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How LEGO Helped Build a Romance for Gay LEGO Masters Contestants

How LEGO Helped Build a Romance for Gay LEGO Masters Contestants

Brad Bergman and Mike Tarrant
Courtesy Fox TV

Married couple Brad Bergman and Mike Tarrant compete on season 4 of LEGO Masters, which begins airing Thursday night.

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In some ways, Brad Bergman and Mike Tarrant’s relationship has been built on LEGOs.

The husbands from Bellingham, Wash., are competing on season 4 of LEGO Masters, which begins airing Thursday night at 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central on Fox. They’re pretty sure they’re not the first gay couple on the show, but they’re glad to bring additional representation to it, along with a deep knowledge of what impressive structures can be created with the tiny plastic blocks.

On the program, 12 teams of two people each compete for $100,000 and the title of LEGO Master. This year they’re facing such challenges as crafting a LEGO build — as the creations are called — inspired by Cirque du Soleil, plus one depicting an explosive volcano. Also this season, for the first time, the winning build will be transformed into a set and displayed at a LEGO flagship store.

Bergman is a longtime fan of LEGO — the name, which the company renders in all capital letters, derives from two Danish words, leg godt, meaning “play well.” “For me, LEGO is kind of a multifaceted enjoyment,” Bergman says. Tarrant says that for his part, “I married into it.”

Like many modern LGBTQ+ people, Bergman and Tarrant first met online. Bergman sent Tarrant a message on a dating site on Christmas Eve of 2017, and Tarrant replied Christmas Day. Later, they met in person in Bergman’s LEGO shop.

Bergman had worked in a toy store in California, where he created complex window displays such as a LEGO advent calendar, then opened a LEGO resale shop in Washington State. There he was able to sell the LEGO sets, which can be expensive when new, at an affordable price, and have special events for children, including one especially for neurodivergent youth. “It just kind of warms my heart to watch the kids,” he says.

Tarrant went into the store on several occasions, bought some items, and was impressed by Bergman’s helpful and supportive interactions with customers. That led him to think Bergman might be husband material.

“We really kind of hit it off there,” Bergman says. But he took it slowly about getting into a committed relationship, as he’d come off a difficult marriage. Tarrant proposed to him on Christmas Day a year after their first message exchange, but they didn’t get married until Christmas Eve two years after that.

The proposal made use of LEGO. Tarrant created a LEGO build of two figures, one handing the other a small object resembling a ring. But the object can also be used to represent a toilet seat in LEGO builds, so Bergman was a little confused at first. Nonetheless, they did get married, in a ceremony shared with friends and relatives by Zoom during the pandemic.

They moved cautiously into LEGO Masters as well. They applied two years ago for season 2, but Tarrant didn’t think it would be good for their marriage, so they didn’t pursue the matter. He agreed to the application for season 4, which was accepted.

To prepare, Bergman ran what he calls a “LEGO boot camp” for his husband. LEGO enthusiasts have specific names for the various parts of a build, and Bergman knew that for the show, it would be important for Tarrant to know all of those. And on the show, they had to deal with frequent interruptions by host Will Arnett and judges Amy Corbett and Jamie Berard. Those three were always kind and supportive, but the contestants had to meet the challenge of maintaining their concentration amid the interactions.

“That experience helped hone our communication skills,” Bergman says of the show and the preparation. Tarrant adds, “And we’re still married.”

They weren’t sure how the other contestants would react to a gay couple, but everyone was warm and accepting, they say, as were Arnett, Corbett, and Berard. The host and judges were also respectful of every team’s efforts.

“I was most surprised by how kind the judges were,” Bergman says. “They actually spent a lot of time with us.” Of Arnett, he says, “Will can be hilarious and also serious and supportive. We don’t see that all the time when we’re watching the show.”

“It’s really a supportive environment,” Tarrant notes.

They’ve kept in touch with the other teams, and the contestants refer to themselves as the season 4 family, Bergman and Tarrant say.

Competing on a reality show as a gay couple was something neither Bergman, 51, or Tarrant, 61, imagined while growing up. Both are natives of Michigan. Tarrant found his family largely supportive when he came out. Bergman’s family was a little more reluctant but came around, although there were some complications. His father was a teacher at a conservative Christian high school, and while he was accepting of his son, when word got out that he had a gay son, he was fired after 30 years on the job.

Bergman’s parents ended up moving to a different town and starting over, and now they’re full-on advocates and have started two PFLAG chapters. “Our relationship strengthened after this,” Bergman says, adding, “I honestly think my dad should write a book.”

Bergman and Tarrant were gratified to bring LGBTQ+ representation to LEGO Masters. “I’m looking forward to future seasons when we’ll see greater representation and greater diversity,” Tarrant says. They’re back in their day jobs now — Bergman in retail, albeit not in LEGO, Tarrant in information systems at a Seattle hospital — but they looked on the taping of LEGO Masters as a sort of delayed honeymoon.

The couple got a special thrill when attending Brick Con, a Seattle-area LEGO convention. “We got to see kids’ eyes light up” when meeting LEGO Masters contestants, Bergman says.

They note that for other LEGO lovers, there are online groups for FOLs, or “fans of LEGO,” including some specifically for gay fans, a.k.a. GayFOLs. They’d recommend competing on the show to anyone who enjoys building with LEGO.

“It’s a once-in-a-life-time opportunity,” Bergman says.

Pictured, from left: Brad Bergman and Mike Tarrant

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.