WHAT DO YOU GET
TWO GUYS WHO HAVE EVERYTHING?
14 September 2002
You may have seen it in all the news lately. Billy and Chuck are getting married.
That would be the champion tag team wrestlers, who plan to go through a commitment
ceremony on Tuesday. They've even enlisted the help of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation) to make sure they get it right.
There are a few interesting things about the approaching nuptials. First, Billy and
Chuck aren't really gay and (one assumes) aren't really in love with each other--it's all
a publicity stunt.
But the second interesting thing is the audience reaction to the whole thing. From a
Billy and Chuck have spent the current WWE season overtly flirting with one another
- delighting the audience and taunting their opponents with their blooming togetherness....
Delighting audiences? An openly supposedly gay couple? Delighting wrestling
It's hard to know if the audience loves them back or cringes at the sight of them;
perhaps both. The Billy-Chuck story monkeywrenches much of what people presume to know
about middle America, homophobia, showbiz and machismo....
audiences have, mirabile dictu, been as supportive as they know how to be of the
team they call the Ambiguously Gay Duo - although Billy and Chuck are frequently met with
posters carried by female fans who have crushes on them and wish to "convert"
"This is the most mature way wrestling has ever handled a gay storyline, which
isn't saying much at all," Keller [the promoter who is the brains behind this
idea] said yesterday. "But what I've noticed that's different this time is that
the crowds have been surprisingly tolerant of the Billy and Chuck angle. It wasn't so long
ago that you would go to a wrestling event and be sitting next to kids who were encouraged
to chant, 'faggot, faggot, faggot.' This time the audience responds to the gay, or
effeminate, characters in a fun way, instead of as a way to express hate."
Can it be that there are pockets in this country where people are willing to accept
a gay couple for what they are--a couple of people who happen to love each other?
There may never have been a better time in the history of this country's struggle with
the whole issue of homosexuality for Steve and Jimmy to be premiering their new play,
which I am going to LA to see again this weekend.
It's a basically a simple story, told in very funny and at times quite poignant, dialog
(much of which has been rewritten since I saw it in Laguna a few weeks ago). It's just the
story of two people who grew up in very different worlds (Steve, the son of a Baptist
minister, who wanted to grow up to be just like his father, and Jimmy, who was raised
Catholic, entered the seminary, and wanted to be the first American pope), who came to
accept their sexual orientation, eventually met each other, fell in love and have been
living a gay marriage for the past 17 years, a fact that flies in the face of all those
who say that homosexuals are incapable of deep love and are simply sex-crazed, going from
partner to partner with little to no emotional involvement or commitment.
It will be interesting to watch The Big Voice as it smooths out the rough edges
and prepares for its October opening at the Zephyr theatre in Los Angeles. Steve and Jimmy
could be America's first gay comedy duo--the Burns and Allen of West Hollywood; the gay
What's terrific about this play is that nobody lays on the "gay" thing with a
trowel. They are two people in love, who just happen to be gay. There are no great
messages here, no sensationalistic sex scenes, no "agenda" (for want of a better word) other than
just to tell their story, and to make you laugh and cry with them in the telling.
When the curtain falls (figuratively--there is no real curtain), and they hug each
other in elation because the show has gone so well, it's not the made-for-stage phony act
of Billy and Chuck, it's the real thing--two guys who love each other, who have committed
themselves to each other for far longer than an awful lot of straight marriages, and who
thoroughly enjoy working together and the interaction with the audience as well.
Maybe, with the tolerance that red neck audiences are giving to Chuck and Billy, it's
the dawn of a new era and Steve & Jimmy will be in the right place at the right time.
I sure hope so.