He says it wouldn't matter to his 24–year–old boyfriend, whom he won't discuss except to say that he's "Cajun" and has "swagger." ("I like 'em smaller and younger," Lambert says mischievously.)

He smiles. "I don't see how all this is any different than—let's take a modern sex symbol like Brad Pitt. How many of these women who fantasize about him actually get to sleep with him?" he asks. "It's all fantasy—that's what entertainment is. I'm here to entertain you, and if my sexuality is apparent and you respond to it, and you're attracted to it, then great, I'm doing my job. It ain't happening anyway!"

His road manager arrives to hustle him off to get ready for the show. "It takes him a little longer because he's totally on girl time," she says affably.

"I like to get real pretty," Lambert says.

Lambert grew up in an affluent suburb of San Diego. His parents were laid–back boomers—his mother was a dental hygienist and his father a supervisor at a telecommunications company—who didn't freak out when their little boy exhibited a fondness for singing show tunes and gamboling around in capes. Which might explain why, two decades later, Lambert could sit up in front of a somber Chris Connelly on 20/20 and tell him how comfortable he is with his sexuality.

"Get into it, bitches!" he says now, laughing. "I'm not hiding anything. At least I can say that I'm honest."

But growing up, he says, he felt different, and he didn't always like the way he looked. In high school, he battled acne and his weight. "I really struggled with my self–image for a long time," he says. "I thought I was ugly. So that's probably where all the makeup and the dyeing of the hair stemmed from." (He's really a redhead.)

After a few weeks as a musical–theater major at a college in Orange County, he left to star in a play in San Diego. He came out at 18, but he was still a virgin and "actually very lonely," he says. At 19, he worked as a singer in a musical revue on a cruise ship for a year. "That showed me the world," he says. "And I got to do a lot of shopping. It affects your perspective like crazy. Somewhere in the South Pacific I saw a really poor Third World island and I was like, ohhhh. I had never seen that. I was kind of, like, upper–middle–class and white–bread."