MTV reality stars explore depth of military’s controversial ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy to SU audience
Fifteen minutes before taking the stage, Danny Roberts and Paul Dill, made famous by their controversial relationship on MTV’s ‘The Real World: New Orleans,’ shared an embarrassing secret with a backstage reporter in the green room. Until very recently, they didn’t realize that Orange County Choppers from The Discovery Channel’s ‘American Chopper’ was in New York; in fact they didn’t even know there was an Orange County, N.Y.
Last night, Roberts and Dill spoke to a nearly packed house primarily made up of members of the greek and LGBT community, as well as other unincorporated student fans of Danny, Paul and ‘The Real World: New Orleans.’ In their discussion with the student body, Roberts and Dill addressed contemporary issues of being gay and the problems with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
The special emphasis on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and gays in the military stems from the fact that while together with Roberts on the show, Dill was an active U.S. Army Ranger Captain. The unique situation of being in a relationship in the public eye made life difficult while the show aired because Dill was still on active duty, and military policy prohibits gays from serving in the military.
”Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is a compromise made in 1993 that looks good on paper,’ Dill said. ‘It doesn’t really work that way.’
Even though a blur hid his face, Dill said those close to him could still sometimes figure out his identity. While living with Roberts in a small town next to his base, Dill recalled being paranoid about the Army discovering his identity as locals identified Roberts and fans sometimes camped on their lawn. Dill said his situation clearly exemplified why ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is such a burden on all closeted gay servicemen.
‘You’re bombarded with questions of who you are,’ said Dill. ‘You have to deny everything.’
While Dill’s story was more the focus of the evening, Roberts opened up the show talking about his own coming out story, a background that taught him to be homophobic and caused him to deny his own identity.
‘As many of you know, small towns in the South are not known as bastions of liberal thought,’ Roberts said.
Roberts told the audience how he went to the University of Georgia and described himself as homophobic. While at school, he became friends with a guy named Andy, and as their relationship grew, he recalled one point when he woke up at Andy’s house, in his bed, much to Roberts’ own shock and disbelief. Later on, in his third year, Roberts met three men, all older than him, married and closeted homosexuals. Realizing he was heading down a similar path of leading a double life, Roberts recalled that he started to realize he would have to become more accepting of himself in order to be happy.
‘I was lying to myself and lying to all those around me,’ Roberts said, ‘including the girlfriends I had.’
Roberts and Dill took every opportunity to create a mood of levity as they chided each other, spoke conversationally and informally and disagreed about the myth of women being able to identify closeted gay men. Roberts thinks women can tell, reassuring the audience that there are reasons why girlfriends think questioning thoughts about their men, whereas Dill, who experienced two engagements, says this claim is unfounded.
‘An Evening With Danny and Paul’ was hosted by Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi fraternity, Delta Gamma sorority, the Interfraternity Council and the LGBT Resource Center. Melissa Ryan, a junior television, radio and film major and vice president of foundation for Delta Gamma, recalled how she and Ivan Rodriguez of Sigma Alpha Mu came up with the idea for the program.
‘Ivan and I at the beginning of last fall semester were talking, and we thought it’d be really great if we sponsored something big for the school,’ Ryan said. ‘Originally, they tried to get a different gay ‘Real World’ cast member to come speak, but they decided to book Roberts and Dill instead.’
Mike Day, president of the newly chartered Delta Lambda Sigma fraternity, was very happy to be invited to work with Sigma Alpha Mu and Delta Gamma on this program, citing the dialogue they brought was extremely valuable to campus.
‘It was really good to hear Paul’s perspective on the military,’ Day said, ‘to hear how (‘don’t ask, don’t tell’) affects individuals’ lives is very important.’
Published on December 1, 2005 at 12:00 pm