I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Bob Merrick.
Bob has a wide variety of guests on his radio show, but they all have one common theme: Bob and his guest co-hosts accentuate the positive in life. He brings attention to stories, organizations, people, and groups who are a positive influence in our world. He's a great person: fun, generous and making a huge difference in our world.
Here's The We Belong Project's interview with the talented Bob Merrick:
TWBP: Bob, thank you so very much for being willing to sit down and give us some insight into your life and work. I had so much fun being a guest on your show and knew I wanted to know more about you and the work you do. So what's your favorite part of your job?
Bob: Connecting and sharing with people and getting to meet and interview people like yourself!
TWBP: Thank you! Who has been your favorite person to interview and why?
Bob: Well, when it comes to "pinch me" moments, I still can't believe that I have had people like Wynonna Judd, Sandra Bernhard, and Guy Pearce on my show. But an interview that really meant a lot to me was with Geri Jewell. Most people remember her as Cousin Geri from The Facts of Life, which of course was why I was excited to meet her. But as I read her book and got to know her, I was completely blown away by this woman, who since the second she was born pre-maturely with cerebral palsy, has had to fight to live. Just imagine that for a moment. Since the second she was born, she has had to fight to live. We all take life for granted and here was this woman, that has overcome obscene amounts of physical and verbal abuse, struggled with sexuality and a manager that took all of her money who, when you meet her, has a smile that can light up a room, is hysterically witty and funny and has made a choice, in spite of it all, to live. I took so much away from that interview and just cherish her now.
TWBP: I love that you not only enjoy your guests but get inspired by them, as well. How has your experience of being an out gay man been working in the professional arena?
Bob: I have always had the attitude that when you meet me, you meet Bob first and foremost. The fact that I am gay is just part of the packaging that comes with me, the same as my hair color, my shoes, my voice, whatever it is. So I have always had the attitude that not everyone needs to like me and if it is because I am gay, then I will do my best to have them get to know me and if they still don't like me, that is on them and I am okay with that. At least I tried. So with that attitude, I have never gone into a work situation thinking that my being gay would be an issue and I think because of that, it has never been an obstacle. Of course, it helps that I'm 6'3" and built like an ox!
TWBP: LOL! You are not only tall, but handsome, as well. How was the coming out process for you?
Bob: I think I got lucky, especially when you consider it was the early 90s and there weren't a lot of examples for me to follow. I think the hardest person I had to come out to was myself. No one else was really surprised!
TWBP: I love that you addressed that the most important, and sometimes hardest person to come out to, is yourself. I could not agree more. Do you remember how your coming out happened?
Bob: I was working at a video distribution center and I had been obsessed with Billy Baldwin for months. While watching the movie Sliver, I had had this electric moment in my body, which I took as a sign I had finally found a male role model after years of following Madonna around. So I did all of these crazy things to emulate him, including dying my hair dark brown to match his. It's hilarious when I look back on it. One day I was working with a woman named Karen Hughes, who was a wonderfully open and proud lesbian, and I was putting up a display for Sliver and probably going on about Billy for the trillionth time, when she finally just asked me, If I could go on a date with anyone famous, who would it be? And I asked, "A romantic date or a friend date?" and she said, "Both." So I immediately said, "Bette Midler! What I wouldn't give to spend the evening listening to her tell stories all night!" As I told you, everyone knew but me! Then I paused and thought for a moment and finally said, "For a romantic date, it would be Billy Baldwin." And that was all I said. I just remember her closing the cash register till and saying we should take a break. She put her arm around me and walked me out to the back of the store while we continued our conversation. I will never forget her or that moment for as long as I live.
Not only did I come out in that moment, but I also learned the importance of kindness and letting someone find their own way. You can never make someone do something they aren't ready for, but because she provided me with a safe and kind space, I was able to find my own way. I guarantee, had she asked me point blank if I were gay, I'd have said absolutely not. I wish I knew where she was today so I could let her know how important that moment was for me.
TWBP: That is beautiful and very well said. Who would you say inspires you the most?
