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Frank Billingsley: Mothers, Marriage, and Meteorology

Frank Billingsley

Mothers, Marriage, and Meteorology

A closer look at KPRC Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley and his new book Swabbed and Found.

(HOUSTON) — Frank Billingsley is no stranger to the City of Houston. In fact, he’s been in the living rooms of Houstonians for years as KPRC Channel 2’s chief meteorologist—a position he assumed over twenty years ago in 1995. Despite how well we may feel we know him—Frank has never held back from sharing details of his personal life—there are still many things that the public doesn’t know about him.

Many of those details are outlined in Frank’s new book, Swabbed and Found, which chronicles his life not just as a meteorologist, but as a gay man and a child of adoption. The latter recently led Frank upon an incredible, sordid, and sometimes complicated journey to discover better who he is and where he comes from.

I sat down with Frank in the weeks following Hurricane Harvey to discuss the book, his life before this journey, coming out, and, of course, the weather.

Billingsley states that while his sister—who is also adopted—for years yearned to find out more about her birth parents, the need to know about his own had never overwhelmed him. In fact, it wasn’t until his colleague and dear friend, Dominique Sachse, presented him with an email link about biological genealogy testing that he even considered it a possibility. After all, his home state was a closed-records state that didn’t allow for adoption records to be released if requested to remain closed by the birth parents. At least not without “a lot of trouble and a lot of money,” as Frank put it himself in our interview.

“That was the first time that I had realized that it [genealogical science] had become sophisticated enough and that the database had become as big as it is … It’s like a fingerprint. It’s so unique that it can link you to another person.”

Yet, it was that link that led Mr. Billingsley down a road to discovering his birth mother—who he has since met and with whom he has established a relationship. As Frank puts it, “not everybody wants that information,” when it comes to finding the people that put them up for adoption. However, that knowledge led him to a more enlightened state of being—closure even. To hear Frank make a compelling argument on the idea of closure and finality, “Closure is closure. And closure is very often sad. You close life with a funeral. You close relationships with a glass of wine. You close jobs with hugs and tears. But closure is a part of life.”

SF_FNLcvr-683x1024 Frank Billingsley: Mothers, Marriage, and MeteorologyClosure, however, did prove harder for some than others. Billingsley’s aforementioned sister did discover her family, only to find that her birth mother had passed of cancer and that her father wasn’t open to a relationship with her. She did, however, find that she had half-siblings, with whom she has maintained contact.

When the conversation circled around to Frank being gay—Frank and his husband Kevin, with whom he has a stepson, married on December 12th, 2012—I asked Frank about coming out to his parents in a decade not as accepting as the 2010s. Frank admits that it wasn’t easy, but that it wasn’t as difficult as the coming out stories that are often told. He states that his adopted father admitted he didn’t understand homosexuality, but knew how smart Frank was. He continued to tell his son that if someone as smart as Frank thought that it was okay, there couldn’t be anything wrong with being gay. “

However, when it came down to meeting his biological mother, Billingsley admits that there was a moment where it felt as though he had to come back out of the closet. He states that his mother, like his adopted parents, is a devout Christian, and that maybe she does not understand homosexuality.

Being someone in the media, Frank is never without news in his face. A supporter of the strides that the Obama Administration made for LGBTQ people, I asked Frank what he thought of the current administration, and whether or not he worried that rights would be stripped away from LGBTQ people. He seemed hopeful, stating, “I don’t think that the legislation would be there to support that. And if it does, I don’t think the people who vote for the legislature will support that. I don’t think we want to see our country go back.” He continued, “When we’re dealing with human beings, and their rights to be human beings, taking a deep breath and pondering whether the decisions concerning their rights are futile. If you look at the trans military ban—you have generals who are saying, ‘No, no!’ It’s bad enough we’re banning Muslims … and now this?”

As far as Hurricane Harvey is concerned, Billingsley was concerned for what he proudly refers to as “my city,” a phrase Houstonians everywhere are familiar with and that binds us together. He states he wasn’t surprised by how the city came together, nor was he surprised by the impact of the storm—which he himself predicted to bring as much as 50” of rain to certain areas surrounding the city.

Billingsley’s book (being released by Houston’s Bright Sky Press) is a page-turner. It’s one that Houstonians will read with ease because each word can be heard in Billingsley’s voice. That won’t stop it from gathering attention outside Houston, however. For there’s much more appeal in a story the story than just Frank’s fame. In fact, it would be fair to say that anyone who has ever had uncertainties about who they are will have a difficult time putting the book down. However, in this debut chronicle of his life, his main message rings loud and clear:

Regardless of color, orientation, race, nationality, religion, age, size—people are people. We’re all related by that fact. And as such, people all deserve the same rights and respects.

And if there may be no better mouthpiece in Houston for that message to come from than Frank himself—a smart, successful, well-round, and well-respected gay man and pillar of the LGBTQ community.

