Sunday, December 16, 2012


"It really doesn't matter if the person who hurt you deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You have things to do, and you want to move on."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 Concert

An amazing night at Madison Square Garden! Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, The Who, Sir Paul McCartney and many more put on the most amazing six hour concert. We sat with a group of Staten Island cops and danced the night away. There is no place like New York City.

Amway’s Dick DeVos and the Right-to-Work

            Yesterday’s decision by Michigan’s Governor Rick Synder has ricocheted through the United States as a major victory for the Republican lawmakers. It’s another move by the GOP that proves they are extremely out of touch with what the majority of people in this country want, but don’t seem to care.  Not to mention a sneaky and shady move on Gov. Synder’s part to get elected with an agenda that clearly opposed right-to-work only to sign the bill into law behind a wall of police officers that separated him from a sea of protesters whom he had blatantly deceived. It was a move that shocked everyone.
            What didn’t shock me however was to hear that Amway CEO Dick DeVos, son of founder Rich DeVos, is among those who financially and morally support Gov Synder and the right-to-work bill.  It’s another contradiction from the Amway billionaire as he preaches about “free enterprise” and treating workers “like family” and yet supports a political party and such bills like the right-to-work that essentially take safety and rights away from these family like workers. Dick DeVos grew up in the same money hungry Amway bubble I did but he is still in that bubble!  He does not believe in free enterprise and the equal rights of all people. He believes gay people are not equal to straight people and he believes in treating people differently in the work place.   That is the very definition of free enterprise in the world of Amway, but not in the real world.
            There are some really good people in the Amway business and strong parts of that business. But the man driving that bus is doing so blind folded, running people over without a care in the world.  He is what I believe to be part of the top two percent who are hanging on to old American ideals that no longer work out of fear that the straight, white, Christian boys club his father raised him in, is shrinking into oblivion.  I wish his fear was actually possible and they would shrink into oblivion, but I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime.  But they are now the minority and fighting to hang on to control over their money, taxes and egos.  It’s unfair and un-American. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Success of Failure

            Growing up in Amway, success was our religion.  My father employed a strict “no failure” rule.  Dream boards and positive affirmations kept me focused on making it to the top.  The ridicule of being gay fueled my drive for success and contributed to my intolerance for failure.  So when failure happened in my life, and it’s happened a lot, I had nothing but anger and resentment towards myself.   It was unacceptable to me.  I never learned that falling down is part of the journey. I fought it every step of the way until I went through the darkest period of my life a few years ago. It broke me. I finally had to admit that, despite my best efforts, I had failed. I was not the person I wanted to be.
            At the time, I had no idea, but this bitter experience was to become the greatest lesson of my life.  I faced my ultimate fear and lived.  It turns out, of course, that I needed to fail in order to see myself clearly - and give up on aspects of my personality that appeared to work for me- but were really working against me.  I realized I had never let myself change because I was petrified of what other people might think of me. My image was more important than my growth as a human being. My ego was more important than my self.
            Since then I've been trying to embrace the parts of me that are difficult to accept. In fact, my ego is a constant and fascinating study in human failure. About a year ago, I perceived a situation to be something it wasn’t based on some information that was presented to me. I sent out an email in defense of this half-truth and realized by the day’s end that I was wrong.  I had to make immediate amends. The shame that came over me was catastrophic.  It consumed me. “What will people think when they see that email?” It took a good friend to point out that I am human and will make mistakes: it’s not the mistake that really matters, it’s the humility to admit and correct that error. 
           My friend suggested that I list my assets as a man and observe this situation from a more balanced perspective. We have good days and bad days. I can be incredibly compassionate, funny and giving. But I can also be stubborn, judgmental and over-reactive.  That incident made me stop and say, “I am finally ready to address this issue.”  That's the journey.  The lesson is often in the failure and the willingness to admit defeat.  The victory is in accomplishing the necessary change. That’s real success. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

People Helping People-Update

A few weeks ago I began collecting money to give to a victim of Hurricane Sandy.  Friends from Boston, New York, LA and San Francisco stepped up and sent me as much as they could spare. I want to let all of you who gave so generously know where your contributions went.

