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Simon Doonan: Chewing the 'Fat' on gay cities, bears, food
BOOKS
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2012-04-04

This article shared 4704 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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In Gay Men Don't Get Fat, writer/creative director Simon Doonan (the husband of home-furnishings designer Jonathan Adler) offers his own perspective on everything from fashion to food while relating real-life experiences. The British author talked with Windy City Times recently about the book.

Windy City Times: Where did you get the inspiration to write this?

Simon Doonan: I thought it was time to take my nuggets and nuances of gay wisdom, and put them in one book, delivering it to the public with great velocity.

WCT: I was caught off guard, initially. One reason is because when I saw the title—and me being an editor—I took it literally, and thought the book was going to be exclusively about food. [Doonan laughs.] However, you cover a lot more ground.

Simon Doonan: Yes, absolutely; I'm not that interested in food, quite honestly. The title is a parody of [Mireille Guiliano's best-selling book] French Women Don't Get Fat and [Bruce Feirstein's] Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. So it's kind of a mash-up of those self-help books, except I'm not very helpful. I'm more of a humor writer. I'm into inspiring people into being uninhibited and crazy.

Wacky Chicks is all about eccentric women, eccentric glamour; it's about dressing without being self-critical or masochistic—being unconventional.

WCT: There are many interesting nuggets in this book, such as towns and cities having sexual orientations. Living in Chicago—and knowing you've been here, because Jonathan has a store here—what do you think of this city?

Simon Doonan: I've been to Chicago many, many times; I've been going there since the 1980s. I feel very at-home there. Sometimes I think of Chicago as being very hetero; then I meet a whole bunch of gays and I think, "Maybe the Windy City can blow your beehive off," and it seems more homosexual. It's a city with a long history of style and glamour, with those glamorous apartments all facing the lake—it's very gay and fabulous.

WCT: Now what's the most hetero city you've been to?

Simon Doonan: It's probably Detroit, because it's all based on making cars, which is fundamentally very heterosexual.

WCT: Elsewhere in the book, you mention that you feel a solidarity with larger women.

Simon Doonan: I've always expressed a strong solidarity with plus-size chicks because I am undersized for a guy, so I understand that frustration of shopping and feeling like an outsider. Everybody seems to find great things, but I can't.

WCT: My favorite chapter was probably "Operation Goldilocks." [Doonan laughs.] What was the most surprising thing you learned about bears?

Simon Doonan: I think the most surprising thing was how many there are. According to an article I read in the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, there are 1.7 million bear-identified gay men in America. It's a subculture, but a really big one. But if you think about it, it's a very inclusive movement with a lot of camaraderie; it's non-judgmental with a sense of community, so it's attracted a lot of people.

Also, if you're a bear, your gayness becomes invisible; it's a great camouflage. When I walk down the street, anybody can see I'm gay. When they see a bear walking down the street, they're just thinking, "Oh, here's some big, burly dude on his way to Home Depot to buy some screws." [Interviewer laughs.]

WCT: And you consider yourself to be a chinchilla?

Simon Doonan: Well, I went through all the categories, like "otter" and "polar bear" and "polar bear," and I was thinking, "What am I?" I then thought, "Well, I'm small and I have a lot of gray hair, so maybe I'm a chinchilla. Woo!"

WCT: By the way, I'm pretty sure you're the only person I've ever talked with who's referred to himself as a "dingleberry whisperer."

Simon Doonan: [Laughs] There's a whole chapter about being prissy and why that's a good thing, and I referred to my ability to our little doggy. We always take him into the ocean and wash off his dingleberries. It takes a real man to do that.

WCT: Well, I give you credit. I also have to give you credit for listing Paris Is Burning—one of my favorite films—as one of your top 13 movies.

Simon Doonan: Yes; I think it's a great documentary that should be mandatory viewing. It's very touching, and it's an important historical document. In a way, it's about everything: class, race and other aspects of culture.

WCT: Although you don't talk much about food, you do feel that it—like town and cities—can have sexual orientation.

Simon Doonan: Oh, yeah—well, I'm all about sweeping generalizations. When I started looking at food as being either gay or straight, it all made sense to me. It's like life; you need a balance of gay and straight. So with that steak, you need a fluffy mesclun salad instead of mashed potatoes.

WCT: I thought about that as I was eating a skirt steak salad recently.

Simon Doonan: There you go! That sounds like the gayest steak you can get—don't be ashamed. [Interviewer laughs.]

WCT: Since you rely on sweeping generalizations, do you think some people, in our PC society, may be offended by those?

Simon Doonan: I have no interest in offending people. My writing style has developed since I started writing in the '90s; it's broad, and it's humor writing, so you can't take anything too literally—any more than you could watching a stand-up comic.

I always tell people that I've made a career out of being "unoffendable." When you're unoffendable, you're in a very strong place, and that comes from always looking at the source of something. It didn't take me long to get there; I've always kept my eyes on the prize.

When I came to America, I was told, "We don't give green cards to gay people." At that point, I had a choice: Either I could say, "That's very offensive" or think, "How am I going to get a green card?" I knew what I wanted. My goal has always been to build a great life, and not make it contingent upon other people's approval.

When gay marriage is finally given the thumbs-up [nationally], I won't say, "Thank you." It should have happened years ago, but that doesn't affect me, really. People have to get their shit together and move forward with life without having people give you all the check marks.


This article shared 4704 times since Wed Apr 4, 2012
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