by Ruby Comer
“If you’re gay you’re going to hell!”
How many of you have been victim to this evil epithet??!
Unfortunately, Kyle Brown was one of them. As a teen growing up in a rural upstate New York town, he was brainwashed with this belief. The two main predominates in this area were farming and religion. Well, there ya go. Most organized religions I dismiss as evil, condemning, controlling, and man-made. They only serve the person who created them. Anyway, let me get off my soapbox, but no wonder he kept to himself, being terrified just… to…be…Kyle.
On top of that—yes there’s more!—the teen was taught that if you’re gay you will get AIDS, and die. Whew, on my grandma Clifford’s grave, LordyMaryJesusandJoseph!
That was then but, unfortunately, there are still shortsighted bigots out there today who believe such hogwash.
Due to slanted views and misinformation about AIDS when he was growing up, Kyle, thirty-six, did not fully grasp the whole picture of the epidemic until college. He pursued his own research and learned about the virus’ history, discovering how it alarmingly affected a grand scale figure in his community. It disturbed and disgusted him.
This talented chap is an accomplished Broadway actor. In fact, I didn’t know then, but several years back I witnessed his skills in the original production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I happened to be in Manhattan attending a seminar held by the remarkable GMHC and decided to treat myself one evening to some frivolity!
In 2017, I saw Kyle again, this time nearly naked—yes! It was when I attended the annual Broadway Bares. The theme was “Strip U” and he played a coach in a rollicking musical number that takes place in a locker room. Broadway Cares raised nearly two million dollars!
Kyle is an ongoing advocate and contributor to Broadway Cares, even carrying the iconic “little red bucket” at the end of the many shows he’s performed in. He also has dear friends who are living with HIV. Kyle’s first Great White Way show was Legally Blonde, followed by An American in Paris, Anastasia, and then Moulin Rouge, which was closed in March 2020 due to COVID.
He’s traveled in a number of national Broadway tours, including Chorus Line, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Wicked, where he was understudy for his life partner, Nick Adams [A&U, October 2011], who played Fiyero. Nope, no jealousy. Only support in this evolved union.
Kyle and Nick’s “showmance,” as us Broadway Babies call it (I was a former Broadway hoofer if you recall!), began while they appeared in Priscilla. Nick played Felicia and Kyle was in the ensemble. It has blossomed into a nearly ten-year relationship, and I couldn’t be more blissed out for them. The couple resides in Harlem with their dog, Dallas.
Today Kyle and I Zoom. His boyish energy is engaging, and he speaks from a desk in his living room. Look at him. The dancer is a glass of merlot with a broad chest and bugling biceps. Over his shoulder I espy a kitchen, and beyond that an eclipsed view of a bedroom. The overall appearance of the apartment is bright and clean, with lines of white and wood throughout. Contemporary and well appointed, the walls and bookcase are intertwined with framed personal photographs. Homey.
Ruby Comer: Nice to see you. [I glimpse at the bookshelf and espy the top hat he wore in Moulin Rouge.] You are looking cheerful as ever! My god, I read you had COVID??!
Kyle Brown: You are correct, Ruby. I contracted COVID right at the beginning of the pandemic, back in March. Thankfully, my case wasn’t too terrible. I did have about a week of fever, chills, and body aches. I think the strangest thing was that I lost my sense of taste and smell. [His head angles to the right, his thick, longish brows rise up, and he shrugs.] I’m doing okay now, although I did have some symptoms that lingered for a few months, like feeling very low energy and breathing issues.
Oh, I am so sorry to hear that, Kyle. I’m happy you are back to being peppy again. Tell me about growing up in Amsterdam, New York, when it came to HIV. [I place my index finger on my bottom scarlet-painted lip.] Let’s see, when you were in high school that would have been about 1999.
Yes, indeed. I first heard about the epidemic as a student, but was told all these fallacies. This just further instilled my fear of my own self and really crippled my ability to come out.
How…horribly…ghastly. By the time you came of age, the cocktails had been established; even so, sex was still dangerous. How did that play out for you?
I was both scared and cautious. When I was in high school I was too afraid to even experiment because I thought I was going to hell [he groans deeply]… so there’s that. By the time I got to college, I had more knowledge and understanding to better protect myself, but I was still scared.
