Making It Work


By Bill Keith

And how do they do that?
How do the judges drive me to total despair? By smoking crack! By making decisions I can't fathom.

Any particular time you're thinking about?
Only once have I said with complete impunity that I knew that someone was going home. It was when Alison and that horrible Vincent were on the chopping block over the Waste Management recycle challenge. When they voted Alison off, I was dumbstruck.

We all were, Tim.
Alison's model may have looked a little like Minnie Mouse, but it was an ambitious design that was extremely well executed. I marched into an executive producer's office and said, 'Why did you do this? You just did this because you think Vincent's a good character!' But he showed me the judges' ballots, and they'd voted to send Alison home.

Bravo has done such a great job of presenting exceptionally talented gay people to mainstream America.
I'm so proud to be part of Bravo largely because of that. They've totally demystified gayness. Of course, the striking element about Runway's third season was that the two male finalists were heterosexual. That was really weird and unexpected given the pool, but it happens.

The gay-friendly vibe on Runway must not have been much different from the environment at Parsons.
You'd be surprised. When Parsons began offering an architecture degree, a reporter asked the dean why we'd decided to open the department. Right in front of me the dean said, 'I'm interested in getting more guys into this school. The kind of guys you find in shop class. We have far too many guys here who have been in home ec.' I recoiled with a visceral reaction. I couldn't believe he could be such an oaf.

What year was this?
This was the early '90s! So I said to the dean, right in front of the journalist, 'You may have lost some of those guys who were in home ec class, but you just picked up a lot of girls from shop class.'

Fantastic. So what can Tim Gunn not write a guide to?
Any number of things'you name it.

How's your romantic life?
I haven't been in a relationship since 1982. God, that sounds pathetic. But I was so severely hurt that I've never, ever gotten over it. I was so madly and desperately in love that I didn't see the end coming. It was a routine night on the couch watching television, and he turned to me and just said, 'I don't have the patience for you. I can't do this anymore.' After nine years. I still remember leaving his apartment, driving down Rock Creek Parkway in Washington, D.C., thinking, Maybe I'll just drive right off the bridge.

Or you could have thrown him off of it.
Yes, then I got very mad. This was the advent of AIDS, and I found out that he had been sleeping around with everybody imaginable. I couldn't believe how he put me at risk. Thankfully, I was perfectly healthy, but when I came out of the relationship I was so aware of how AIDS was devastating the design industries, and that was enough of a reason to stay away from any kind of a relationship. I've flirted with a couple of relationships over the last 24 years, but I can't go there.

Well, undoubtedly you're leading quite a full life.
In some ways I feel terribly selfish saying this, but also terribly honest: Having a relationship takes time, and I don't have any. I'd have to give something up, and I don't know what I'd be willing to give up. But I'm the luckiest guy in the world. There's something about living in a gay mecca that's very purging and cathartic. I'm thrilled that all these people are having relationships and relieved that I'm not being asked to leave somebody's home because they're over me.

For more with Tim Gunn, visit tomorrow Wednesday, September 5. Tim Gunn's Guide to Style premieres Thursday, September 6.