Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – It’s rare that gay men from Michigan – let alone Metro Detroit – are taken seriously by their brethren in other parts of the country. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that the hottest, sexiest and most exciting gay men live in West Hollywood, New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Dallas?
That’s probably what the editors and readers of Genre magazine assumed earlier this year when voting began for the first-ever Genre Man of the Year. After all, what chance did the sole entry from backwater Michigan have in a contest dominated by hotties from those other, more gay-centric cities?
“That was my whole goal for this: to make sure we WOULD come out on top,” laughed “Regular Joe” Joe Fitrzyk the day after being named Genre Man for 2006. And he accomplished that by tackling it the same way he jumps into all of his creative campaigns. “[The other contestants] were better looking people, younger, whatever – but I did what I do best, which is marketing, and that’s why it was successful. It was a marketing contest.”
Fitrzyk, who was recently promoted to vice president, creative director at one of the area’s major advertising agencies, trounced his 83 competitors by garnering 29,216 votes – slightly more than 10 percent of the total and more than twice that received by the runner-up. “Everywhere I went I was pimping Detroit and pimping this contest because I knew this was the only way I was going to win, [given] all the beauty and brawn I was up against,” he said.
It didn’t take long for the advertising executive to recognize the competitive nature of the event. “I came out of the gates pretty early,” he said. “I thought at first I could rely just on my friends and coworkers, but I’d go to bed at night with a pretty good lead, and I’d wake up in the morning in sixth place. So I kind of packaged myself.”
And he did so with much success. The Detroit Free Press picked up his story, as did numerous Web sites and Internet blogs. MySpace, in particular, proved to be an excellent marketing tool. “Unfortunately, not all of those people may like you,” he noted.
Overall, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience, Fitrzyk said. However, one aspect of the contest turned into a profound learning experience: the overwhelming support he received from the straight community. “That was lovely, because I blame [them] every time I hear someone is trying to ban gay marriage or restrict our rights. But I think Midwesterners are beginning to understand the kinds of slings and arrows we’ve had to deal with. [Their support] really opened my eyes and changed my thinking. I need to stop the reverse discrimination and stop lumping all straights into a tidy stereotype.”
What stung, however, were comments that came from the home team. “There were more than a few gays who were very mean spirited. I was criticized for being too fat, too thin, too this, too that. This was a contest for ‘Regular Joes,’ not models, so that was a little harsh.”
Even a few friends made negative comments, and – apparently – a few of his competitors encouraged their supporters to bombard Fitrzyk with “1” votes to depress his overall rating.
Ultimately, none of that mattered. “You have to have a thick skin to be in any type of public situation like that, and it was humbling for me. But my numbers were far stronger, so I squashed those bitches pretty quickly,” he chuckled.
Although prizes have not yet been announced, Fitrzyk plans on donating his winnings to the Triangle Foundation. “They do important work.”
Would Genre Man of the Year do it all over again? “I’m going to be 34 in April, and in gay years, that’s like 107, so for me to be named Man of the Year is lovely. But honestly, I’m grown up now and have a career and a partner I need to focus on. So no, I need to get back to my regularly scheduled life.”