NBA Legend’s Son Is An Openly Gay DJ
By Michael Musto
You think there’s no gay visibility in sports? Well, the out, proud Zeke Thomas—son of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas—happens to be the official DJ for the annual NBA All-Star game, which will be held in New Orleans in February. That’s music to a lot of sports fans’ ears—and it’s hardly Zeke’s only high profile credit either. He also DJs club bashes in New York, Las Vegas, Miami, and his hometown of Detroit, plus he’s a recording artist/producer who’s coming out with a song called “Regret,” about the horror of waking up after a not really necessary night of too much partying. Our recent chat was intoxicating—a real slam dunk, if you will (with no dribbling).
Musto: Hi, Zeke. Do you find that the NBA is gay friendly?
Zeke Thomas: I do. When Jason Collins came out, my father said to me, “This isn’t something uncommon.” He played with gay players. He said, “Even in high school, I knew there were gay athletes.” It’s not as big an issue as the media like to make it out: “You’re gonna be shamed in the locker room!”
Were you personally always out?
I came out in 2008, my sophomore year at college. My parents like to say they always knew I was gay. I came out to them, and they were very accepting. I always knew they would be accepting. Growing up, I had gay uncles, like every kid in America. I never was so scared that my parents were going to shun or disown me—the horror stories you hear. I was just nervous about, “Are my friends gonna accept me?” because I was a jock kid, so to speak, with an athlete father.
I did theater and was in the art scene, but there is a masculine connotation that comes with being an athlete’s kid. Still, I feel like those barriers of masculinity are constantly being broken down and redefined. People like to put labels on everything, and I feel stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason—most of them aren’t true. Even though I’m black and like chicken.
And can dance?
I can dance! [laughs]
Did any of the friends you were worried about turn out to be gay themselves?
My straight friends, they were all straight. I had questions about some of them, but they remained straight. I had gay friends growing up, but I didn’t let them in all the way. It was kind of like a secret, with a little bit of shame. That’s something I feel hopefully will change as our country grows. No one should have to worry about who they want to be friends with and what they want to be.
Was music a catharsis and an escape for you?
Music and the arts were a place where I could be myself, no matter what. I didn’t have to hide. But had I not moved to New York, maybe I wouldn’t have come out as quickly as I did. I love my Hoosier friends and family [Zeke has a music degree from Indiana University], but let’s remember that Indiana is where the KKK was founded.
You say you were a “a jock kid.” Did you feel you had to live up to some athletic standard because of your father?
In high school, I played basketball, football, and ran track. But my dad never pressured me into those athletics. In fact, when I started doing theater, he was so thrilled about it, and he came to all my shows. I think he came to more of those than the games! He said, “You’re so good at this. You should do this.” So I did! [laughs]
Have you encountered any homophobia in the business?
Definitely, and even racism. I had a manager who told me I could never be a big DJ and be openly gay. I thought, “That makes no sense. You can’t hide who you are.” Obviously I no longer work with him.
And now to the really serious subject: Is it true that you DJ’d the immortal Midwest Tomato Fest?
Yes, it’s the largest festival I’ve headlined. It attracts 10 to 15,000 kids to the parking lot of the Metrodome, where the Minnesota Vikings play. In a roped off, tented area, there are two or three tall pyramids of tomatoes. As soon as they say, “Go!” it’s pandemonium. I played a lot of electronic dance music—David Guetta, Calvin Harris.
I’m speechless here. Moving right along: Do you have a boyfriend these days?
I do. I’m very happy. We’ve been together a couple of years. Maybe I’ll get married one day. We met at a bar—he was very, very mean to me, and I’d like to emphasize that he was very, very mean to me. He was very standoffish, and he called me an entitled brat.
Why did he say that?
Because when we were leaving the bar to go somewhere else, I was driving my mom’s Mercedes. I said, “You know what? I want to prove you wrong.” So I took him out on a date the next night. He actually was an hour late. We ended up being great, happy.
Oh, good! You have definitely won the game.
Raven O at the Bar d'O reunion (photo via Facebook)
AFTER DARK, MY SWEET
Let’s keep the music pumping as I share some tidbits from my tireless travails on the NYC nightlife scene—the closest I get to a sporting event—while continuing to break down stereotypical barriers until the open bar runs out.
