Catching Up With Josh Kilmer-Purcell
April 24 2011 8:00 PM EST
February 10 2019 9:42 PM EST
Brokeback Mountain gave us gay cowboys, but The Fabulous Beekman Boys gave us gay farmers. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge are a decade-strong couple who, in a moment of crisis, became goat farmers. Their reality show on Planet Green chronicles how Ridge (a doctor and former Martha Stewart Omnimedia exec) and Kilmer-Purcell (a former NYC drag queen turned writer, ad creative director and regular Out contributor) cope with a life neither expected -- including a growing soap/cheese business, a growing menagerie (they have a llama), and the challenge of growing their relationship. Out caught up with Kilmer-Purcell to see how all that growth is going, dish about Martha, and define what really is fabulous.
Out: First of all, you and Brent are basically the gay poster boys for Wellington boots now.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: I know! We should get paid, don't you think?
Do you have a brand of choice?
Lately we've been wearing Western Chief -- but that's only because they're the cheapest on Amazon and we get them right away.
I don't know why you would, but do you do anything crazy in them, like wear them when you're naked?
We haven't done that yet, but now you're putting the thought in my head'
Because on your show, Sonja Morgan from Real Housewives of New York said that she gardens naked in hers.
And you know what? She's our neighbor in the city, so one day I'm going to go over and knock on the door and see if that's true.
Martha Stewart gets brought up a lot when talking about the Beekman Boys -- what's it like to be mentioned in the same breath as Martha?
She's great. I make fun of her sometimes because it's easy and a lot of people do, but I have so much respect for her. I like running into her at parties because every time I see her I have a whole list of questions.
We just saw her the other night at Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook party, and I had this question about hyacinths -- they've been spindly -- and Martha had the perfect answer for me.
Ok. Which is?
That I have to dig them up every fall, split them by hand, and keep them in the refrigerator for the winter. I'm totally not going to do it, but I have the answer now.
Brent, for one, goes into Mr. Perfectionist mode around her.
Oh, he literally is Martha. He won't admit it.
Have you named a goat after her?
No, I would probably get in trouble for that. I have to be careful, because Brent yells at me when I cross a Martha line.
Well speaking of goats, what's a horny goat like?
It's not as hot as people might think. The gross thing is that when females are in heat, the males put their head in between their legs and they pee on their beard, which feels kind of old school West Village to me. That's the time of year when the barn starts to smell like The Eagle.
And how does that compare to labor season?
Equally gross, although I do actually like the goat birthing season. It's so incredible to watch a goat giving birth, especially after living in New York for so many years and having all these pregnant friends with their drama and yoga classes and underwater births while doing Pilates. Goats literally are just walking around and then one pops out the back end and it's like nothing happened.
A lot of gay men consider their animals to be their babies. Do you feel that for your goats?
No, having a farm totally cures you of that.
Looking at your lives from before the show to now, it's not a stretch to say you and Brent are experts on reinvention.
But maybe not so much on purpose. We bought the farm as a weekend home. It was only after we moved in that we got a letter from Farmer John, who was losing his farm and needed a place for his 80 goats.
80 homeless goats.
It's hard to say no to homeless goats, I'm telling you. He moved in and we became accidental farmers. When we both lost our jobs in 2008, we had two mortgages and no income and that's when we decided we had to become real farmers and make money at this. The saddest time in my life was in the winter of 2008 when we couldn't afford to heat the Beekman house. After Christmas we packed up, left, and didn't know if we'd ever come back.
Having come out on the other side of that, how does your life now compare to, say, when you were a drag queen?
I think I'm probably the only drag queen turned goat farmer on the planet.
I don't know, New Zealand seems likely.
Eastern Europe seems like it might have a couple, too.
Do you wish RuPaul's Drag Race was around when you were still a drag queen?
