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The Barbara Walters Special, Friday, July 18, 2008:
"Good evening and welcome to this edition of the Barbara Walters Special. Over the years I have interviewed celebrities, politicians and world leaders. Not many have touched my heart like my guests tonight."
"In the past few days and weeks, there have been a lot of speculation about this actor that is in our spotlight tonight. Chip Dodds is well known around the world for his portrayal as the baby brother of the evil and underhanded J.R. Ewing on the hit nighttime drama Dallas. He also had a recurring special guest starring role on the hit crime-drama show Walker, Texas Ranger, portraying the same character he did on Dallas. Until a few years ago, he was also known as one of Hollywood's most eligible gay bachelors. Now, he has a partner that he adores and a family that he loves and cherishes."
"Regardless of your personal opinions on the issue of homosexuality, what you are about to see is a special about love, compassion, and courage. I'll leave the remainder of my comments until the very end."
The camera showed Chip and Barbara walking around the backside of the pool as he waved his hand past the lawn. "When I bought this house back in 1989, there were other undeveloped properties behind me and on one side. I learned that at the time a developer wanted to put in a new division back here. So I bought out almost the whole parcel with some of my neighbors on this side of the street."
"So how large is this piece of land?" Barbara asked.
"I think it's close to 20 acres. Most of it is out behind the house."
"Any plans for it?"
"I think we'll just leave it as is for now. One neighbor a couple of houses down has already extended his backyard out into it. We're happy with what we have." They continued to walk and came to the patio.
"This is nice. You said it was new?" Barbara asked as she settled into a rattan chair, indicating the recently-completed pool and hot tub.
Chip nodded and joined her. "That's right. I did some remodeling out here and throughout the entire house not long ago."
"You were twenty years old at the time you bought this house. Why here in the Dallas area? Why not out in Los Angeles or even New York?" Barbara asked.
"To me, both Los Angeles and New York are just too big for my taste," Chip replied. "I do have a condo that I own that's located in a secure building out in Los Angeles. I use it when I'm out there working on a project."
"So Dallas is your permanent home now?"
"Yes, it is," Chip responded, smiling. "I'm originally from the Little Rock area of Central Arkansas, but I've claimed Dallas and Texas as my home."
Barbara then spoke, "If you don't mind, I'd like to get a little personal." Chip waved his hand with a smile for her to continue. "So what was it like hiding your sexual orientation and tell us about the experience?"
"When I was younger and just starting out on Dallas, I always thought I was different and that it was just a phase or something that I was going through," Chip said.
"Did being a public figure and in the press constantly cause you problems?"
"It did. I was scared that someone would find out," Chip said. "Here I was, an early teenaged kid and having these feelings about other boys. There were times that I was embarrassed about myself."
"Did your fellow cast members know about you and have you bury everything?"
"I came out to the cast and stage crew when I was fifteen," Chip responded. "I was expecting everyone to hate me for being gay. I was at the point that I was getting myself ready to quit the show if they hated me being gay."
"Obviously, they didn't have a problem with it since you remained on the show," Barbara said.
"Everyone was great about it, especially Larry, Patrick, and Steve," Chip replied. "The only one on the cast that give me the cold shoulder was Ms. Reed."
"You're referring to Donna Reed, am I correct?" Barbara asked.
"Yes," Chip said. "All this took place during the season that she had the role as Miss Ellie."
"But you two had scenes together," Barbara said. "How did that work out?"
"We did our lines and our scenes with each other, but that was it," Chip said. "Ms. Reed always gave me a wide berth when we were around each other."
"She was fired from the show at the end of that season, correct?" Barbara asked.
"Yes, she was," Chip replied. "Barbara Bel Geddes wanted to come back and resume her role as Miss Ellie, so Ms. Reed was let go."
"Your being gay and the fact that you didn't get along with Donna Reed wasn't a factor in her firing from Dallas, am I correct?" Barbara asked.
"That's correct," Chip replied.
"So tell us how you met Brandon and his family?" Barbara said, changing the subject.
Chip smiled at the thought of Brandon. "Brandon, Joanna, and their family moved into the neighborhood in 2001," he replied. "I got to know them as friends and neighbors. I knew then that Brandon was special. I just didn't know how special he was."
Barbara noticed the smile on Chip's face. "But now you do, correct?" she asked.
"You bet I do," Chip responded, smiling. "He and the kids are the best things that's happened to me."
"So what happened that brought the two of you to where you are today?" Barbara asked.
"After Dallas went off the air back in 1991, I was spending more and more time here in Texas," Chip responded. "When Brandon and Joanna moved into the neighborhood, the three of us became good friends. When Joanna was diagnosed with cancer, they asked me to become the godfather of their kids, whom I watched grow up into the good looking children that they are today. I'll let him talk about what happened in more detail."
"How about filling us in on what happened after you first got together as a couple?" Barbara asked. "Was it one of those major moments of your life?"
Chip's smile lit up his face. "Yeah. People always talk about the moments that change your life and that was definitely one for me."
"Was it love at first sight?"
Again Chip smiled with a little blush. "For me it was. When I met him, I knew then and there that my life wouldn't be the same."
"Why was that?"
"When I met Brandon, he was married to Joanna," Chip replied. "I will say that we did get to know each other as friends and didn't really get together and discover our feelings for each other until I got a fateful call from Joanna when she was in the hospital. I'll let Brandon talk about all of that."
