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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 19, 2003

Erie Pride steps into the streets

Erie, Pa.--Over a half-dozen events highlighted the Erie Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender� Pride weekend September 12 to 14, including a march in the streets instead of on the sidewalks.

�We added more this year,� said organizer Abbey L. Atkinson, pointing to Friday�s P-FLAG Bingo and two interactive performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturday, �and people still came.�

The weekend centered on the Pride march and rally on Saturday, which stepped off from the Village Supper Club at 1 pm.

According to Atkinson, over 100 people marched in the parade, and that number increased to between 200 and 300 at the rally on Perry Square downtown.

There, the crowd was addressed by Erie mayor Rick Filippi, State Rep. Linda Bebko-Jones and David Greer, a member of President George W. Bush�s Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS.

�We had bigger speakers and more drag queens in Perry Square downtown, so people tended to stick around a little longer,� Atkinson said. �More businesses sponsored us this year, and more came out to the park and participated.�

�The big thing, in my opinion,� she continued, �was the march. Not only are we out of the closet, but have grown too large to be stuck on the sidewalk!�

�We actually got to march down the middle of the street this year, rather than staying on the sidewalk and obeying traffic signals as in previous years,� she explained.

Pride weekend was sponsored primarily by Penn State-Erie�s Trigon group and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Crawford and Erie counties.

Among the other events were the screenings of Rocky Horror, sponsored by Identity, Edinboro College�s LGBT student organization, and P-FLAG Bingo.

Friday night saw the �Rainbow Under the Sea� kickoff party which drew about 200 people to the Village Supper Club. The following night, a similar number of people attended the Rainbow Pride Underwear Party at the Zone Dance Club.

On Sunday, the women won the Dykes vs. Drag Queens softball game, drawing 80 people out to the Family Day at Haggerty Field, despite inclement weather. Almost 400 attended the Tailgater�s Brunch in the early afternoon.

Atkinson was pleased with the way the weekend turned out.

�I think [the events] went very well,� she said. �We attracted support from both Democrats and Republicans this year. In fact, a Republican from the Bush administration is a huge deal for Erie.�

As for next year�s event, Atkinson is optimistic.

�We�re throwing a few ideas around, and I have my notes on improvements that must be made,� she said, �but right now, this week is designated nap time.

 

 


Ohio super DOMA is now in House

Columbus--A so-called �Defense of Marriage Act� that could void all local domestic partner benefits was introduced in the Ohio House on September 9.

House Bill 272, sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, is identical to Senate Bill 65 introduced by Senator Lynn R. Wachtmann of Napoleon April 1. They are virtually identical to a House measure passed in 2001 that died in the Senate.

The bills declare that marriage between one man and one woman is the only relationship recognized by the state of Ohio, and deny recognition of any other couples.

Known as �super DOMAs,� these bills go beyond declaring that same-sex marriage is against the strong public policy of the state. They also block cities from enacting local laws recognizing or giving �specific statutory benefits� to any couple, same-sex and opposite-sex, not legally married.

�Specific statutory benefits� include domestic partner benefits. The measures may also interfere with name changes, child custody and divorce decrees from other states.

Currently, 37 states, including all that border Ohio, have DOMA laws. Missouri�s was ruled unconstitutional by that state�s supreme court in 1998. Of the rest, only Nebraska has the �super DOMA� language. It passed by ballot initiative in 2000 and is currently under challenge in Nebraska courts.

Seitz also sponsored the 2001 House bill. That year it had 46 co-sponsors and passed the House 66-29 on Halloween.

The current attempt has only 32 co-sponsors. All but one are Republicans.

Every state including Ohio defines marriage as between one man and one woman. But those opposed to same-sex couples say their laws are needed to protect a state�s ability to ignore same-sex marriages created in other countries and civil unions created in other states.

Anti-gay activists fear that the �full faith and credit� clause of the U.S. Constitution could be used to enforce the civil unions in states opposed to them. The clause requires states to recognize the �acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.�

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that for a state to avoid honoring records from other states, including marriages, it must be understood that it is �against the strong public policy of the state.�

The DOMA legislation is an attempt to amplify the state�s existing policy defining marriage as between one man and one woman to the point where it could withstand a �full faith and credit� challenge.

