This is the fourth in a series of interviews with some of the main characters of each of my books. (Yes, I'm one of those quirky authors who has conversations with his characters.) I've already done interviews with curly-haired Boston newspaper reporter Tommy Perez of Boston Boys Club and movie critic Ray Martinez and TV reporter Ted Williams from Miami Manhunt.
When word got around that I was doing these interviews, Kyle - the leaning and preening reality TV star model from Boston Boys Club - tracked me down and offered himself up for an interview. I couldn't resist and Kyle doesn't kindly take no for an answer. The Real World star suggested we meet at one of his favorite hangouts in Boston - Francesca's Cafe on Tremont Street, the commercial spine of the South End. "The lighting there is very flattering on my skin,'' Kyle tells me over the phone before we meet.
The following afternoon on a chilly wintry Boston day, when a simple breeze feels like tiny invisible needles prickling your face and hands, I stroll pass the shops and red-bricked brownstones that line Tremont Street.
As soon as I arrive at the bakery/coffee shop which sits in the heart of gay Boston, I notice Kyle flailing his arms, waving my way to flag me down. The eight or so customers stop and look his way to see what the commotion is all about.
"Yoo hoo Johnny, I'm over here. I saved you a seat,'' shouts Kyle, who looks like a male version of actor/model Rebecca Romain. If you don't know her by name, you'll recognize her face. She's better known as shape-shifting Mystique from X-Men and Kyle looks just like her but without all that blue make up.
I join Kyle at a corner wooden table for two along the glass, snow-frosted windows. A steaming cup of hot chocolate sits in front of him.
"Johnny Diaz!!! So good to meet you, senor!" Kyle greets me, as his six-foot-four frame rises and then crouches down to hug me - tightly.
"Nice to meet you too. I've been meaning to catch up with you," I say, trying to pry loose from the embrace but Kyle has me locked like a caged prey.
"Um, Kyle, um, I can't b-r-e-a-t-he. Let me go...'' I squeak out.
"Oops, sorry Johnny. I'm a big hugger."
I break free from Kyle's hooks and we sit down for our interview.
"You know, I am slightly annoyed that you didn't choose MOI first for your one-on-one interviews for your blog. You went with, ahem, Tommy Perez and don't think I didn't see you guys at Boston Market a few months ago for your interview. You guys ran away. But I understand why you profiled Tommy first. You both have that gay-Cuban-from-Miami-writer's thing bond," Kyle rattles on.
"I save the best for last,'' I say, trying to soothe his ego. Kyle then unleashes his Cheshire grin and bats his eyes like Minnie Mouse.
I pull out my reporter's pad and get on with the interview.
"So the last time we heard about you, you were criss-crossing the country, hosting all these fundraisers and fashion parties. It looks like The Real World Boston really gave you a nice promotional platform to extend your modeling career. What's your next project?"
As Kyle begins to answer my question, he preens like a tulip blossoming in spring in the Boston Common.
"Well, I have some more speaking engagements. Let's see,'' he says, tapping his finger against his chin as he looks up and mentally counts all his engagements. "There's the White Fiesta in Miami, where I've been asked to host the pool party again. That's three years in a row. Count em! Three in a row!'' Kyle says, holding up three fingers. "And I've used my celebrity for good. I'm the local spokesman for one of the HIV groups in town. I regularly speak to high school and college students about safe sex."
As Kyle speaks, he leans in closer to me and the whole time, he wraps his hands around his cup of hot chocolate as if to keep warm in this cafe. The drink though doesn't cloak the smell of Kyle's minty Winterfresh gum. I lean back to create some distance between us because this is an interview, not a date.
"That's great. You've carved a nice niche for yourself. Do you miss being on TV, Mr. KY, oops, I mean Kyle?"
Kyle's eyes narrow to slits. I accidentally referred to him by his nickname, KY. Townies began calling him that after a sloppy threesome Real World episode that involved a lot of the brand-name lubricant.
"Excuse you! People don't call me that anymore by the way but I forgive you as long as you make me shine in this interview. Anyway, I do miss being on TV sometimes but now I have my own forum where it's Kyle 24-7, anytime, anyplace. I don't need television as my promotional vehicle. I have my own blog."
"What's it called?" I ask, scribbling notes on my pad. Kyle feigns offense at the question.
