Thom Bierdz appeared on The Young and the Restless as Phillip Chancellor III from 1986-1989. Following his exit from the top-rated soap, he authored a memoir, Forgiving Troy. Now he has written another, and this one promises to reveal intimate details of the actor’s life in both words and in pictures.
Bierdz ended his run after Phillip succumbed to injuries he sustained in a drunk driving accident in 1989… or so it appeared. Despite dying on-camera, surrounded by loved ones, Phillip, in reality, had faked his death and moved to Australia so he could, as viewers found out 20 years later in 2009, live his life as a gay man.
After Phillip returned to Genoa City to explain his actions and come out to his loved ones, the character soon skipped town once again. Now, Bierdz – an accomplished artist – has written an autobiography titled Young, Gay, And Restless, which is due out on November 1.
Soap Hub spoke to Bierdz about his memoir and a variety of subjects in part one of this two-part interview.
What prompted you to write another book?
It’s the most honest book anyone will ever read. I wanted to make money. I have rent to pay! I wanted to test myself too and see if I had overcome the sexual shaming from my childhood. This was a fun exercise all in all. I really put everything that anybody would be humiliated [by] and cringe at into a book. I’m finding it liberating.
How many people have you shared it with to get feedback?
I’ve shown it to about 15 people as it was a work in progress the last couple of years.
Today, Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer and others can be out, working actors. Can you describe the climate in the 1980s soap opera world where actors weren’t able to be out?
Isn’t that weird to see that when you look back? Living in Los Angeles for so long, there’s an understanding and an open-minded community [here]. But being gay in the ’80s, nobody came out. In 2009, I was the first out gay actor on a soap opera. Before then, it was absolutely unheard of. It just wasn’t done.
Actors are encouraged to stay in the closet so female audience members can more easily fantasize about the guys they see onscreen. Do you think that’s still the case?
Maybe that’s the same reason that Playgirl, from what I understand, isn’t really open to their naked men [models] saying they’re gay. [Laughs] I was rejected three times from Playgirl, which is one reason I’m fully nude in this book. Maybe they’re afraid it will kill the fantasy?
You’re posing nude in your book?
What went into that decision?
I had already decided that I was going to pose nude to promote the book because I realize I’m not that famous. For me to get my name out there, the best way would be to pose nude. I was willing to do that anyway. People said why don’t you put it in the book? I’m like, ‘Yeah. Okay. Why not?’
Do you think the AIDS crisis in the 1980s contributed to actors feeling that they could not come out?
Sure. There was a huge stigma there. About the same time that I was on Y&R, kissing the daughter [Lauralee Bell, Cricket] of the producer [William J. Bell], it hadn’t been that long before when on Dynasty that Rock Hudson was kissing Linda Evans and there was a nationwide panic because he looked sickly and we found out he had AIDS.
That was at a time when there was still debate over how the HIV virus was transmitted.
Exactly. That’s important information. That’s right. That’s right. Nobody knew. I didn’t know. They didn’t know.
Did you reach out to people in the book and say, ‘this is what I remember happening. What do you remember?’
First of all, I’m not a mean-spirited guy. My biggest fear is hurting people. My book is not intended to hurt anyone. The few bad relationships I’ve had that I speak of, I don’t say who they are. As far as Y&R, the only thing I say is that they discontinued my gay storyline. I’m not faulting them. I’m just reporting the truth.
Check back with Soap Hub for the second part of Bierdz’s interview!
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS. Check local listings for airtimes.