One Gay at a Time
By Eddie Shapiro
When VH1 shot its Top 100 Teen Stars special, the network didn�t expect to be the forum for a coming out. But for Glenn Scarpelli, who spent the early �80s playing Alex on the CBS hit One Day at a Time, this was an opportunity he couldn�t pass up. After all, like the theme song says, �This is it! This is life / the one you get / so go and have a ball!� Scarpelli did just that, leaving acting shortly after One Day at a Time left the air in order to live his life as a gay man. Currently, he and his partner of eight years, Jude Belanger, are happily ensconced in Sedona, Arizona, where they own a small TV station. In our March issue, we briefly chat with Glenn. Here we include the complete interview with Glenn and Jude.
How did you end up in Sedona?
Scarpelli: We found a really cool lifestyle out here, man. I grew up in New York and lived in L.A. for 10 years and bopped back and forth between the two for such a long time. Never in my life did I think I�d live in a small town like this but it�s working out!
Scarpelli: I lost a partner to AIDS in 1992 and I really needed a break from everything. I needed to figure some stuff out and mourn and go through all of the things you go through after a thing like that. I had a friend who was living out here and she suggested that I try Sedona. As soon as I took that first trip after Gary died, as soon as I drove into town�I can�t even explain it, it�s a very special town. I saw the red rocks and the green trees and the blue sky and I felt like I came home. I never felt like that before. And never thought I would feel like that in such a small town. It really attracted me. I felt very comfortable and very at peace.
Belanger: There are a lot of interesting people here, too. A lot of artists. It�s a very creative and fun community. It attracts very liberal-minded, crazy people.
Was it a radical adjustment for you?
Scarpelli: It was a really radical adjustment. I was coming off of such an intense time with Gary�s illness and then his death. I was looking for something different. It shifted me in such a way that my priorities changed. What I thought was important turned out to be not as important. I changed, and when I changed my surroundings did too. When I came to Sedona I didn�t live here officially. I bounced back between Sedona and L.A. for quite a while throughout the �90s.
Were you still acting?
Scarpelli: No, I really wasn�t. After One Day at a Time ended, I did a short series called Jennifer Slept Here with Ann Jillian on NBC.
I remember that.
Scarpelli: You�re the one.
Did you know you were gay then?
Scarpelli: I always knew I was gay and I had never pursued it. I had never been with a man and I was 17 years old, going on 18. I didn�t know how to do it back then. I was very much under a microscope. I had publicists and managers who told me what to say on interviews and how to do my hair, and everyone picked out my clothes. I didn�t have a lot of say over my own life. So, I left acting after Jennifer Slept Here went off the air. I didn�t know how to be honest and true to myself. I really needed to back away. So I moved back to New York, which, of course, if you�re going to be anonymous anywhere in the world, I think New York is the place to do that. And then I met this guy named Gary and we fell in love. I went to NYU film school, which was my way of staying connected with my creative juices and the industry since there was never anything else that I really wanted to do. But it was also my way of staying a little more anonymous by not being in front of the camera.
Were you aware of how mature it was for an actor who�s been in a hit to make that kind of a choice at that age? Most actors are too focused on the next gig and maintaining their stardom to be able to face their inner truths.
Scarpelli: In retrospect, now that I�m 39, I look back and I go, �Wow, that really was a pretty cool choice,� but in the moment, no, I didn�t know it. I was just following my heart. The business has always been important to me, but finding love was more important. I didn�t know how to do that openly at the time. I isolated myself from a lot of people that I was close to because I wasn�t ready to talk to anybody about it. I have now, of course, come out to Bonnie [Franklin] and I remain very close to her. She adores Jude. She�s been fantastic. I say to her often, �I wish I had come out to you because I would have had someone on my side!� It was really Gary�s illness in �87 that brought my truth out because I started to realize that life is too short. Here I am, in love with a man and so what? It�s a man. I still need the love and support of my friends and family, I still need the people outside of that relationship in my life. That�s what gave me the push to finally be honest.
Having watched the culture shift, what made now the time to come out publicly?
Scarpelli: VH1 came to us for the 100 Top Teen Stars, and when they called and wanted to do a where-are-they-now, I really wanted to share where I�m at now. I�m very proud of my life, I�m proud of what we�ve done, I�m proud of my relationship with Jude.