From The Advocate, October 9, 2001

advocatecover.jpg (37656 bytes)Chad 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 picture either.

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 you?

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.

What 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 doing.

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.

Gay priests?

Sure. Some of them were very open. One was very open and helpful to students who were openly gay.

Like you?

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 years old.

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 big issue.

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 issues.

Such as?

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.

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