Danny Pellegrino is on a quest to tell true stories that are very unfortunate.
That may seem odd for a gay comedian and the host of the hit podcast Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino. But, he says, "I wanted to be open about my coming-out experience."
And he is brutally honest in his new memoir, How Do I Un-Remember This? Unfortunately True Stories, in which he chronicles his childhood upbringing in Solon, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, and the challenges he experienced coming to terms with his sexuality
"I didn't want it to be all about my coming-out journey," he adds. "Since I experienced plenty of other things as a kid from a small Ohio town."
It was important for Pellegrino to find humor in admittedly dark periods of his youth. "For example, as a young teen, someone in my school outed me, even though I didn't realize I was gay," he recalls. "And there was the time that I was at a girl friend's house playing Cootie Catcher. She asked me to sleep over, but before I did, her dad was hinting around if I was gay or not, and my friend just blurted out that I was, and I stormed out of the house. I was 12 years old, and the thought of being gay, and especially if anyone thought I was gay, was absolutely terrifying."
Everything Iconic, Pellegrino's podcast, is a pop-culture breakdown, and his guests have included celebrities Katie Couric, Rosie O'Donnell, Elizabeth Olsen, Andy Cohen, Dan Levy, Cameron Diaz, and Miss Piggy. Having had more than 25 million downloads in 2021, the show frequently appears at the top of popular podcast lists, and it has been featured in such media as Vogue, E!, Entertainment Tonight, Deadline, Today, W Magazine, People, Newsweek, Page Six, Entertainment Weekly, and Us Weekly.
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Reflecting his popularity, Pellegrino's memoir, released in March, became an Amazon number 1 best seller based on preorders alone. The book, in addition to dealing with the influence his childhood has had on him, defines popular culture moments that have shaped him as a person and informed the trajectory of his career.
"I am a pop-culture junkie, and the book has many references to -- let's call them gay moments -- that I have had throughout my life," Pellegrino says. "I watched everything Devon Sawa did, and I wanted his haircut. I realized as I got older that the haircut wasn't what I liked, it was him, and I thought he was so cute. Same goes for Ryan Phillippe and Tony Danza. And then I remember being mesmerized when Cuba Gooding Jr. hosted SNL and dressed as a Mango character [with Chris Kattan], and how sexy I thought that was.... I figured out that all of these moments and more were signals that I was gay."
True to Pellegrino's personality, he displays humor and vulnerability in the memoir, and it's a real departure from his previous two books, Fancy AF Cocktails alongside Ariana Madix and Tom Sandoval from Bravo's Vanderpump Rules and The Super Carb Diet with Bob Harper.
"I was a ghostwriter for the other books, so my memoir was a chance for me to write in my own voice and tell my own story in my own way, warts and all," he says.
Which is why Pellegrino is nervous about his mom reading the book. "My mother lives in Ohio, she's pretty buttoned-up, sweeps everything under the rug, and likes to portray our family as the Brady Bunch," Pellegrino says with a laugh.
"I'm sure she'll find a few things that might be a bit uncomfortable, and I'm also sure I'll get calls and texts telling me I should have toned down the language and not written about a few things. But in the end, I'm sure she'll enjoy the book and hopefully be proud of my journey."
This story is part of The Advocate's 2022 Advocacy and Politics issue, which is out on newsstands July 18, 2022. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.