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Gays love Meredith + Gretchen

Gays love Meredith + Gretchen


They didn't make it into this week's finale of The Amazing Race, but the oldest couple ever to make it to the final four in the contest won the hearts of both their gay fellow racers and GLBT viewers. In this Q&A, it's easy to see why

In's interviews with the gay contestants eliminated from CBS's latest running of The Amazing Race--Patrick, who was teamed with his mother, Susan; and West Hollywood, Calif., couple Lynn and Alex--it was clear that the other team they all loved the most was retired Maryland couple Meredith and Gretchen, ages 69 and 66, respectively. Gay and lesbian viewers felt the same way--once Patrick and Susan and Alex and Lynn had been sent packing, it was Meredith and Gretchen, the comeback kids of the show, we all wanted to win. It was not to be: Although they got ahead of the perpetual leaders, Survivor's Rob and Amber, on a flight from India to Turkey, their lead didn't last. Rob and Amber took a chance on a standby flight to London, retook the lead, and left Meredith and Gretchen competing for last with their friends Uchenna and Joyce. Two London challenges took their toll: schlepping five rowboats nearly a third of a mile and driving a double-decker bus through an obstacle course. In the end, Uchenna and Joyce beat Meredith and Gretchen to the pit stop for that leg of the race, and everyone's favorite retirees were finally eliminated. But they'd put up a tremendous fight to that point, including surviving being stripped of all their money and belongings at the end of another leg when they'd come in last and getting through a terrifying accident in a cave that left Gretchen with seven stitches in her scalp and a badly bruised face. Phew! A few days after their final episode aired on CBS, Meredith and Gretchen called to chat about their bonding with the gay contestants, their favorite Race moments, and what's wrong with Rob and Amber. Hi, how's it going? Meredith: It's going fine, my man. Gretchen: It is. We never dreamed we'd be in such demand!We usually only talk to the gay and lesbian contestants of reality TV shows, but after talking to Patrick and his mother Susan and then Lynn and Alex, and they all spoke so highly of you, and you interacted so wonderfully on the show, we asked to speak to you as well. We were only sorry to see you eliminated before the final three! Gretchen: Oh, thank you, Bruce. We were hoping we would [make it into the final three] too. We feel like we've let down an awful lot of people.Oh, I don't think you let anybody down. You did such a good job as far as you went. Meredith: Thanks for telling her that, Bruce. Say that again, please. Because she feels badly that so many people were rooting for us and we didn't pull out the million.No, you did amazingly. While we might all wish that you had the million, you got to be on every episode except the finale, and for those of us watching the show, that was terrific.Gretchen: That was an accomplishment.Meredith: We squeezed it about as dry as a couple of guys our age could squeeze.I think you did. There have been previous seasons when we get to the final episodes and there's no one to root for. So thanks for giving us someone to root for.Gretchen: Thank you, Bruce. We're flattered.So, that quicker flight to London with the standby in Germany: Do you wish you'd taken it?Meredith: I don't think so. I tell you why: That flight was booked, and we were coming down to the short strokes and we felt that if we tried that flight and we didn't make it--there was a chance that the connections wouldn't work or something like that--we would definitely be out of it. As I think you heard on the program, [we said,] A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and that was our philosophy at the moment.Gretchen: There were a lot of "if's": If we, if we, if we. And we didn't do the right ones on this date, that's for sure.Well, Patrick, Lynn, and Alex all said that a good part of this is just luck.Gretchen: It is.And we know who has had the luck with them all the way through. Gretchen: And sometimes the luck is two-legged humans running around with them. [Utilizing their Survivor celebrity and sheer American audacity, Rob and Amber often talk locals into traveling with them for hours or days at a time to help them navigate.] That's the luck.That's very true. So, Meredith: Parking the double-decker bus or steering the camel cart [in another challenge]--which was harder?Meredith: The bus, absolutely. The hardest [challenge] was schlepping those boats. Each boat had to be run 500 yards, then 500 yards back, times five [boats]. I think you figure it up and it's almost two miles.Gretchen: We were just exhausted by the time we finished that. It was the wrong thing to choose. We could have gone to Baker Street in a flash. [The alternative to the boat task was to solve a series of clues by traveling on the subway around London, leading eventually to Sherlock Holmes's fictional digs on Baker Street.]You could have. They made that challenge sound harder than it was.Meredith: They sure did. I think that we could have snuck in there [among the final three] if we hadn't done that.Well, the clue made the other option sound complicated, with riddles to solve, but they were pretty glaring clues, actually.Meredith: Well, that was part of our thinking, and it was fuzzy thinking at that. At that stage we were so tired, we were afraid if we took anything on complex that the spark wouldn't jump the synapsis quick enough.I feel that way a lot myself. I do have to say, in terms of creative approaches to the challenges, I think you were the only team to herd two llamas at one time. [In a challenge in Chile, every other team herded one llama at a time.] Gretchen: That was our claim to fame.Meredith: We did all right on those horses too [in an equestrian challenge in Argentina].

