Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

‘That kid from YouTube’

Young Iowan releases a book about growing up with his ‘Two Moms’

Published

on

Zach Wahls (Photo courtesy Lambda Legal)

You know him as “That kid from YouTube,” but the now 20-year-old loving son of two moms, Zach Wahls hopes he will soon be “That kid from the New York Times Best Seller” list.

“We’re all keeping our fingers crossed — it would be great to be a New York Times best selling author before I can legally have a drink to celebrate that fact,” says former Eagle Scout Wahls about his two-week-old memoir “My Two Moms,” which has been in or near the Amazon top 100 best sellers all week.

A major boost for Wahl’s book came last week with his April 30 appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” on Comedy Central, which caused his book about being raised with Iowa values by a committed lesbian couple to jump up the Amazon’s 22nd spot.

Before he was on the “Daily Show” or Ellen DeGeneres, Wahls was a viral video sensation. Not because he did a weird impression or blew something up, but because he gave an incredible, moving testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, which was considering sending to Iowans a Constitutional amendment that would undo a state Supreme Court decision to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

In his testimony, Wahls discussed his excellent grades and outstanding athletic achievements, opening his own business, studying engineering at the University of Iowa and his time in the Scouts where his mother Terry, whom he calls “short mom,” was a den mother, while “tall mom” Jackie helped out with the Cub Scouts.

“If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud,” Wahls says in one memorable moment of the video.

But this all-American boy — who says he can’t drink, but does enjoy a cigar every once in a while, and would like to celebrate the success of his book with one if he makes the Times list — is now turning his 15 minutes of fame into a career of advocacy.

His book chronicles the struggles his family faced over the years — such as mother Terry’s struggle with M.S. — and the values that kept them together.

On the phone from Asheville, N.C., on Monday, the day before the vote on Amendment One, he has a lot to say.

WASHINGTON BLADE: The book is organized in an unusual way. Why?

ZACH WAHLS: The book has 14 chapters and two appendices. The first chapter is “Be Prepared,” which is the Boy Scouts’ motto, and the last chapter is “Do a Good Turn Daily,” which is the Scouts’ slogan. And the middle 12 chapters are named and oriented after and on a tenant of the scout law. And the scout law is a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Each chapter is an examination of that value, and how I learned it from my moms first, and how I learned it from the Boy Scouts, what it means to me, and what it means to the LGBT community in general.

BLADE: What was the “Daily Show” experience like?

WAHLS: It was the seven coolest minutes of my life.

And Jon, actually — unlike the host of literally every single other show — actually came to the green room backstage before the show and we had a nice little conversation. It was very clear that he had read the book, it was clear that he enjoyed the book and we just had a great little conversation.

I was standing in the green room, and what he does is that he starts talking very loudly as he’s walking toward you down the hall, so you can hear him coming, and he knows that you can hear him coming.

He’s just such a classy guy. Just 100 percent pure class.

I went to the rally to restore sanity last year, and it was the first time I’d ever ridden a Greyhound, actually. Like 24 hours on a Greyhound from Iowa to D.C. to the rally, and I’ve been watching the show since I was like 10. It was an amazing moment.

My moms and my sister were there, they had a great time too. It was great for sure.

BLADE: You seemed very confident and calm. Were you nervous?

WAHLS: Well he came backstage before, and that helped a lot. I was like almost about to have a nervous breakdown when he actually walked into the room. So that would have been what I was experiencing when I walked on stage had he not done that. So that was useful.

It was definitely a high stakes seven minutes. We managed to have a conversation and have a great time, and it was a blast.

But they told me before I went on, don’t make any jokes, and I kept trying not to.

BLADE: But you did! You did make a joke, and it landed well, the audience laughed!

WAHLS: I was having so much fun, I couldn’t help myself.

BLADE: What is the key to changing minds on the issue of rights for LGBT people?

WAHLS: The single most important task is continuing to systematically dismantle this myth of choice.

I think that’s why the YouTube video was so successful. I mean I never come out in the video and say I’m straight — and I’m hesitant to come to conclusions, because that’s something we shouldn’t do — but I think it is fairly clear in the video that I am a flaming straight man. So I think that the single most important development in any person’s movement on the continuum of opposition to LGBT rights to support for LGBT rights is the understanding that sexual orientation is not a choice. It is a pervasive misconception, and in many cases a pervasive lie that unfortunately many Americans do believe to be true.

