity racking up the most miles in the sidewalk sashay is 13 Reasons Why star and out gay “dadmagnet” Brandon Flynn.
Flynn was spotted grabbing coffee with actor Zachary Quinto earlier this week. The photo is unambiguous: just two dudes in tight jeans holding coffees and walking an adorable dog. But both are gay actors, and Quinto recently ended a six-year relationship with model Miles McMillan. Of course, we had to wonder: Are they a couple?
This isn’t the first time Flynn was photographed walking with an A-List male celebrity. A year ago, he and his former roommate, 1917’s Richard Madden, went on bonding walks — just two dudes with enviable bone structure and arms wrapped around each other. This led to speculation that the two were more than just best friends, but Madden waved off the New York Times’ questions during a profile on his role in Rocketman, in which he plays Elton John’s gay manager and boyfriend.
Go back another year and Flynn was publicly dating Sam Smith. The couple loved a good sidewalk smooch.
Flynn’s perpetual strolls (seriously, why not take a scooter?) are all the more surprising considering how outdated the sidewalk stroll is in the Instagram era. Witherspoon learned that TikTok videos with her kids made her seem more likable than getting snapped carrying Whole Foods groceries in stilettos to her Lexus RX.
Swift also pulled back her out-and-about style game. Eventually, as Swift discusses in her new documentary Miss Americana, the public turned on her aggressively planned everyday outings. Remember the Tom Hiddleston “I love T.S.” beach photos?
Still, up-and-coming celebrities like Flynn use the sidewalk as a catwalk every day. “Sometimes it’s to fulfill a fashion contract obligation — you see lots of empty $10,000 handbags dangling off the arms of starlets in these cases — but more often than not, it’s just the quickest, cheapest way to get your name and face out to the public,” Tom Fitzgerald tells MEL. He’s one-half of the blogging duo Tom and Lorenzo, who, for over a decade, have documented celebrities proffering themselves before street-side paps.
Flynn’s show 13 Reasons Why is divisive and garners average reviews. He’s also not the star of the show. Selena Gomez gets more press as producer, and she’s not a cast member. But Flynn stays in the blogs and on the Twitter timeline with each gay (or gay-adjacent) celebrity with whom he’s photographed.
What’s novel about this? Flynn is playing a celebrity game we seldom see a man play — at least not since Brad Pitt was an unknown actor.
Before Pitt was an Oscar frontrunner and famously shirtless fiftysomething, he walked every red carpet in the late ’80s as Hollywood’s hot boyfriend. It’s the reason we’re all still obsessed with the never-ending Brad–Jennifer Aniston–Angelina Jolie drama.
He’s rumored to have dated Mike Tyson’s ex-wife Robin Givens while she was still married to the boxer. Shortly after, he went on a date with Christina Applegate to the 1989 MTV Movie Awards. By the end of the year, Pitt was 27 and dating 17-year-old Juliette Lewis. He was connected to Rugrats and Babe actress E.G. Daily, his Thelma & Louise costar Geena Davis (just a rumor), his Interview With the Vampire costar Thandie Newton and, of course, his former fiancėe Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom he shared a haircut.
Pitt’s rise to fame is inextricably tied to the public’s interest in him: not just as a talented actor, but a visible face on the cover of supermarket tabloids every day. That’s not to say what Flynn is doing is calculated; maybe he just loves going for walks with conveniently beautiful men. It’s still delightful and unexpected to see an openly gay actor so publicly thirsty.
There’s something to be said about Flynn parading himself around with other men without toning down his affection. He’s a thot. So am I. If you’re a gay who found this story on Twitter, I bet you can relate. If Sam Smith, Zachary Quinto or Richard Madden want to go for a walk, I too would slip on my shoes. You just wouldn’t catch me in those camel Chelsea boots Flynn can’t part with.