Two years ago, I started interviewing people in the theater world about the problems within that community.
All the subjects of the interviews remained anonymous to encourage people to speak directly and plainly without worrying that there would be consequences down the line.
(Of course, even then, some people felt like outing themselves and getting in hot water, but we're going to leave that water under another bridge.)
When I decided it was time to bring the series to a close, it was partly because I thought it had run its course, and partly because I had a new topic I wanted to tackle.
While I've had my issues with theater and the people who do it, I've never felt like I didn't belong there, whereas from the moment I came out, I've never truly felt like a part of the gay community.
To be clear, that probably has way more to do with me than the community, but it's something I wanted to explore, and I knew how I wanted to do it.
The theater interviews were always conducted with people who didn't live anywhere near me, and there was a reason for that. We like to think that if we can attach a problem to someone we know, we can fix the problem, and I've never found that to be the case. Problems within systems are not caused by any one person, but the system itself. That's the case in theater, and I believe it's the same for the LGBTQI+ community.
So I picked a city far from my own, and I started reaching out to gay men in that city. I spent a few months following as many of them as I could on social media, and then I began asking if I could interview them. The goal was to see if we could address some of the issues of the modern gay community and get to the heart of those issues while hopefully find some solutions.
Today I'm going to continue going down the rabbit hole of an (alleged) disappearance of a man named Abe. If you're just joining this saga, be sure and start at the beginning by going to The Community and The Lost Boy . This week, I'm going to be speaking with "Tony" who was on the fateful trip to Tulum--Abe's last trip with the Lost Boys group.
Here's the interview:
ME: Before we talk about the serious stuff, how do you have a hundred thousand followers on Instagram?
TONY: That's where we're starting?
ME: No, we're not starting, that's the whole point.
TONY: Uh, I use Instagram a lot. I've been on there awhile.
ME: You look like a statue on Mount Olympus.
TONY: (Laughs.) I like photos of myself. I'm not shy.
ME: You have more followers than people who have been nominated for Oscars.
TONY: That's not true.
ME: I would bet you have more followers than Frances McDormand.
TONY: Is Frances McDormand on Instagram?
ME: She's on Friendster. She's a little behind.
TONY: I put up some photos when I first got on Instagram that were--I wouldn't put them up today.
ME: Why not?
TONY: They were--I was showing off.
ME: You were eating a dozen donuts in one sitting?
TONY: (Laughs.) Yes. With no clothes on.
ME: That's how I show off. A dozen donuts, a pizza, and then I put on a wetsuit.
TONY: How many followers do you have?
TONY: (Laughs.) I think it's more than that.
ME: It's not 100k.
TONY: Do you want me to do that thing where I tell my followers to follow you?
ME: Your followers want nothing to do with me.
TONY: I think they'd like you.
ME: Yeah, I could be the palate cleanser after they're done looking at you.
TONY: You're the dessert.
ME: No, I'm the Pepto you take later that night.
TONY: Are we going to talk about Mexico?
ME: Yes, but first! The basics. Age?
ME: As of?
TONY: A month ago.
TONY: Thank you.
ME: How long have you lived in the Community?
TONY: I don't live there anymore. I moved at the start of the pandemic.
ME: But how long had you lived there before you moved?
TONY: Only two years.
ME: Then why the hell am I talking to you?
TONY: I don't know. You're the boss.
ME: That's how you know I'm never going to find this guy. Never put me in charge of anything.
TONY: I hope he's okay. He was one of the only people I enjoyed on that trip.
ME: So you were on the trip to Tulum?
TONY: I was.
ME: So you were in The Lost Boys?
ME: You weren't?
ME: Then how were you on the trip?
TONY: I had been asked if I would like to join the group, and the trip was a way for me to, like, check it out beforehand.
ME: So you got to test out the group?
ME: Did other people get to do that?
TONY: I don't know.
ME: It seems weird to me that a group you have to pay ten thousand dollars to join would give people a freebie?
TONY: I had--Okay. I should say--I was told they would waive the ten thousand dollars for me.
TONY: Yes, because I had said I would never pay ten thousand dollars to join.
ME: Because you have common sense?
TONY: That's too much to pay to go on vacations with guys.
ME: And not sleep with them either.
TONY: That was interesting--when you told me you talked to AJ and he said no sex--I was confused.
TONY: Because AJ tried to have sex with me on the trip.
ME: He did?
ME: Are you sure?
TONY: He sent me a **** pic.
ME: While you were on the trip?
ME: Maybe it's--I'm sorry I have to play Devil's Advocate now, because I'm a responsible journalist.
