All over the place with Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Author: Sean Hetherington
July 5, 2010
Josh Kilmer-Purcell is the author of the memoir of a gay generation, I Am Not Myself These Days, about his stint as a New York Drag Queen in a relationship with a beautiful male escort and crack addict named Jack. The book crossed unapologetically into the mainstream, becoming a New York Times Bestseller, and is now in development as a series for Bravo TV. His first novel, Candy Everybody Wants, released in 2008, is the coming of age tale of an 80s child star who discovers love and fame. And this month, his memoir The Bucolic Plague, about his purchase of the Beekman Mansion, a 200 year old farm in Sharon Springs, New York, was released alongside the debut of his reality TV series, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, on Planet Green.
In The Bucolic Plague, Josh and his partner of 10 years, Dr. Brent (famous from his years as resident MD on Martha Stewart Living) discover the Beekman mansion by accident on the way home from an annual trip to upstate New York and then buy it with plans to turn it into an organic farm and getaway home. In building their garden and renovating the home, they have run-ins with Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, gossiping neighbors, and each other, which Kilmer-Purcell describes with his usual brutal honesty, fearless humor, and universal sensitivity.
What makes Kilmer-Purcell a sure-bet read is how quickly he grabs the reader and entrenches them in the stakes of his desires. And unlike so many memoirists that tease readers with 300 pages of chasing the sweetest fruits, Kilmer-Purcell’s dreams are always met quickly. What makes him unique is that he always seems to second-guess his riches. His fortunes have hidden and sometimes grave consequences. And from the first pages of The Bucolic Plague, as he describes in great detail an explosion of goat diarrhea outside the stage of Martha Stewart Living, you can’t help but keep turning the pages.
Kilmer-Purcell is not an author whose books you read a chapter at a time over the course of a month or even a week. I literally stayed up all night, and as usual, laughed throughout, while in a panic over whether or not he and Dr. Brent were going to make it through together and alive. I found that just like those of I Am Not Myself These Days, this memoir’s final sentences left me giggling, uplifted, and in tears.
Josh, for the young drag queens out there looking for hope, walk them through the process of going from being held at knifepoint by a crack-addict boyfriend to finding a successful, hot, Dr. Brent type. Where should they be looking? What do they need to discover about themselves between relationships to go from such extremes?
They shouldn’t be looking in the places they have been looking. That’s tip #1. Of course, that’s only if they want a change. There’s nothing wrong with knife-weilding, crackhead boyfriends, if that’s what thrills you. I wouldn’t change a moment in my dating history if I had to do it all over again. But when it became less thrilling, I made a commitment to finding a different sort of partner – one who actually worked with me, as opposed to against me. I almost treated finding a new partner like taking job applicants. (I am work, after all.) Crazy, madcap, dangerous love stories just that. A solid enduring relationship takes effort, sacrifice, and pragmatism. But one is not inherently any better than the other.
It must be amazing to be living this dream, especially considering you come from a farm in the midwest, but I have to know: were there ever moments, after you bought the Beekman, that you’d pass a gay club in Manhattan and think, “Wow, I’d rather be at Rawhide this weekend than cleaning the chicken coop.”?
I was pretty tired of club life by the time I gave it all up. There aren’t really any moments that I seriously consider returning. I’ve discovered that I like sleep. And about the only job in the world that requires less sleep than farming, is being a drag queen.
Before I was even halfway through with this book, I found myself online at http://beekman1802.com buying my friend heirloom seeds for her garden and myself July and August’s goat milk soaps. And by the way, I love them. Is this all part of your evil plan?
We live in a world of media everywhere. We live-tweet, read, watch tv and text all at the same time. I don’t have any idea what the media landscape will wind up in ten years, so I’m putting a stake in the ground everywhere. I think that eventually we’ll all be working for ourselves, and it’s the quality of our ideas, and our ability to disseminate them that will determine our success.
There is a discovery you stumble upon while at a party at Martha Stewart’s house that ripped my soul open. “The Problem, I realized, with perfection is that it leaves others with nothing to do but search for flaws.” You may have been talking about the garden, but for so many gay men I think this line is something much bigger. Do we try for perfect abs, and tans, interior design, and cucumber harvests as a way to make up for being labeled a minority? And are we just wasting our time?
I don’t believe working towards perfection is a waste of time. I believe that expecting to achieve it is. But we should all be working to better ourselves – what’s the alternative? And if gay men compensate for growing up as social outcasts by pulling together amazing dinner parties, well, it’s a lot more beneficial to society than if we were obsessed with getting even. We’re smart like that.
Gay authors are often cautioned about “ghetto-izing” their story, in other words, if it’s too gay, the mainstream may not be interested. But you’ve had a bestseller and a TV development deal based on the your first memoir which dealt with specific issues to our community, and your partnered life with Dr. Brent is featured on the cover of this book and as part of a reality series. What gives?
Dumb luck. I have to say that my publisher and my network have never ever made an issue, pro or con, about me being gay. But I have a hunch that part of the reason for that is because I’ve never given them reason to. I rarely think about being gay anymore. I don’t think there’s anything any more unique about Brent’s and my relationship than any straight one. Whatever personality traits, or relationship issues I have, stem from a far deeper universal explanation than simply being gay. I can’t think of a less interesting or truthful slant on my life than attributing what has happened to me to being gay.
At some point in this book, Brent reveals that his perceived selfishness has been because he doesn’t want to fail the dream that you had. He’s working so hard because he wants you to have the life that you always wanted, and you feel that you were pushing him away. Why?
Because I’m a selfish sonofabitch. That period of our lives was so difficult – no jobs, two mortgages – that we found ourselves in our own respective survival modes. And, unfortunately, survival mode is often the death of a relationship. Strength comes once we realize that we actually are more likely to survive as a team than individually.
You offer that anyone can help out at the Beekman, because there’s something there for everyone to do, depending on their skill. If your former drag persona, Aqua, with fishbowl tits were to show up one day, what would her chores be?
Cleaning the algae out of the pond, of course.