But when you see people move beyond that misconception, it becomes very difficult for them to believe subsequently that homosexuality is immoral. Because if it’s not a choice, how could it be immoral? It’s much like historically saying someone is immoral or less than simply because of the color of their skin or the organs between their legs.

It used to be the belief that women were subservient to men and that blacks where inferior to whites, and that’s why — when it came to women’s suffrage or civil rights in the sixties — you had to address the underlying discrimination and the underlying beliefs before you could have the political solution that guaranteed equal rights, and that’s what we’re seeing here as well.

BLADE: One problem the LGBT movement often has with allies is commitment. Polling shows most Americans are with the LGBT activists on the big issues like employment, housing, benefits and even equal marriage is polling over 50 percent nationwide, but that doesn’t mean that supporters bother to leave the house to go vote for our rights in a special election like North Carolina’s. How do we inspire more allies to action?

WAHLS: To be clear, I don’t consider myself an ally. I might be straight cisgender man, but in my mind, I am a member of the LGBT community.

I know the last thing that anyone wants is to add another letter to the acronym, but we need to make sure as a movement we’re making a place for what we call “queer-spawn” to function and to be part of the community.

Because even though I’m not gay, I do know what its like to be hated for who I am. And I do know what its like to be in the closet, and like every other member of the LGBT community, I did not have a choice in this. I was born into this movement. I want to be explicitly clear first of all.

These fights affect me, they affect my family.

Now my best friend Nick, a straight guy, he’s an ally.

In terms of how we can have an upgraded commitment from straight allies, the fact is that if you look at the straight community, generally, there is a lot of excitement. And its not just support but excitement on this issue, because I think — in liberal politics generally — this is one of the few issues across the country in which we are not just standing our ground, but actually advancing as a progressive community.

Gay people can’t win this alone though. There aren’t enough people in the LGBT community itself to win this on their own. So in terms of what strategies are most effective? I think that making sure that you are illustrating these personal connections and engaging in this relationship building. Obviously, I come from a somewhat biased point of view, but if you have a close family member or a close friend who is openly LGBT, not only are you more likely to support the issue, but you’re more likely to act as well.

BLADE: There are lots of heartfelt YouTube videos out there with people explaining why LGBT rights matter. Why did yours blow up so big?

WAHLS: I know, its kind of crazy! Well, I think there are two factors. First is that it disrupted some expectations. When you think of whatever that stereotype of two women raising a kid is, a clean cut engineering student, Eagle Scout, entrepreneur — from Iowa to boot — probably isn’t that stereotype. And I think people enjoy seeing those stereotypes getting broken down.

I think more importantly and fundamentally, in that video, I hope you really do see me display my love for and commitment to my family. And I think it reminded a lot of people of their own love and their own commitment that they feel for their families. And I think that was really what struck home. The confidence, the passion, and at the end of the day, the love that was driving through.

BLADE: After three years of equal marriage, what are attitudes like across Iowa today on the issue of same-sex marriage?

WAHLS: Actually, The Onion had a great article, when marriage became legal, and the headline was “Hell opens up and swallows Davenport Iowa.” Obviously it was satire. The sky didn’t fall. Divorce rates are falling, straight people are still marrying straight people. They aren’t catching the gay. 92 percent of Iowans feel that they have not been affected by the Supreme Court ruling in any major way and 56 percent of Iowans oppose a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court decision [that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples in Iowa].

It’s important to note that there is still a small disconnect between those who support same-sex marriage and those who would oppose its repeal. I think that this speaks to the Iowan ethos, which is the notion of “live and let live.” Even though they may not necessarily support same-sex marriage, they aren’t willing to take it away from couples like my parents.

BLADE: Until your video went viral on YouTube, yours was pretty much a quiet, average all-American family. How have your mothers handled all of the extra attention?

WAHLS: My moms have handled it really about as well as you can expect mothers to handle this kind of thing. It was definitely hard at some points for them. They see, obviously a lot of potential when you’re in the limelight to come under very sharp criticism and that happened.

There was a conservative radio host in Iowa who spent 20 minutes of his show going through my speech line by line by line accusing me of all kinds of rhetorical black magic. He seems to think I’m some kind of mastermind or something, which is quite flattering. But my moms hear that, and their protective instincts kick in, definitely.

They’ve been overwhelmingly proud, no doubt about it, but their primary concern is my safety. But they know I’m a grown man, I can handle myself — more often than not — so they’re mostly proud.