With the help of my friend Anthony Falcone, a Staten Island resident, I found the perfect recipient.  A man named William lost everything in the storm. The first level of his home and the garage were destroyed.  William is a carpenter by trade. His tools were completely ruined and unsalvageable.  Neither insurance nor FEMA would cover the expense to replace his tools so he could get back to work.

Yesterday, with you help, I handed Anthony a check for William to go buy new tools.   He will not only be able to go back to work but also help others rebuild their homes in Staten Island. It's the gift that truly keeps giving.  I included a letter with the check telling William he is not alone and people are praying for him and his fellow residents every day. Please keep them in your prayers and if you can start your own collection to help just one person still struggling this holiday season, please do so. Remember that many people don't even have homes to decorate this season. Remain grateful for what you have and reach out to help your fellow citizen.

God bless and thank you again for your help!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Life After Bullying

  I tell my adolescent bullying story in every painful detail in my upcoming memoir.  I was ridiculed as a pre-teen upon entering Marshal Simons Middle School in Burlington Massachusetts.  Once the other boys heard I was a tap and jazz dancer and a budding actor, I was fresh meat for hungry hazing. “Faggot”, “Fem”, and every other effeminate derogatory insult were hurled at me like boulders.  My safety and trust in human beings was shattered.  I was frozen in such a panic everyday and couldn’t wrap my oversensitive brain around such unprovoked hatred. I had no idea how much resentment was worming its way into the foundation of my life at that time.  I so badly wanted control. I couldn’t take the horrible feelings of self-loathing that constantly bubbled up in me. One day I even began drinking with those same kids just so the pain would stop. 
Of course back in 1988, when the terror began, there was no anti-bullying movement and there were no openly gay people on television to identify with.  I considered suicide several times between the ages of twelve and fifteen with one serious attempt. That began years of burying pain and shame deep down inside of me.  I used people and substances until I could no longer feel anything.  However the shame was still there. It seeped into my core and became part of my personality. I overcompensated for it in so many ways - a loud and over the top personality, going through men like socks, looking perfect on the outside, and an insatiable appetite for success with an “I’ll show them” attitude. 
  My Amway upbringing only added fuel to my raging fire. My father would often say, “Success is your best revenge.”   So I mimicked his quest for success and pushed myself harder and harder to become anything other than what I was.  But no matter what I accomplished or who I made fall in love with me, it was never enough to quell the shame.
After years of running and a near fatal breakdown after turning thirty, I was forced to deal with the bullying I had experienced fifteen years prior.  It was extremely difficult to even admit that I was still resentful over something that happened so long ago. I felt like a loser for not having the ability to let it go, which precipitated more shame.   Even as the current anti-bullying movement emerged I felt like I couldn’t breathe.   There was a little thirteen-year-old boy inside of me screaming, “What about me? Where were you fifteen years ago?”
  Since then I have done everything I can think of to become part of the movement. I am the Chairman of GLSEN’s New York City Chapter; I mentor gay teens at Covenant House and teach Anti-bullying workshops to teens around the world using theater as a way to explore this behavior. 
  But still missing from this movement is support for those of us who didn’t have a media-based Anti-Bullying campaign when we were kids.  Those of us who still feel angry and feel ashamed of that.  And those who still feel alone.
 If you are struggling, or have struggled with this, please contact me. Together we can find Life After Bullying.   You are not alone.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

People Helping People

Hello All,

A very generous friend, Tricia Ott-Brisbois, was kind enough to send me some money to pass on to hurricane victims here in New York.  As many of you know I have been volunteering and spent time out in the most affected areas.  Tricia's offer has inspired me to keep collecting funds in hopes of helping just one family recover. If we each adopt just one family it becomes manageable and imagine how many we could help. I was most heart broken by the older victims of this storm. Couples who are retired and have limited funds to rebuild the home they have spent their lives constructing inside and out. One man and his wife who captured my heart are in Staten Island. I helped him discard the last of he and his wife's belongings onto the sidewalk. They appeared to be in their late sixties. These pictures I have attached are of their home, or what's left of it. I would like to add to Tricia's kind donation and go back out their and present them with all the money I can collect as a way to help them rebuild. If you can spare it please give what you can.  I'm sure they will be grateful for whatever help they can get. Little by little we can recover from this tragedy.   Our fellow American's need us! Thank you!