ME: Could that have been because you weren't an official member yet?
TONY: But the goal was to make me a member.
ME: How did you respond when he sent you that?
TONY: I didn't respond. By that time, I had decided I wasn't joining and I was going home the next day.
ME: Why did you not want to join?
TONY: The trip was--hokey? It was awkward. Most of it was awkward.
ME: Why awkward?
TONY: We all had to report to these talks where AJ or someone else would ask us these personal questions and people would cry.
ME: What kind of personal questions?
TONY: Um. Who have you hurt that you wish you could talk to? Who hurt you that you wish you could forgive? Why are you not the person you want to be?
ME: I was saying to AJ that it's a cult, but he disagreed. Did it feel like a cult to you?
TONY: It did not feel like a cult, because people in cults always look like they're having fun. We weren't having fun.
ME: Then why do you think people join?
TONY: I think it's clout.
ME: In what way?
TONY: You go on these vacations with these guys who are--Sorry, everyone's hot.
ME: Are you saying 'Sorry' because I'm not hot?
TONY: (Laughs.) I know how shallow it sounds.
ME: No, I saw the photos. They're all hot.
TONY: They're all hot. You go on these vacations. You take photos with guys who are hot. That's part of--You brought up Instagram followers. As soon as you join the group, you get all these new followers. Some people get thirty, forty thousand followers overnight. If you have an OnlyFans, you're going to see yourself making a lot more money on there.
ME: Are some members of the group on OnlyFans?
TONY: Yes. I knew of four who were, but I bet it was more.
ME: So you get to purchase this perception?
ME: Did it not interest you because you already had such a presence online before going on the trip? I'm guessing you didn't need a perception boost.
TONY: I was interested in having a group of gay friends and the travel part of it. Having a group of people I could travel with and do things with, but there were so many rules.
ME: Rules that they all don't follow, apparently.
TONY: What do you mean?
ME: You're supposed to pay dues, but they were going to waive the dues for you. They're not supposed to hook up with each other, but AJ tried to hook up with you--
TONY: I wasn't even aware of those rules. I knew about the dues, but not about hooking up--
ME: Do you think they invited you to join because having someone like you in the group would help recruit other people?
TONY: That might have been it. I didn't ask them.
ME: Who reached out to you?
TONY: The guy who does the membership, but I don't know who suggested asking me, because he said, another member--somebody in leadership--wanted to have me join.
ME: And that the dues would be waived?
ME: So what were the rules you didn't like if you didn't have to follow the two rules that I assumed most people wouldn't like?
TONY: Mandatory attendance at all the talks.
ME: How many talks were there?
TONY: Two a day.
ME: That's a lot.
TONY: One in the morning. One after dinner.
ME: What else?
TONY: I didn't like having to do the talent show.
ME: There was a talent show?
TONY: Yes. On that final night.
ME: Where you all performed a talent?
TONY: Yes. That was mandatory too.
ME: What was your talent?
TONY: I sang some song. I'm not a good singer, but that was all I could think of to do.
ME: There a lot of guys on this trip. Did people work together for the show?
TONY: There were some groups.
ME: Do you remember what Abe did?
TONY: Abe was not at the talent show.
ME: But I thought the talent show was mandatory?
TONY: It was.
ME: Did anybody say why he wasn't there?
ME: Was he the only one missing?
TONY: That I know of, yes.
ME: So you all perform and then what?
TONY: We went back to our rooms.
ME: No going out for drinks or--
TONY: No, we were--It was suggested that we go back to our rooms and have some quiet time to ourselves for us to think about the trip and what we'd learned.
TONY: (Laughs.) Yeah, but I was tired. I went back to my room.
ME: How cringe was the talent show?
TONY: The worst part was the dance.
ME: The dance?
TONY: We all learned a dance and we had to perform it our last night there.
ME: What kind of dance?
TONY: My friend noticed that it was half 'Toxic' and half 'Bye Bye Bye.'
ME: The only choreography I'll perform in front of people is Toni Braxton's from the 'He Wasn't Man Enough' video.
TONY: Are you kidding?
ME: Nope. I know the whole thing.
TONY: Can I see it?
ME: Venmo me $20 and it's yours.
TONY: (Laughs.) What's your Venmo?
ME: You're not really sending me $20.
TONY: Yes, I am. I want to see this.
TONY: I'm sending it now and I want the video when we're done.
ME: You are in for a treat.
TONY: I wish I had a video of the dance we did on the trip.
ME: You said you had a friend there?
