The music transitions to another 1989 banger “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling while the pair enter a spontaneous shirtless house party. Freckle, a gender-fluid starlet twirls their long hair, self-professed bisexual Lenjamin yells madly, and then, unexpectedly, Benecio pursues Caleb’s longtime “straight” crush Billy (an excellent example of the “Q” in LGBTQ.)
After a longing look at Caleb, who grants him approval, Benecio kisses Billy square on the lips. Everyone cheers in revelry. When they break the kiss, Caleb’s friend Karen jumps in and tonsil punches wildly with Billy. Here is the most colorful and yet the grayest scene of sexuality and gender decorating the web series.
This is how the series exists, in handsome, chaotic confusion. It’s a cobweb of he likes them, they like him, he likes her but also maybe him. A wild love prism in between black and white, the much needed antidote for Hollywood’s obsession with dichotomies and binaries. “The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo” is a much more fun, interesting, and hilarious The Breakfast Club.
Brian Alvarez buys my coffee in a Los Feliz cafe and talks intensely about his work as an actor, writer, and producer and doesn’t care who hears it. “Some people close to me are on me in such a disgusting way. They say everything doesn’t have to be gay and about sex and I just can’t even speak to that. I mean, shut the fuck up,” he pauses, “you fucking homophobes. You’re participating in the problem.” He looks right at a white wall with igneous eyes, “they are telling me to mute my gayness to become more successful.”
Brian did the reverse Hollywood. Instead of acting famously and coming out to the world after widespread rumors like celebrities Colton Haynes or Matt Bomer, Brian began his acting career as an out gay man by telling his own stories, not anyone else’s. His content is popular with his subscribers because he tells relatable and genuine stories plucked from his past.
Many of his followers are members of the queer community as quotes from his videos are thrown around West Hollywood and Silver Lake, but his content is picking up momentum in the mainstream as queer culture continues to lead America’s pop culture. The same straight men who are watching (and enjoying) RuPaul’s Drag Race with their girlfriends are clicking on Alvarez’s channel. Brian tells me about an actor in his series who is getting recognized in straight bars and gay bars around the US for his brief cameo in “Caleb Gallo.” Brian laughs, “everyone loves gay people. We’re the fucking best.”
But Brian doesn’t admit to a “gay agenda.” He says confidently “I want to make great things that I would watch over and over. And, I’m gay. So the stories that pop into my head, the drama I’ve had, is gay drama.”
Alvarez gives faces and identities to male characters far outside of the mainstream spectrum. The in-betweens: bisexuals, genderqueer/fluid people, and questioning cis-men. I ask if it’s deliberate. He says it’s not but that, “the thesis is: I want it all to be okay.” He says it twice. Loudly, so that all the coffee sippers around us hear.
We’re discussing Caleb Gallo’s feelings on monogamy because of a scene in Episode 4 where Caleb admits his attraction to another man who is pursuing Benecio and him in a hot spring. It’s an awkward scene to watch as his boyfriend storms out upset and bruised. Caleb’s response: “That’s fine, right? To say I’m attracted to somebody?”
This is the moment in a web series of laughs, quirk, and quick dialogue where we’re given our first moment to absorb the content and think. Brian is raising real questions that gay men (and humans no matter their orientation or gender) have been tinkering with for thousands of years. He doesn’t offer solutions but he is beginning conversations that so many people are curious about but are unable to draft. The conversations that can only come from queer culture and bridge themselves into the mainstream. He is raising the questions that prime time T.V. shows are too scared to mention.
Then, Brian asks me what I think of monogamy. He’s always musing and listening and I know he actually wants to know. I say maybe we’re not meant for it, but it’s a pretty to think we are. Brian says he’s compelled by the ideas in the book The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. We determine modern dating is distracted, much like Caleb admitting attraction to someone else in front of his boyfriend and doesn’t know what he really wants. Like crows picking up shiny things for their nests.
Yet the end of Episode 4 Caleb is gleeful and happy in his possibly polyamorous unnamed relationship though Alvarez admits Caleb is just as lost as he was in the first scene of the pilot episode as he looks out on a far too sparkling and far too littered Pacific ocean, his arms up to the sky trying to feel something.
Written by Miles Griffis