I've known Derek Hartley for more than 5 years now. Maybe it's more appropriate to say I was his stalker. Derek Hartley is probably best known for his role as host of The Derek and Romaine show on Sirius XM's station, OutQ. His often bawdy humor is paired with the timing and instincts of a standup comedian. Derek's on air persona is self-deprecating and verbose, exposing situational comedy in the every day queerness that is his life. After many years of listening and calling in to his national radio show, and seeing him host numerous gay pride events from Vegas to Fort Lauderdale, I had the chance to ask him a few more questions.
This has been such a fun year for your GLAAD award winning show on Sirius XM. You've spent time with superstars like Lance Bass, Rutina Wesley (True Blood), Amanda Lepore and many others. Who is your dream guest and what makes them so special?
It has been an extraordinary couple of years for us on the show. Winning the GLAAD Award, having the Paley Center for Media turn one of our specials into an interactive feature, being in the Out 100. Those are a lot of big milestones for our show, and I certainly appreciate all of them, as well as the great guests we have had with us on the air. My favorite guests are the ones I grew up with like Jason Bateman or Olivia Newton-John. I danced with Charo! As a kid, TV was more real to me than real life so to grow up and meet these people has really been the biggest thrill.
Our most recent specials were an hour-long profile of Alan Ball followed by a behind the scenes look at True Blood. Alan has been such an extraordinary creative force in pop culture over the last decade and he was so generous in trusting us with such a candid interview and access to the people he works with everyday. And that came from him being a listener of our show.
Obviously the big name guests are the ones that get the press, but for us the show is all about the listeners we have collected along the way. Yes, some of those listeners are famous like Alan or Rosie O'Donnell or Luke MacFarlane, but we get so much from all the people who listen to the show and come out to see us when we travel. So I think my favorite thing out of the last eight years is the relationship we have forged with all those who have listened along the way.
I've learned from your book, Colonnade: A Life in Columns, that you've religiously blogged about your life (and sex) for well over a decade. Like your radio show, your book and blogs are sexy, funny and snappy. But they often take on a darker, more introspective tone than the show. What can we expect with your upcoming book, When Nightlife Falls?
“I give my point of view for four hours everyday on the radio, but I am reluctant to really talk about things that are personal to me. But when I write, I try to be as candid as possible. And as humorous as they are, they do have a darker tone than the radio show. On the radio we are trying to keep people entertained at the end of a long hard day at work. But in a book, you are trying to tell a story. And in a memoir, you are trying to tell your own story. So I try to peel back the layers and let the reader see what is really going on in my mind and how I really feel about what comes my way.
When Nightlife Falls is all about me feeling like my whole life was falling apart around me. I really thought I was having a nervous breakdown. So, it is stories of me running around Manhattan, having hilarious encounters with strangers, falling in love and collapsing on the inside at the same time. I'm a private person but I feel more comfortable when I write revealing these other sides of my personality. I think the book is very funny but there is also heartbreak. I think it's very real. This is who I am. I'm a hoot, but I have problems!”
The last time I saw you was this year's Fort Lauderdale Pride. I asked you what the best Gay Pride celebration was. Your answer was laden with the weight of a seasoned professional. Specifically, I've met manic circuit queens- the ones with too much time and money on their hands. They can close their eyes and recite at any given point in time the nexus of men in parades with their shirts off and disco music. Your knowledge of the Pride experience has become something deeper. You broke down the process of the Pride celebrations logistically and told me which one was the smoothest and most professionally conducted. If I recall, you said Phoenix was a personal favorite. Are there any celebrations to which you're looking forward?
“I am such a homebody. We travel so much for work that all I want to do when I have time off is stay home. But we are doing our show for a week out in L.A. the last week of September, culminating in our annual broadcast from Gay Days Anaheim. So that will be fun. But the main celebration I am looking for is the book party for When Nightlife Falls in October. I’ve never done a book party before and generally I hate parties where I am the center of attention, for reasons I explain in my new book. So this will be me getting out of my shy comfort zone. At a certain age, you have to force yourself to do new things because it is too easy to fall into a pleasant rut and quietly grow old there.”
When did you discover you were gay?
“I was in the second grade. All the kids had gotten Where Babies Come From. I guess the parents coordinated it. And we all convened on the playground and talked about it. And one of the boys said, ‘I understand the book, but our neighbors are two men. How does that work?’ And we all sort of stood there thinking about it, stumped. But in my head, it was like a light went off. I didn't know how it worked but I knew in that moment that it was me. Like when a kid says, ‘When I grow up, I'm going to be a fireman!’ I just knew inside, when I grow up, I'm going to be there, whatever it is.”
So do you believe in the concept of a soul mate and how has your life in entertainment contributed to (or been the detriment of) that?
“I didn't believe in a soul mate. I thought it was storybook nonsense. I had been in love people and certainly in lust, but never that kind of until the ends of time stuff in movies. So no one was more surprised than I was when it happened to me. And that's what I talk about in the book. I never talked about it on the show or wrote about it in my book. When Nightlife Falls is the first time I really talk about it in any public way. I fell in love. I fell hard. Most people go through this when they are younger. I don't know why it took me so long but it did. Meeting someone who was so like me that I felt like I was coming home to myself. It was extraordinary. So for better or worse, I do believe in it now.”
Thanks for sharing with us. Lastly, do you have any plans to come back and visit us in gay Wilton Manors?
“I love South Florida. I have some good friends down there and I always have a great time. I would definitely like to come back. I'm sure you will see me there again soon. Just check the corners. I'll be the one not talking to anyone. But don't worry, I'll still be having fun.”
Catch the fun with Derek and Romaine on SIRIUS 109 and XM 98 weekdays from 6-10pm ET/3-7pm PT. Derek Hartley's book, When Nightlife Falls, is available Tuesday, August 16.