A Cautionary Tale of Love, Attention, Vices and Surviving Hollywood
by C.L. Frederick
I wasn’t prepared. I believed whole heartedly that I had experienced it all and that I was ready to jump head-first into the great Hollywood abyss, to dive into a world I had worked so hard to become a part of by making a name for myself in the male fitness model industry. I wanted my name to come off the lips of the public, and the next logical step was to conquer Hollywood. To be more specific, I wanted to make strides as an openly gay model and actor. I wanted that to be my niche; a simple enough premise.
That being said, the decision to pursue my dream career wasn’t one made lightly, and I thought I had prepared myself for any and every possible outcome. Unfortunately, Hollywood was a beast I never fully imagined, and while it didn’t quite chew me up and spit me out, it sure had its way with me.
So there I was, week one living my Hollywood dream. I had been invited to my first Hollywood Hills pool party, and little did I know this would become my welcome to the who’s-who of the gay Hollywood crowd. It was overwhelming to say the least. The world’s most famous photographer, an Academy Award winner fondling my package, and an assortment of “straight acting” actor wannabes welcomed me to their world, and as the newbie I had all eyes on me. Booze, pot and cocaine were in abundance, and sexual advances were coming at me rapid-fire.
It was all very flattering and exciting, but at the same time intimidating and nerve-racking. I was smart enough to recognize that I was being measured up as well. When asked my career plan or what I expected to do with acting and modeling I was very upfront in stating that I wanted to be an openly gay actor playing gay characters, to not hide my sexuality because surely there was a market for gay actors to play gay roles. The looks and reactions I received when I would explain spoke volumes. I learned at a gay Hollywood Hills pool party that gay men can’t play gay roles. I learned that straight male actors could play gay roles. My subconscious was telling me, “I’ll show them.”
As I settled into my new surroundings and life, I began pursuing acting and modeling jobs with fierce determination. The modeling jobs came easily, and I was booking those left and right. From Andrew Christian to Joes Jeans to being in magazines and advertising.
Landing acting roles, specifically playing gay characters, was another story entirely. I remember an audition for an independent film I went on that I felt was perfect for me. The character was a gay jock, always fixated on his body. Not much of a stretch for me to jump into that role. I nailed that audition, and they seemed to want me for the role. However, during call backs it was between me and three other guys. I was the only gay – well only openly gay – actor. Needless to say I didn’t win the role; even though the guy who did get the part had nothing close to resembling the body required for the role.
I, on the other hand, was ripped beyond belief. Then again, maybe I just didn’t have the talent. But, how many openly gay actors can you name? Better yet, how many openly gay actors can you name that began their careers as openly gay? I rest my case! With that said I still managed to book bit parts on a few network television shows, “reality” series, filmed a Lifetime network pilot, and a few gay independent films. Strangely enough I never enjoyed being on set, and it’s not something I miss. My love had always been being photographed anyway, and that was to be my primary focus.
Dancing became a part-time job for me, and when your boss is Willam Belli, of “Chow Down At Chick-Fil-A” and RuPaul’s Drag Race fame, you could only expect some crazy times. Most go-go dancers in West Hollywood were like me: actor and models dancing for hella cash, to be seen by Hollywood’s movers and shakers, and for the attention dancing would bring. Men paying you small fortunes to sleep with you and celebrities paying you even more to keep the sex hush-hush. You became a WeHo celebrity in your own right, which is a hilarious reality. I loved the dancing, and to have hundreds or thousands of eyes on you a night while dancing in next to nothing or nothing at all was a crazy wild experience. Being a sex symbol never bothered me, and in fact I had always embraced it. I’ve never been one to feel shame when it came to my body and I’ve always enjoyed having it on display. Dancing may have been my first Hollywood misstep. Working the WeHo nightlife wasn’t an easy course to traverse.
Beautiful men wanting to be with you, being the center of attention, and having cocaine, Ecstasy and molly at your fingertips doesn’t make for a viceless experience. One of my first nights dancing I had caught the attention of a Camp Pendleton Marine. Twenty four, Latin, and built like a brick shithouse. The Marine asked me for a private lap dance. We closed the curtains and began kissing. My God, he was beautiful. What was I to do? We talked and talked and the rest is unfit to print. I must have spent over an hour with him and I was so flattered that he was that enamored with me. He was the sexiest man I had ever met and let’s just say perfect in every way. Later that night I ended up spending the night with him at his hotel. I didn’t know sex could be that perfect. We actually talked for weeks after our night together, but we ended up as just a hookup. This encounter was to become my new normal.
