Meet the boys

By Alonso Duralde

Originally published on Advocate.com September 04 2003 11:00 PM ET

Going on those first few dates is hard enough, much less doing it in front of cameras for all of America to see. But that’s how James Getzlaff and Wes Culwell did it, on Bravo’s recently concluded reality series Boy Meets Boy. The show has faced an ongoing controversy among gays and lesbians over the fact that there were straight guys hidden among the 15 “mates” ostensibly vying for the affection of “leading man” James, who wasn’t informed of the ruse until the penultimate episode. Ultimately, James’s gaydar—and the help of his prone-to-tears best pal, Andra—helped him suss out finalist Franklin as a straight guy, and the affable Wes won that last glass of champagne, along with a trip to New Zealand with James.

In separate phone interviews, James and Wes talked about being on the show, the shock of the twist, and the bizarre dating mishaps that America didn’t see.JAMES GETZLAFF

You certainly held it together on camera when they told you about the twist. What was on your mind? Were you upset? I knew something big was going to happen, before we sat down, because they had sent me off to dinner alone—no cameras, no microphone—to get away from it all. And when I came back, my room had cameras and people in it, much more than I had ever seen previously. So I told myself, Something’s going to happen, they’re going to tell you something. No matter what it is, just act like it doesn’t bother you. And I thought I did a good job at doing that, but maybe not so much. [Laughs]

Given how most of us probably would have flipped out at that moment, you did fine.It wasn’t like I walked in my living room, sat down, and she said, “Guess what?” I had time to sit and wait and stand in the corner while they set up. And that’s why, at that moment, I just said, “Wow.” Because I wasn’t expecting that. I was trying to race through all the possible ideas of things they could possibly tell me. You know, I had no idea—they brought someone back from my past, one of the final three guys quit because he just hated my guts, I just did not know. And I thought, Do not give them the satisfaction of a reaction. That’s what my main goal was at that moment. They’re obviously going to tell me something that’s going to get a reaction, either good or bad, and I just figured it wasn’t gonna be good. [Laughs]

Did the twist make you regret having done the show in the first place?At that moment, I wasn’t even thinking about that; I was just thinking, I can’t believe what she said, I can’t believe what she just told me.

And since then? If I could go back? I wouldn’t do it again. It’s like anything that has bad memories—if we could take it away, would we? At the same time, I can’t take it away, but now I’m in a better place, I’ve moved past that. That’s not my focus, and it definitely won’t be a consumption. It happened, it’s over, I’m moving forward. I’m taking the friendships that I made, taking the experience, I’m taking Wes on a vacation, trying to move forward and enjoy the good stuff. ’Cause there were some good things on the show.

So the trip hasn’t happened yet, you guys haven’t gone to New Zealand yet? No, we go in March.

Have you guys been dating? Have you seen each other since the show ended? We try to see each other every week, if we can. He lives in San Diego, I live [in Los Angeles]. He’s moving next week to L.A., leaving the quiet town of San Diego and coming up to the big city. [Laughs]

Is he moving up for the relationship, or.…? No. He’s just moving for change. I’ve definitely not encouraged him to move up here because of me. That’s just not a smart thing. I wouldn’t tell anyone to do that. If we were an old married couple…

Moving in the first year is always a little dodgy. Moving for someone, period. Unless it’s something more serious and much more long-term. Much more stable. We’re just coming to the finish line of the show, and I’m sure this whole week will be crazy with interviews and people. And then, once it starts dying down, then it’s more normal. We can’t even go out in public…we could not, before, because people would recognize us. We’d go out in groups, we’d hang out in groups of friends, do things like that, but not a lot of just normal things. We haven’t gone to a movie. We haven’t done anything like that. Because when you can’t…

But now you can. Yeah. So it’s kinda weird. You know, when you train yourself not to do something for so long and then it changes? I’m having a hard time even talking about it. “Oh, yeah, I can say something about it.”

So you guys have come out, basically. Yeah, we’ve come out again! [Laughs]

It never ends. Yeah, no kidding!

Going back and watching the shows, seeing how they’ve been edited, what’s been the strangest thing for you? Oh, everything that happens at the [mates’] house—surprising. Because one thing the guys did not do…I read something in a magazine today—I think it was Entertainment Weekly—there was an article about summer television that asked, “What did we learn from summer shows?” It had all these different shows, and it put our show on there, and it said, “Boy Meets Boy: We learn that gay men are morons.” And I started laughing. But what they’re really quipping about our show is that there’s no backstabbing, there’s no conniving; the guys were really respectful of each other throughout the entire process. On the other shows, the girls go for the throat at all times, and when one girl goes for a date the rest of the girls just sit there and stab her. The guys were just really respectful of each other, really calm and nice.

