Karl Frisch started his career as a Republican. He now makes a living pointing out what he calls the party’s hypocrisies and biases masquerading as journalism.
“It’s been an advantage in some ways,” the 33-year-old Westchester, Calif., native says. “I came to this fight having seen what the other side is capable of. I started very young … working on the campaign of a local Republican. My parents were Republicans … my politics were not motivated by ideology but more by my own trajectory and career. I was thinking about what would raise my profile and make me more successful.”
He was also closeted at the time. Frisch, today a syndicated columnist and founding partner of Bullfight Strategies (a communications partnership that helps progressive leaders), has joined the Democratic Party and discusses his views on radio and TV. The college dropout is a regular on CurrentTV’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and morning radio’s “Stephanie Miller Show” where his “Right Wing World” segment airs Thursdays at 9. Listen for him Monday and Tuesday when he guest hosts the nationally syndicated “Leslie Marshall Show,” which can be streamed through her eponymous website.
So what led to his political turnabout? Frisch says it was mostly a matter of age and maturity, some of which was tied up in his decisions to come out about the same time. He eventually felt “ludicrous,” he says, and realized early in his career a “wasted life in the closet, miserable” wasn’t for him. His campaign staff work, which included a stint with Sen. John McCain in 2000, led him to Iowa, South Carolina, Vermont, Ohio and more. He landed in Washington in 2004 after working on the Howard Dean campaign. Frisch initially did some new media consulting work here, then worked with U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter on the House Rules Committee.
Frisch enjoys traveling, skiing, camping, politics, espressos, live music, theater, gadgets and “Glee” in his free time. “Sweet Transvestite” from “Rocky Horror” is his signature karaoke song. He de-stresses by doing cardio at Vida and walking his dog, Dexter Von Frisch, who has his own Twitter account. Frisch is single and lives in Dupont Circle.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
The first person I told was my closest high school/college friend Portia in 1999. I sent her a letter and was so upset when I didn’t hear back from her after a few days. It turned out that I’d simply put the wrong zip code on the envelope — she ended up being great and very supportive. So supportive in fact that her college roommate came out within a few days! It wasn’t long until I was out to everyone in my life with the exception of my parents. They were the hardest to tell though I finally did in 2002.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
That’s going to be a four-way tie between my sister for the personal inspiration, Harvey Milk and Dan Savage for their civic inspiration, and members of the LGBT community who continue to reside in states that deny their equality and fail to value their simple human dignity. They should inspire us all, especially those of us in D.C. who have it far easier in comparison.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Feeling divey? Townhouse Tavern. Want to sing? Karaoke at Playbill Café with Jill on Thursdays. Nellie’s and D.C. Bëar Crüe happy hour are always fun too.
Describe your dream wedding.
First and foremost, there would have to be another groom. Oh, and it would also be a union recognized in every U.S. state, district and territory. I’d even give up the cake, tuxedo and reception for that (though I really shouldn’t need to).
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Climate change. I have no doubt that we are on the precipice of full equality as a community. I’d like to be able to enjoy it here on planet Earth for decades to come. With the same anti-science crazies that stand in the way of our equality denying the truth of global climate change, that isn’t a guarantee.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2000 election. If Gore had been declared the winner, perhaps we would be further along in the march for equality.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Four words: Marky Mark Calvin Klein.
On what do you insist?
Voting. If you don’t, STFU. Seriously.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Amazing. My youngest sister is in the new GLEE Live 3D movie. She’s the redhead makeup artist: http://t.co/s6i3A4y”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Second Chances: The Story of How a Closeted Conservative Became a Gay Progressive and Changed the World for the Better”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Start casting aspersions on science like a Republican.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Literally? Other planets, our universe, some stars, various gasses, space junk etc.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Keep calm and fight on!
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I’d settle for $5,000 cash and the world’s best pedicure.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The notion that being gay is a choice. It isn’t. Religiosity and being Republican on the other hand …
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
That’s really tough because so many are so very bad. For major releases, I’d go with “Milk,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Top Gun” (it’s about volleyball right?). “Get Real,” “Spork,” “Sordid Lives” and “Edge of Seventeen” for some indie flare.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The subordination of women.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Who wouldn’t dream of completing the EGOT during their lifetime? Google it.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That “it gets better.” If I’d known that, perhaps I would have come out at 18 or even earlier.
History. Happens. Here. (and crabcakes)