TONY: I was friends with George, who was also asked to join the group, but he had been in it for--I think five or six years?
ME: Was he the one who suggested asking you?
TONY: No, I asked him, but he said 'No.'
ME: Does he pay the dues?
TONY: I don't know. Knowing George, I would be surprised.
ME: Did you interact with Abe at all?
TONY: Yes. Abe's room was right across from mine. We kept bumping into each other. The day I got there, he had been there since that morning, and he was going to the beach. He asked if I wanted to come, and I dropped my bags in my room and went.
ME: Did anybody go with you?
TONY: He had two friends he was meeting there.
ME: His roommates?
TONY: No, we all had our own rooms.
ME: I mean back home.
TONY: Oh! They were his roommates, yeah. There was one other guy, but I don't know what his deal was. I think one of the roommates wanted to spend time with him.
ME: How was Abe that day?
TONY: He was good. Friendly.
ME: In a good mood?
ME: Did you two talk about the group?
TONY: We did. He--He was telling me it was a lot of work. That you had to do a lot of work on yourself to be in the group, but that it was like getting a family.
ME: Kind of an interesting version of a family.
ME: But he didn't seem like he wanted to leave the group?
TONY: Not that day.
ME: Did you spend time with him after that day?
TONY: We went to the beach together every day.
ME: So you must have talked quite a bit?
TONY: We did. He mostly talked about the break-up.
ME: His break-up with Cole?
ME: Was he upset about it?
TONY: He said that his ex wasn't letting go. He was still calling him every day. He would text him all the time. Abe showed me some of the texts.
ME: What did they say?
TONY: They were sad, some of them. Some were scary.
ME: Scary in what way?
TONY: Like, 'You owe me. Don't forget you owe me.'
ME: Owe him?
TONY: Abe said that it was one of those things where he was--Like, a kept guy.
ME: Like a trophy husband?
ME: Cole didn't say any of this.
TONY: He made it sound like Cole was, um, not a good guy.
ME: I feel like I'm leading the witness. I'm sorry.
TONY: No, that's a good word for it.
ME: Some of the homos who read my last series used to say I ask leading questions.
TONY: Tell them to *** a ****.
ME: I would, but they'd take it as an invitation.
TONY: (Laughs.) So when you talked to Cole, how did he make it sound?
ME: He made it sound like Abe wanted to get back together, and he wanted to leave the group--
TONY: By the end of the trip, he was saying he did want to leave the group.
ME: But at the beginning of the trip--
TONY: I know. Something happened towards the end where he got mad.
ME: Mad at who?
TONY: Just mad. He didn't tell me everything about that. He said there was some bulls*** going on and he was--He felt like he was being shut out of something that was going on with leadership.
ME: But he wasn't leadership, right?
TONY: No, but something--I wish I could tell you more. He shut down when he would be telling me about this.
ME: And when was this? Before the talent show?
TONY: The day before, we went to the beach, and that's when he was complaining about the group. The next day, I texted him about going to the beach, and he said he didn't feel well. That's why when I didn't see him at the talent show, I thought he was still sick.
ME: Did you see his roommates there?
TONY: Yes, but we didn't talk.
ME: Did you see Abe after that day at the beach?
ME: Did you try and get in touch with him once you came home?
TONY: I texted him. I never heard back. I was like--Cool. Guess we're done. It sucked, because we had clicked, I thought.
ME: In a romantic way or just a friendly way?
TONY: A friendly way. Abe was--I wouldn't have gotten involved with Abe.
ME: Why not?
TONY: I think he was messed up about some stuff.
ME: Like what?
TONY: The relationship. The break-up. I think he was trying to--like, give himself a personality by joining the group and before that his personality was 'I'm this guy's boyfriend.' He was a nice guy, but he didn't know who he was. Part of that is because he's young.
ME: He's not that young.
TONY: I mean, twenty is young.
ME: He was twenty?
ME: For some reason, I thought he was older than that.
TONY: No, he was twenty. That's another reason why I wouldn't get involved with him. I wouldn't date somebody that much younger than me.
ME: So he was twenty at the time of the trip?
ME: Where is a twenty-year-old getting ten thousand dollars?
TONY: I don't know. Maybe they waived the dues for him too?
ME: Was he the youngest person in the group?
TONY: I don't know. I hung out with him, his roommates, and George.
ME: And AJ?
TONY: I only saw AJ at the talks and the talent show.
ME: Did you talk to him?
TONY: Only a little.
ME: But he felt comfortable sending a **** pic to you?
