Another Gay TV Show

About a year after my mom came out, I sold the idea as a TV show to FX. They were the only network that would listen to the pitch. The others had said they weren’t looking for “another gay show.” It wasn’t long after Ellen had been cancelled.

Anyway, my agents had paired me up with another writer who’d won an Emmy. It helped us get past the initial pitch and paid to write the script.

The show never made it to air.

I’d like to blame the other guy, but the truth is, I was the one who fucked it up. I fucked it so hard I should be forced to introduce myself to neighbors every time I move.

We called the show “A Suburban Story,” pitched it as the idea that no one knows what’s going on behind closed doors, especially in the suburbs.

My parents, after all, had been living in the same house pretending to be together, even after my mom had come out. They were waiting until my sister finished high school.

Once she graduated, my mom got her own place, and I started getting paid to write about what was happening with our family.

Every night, I’d call my parents and ask them questions. Then I’d show up to the office and write everything we’d discussed. It was disgusting. I felt like an exploitive asshole, but I needed the money.

We beat out the story on note cards and taped them to the wall. The pilot, we decided, was going to be about my character coming home for Thanksgiving and discovering his mom is gay. It was exactly the way it had happened.

That was our first mistake.

It blurred reality, made me think this wasn’t just TV; this was my actual life.

I couldn’t tell what was fiction.

My writing partner wasn’t happy with the structure, but I argued that this was the way it happened.

I said that phrase a lot, used it to veto anything I didn’t like, like when he wanted to open with my mom having an affair. I said it when he tried to insert jokes into “serious” scenes, like my father crying in the car, telling my character that thought once he and my mom reached their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary that they were going to make it.

My dad had actually said that to me when he was crying. He was doing that a lot, and it was fucking me up.

I’d make my writing partner leave the office so I could write these sappy monologues.

Back home, my parents were going through a divorce, but in the script, they were still together.

I was trying to save our family on the page.

I was ruining the show.

At one point, my mom flew out to California so we could get her perspective. I started with the basics:  “How long have you known you were gay?” “What made you come out this late in life?” “What’s it like to be a lesbian in Kansas City?”

She was nervous, but she answered everything and smiled and made a few jokes. I asked whether she thought this would hurt our family, if she even considered her kids in her decision. My mom was clearly uncomfortable, but I kept pressing and pressing until she started crying.

My writing partner looked at me like I was a monster, and I was.  I was just angry, not at her being gay, but for our family falling apart and realizing there was nothing I could do.

I should’ve quit the show. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to write about it, but I was so broke and I’d already spent the first check.

So I kept showing up to the office, kept typing garbage until they forced us to turn it in.

FX passed.

It was for the best.

photo credit: <a href=” delta one</a> via <a href=”; <a href=”;

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Ardent Atheist Podcast Tonight!

Hey everyone, tonight I’ll be on Ardent Atheist discussing SCOTUS and DOMA and other wonderful acronyms (hopefully FUBAR and WTF) as well as today’s rulings on gay marriage. The show starts at 7:30 pm PST.

You can listen here:

It should be offensively fun!

 

about the show

Ardent Atheists Emery Emery and Heather Henderson talk with comedians, actors and friends about atheism, deism and the effects of religion on us all. Guests of the show are a mix of atheists, agnostics, deists, scientists, humanists and the occasional god-loving, scripture-quoting crusader. Discussions are deeply impassioned, mostly respectful and always funny.

SCOTUS – Prop 8 & DOMA

In a little less than seven hours, the Supreme Court should be issuing their ruling on Proposition 8 and DOMA. I’m nervous. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. My lawyer friends seem to think they’ll strike down DOMA, but punt on Prop. 8. I hope for more. I hope that tomorrow the highest court in the land has the courage to rule in favor of love. I hope my mother will have the same freedom to marry as my father and sister. I hope teenage couples and adult couples and old couples never have to feel that their relationship is somehow less than anyone else’s.

But no matter the ruling, no matter how just or unjust it seems, no law can crush the human heart.

I haven’t been blogging much recently. After my best friend as a kid killed himself last month, I haven’t seen much point. I’d grown tired of my voice.

But tomorrow’s decision has reminded me why I started this blog in the first place. It wasn’t about me or my feelings. It was about how much I love my mom, how proud I am of her, and how humbled I am by her courage. And until she has the same rights as everyone else I hold dear, this fight doesn’t end.