"You haven't heard of it? Bad reporter, Mr. Diaz! Bad, bad reporter," he says, playfully spanking my right hand. I briefly glance out the window and wish I was with the city denizens carefully navigating the icy sidewalks. What did I get myself into? This interview is way over the top.
"Make a note of this, okay? The blog is called Kyle's Korner. It's sort of an extension of my reality show. I even have some Google ads on there. I'm my own cottage industry, a la Cindy Crawford,'' he says, doing a flip hand-Vogue gesture around his face to emphasize his point.
"So does that mean you're an aging model?" Kyle scowls at me. He tilts his head and tucks one of his longer dirty blonde curls behind his ears.
"I'm kidding..." I say, softening the joke. "How many monthly unique visitors do you have on your blog? What does your sitemeter read?" He leans in and says, "Well, I'll show you mine if you show me yours, Johnny."
"Um, are we still talking about online metrics? Anyway, what do you blog about Kyle?" He runs his hand through his thick dirty blonde hair before he explains.
"I talk about my appearances, my weekly phone calls from my family in Oklahoma, and oh, TB."
"TB? Are you contagious?"
"No silly! TB stands for The Brazilian, my special friend. He doesn't have, ahem, his papers so I had to give him a nickname to protect his identity. Shhh. We don't want to alert INS." Kyle winks. "He's really a great wonderful guy. Between my broken Spanish, and his broken English and our body language, we somehow communicate. Now it's my turn to ask you some questions, Johnny. What about you, anyone special in your life or are they just characters, figments of your imagination?"
"Ha, very funny Kyle." We exchange winks.
I hate it when someone flips the interview on me. Tommy and Ray did this to me during our interviews. Hey, it comes with the job. If you want someone to open up to you, you have to reveal a little bit of yourself. It's a give and take. So I answer Kyle.
"Nah, no special person in my life. Dating isn't a priority for me right now," I say, matter-of-factly, as I briefly stare out at the ice-frosted windows.
"Por que? By the way, you remind me a lot of Tommy Perez but you're a little older and you're in better shape. You can be his older brother, you know. Anyway, why aren't there any hombres in tu vida," Kyle says, using his broken Spanish.
"I just haven't met anyone of interest lately. Boston is a small town and dating here can also feel like a job interview.
Where do you work? How long have you been there? What school did you go to, what's your degree in, do you own or rent, etc?
Other times, I feel like I'm trapped in a CW network show here. I'm looking for my Mr. Big but I keep finding twigs. After a few years, you pretty much meet everyone here until a new season imports new students or professors. Boston can be a revolving door like that, at least in the youth-driven and looks-obsessed gay world."
"Well, maybe TB has some friends. I can ask for you. Oh I know, I'll play fairy matchmaker. I'll blog about you and post your photo on my blog,'' Kyle says, his eyes widening like saucers.
"Thanks Kyle. I appreciate the offer but I want to date someone who at least is here legally, no offense. It makes life a little easier when you want to travel or go away or when you want to apply for a home loan.
But if you know anyone who sings and looks like Joey McIntyre, let me know but that's another story for another day. Hey, isn't this interview about you?" I say.
"Of course! Now where were we?" Kyle says.
"I remember. So I have a really important question to ask you, Kyle?"
"Fire away, senor Diaz! I'm an open book or blog."
"What's on your iPod playlist?" Kyle raises his eyebrows and immediately brandishes his pink-framed Iphone from his murse (man purse) and uses his manicured fingers to scroll down the glass illuminated panel.
"I'm so glad you asked. Among my top five most played: Don't Be Tardy for the Party. Love that song. I think I inspired it. I also have the GLEE tv show soundtrack. Gotta support my people. Oh, and Lady Gaga rounds out the rest of my top most played songs. She's so crazy. I see a little of myself in her. She's also my Facebook friend.""Well, Kyle. I think I'm all set and I've run out of paper in my reporter's notebook." As I get up and scoot my chair in, Kyle does the same. He bends down and gives me another hearty hug. He's like a giraffe kneeling down to pet me.
"Johnny, thank you so much for including me in your series of interviews. And like I said, I'll post something about you on my blog. We'll find you a nice fella. Trust me. And once we do, we can double-date with TB. In the meantime, let's trade links to each other's blogs."
"You got it!" I say, as I wrap my red scarf around my neck and slip my gloves on. As I venture back outside into the cold, I notice Kyle is already signing an autograph for one of his fans.