About Greenlights Three TV Shows

How to Break My Neck Lifelong Learning The Anthony Project TV Shows About

About Media greenlights The Anthony Project, How to Break My Neck, and Lifelong Learning

DSC_0059-300x201 About Greenlights Three TV Shows
Anthony Ramirez will write the three adaptations.

(HOUSTON) – About Media (the production company/sister-business of About Magazine) has ordered scripts for three original, scripted series to be streamed exclusively through About. Of the three, one is an original comedy written by About editor-in-chief, Anthony Ramirez, entitled The Anthony Project. The latter two are adaptations of books published by About’s publishing company, About Editions. The first is an adaptation of Jessica L. Walsh’s How to Break My Neck, and the second being an adaptation of Zeke Jarvis’s forthcoming book, Lifelong Learning.

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Co-writer Rebekah Knight

The Anthony Project follows a gay writer who all in one week loses his grandmother to renal failure, finds out his boyfriend is cheating on him with a woman, and must take over a magazine after his boss abandons ship. Set in Houston, the series revolves around a fictional Ramirez and his group of eccentric friends as they navigate their love lives, trite homophobia, depression, substance abuse, and alcoholism. All the while, Ramirez must come to learn that no matter how badly he may want to, he can’t fix everyone’s problems … especially when he has so many of his own to work on. The series was created by Ramirez and is being penned in conjunction with Rebekah Knight and Kimberly Dyan. An open casting call is underway for roles on The Anthony Project, with city-wide auditions taking place Saturday, May 5th, at the Montrose Center in Houston beginning at noon.

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Jessica L. Walsh

How to Break My Neck is an adaptation of Jessica L. Walsh’s collection of poetry of the same name. The series invites us into the life of Jessica “J” Cato, a poet with the ability to see people’s pasts when they are near. However, when J denounces her gift, she finds herself with a sever bout of writer’s block, realizing all the poetry she’s ever written was inspired by the lives of women she’s met and clairvoyantly come to know. But what’s more is the discovery that her poems, when read aloud, have the ability to affect change. The series will be written by Anthony Ramirez & Anthony Project co-writer, Rebekah Knight.

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Zeke Jarvis

Lifelong Learning is an adaptation of Zeke Jarvis’s forthcoming collection of short stories of the same name. The series exists in a world of strange rules: when a relative dies, you must cook and eat their remains; teenagers of impoverished families may commit suicide on camera to earn extra income for their families; blood sacrifices must be made to appease the Darkness; and when the Overlord says something, it is law. But the question remains: why are the rules in place? And who made them so? Following the lives several strangers as they navigate through the rules of their post-apocalyptic world, Lifelong Learning postulates questions about life, death, Heaven, Hell, God, Satan, and how society can fall into a world where nothing really makes any sense. The series will also be written by Ramirez.

The Anthony Project is slated to premier on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018. Learning and Neck have not yet set premiere dates, but are anticipated for early 2019.

Witch, Please: The Hocus Pocus Sequel for Your Gay Halloween Is Here

Hocus Pocus Sequel Disney Halloween Witch

If you grew up watching the Sanderson sisters dominate Disney Channel every October, it’s time to celebrate. There is a Hocus Pocus sequel, and it is incredibly queer.

We’ve all seen the charmingly spooky Halloween classic Hocus Pocus. It played on the Disney Channel at least half a dozen times every October during my youth, and I was glued to the screen every time it came on. I wanted to be Max’s precocious little sister, Dani. I wanted an immortal talking cat to follow me around and guard me from evil. I really wanted magical, cinematic witchcraft to be real, which kind of goes against the message of the movie but … whatever. The point is that I loved Hocus Pocus, so when I heard there was not only a sequel, but a GAY sequel, I was thrilled.

“Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel” published by Disney in July of 2018 and written by A. W. Jantha, is told in two parts. The first half of the book retells the original story of the movie in a way that feels both delightful and comforting. It was easy for me to slip into the words on the page and imagine the exact scenes in my mind — Max mouthing off in class to impress Allison, the moment when he lights the black flame candle, the Sanderson sisters seeing a paved road for the first time. Though you could nearly skip the first half of the book and watch the movie, Jantha sprinkles in just enough intriguing details to foreshadow the sequel ahead. It was the literary equivalent of a chilly, fall stroll down memory lane; and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

sjp-hp Witch, Please: The Hocus Pocus Sequel for Your Gay Halloween Is Here
Also, I think a big part of my queer awakening was seeing Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as the sultry yet ditzy Sarah Sanderson. That intense 90’s eyeliner/low-cut bodice combo is a look and a half. Every time she flirts with a man in this movie, I want to volunteer as tribute.