What was your favorite moment on the show if you had to pick one? Gretchen: I think our favorite leg was in Botswana, where we were in the bush country. I had just received the seven stitches in my head and I was pretty beat up. Meredith was sick with dysentery and dehydration and yet he performed those bushman detour challenges so well, and then we both worked so hard to crush that corn [into flour] that we arrived at the pit stop before two other teams. And this was really, Bruce, a physical and a mental reward for us, coming off of being stripped of our possessions and money--to have come in at that point as well as we did was just the highlight, I think.You were the first team ever on The Amazing Race to lose all your belongings. What did you think when that happened?Meredith: We were shocked. I stood there with my mouth wide open. I was ready to give up my money--that's tough enough. But to have to give up everything, including your toiletries, your personal hygiene, as well as your money, that was really a dagger in the heart after pulling Gretchen out of that cave with all her bumps and bruises.Gretchen: It was literally rubbing salt in the deep ol' wound on my head. Salt in the wound.I would ask you what your most grueling moment was, but I think we all saw it. How did you get through that, the two of you? Meredith: Are you talking about the cave? Yeah, that was a toughie. A lot of things happened there that we didn't anticipate. Number one, we thought we were going down into tunnels.Gretchen: They called it tunnels!Meredith: You know, a tunnel is not where you have to crawl on your belly to get through! Plus the fact that I went down [there] with my glasses--I couldn't put my contacts in--and I had my glasses in my mouth half the time because they would fog up and I would lick them off and they would fog up again. Most important, [these] two old guys had gotten totally fixed on looking for green boxes [at the end of each challenge] with yellow and red banners on them. And when we got to the end of the route, we were so happy and I looked around--no green box, no yellow markers. I thought, It's gotta be up in the sunshine. And when we found out that we had to go back down there and that [the clue] was stuck someplace up on the ledge--Gretchen: On the ceiling--Meredith: --on the ceiling of that cave--that was really a tough one for us. And we weren't the only ones to make that mistake, incidentally.If that was one of the mistakes you regret, what do you think was one of the smartest things you did? Meredith: I guess it was coming out of India and getting into Turkey [with Uchenna and Joyce] almost two hours ahead of the other two [teams, Rob and Amber, and pageant queen-POW couple Kelly and Ron]. Actually we did well several places. It just didn't show. We had a lot of luck and we did a lot of right things as well. I think the editing was beautiful, but there's so much more to the story.Gretchen: Really, I think that to beat Rob and Amber and Kelly and Ron--the four of us beating them--was really a shot of adrenaline to us. We played that right. We went down to a travel agency in Bombay, and we were really cutting it close, because we couldn't find any agents! In international airlines in Third World countries, the airlines only open up their offices for a couple hours [before their flights], so you can get nowhere as far as trying to get other types of reservations. And that's where Alex and Lynn and some of these others were so much smarter than we were. They would call these international travel agents and get some information from them, whereas Meredith and I just really weren't that sharp. That's where Alex and Lynn helped us a lot when we were coming out of Botswana.I think it was Alex and Lynn who said they thought you didn't know that many gay people before you went into the race.Gretchen: Well, I was a flight attendant, so I knew many. I flew with many gay flight attendants. And they were the female flight attendants' best friends. We just got along so well with them and enjoyed them, so I had really a lot of associations that I don't believe Meredith had.Meredith: Yes, that's true. I had seen gay people operate on the race, and I had seen some of the reactions the other teams had, some of the comments being made, and quite frankly I could understand it but I didn't understand it. To me, we are all equal, we have different ways of going through life, and some of the things that we have to carry with us we're born with--you know what I'm saying. Until proven different, I look at the human being, I don't look at preferences.Gretchen: Live and let live is how I feel about it. You know, if people think differently, I think we all have to be very tolerant. I think that there is good in every human being if you look hard enough no matter what! My affiliation with the gay community--I've had much more connection with them, but Patrick and Lynn and Alex were very close to Meredith especially. I think they looked to him a lot. Meredith showed them how to do the compass and talked with Patrick at length about his life and what he was doing with himself. And Lynn and Alex gave us levity. I mean, they were as they were. They weren't phonies, they weren't deceptive, they weren't devious, and they were just fine people that we really enjoyed--really enjoyed. They lightened up a lot of heavy moments for us.So if Alex and Lynn get married and have a big wedding, do you want to go? Gretchen: Oh, we'd probably try to go. We sure would!Meredith: As I said before, they're our friends. They're good, solid human beings. We know a little bit of their background, and we respect them. You know, growing up, one of my idols was Michelangelo. I thought The Agony and the Ecstasy was one of the finest books ever written. And I knew having read it that Michelangelo was gay. And that never left me--it was an impression that was indelible, and is to this day.Gretchen: I just never thought too much about it. In fact, I had two gay cousins, back about 20 years ago. And I knew and I could feel it and I understood it. And they were probably [two of] the most compassionate, sweet human beings in the world. In those days people weren't coming out of the closet like they are now--it wasn't quite as accepted as it is now, but I always accepted, and everyone in the relationship did too.I have to ask you as well about your own relationship. Because even under the most stressful times in the race, you never yelled at each other. So what's the secret to the success of your marriage? Gretchen: There was one time when we got pretty short with each other, but it wasn't shown, and I have to admit that we did. It took us over two hours to get a cab to the pit stop [after the boat navigation challenge, on the leg when Patrick and Susan were eliminated]. And Meredith and I were just really frantic. Most often we hold our tempers and we hold our composures, but at that point we kind of lost it and we raised our voices to each other. But Meredith is the type that if things start getting a little bit out of hand, he sits me down and we talk about things. We really are not the type that scream and yell at each other, because that often don't accomplish anything. All you're doing is thinking how you can scream back at what the other person is saying!Right.Gretchen: We both have such a respect for each other. We really do. We feel so fortunate to have found each other, because it's hard to find a mate that you're really compatible with.So, Meredith, where did you find Gretchen?Meredith: I found Gretchen through a friend of mine. When I came back to the Washington, D.C., area after having spent about six, seven years in California, I came back alone. I had gone through a divorce that I had not anticipated, and a number of things happened that were completely off-the-wall as far as I was concerned, and I wanted stability in my life. And so this friend of mine offered me a place to stay, and after I'd been there three or four weeks, he said, "Meredith, what's the matter with you?" and I said, "What do you mean by that?" And he said, "You haven't been out once. You haven't been on a date. Can I help you?" And I said, "Sure." So he introduced me to Gretchen. We had one date, and we've been together ever since.