At one of party queen Susanne Bartsch’s many bashes, Bartsch blurted into a microphone: “I learned everything from a book called The Joy of Gay Sex. I learned fucking, sucking, and rimming. I was never interested in the straight version of that book. I’m a gay man!” I heard not a peep of argument from anyone for miles.
The joy of gay singing filled the room when Joey Arias, Raven O, and Sherry Vine performed in the annual reunion of talent from the esoteric ‘90s cabaret Bar d’O, which always managed to be raunchy and elevated at the same time. The SRO event, held downstairs at Acme, had the expert threesome caressing standards in between some expectedly saucy patter. “If you don’t feel like blowing your boyfriend,” Raven advised the crowd, “Joey will.” But Joey had his own genital message up his Spandex sleeve. During one of his Billie Holiday renditions, he spread his legs delicately and cooed to the audience, “Do you see it? That’s your Christmas gift!” It looked great, but God bless the child that’s got his own.
Funny lady Jackie Hoffman (from Broadway’s The Addams Family) trotted out a hilarious Hebe For The Holidays show at Joe’s Pub, where she said she’s not a lesbian, but having been through menopause, “I’m angry all the time and I don’t like cock either.” But Hoffman was around people who adore the stuff when she was recently booked to perform a gay European cruise, where she had to avert her eyes from the multifarious sexcapades on every deck. “There were Purell stations every two feet of the boat,” she noted. “And whenever we docked, the locals had to don goggles for the flying sperm.” Worst of all, Jackie found herself listed on the boat’s entertainment brochure as “Jackie Hoffman, drag performer”! They must have thought she was Kathy Griffin.
Bianca Del Rio & Michael Musto at the GLAM Awards (Photo courtesy of HeyMrJason/Jason Russo)
WE LIVE FOR THE APPLAUSE, ‘PLAUSE
And now, please don your sperm goggles, grab your Dramamine, and get on board for a three-hour gay awards cruise to hog heaven. For NYC clubbies, December has become a time of ritualized trophy giving—it’s Downtown’s answer to all the Oscar consideration flooding the cineplexes, but way more fun and wacky. Three LGBT nightlife awards shows came in quick succession, all of them honoring the people whose sparkle brings the most illumination to the world of after-midnight.
Get Out! Magazine had such a show at xl, organized by editor Mike Todd and highlighted by a surprise performance via the notorious Tan Mom (Patricia Krentcil) in the middle of a number by singer Adam Barta. The brown lady wriggled out with no introduction, dressed in an outfit for a 20-year-old, and started weirdly dancing around with her eyes closed, as if in her own private Idaho potato sack. To her credit, she never fell down.
“She was supposed to come onstage briefly with an apple [as in Snow White],” Barta later explained to me, “and give it to me and then go off. Quick cameo. But she forgot the apple and then just started going crazy in the leotard, haha. I couldn't have planned that if I wanted, lol. She told me afterwards that the performance was dragging and she wanted to make a splash, so she came out on stage in the leotard. Total surprise to me and everyone else!” I’m still putting my eyes back in their sockets.
The 15th anniversary GLAM Awards, organized by the tireless Cherry Jubilee, featured very little brown, but lots of red and green, plus Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox (photo by Jorge Gallegos) presenting Entertainer of the Year to cutting comic Bianca Del Rio, who’s in the next season of Drag Race. I cohosted the awards show with Bianca and performer Thorgy Thor (at Berlin Fridays at Providence) and thrilled to the wildly entertaining procession of kooky characters, baby drag queens, and certifiable legends. Opera-singing drag star Shequida won a Lifetime Achievement award and advised the crowd, “Always wash your panties, girls. No one wants stinky panties!” Less amusingly, one presenter said to a transsexual winner onstage, “Wait—are you really a woman?” Quipped Bianca about the presenter, “He’s going to be on the next season of Duck Dynasty.”
And finally, Odyssey magazine doled out its own sparkly awards at the Metropolitan Room, thanks to the mag’s personality-laden Mike Everaert and Cheyne Hawk, plus the adorable Frankie C, who cohosted with drag star Dallas Dubois. The glam Dubois nabbed Entertainer of the Year, and one of Frankie’s drag discoveries, Titania Steele—who’d wowed ‘em at the Glams—served up some more of her luscious pipes and theatricality. And she had clean panties too!
By the way, not to brag, but I happened to have won Best Writer/Blogger at all three events! I’m the Meryl Streep of the tucking crowd. Can NBA Hall of Fame status be far behind?