It also declares that �any public act, record, or judicial proceeding . . . that extends the specific statutory benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same or opposite sexes is void ab initio� or void from the beginning.

�The General Assembly declares its intent to define marriage and clarify that relationships that are intended as substitutes for marriage, including but not limited to �civil unions� . . . will not be recognized in this state.�

Unlike the Senate bill which has not moved since its introduction, the House bill has been assigned to the House Juvenile and Family Law Committee and may get sponsor testimony within the week if the House leadership wants it to move.

That committee is charired by bill co-sponsor Gilb of Findlay. Other co-sponsors on the committee are Reps. Reidelbach and Willamowski.

Non-sponsoring Republicans on the committee are its vice chair Kathleen Walcher of Norwalk, John Widowfield of Stow, Byan Williams of Akron, and Nancy Hollister of Marietta. Hollister was the only Republican to vote against the bill in 2001.

Committee Democrats are Reps. Sandra Harwood of Warren, Todd Book of Portsmouth, Lance Mason of Shaker Heights, and Shirley Smith of Cleveland.

Senate President Doug White of Manchester, a Republican who co-sponsored the ill-fated 2000 DOMA in the Senate, said through spokesperson Maggie Mitchell that �the House bill will be the vehicle. DOMA legislation will originate in the House.�

�No one on the Senate side was coming to us wanting it to move,� said Mitchell.

White�s comments confirmed suspicion by opponents that there probably aren�t enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill at this time.


Ohio Lesbian Festival returns to sunny day, good music

Kirkersville, Ohio--After a one-year absence, the Ohio Lesbian Festival returned to central Ohio September 13 to celebrate its 14th anniversary before a crowd of close to 1,500 women.

The festival featured a diverse line-up of lesbian-identified musicians, a �Lesbian University� with almost two dozen educational classes and workshops, nearly 100 vendors and artisans, and a carnival. The women-only event ran from 11 am until 11 pm.

�It was fabulous!� exclaimed Chris Cozad, security coordinator for the festival. She said the day�s �beautiful weather, general turnout and the great performances of the musicians� contributed to the event�s success, despite lower ticket sales than organizers had hoped.

Cozad is also a board member of the Lesbian Business Association, a networking organization that sponsors the festival.

�We�re still crunching some numbers and although the ticket sales were smaller than the previous festival, it�s been a great rebuilding year,� she said.

Cozad praised the increased number of volunteers who signed up to assist with set-up, parking, child care, food, stage and workshops.

�The volunteers were just awesome. They all showed up, worked hard and promised to show up again for next year,� she said.

A lack of volunteers was one of several factors that contributed to the event�s cancellation last year. The Frontier Ranch festival site was also up for sale in 2002, and the LBA lacked start-up �seed money� to pay expenses before tickets were sold.

This year, the Frontier Ranch was available again after the sale fell through and organizers raised ticket prices to cover the higher cost of renting the site and producing the event. Tickets this year were $35 advance and $40 at the gate.

The festival �has earned a reputation as being one of the most well-organized and produced festivals in the region,� noted festival co-chairs CL Manche and Dian Nelson-Houser.

Four-year festival veteran Marj Creech of Granville, Ohio was impressed that the organizers� goals of increased diversity and the cooperative spirit she saw during festival meetings came about during the event.

�They advertised diversity and I saw diversity,� she noted in both performers and attendees alike. Creech noted that the festival welcomes all women, including those who identify as �lesbian, trans, bi or straight.�

�I think transsexuals feel welcome there and I�m proud of that,� she said.

Other festivals continue to struggle with creating women-only space while being sensitive to the transsexual community. The Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival allows only �women-born women� to attend.

The festival featured local talent from Ohio, including Cincinnati native Katie Reider, Cleveland favorites Anne E. DeChant and Burning Sage along with well-known national musicians. These included classic blues and soul from singer-songwriter Gwen Avery, percussionist and teacher Wahru Cleveland, singer-songwriters Tret Fure and Jamie Anderson, who also emceed, and jazz and urban hip-hop rhythms of Stefone.