The book really shined in the latter half, when we get to the actual sequel. Set 25 years after the movie, Max and Allison Dennison have a teenage daughter named Poppy, and she is over Halloween. She resents her parents’ obsession with the Sanderson sisters and disbelieves their story about bringing the witches back from the dead. Like any proper teenager, she’s embarrassed by her parents’ and Aunt Dani’s stories, and she wants to keep her family’s superstitious tendencies under wraps. In fact, all Poppy wants to do this Halloween is hang out with her pun-loving best friend Travis and flirt with her crush, Isabella. When Isabella brings a spirit board to the Dennison’s Halloween party, Poppy takes her friends to the abandoned Sanderson sisters’ house on the edge of town to summon up a spirit. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Of course, everything goes wrong, and Jantha tells the sequel in a way that blends new story with a hefty dose of throwbacks to the original. The Sanderson sisters reemerge; curses are cast; the sisters must be defeated before sunrise. These repeated elements almost feel repetitive, but this time the Sandersons are battling with cell phone technology, the ghost of a fourth long-dead witch, and a teenage lesbian who will do anything to rescue her lady crush except for actually making a romantic move. Although the book dips often into unoriginal and derivative territory, it always pulls back up with a new twist of fate for our diverse cast of protagonists.

Most wonderfully for me, this story is enthusiastically queer. Poppy’s flirting and pining for Isabella are in no way subtextual, but rather they drive the story. Poppy wants to both impress and protect her girl, just as Max did in the original movie. Travis acts as her wingman extraordinaire, completely supporting his best friend’s love interest. Moreover, the book deals with no drama about coming out, homophobia, or feeling repressed. Poppy’s queerness just is. Jantha worked queer representation into the story in a way that was affirming and totally age appropriate for this young adult novel.

Above all, the book reads like really good fanfiction. It harkens back to a well-loved tale, but it’s fresh. It takes old characters and makes them new. It allows readers to delve back into the town of Salem, Massachusetts, revisiting all the scenes that captured the hearts of so many children during those October movie marathons of days passed. It’s a book that’s just plain fun to read, and it’s gay to boot.

Happy Halloween, indeed.

hp2-1 Witch, Please: The Hocus Pocus Sequel for Your Gay Halloween Is Here

 

Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat

Leah on the Offbeat Becky Albertalli Love Simon LGBTQ BOOK

Leah on the Offbeat – 4/5 Stars

“I swear, people can’t wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn’t diet. Is it that hard to believe I might actually like my body?”

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli is the bisexual story I have always wanted to read. Not that I knew it existed until a few weeks ago, or even know that I needed it in my life before then. But now that I’ve read it, it’s like it was something I’ve been missing. If you liked the first book in this series, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or it’s movie counterpart, Love, Simon, you will love this book. It focuses on Simon’s best friend, Leah Burke, who is confident in her sexuality. She’s bisexual; and from the very beginning we know this to be true. She has only told one person, her mother. Leah spends her senior year struggling with college applications, prom dates, and crushes. Leah has never been kissed, so when a friend of hers asks her to prom, she finds herself feeling obligated to go with him. It’s clear that this isn’t really what she wants. She has her heart set on someone else, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

“It has to be easier for people with penises. Does this person get you hard? Yes? Done. I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass.”

This book keeps you laughing on every page. Leah’s hilarious narration makes real life situations more interesting. I always found myself relating to her inner-monologue. She says what we’re all thinking. She calls people out when they deserve it and is the modern-day hero we’ve been looking for. She’s also human, she has flaws. She easily lets her feelings get the best of her. The story begins with Leah’s disinterest in a girl that used to be her friend. A girl upon who she develops a crush. A straight girl. When things don’t turn out the way she wants them to, she gets angry and defensive. The teenage angst is so relatable (we’ve all been there). It’s easy to get angry when someone doesn’t (or is incapable of) liking you back. But, this book isn’t just about Leah and her crush. It’s about all relationships. Leah struggles to come to terms with her mother’s relationship and we get to see more of Simon and Bram together, who are just as cute as they were in the first book.

“…That’s why bi girls exist, Garrett. For your masturbatory fantasies.”

Leah and the Offbeat, while focusing mainly on Leah’s sexuality, isn’t only about that. It’s about so much more. Leah is so much more than just a bisexual. She’s funny, smart and has a huge attitude. I loved watching her grow as a person throughout the book.

I’m a sucker for a good romance so I was dying to know how everything would unfold. I couldn’t put it down. There were some slow parts of the novel; but there weren’t any scenes where I was bored. Everything that was in the book was important. Nothing was there just to fill up the pages. It’s well written and the story flows nicely together.

You’re not fat. You look amazing. Because fat is the opposite of amazing. Got it.”

This is the most honest high school story I have ever read. I always felt like I was witnessing real conversations, like I was hearing them in passing in the high school hallway. Everything about this book is very authentic. It was easy to get lost in the story. Leah, especially, is very real. She reacts like any moody teenage girl would and I could easily picture her being a real person. She is three-dimensional and much more than just her sexuality. Leah is a character I have definitely fallen in love with.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Leah on the Offbeat. From the first page, I knew it would be a good read. It started off with a bang and held my interest the entire time. I would definitely recommend this book.

Were-About-It Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat