THE FABULOUS BEEKMAN BOYS
JOSH KILMER-PURCELL and BRENT RIDGE
by Andrew Mersmann
On the Planet Green TV network (www.planetgreen.discovery.com),
two gay men and a cast of characters that include an uber-emotional
goat farmer play out the drama of their life and relationships
on The Fabulous Beekman Boys. The couple, Josh
Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, were successful Manhattan
professionals: Josh a one-time drag queen, current author
and advertising executive, Brent as a VP an on-air talent
for Martha Stewart (Dr. Brent). Then they bought a mansion/farm
in upstate New York, and decided to take up the life of
or at least get outside and grow
their own food. There are parallels drawn to Green Acres,
but aside from the New York City/country dichotomy, the
comparisons stop there. Of course, a transition this large
isn't all unicorns and rainbows, and the effort of starting
a new, organic lifestyle brand (www.beekman1802.com)
takes its toll on their relationship and their dreams.
Josh needs to live in the city during the weeks and only
gets up to the farm on weekends, hoping to relax, while
Brent is a fulltime resident at Beekman and as soon as
Josh gets off the train is ready for him to get to work.
Their bucolic country getaway starts to wear them down
we watch, Wednesday nights at 9.
Josh, you are in Manhattan and Brent,
you're up at the farm?
Brent Ridge: Just like always
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Just like normal.
So you guys are all over my commuter
train when I ride home each night-rocking your sportcoats
and Wellies-is it fun being the centerpiece of such
a big campaign?
J: Planet Green put a lot of effort into it and
we're really grateful, but we're a long way from being
recognized on the street. I don't think we've felt any
difference, though we were just asked to be in a Fourth
of July parade in the city next to Sharon Springs
B: Of course I'm sequestered up at the
farm so I don't get to see them, but they did put a
big billboard up on the Westside Highway for the show
and we went over there to see it and take our picture
in front of it. When else in your life are you going
to have a big billboard?
Tell me a little about the Planet
Green connection-how did you end up there?
J: When we started the farm business-the website
to sell our soap and [other items], part of our effort
was to send out an email newsletter each month. Lauren
Michalchyshyn [president and general manager of Planet
Green] signed up for the newsletter, and after she got
two or three of them, she called us into New York and
said, "I think you guys have got a TV show."
It was pure serendipity.
This enterprise seems very on-brand
for Brent, former Vice President of Healthy Living for
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, but Josh maybe not
as much. Formerly Aqua, a drag queen with goldfish bowl
breasts, and current Manhattan advertising exec
we learn it was originally Josh's idea to buy a place
out of the city. That seems off target.
J: I think what makes it on target is our history
together. We both grew up in rural areas, lower middle
class, our families grew food... When it got to the
point in our careers where we could afford a country
place, the natural step for us was to find a place to
grow our own food, and do a little gardening.
How did the decision come about as
to who would be city mouse and who would be country
B: After buying the farm, it was going to be just a
weekend place where we could do some gardening and whatnot.
Then of course Farmer John showed up on our doorstep
and we adopted him and the goats. Things were just sort
of plugging along and we were using it as just a weekend
place. Then that fall, 2008, we both lost our jobs.
Like a lot of people we had to figure out what's going
to happen next. What do we do with our lives? What are
we going to do to pay this mortgage? So we said one
of us will have to commit ourselves to this project,
so whoever gets a job first will stay in the city and
the other one will go up to the farm and try to get
the business started.
J: And I think everything worked out
perfectly, for a reason. Brent has his MBA and he's
been able to do things for the business that I wouldn't
be able to do.
So what's the buzz on Farmer John?
Is he gay? Is he out? Does he live at the farm? Where?
Both: Yes, he's gay.
J: There's another house at the property
there where they live [John and his boyfriend].
