Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

When Brent Ridge (left), a health-conscious physician and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a New York Times ad man and best-selling author, bought the Beekman farm in 2007, Brent left his practice to live at the farm full-time, while Josh commuted to work in the city.  Josh was the first man that Brent had ever dated. They had met on-line fifteen years ago and became engaged in December, 2011.

But (bad) timing is everything, and they soon found themselves victims of the economic downturn of 2008. Brent was laid off from his job as Vice President for Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and their ultimate success is a story of determination and sheer will over seemingly insurmountable setbacks.

The 5,000 sq. ft. Georgian Palladian-style estate house was a prime example of shabby-chic, but the two lovingly restored the manor house and its 60 acres to pristine condition. The Mohawk Valley property, which had sat empty for 50 years, is located 200 miles north of NYC in the town of Sharon Springs, NY, a faded spa town from another era. The gay Beekman boys became fully integrated into the community, and the locals are thankful for the attention and resurgence in tourism that the “Beekman Boys” have brought to the town. They have a successful mercantile retail shop in town that sells their farm-crafted organic products and high-end craft items.

Brent and Josh keep goats, pigs, chickens and other animals (such as llamas), and they use the goat milk to make natural soaps and cheeses.  Their cookbook, chemical-free soaps and other lifestyle products are sold at retailers such as Anthropologie, Henri Bendel, Williams-Sonoma, John Derian, and ABC Carpet & Home. NASDAQ has called "Beekman 1802" one of the fastest growing lifestyle brands in the United States. A follow-up to their first cookbook is to be called "Beekman 1802 Heirloom Desserts" (September, 2013).

The modern-day “Green Acres” transition from city to farm life caught the attention of Planet Green, which created the somewhat campy “warts and all” reality show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, which ran for two seasons beginning in June, 2010. In 2012 The Cooking Channel picked it up for a third season, airing on Thursday nights. The show chronicles their struggles to make an artisanal farm a financially viable endeavor.

The Bucolic Plague (2010), is a memoir written by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Recounting the purchase of their historic mansion and goat farm, it quickly became a national bestseller.

In 2012, CBS announced that Ridge and Purcell had been cast in the  The Amazing Race, and the two  ultimately became the season's grand prize winners. 

Brent and Josh have filled their historic home (rear view, above) with objects referencing the time period and the location of the house. They especially like collecting books written in the early 1800s. They christened the house “Beekman 1802" in honor of its original owner, William Beekman, a judge and state senator who built the house in 1802.

Note: Thanks to an anonymous reader who pointed out an error when this entry was first posted. The source of the photo of the couple I used at the beginning of the post had misidentified Brent for Josh. I have since corrected it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Javier Pagan

Gay Boston Policeman Javier Pagan
Among Boston Bombing’s First Responders

The cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated magazine shows three Boston policeman assisting a fallen Boston Marathon runner who was knocked off his feet during Monday afternoon’s bomb blast, although he recovered enough to complete the race.

The policeman at the far right of the photograph is Javier Pagan, the Boston Police Gay Liaison to the city’s LGBT community. Officer Pagan, who was patrolling the finish line, happened to be standing right behind the flags where the first bomb went off. Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki stated that, “my photograph was taken about one second after the first explosion. The runner was blown over by the blast and fell to the ground. The cops were just reacting as cops. They didn't know what was going on. They're pulling their guns out, looking left and right. They were close to where the explosion went off and could have been killed or injured also.”

It seems heroism runs in the family. Officer Pagan’s husband of four years, Pedro Velazquez, is a retired sergeant from the NYC Police Department who rescued many people when the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, 2011. The couple live in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Javier Pagan, age 42, is a native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Boston. He came out as homosexual a year after joining the police force, and in 2002 he was profiled by the Bay Windows LGBT newspaper when he was named to the Gay Liaison position.

Pagan (at left in photo with husband Pedro) is a member of the Gay Officer's Action League (GOAL), a national organization of gay law enforcement officers. He says he personally hasn't experienced any repercussions for being out on the job, nor is he aware of homophobia on the part of police officers when dealing with the gay community. “People's main concern is..., ‘I don't care whether you're black or white, gay or straight, when I need help, I just want someone there’. I think when people see me walking through they don't see me as a Hispanic gay man, I think they see me as a police officer. And that's all that should matter.”

Javier Pagan also had the recent honor of escorting LGBT civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto to a celebration at Boston's City Hall plaza on the day same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nate Berkus

Chicago-based interior designer Nate Berkus (b. 1971) is a former day-time television host (The Nate Berkus Show 2010-2012) who became known to millions of TV viewers as a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He offered design advice for eight years after his first guest appearance in 2002 and is still a regular contributor to "O, the Oprah Magazine." Jewish and openly gay, Nate is the son of interior designer Nancy Golden of HGTV and DIY network fame.

On April 8, 2013, Berkus became engaged to Jeremiah Brent in a dramatic moment celebrated atop Machu Picchu in Peru. The two have been dating for nine months. Brent is the former assistant to designer/stylist Rachel Zoe and is a regular on "The Rachel Zoe Project.”

Nate’s most recent book, The Things that Matter (2012), features intimate stories from his life experience, including people and events who influenced his design philosophy. The book features his own home and twelve others that chronicle his design career.

