Kristin Chenoweth's knees buckled after Sean Hayes wiped her mouth with his tongue at last month's Tony Awards. Days earlier, Sandra Bullock cradled Scarlett Johansson's tousled mane, tenderly pressing their lips together at the MTV Music Awards. That came on the heels of Miley Cyrus' awkward kiss of a female backup dancer on a family-oriented British talent show.
Celebrities, it seems, can't get enough mouth-on-mouth action this summer.
MAN ON MAN: Once used to provoke tabloid furor, the onstage kiss has become the newest stunt to cope with a controversy or exhibit a certain level of gender-bending cultural cool. Why else would Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman, the unlikeliest bromance east of Hollywood, lock lips for the Kiss Cam at the NBA Finals? It's enough to make Adam Lambert's enthusiastic man-on-man smooch with a band mate at the American Music Awards last year seem passe.
HOW IT STARTED: Men. Women. Straight. Gay. Bi-Curious. Almost every onstage kiss pays homage to Madonna's 2003 kiss with Britney Spears at MTV's Video Music Awards. For Madonna - old enough to be Spears' mother - it brought a certain amount of street cred with Britney's teenage fans.
JUST A PUBLICITY STUNT? The problem with the recent rash of celebrity PDA's., said Terry Press, a Hollywood marketing expert, is that: "Its shock value has worn down. At this point you would have to kiss Dick Cheney to have a 'woo hoo' moment." This generation of kissers has calculated motives. A Newsweek article questioned whether a gay actor like Hayes could exhibit enough sensual heat with a woman to make Broadway audiences forget that he prefers men. From the Tony audience's reaction to his kiss with Chenoweth, with whom he stars in Promises, Promises, he did.
KISS OFF: For Bullock, who just divorced her husband, Jesse James, it was a way to move on. "She is saying: 'Don't feel sorry for me. I'm having a great time,' "said Andrea Demirjian, author of the 2006 book Kissing. "It wasn't supposed to be provocative and shocking, but fun and playful."
A LITTLE TOO HOT: One recent lip lock did provoke an outcry from fans. Cyrus, 17, who polished her squeaky-clean image in the Disney teen factory, as did Spears and Lindsay Lohan, was rebuffed for enthusiastically kissing a female dancer while performing on Britain's Got Talent. Cyrus posted a denial on her blog. "I promise you I did not kiss her," she wrote, adding, "GET OVER IT!" Simulated or not, that kiss could have been staged for a more cynical reason: publicity for her new single Can't Be Tamed. She, too, is trying to distance herself from her goody-goody image. "It's really boring," Press said of the matter. "In the end, do we really think of Miley Cyrus any differently? No."
A KISS THAT KILLS: Indeed, a kiss can come back to haunt. Who can forget Al Gore's passionate and very public kiss of his wife, Tipper, when he was running for president in 2000? Look where that got them.