Please direct all inquiries to or you can click on the Contact Me tab here on my blog. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Please get out there and vote today! Your voice needs to be heard!

Friday, October 19, 2012


Okay, so I need to weigh in on the issue of Amway President Doug DeVos donating half a million dollars to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).   As a young boy growing up in Amway I had the pleasure of meeting Doug’s father, Amway co-founder Rich DeVos.  He knelt down until his eyes met mine and shook my hand.  “Dream big son. You can be anything you put your mind to. Don’t lose sight of the American dream.” That's what he said to me.  Well what if my American Dream is to marry the man of my dreams and have every American see me as an equal? 
I watched my parents and thousands of other couples parade across the stage at Amway rallies around the world and not once did I ever see a gay couple. In fact when I discovered I was gay my first thought was, “Oh no, what about taking over my parent’s Amway business? I can’t do that if I’m gay!” 
This past summer my mother, no longer in Amway, turned seventy years old. My sisters and I threw her a big surprise party and invited as many people from her life as we could find, including my parent’s Amway sponsors.  They were overjoyed to see me, but when I turned around to introduce them to my boyfriend Jonathan, they simply turned away and ignored him.  They have made it known over the years that they do not accept homosexuality.  They pretended like Jonathan didn’t exist.
A spokeswoman for Amway released the following statement in response to the recent boycott: “As private citizens, the DeVos family supports causes and organizations that advocate for policies aligned to their personal belief’s. The family believes one of the highest callings of any individual is to express their own personal beliefs as a participant in the democratic process.”
I could not agree more. However, when you are donating to an organization that prevents individuals from living freely in this democratic process you so admire, that is not advocating “for the policies aligned to their personal beliefs.”  That is not supporting free enterprise or a society in which all are created equal. Rather, that's manipulating the system to appear all-inclusive while fueling an organization that believes straight people are better than gay people.
Amway then released this statement: “Our employees and distributors come from all walks of life and represent an incredibly diverse set of backgrounds. The Amway opportunity is open to everyone.”
If that is true, how many out gay employees work at Amway Headquarters?  Does Amway have an LGBT community? That Amway statement is a big one to make in the press without statistics to back it up. 
Rich DeVos made me promise to dream big and never lose site of that dream. Well Rich, I haven’t. Thank you for supporting this proud gay American. Now put your money where your mouth is and donate $500,000 to an LGBT organization. Be a real man like the ones I hang out with. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Having A Good Attitude vs. Reality

Growing up in an Amway pop-up house, I was forced to have a positive attitude at all times.  Negative statements were as banned as Brand-X products. Negative emotions - like sadness and anger - were an abomination. My parents stood on stages in Amway rallies around the world and gave heart felt talks about over coming adversity and stern advice on how to change your thinking.   Mind over matter meant mind over reality.
It has taken me a long time to sift out the useful parts of my Amway upbringing.  I tossed it all away after my father’s Amway dream collapsed along with our family.  But after a while I started to miss my positive attitude and slowly realized that many of the teachings my father inherited from Amway weren’t the problem. It’s what he did with them that became the issue. 
Having a good attitude is necessary for any kind of success.  But when that attitude becomes a round the clock personality, then it stops being real.  Since my days in Amway I have met people who use this overzealous attitude to dominate a conference room or hide parts of themselves they are ashamed of.  I can smell a sales technique coming a mile away and I can feel when someone is being inauthentic or using a learned positive attitude to overcompensate for some kind of insecurity. 
The entire network marketing sector and life coaching industry is saturated with techniques on how to work with people.  Rehearsed spiels and over-caffeinated presentations with a bulldozing “I’ll win you over” approach annoy me.  I agree that good energy is infectious, but only if it comes with a fully equipped human being.  It’s when the Stepford Wives syndrome takes over that scares people into thinking that a positive attitude is one step away from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  I watched my father use this side of the self-help movement to avoid reality and run from his feelings.  I’ve done it myself.
I believe there is a healthy balance in this area.  I am a freelance writer and therefore self-employed. I never escaped the entrepreneurial gene passed on by my father and am grateful for that. I rely on my people skills and good attitude to attract work and interest in my work.  But I am not going to sell it to you twenty-four hours a day.  I'm not a machine.  There's a human being behind these words you're reading and that is my first priority: to be human.  I meet people everyday and after twenty years of trying every sales spin and technique out there I've realized that the best sales pitch in the world is sincerity.  Authenticity and sincerity clears away the negative attitudes all on their own, exposing the natural God-given beauty that is our personalities, on good days and growing days.  
 That’s my reality, and I have a pretty good attitude about it. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Birth of Life After Amway

