Alien Sex Fiend
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Barrowman's family relocated to Illinois when he was 8, right about the time he began to notice he was far more interested in boys than girls. In his new Midwestern life, Barrowman says, 'If you were queer, there was something wrong with you.' But he has little interest in dwelling on an angst-ridden coming-of-age story. 'I had no angst, no anxiety,' he insists.
'I think he had a harder time than I probably knew about,' says his older sister, Carole Barrowman, recounting a story of John being bullied that she hadn't heard until she helped write his autobiography, due out in 2008.
'I played flute, do you know?' he points out dryly, his American accent peppered with British slang. 'I was in choir. I wanted to be a cheerleader'I liked those tight pants, and you would get to go to competitions where there were other boys who were probably like me. But I never pushed that. I could have ostracized myself, but I loved the social aspect. I did make-out sessions with girls while in my head I was going, What am I doing?'
His male friends helped in their own way. 'We'd be watching dirty movies, the other boys at one end of the sofa and me at the other, and everyone's giving it'' He mimes jerking himself off. 'And I'm having a little look.' He also nursed a serious crush on a close friend but never made a move. 'I thought by just being gay you would get AIDS.' He shakes his head angrily. 'Stupid fucks'not us, them [for not teaching us about it].'
'And, OK,' he admits, 'people called me a fag, but I ignored it.'
Escape came in the dubious form of a singing gig at Opryland USA, a now-defunct Nashville theme park, where he finally met other gay men. 'I had my first kiss, and that was lovely,' he remembers. 'But I didn't do anything really full-on until I was in my 20s.'
When he finally came out to his parents, he presented them with two options, he says: ' 'One is that you turn your back on me, and I walk out this door. Or two, my life is going to be a journey, and I'm going to do, I hope, great things. And I want you to be a part of it.' '
'They actually said, 'We are a bit appalled that you would think we would turn our back on you.' And my dad said, 'I don't understand a lot of it yet, but I will.' And they have.'
Behind every hero is a great man. According to Barrowman, Scott Gill, 44, has 'a body like an Armani model and a cock like a donkey,' a description that can't be news to Gill but might make the shy British architect uncomfortable. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight'so much so, in fact, that despite Barrowman's fame in the United Kingdom, this is the first interview he's ever given.
Across 5,000-odd miles and two weeks, Barrowman and Gill each tell me their love story, and like two guilty men in an interrogation, their fairy-tale versions match up almost perfectly.
'In 1993, I was doing my first straight play,' Barrowman says, and winks. 'You know, no singing or dancing.' The play was Rope (the same adapted for film by Alfred Hitchcock), and a mutual friend dragged Gill to a performance.
'The lights went up and there's John and two other guys naked,' Gill says. Barrowman was nude for seven minutes, and Gill recalls his stage presence, without a shred of irony, as being 'like a lighthouse on a dark night.' He remembers thinking, 'That's the guy I'd like to have a relationship with.'
Their friend brought Gill backstage, where Barrowman was still getting changed. 'I was pulling my pants up,' Barrowman says, 'but then again, he'd already seen it all. When I turned around and saw him, that was it. I just knew as soon as I looked at him: That's the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.'
The rest of their lives had to wait a while. Barrowman had dinner plans (with Sarah Brightman), and both men were somehow too nervous to call for a proper date. Gill says every time he caught Barrowman's new TV show, a series called Live & Kicking, he'd think, 'Shit, that means the guy's really out of my league now.' Months later, Barrowman was test-driving a new Jaguar in London's Soho neighborhood and saw Gill on the street. This time he stopped to say hello. Gill wanted to know if the wheels were a gift from a sugar daddy; Barrowman wanted Gill to come see him in Sunset Boulevard that night.
They went out after, 'to dinner with Cher,' Gill says. 'That was our first date. There were all these paparazzi taking pictures of him kissing Cher. But he went back to my place.'
They promptly kicked their respective boyfriends to the curb and moved in together, completely opposite personalities be damned. 'I'm like a pressure cooker that's always going,' Barrowman says, 'and Scott is so laid-back.' Gill is the self-described 'hand on John's shoulder,' pulling him back from an excessive shopping spree, reminding him to eat, and looking after him when Barrowman's crashed out from a string of back-to-back shooting days and social commitments.
As he reads this, Gill may wish he had been in Los Angeles for Barrowman's description of his darkest fantasy, divulged with little prompting by this interviewer: 'I have a fetish for leather that I've never lived out. I would like to be blindfolded and guided in a room, with everyone else in chaps, in harnesses and slings, and just'' He leans forward to intimate, 'I'm a control freak. So I'd be taken out of my control zone.'
He says he's never tried''if anybody out there would like to arrange it, give me a ring''and that if he asked, he thinks Gill would be willing. 'But sometimes fantasies should remain fantasies. We are kind of conservative in that way.'
Not like Republican-conservative, he says suddenly, noting that their relationship rules are fairly forgiving. 'It's a decision of whether you let the little humps and bumps destroy everything,' he says. 'You may have a little wank somewhere, but it's not a relationship killer.'
Last December they celebrated 15 years together with a civil partnership ceremony in Cardiff, which was attended by friends and family and stalked by tabloid photographers. They were on the evening news, and their wedding portraits made the cover of the U.K. magazine OK!
Gill was less than thrilled about all the attention. 'But I enjoy the fact that John loves it so much,' he says. 'That makes it easier to tolerate. It's not my kind of thing at all. He does have an amazing energy, though. He comes off a stage and I fall in love with him all over again.'