How, if at all, did the show affect your relationship with Andra? It seems like the two of you went through quite a few roller coasters in the process. We did. [Laughs] Holy moley, that was crazy. It brought us to a new level, that’s for sure. If we ever thought our relationship was stagnant, it’s not now. We’ve crossed that threshold of intimacy—not physically, obviously, but a level that most people will never get to. We were tested to the limits of our friendship, and sometimes felt we were pitted against each other. But we made it through. That’s the one thing we said: No matter what happens, we’ll always be there. Andra and I are just as strong as ever.

Has she always been an emotional person? It seems like she wound up bursting into tears at one point during every episode.It was emotional for her. She was the only person in that show that was there for not a selfish reason. She had nothing to gain, there was no vacation for her to win, there was no secret money prize for her to win. And she got to be there for the entire process. She’d never seen me kiss someone before; she’d never been able to play a part in matchmaking for me. We’re really great friends, and I think she took it very seriously. To find out that the people she liked the most—because that was her job too, to find out about these guys on a social level—and then to find out that all the guys she wanted me to keep ended up being these straight guys, she felt really, really bad. And people ask, “Can you really find love in eight days?” Who knows? You can definitely find people who are interesting and fun to hang out with. If they grouped people in different ways, who’s to say who would have stayed and who would have gone, and in what order? I had very little time with each guy, so I was making very quick decisions, and she was saying, “I spent time with him and he was really nice and funny; you should give him another chance.” And I said, “OK, I trust you; let me get rid of somebody else, then.” So the person I got rid of could have very well turned out to be an amazing, amazing, amazing person. But they had to go, you know, because of someone else. And then if she finds out that someone else was just playing her, that’s really tough.

They did really stack the deck in terms of the way they set up the eliminations. It pretty much guaranteed there was no possible way you could have ditched all the straight guys early on. Right. Of course, we didn’t know that. We just thought, What strange groupings.

When it was all over, which of the straight guys were you most surprised to find out wasn’t gay? I think for a lot of viewers, it was probably Dan.Yeah…Dan and Michael. Because I didn’t find out until that final episode, that night, when they all came back and walked into the house and introduced themselves. It was like, wow. At that moment, I was so overwhelmed anyway. They told me there was one straight guy; when Dani [first] told me, it was one. But afterward, they actually told me there were seven. So I had a double whammy of, you know, I probably could have moved past the one, but then they told me there were more. Like, what the crap is going on?

Yeah, that’s a good half of the pool. So really it was just eight guys [competing for James’s affections].

There was a disclaimer that came on the screen at the end of every episode that a lot of us were baffled by. It said that you had consulted with the producers, but ultimately all decisions were yours. What exactly does that mean? Just that. The producers consulted with me in making my decisions… I don’t even know if I can talk about that.

Even now? Probably. I’m still under contract. I don’t want to get sued. [Laughs]

When you found out that one of the last three guys was straight, were you tempted at all to get more physical with them all to see if any of them broke down? You know, I was. But I really thought right away that it was Franklin and that I didn’t need to. That’s not my style anyway, and I didn’t know if I could pull that off. Even under the circumstances that I was in. I thought, I just don’t know if I could pull off being that physically aggressive under [the guise of] a game. I didn’t think it would be fair to the other guys, and I didn’t think I would be comfortable. Instead, I chose Franklin for the romantic date, the spa—we’d be in our swim trunks and in the water, getting massages. I figured of all the people, I’d put the straight one in the most romantic, intimate setting possible and that would bring out a lot of discomfort and make it a little nervous and awkward. And I think it did. I made the right choice.

So what, if anything, do you think you’ve learned from this experience? Don’t trust Hollywood. [Laughs] Read the fine print, that kind of thing. I think I just confirmed the things I was hoping to confirm when I did the show in the first place. Sometimes I wonder if I hold people to too high a standard—or too specific, not even too high, because I don’t think the things I look for are that ridiculous. I look for honesty, someone with a sense of humor, and someone who can be in a committed relationship—if it was a long-term situation, not if i’m just going out on a date with someone. I’m not looking for someone who just wants to make me a notch on a bedpost, and I think I did that. I definitely challenged myself emotionally and grew as a person that way. I definitely expanded my horizons when it comes to meeting people, being comfortable. I’m not super comfortable yet, but I’m definitely much more apt and inclined to go up and talk to people. And that’s a great skill, especially in the industry I work in [human resources]. I have to hire and fire people all day, and it’s really difficult sometimes.