Cozad is already looking ahead to next year�s festival and encourages interested women to see their web site at www.ohiolba.org to be added to the volunteer list.

She also invites Ohio performers interested in next year�s event to send information and a demo to OLF Performers, P.O. Box 82086, Columbus, Ohio 43202.


Man jailed for breaking law that wasn�t in effect

Conviction under voided �importuning� law leads to time for later charge

Warren--Three weeks after he got out of jail, Keith Phillips learned that the law that led to his incarceration had been voided by the Ohio Supreme Court seven months before his arrest.

Phillips, 20 at the time and living in Youngstown, was charged on December 16, 2002 with violating Ohio�s importuning law, which makes it a crime to ask someone of the same gender for sex if it would offend them.

But the law was no longer in effect. It had been declared unconstitutional by the state�s highest court on May 15 of that year, partly because the same act is legal for heterosexuals.

Phillips didn�t know this. Without a lawyer, he pleaded no contest in March to the misdemeanor charge. Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem gave the gay man a suspended 180-day sentence and five years probation, including sex offender courses, monitoring of his computer, and a $600 fine.

Three weeks later, on April 16, Phillips was arrested on another importuning charge. Because of the first conviction and suspended sentence, he had to serve four months in jail. He was released August 14.

Notes traded with co-worker

The first charge came from an interaction Phillips had with co-worker Richard Cecconi III, then age 17, while both were employed by Civic Development Group, a telemarketing firm in Warren.

�It was conversation,� said Phillips. �[Cecconi] asked me questions like, �How do you know� you are gay, and �What do gay people do in bed?� �

Phillips said he and Cecconi talked, teased, and sent notes �with sexual jokes inside� to each other until late November 2002, when Cecconi went to the police.

Soon after, Warren detective Sgt. Daniel Hudak called Phillips at work and told him to come to the police station.

Phillips went alone and admitted to Hudak that he had spoken with Cecconi. A couple of weeks later, Phillips said he was called to the station again by Hudak �to have a photo taken.� Again, Phillips went alone and was photographed and charged with importuning.

At the arraignment without a lawyer, Phillips pleaded no contest to the first-degree misdemeanor charge, not knowing the law had been voided.

Hudak might not have known, either. According to Warren Police Chief John Mandopoulos, �We are overseen by the prosecutor�s office� when it comes to filing charges.

�It�s up to local prosecutors to inform law enforcement of changes in the law,� said Ohio Attorney General spokesperson Bob Beasley. It is the responsibility of the judge and prosecutor to ensure that defendants are tried only for violating existing laws.

The Supreme Court�s State v. Thompson ruling striking down the importuning law was widely publicized in media accounts and legal publications. Also, all members of the Ohio bar receive a weekly journal informing them of high court decisions and changes in the Ohio Revised Code. The voiding of the importuning law appeared in the May 24, 2002 journal.

Gysegem refused to comment. Warren Assistant Prosecutor Traci Rose, who handled Phillips� prosecution, hung up on this reporter at the mention of Phillips� name.

Diagnosis: �Outside the cultural norm�

Prior to sentencing by Gysegem, Phillips was required to undergo a pre-sentence evaluation by social worker Linda Blum at the Forensic Psychiatric Center of Northeast Ohio.

In that report, Blum entered a diagnosis of �Paraphilia, not otherwise specified.�

Paraphilia is defined as �sexual desires or activities that lie outside the cultural norm.� This includes a long list ranging from acts almost every adult has done to things like bestiality. Until the 1980s, the diagnosis was given to all gays and lesbians.

Blum concluded that Phillips had a medium-high risk of re-offending. She recommended �he have no contact with individuals under the age of eighteen.�

Blum based her conclusions on Phillips� statement that he participated in gay chat rooms, his �having an unrelated victim, a male victim,� and that Phillips is �under the age of twenty-five . . . having never lived with a lover or committed partner for at least two years.�

Blum also got information, mostly Cecconi�s account of events, from Hudak, including an allegation that Phillips bought Cecconi and a friend beer. But Hudak did not charge Phillips with any alcohol-related offense or corruption of a minor. Still, that presumption was before Gysegem when Phillips was sentenced.

