‘Amazing Race’ winner hosts Philadelphia Mr. Gay
By Bruce Yelk
Last year, celebrity outings (without negative fallout) were all the rage. The community openly welcomed actor Neil Patrick Harris and Lance Bass of *NSYNC. Bass’ boyfriend, Reichen Lehmkuhl, also had a big year, noted by the release of his autobiography of his military service, “Here’s What We’ll Say.”
Lehmkuhl gained national recognition when he and his former partner Chip Arndt won the fourth season of the CBS reality show “The Amazing Race.” Since that time, Lehmkuhl’s star has continued in the media — he has appeared on several TV shows including his own “The Reichen Show” on Q Television Network.
Lending his mug and wit to the Mr. Gay competition, Lehmkuhl will host the region’s first sanctioned contest at the historic Mask and Wig Club, 310 S. Quince St. The event, which serves as the local preliminary for the 2007 North American Mr. Gay contest in Los Angeles, will be held March 10 during “Reserved,” a local GLBT event.
PGN talke with Lemkuhl about his upcoming trip to Philadelphia, his goals for the future and the challenges of being in the spotlight.
PGN: You will be hosting the Mr. Gay competition in March. Have you ever been to Philadelphia before?
RL: Yes. I actually have been to Philly on business, but I have never done an event appearance or book signing. I’m very excited.
PGN: You had a really big year in 2006 — your book was released, your relationship with Lance Bass was very public and you were a favorite topic of conversation for gossip bloggers. Because you are very visible and openly gay, do you consider yourself a spokesperson or role model for the gay community?
RL: Well, I have never woken up and said I am the spokesperson for the gay community. However, I am really proud when young people come up to me and tell me that I am. I am in no way perfect, but I am extremely flattered when people see me that way.
PGN: I know you are involved in other businesses in addition to acting and writing. Can you tell me about your other ventures?
RL: Yes, I am a small-business venture capitalist. I have run several businesses in my life. Besides financial capital, I’ve run a private jet charter brokerage that I owned years ago. I really focus my life these days on entertainment, writing the book and having that published. I even take voice lessons.
PGN: What are your big projects for 2007?
RL: My biggest personal projects in 2007 are going to be my small-business venture capital. That is on the very private side. On the public side, I am writing another book. It will be the sequel to the book that is out right now. It will cover my five years on active duty as an Air Force officer, the homophobia and the gay experiences that I have had during that time from being a lieutenant to being a captain in the Air Force.
PGN: Will it only cover that period or will it take us up to the present day?
RL: I haven’t decided how far it is going to go right now. The outline only takes me to getting out of the Air Force, which, of course, is pre-“The Amazing Race” — when really my life changed dramatically.
PGN: Speaking of “The Amazing Race” and reality TV, do you think it is here to stay?
RL: Yeah, I think reality TV it is morphing every single television season and it is morphing into what people want to see. I don’t think it is going away at all.
PGN: Blogging is a very interesting evolution in new media. You certainly are covered a lot by gossip bloggers. What are your thoughts on that?
RL: I think it is also not going to go away. I think the blogs that focus around gossip are definitely the most popular right now and I think we all love gossip, including myself. I just have to say there is a right and wrong way that gossip is done. When it is focused on an individual and is completely made up from scratch, just to have a story so that there is something to read, I disagree with that. And I disagree with that from the bottom of my heart because it has happened to me.
PGN: How do you think celebrities are going to combat that in the future? How do you think they get their message out?
RL: By taking it to court. It doesn’t matter if you are a public figure or not, you can’t tell lies about someone. You just can’t. That’s how it will be combated, if we take this up and take it to court. It really is a shame that we have to go to these lengths. I refuse to be disrespected and to be reduced to be with someone for a career or money reasons. I have always supported myself. I come from nothing and because of that I have supported myself very, very well. I have never had a reason to be with anyone for any other reason than because I like them. And when specific lies are made up to go against that truth, it personally upsets me. And I am not going to stand for it any more and I don’t think anyone should.
PGN: Why do you think, because your relationship was so public and Lance was pushed out there? What do you think of the implications of outing people online?
RL: You know when we put ourselves in the public eye, we run the risk of having our personal lives thrown out there. And a leak always happens from within, and always happens from people who are very close to you and you think you can trust, but you really can’t. And even after it all happens you still don’t know who did it, and who leaked the information. Which makes it very difficult. However, it is still a tough situation for the person who is outed. We have to consider, I have to consider, when I came out of the closet, I did it on my own terms and I did it when I wanted to, and to whom I wanted to come out. Some people don’t get that chance. They are outed on the Internet before they even get a chance to explain to their families or friends how they feel about their homo***uality. It is devastating to those people! It is a very tough situation.
PGN: With all the rumors about your relationship with Lance, are you still together?
RL: Yes, of course.
PGN: Will he be coming to Philadelphia with you?
RL: If he does it will not be something we talk about or advertise. We have a strong idea that we both agree on — to keep our work lives separate. We love to keep our careers separate and we love to keep our relationship together. So, if he does come it will just be happenstance and nothing to do with my appearance, but something we choose to do to strengthen our relationship.
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