TONY: I don't think I was the only one he sent that to.
ME: How do you know that?
TONY: I know he sent one to George.
ME: You and George talked about it?
TONY: Yeah, because I showed it to him.
ME: What did he say?
TONY: 'That's AJ.'
ME: Like--That's what he does?
ME: Did it ever worry you that you never heard from Abe after that trip?
TONY: Honestly, and I feel bad about this, but 'No.' Because a twenty-year-old flaking isn't that unusual, right?
ME: Did you stay in touch with his roommates?
TONY: One of them.
ME: And they didn't say anything about Abe?
TONY: No, but I didn't ask them about him.
ME: Did you ever go over their place?
ME: You're just not that close?
TONY: That, and--(Laughs.)--Yeah.
TONY: I won't go there.
ME: Go where?
TONY: Where they live.
ME: 35 West?
ME: Why not?
TONY: I moved, so--
ME: But you wouldn't go there when you lived in [The Community]?
ME: Why not?
TONY: Just...There's a lot of drama there.
ME: What kind of drama?
TONY: (Laughs.) Um.
ME: Do you not want to talk about it?
TONY: I'd rather not.
ME: Okay. What did you think when you heard Abe lived there?
TONY: I didn't know he lived there until his roommate hit me up when we all got back.
ME: I heard that everybody sort of made their own way back home after the trip. Did you travel alone?
TONY: No, George and I went together.
ME: Did you see anyone else as you were leaving?
TONY: I saw everyone leaving. It felt like we all left together.
TONY: We had a shuttle take us to the airport. Not all of us, but most of us.
TONY: AJ wasn't with us. No.
ME: And obviously not Abe.
ME: What about his roommates?
TONY: They were on the shuttle with us.
ME: His roommates were on your shuttle?
TONY: And on my flight.
ME: But not Abe?
ME: Did you think that was strange?
TONY: I--Abe said they had been fighting. That's part of what was bugging him when we talked.
ME: Them or the group?
TONY: I think it had to do with the roommates and the group, because both the roommates were in leadership.
ME: So you thought, what, they decided to come home without him?
TONY: I thought maybe he didn't want to take the shuttle with them.
ME: But he wasn't on the plane either?
TONY: No--I should say, I didn't see him on the plane.
ME: Or when you landed?
ME: You really didn't think that was strange?
TONY: I didn't think a lot about it. It was just supposed to be a vacation.
ME: But you didn't ask them where he was on the shuttle or on the--
TONY: I was at the back of the shuttle and they were the last ones on. They came up and sat in the front.
ME: How did they look?
ME: Did Abe ever say what his plans were after the trip?
TONY: I know he wanted to go back to school. He had left school and I think that bothered him.
ME: Did you ever find out anything about the crosses everyone wears?
TONY: George has one but he won't say what it is.
ME: I found out and I wanted to see if what I heard was accurate.
TONY: I can hook you up with George.
ME: That would be great. Thank you.
TONY: I don't know if he'll talk to you about the group though.
ME: Because he doesn't even talk to you about it and you're friends, right?
TONY: He takes it seriously. Very seriously.
ME: Who besides AJ do you remember not being on the shuttle or the plane?
TONY: There could have been more, but AJ and Abe are the only two I don't remember seeing.
ME: AJ said some members stayed behind like it was this thing people would do all the time.
TONY: Why would you stay behind when you were going to have a meeting the day after the trip?
ME: There was a meeting?
TONY: There was a leadership meeting the day after or two days after the trip.
ME: So he would have just been getting an extra day out of the trip?
TONY: Unless he skipped the meeting.
ME: How did you know about the meeting?
TONY: Because they announced a reminder about it at the talent show.
ME: So you've never talked about Abe with his roommates?
ME: Do you still talk to them?
TONY: The one that I talk to still likes my photos on Instagram, but we haven't talked since I moved.
ME: Would you be willing to message him for me?
TONY: And say what?
ME: Say I need to talk to him.
TONY: Just say that or get him to talk to you?
ME: If you could persuade him--
ME: I mean, you look like Chris Helmsworth. I'm sure you could convince him.
TONY: (Laughs.) Be like 'It would be so great if you'd talk to Kevin.'
ME: Get him to talk to me and I'll Venmo you back the $20.
TONY: Do I still get the dance video?
TONY: You got a deal.
Tony is currently working at a web design company and has gained another 20k followers since this interview was conducted.
For more insight into this series, check out The Community Podcast on the Epic Patreon. Sign up by going to www.Patreon.com/EpicTheatreCo