After discussing the origins of LaBelle’s friendship with Luther, Cohen slipped in: “Did [Vandross] struggle with the idea of coming out publicly? Was that something that you talked about at all?” “We talked about it,” said LaBelle. “Basically, he did not want his mother to be...although she might have known, but he wasn’t going to come out and say this to the world. And he had a lot of lady fans and he told me he just didn’t want to upset the world.” Vandross was long rumored to be gay, though he never said as much—in interviews, he’d generally either roll with a line of questioning that assumed he was straight or refuse to answer direct questions about his sexuality. I’ve never heard someone so close to him effectively confirm it (Bruce Vilanch and Michael Musto discussed it not long after his 2005 death). If LaBelle’s assessment is correct, it’s unfortunate that Vandross declined to share who he was for the sake of his audience’s comfort, though given the state of queer acceptance back then, it’s not exactly surprising. Sounds like a hard life, though it didn’t impede Vandross’s art—perhaps it made it even more aching. I’m glad Patti LaBelle, though, filled in some details of Luther Vandross’s humanity. That’s what a good friend does.