In Young, Gay & Restless: My Scandalous On-Screen & Off-Screen Sexual Liberations, Thom Bierdzan actor/artist/advocate who is probably best known for portraying heir Phillip Chancellor III on the daytime drama The Young and the Restlessliterally lets it all hang out, as the saying goes.
Yes, Bierdz talks about everything from past relationships to even his thoughts about his parents in detail that is sometimes sexually graphic, and he even includes nude photos of himself. ( This writer has never seen so many euphemisms for genitalia, by the way; it was a lesson in linguistics. ) However, it's also the journey of someone who has found his way to sexual liberationand the book might impart lessons to readers about losing their own restrictions, whether imposed by self and/or society.
Windy City Times: So, congratulations on the book.
Thom Bierdz: Thanks! You can see how much freedom comes from that, right?
WCT: Yes. I was thinking it had to be very cathartic to write it.
TB: Yeah. But to get to that point, it was like, "I'm not trying to fit into Hollywood anymore." Few people can live alone in the woods and not be concerned about what their partners are going to say or what their kids are going to say.
WCT: Why did you feel you had to write this now?
TB: Good question. I didn't feel I had to write it now; it just happened. A couple years ago, people were really talking if Trump committed sexual assault and I wrote on Facebook that I thought I had been sexually assaulted several times [by others], and other men wrote about their experiencesand I was compiling a book on sexual assaults of men, which I also have.
So that's how this started. I started writing more about myself and going back to childhoodand it turned out to be 400 pages. It wasn't planned; it just organically happened.
WCT: Have you gotten feedback from people who are mentioned in this book?
TB: I tried to reach out to the people I mention by name, and I couldn't find them all. What's interesting, though, is that not everyone has the same memories. For instance, there's the photographer Greg Gorman; I pretty much say nice things about him. But when I say that my manager told me that Greg said [of me], "T.J.'s no mental giant," he was offended, [adding,] "I never said that." But this was so long ago.
I tried to avoid hurting people's feelings, so the people I had to speak negatively about, I changed their names.
WCT: Like the photographer "L"… [In the book, Bierdz says that L may have sexually assaulted him.]
WCT: When I thought I couldn't be any more surprised, there would be another. But the book isn't just sex; you talk about your family [and other very personal aspects]. What was the most difficult part of this book for you to write?
TB: Well, I think the chronology always gets me. But there were no parts that had me crying as I was writing them. Regarding sex, I think it was more amusing than anything else. I hope people stop pointing fingers and saying, "You're naughty, and you're naughty. You shouldn't have had that sexual fantasy." I think we should just stay away from hurting people.
WCT: I agree. And the reader sees your maturation throughout the book. What would you tell 20-year-old Thom about life?
TB: Hmmm… Probably not to push as much and to look for balancewhich I still have to learn. I had problems with Amazon KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing] publishing another book of mine. I'm not the type to stop after calling for four hours and being put on hold; I can't sleep. But you don't get answers that way, so [stop pushing] is what I'd tell young Thom.
WCT: And would 20-year-old Thom listen?
TB: [Laughs] Probably not… Other people tried to tell me that. And what would you tell 20-year-old Andrew?
WCT: I would tell him to just roll with the punches, and that everything works out eventually. Moving on, what do you think your mother's reaction to this book would be? [Note: Bierdz's mother was killed in 1989.]
TB: I never thought about that, but I don't think she'd have a problem with it. I don't know. She didn't seem too puritanical way back then, but I don't think she'd want to read it. My dad and my sister don't want to read it.
WCT: Your mother didn't seem that [puritanical]. In the book, you said she went with you to a few gay bars.
WCT: It was eye-opening when you said in the book that you bumped into someone at a bar who turned out to be [serial killer] Jeffrey Dahmer.
TB: Right. You're from the area, right?
WCT: I'm strictly Chicago. [Bierdz grew up in Wisconsin.] However, a friend and I were at the L&L Tavern a little while ago; we looked up its history, and it turned out that Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy supposedly frequented this spot.
TB: Wow… You never know how many serial killers we pass.
And it shows my character back then, because… Well, I joke about it, but I went home with a lot of guysnot just for sex, but also for career [networking], like the guy I mentioned who I played pool with for hours; there was nothing untoward about that. And there was the guy I went home with from the grocery store who invited me to join his sex family. I was 21 at the time, and I considered it. And there was the gym sexthis is stuff that actors don't share.
WCT: That's true. Are you worried that you've burned any bridges with this book?
TB: I don't think so. I don't know. Again, my intent is to live artist and pay rent and do what I do. I have several books and paintings going, so it's not like I'm trying to fit in. For so long, I tried to fit in; I tried to be that Don Diamont or any of a number of other soap stars.
WCT: Let's talk about your [current] neighbor Mary, an older woman. Why did you include her in your book?
TB: I just let the book happen. She just turned out to be someone I've interacted with for the past couple years. Mary is a way to show how Thom has interacted with people. Also, I'm a mental hoarder while she's a literal one.
WCT: We get to know Mary well. She said she was also a victim of sexual assault.
TB: Right. Her parents weren't nice to her, and I see she's still dealing with stuff.
WCT: This book is refreshingly candid…
TB: I'm pleased that you got that.
WCT: …and I think there are some people who might have Thom confused with Phillip Chancellor III [who was also revealed to be gay].
TB: Right. I got a horrible book review from one of my Facebook friends because of that. He went on and on and on, and expected me to be Phillip Chancellor. Oh, well. It's really not my problem.
WCT: With everything that's in the book, what do you want readers to take away?
TB: I'd like them to stop repressing others for their sexual thoughtswhich is why I brought up incest. I'm not around my relatives; it's not an uncomfortable issue. I think repression is awfulnot just in the personal arena, but in the political one as well, and everywhere. It's silly to attack people because they're naughty.
Young, Gay & Restless: My Scandalous On-Screen & Off-Screen Sexual Liberations is available on Amazon.