Although I do spend a lot less time at home, so I don’t see them or my sister nearly as frequently as I used to. And we’re all a little disappointed about that. My sister and I were both looking forward to the Avengers movie together for a long time, and she caved and saw it with “short mom,” which I was a little upset about. But I understand. I guess. [laughs]

Unlike her, I’m willing to wait til I get home to see it.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Books

Two new books celebrate Old Hollywood glory

Published

on

Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift, who was gay, had a long, close friendship. (Photo courtesy Kensington)
‘Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship’
By Charles Casillo
c.2021, Kensington
$27.00/389 pages

‘The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock’
By Edward White
c.2021, W. W. Norton & Company
$28.95/379 pages

If you’re queer, especially if you’re of a certain age, old Hollywood is embedded in your DNA.

For those of us besotted by classic movies — there can never be too many books about Tinseltown.

Two new books — “Elizabeth and Monty” by Charles Casillo and “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock” by Edward White — will satisfy your old Hollywood jones.

“Elizabeth and Monty” is the riveting story of the intimate friendship of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Few people are loved more by the LGBTQ community than Elizabeth Taylor. Who will ever forget Taylor as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” or as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?”

Taylor raised millions for AIDS research long before any celeb or politico even said the word “AIDS.” People with AIDS weren’t objects of charity to Taylor. She had many queer friends and hung out at gay bars.

Montgomery Clift, who lived from 1920 to 1966, was a talented actor. Because of the time in which he lived, he had to be closeted about his sexuality. Because of the homophobia in the society and Hollywood then, the support of friends was crucial to Clift and other LGBTQ people of that era.

For much of his life, Clift had health problems that caused him pain. Partly as a result of pain, he had issues with drinking and drug addiction. His behavior could be erratic and uncouth.  (He had a penchant for eating food off of other people’s plates.)

Despite Clift’s troubles, you become transfixed by his brooding intensity – whether you’re watching him in “The Heiress,” “From Here to Eternity” or “Red River.”  

If you have a heartbeat, you’ll feel the chemistry between Clift and Taylor when they’re on screen together in “A Place in the Sun.”

Though Clift was queer and Taylor was hetero, they were the closest of friends.

From the prologue onward, Casillo draws you into their friendship. The book opens on the evening when Clift, driving home from a party, was in a terrible car accident. He’d crashed into a telephone pole. 

Taylor went to Clift who was lying bleeding on the road. “Realizing he was choking on his teeth,” Casillo adds, “she instinctively stuck her fingers down his throat and pulled out two broken teeth, clearing the passageway.”

Taylor stuck by Clift when many of his friends distanced themselves from him.  

Taylor insisted that Clift be cast in “Reflections in a Golden Eye.” She put up her own salary as insurance for Clift when no one would insure him (because of his health and substance abuse issues).

It’s clear from “Elizabeth and Monty” that Clift was as important to Taylor as she was to him. Their relationship wasn’t sexual, writes Casillo, author of “Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon” and “Outlaw The Lives and Careers of John Rechy.” Yet, there was an emotional intensity – a romantic quality – in their friendship.

Clift nurtured Taylor. He coached Taylor, who he called Bessie Mae, on her acting. He thought Taylor was beautiful, yet understood what it was like for Taylor when people only saw her for her beauty.

“Monty, Elizabeth likes me, but she loves you,” Richard Burton is reported to have said to Clift.

There are good biographies of Taylor – such as William Mann’s “How To Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood” and of Clift – most notably Patricia Bosworth’s “Montgomery Clift: A Biography.”

Even so, “Elizabeth and Monty” sheds new light on the intense friendship of two queer icons. Check it out. It will imbue you with renewed love and respect not only for Taylor and Clift but for your own friends.

Without Alfred Hitchcock, I’d never make it through the pandemic.

The COVID vaccines are wonderful! But, I’d never get out of my sweatpants without the suspense and glam of Hitchcock’s movies.

Nothing is more comforting than watching serial killer Uncle Charlie in “Shadow of a Doubt” or, with Grace Kelly, James Stewart and Thelma Ritter, observing the murderer in “Rear Window.”

What is more pleasurable than ogling the gorgeous mid-century apartment where a murder has been committed in “Rope?”

Of course, I’m far from alone in loving Hitchcock. Hetero and queer viewers are Hitchcock fans.

Everyone from your straight, straitlaced granny to your bar-hopping queer grandson has had nightmares about the shower scene in “Psycho.” Or had a crush on Cary Grant or Eva Marie Saint in “North by Northwest.”