Before I forget to ask, what was the name of that number you did in “Strip U” for Broadway Bares?
[Kyle brightly beams.] It was a number choreographed by my friend, Charlie Sutton, called “Scrimmage.” I played the coach of the school’s lacrosse team [this old broad wracks her pretty head remembering], and it included two of my best ladies, Katie Webber and Ericka Yang. It was pretty sexy, Ruby, if I do say so myself. [Kyle takes a beat.] Feel free to check it out on YouTube then make sure you donate to BC/EFA [Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS]!
Readers, do you hear that?! Broadway Cares is one of the best organizations
around. Truly! Kyle, what motivates you to give?
[He clears his throat and strokes his chiseled face, thinking.] Growing up, my mom was always looking to help others, especially those less fortunate, so I guess I learned it from her. I think once you see the good you can do for someone else it becomes sort of an addiction. You want to keep seeing how your charitable acts can positively affect those who really need it.
You’re damn tootin’! Yes, I find volunteering is an addiction. It gives me such pleasure to know that I helped others, indeed. I know you did some AIDS Walks, Kyle. Tell me about one.
In 2011, the cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert got to perform a few numbers from the show at the opening ceremony of the New York AIDS Walk. Oh, Ruby…it was magical. The energy in the air was palpable. [Kyle’s come hither nut-brown eyes glow.] I highly suggest for anyone interested in finding a way to give back…do the AIDS Walk! Not only are you supporting a great cause, it gives you a sense of purpose and community.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Kyle. How did you and Nick initially connect during Priscilla?
Well, in a way the [Priscilla] choreographer played matchmaker for us. Anytime Nick needed a dance partner in the show or to be lifted, he would put the two of us together. I guess you could say I made the first move. I had my eyes set on him from the moment I saw him. I mean…how could I not? [He releases a cute, schoolkid giggle.] So I just went for it. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Okay…do tell, how did you two broach the subject of STIs?
We had a very open dialogue about this from the beginning of our relationship when we wanted to be sexually active, and there was an emphasis put on the importance of being tested together….
Oh! Terrific, Kyle. Tell me about that.
Well, it was my first time testing. I was twenty-nine. I hadn’t had many sexual partners up until that point, but enough that I definitely should have been tested. So, Nick encouraged for us to get it done. [Kyle pauses, recalling.] I still had a lot of fear surrounding the epidemic that was instilled in me as a kid, but education and knowledge are power.
Where did you guys end up going?
We went together to a clinic in Los Angeles. Being my first time, it was very nerve-wracking [he dabs his forehead in a melodramatic way, half joking, half serious]; however the experience itself was easy. The staff was very friendly and the fact that Nick was there helped calm my nerves.
You bet. That’s the way to do it….together. How lovely, Kyle, it worked out like that for you. Here’s one for ya: Who do you consider to be a hero in the epidemic?
[The dancer instantly replies] There really are so many, but I would have to say Larry Kramer for one. The Normal Heart really changed my life. [Then Kyle abruptly howls.] Oh, and Jerry Mitchell. Talk about giving back!
What Jerry created with Broadway Bares is nothing short of astonishing. Not only is it a beautiful event that brings the community together, it is a mega fundraiser for Broadway Cares. Each year that event alone raises over $1 million. Jerry continues to inspire us all to give back. [Kyle applauds and I join in.]
After the end of our interview, Kyle and I continue conversing. Here’s an abridged version of the result of our amusement.
Who was your first teen celebrity crush?
Name one of your major anxieties.
Name your favorite kind of music.
Disco. [He gleefully shouts] I love to dance!
Who do you look up to and why?
Nick. His love has no limits. He always sees the best in people and he’s the kindest person I know. Nick inspires me every day.
…Bette Midler, Madonna, Gaga, Adele, Beyoncé, or Barbra?
JUDY! [He shouts enthusiastically, as if he doesn’t know how could I have left off La Garland!]
Name a classic film you could watch over and over.
The Sound of Music. [Then he amends his answer] West Side Story, too.
Give one word to describe Kyle Brown.
What’s your daily mantra?
Manifest happiness, accept myself as enough, and be grateful for three things every day.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]