Hudak and his supervisor, Captain Tim Roberts, refused to comment.

Teen makes new accusation

A few weeks after sentencing, on April 16, Phillips was arrested at work, this time charged with felony importuning under a section of the law still in effect that deals with juveniles.

Phillips said he was driving on Ohio 422 three days earlier when a blue car chased him, swerved in front of him, cut him off, and tried to run him off the road.

Phillips said he escaped into a parking lot across the road from his workplace. He said there were two occupants in the blue car, a 14-year-old boy and his father, Wayne Trimble, and that Trimble got out of the car and began yelling at him. Phillips thought he was being carjacked, and called his employer for help.

A police officer arrived on the scene and, after identifying Phillips, refused to take a report from him.

However, the youth charged in a statement made the day Phillips was arrested that on April 11 he was approached by a man in a car who offered him oral sex.

The youth�s statement, which was handled by Hudak, says two days after that he was playing horseshoes in his yard with his father when Phillips� car went past them.

The teen said Phillips was the man who had approached him. �I noticed him right off the bat in the same car.� It was then that the two got in their car and began to chase Phillips.

However, descriptions given by the teen of the man who asked him for sex do not match Phillips, even though he saw him during the chase. The youth�s description of the vehicle the man was driving does not match Phillips� car, either.

Phillips produced his time card showing he was at work during the time of the alleged incident and a list of co-workers who would back it up, but the case never went to trial.

By then, Phillips was represented by Youngstown attorney Benjamin Joltin, in the law firm headed by State Sen. Marc Dann. Rose was again the prosecutor and Gysegem was the judge.

Joltin and Dann advised Phillips to plead no contest to a misdemeanor importuning charge and take the negotiated four months in jail.

Joltin said the decision to take the plea deal was Phillips.�

Joltin objected to a reporter�s questions about the plea deal and ended the conversation. Later, Dann called and fielded questions while Joltin was heard in the background feeding him information.

�I stand behind the decision [Phillips] made and the advice we gave him,� said Dann. �It�s municipal court, and the idea is to keep him out of jail.�

Dann said Phillips would have been held in jail an additional six months on a probation violation at Gysegem�s discretion during the time it would have taken to defend him on the second charge.

The arraigning judge, Terry Ivanchak, ordered Phillips� bond set at $10,000, which he could not pay. Gysegem denied a motion against the bond, and at sentencing called Phillips �a danger to the community� and said Phillips was �stealing the innocence from the youth of Warren.�

Dann said he and Joltin began representing Phillips after the 30-day deadline to appeal the conviction on the first importuning charge had passed. Dann acknowledged that if Phillips hadn�t been convicted of importuning the first time, the second charge could have been fought without fear of the additional jail time.

There is no time limit on filing a motion to vacate both convictions on constitutional grounds now that Phillips is out of jail.

�We have never talked about a motion to vacate,� said Dann, adding, �It would just go back to Judge Gysegem, anyway.�

Phillips is scheduled for a probation hearing before Gysegem December 1.


Truck driver arrested in death of Michigan teen

Dayton--Despite scattered showers and thunderstorms, the Dayton AIDS Walk made a successful return to Carillon Park on September 14 after a year�s hiatus.

Three hundred people came out for the 3.2 mile walk. They raised $50,000 for the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, according to preliminary estimates. Final figures are not yet available.

One reason for suspending the event last year was difficulty scheduling it. ARC Ohio, then the AIDS Foundation Miami Valley, introduced two new fundraisers, the MasqueRage ball and the Dazzle art show. The organization wanted to space them and the group�s large biennial event evenly across the year, and ran out of time for the AIDS Walk.

The walk had also suffered from diminishing returns in recent years, but this year�s event reversed that trend.

�In 2003, participation was up from 2001,� said ARC Ohio development director Tom Wamsley. �After a year hiatus, we anticipated that 2003 was going to be a �rebuilding� year for the event.�

The leadership of the organization, which serves 31 of the 88 counties in Ohio, is pleased with the results of the event.

