By Dustin Fitzharris
Can you guess the year? Daniel Radcliffe was born. Lucille Ball died. Paula Abdul's 'Forever Your Girl' was a number 1 song and a porn video starring Rob Lowe frolicking with an underage girl was leaked.
If you said 1989, you're right! It was also the year that Eric Lowell graduated from Chaparral High in Las Vegas. Teased and tormented for being gay, life wasn't always easy at Chaparral. Twenty years later, Lowell has put the past behind him. He's been married to his partner for 13 years and they have a 6-year-old son. Now he's ready to confront John'the guy who bullied him since he was in the fifth grade'and come out to the rest of classmates.
The drama is all part of the new season of TV Land's High School Reunion that debuts tonight, January 13. The alumni are in for tears, fights, three marriage proposals, and even a wedding when they reunite and live together on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. But the big question remains: How will the guys and girls of Chaparral High feel about bunking with a gay guy?
Out caught up with Lowell about what he really thinks about his former classmates, his alter ego and what it was like to massage the high school jock.
Out: Everyone on High School Reunion gets a label. You're the 'Gay Guy.' Who picked that?
Eric Lowell: I wanted to be called 'The Homo,' but I knew there was no way they were going to put that on national TV. So, I just said, 'Call me the gay guy.'
How did you get cast on the show?
In November 2008 I joined a Facebook group for my high school reunion class. Someone said, 'We should try to get our school on this reality show.' I thought it would be fun, but I really didn't think about it. Then I heard our school was being considered as a finalist and they were looking for people to apply. I didn't know all the details, so I didn't. Then a couple weeks later a casting director contacted me through Facebook and asked if I was interested. They sought me out.
What was the application process like?
There were a couple of different parts. The application asked things like who I was friends with? Who didn't I like? Best experiences? Weirdest experiences? Who was the biggest jock? Who was popular? Stuff like that. Then if they were interested in you, there was an even longer questionnaire. After that they flew me to Las Vegas for an on-camera interview.
Did you have any doubts about appearing on the show?
No. The only time I was nervous was before my 'detention' [The term the show uses for one-on-one meetings with former classmates] with John. I'm much more confident than I was in high school. I'm comfortable in my own skin. In high school I always wanted people to like me. I had a close group of friends who liked me for who I am, but I was always very quiet and tried not to be noticed. I tried not to be gay, which is impossible for me.
So, you weren't actually out in school?
They just assumed. I started getting picked on when I was in fifth grade. That's when kids started calling me gay and fag. That peaked in eighth grade and then it slowly began to taper off.
When did you finally come out?
How did your partner respond when you told him you were interested in appearing on High School Reunion?
He was like, 'No!' Then he said I could apply under two conditions: That we were not involved; our names are not mentioned and our pictures aren't shown. And number two, that Mizz Honey Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") isn't involved.
Who is that?
My drag persona.
Why didn't he want her there?
Because of his job and the politics that can play into it. We're kind of opposites. I like to be the center of attention and have a good time. He's more conservative. When he starts a new job, he's not out right away. He waits awhile and let's people know slowly.
What is Mizz Honey Bucket like?
She does her own rap music. She's not a typical drag queen. She [came about] totally by accident. If you would've told me five years ago that I'd be performing in drag, I would've been like, 'No.'
Your big moment in the show is when you confront John, 'The Troublemaker.' I'm assuming you were picked on by a lot of people. What was it about John that stayed in your mind all these years later?
Well, there are some editing liberties. The thing that stuck out about John is he was the last person I remember picking on me in my school experience. There was one person I would've loved to have been there, and the whole interaction would probably have gone a lot differently. That guy was way more of jerk to me than John ever was.
What do you remember John doing or saying to you?
We had a PE class together. Everyone picked on me because like most gay guys athletics are not my cup of tea. So, we were playing basketball, and I sucked. This guy was totally ragging on me, and John apologized to me for this guy's behavior. Then two years later he was a complete dick to me. So, I don't know what changed.