I'm kind of glad it wasn't. The reason I finally stopped -- in addition to my choices being really unhealthy with drugs and alcohol -- was because I asked myself, 'Where am I going with this?' The only person who ever made anything of it was RuPaul and there didn't seem to be room for two drag queen talk show hosts at the time. There aren't 401Ks for drag queens.
Does Brent have a drag persona we don't know about?
[Laughs] He actually has a fear of clowns and drag queens.
So he never saw you perform?
Nope, he came along a year after I stopped. He's seen pictures but he doesn't like it.
And you haven't picked up the makeup brush since then?
I'm saving that for a big moment. When I finally storm out of the house, I'll be doing it in heels.
How would your 10-year-old self have reacted knowing that now you're a goat farmer/entrepreneur/advertising executive/reality TV star?
I would have been petrified. I was a scared little kid anyway growing up in the Midwest and being really different. My first awareness of gay people was from a Phil Donahue show, like 'A Real Live Homosexual' and he was behind a screen and his voice was changed. And as I came of age sexually, AIDS started. I really thought being gay was the kiss of death.
One thing that's so great about your show is that it portrays a real, long-term gay relationship. Is that something your conscious of presenting?
We weren't conscious of it filming the first season, but we were really surprised by the emails we started getting from families. I think the vast majority of our audience is families watching the show together. We get so many emails from parents of gay children who can put on the show and give the impression that two same-sex people can be in a relationship.
How has having a film crew in your relationship affected the dynamic between you and Brent?
At first it was tough because the first year we were in financial strain, so we were bickering a great deal. And having all that being film really pushed us to the brink. But having watched the season, it was kind of like public group therapy. We got to see from a third person point of view what our bickering looks like. Not that we don't bicker any more, but we know when we're crossing the line.
Maybe everyone should get their own TV show.
I think everyone will, eventually.
You and Brent met online, right?
It was the old days, so it was more of a chat room. Brent had never dated another guy before, so during the course of our chat I kept asking him out and he wouldn't go out. But during the course of the chat I figured out where he worked and that he lived in Washington Heights. So I told him the next night I would be at the subway stop near his house and he could either be there or he not. And he was.
And that didn't strike you as stalking?
He always says, 'If he was determined enough to come up to Washington Heights, I figured he was either a really nice guy or really crazy.'
What about those chats compelled you to meet him like that?
He was new to New York and I was in self-imposed exile from the nightclub scene because I'd made such a mess of everything. So here was this innocent North Carolinian guy that was so exotic to me in his vanillaness. I was like, I have to get him before somebody else does.
And what struck you most when you first met?
He was so shy. I came out of the subway and he was sort of hiding in the doorway of a Chinese restaurant. I immediately knew it was him. It was the innocence -- I was like, I can really ruin this guy [laughs]. We're really opposite people.
Well, it makes for good TV! And since you are the fabulous Beekman Boys, let me pick your brain about some fellow fabulous things.
Ok -- hopefully I know what they are. I'm not that fabulous.
Doesn't hold a candle to Golden Girls.
Pretty fabulous, but a little bit chemical. It's much better to be doing bath soaks.
The Oprah Winfrey Network.
Pretty fab. Getting fabber.
Sweat tea? I think that's a little trashy.
When your blacks match.
They shouldn't. You should always have one that looks a little warn. I'm all into navy blue and black now.
Unless someone's paying me, I don't dress up.
I'd like to snark on her, but I can't. She's pretty fab.
And, just because I'm curious, do people ever think your last name is Beekman?
Yes! Everyone thinks we're brothers actually. We get called The Beekman Brothers all the time.
But the people who think we're brothers are better off thinking that. I don't volunteer any information.
The Fabulous Beekman Boys airs on Tuesdays at 10pm ET on Planet Green. For more info, check out the show's official website. For more info on The Beekman farm, including how to purchase their products, click here. And for the Beekman Boys' picks of the best sights, restaurants and shopping in their adopted home in and around Sharon Springs, check out their My City: Upstate New York on OutTraveler.com.