And he just showed up and said, "I've
got these goats ad you've got space. Can we put them
J: Yeah. We actually got a letter from him right
after we moved in saying how much he loved his goats-you
can see that on the show and the letter was just as
heartfelt-and he had lost his farm. He had 30 days to
find a new home for his goats or he was going to have
to sell them at auction.
B: What's also very interesting about
that first contact was that, the second sentence in
his letter was, "My name is John and I'm gay."
Of course two people bought this farm and everyone knew
that we were gay immediately, so that was a selling
point for him-that he would understand us and we would
J: I think it's verrrry important about
Farmer John, to say he has a boyfriend. We've gotten
more fan love letters for John than for anybody else.
Did Farmer John and the goats turn
into the product idea of goat milk cheese and soap,
or did you have that plan and the goats showed up fortuitously?
B: We didn't have a plan when we first bought the
property. Even when John initially showed up, we were
just thinking of things we could do with goat milk for
our own use, so we were making our own cheeses and our
own yogurt, for ourselves. Then we learned how great
goat milk soap was and started making it for ourselves,
and that first winter we used it, we noticed, "Oh
wow, our skin is so amazing"
winters up here
are very harsh. That winter I was trying to think of
what to give Martha for Christmas, and I just made her
some soap, thinking that was a unique gift. And she
loved it, and she inspired us to start doing it on a
Has Martha called to congratulate
B: Oh yeah, she's actually in two episodes this
Since the show aired, are cheese
and soap sales up?
Both: Oh yeah.
Are reservations up at American Hotel?
Are they going to start being fully booked?
B: Yeah. I actually just had a meeting with the
town tourism board, and they've been getting call after
call of people wanting to come visit Sharon Springs.
The American Hotel and its proprietors-Doug
& Garth-had you known them before moving there?
J: They're the reason we're there. Every fall we used
to take a weekend apple-picking trip: We'd rent a car
and leave the city and just drive until we got lost.
One time we got lost in Sharon Springs, and found the
American Hotel. So we stayed there overnight and the
next day on the way out of town, we found Beekman.
Editing kind of makes Brent a tougher
nut to crack, or a bigger handful-but then you seem
so relaxed with Doug and Garth-laughing more with them
than with Josh. Is that just the producers cutting it
that way? We see a lot of tension between you guys and
then it's all funny and easygoing with the boys at the
B: Well the view they captured was during a very
stressful year for us. We were under a lot of financial
constraints; we were apart for the first time in our
ten-year relationship, and trying to launch a new business.
It was really, really stressful, so, I think our relationship
certainly reflected that in what they caught. I am very
business-focused and I would say 90% of the day I am
very focused because as a start-up company, that's what
it required. But I can sometimes let my hair down. My
hair's not very long, but I let it down.
What was your Manhattan life like
before the move? Were you seeking escape?
B: We worked a LOT. People in New York City are
working all the time. Even if you're going out after
work, it's usually for the purpose of work. We were
really dedicated to our jobs. We'd leave the house at
8 in the morning and get home at 9 at night and go to
bed-and that was pretty much it. It was very routine.
I'd say our life now is infinitely more interesting.
Tell me about the title-any intended
play off Fabulous Baker Boys aside from having a familiar
ring to it?
B: When we first got the place, people were saying,
"Those are the boys that bought the Beekman"
and then it was truncated to "Those are the Beekman
Boys." When it came time to come up with a title
for the show, we were trying to be very strategic and
thought, OK, on the channel guide, the name will be
cut off, so, what if the only word that shows is "Fabulous"?
Who wouldn't want to see what's fabulous? So that's
how we came up with The Fabulous Beekman Boys and it
was a fun play off the movie name.
Should we all go there?
J: We would love for people to travel to Sharon
The Harvest Festival (featured in the early episodes
of the show) is September 18. It's an amazing small
town festival day and then at night the American Hotel
has that incredible dinner that was on Episode 2. I
have to say it's a dinner experience that you would
find in any great city. The meal is terrific and there
are lectures about where the food is coming from. It's
an amazing experience.
B: I've already booked a table.