From The Advocate, October 9, 2001
Allen: His own story
The former teen idol
and current actor-producer-activist tells all about his 1996 tabloid outing, his
circuit party days, and his road to self-acceptance
By Bruce Vilanch
I met Chad Allen some years ago at a pool party. Later that
day somebody took a picture of him kissing a young man in the pool at that
party, and some weeks later the tabloids outed him with that picture. I was not
the young man in the picture, damn it. On the other hand, didnít sell the
Since then, Allen has continued his acting career
relatively unabated, and he has also established a theater career, both as actor
and producer, and another career as a show business activist, organizing and
performing in benefits for a myriad of gay causes, including AIDS and civil
rights. At the moment, heís workshopping a play in Connecticut while producing
one in Los Angeles, the local premiere of Terrence McNallyís continuously
controversial Corpus Christi.
Outed, clean, sober, and at ease, he recently shaved his
headónot for his sins but for a role. We shouted at each other across a tiny
table at a crowded Hollywood watering hole.
So here you are, once again caught in the publicity machineóalthough not in
the same way as before.
Right. This time, I turned it onóthe publicity machine. I
see it, but I just donít get it. One of my closest friends in the world likes
to appear at supermarket openings. I can do it; I just donít get it.
You donít get why people would want to know more about
Not really. I can get up in front of how many people every
night onstage and be somebody else, but to sit here and be myself, I donít
know who that is. I think, What are you trying to see here? Of course, I have
been doing it since I was a kid. You think Iíd know by now. Whatever!
You are a show business kid.
Well, I donít come from a show business family at all. But
my sister and I are twins, and we were cute kids, so we were always thrown into
boy and girl pairs, paraded around in ridiculous costumes. And then it seemed
like I had a talent for it. So we went for it.
was your first job?
My first series was St. Elsewhere. I was 8 when we started. I
played an autistic kid, and I remember my mother sitting me down and trying to
explain what it was, and she told me autistic kids lived in their own world. And
I understood that. I would sit there and have this whole world going on in my
head. Iíd be following the patterns on the wall, and in my head there was an
imaginary war going on between the shapes. So I felt like I knew what I was
Were you happy?
I was a child actor but never a child star, except, of course,
in my own mind. And I really was happiest when I was performing. The part that
you miss is the socialization. You have no idea how to behave around other kids.
I didnít have a bad time, but I would never put my kids in the industry. Itís
just too sketchy, and I donít care what they say, you donít ever have time
to really be a kid in a world of kids.
So school was on the set?
For years. I did five TV series, including Our House and My
Two Dads, with Paul Reiser, who is terrific. My recollections are this: I played
pretend, and I was good at playing pretend and enjoyed it for a lot of reasons,
and all of a sudden people were making a lot of money, and I didnít want to do
it anymore. But there was a machine, and beautiful things were happening! I was
on the cover of all these teen magazines, and I would look at that guy on the
cover and wonder who he was. He was very well put together, and I wanted to get
to know him.
Who created him?
Iím sure I had a hand in it. But publicists, mostly.
Basically, I had been raised on the set and at churchóstrict Catholic
upbringing there. And at 16, I more or less quit acting to go to high school. I
wanted to play sports and date and do all those things. But I made the mistake
of getting involved in the drama department. It was basically for the rejects,
the gay kids, very uncool. We did these little plays, but I didnít want to be
accused of being an actor, because I had left that behind me. However, I was
drawn to the camaraderie of acting. I discovered that I liked the world of the
theater, which was so different from the world of the teen star.
This sounds like a very potent mix. Catholic schoolboy with
theatrical training and a need for companionship. I think we have the makings of
a very good personals ad here.
I believe we do!
How strict was the Catholic upbringing?
Oh, heavy. When I wasnít working that was it, for 12 years.
Of course, we didnít have nuns by the time I was in Catholic school.
Sure. Some of them were very open. One was very open and
helpful to students who were openly gay.
Like me. There was love and acceptance, and it was OK; they
just werenít allowed to have sex. That was not my situation. I had to strike
out and try everything on the great spiritual journey. Basically, I was having a
blast in high school. It was the first time I had been off the set since I was 4
You were open?
Open and careful. What you had to be. I was also doing a lot
of other things besides sex. There was a lot of partying. After high school, I
was living by myself in a motel. I had worked all my life, so I had my own
money, and things were not so fabulous at home. I mean, I used to go there a lot
to eat. Theyíd make sure Iíd come over for food. Weíre Italian, with a
dose of German blood, so thereís always a lot of eating and arguing. Besides
my twin, there were three other kids. It was good to be away from it, but I kept
drifting back for the food. I was a pretty crazy 17-year-old, partying, never
taking care of anything. My rebelliousness was a
And what about your sexuality?
Well, it was a big issue to me at the time but not to them.
They never really knew anything about it. Maybe Iím in denial. I saw a lot of
my family, but I was so busy doing crazy things that that kept them occupied.
[Being gay] never came up. I was living by myself in a motel! They had other
First of all, I had decided to pack my bags and move to New
York and see if I could make it as a stage actor. Then I got the offer for the
pilot of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. We did the pilot, and then I went home and
packed for New York, and they picked up the series. I thought, Eh, what are the
odds? How long can it go? And it lasted six years, and weíre still doing Dr.
Quinn TV movies.
So you were the prisoner of a hit.
I was the child of a hit! I mean, I actually grew up doing
that series. I went into it a crazy teenager and came out of it a crazy young
man! It was great; I had many, many older brothers on that crew who looked out
for me. Jane [Seymour] was very mothering, and Joe Lando, who played Sully,
really was like an older brother. We both loved motorcycles and gunsóthis was
a Western, rememberóand I looked up to him. He was very cool. The whole
ensemble was great. A lot of wonderful actors played characters that didnít
get a lot of screen time on that show. But they had a lot of time on the set,
and that was terrific for me. I
learned an awful lot.
And you were once again in the teen idol pool?
Well, I kept a very low profile in that area. I dated. Or I
should say, I was dated. That was how I met Heather Tom, who became a producing
partner of mine in a theater company. It was one of those classic Hollywood
dates. She was on The Young and the Restless, another CBS show, and I was her
date for the showís anniversary party. We had nothing in common. She was
totally conservative; I was in extreme rebellion. I had my first car, and I was
more interested in that than I was in Heather. So things went pretty much along
like that for a few years.