You all seem to have bonded pretty quickly. Everyone’s departures seem to have been really traumatic, especially given that the whole show was shot over just eight days. It seems everybody got really close really fast. Right. You have to understand too, they cast us in probably that way. And half the guys were straight, so those guys were really hamming it up. If three or four of us bonded really really well right away, and I think everyone bonded to whatever extent those bonds are real, we all were just stuck in a house with nothing to do but just hang out with each other. So we made the best of it. And there’s cameras everywhere, it was just such a strange experience and such a different environment. All we had was each other, so we just really clung to each other and bonded fast. And regardless of the whole dating environment, just saying goodbye to people who were contributing such fun to the group, and knowing OK, that’s gone, that’s one less person to have fun with and one less dynamic we’re going to have in the group. It was just a strange thing to have these people leave. Even from a friendship level to say, “Goodbye, you’re gone.” And maybe that friendship was based on something not real, but at the time it was very real. It was kind of tough. All these fun, fun people; it would be so much fun to have these people as friends on a daily basis. Go here, go there, do this, do that, just have fun all the time, and then to have to say goodbye to these people. Especially Andra, she spent a lot of social time with them, just hanging out, and the guys spent all their time together.

People who have been on similar shows have tried to segue from reality TV into show business. Is this the end of TV for you, or do you have other ambitions? Well, I don’t know. I had a great time doing the show. But I don’t know. I suppose if someone came and said to me, “We want you to be on our show,” I’d think about it. We’ll have to see how it goes. But I have no idea how that works. It’s a foreign world to me, even though I jumped in it for 10 days.

WES CULWELL

Tell me a little about how you got involved in the first place. Was there a casting call? How did you find about the show? I was working for the GLBT center in San Diego, and part of my job is going out and talking to people. So I went out to one of the bars here and I was approached by the casting directors and they told me the premise of the show, or rather the premise of the show that was told to the gays. [Laughs]

Right. And at first I said no thanks, but then I kept seeing them around that weekend, so I went in for the first round of interviews, and it kind of went from there. One round was a questionnaire, then we had a psychological profile and all these tests, and then the next thing I know, I’m in Palm Springs.

Did you seriously think you were going to meet somebody on this show, or was it sort of a lark? The idea of 15 gay men and one bachelor: I thought, Well, there’s going to be a lot of screening; I think it might be actually wonderful to go and see. It’s kind of like having a screening process done for you, and it’s an chance to meet some quality, high-caliber gay men. I thought it would be a great opportunity. And in eight days, you’re not going to find the love of your life, but I definitely went there seeking out potential.

As the casting process went along, did you get the impression that they were looking for guys who were going to appeal to James, specifically, or were they just interested in a certain physical type of gay man? I don’t know exactly behind the scenes in the casting process what look they wanted. I think definitely they were looking for people they thought would get along with James and James would be attracted to. I know they wanted a mix of people that wasn’t too stereotypical or weren’t too “straight”; they wanted a nice mix of ambiguity among the mates in the house. As for all having the same look, yeah, I think it had to come down to finding someone that James was going to be attracted to and was going to have a connection with, and I think across the board we all had a common bond that way, but we also brought a lot of different things to the table. Franklin was much more about wine and intellectual prattling, Brian was a quiet romantic, and I’m more the crazy type, but at the same time, we had a lot of stuff in common that I think James found attractive as well.

There seems to have been a lot of bonding going on among the mates. You guys certainly seemed to be as upset as James was at the end of each episode when people got voted off. It was a quick eight days, but at the same time it was such a heightened emotional state. If you like somebody, you love somebody; if you’re sad, you’re really sad, because it’s high emotional stakes and yeah, there were some great bonds made. What I find very interesting is that the friends that I made right off the bat turned out to be gay men. And I’m not sure if that’s because gay men make friends faster with other gay men or because we picked up a level of untruth, with the straight guys changing pronouns. I’m not sure what exactly happened there, but I found the really tight, tight bonds happened with the other gay men as well. I’m still friends with the straight guys, really good friends, but those really special bonds—with Robb and Brian Hay—all the guys happened to be gay and there was a stronger connection there, which is interesting.

Did you ever forget the cameras were there, or were they just a constant— Three days. That first three days you realize the cameras are always on. And you realize that if you say something interesting, here they come! [Laughs] But after that three days, the wall goes up and you forget they’re there, completely.

How were you informed that there had been this ruse going on with the straight mates? It’s interesting, they waited to tell us after the entire process of the show was done. And they sat us down and told us, “OK, well, there’s a final twist.” And it’s reality TV, you always know there’s going to be some kind of twist. The last day, in fact, I followed the directors around, I would hold on to them and say, “Tell me, tell me the twist, I’m not letting go until you tell me the twist.” [Laughs] So in the end, I was expecting something. I didn’t know if my mom was going to show up or what was going to be the deal. And when they finally told us the twist, it was kinda like “Ooh.” And honestly, it made sense. Because there were certain things I’d picked up on where I was like, “Wait a minute. What kind of gay man are you?” A lot of things fell into place, and I realized why a lot of certain connections were made and why certain connections weren’t made. Certain things all made sense when they told me the twist. When they first sat me down, I thought, Oh great: James is straight, and Andra’s his girlfriend. But when they explained the whole thing to me it was great, it was a very interesting aspect to put into the show.