It all began back in 1998 when I began writing and performing my one-man show, Life After Amway here in NYC.  The journey has been long and rewarding. I have written this story into a memoir and a film. We all have a story to tell.

God in America

Last night I watched the conclusion of a PBS documentary, God in America.  It was the second half of a four-hour film that explored American worship and it’s influence on our culture.  Last night’s two-hour continuation began with World War II and the rise of Christian evangelist Billy Graham. Watching Graham preach from the stage at a revival brought me back to the childhood I spent in Amway rallies. These rallies were monthly events that changed my parents lives and profoundly shaped mine.  My father loved these rallies more than any other part of the Amway business.  I have no memory of childhood that does not include these spectacles. And they were spectacles.  Anywhere from one hundred to one thousand Amway distributors would gather in a hotel ballroom or large convention center on a Saturday night to praise Jesus and free enterprise.
I was raised Catholic, but my parent’s were sponsored into the Amway business by an affluent African-American couple by the name of Bill and Anna Mae Wright, who greatly influenced my religious upbringing.  Bill and Anna Mae were Christians just like Graham and preached at Amway rallies like they were in church.  In fact most of my parent’s Amway group was black.  I even grew up thinking all black people were rich, because that’s all I saw.  Bill and Anna Mae would bring us in their limousine to their Baptist church on Sundays  where I would sit and listen to the preacher tell me to hitch my wagon to Jesus’ star.    At the following Amway rally I would listen to Bill and my father recreate that sermon, but in Amway verbiage, in order to motivate their followers. There was no separation of church and state in Amway.  My father held weekly Amway bible study groups at our home every Thursday night with the local Baptist pastor leading the way.  I saw faith as another stepping-stone on the great road to success.
I prayed like a good white Catholic and a good black Christian.  But when I reached adolescence and discovered that the gay man I was growing into was not accepted by either faith, I threw the baby out with the bathwater and turned my back on God.  That is an unfortunate reality for most gay Americans when facing this dilemma.  I made boys and my quest for success my new Higher Power.
When I was twenty-six years old I found myself questioning my salvation at my father’s deathbed, as he lay dying of cancer.  My father spent the last years of his life in the front row of Rev. Earl Paulk’s Pentecostal mega church in Decatur, Georgia: The Cathedral at Chapel Hill.  He had left my mother for a southern black flight attendant and together they had found Jesus.  As I sat by his bed watching the most powerful man in my life waste away, I read through his bible.  He had studied this book and its teachings but had he changed? This was the same man whose ego ruined my family.  Where was God then?
In one of our last talks he leaned over to me and said the words I had longed to hear my entire life
“I was wrong.”
He denounced his success driven, materialistic life and told me to find God.  But how do I do that? I’m gay.
After his death I returned to New York and got sober.  That was the resurrection of my spiritual life.  It’s been a long and bumpy road but worth every pothole.
Last night’s documentary got me thinking about where God and the American Dream stand for me today.  The documentary, of course, featured Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and clips of his preaching. In a 1965 sermon he boldly called out America on its arrogance.  If he could have delivered that sermon today, it would be just as relevant.  I thought about my own arrogance and American entitlement.  I see it everywhere in this country, from Wall Street to Hollywood and, yes, even in the Christian faith.
I want the best life I can have, but I also want to be helpful and part of the solution.  I want to accept others for who they are and give everyone the freedom to believe what he or she feels is best for them. I want to smile and wave good morning to my new Islamic neighbor here in Harlem.  I want the same rights as every other human being in this country and I don’t want to fight you for it.  I want to be a producer of harmony rather than dissonance.  And if there is a God I just want to ask one question. What kind of American do you want me to be?