Mitchell Gold, co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, recently published a coffee-table book, The Comfortable Home, written with business partner Bob Williams and Mindy Drucker.
Below are photos I took during Gold’s book signing (and company holiday party) Thursday night at his Miami showroom in the Design District.
This is Gold’s second book in a year. In 2008, he wrote (also with Drucker) Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.
Here’s the article I wrote last year at the time Gold published Crisis:
Averting crisis: Growing up gay in America
BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
''I debated how to do it. An overdose of sleeping pills seemed somewhat painless,'' Gold writes in his new book, Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America. ``I considered other tactics -- driving a car off a cliff, running in front of a train, jumping off a building -- but I knew I didn't have the guts.''
Gold, 57 and chairman of furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, began to get back his self-esteem during college, with the help of a psychiatrist and support from his parents.
''We really didn't know much until he started growing up,'' said Gold's father Jack, 87, of Pompano Beach. ``He kept it all to himself.''
Mitchell Gold came from a middle-class, Reform Jewish household in Trenton, N.J. He didn't hear anything blatantly antigay at home or in synagogue.
But his parents occasionally joked about fagelas (Yiddish for ''queers'') and he recalls hearing adults at the local country club dismiss homosexuals as ``mentally unstable.''
''When you grew up hearing those things it wasn't very comforting for a kid who was discovering his sexual orientation,'' Gold said.
In 1989, Gold and his then-life partner Bob Williams co-founded their North Carolina furniture business with a $60,000 investment. Sales now exceed $100 million and the company has about 20 showrooms, including one that opened this year in Miami's Design District.
In 2005, Gold began Faith in America, a nonprofit aimed at ``the way religion is being used against gay people today.''
'It got to the point where I said, `This is really crazy. Somebody's got to speak up about it,' '' Williams said. ``The [gay] advocacy organizations did not get to the root of the problem. If you look at the people who are anti-gay, they are using their religious beliefs to justify it.''
Above, Mitchell Gold and his father, Jack, in the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams showroom in Miami. Photo by Marice Cohn Band, Miami Herald Staff
BY THE BOOK
Gold, last year named to Out magazine's Top 50 Most Powerful Gay People in America list, convinced 40 of America's best-known gay activists and celebrities to write chapters for Crisis ($24, Greenleaf Book Group Press).
''It's not a book of beautiful coming-out stories,'' said Gold, who will donate Crisis profits to seven gay-youth advocacy groups. ``It is a book about people when they discover their same-sex orientations and the immediate crisis they feel in their lives and the years that follow.''
Among the authors of the first-person stories: The Rev. Gene Robinson, an Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire; ex-New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey; Candace Gingrich, younger sister of Newt; U.S. Reps. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin; and former pro baseball player Billy Bean of Miami Beach. Tennis star Martina Navratilova wrote the introduction.
One chapter has particular meaning to Gold. It is written by actor Richard Chamberlain -- Gold's first boyhood crush.
''I was like 11 or 12. I was starting to realize that when I saw Dr. Kildare, that was very exciting to me,'' Gold said about watching Chamberlain as the handsome TV doctor in the early 1960s. 'I wanted to be his friend. Then, I really wanted to be his friend. At one point I began to realize, `Why aren't I looking at the nurses on the show the same way?' ''
FROM THE PULPIT
''What's very poignant in the book is raising the sin question. That's very, very excellent. We have to hit on that issue,'' said The Rev. Irene Monroe of Cambridge, Mass. ``[Crisis] definitely needs to be in the classrooms, on the college campuses. It needs to be [taught] in high schools under social studies.''
She calls the book ''reader friendly.'' ''You're not reading the boring stuff,'' Monroe said. ``It's human stories coming alive.''
Monroe, in her late 40s, grew up in ''the traditional black church'' and graduated from Harvard's divinity school. A lesbian, she spends much of her time speaking about gay issues. Her story heads the first chapter in Crisis, in the section, ``Religious Discrimination: Could You Live With Being Called An Abomination?''
Crisis ''gives a much more comprehensive look at how pervasive homophobia is,'' Monroe said. ``In the media, we hear the religious diatribe. But it's the bully in school, it's the homophobic relative, it's that co-worker. . . . It's not always what they say, but the look they give you.''
Matt Comer, 22, grew up attending a strict Baptist church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
''About 10 or 11 years old,'' Comer said, 'I made the connection that the words my preacher used were about me: `Put all the queers in a ship, pluck a hole in the side and send it out to sea.' ''
Comer said he was ``scared to death to even let anybody know what I was feeling.''
''I became very extreme in my religious teachings,'' he said. ``In middle school, I was carrying a Bible to school every day. I condemned my science teacher for teaching evolution. That's what I was taught. It was nothing but a wall, a defensive mechanism. I didn't want anyone to know what I was feeling. If I was the perfect Baptist preacher boy, no one would find out.''
At age 14, he couldn't keep his secret anymore and told everyone he is gay.
``When I did come out, the door kind of flew right open. I was very loud and proud. There was nothing subtle about it.''
Comer said he got no guidance from his church or family. ``I had the benefit of some very understanding teachers. If it had not been for those teachers, life for the rest of the eighth grade would have been hell. It was already hell. It would have been worse.''
In high school, Comer started a gay-straight alliance, which grew to about 40 members by the time he graduated. Today, he is editor of Q-Notes, the gay newspaper in Charlotte, N.C.
Comer still believes deeply in Christianity. ``When you know everyone else will turn their back on you, or have turned their back on you, the only person you have left is Jesus and God. They'll always be there for you.''
Mitchell Gold portrait by Sally Fanjoy + James Labrenz