'The Old Gays Guide to the Good Life'

  • by Brian Bromberger
  • Tuesday January 30, 2024
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The Old Gays
The Old Gays

"We invented being gay. We don't tell it like it is. We tell it like it was. We have to go to the bathroom a lot. We were at the first brunch, also known as The Last Supper. We like to bicker, over who makes the better artichoke dip. We have a hard time getting up and getting it up. We keep track of our sexual encounters, so we don't forget them or repeat them. We've earned our wrinkles and they are non-refundable."

This is part of the script of one of the joyful TikTok videos made by a group of friends in the Palm Springs area known as The Old Gays. They dance, wear skimpy outfits, and dress in drag. They are social media superstars with 11 million followers on TikTok and 1 million on Instagram, though their audience is mostly women under age 35.

They've appeared on TV shows such as "Today," "Drew Barrymore," "Tamron Hall," and "RuPaul's Drag Race," not to mention lucrative brand deals with Walgreens, T-Mobile, and Netflix. Last month, they wore only Santa boxer shorts as they lip-synched to Ariana Grande's "Last Christmas."

Their names are Mick (bodybuilder), Jessay (professional singer), Robert (town planner and nudist houseowner), and Bill (interior designer), ranging in age from 67 to 80. They've written a new book, "The Old Gays Guide to the Good Life," part group memoir (from pre-Stonewall to same-sex marriage), part self-help ("Take the time to understand who you are, not who other people tell you to be."), part witty advice (i.e. to host a foolproof dinner, "smoke lots of pot before you eat.").

They've seen it all, done it all, and now tell it all, whether you want to hear it or not, ranging from the outrageous ("In Palm Springs, during the winter you fuck the tourists, in the summer you fuck the neighbors") to the hilarious (Robert: I'd love to have sex on the Eiffel Tower) and sometimes both (What's Your Ideal Romantic Date? Mick: Dinner, red wine, dessert, and then a visit to his dungeon."). But then some of the questions can be startling, "How many people in this room have lost a vibrator stuck up their ass?" or "What kind of funeral would you like to have?" Nothing is off limits in this book.

How it started
Having been friends for years, at a dinner party in 2018, a younger guest, Ryan, who is a producer, suggested putting the three stoned guys together in a video asking them what some modern slang words meant to riotous results (i.e. "sliding into DMs must be about a bowel movement") revealing their potent chemistry. The problem was they were all white with Ryan suggesting they needed more diversity. Jessay lived across the street and Robert asked him to join the group, to which Jessay ricocheted back, "You mean you need some color?"

The Old Gays  

They completed their first TikTok video in December 2021, mostly just for fun, but it was evident they felt free to be themselves totally, which appealed to viewers, as do their openness about how they've overcome their struggles.

They weren't aware how they represented living history, exemplifying the strides made in the queer community in the last five decades through the lens of their own experiences. The group has changed their lives, giving them self-confidence, particularly to feel comfortable in their older bodies, to love and respect themselves, to be exactly who they are. Getting older isn't a drag and can be uproariously fun.

Throughout reading the book, the old Gloria Gaynor disco song, "I Will Survive" kept popping up, since many of their stories were heartbreaking and shocking, involving divorce, depression, cross-country moves, church dysfunction, ruinous boyfriends, mental breakdowns, bankruptcy, even near-death experiences. Ordinarily no-no topics are broached, including ill health, sexual abuse, orgies, nudist etiquette (i.e. don't allow bare ass cheeks and body fluids on your good furniture) dating/hookup apps, isolation, baldness, toys (not Mattel), and erectile dysfunction.

We hear their coming out stories, difficulties with parents, and their first loves. Their exploits occur during the Gay Heyday of San Francisco and West Hollywood in the mid-1960s through the '70s, including the wild times during the gay sexual revolution (especially cruising spots, public toilets, bars, and bathhouses).

A sign of the times told by Mick: "Scotty Bowers took me behind the bar with my drink in hand. Without hesitation he undid his fly, pulled out one of the most battered, cut, big c—ks I'd seen so far, and shoved it into my Manhattan over ice, stirring counterclockwise."

But all the men were deeply impacted by the AIDS crisis, caregiving and losing friends, with two of the Old Gays still living with HIV (Mick and Robert). Robert's observation of that holocaust: "The only equivalency I can think of is wartime, where a soldier might lose their entire troop."

The Old Gays  

How it's going
The primal message is that having revealed all the tough times they've experienced through the decades, they hope it will inspire others to persevere through their own crises. "The good times don't last forever, but the bad times don't either."

We could be a spoilsport and note that the Old Gays sometimes reinforce ageist stereotypes, but they also ridicule them tongue-in-cheek by proclaiming senior queers aren't invisible but still here living fabulous lives. Their goal is to change gay culture by making it less youth and looks-oriented and for them to take their rightful place in the world.

These four men have formed a chosen family who encourage each other, yet aren't afraid to tell the truth to each other when needed. Some of the advice is hokey (i.e. dress for success) and any health recommendations should be taken lightly as none of these guys are medical professionals.

Overall, there is a collective wisdom that is refreshingly earnest and insightful, such as their recommendation to be passionate about everything one does, or how they never allowed homophobia to defeat them. And to let go of anger and hate because ultimately, they make you even older and bitter.

These Old Gays present their readers with four happy gay men full of vigor, not to be feared or scorned, but a vision of what the good life can be for all Americans, regardless of age or sexuality.

"Wherever you are on your own journey, life can turn on a dime, if you're open to trying new things and just saying yes to opportunities that fall into your lap...and how powerful you can be if you simply harness what's within you."

Old Gays inspire and aspire, make you laugh and/or gag in horror, but are rarely dull and might change your day from drab to fab. These four gay Golden Girls are in the middle of a crazy second act ("it's reenergized us, like we've all been reborn") none of them saw coming.

Determined that the last chapter of their lives be their best thriving one, they show younger and older fans what their own golden years could look like, "whether you relax at the end of the day with a can of White Claw or a bottle of Ensure."

Luckily for us, with a possible docuseries in the works, they have no intention of slowing down and as promised in their videos, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

'The Old Gays Guide to The Good Life: Lessons Learned About Love and Death, Sex and Sin, and Saving the Best for Last.' Harper Wave/HarperCollins, $32. www.harpercollins.com

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