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Campers passing a silver, vintage trailer dressed in tacky decorations – those pink flamingos are really something – can’t help but stare. Situated among other RVs, this one is ueber-special: It’s the loaned home to Chris Carter and John Simpson, the duo “rescuing” Michigan for the third season of their, well, campy help-a-gay show, “Chris & John to the Rescue!”
“I’ve got people who wanna buy it from me now,” says Sally Howard, co-owner of Saugatuck’s Campit Gay & Lesbian Outdoor Resort, where the team’s staying while shooting scenes for the five-episode series. “I’ll be renting it next year on a full-year lease. And they’re leaving most of the decorations, so I’m gonna rent it as the ‘Chris and John Decorated Trailer.'”
Wrapping on Aug. 29 with some random fill, the previous couple of weeks resulted in the Super-Gays rescuing a woman from her distressing burrito dilemma, trying to find a camping soul mate for a local dude – and tidying up The Dunes Resort. For last season’s Provincetown, Mass. setting, Carter and Simpson were spoiled with luxurious perks. But being in what Carter calls a “jewel” of the Midwest has proved more rewarding – even without living the Paris Hilton lifestyle.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he says, “I have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world right now. We have no TV. No access to anything. It’s so isolated, which looks great on camera, but we definitely agree that this is like the best year ever.”
The 20-something guys contacted Howard in the spring, pitching her the idea of filming at the resort, along with other camping digs. But to save production dollars, they completely ditched the concept of using multiple locations and decided to solely utilize Campit and surrounding areas, including parts of Chicago, as the show’s setting.
“We’ve got people in crowd scenes. We’ve got people who got speaking lines,” Howard says, “just because when they got here, Chris and John said, ‘Hey, come over here. You need to be on camera.'”
The end result? “The people we rescued this year are by far the best we’ve ever had. They’re totally like exuberant-American types. Which we love.”
Like Debbie Black.
Howard says the guys just couldn’t resist her (Carter calls her “over-the-top”), and describes the Chicago native as someone who’s “got more personality than three people combined.” We soon find out: That’s no exaggeration.
The chirpy professor stumbled upon her second on-screen stint – the first being on short-running “The Queen Latifah Show” (her “claim to fame,” she says), where she donated three feet of hair to a young girl – while vacationing at the resort with her wife of 22 years. She gushed over the gig and the guys, who helped rid a lurking spirit in her home: “The most creepiest of all is every time I have this feeling of being in the house, I can’t keep down burritos – and burritos are my favorite food,” she says.
In swoops the paranormal expert, a local psychic and the rescuing duo, which ends with an exorcism on the final night. Scoring the part was purely serendipitous, as Black scooted past the Avion trailer thinking they were – because of a hole dug in the ground, planted trees and a mailbox – setting up for a fab party.
“By nature I’m really nosy,” she says, “and I’m always into a good time.”
No shindig ever brewed, but when Black inquired at the resort’s front desk, discovering a reality series was being shot on the same campground she was vacationing at, she hurried to the trailer with a “fabulous piece of stationery” inscribed with: “Welcome to the gayborhood. My name is Debbie Black. I’m practically famous in my college where I work. I’ve been on ‘The Queen Latifah Show’ before. I’m sure you need to meet me.”
The note was left with some flamingos as a gift, and Black now has a second credit to her name. And the luck didn’t end with her. Adam J. Martin got wind of it, too.
“I’ve never owned a television, and I’ve never seen a reality show,” admits Martin, 25, who was there facilitating a young gay men’s group. “It was a huge exercise in letting go of control and, at the same time, just putting myself out there publicly and feeling more wholly a part of my generation.”
And watching as four guys fought – by overcoming obstacles like sitting in an outhouse for 10 minutes or drinking a camp-food concoction – to become Martin’s “camping soul mate.” Silly and severely self-deprecating, the Kalamazoo native’s first time on film, which was shot over a day and a half, wasn’t nearly as bad as someone who’s got zippo knowledge of reality TV could’ve been. And the final outcome?
Well, he’s only slightly worried: “I have no control of the output. Like, I don’t know if they’re gonna represent me in this light or that light. It was a way of really letting go of any sense of direction on my part. And it was very freeing.”
With the air date to-be-announced (last season was shown on Canadian station OUTtv and locally on here!), we might be waiting a while before we know whether Martin walked away with a camping “friend” – or if Black can go back to eating burritos – but we can find comfort in Carter’s positive words about our state: “I don’t think it’s hopeless at all. In terms of rescuing people, there’s been a few doozies – people who just really need help – but otherwise, other than that, they pretty much got it all together.”