�The community showed their support of ARC Ohio and AIDS Walk 2003 despite the rain,� he continued. �We can�t thank the volunteers and participants enough for their support.�

�The AIDS Walk is back to stay, and we will be announcing the date and location for AIDS Walk 2004 in the upcoming weeks,� he noted.

The MasqueRage ball will also be returning for its second annual event this year on Saturday, October 18 at the Cannery at Wayne Ave. and Third St. The Dazzle art auction, however, will not be held this year.

The change from the Miami Valley organization into ARC Ohio involved a major expansion of its coverage area in western Ohio. This may lead the AIDS Walk to change locations periodically, or spawn multiple walks.

�We do not want to limit participation in the AIDS Walk by only offering it in Dayton,� Wamsley said. �We are beginning to look into conducting the AIDS Walk in other cities in the ARC Ohio service area.�

 


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Same-sex marriage squeaks past early Canadian hurdle

Ottawa--By a five-vote margin, the Canadian Parliament defeated a symbolic measure against same-sex marriage on September 16.

The 137-132 vote in the 301-member House of Commons was on a non-binding resolution put forth by the conservative Canadian Alliance to support the present opposite-sex definition of marriage, and calling on Parliament to take �all necessary steps� to preserve it.

Had the resolution passed, it would have been a major blow to the ruling Liberal Party�s proposed legislation to change the national definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

That measure would bring all of Canada in line with court rulings in British Columbia, Ontario and Qu�bec that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples may now marry in Ontario and British Columbia only.

While the Alliance resolution was not binding, its call for �all necessary steps� was interpreted to mean the �notwithstanding clause� of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights.

The clause allows a parliamentary body, on the national or provincial level, to ignore court rulings on Charter issues for five-year periods.

The Liberal Party is historically opposed to the clause. They included it when they crafted the Charter in 1982 as a concession to provincial governments. The federal government has never invoked it.

The Canadian Alliance attempted to make their resolution more palatable by removing the �all necessary steps� clause, but that attempt was defeated 135 to 134. The Speaker of the House of Commons had to cast the first tie-breaking vote in 40 years.

When an identical �preservation of marriage� measure was introduced five years ago, it passed 21655 and Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien voted for it. As a primary backer of the same-sex marriage bill, he opposed it this time.

�Society evolves,� Chr�tien explained.

Despite pressure from Chr�tien and his likely successor Paul Martin, 53 Liberal members of Parliament broke party lines, and others were absent to avoid doing so. Of the 23 Bloc Qu�becois members, only three crossed party lines to support the measure.

�The Canadian Alliance argued that Canadian values of equality and respect shouldn�t matter,� said Alex Munter, spokesperson for Canadians for Equal Marriage, a newly formed advocacy group. �The majority of Canadian parliamentarians today voted against the Alliance vote and reaffirmed the human rights and religious freedom of all Canadians.�

According to John Fisher, former executive director of Egale Canada, the national LGBT rights organization, members of Parliament were under no more pressure to vote along party lines than they will be when the same-sex marriage bill comes to a vote. That is now set for this winter, after the Supreme Court of Canada has checked its constitutionality.

�This was as much of a free vote as the legislation will be,� Fisher said. �The government does have a policy and does have a position and encourages MPs to support it.�

�There�s clearly some work to do to make sure that when the bill comes up, it passes,� Fisher concluded.

 


 

Case closed on teen rape

Cleveland--Police have closed their investigation into a gay teen�s report that he was abducted from a Detroit Ave. bus stop by three men who raped him.

The case was closed with no suspects, police said, because the victim has not cooperated with the investigation.

�It could be reopened, but until he comes in to make his statement, it is sitting on the desk getting cold,� said Detective Rochelle Bush of the Cleveland Police sex crimes unit.

Bush said police have attempted to talk to the 15-year-old a number of times since the July 11 incident.

The teen filed an initial report with police officers while he was at Lutheran Medical Center being treated for injuries and examined for evidence of rape.

But he has not made an official complaint, nor spoken further to detectives about the crime.