From the glam in “Rear Window” to Bruno and Guy in “Strangers on a Train,” it’s clear that Hitchcock’s movies have a queer quotient and a special appeal to LGBTQ viewers.

There are more biographies and studies of Hitchcock’s life and work than you could count. Or would want to read.

Yet, “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock” by Edward White is a good read.

In elegant, precise writing, White illuminates Hitchcock’s life and work by examining 12 aspects of his complex personality. As with all of us, the whole of Hitchcock’s self was more than the components of his personality. Any life, despite the most assiduous biographer’s investigations, remains somewhat of a mystery.

White explores how “Hitchcock” the phenomenon was invented as well as what made Hitchcock the person tick. He carries out this exploration by writing about Hitchcock as everything from “The Fat Man” to “The Murderer” to “The Dandy” to “The Voyeur” to “The Londoner” to “The Family Man” to “The Man of God.”

Hitchcock was a family man who loved his wife, yet, at times, gazed in, to put it mildly an unsavory manner, at some of the actresses such as Tippi Hedren, in his films.  

Impeccably dressed in a Victorian-era suite, he plotted films about murder and rape with his wife (and frequent uncredited collaborator) Alma at his side.

For a half century, “Hitchcock’s persona was the active ingredient in the most celebrated of his 53 films,” White writes, “the way Oscar Wilde’s was in his plays, and Andy Warhol’s was in his art.”

Hitchcock stands alone in the Hollywood canon, White writes, “a director whose mythology eclipses the brilliance of his myriad classic movies.”

The span of Hitchcock’s career was immense — from the time of silent films to the 3-D era. His work, White, a “Paris Review” contributor, writes, runs the gamut from thrillers to screwball comedy to horror to film noir to social realism.

Read “The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock.”  It’ll take you inside the mosaic of the fab filmmaker’s life and work. Then, break out the popcorn and “Dial M for Murder.”  

Continue Reading

Out & About

Northam declares June LGBTQ+ Pride month in Va.

Virginians encouraged to participate in events throughout the Commonwealth

Published

on

Ralph Northam, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, shown here at NoVa Pride in 2018, announced a monthlong series of Pride events. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on June 4 officially declared June as LGBTQ+ Pride month to celebrate the commonwealth’s LGBTQ+ communities, their achievements and contributions, and their fight for inclusion and equality.

“This Pride month, we are reminded of the resilience of LGBTQ+ Americans and their fight for inclusion and acceptance and equal access to services and opportunities,” said Northam. 

Northam further encouraged Virginians to participate in Pride month activities that are to be hosted by his administration and community organizations taking place online and in-person throughout the Commonwealth. 

A comprehensive event schedule is available on the governor’s website.

Continue Reading

Arts & Entertainment

Colton Underwood, Greyson Chance+ more Amazon Live Pride Festival!

Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions

Published

on

SEATTLE, WA. – Happy Pride Month! Amazon Live is hosting its first-ever Pride Festival this Thursday (6/10) and Friday (6/11) from 3-6pm ET. Your favorite celebrities and influencers, including recording artist, Greyson Chance and former Bachelor star, Colton Underwood, will be streaming live to discuss how they show their Pride, answer fan questions, and share their top Pride picks across fashion, beauty, books, movies, and TV.

Customers can watch HERE via desktop, mobile, or through the Amazon Live Shopping app on Fire TV. Customers can interact directly with the celebrities and influencers via live chat, and easily shop the products and brands discussed through a carousel that updates in real-time.

The scheduled events are as follows:

DAY ONE (6/10):

  • 3PM ET: Greyson Chance will perform from his upcoming EP Trophies, releasing on June 25, and share his curated selection of Pride merch.
  • 4PM ET: Jo Duree will stream a “get ready with me,” inviting viewers to do their makeup alongside her as she shows top tips and tricks.
  • 5PM ET: Pride House LA is throwing the ULTIMATE pride variety show! Featuring top products, you will be fully entertained with special guest performances and amazing talent!

DAY TWO (6/11):

  • 3PM ET: Colton Underwood will discuss his life, answer viewer questions, and share the products that help him show off his pride.
  • 4PM ET: Jake Warden will demo a Pride makeup look.
  • 5PM ET: Olga Von Light will discuss her coming out story, and share some favorite Pride related merchandise and why the products are meaningful to her. 

We’d love to have you join! Check out this blog post for more information about how Amazon is celebrating Pride Month.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular