Bil Browning

My first television interview

Filed By Bil Browning | January 08, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACT UP, Bil Browning, Bill Clinton, Evansville, first television interview, Indiana, vintage

Jerame and I have been going through a bunch of old video tapes and converting them to digital and we found a gem the other night - my first television interview. I was 19 and had just come back from following Bill Clinton around on his bus tour of America when he campaigned for President.

I'd met some ACT UP NY members who were following Clinton on all of his stops when the bus tour came through Evansville, Indiana. We talked for a while and they invited me to join them. I didn't have a job or a stable place to live so I tagged along. Once we came back, I decided to start a local ACT UP chapter and sent out a press release.

Surprisingly, FOX 44 called me and asked for an interview. In the studio. Live. Just before we went on air, the anchor looks at me and says, "Don't worry. There's only XX-thousand people watching tonight probably." (I forget the exact amount.) I was terrified. And it shows.

Video after the jump.

Wow. What a train wreck. But it was one of the first few segments on anything even remotely LGBT-related on television news in Evansville. I found out later that one of the reporters or anchormen (I forget which now) was gay and had insisted they book me. I did a couple of other segments - and obviously improved quite a bit - but I haven't found those yet. If I do, I'll post them.

After all, we all need a good laugh now and then. Sometimes it's good to make fun of yourself and, Lord knows, there's a goldmine of material with this clip. *grins*

Let me have it, gang. I can take it.


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What train wreck? I thought you did pretty damn good for a 19yo kid who had never done that before! you should be proud of this!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 10, 2009 2:50 AM

Imagine how well you could have done if they had given you a chair! My most embarrassing moment was on a radio interview in Lafayette where I unfortunately revealed the size of Purdue's GLF membership. We were small in 1972!

adorable, and a good job!

Although the producer had it out for you... making you stand up at the desk while the anchor sat down? Clearly put you at a disadvantageous position. You should have been seated like equals. And the anchor's questions were so slanted! "Isn't there a better way?" Wtf is up with that?

Hey - it's 17 years ago. And Evansville, Indiana. For the time, that's progressive!

On that same tape was a clip from Sally Jessy Raphael of a transgender 13 year old. The mother is there and supportive, but the audience members keep screaming the "he" is being spoiled and has a "mental problem."

Too bad your interviewer wasn't gay. A few guys in the news/weather game in Evansville were (don't know about "are" now, even though I spent over half a year in hospitals/nursing homes down there last year).

Good job! We all look back at ourselves and are critical of it. And that's a good thing as it shows we have grown since that day, if we looked back and saw the same person today THEN we should be horrified!
I agree with Marc. Pretty damn good!

I think you were charming and convincing. And cute. How many people showed up at the meeting you referenced. I'd have gone to it just to hit on you.

Maybe 5 or 6 people. A huge crowd for the time.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 9, 2009 1:22 PM

I remember you way back then as someone with enormous promise and heart -- with the passion and commitment and intelligence and talent and staying power to really make a difference. I watched you -- albeit mostly at a distance -- instinctively get involved in some of the best, most cutting edge work available, and, especially when all the tedious "right" people trashed you, smiled, knowing I was watching the development of someone who would likely become a valued colleague for many years to come. It's been a real pleasure, Bil.

Thank you, Marla. That's awfully kind.

But one of our other finds? Video of you. :)

OK you did fine. You were 17 years old and speaking extemporaneously w/o notes by the way. I thought it was a good plug for the community and Vandenburg county was not known for being the mecca of progressive thought. NOT Bloomington IN. I think you say train wreck because you were nervous about being out on TV and the backlash which could have come and if i remember correctly you had just made a splash, personally by having had your first sexual relationship and were in the closet before that denying that you were gay because you were afraid of being targeted by the homophobes in your school because that guy you had your liason with was pretty obviously gay and you weren't so much. then you had the guts to come out. but only recently had the guts to apologize to that first man you were in bed in the closet with.

Not judging that because we have all made mistakes we regret in life. but seriously to go from that quaking in the closet to Local TV? that is big in a conservative place. Especially if you stood up in a danger zone.

I say it was a step in the right direction that I would not have done at 17...

Though I did speak out against some kids in school who made taunts about a fellow classmate who was on the football team who had been taped after a shower after a game to a sophmore and got an erection and was labeled gay. The kids were in our homeroom class bellowing this out and the kid they were making fun of was laughing like dolt. He might have been gay but I spoke up telling them they were really wrong for participating in calling the guy gay over the childish ritual in the first place and that it wasn't their business if he was or not. That was me, not out and in the closet challenging the students intellectually. Yes i beat them at their own games by a quick repartee keeping myself from being a victim. But the same two fools tried to gay bait me once after a gym class when I had gotten a spontaneous boner in gym class while doing wrestling with one of them. I wasn't attracted to the kid it happened with but they tried to make a issue of it to the side. one of them who was more vociferous John Q stood by Tim C and John turned his back to me bent over and pulled his shorts down to expose his bare ass and didn't say anything but turned his head around and smiled at me. I told them both to get the hell away. they never brought it up again. I will admit I was horrified at the stupidity and had no idea what gay sex was about then either but I was quick enough to see they tried to bait me into revealing that I might be gay and taunt me in school. Yes this was a Catholic high school and co ed to boot.

Thanks James, but I have to clear up a couple of points.

When I was 17, I lived in northern Indiana, I was in the closet. I ended up coming out in high school before I left for college in Evansville. This clip is two years after my "My First Time" post. I was out of the closet at the University of Evansville.

But, yes, it was scary to be that young on on TV so many times for what was seen as a "gay issue." I got death threats because of it. As I'm putting up other videos of other interviews and news clips, you'll be able to see I did get better. Slowly. LOL

Aaawww how Cuuuuute are you?!
I thought you did fine.
Always hated ActUp though ;)