How long ago was that? Meredith: Five years.Gretchen: Our anniversary is tomorrow [May 6].Meredith: We will have been married five years tomorrow, but we went together for about a year and a half [before that].Well, that's terrific.Gretchen: It was. It was a blessing for both of us, it truly was. Because I had just come off of this divorce after 35 years and was living with a roommate. A mutual girlfriend, she and her husband--who is the same one that Meredith is talking about--got us together.That's a good story! It gives everyone hope. Maybe you can give Patrick some hope, because he was thinking when we spoke that he was never going to have a long-term relationship with anybody.Meredith: I think he will.Gretchen: We had breakfast with Patrick not too long ago when we were out in L.A., and he is a fine young man. Unfortunately some of his finer points and his better moments weren't captured on film, but Meredith and he got along very well.Back to the race for one last moment: Patrick and Lynn and Alex took some crap from viewers on the show's message boards for how fixated they seemed to be on Rob and Amber. You seemed less bothered by them. How did you feel about competing against Rob and Amber?Meredith: Frankly, we discussed the competition before we got into it and we felt that we were going to play hard, we were going to play fast, we were going to play with integrity, and we were going to play fair. And so anything that was going on that was over and above that--or below that, I should say--we ignored, quite frankly. Our job was to beat the last team. That was our job.Gretchen: Although, since we've been watching it on TV, we have seen-- We were very bothered by them being on the show to begin with, but we felt that we could do nothing about it. We knew that they were there for a reason, and they did probably bring a lot of viewership to [the show]. But there was nothing we could do about it. And personally, they did not harm us in any way. But when we've been watching the show, that's when we've seen the things that they've said about us. We had no idea the remarks that they were making. We had no idea that they had their own personal guides to take them everywhere through the clues. We just had no idea about that until after.So I gather you weren't invited to their wedding last month.Gretchen: Absolutely not. [Meredith laughs] We felt that Rob brought the Survivor mentality into this race, and he didn't have to do that. He was a strong enough player: He didn't have to call names, and he didn't have to give derogatory comments about people--he didn't have to do it, but that's his makeup and he did it. And as Meredith has said, let the viewership--Meredith: --decide. We haven't had one single person that's contacted us--and we've had a lot of contacts--say, "We hope Rob and Amber win now."Gretchen: But there is a segment out there, Bruce, there is a segment of this population and viewership that believes that you should play this game and win it at no matter what cost: Do it however and whatever. You want to run over people, that's fine, as long as you win. We didn't feel that way. We felt that we should respect our other teammates, and we did.So would you do it again if you had it all to do over? Meredith: If we hadn't done it the first time! [Laughs]Gretchen: We don't want to press our luck.You don't want to do Amazing Race All-Stars [which has been rumored but not announced]? Gretchen: I keep vacillating, but Meredith says no.Meredith: Gretchen can go find another partner.Gretchen: He's come in touch with his mortality. He felt he was a pretty sharp guy for almost 70--which he is--but it took a lot out of us, it really did. The age difference really did make a difference. You know, his old statement that treachery and old age can outwit youth and inexperience every time--that got foiled about the first five minutes of the race.It worked sometimes. Gretchen: [Laughs] Not very often.Meredith: We found out, you know, when it comes to treachery, we didn't know what treachery was until we ran into Rob and Amber. We don't have that kind of bone in our bodies.Anything else you want to say to your gay and lesbian fans who wish you'd been the ones to win this?Gretchen: I'll tell you, Patrick, Lynn, and Alex represented you all so well. Their humor, their wit, their heart--really, their heart--just helped make this race the wonderful experience it was for us.Meredith: You know, my final word is, whoever you are, be who you are, and be it to the best that you know how. That's all I know what to say. Keep on keeping on with life, do those things that you know best, and you don't let other people discourage you, no matter what.
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