Bob: The single person that has had the greatest impact on my life would be my Aunt Heidi. I was about 16 when she came into my life, but it was really around 19 that she took this confused, lost, eager, wide-eyed and sad piece of rough diamond, that I think anyone else would've discarded as damaged coal, and polished me up into all that I have become. She helped my light to shine in a way I don't know it would have otherwise. She has inspired so many of my choices in life from the silly things like the wine and cheese I like, to relationships, jobs, how I dress, how I decorate. Truly, I would not be who I am today without her.
TWBP: Aunt Heidi sounds like she's an aunt we could all use. So, Bob, The We Belong Project talks a lot about healthcare and providing cultural safety to the LGBTQ population. How have you been treated by health care providers?
Bob: I think living in Los Angeles, I have been very lucky. It also helps that we now have things like Yelp and the internet, where we can really share our recommendations and bad experiences with others. I don't think I have gone to a single healthcare professional in 15 years that wasn't a firsthand recommendation. That being said, I spent 9 months last year in North Carolina and I am not sure what I would have done had I gotten really ill. I know most people wouldn't think that way and honestly, I rarely think that way, but when you are in a part of the country where people's views aren't quite as open, you become hyper aware of such things.
It is interesting when I look back that the few therapists I have had over time have all been heterosexual and have all been great with me, but I can vividly remember the moment with each of them that I had to be clear with them and gauge their reaction.Your health, whether mental or physical, is your most intimate and personal part of yourself. It's your body. The only one you get in your entire life on Earth and you are at your most vulnerable at the doctor's because you are typically there when something is wrong. You need to know you are safe and can be open about anything that is going on in your life, because there is no room for judgement at a time like that; the focus needs to be on the situation. I have been fortunate enough to avoid the discrimination, but it is a palpable concern.
TWBP: YES! You nailed it, Bob. I would like to say that you are an inspiration for me and for many people in terms of "making it," i.e. following your dreams and creating a great platform with a wide audience that accentuates the positive in life. What would your advice be to me or anyone else who has big dreams of making a difference but isn't sure where to start?
Bob: That is so funny, because I feel like I am just doing it so late in life! My number one piece of advice is DREAM BIG. It takes a lot to achieve your dreams and if you dream small, you'll be limiting yourself. It may also be an indication of how little you think of yourself. Dream big and believe you can do it, that you are worthy and capable. Dreaming big does not mean you are guaranteed to make it, but the bigger the dream, the more it will seep into everything you do and that is what creates a successful journey.Because that is what it is all about, right? The journey, not the end! Even right now, I realized once again, I didn't dream big enough. My dream was to have a morning radio show and teach aerobics in the evening. That seemed so far fetched to me, but I am already there. That doesn't mean I am even close to my end game, though, which means I didn't dream big enough. So now I have just started writing in my journal Become the next Ryan Seacrest times ten because that man knows how to dream BIG!
TWBP: That is awesome! You are so insightful and you have proven to be a very effective manifester of your dreams. I love that you brought up loving yourself. This is huge for many of us. You wrote a column called "Love Handles" for Out Magazine. This chronicled your experience with your own body in terms of self-acceptance, health, love, and dating. I LOVED this story and it moved me to read the last chapter, especially. Many of us struggle with self acceptance when we live in a society that would have us believe we are not acceptable. What can you tell us about your experience with self acceptance and loving your body?
Bob: I can tell you enough to write a book! I have learned that you can't compare yourself to anyone else. Your thighs, your nose, your hair, your stomach. None of it. You can only compare yourself to you. Are you better than you were a year ago? Then you are doing good. Are you thinner than you were a year ago? Then carry on. If there are things that you aren't happy with yourself, you have the power to change them. But you have to do it from a place of kindness. I still struggle with my weight, but nothing like I used to because I am kind to myself. I used to be so mean to myself when clothes wouldn't fit or the scale jolted me to an alarming reality, and all that would do is make me feel worse and eat more and gain more. I have learned that my weight doesn't define me and that I am a good person above all. There are years I am in great shape and looking good and years that I have lost touch with myself, but the constant is that I am a good person and for years, I believed that being overweight also meant I was a bad person. So my number one lesson, be kind to yourself. That doesn't mean you deserve a piece of cake, but it does mean you deserve to smile when you look in the mirror. Everything else is relative.