It was announced last month that Nate will be host and executive producer of a new reality show on NBC called Renovation Nation. The series will feature two teams of designers and builders competing against each other on design challenges for cash and luxury housewares. Viewers will be invited to weigh in and vote during a live finale to choose who will win the ultimate prize, a dream home.

Many fans will recall that in 2004 Nate’s longtime partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, was tragically swept to his death as the result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami while the couple was vacationing in Sri Lanka. Nate and Fernando had been swept from the hut they were staying in and were separated by the force of the current. Berkus appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in early 2005 to talk about the ordeal and the loss of his partner. His heart-wrenching account of that tragedy drew 15 million television viewers.

From 2007 to 2009 Berkus was partnered with Brian Atwood, a talented footwear designer and Creative Director for Bally.

Berkus founded his highly successful design firm, Nate Berkus Associates, in 1995 at age twenty-four. Many of his design products have been sold through mass-market retailers such as Target, Calico Corners and Linens 'n Things.

Nate Berkus (sporting faux-leopard slip-ons) with fiancé Jeremiah Brent. The couple announced their engagement a week ago:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ignacio Goitia

Artist Ignacio Goitia ((b. 1968 Bilbao, Spain) is a surrealist painter who embellishes images of imposing buildings and grand, palatial interiors with startling, incongruent extras, such as nude or semi-nude men in leather fetish garb, giving his work an over-the-top homoerotic bent. Sometimes he includes images of himself, as in a painting in which he is seated on a motorcycle taking notes while admiring museum sculptures. As well, Goitia (shown above) has completed dozens of paintings featuring monumental giraffes.

Passion for Canaletto (2005):

Until last week his work was being exhibited at a gallery in Spain under the title “The Grand Tour,” capturing the spirit of visitors to Europe’s great cities and museums during the 18th and 19th centuries. This show has traveled from Brussels to Munich to Rome and will settle into the important modern art scene of Miami, FL, later this year.

Ignacio studied in Florence, London and Paris, eventually devoting himself exclusively to drawing and painting. Although Goitia divides his time between Bilbao and Miami, he has mainly exhibited his art in Paris, Miami, Madrid, Rome, Bordeaux and various other European venues. Goitia’s personal appearance evokes the cultured high-society travelers depicted in his paintings – that of an adventurous, well-bred Bohemian.

Mr. Goitia presents himself as quite the dandy:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Juan Gabriel

Born in Mexico as Alberto Aguilera Valadez (1950), the life of singer Juan Gabriel is a rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor, working as a craftsman at age 13, to become a legendary singer of Mexican ranchera music, as well as a star in the genres of Latin pop, mariachi music and Latino ballads. After several years spent honing his musical composition skills in a boarding school away from his family, he decided to escape at the age of 15. Taking advantage of having daily garbage duty, one day Alberto walked out of the school with garbage in his hand, headed for the dumpsters, and never returned.

He soon established himself as a performer in Juárez and Mexico City. In 1971, at the age of 21, Alberto signed a contract with RCA and changed his name to Juan Gabriel (Juan, in honor of a schoolmaster whom he held in high regard, and the surname Gabriel, after his deceased father, Gabriel Aguilera). He has become a legend in Latino music as a singer, composer and entertainer, selling in excess of 100 million albums.

As a philanthropist, Gabriel has consistently given large sums to support Mexican orphans. He has four adopted children of his own. To be an out-and-proud entertainer in Hollywood is one thing, but in rigidly traditional Mexico it is another, so when asked if he were gay, Gabriel famously responded, "What is seen does not need to be asked. I don't have to tell you things that do not concern you or others. I think that I am an artist who has given much with my music" (Lo que se ve no se pregunta. Yo no tengo por qué decirle cosas que a usted, como a muchas otras personas, no les interesa, yo pienso que soy un artista que he dado mucho con mis canciones). However, proving that actions speak louder than words, he recently confirmed that he was engaged to marry his male partner, 23-year-old Spanish singer Jaz Bael, shown below.

Gabriel has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and there is a statue of him on Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, a favorite performance area for mariachi bands. The sculpture, erected in 2001, was crafted by artist Oscar Ponzanelli.

In this live performance clip Gabriel performs his signature tune Querida:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jeremy Kost

Texas born photographer Jeremy Kost (at right) is known as New York City’s "Polaroid artist," advancing a technique exploited by art world legends Andy Warhol and David Hockney. Bucking the trend of increasing numbers of digital images in contemporary art, Kost creates his work with Polaroid cameras. Because celebrities (Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and the like), embrace his creative methods, Kost has direct access to their relaxed environments. Jeremy exposes the reality of celebrities and the fashion/art world elite in compelling, unstaged Polaroid photographs.

While celebrity photographs made him famous, he is perhaps best known for his homoerotic Polaroids of young men with buffed bodies and the gritty, underground scenes of the East Village and the Lower East Side (he lives and works in NYC). Instead of relying on lighting, make-up, or styling, Kost seizes upon the unvarnished moment. Whether his shots convey the energy of a hedonistic smile, or the honest look of true exhaustion, Kost's images and photographic montages reveal the character of his subjects with immediacy.

Jeremy has had numerous exhibitions of his work in major cities around the world, including New York, Dallas, Miami, Washington DC, Paris and Tokyo. Recently he was included in The International Center of Photography's Triennial Exhibition "Dress Codes". His work has been published in print media such as V and Vogue Hommes Japan, and in 2009 his book "Love.Hate.Nature." was published by The International Center of Photography.