Brad Pitt Nude

A few years ago, my wife found “Brad Pitt Nude” on my browser history. She refuses to let it go. She’s relentless. She’ll just blurt, “B.P.N!” out of nowhere and fall over laughing.

She’s whispered it during sex.

Before we go to dinner parties, she threatens to tell our friends. She never would, but she mouths, “B.P.N,” every time I get up to grab a beer.

I break out in sweats. My heartbeat gets all wonky.

My wife thinks it’s hysterical.

She taped this in our bathroom.

She likes seeing how flustered I get. She owns me and she knows it.

I can’t take it anymore. That’s why I’m typing this, why I’m telling the world, “I LOOKED UP ‘BRAD PITT NUDE!’”

And it wasn’t just once. It was TWICE. Go ahead and judge. I don’t care. I’m taking back the power. My wife can’t hold this over me anymore.

Thing is, it has nothing to do with me looking at a naked man. If my wife came home and I was beating off to two dudes on my computer, she’d say, “Oh, sorry, I’ll let you finish.”

It’s the fact that it’s so specific, that it’s Brad Pitt Nude.

She knows I’m a fan. We see all his movies. I own most of them.

And not that it matters, but I wasn’t jacking off to BPN when I Googled him.

I just wanted to see the picture.

Here’s why:

In high school, Brad Pitt was arguably the coolest man on the planet, at least for me. Fight Club changed my life, and after seeing Se7en I actually outran a cop.

In the same way boys idolized Steve McQueen and James Dean, that’s how I felt about Brad Pitt. I didn’t want to kidnap or rape him; I wanted to meet him. I was a fan.

And in 1997 there was an issue of Playgirl. There were pictures of him naked. People were talking about it. It made the news. I was curious. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But it was 1997, and the Internet wasn’t like today. You couldn’t just Google “B.P.N.” and scroll through a million images.

You had to get a hard copy.

I was too scared to buy it, so I got my girlfriend, H., to do it. She was grossed out at first. She thought I was gay. I told her that wasn’t it. There was a lawsuit. They were going to pull the magazine off the shelves. This thing would be worth money. I convinced her it was a business investment. She wasn’t very bright.

The next day she brought it over. I tried not to look too enthusiastic as she pulled it from her backpack. And there it was, B.P.N. Problem was, it was sealed in plastic. I couldn’t see the pictures.

The front door unlocked. It was my dad. I hid the magazine under the couch. Later, I hid it in my closet. It stayed there for months. I couldn’t open it. It was one thing to “accidentally” flip to an image, but to break the seal somehow made it perverse.

And to be honest, I was afraid of what would happen if I saw the pictures. What if I really liked them? What if they turned me on?

So B.P.N remained in plastic. It protected us both.

Over the years, I moved a lot, even across the country. BPN stayed in boxes, until eventually, he was lost.

I’d actually forgotten about it until a few years ago. My wife had bought us tickets to a double-feature of Se7en and Fight Club. Se7en actually held up better than I remembered. But Fight Club really jogged my memory.

And so later that night, after my wife fell asleep, I typed twelve letters into Google and finally saw what I’d denied myself all those years ago. I wasn’t giddy or aroused.

I was sad.

I thought about that kid in high school who just wanted to see a picture. He was curious, but he was scared. He was ashamed. He worried people would think he was gay, or that he really was, and he’d lose his girlfriend and maybe even his father.

But he had nothing to be ashamed about.

He was just curious.

And gay or straight, who doesn’t want to see a little B.P.N?

Have you ever been busted for something in your browser history?

Ardent Atheist Tonight!

I’m going to be on Ardent Atheist tonight at 7:30 PST. We’ll be talking about gay marriage, the Supreme Court, and probably my penis.

Watch and listen at:

OR 

The following folks will be in the studio:

Anthony Szpak –

@MyGayMom

Bryan Erwin -  @bryanerwin

AND

Adam Kaplan - 

WATCH & CHAT right here:


OR 

My Two Moms

Val was my mom’s first real girlfriend. I liked her from the moment we met. She was sweet and supportive. I wasn’t surprised when she and my mom bought a house together. They moved in with Val’s adopted kids. I flew to Kansas City and spent Christmas at their new place. We opened presents in the living room and stuffed our faces with turkey. Val wanted to know about my standup and writing. We became close over the years. She has always wanted to write. She likes to pick my brain. My mom and Val struggled like every couple. Eventually, they weren’t able to make it work. They decided to split, but when they came to our wedding, they didn’t mention the breakup. My mom didn’t want to dampen the day. I could tell something was up, but I didn’t push it. I shared a dance with Val, and she told me she’s always thought of me as her son. Until that moment, I’d only thought of her as my mom’s girlfriend. I suddenly realized she was also my mom.