The teen initially reported that three men, one white, one black, and one Hispanic, abducted him while he was waiting for a bus after a youth group meeting at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center across the street. He had decided not to join friends at a downtown bar, and had returned to the center to get a bag he had left there. But the center had closed.

He reported that the three men put him in a gray Ford Explorer and took him to an abandoned-looking house in the Ohio City neighborhood where he was raped repeatedly by all three. He said the men threatened to kill and bury him before dropping him off at another Ohio City location 18 hours later.

Police did not classify the incident as a hate crime, although the boy reported that the men called him �faggot� as they approached the bus stop. Cleveland has a hate crime ordinance that includes sexual orientation.

�This is very typical,� said the center�s executive director David Smith. �This is what happens around so many hate crimes against gay people. The victims hide because they are so frightened.�

Smith also believes that fear keeps the reporting of hate crimes lower than it should be.

 


 

Boy behind the scenes

An interview with Boy Meets Boy winner Wes Culwell

San Diego--Rex Wockner sat down with Boy Meets Boy winner Wes Culwell last week to get the inside scoop on Bravo�s fascinating yet controversial summer reality series.

The controversial twist, of course, was that seven of the 15 guys from which lead player James was trying to choose a boyfriend were secretly straight but pretending to be gay. James outsmarted the producers in the end, and chose Wes.

Rex Wockner: One day, Wes, you�re an ordinary San Diego homosexual working at the LGBT Center. You probably went for drinks at Flicks or Numbers or maybe Pecs, like the rest of us. And then you�re chosen to be on this show.

At some point, a few months ago, you�re off to Palm Springs for ten days to film this thing. You come back home. You went back to your job. You couldn�t tell anybody anything. Then the show starts airing. Then, as you already knew, you win the thing. And now you�re kind of like a celebrity. How weird is it?

Wes Culwell: It�s very strange. I�ve been an actor since I was two years old, so I�m used to talking to people. But now it�s, �I know you.� They�ve seen you laugh, they�ve seen you cry, they�ve seen you have a crush on somebody. It�s a really bizarre thing because they really get to know you.

RW: Is it a different experience walking through West Hollywood and Hillcrest already?

WC: Absolutely. Being in my early 20s, you get used to the cruising situation, always looking up and down, but now they have a reason to come up and say hello.

So, it�s a different thing. I love that people actually watched the show. And I guess the way I was portrayed, and who I am, makes them comfortable enough to come up and talk to me. That�s great. But it�s very different now walking through West Hollywood, through Chelsea in New York, walking through Hillcrest here in San Diego. Especially Hillcrest, because it�s where I�m from. My friends are like, �Oh, my God!�--then half of the people I don�t know.

RW: Is it weird or are you enjoying it?

WC: Both. I wouldn�t have done it if I didn�t expect some of this. But it�s much larger than I ever thought it would be. But I knew it�s reality TV and knew you�re putting yourself out there to let people get to know who you are. So, it�s weird but it�s great.

RW: How did you get chosen to be on the show?

WC: I was at Flicks [a San Diego gay bar]. I was doing outreach for the LGBT Center. I was approached by . . . one of the casting directors and he told me the premise, and the minute I heard �reality TV�--uh, no.

I mean, I loved my job, I was doing some really good non-profit work, so I wasn�t really interested in going that path. I saw him again later that night. I was, like, �Thanks, anyway.�

The next night I went out again . . . and saw him at Bourbon Street. He was: �C�mon, just come and talk to us. Let us tell you what it�s about.� So, after two-and-a-half days of seeing him everywhere in San Diego, I decided to go in there.

[In the end], I thought . . . the fact that they�re doing a gay Bachelor and it�s going to be on a national network, that, to me, was the big selling point. I thought, no matter what happens, if I can go on and show myself as a strong gay man who�s not afraid of my sexuality and doesn�t fall into any major stereotype, that�s great. That was my main objective.

And what a plus if you find someone you really connect with.

RW: Was your gaydar broken like James�, or did you have suspicions that some of the guys were straight?