And of the guys who wound up being straight, which one was the biggest surprise to you? None of the straight guys surprised me. But who I thought was straight was Jason, one of the first guys to get kicked off the show. Maybe it was because I didn’t get to know him very well, but I thought the military thing, just the way he carried himself, I thought he was straight. Also, I thought Darren was straight. so it was fascinating to find out that the gay guys were indeed gay guys. But of the straight guys, I don’t think I was surprised by any one of them. Because I picked up on a few things, whether it would be certain things they would wear, certain things they would say…some of their coming-out stories, I would think, This doesn’t sound quite right.

We would hear you guys talk on the show about the connection you made on the dates, but the way the dates were edited, we didn’t always get to see that on camera. Were you surprised by what got left out? They could only show so much. Six episodes, an hour each, and they had to fit a lot in there. There were a lot of moments that I didn’t see [on the show]. For instance, our final date, we almost got arrested in Palm Springs during the carriage ride because they have an open container law, you can’t drink on the street. [James and Wes had been sharing a bottle of champagne.] That was something the producers didn’t do much research into, so we were getting pulled over by the police and getting tickets written. Also, our limousine crashed into the fountain in front of the leading man’s house. We even got harassed on the street, you could hear some guy yelling, “Hey, hey, it’s the gay Candid Camera!” I mean, things kept happening, and it was great because we kept laughing and laughing. It actually made our date a lot more relaxed, a lot more spontaneous, a lot more fun. So those are things you didn’t see on camera.

James says you’re moving to Los Angeles. Are you planning any post–reality TV showbiz ventures?Yeah, the thing is, part of why I did the show was for the visibility. I think it’s very important for Middle America to see gay men, whether they’re the flamboyant type or more of the normal, everyday types. I think visibility is the most important thing, so I’m very excited about some projects that are coming up. I’ll be doing some appearances at Gay Days [at Disneyland] and I’ve got some other things coming up. I think the fact of being able to be out on a national scale is very important, especially right now, and I welcome any opportunity to be out there. We’re a very diverse group, and if I have the opportunity to help present that, that makes me very happy.

A lot of gay viewers felt betrayed by the show’s twist. Looking back on the experience, do you think the show is a step forward for gay visibility? I really do think so, because I think the idea was to get Middle America to see relationships between men, whether it be straight men and gay men as friends, whether it be gay men in a romantic sense. I think that was a very important step. I see the frustration, and trust me, I’ve had thoughts myself, where I wondered if we were doing the right thing with this show. When I first heard the twist, I said, “Look, I would have liked to have seen maybe just The Gay Bachelor, and just keep it romantic.” But at the same time, I know for sure the twist did bring in a larger audience. One of my best friend’s brothers is a water polo player, very masculine guy, and all his friends are watching. They’re like, “Whoa, oh my God, what’s going on here? Who’s straight? Who’s gay? I don’t know!” It did bring in a larger audience, and I think it got people talking. It was definitely water-cooler talk. When Dan came out and he was straight, people were like, “Can he be straight? He’s too pretty!” They did a very good job of breaking down those stereotypes. Even my parents were guessing who was gay and who was straight. My dad was like, “I think Brian H. must be the straight one,” and then, watching the strip scene, he said, “Well, Franklin seemed uncomfortable.” The fact that he’s watching us do lap dances for James, and that wasn’t even the issue for him, you know what I mean? I think the final version of the show did what it set out to do.

The show got a ton of mileage out of your comment, “Why would you assume I’m gay?” during that last dinner. Did you say that innocently? It was complete innocence, and that’s what I think is so funny. What are the chances that’d be the twist of the show? I just put it out there, and what a jewel—they played it over and over and over again. That’s just me, I’m just a fun, spontaneous type of person who throws things out there. It just worked out perfectly for the show.

On that last date, where James was trying to ferret out the straight guy, did you notice that he was suddenly more inquisitive? Was it different? Absolutely, absolutely. Watching that episode, it made much more sense, because there were a lot of questions. For me, at the time, I didn’t think it was too strange because it was really our first time to spend that much time together, just the two of us, and I knew he had a major decision to make. So it didn’t catch me off-guard. But what’s very fascinating is that he had a strategy, and he was actually sifting through the questions to figure out who was the straight one.

With the cameras off, do you feel you’ve got something viable with James? He’s a wonderful, wonderful guy, and we’re really excited to go to New Zealand. Eight days is pretty much a whirlwind time where you see if there’s potential there or not, and there’s definitely potential. And at this point, our lives are getting grounded after the post–reality TV thing, and yeah, I love spending time with James. It’s going to be interesting to see where things go.