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The Amazing Race 4's Reichen and Chip: Flying Solo?by Brian James -- 06/06/2003
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Reichen Lehmkuhl and Willis "Chip" Arndt have made reality television history by being the first married gay couple to be on CBS’s The Amazing Race – and indeed, probably all of reality television. Currently in second place on the show, they’re identified on screen merely as "married" with no further qualifiers, keeping in line with their straight counterparts.
But are they still married?
Probably not, it would seem.
Posters on various Internet discussion boards have mentioned as fact that the couple have split up. "LawDog" on Television Without Pity, for example, avers that "Reichen and Chip separated after the show was taped." However, while these posters may state this as fact, they don't give any supporting evidence to back up their claims.
Until this week. In his latest "Filth" column, noted gay/celebrity gossip columnist Billy Masters mentions meeting Reichen recently; Reichen apparently referred to Chip as his "ex-boyfriend," then stammered, "Oops!" when Masters pointed it out. While Masters is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the more accurate and reliable gossip columnists in this genre out there, a mention in a gossip column does not necessarily a fact make, and it's still only Masters' word as opposed to a direct statement from Reichen or Chip.
In addition, Reichen is on the cover of the current issue of gay magazine Instinct. The accompanying article features plenty of barechested photos of the hunky pilot and questions about what turns him on in a guy (confidence), but nary a mention of Chip – but then again, it doesn’t mention The Amazing Race either.
Still, though, the more everything piles up, the more likely it may indeed be true. As the news wends its way around the Web, some people are wondering if perhaps the whole "marriage" was a sham – an angle or gimmick the couple exploited to get on the show. This doesn’t seem very likely.
Again, details are frustratingly sketchy, but from searching around on the Internet, it would seem that Reichen and Chip got married about a year ago in California, where they live. It’s not specified whether this was a legal marriage or a joining ceremony, but given current California law it would almost have to be the latter. Eliminated fellow Race couple Debra and Steve stated in an interview with Fans of Reality TV that one of the ways they could tell Reichen and Chip were a gay couple was that they wore matching wedding bands. The Race itself apparently took place from late January to late February or thereabouts; CBS held off airing the completed show sooner to air more editions of Star Search. That leaves approximately a three month window of time from the end of the Race to the first airdate of the show in which they could have split up.
Apparently, any breakup wasn’t so bad that they can no longer work together – the website for Reichen’s charter airline brokerage service, Tribal Airways, still lists Chip as Director of Corporate Strategy.
Assuming the worst is true, what does this mean? Are Reichen and Chip somehow deceiving us by appearing as a married couple on TV if they’re no longer married? And what does this say about gay marriages in general, then?
The answers? No and nothing, respectively.
Sure, by being the first married gay couple on The Amazing Race (and possibly all of reality television), Reichen and Chip are a landmark of sorts, but they’re not specimens frozen in time, neatly labeled and stuck on a shelf somewhere. They’re human beings just like the rest of us, with lives before and after the Race. As such, they have the same right to break up as the rest of us if they so choose, even in the window of time between the filming and airing of a program they did while they were still married. And to those who would be quick to suggest that this means gay marriages can’t last or work out, let’s not forget that countless straight marriages end every day, while others last a lifetime. You can’t judge or draw conclusions about a whole concept from one example.
If it’s true, who knows what happened? Maybe the pressures of the Race killed their relationship. Maybe it was the eight-year age difference. According to their CBS bio, Reichen likes to flirt, which upsets Chip – maybe that played a factor. Maybe it was all or none of the above. Does it really matter? In the end, all it would really mean is that a couple decided it was for the best to end their relationship. It happens all the time. All we can do is wish them the best of luck for the future.
One last thing – Reichen and Chip, if I’ve gotten anything horrendously wrong, please feel free to contact me to set the record straight, so to speak.
Brian James is an actor/writer/singer in New York City. An avid reality show, Passions, early Ryan’s Hope, retro music, and Internet discussion board junkie, he can be found holding up "Will Snark For Food" signs in subway stations as he continues to search for that elusive "day job." Brian would like to stress that his writings are based solely on what he sees in each episode, and realizes that there may sometimes be more to the story and that people may behave quite differently under normal circumstances. Comments and cybertomatoes accepted at email@example.com.
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