All Out is the dual autobiography of dual-nation superstar newscaster Kevin Newman and his gay ginger son Alex. I’m not sure why it exists except for the fact that Kevin Newman, as an established media celebrity of sorts, has access to editors at Canadian corporate publishing houses (here, the mighty Anne Colins at Random House Canada).
The book alternates chapters between Kevin and Alex. They claim their chapters were written in isolation from another, but that is implausible at best given the page or so of encomiums the authors reserve for their ghostwriter, Kate Fillion. (I again suggest you ask me sometime for my anecdote about her putting me in a cab up to the Tubby before it began publishing.) I don’t see how these two men wrote in isolation when their ghostwriter “conducted thousands of hours of interviews,” both facts having been attested in the same paragraph in the acknowledgements.
Kevin Newman’s chapters are a crashing bore even to someone with an interest in Canadian media. The world in general and Canada in specific and the Canadian media oligopoly in microcosm do not need this many thousands of words about the life of an itinerant daytime or overnight talk-show host. I found that a surprise, frankly. K. Newman really is a talking head.
But even more of a surprise are what I presume are the untutored reminiscences of young ginger son Alex. Despite having come of age in the 21st century, an era of genderqueers, trannies, LGBTs, and downtown progressives who [waves palm of hand vertically in front of face] “don’t see race,” Alex Newman’s story is exactly the same as most other gay boys’ stories from time immemorial. (Excerpted; reordered.)
Scouts were a non-starter.
At meetings I’d run off and hide; find me and coax me back to where the other boys were all busily doing Scout-like things, and I’d burst into tears or refuse to participate….
pparently, he wanted a son who scored goals and thrived on rough-and-tumble play. Instead, he had me, an artistic kid who lived in his own imagination and panicked if a ball came anywhere near his face.
I was the kind of kid who didn’t want to get in trouble, the kind who almost hyperventilated when someone suggested breaking a rule. The world outside seemed like a dirty, dangerous place, where your only protection lay in following the letter of the law.
Sports were a non-starter.
It quickly became evident that I had no athletic ability whatsoever, nor was I popular, so I was almost always the last one left. The kids on whichever team got stuck with me would groan in unison.
Strangely, given how much I wanted to fit in, I was uninterested in addressing my athletic deficiencies. I was oversensitive and prone to taking unkind words to heart, but I had strong opinions, one of which was that sports were a joke…. I came off as one of those shy, wimpy kids who’s bad at sports. […]
ne day I came home from school to find that a basketball hoop had been installed… My dad was adjusting the net, clearly excited. I was not. I’d never had the slightest interest in basketball…. I failed to make a single basket, then never again. It was like the swimming lessons, soccer, baseball, any sport you care to mention – my dad was always optimistic that he’d finally hit on the thing that would be my athletic breakthrough, and he inevitably would up disappointed and trying not to show it. […]
Then the hoop fell into disrepair, bees built a nest in the net, and basketball was never spoken of again. However, my memory of that brief episode is crystal clear nearly 20 years later.
Boys (even if sporty), despite being the object of his affection (even if inchoate), were a non-starter.
My main strategy was avoidance: Just steer clear of boys, especially the alpha-male types. I never got the impression that my mother worried about that, though she may well have. But I knew my father did, or at least didn’t think it was normal, because he signed me up for one male-bonding opportunity after another, including father–son activities that were meant to bring the two of us closer. They didn’t.
I was different in other ways, too, that seemed to provoke boys. I didn’t like roaming in a pack; I lived in my imagination rather than in the moment; I was happy to sit alone under a tree at recess, playing games with my Star Wars spaceships.
Over the years, the more I was bullied, the harder I tried to avoid boys altogether.
For the most part, though, despite having typical male interests – amphibians, model cars, Lego, space travel, games that involved weapons and ear-splitting sound effects – I gravitated toward the girls in our neighbourhood.
It was a revelation, having a boy as a friend, because I’d reached the point of actively disliking boys, and not just because they bullied me. I hated the dirt-under-the-fingernails aspect of boys, their in-your-face aggression and yeehaw humour and the way they always seemed to take things one step too far
Alex’s true story is exactly like fiction
…expressed best in An Arrow’s Flight, mentioned here many times before.
It was into this parody of domestic life that Pyrrus was born; in it he lived his formative years. If there are such years, if we aren’t pretty much formed by the time we see light. For example: If Pyrrhus wasn’t born a sissy, he certainly was one by the time his father first playfully wrestled with him, when he was two or three. He cried when real boys were supposed to laugh; he ran away from frogs and even butterflies; if you threw a ball at him he covered his face with his hands instead of trying to catch it. There are fathers who try to remedy this: “At-ten-hut! We will play catch now!” All they get is sons like Leucon, who nurse permanent grievances and still can’t catch.
Alex is now an award-winning young “creative” (n.) in the advertising industry, an overachiever, a best-little-boy-in-the-world who, by all appearances, doesn’t need an autobiography at his tender age. But, as a successful son of a successful father, Toronto decided he deserved one. By working in advertising, Alex joined the military–industrial–entertainment complex that his father works in and that facilitated the publication of a book. Alex’s unpopular days are a thing of the past.
(SMALL UPDATE: I have since seen shirtless photographs of Alex and a considerably older and taller stallion, a high-order specimen, who could reductively be called his boyfriend. For a boy who felt estranged from sports and from men, Alex sure has put in a lot of work at the gym. It’s all part of the overachiever syndrome, but I’m wondering why I didn’t see it coming.)
I hated guy talk…. The language they spoke was too limited to express certain key truths, like the fact that I worried I’d cry if someone punched me in the face, and sometimes felt sick with shame after teasing my sister and calling her names.
I see in this last paragraph the kernel of what makes gays better men, but that would be a discussion I will never have with Alex. I dropped him a line via the contact form of his Web site asking if he found it notable that his experience was immediately recognizable as nearly any young gay boy’s experience, but heard nothing back.
And there is one more surprise. Despite my lifelong fondness for gingers, up to and including retaining a mental catalogue of every gay ginger in town (I guess I’d missed one), all the present-day photographs in All Out clearly show that Kevin is the hotter Newman.