April 3, 2009
by Leo Buck
At one point in On The Other Hand, Death, the latest “Donald Strachey Mystery”, Chad Allen encourages a closeted teen couple terrified of being ‘discovered‘, “I promise you, if you guys hang in there, you’ll always have someone you can count on no matter where you wind up.“ Not coincidentally, this pretty much sums up this daring performer’s whole philosophy regarding the gay community at large.
Known from such prime-time blockbusters as Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and St. Elsewhere, Allen is marking Liberation Entertainment’s DVD release of the hit mystery series’ latest installment — his third time around playing the out and proud title detective. Calling it “an amazing experience in terms of bringing a very intense gay person to life,” he recalls how Executive Producer Paul Colichman first approached him with the idea of starring in series of tele-films reminiscent of classic detective shows like Colombo and Mc Cloud — only this time with an openly gay protagonist. The result has been one of HERE! TV’s most popular franchises to date, and with it, gay entertainment continues to make inroads into what was once considered exclusive “straight man” territory (I.E. the hard-bitten detective story,) whilst paying homage to that terrific old “film-noir” style of movie-making too. “The amazing thing about Noir for me,” Strachey’s off-camera alter-ego offers, “is that it’s where the ‘good guys’ got to have their dark and shady sides as well. Eclectically speaking, that’s what I love about Donald — he’s certainly a ’good guy’, but he has plenty of ’warts’ and they get to show, all the while, telling a great, fun story.”
Yet for all his current success, the boyish blond actor is aware of a time when everything he worked for since childhood could’ve come to a screeching halt after he took the bravest path by ‘outing‘ himself in public. “When I first came out, it all but evaporated for me“ he confesses; “I went from being on top ten television series back to back to back, to not being able to even get an audition for those same shows, and I don’t want to say it was shocking because I lived my entire life in Hollywood — I knew what I was going to be up against.“
Then again, trials can only be turned into triumphs when you‘re dealing with such a tenacious talent who is the first to admit he can’t imagine his life any different — or better. “If in fact, I didn’t work again, that it was still worth it— this was what I was here to do no matter.” Noting the incredible sense of freedom the admission has ultimately given him, he adds, “I remember what it was like when I was asked a question, and my mind had to sift through ten possible answers to what would be the thing that made you the happiest; and now I am able to simply tell the truth as I see it today.”
Still, how does he find the business has changed in just short time he’s been out? “I’ve watched it shift,” reveals the young show biz veteran happily; “For a long time there, we were kind of relegated to sidekick characters, or effeminate comic pieces, but that’s changed so radically — just look what’s going on! I think it’s terrific that those kids out there who are out, and who keep dreaming about doing what I do for a living can know that it’s possible.” Nonetheless, he readily concedes that during those early, post coming out days, things didn’t always look so sunny. “You’re talking to a guy a who nearly killed himself with drugs and alcohol,” Chad states bluntly; however, in addressing his battles with addiction, also included are some intriguing philosophical insights, demonstrating that this former teen idol has indeed grown up. “I’m so blessed to have had to face my own addiction,” he explains, “because from that I was able to find a relationship with a God — as I understand God.”
In fact, anyone familiar with Allen’s work is bound to notice that spirituality is a subject that deeply informs many of his projects, and that suits him just fine. “I’m watching our community really take back possession of our spiritual conversations,” he asserts, “because for years I think that was taken away from us, saying that somehow gay and lesbian people don’t ‘qualify’ in the realm of God, which is such a horrible, deceitful lie to tell anybody! Now, we’re saying that ’you don’t get to keep God’ because that’s an impossibility and a falsehood.” He further reports taking part in a recent protest for marriage equality while working on a play in St. Louis. “We led the largest demonstration St. Louis has ever seen for Gay and Lesbian civil rights in response to the vote in California,” Chad testifies, enthusiastically remembering he found it “tremendously exciting to see people gathering together and really owning their spirituality — whether it be Christianity or any other religion, saying ‘we’re gay, we know God, and we’re willing to talk about that’.”
For all the talk of breaking down barriers and changing the world though, at heart, this is a man who knows where the source of his real fulfillment lies. “The truth is, my most rewarding experience in life is when I go home at night and lay my head down next to my partner. That is a huge reward!” Using a personal experience to emphasize his point, it becomes apparent how remarkably sincere his feelings are. “Yesterday, I was on the airplane coming back from Fort Lauderdale with my partner, and we had the aisle between us” says the artist-turned-activist; “occasionally, either he or I would reach out and grab the other’s hand across the aisle, and I was very aware of the fact that there were many people around us for whom that was an uncomfortable thing; but it was my willingness to reach out and show him that I loved him and vice-versa, that I think may make a more lasting impression than what we do in television or film. That,” he stresses, “heals a lot of what we need to heal in order to get what we want.”
In many ways, this year’s recipient of the GLAAD media honors prestigious “Davidson/Valentini Award” (which recognizes Chad for his on-going efforts to promote equal rights for our community,) could easily be likened to a homosexual equivalent of the Rock of Gibraltar — he’s strong, steady, and above all, persistent. He’s here, he’s queer so get used to it, because he’s sure to be around for some time to come!