TWBP: Kindness. Yes. Also? I think you should write that book! :) Speaking of which, what are your goals for the future?
Bob: Well now that I have said it, I guess to be bigger than Ryan Seacrest! Honestly, to continue to grow my audience. To use my platform to create dialogue and conversation about change, understanding, compassion, equality. I will never hit anyone on the head about equality, because I don't believe that is how it is effectively done. I believe if you want to be treated equal, you need to behave equal, and that is the conversation I hope my show creates.
TWBP: Well, you are already bigger than Ryan Seacrest in my opinion. I so admire and appreciate your worldview and the kindness, knowledge, and love that you emanate. I know you will continue to grow your platform and will continue to be a beautiful agent for lasting, positive change. One last thing before you go. Can you give the readers at The We Belong Project a random fact about you?
Bob: Everyone knows that I have been a huge Madonna fan since I was 10 years old. I've loved her as an entertainer and she's in the top 5 people that have influenced me on my journey. That being said, she is the only person I never want to meet. Not to say I would avoid it ever happening, but I would never go out of my way.
TWBP: Interesting! Well, I can imagine that soon one day, she will want to meet YOU! :) Bob, thank you so very much for your time and your thoughtful insight into your life and your driving beliefs. As I said earlier, you are an inspiration to me and I am happy to know there are people like you in our world, and in our family. Much love to you on your journey.
ABOUT THE BAUB SHOW:
THE BAUB SHOW is the official morning show at UBN Radio and features Jeff Schroeder from Big Brother and The Amazing Race as co-host. Broadcasting live Monday through Thursday from 9 to 11am (PST) with a "Best of the Week" show on Fridays, the show then lives in the station’s online archives and on iTunes as a free podcast. While Bob Merrick has been doing this show for the last 4 years, it is at his new home of UBN Radio that he is excited to be bringing in an average of 80,000 listeners/downloads a week to the station. THE BAUB SHOW focuses on the positive side of pop culture and human interest stories without misbehaving starlets, politics or gossip. Notable guests have included musicians Macy Gray, Gavin DeGraw, Jane Wiedlin, David Archuleta, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick from N’SYNC; actors Neve Campbell (Scream), Anna Farris (House Bunny), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Retta (“Parks and Recreation”), Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie), Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”; “Revolution”); Celebrity chefs Michael Voltaggio (“Top Chef” winner) and Ludo Lefebvre (“The Taste”); authors Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened), Josh Kilmer-Purcell (The Fabulous Beekman Boys);
ABOUT THE HOST:
Host Bob Merrick dove in head first into the Hollywood scene seventeen years ago, working behind the scenes on such films as Wild Wild West, Deep Impact, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath, Three Kings, 13 Going on 30, Rent, Across The Universe and most recently, Iron Man 3 for Marvel Studios. In 2005, he wrote a bi-weekly column called “Love Handles” for Out.com, chronicling his struggles with body image and finding love as well as celebrity interviews and entertainment features for the magazine. In addition to cameos in “Kathy Griffin’s My Life On The D-List” and VH1’s “My Fair Brady”, Merrick was most excited appearing as a featured dancer in Richard Simmon’s iconic DVD series, Sweatin’ to the Oldies 5. He is currently the voice in an in-development cartoon series called, The Toadalees, which was created by Mark Johnson and is being produced by Lance Bass. Having formed deep relationships along the way with notable Hollywood personalities, it was only a matter of time until he found the right platform to share his passion for pop culture. With an authentic and larger than life personality, big heart and open mind, Merrick’s character is a natural fit as a host of The Baub Show on UBN Radio. In addition to his own weekly show, he can often be heard co-hosting Dirty Pop with Lance Bass on SiriusXM 108.