WC: It�s funny. Coming from the LGBT non-profit sector, you see every single type of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender--you see the spectrum. But there were many moments during the show when I was like, �What?�

One of the guys, he�s a DJ and his DJ name is DJ Positive. When he told me that, I�m like: �DJ Positive? Do you realize the connotations?� He was, �What do you mean?� No idea.

Another guy, Paul, lives here in San Diego. I saw him come on the first day and he�s wearing this huge baggy T-shirt and these huge, oversized shorts and I�m like, �You don�t have to be a fashion guru to be a gay man, but did you even go shopping for national TV?� Little things like that.

Dan came out of the bathroom one day and he�s all dressed up and he has puka-shell necklaces on, and he said, �What do you think?� And I said: �Puka-shell necklaces? Dan, what kind of gay man are you?� And I watched his face just drop. Now it makes sense! Now it makes sense!

So there were little things all along the way. People�s coming out stories, they seemed sometimes a little contrived. But what I found so interesting is that the friends that I really bonded with, that we were tight right away, were with the gay men. I don�t know if that was because gay men do have the special bond, that kind of like sixth sense. Or was I picking up some of the deception, that I wasn�t trusting some of the guys. Definitely the deep bonds were with the gay men.

RW: This is all in retrospect. Your suspicions never rose to a conscious level?

WC: Right. Not at all. During the show I thought: Wow, what a great casting job that they can show this spectrum of gay men. I was thinking they did a great job of finding 15 dynamic gay men.

RW: What were your feelings about the twist itself, once everything was on the table?

WC: When I found out about the twist, I was a little like, hmmm.

RW: When did you find out?

WC: James whispered in my ear during the last scene, �There�s a twist.� You don�t see him do it [on the edited program]. During the hug. Then we walk off hand-in-hand ready to start our new adventure and that�s when they sat me down and said, �Here�s the whole story.�

My first reaction was, �What was the point?� Then they explained the premise of the show. [The] Evolution [company] is a totally gay production staff. They wanted to bring Middle America into the show. They wanted to show gay men interacting with straight men and vice versa. So, when I first heard the twist, I was like, not so much. But when the entire show aired, I think it did its purpose. I get emails from Middle America saying, �My son just came out and he�s 15 and, wow, you�ve given him a role model.�

Queer as Folk is a great show but it�s so oversexualized. And a lot of times that�s all Middle America sees of the gay community. Sexuality is absolutely a part of our community, but there�s the other side, romance and friendships that sometimes get brushed under the table because they�re not quite as sensational, not quite as good ratings.

RW: How was the editing?

WC: What you didn�t see of me was a lot of my campiness. I was pretty campy.

You also didn�t see all the chaos of James� and my last date. At the lookout point a group of 13-year-old girls thought we were a boy band and they were pounding on the window of the limousine wanting our autographs. We�re like: �We�re in a gay show. Get out of here.�

Then, the carriage ride around Palm Springs, we got pulled over by the police. There�s an open-container law and we were drinking champagne. They were writing citations. We were like: �Producers! Help!� The limousine crashed into the fountain in front of the leading man�s house--broke the fountain, cracked the transmission. And we�re like, �Is this romantic or is it insane? I can�t tell.� And then the fire [which you saw]. It was one of those nights.

RW: And what�s up with you and James these days?

WC: People don�t understand that when we left the set [on May 18], contractually, you cannot see each other, because it ruins the end of the show. You can go out in groups, you can make phone calls and do emails, but you can�t spend one-on-one time together.

When you have a high budget like with the Bachelor shows, they will actually rent suites in hotels so you can have one-on-one dates, but it�s Bravo, God love �em, they don�t have the hugest budgets in the world.

They�ve done great with it, but we didn�t have the option. They were like, �Do what you gotta do, don�t be seen in public together.� So it�s been five months now and we have been keeping in contact with phone calls three or four times a week, emails, going out in groups, but, really, it�s such a hard thing to try to keep up. You know, �I don�t really know you. Enjoyed the show,� but you can�t be romantic. So now that the show�s over, we�re picking up where we left off. There�s potential there, definitely. Absolutely.

But where you saw us walking off hand-in-hand, that�s where we�re picking up now. The trip to New Zealand [that we won] is in March.

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