On Memories Pizza, Television and the Gay Bar That Johnson County Needs
by Brandon Tietz
Michael Mackie is an Emmy Award-winning television personality and former co-host of “Kansas City Live,” Channel 41’s morning show. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in broadcasting. He’s a self-proclaimed proud Midwesterner, however, he’s never seen “The Wizard of Oz.” Michael is someone who I’ve power brunched and played Cards Against Humanity with on more than a few occasions. He’s charming as hell, gay, and my friend. This interview was done via email due to our busy schedules (we were both traveling).
By the time this goes to print this topic is going to feel dated, but I wanted to get your take on it anyway. The whole Memories Pizza debacle that took place in Indiana … it all kicked off when they said they’d serve people of the LGBT community in their store but they wouldn’t cater LGBT weddings because that’s against their religious beliefs. My question to you is a two-parter. First, what do you think of that whole situation? Second, if you know a business is anti-LGBT would you really want them catering your wedding?
Here’s my theory – I doubt a lot of self-respecting gay folks were storming the doors at Memories Pizza for a slice before this whole thing went down. That business is free to do whatever they want … but they’d better be wholly prepared for the infinite, endless blogosphere backlash. The gays I know are usually savvy when it comes to spending their hard earned $$$ … and most will choose to keep it “family-friendly.” Plus, if you’re having pizza catered at your wedding reception, you’ve got WAY bigger problems.
You were the co-host of KSHB Channel 41’s morning show “Kansas City Live,” and they ended up not renewing your contract citing they were “going to go in a different direction.” At the 2014 Mid-America Emmy Awards you won two statues – one for Best On-Air Host. My question is this: when you were told they were going to go in a different direction, did they mean the non-Emmy Award winning direction? Do you have any desire to get back on TV?
It was a great run, wasn’t it? Best two years of my life. I learned a lot and, more importantly, can now chalk co-hosting my own show off my to-do list. TV is a wildly dysfunctional business, but I’m always reminded, “You can’t spell dysfunctional without fun.” So, yeah, TV will always have a fond spot in my heart. I’m sure I’ll end up back in front of the camera in some capacity because my love/hate relationship with television is more love than hate. Fortunately, I like the media training I’m doing now, so the TV gig – whatever it is – would merely be a fun side job.
You’ve said before that you’ve never dealt with any adversity in getting a job due to being openly gay. I must read at least one article a week talking about someone who’s been discriminated against because they’re LGBT. Do you think the discrimination stories help or hurt? Help, as in: raising acceptance. Hurt, as in: employers become more hesitant to hire anyone who’s LGBT.
I can only speak from my own experience – knowing that it’s been more of a help than a hindrance for me. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve found absolutely no one cares anymore. That being said though, my heart bleeds for anyone out there doing a kick-ass job and getting flack for his or her sexual identity. Every time we take one step forward, we seem to take three steps back. But fortunately a lot of folks have the passion, the wherewithal and the cajones to make a stink every time something rogue happens to them. Heck, my high school alma mater Dowling High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, just offered a beloved substitute teacher a full-time teaching position and then swiftly rescinded it because they found out he was gay and engaged to another man. The uproar from students and parents was remarkably swift and positive. Good for them for creating such a brouhaha. Oh, and remind me not to write my alma mater a check any time soon.
You mentioned to me before that there’s a lack of gay bars in Kansas City. If you had your way, where would you put one and what would be the theme of it?
I think I said a lack of gay bars in Kansas … period. I swear, gay Kansas Citians are the most fickle lot of barhopping barflies I have ever encountered. From what I glean, they have no loyalty or affinity to any particular place. That’s probably why so many gay bars have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Props and kudos to the owners of Hamburger Mary’s (Jeff Edmonson and Eric Christensen) for trying to come up with a whole Midtown “gay-borhood” with a myriad of new, upstart gay and gay-friendly bars. Honestly, if I could show some love to my drunken brethren – I’d put an upscale gay bar smack in the middle of – GASP! – hoity-toity Johnson County. I think it would do gangbuster business, if for no other reason than to cater to those semirepressed, swinging JoCo soccer moms and dads. They’re everywhere – bless their suburban, wine-swilling hearts.
There are readers out there who are gay but have yet to come out, either due to fear or the potential backlash they’ll have to deal with. What advice would you give to those individuals?
You come out when you’re good and ready, honey. Don’t let anyone tell you when to make the leap. We’ve got plenty of trailblazers out there winning friends and influencing people. You just make sure you’re looking out for No. 1. Be content, be happy and be yourself – and you jump on that bandwagon when you’re ready. Next stop … Forward-momentum-ville!