Cocaine-fueled afterhours began to creep into my life. Models, actors, dancers, porn stars and Hollywood fixtures; people that excited me became my “friends.” It was a crazy brotherhood that opened my eyes to the seedy underworld of Hollywood life. We were living on the island of lost boys, and I was all too keen on experiencing it all and in being rebellious. Afterhours ranged from famous designers’ studios to questionable businesses off Hollywood Boulevard held by UCLA boys in which you pay a fee at the door allowing you inside to “sample” the different types of cocaine available. Crazy times were had. It was at an afterhours one night when it hit me. This was not me. I was spending more time chasing fame, beauty and being a rebel. I was in serious jeopardy. I knew that if I didn’t change my mentality I wouldn’t survive Hollywood and all its vices.
Next thing I knew, I had met and began dating the most wonderful man I have ever had in my life – the only man that ever saw me for the person I was and past the superficial, the only man that ever loved me unconditionally. His name was Sean and he was in the Navy. He was also an LGBTQ and military advocate. He lived in San Diego, and I was in West Hollywood, so it was difficult for me to see him on a regular basis. I needed to have a constant in my life, someone to keep me grounded.
As wonderful as he was, I found myself being lured back into the Hollywood life. Then one night I met a beautiful guy who lived close to me. While I knew he wasn’t the marrying kind or even boyfriend material I was drawn to him. I could spend time with him and have him close to me. This was my final misstep in my reckless series of missteps. I gave up the best man I had ever had in my life because I wasn’t strong enough to not need constant companionship. Because I was so misguided on what was truly important in my life, I gave up on a relationship that through time and investment could have been a true love, a forever deal.
Sean could have become a healthy and meaningful relationship that eventually would have led to my own family life; the only true dream I have had in life. This misstep still haunts me to this day. The man I used as a replacement had no idea he was HIV positive, and I ended up HIV positive due to my undeniably stupid decision. My true love became disposable to me. Looking back at that time in my life is the most painful reality I have. There isn’t always a next best thing.
Life had become all-consuming. I decided with my new-found HIV positive status that I needed to re-evaluate what was important in my life and to make some serious changes. My experiences in Hollywood will forever live in my memory, and I am greatly proud of the things I did accomplish, but today I see more important things in life. Family, good friends, being of service to others, and hopefully a committed and loving relationship with the man I love.
Coming back to my hometown has shown me peculiar parallels to my experiences in Hollywood. Before I had seen my gay community as sheltered and conservative, but after coming back from time away I see something much different. I see a burgeoning LGBTQ community and more gay individuals are seeking acceptance, friendship and companionship. I barely recognize the community anymore because I had always seen it as being so small and protected.
I rarely go out these days, but when I do I have been witness to a great deal of troubling situations. LGBTQ youth openly trying to score drugs like cocaine, the obsession with what or who is considered beautiful within the community, and so many constantly looking for the next best thing to date or be intimate with. As an outsider looking in, I feel the need to share. I want nothing more than to help our LGBTQ youth not fall into the same traps that I fell into.
Yes, it is terribly difficult to admit that I at one point in my life I traded in on beauty, attention and vices. It truly is an easy path to find yourself walking down. I gave up the most meaningful and important parts of my life because I was so focused on me and my name. I was focused on the things in life that meant very little when it comes down to it. I have incredible hope that our LGBTQ youth will see what is important in life and that their lives will be full of love, security and meaningful experiences. Maybe, just maybe, I am the one they will pay attention to through sharing my story. Maybe our LGBTQ youth will be the generation that will live well-rounded and normal lives, free of the emotional baggage that has plagued the LGBTQ community.
First, they will need to recognize what really matters within their own lives. Relationships that touch you to the core, a partner that wants nothing more from you than to love you with all his heart and for you to do the same, and not buy into the gay trappings of looks and popularity. Those are the most beautiful things to be found in life.