The Loss of a Comic

Scott Kennedy passed away tonight. He was a wonderful comic, always smiling, always willing to throw his arms around you with a big ol’ hug. You might have seen him on one of the late shows or on Comedy Central. He’d been performing for over 20 years. A lot of civilians probably haven’t heard of him, but there are thousands of men and women in uniform who’ve laughed at his jokes. He entertained the troops in Afghanastan and Iraq over 50 times, and he would ask the soldiers to forget the outside world during the show, to just relax, laugh, and enjoy a bit of fun in the middle of hell.

I wasn’t the closest with Scott, but I’ve known him for almost 14 years and worked with him in Las Vegas. He was a good man with a big heart, and he was a shining light in the LGBT community. His passing weighs heavy on my heart tonight. I’ve noticed a lot of people on his Facebook page sharing their stories of Scott. Some people are asking how it happened. I don’t know, but it wouldn’t make a difference if I did.

I understand the desire to find out, the need to make sense of something so unexpected. When someone passes like this everyone scrambles for answers. We need to believe there’s order, there’s some guiding hand, that we’re not all perched on the brink of death. But we are, and we’re full of shit if we try to convince ourselves otherwise. We’re wiping smudges off the Hindenburg

If Scott was here, he’d probably agree, but he’d remind me it doesn’t matter, that of course we’re all going to pass eventually. It’s why it’s so important to let go of the pain and just laugh at the absurdity.

R.I.P. Scott.

This is How Mom Came Out

2001

I’m standing in my parents’ garage and my mom tells me she’s gay.  Her face is red and she’s laughing, which is what happens when she’s nervous or drunk.  It’s obvious she’s both.  She’s talking a mile a minute, but I don’t hear a word.  “I’m gay!” just keeps repeating in my head.

This can’t be how she planned to tell me.  When it’s cold outside, sometimes the garage is where we take the dog to poop.  It’s Kansas City, the day after Thanksgiving, so it stinks.

Other words start filtering in, words like, “I wanted to tell you,” and “I’m still your mother,” and “One time I tried cocaine.”  It’s a floodgate and she’s rattling off every secret she’s had since grade school.

She says she’s been attracted to girls since she was thirteen, that she fantasizes about women at work.

I feel woozy.

My mom starts crying.  “I just can’t keep sleeping in the same bed with him.”

“Dad knows?”

“Of course.”

She says she told him the truth years ago, that they’ve been staying together until my sister finishes high school.  My parents have been married for a quarter-century and they’re still sleeping in the same bed

I hear my buddies outside the garage yelling for me to get my ass out there.  It’s my last night in town.  I head back to L.A. in the morning.  I’m twenty-two years old, but right now, I feel like a child.  Someone starts banging on the garage door.

“So what do you think?” my mom asks.

“About what?”

“About what I just told you?”

“I don’t know… Are you really gay?”

My mom covers her face.  “You hate me!”

“What?  No.”

My father comes in and wants to know what the hell all this racket is.  He hits the button and the garage door crungles up.  My buddies stop punching each other in the arms at the sight of my father.

“Mr. Szpak,” one of them says.

My mom pulls me to the side and says, “We should keep talking.”  She’s trying to whisper, but the booze has removed that particular skill.

My father can tell my mom’s been sharing.

“What did you say to him?” he asks.

“The truth.”

“I thought we discussed that you wouldn’t say—“

“You can’t tell me what to say!”

My buddies pull me towards the car.  It’s like an undertow, but I don’t fight.  I just let them drag me away.  My father’s leading my mom towards the house.

“Get your hands off me,” my mom says.  She runs over.  “Where are you going, Anthony?”

“Strip club,” one of my buddies slurs.

My mom’s eyes widen.

Another friend starts to say it was just a joke, but my mom cuts him off—

“Can I come?”

My father forces a laugh.  “All right, let’s go back inside, Kathy.”

“Come on, Anthony, it’ll be fun,” my mom says.

There are moments in every child’s life, which cause parts of the brain to fizzle and burn.

My buddies give my mom a hug and say that’s why they love her.  She’s so cool, they tell her.

My father finally corrals my mom.  She knows not to push it, because she’s staring into my eyes.

I’m crammed in between two guys who played on our high school football team.  Someone hands me a beer as we drive off.  I watch my father finally get my mom back inside.  The garage door closes.