"And after that call is when the two of you discovered the mutual feelings for each other?" Barbara asked.
"Oh, definitely. It's like we're meant for each other, it's hard to explain. We immediately felt comfortable in each other's presence for long periods of time. We've both done a lot of thinking about this and can't come up with any way to explain it." Chip shrugged. "Sounds corny but we're soul mates."
"How did your cast mates feel about this relationship when you broke the news to them?"
"They have been nothing but supportive of me and Brandon."
"Any words of advice to other closeted gays and lesbians?"
"I'm hardly one to spread words of wisdom. I did what I thought I had to do and was right for me at the time. If I can say anything then it would be to trust yourself and do what you feel in your heart is right for you. If that means coming out, then do it, but only if if feels right and that you feel safe and comfortable in doing it."
During the break:
"Well, so far so good," Patrick said.
"That was the easy part," Chip said. He noticed that Brandon wasn't joining in on the playful banter. "Baby, are you okay?" he asked Brandon.
"Yeah," Brandon replied. "I'll be glad when all of this is over and done with."
"And it will be, Baby. I promise," Chip said, giving Brandon a deep passionate kiss on the lips.
"Okay," Larry said, laughing. "You two need to go get a room."
"We've got one, thank you very much. Besides, Larry, you're just jealous 'cause Linda isn't here," Brandon snickered.
"Yeah, right," Larry said as he threw a pillow at the couple. The two of them both ducked, causing the pillow to hit Patrick in the face.
"Hey, what's the big idea hitting me in the face with a pillow?" Patrick asked.
Larry blushed, "Sorry there, Pat. I was aiming for the Gruesome Twosome sitting next to you."
"Yeah, right," Patrick said, throwing the pillow back towards Larry.
The next scene showed Brandon and Barbara walking through the house. "After lunch, Brandon took me on a tour of the inside of the house. He told me about his childhood in the state of Oklahoma and about his family. Brandon is the oldest son of four children and a father of three children; his oldest son Kenneth, or Kenny as he likes to be called, is now eleven. The twins, Jonathan and Jennifer, are eight. Their pictures and those of both families sit on the top of the baby grand piano in the living room."
The scene changed to the living room where Barbara was in one of the wing back chairs while Brandon was on the couch.
"I know both of you have said alot about your feelings for each other. Chip used the term soul mates. Is it that way for you?"
Brandon grinned. "He loves to talk about it that way but, yeah, he's described it the best way we can. I think we both felt that instant connection when we first met. I honestly feel like I was meant to be with him."
"Was it love at first sight for you?"
"Oh yeah. When I first met Chip, I knew then that my life wouldn't be the same after that day," Brandon sighed then replied. "At the time we did first met, I was already married to my wife Joanna. She knew that I was gay. I had always been up front with her about that. I still remember that day she laid that bombshell on me in the hospital . . . "
|***** Flashback *****
Baylor Medical Center, Dallas, TX, February 20, 2002:
Brandon opened the door to Joanna's room and saw her just hang up the phone.
"Brandon, sit and listen to me," Joanna said.
Brandon sat down and took her hand. Joanna shivered at his touch. She then spoke, "I want you to promise me you will follow your heart after I am gone."
"What do you mean?" Brandon asked her.
Joanna sighed and looked up. She was trying to find a good way to say what she had to say. "I want you to find a good man and fall in love with him and be happy," she said bluntly. Brandon took a sudden breath in. "Yes, dear, I know. In fact I've known for a long time now," she then continued.
"You don't hate me?" Brandon asked.
"How can I hate you?" Joanna asked. "You've sacrificed so much of your life so that me and the kids could have a good life. I love you for what you did."
"But I lied to you," Brandon said, tears flowing down his face.
"No, you didn't lie to me. You promised me you would love me and only me. And you did. You never once cheated on me, and for that I will always be grateful. Now that I am leaving you and the kids, I want you to find the true love of your life and settle down and be happy. In fact I am sending a very attractive man here to help you." She smiled at Brandon and took his hand and kissed it lightly. "Want to know who he is?"
"You're dying and you still have time to match make for me?" Brandon asked shocked. She laughed softly while nodding. "Ok who is it?" Brandon asked.
"You know him already," Joanna said. "It's Chip," she said with a grin.
"And you think something is going to happen?" Brandon asked. 'Chip was a very attractive man,' Brandon thought to himself. 'But I'm not looking for a man right now. I'm desperately trying to hold onto my wife.'
"Well, he is gay, you know," she giggled.
"How do you know that?" Brandon demanded.
"Because he told me," she replied. "And he is single!"
***** End Flashback *****
"Even when she was dying in the hospital, she was still looking out for me and my happiness," Brandon faltered at that point and wiped his eyes.
Chip was there immediately and sat next to him and pulled his husband into his arms. He wrapped his arms around Brandon and squeezed tightly while kissing his temple. The cameras got a close up then showed Barbara dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "I'm sorry."
Barbara shook her head. "No, you have nothing to be sorry about. We can continue later if you'd like?"
"No.. I'm fine." Brandon leaned his head against Chip's, letting the older man comfort him on camera. "She was laid to rest and I began the process to move on for me and my kids. Shortly after the funeral, Chip told me that we, meaning the kids and myself, were more than welcome to stay with him full time. It was then that I decided to sell mine and Joanna's house."
"Tell us a little more about your late wife, Joanna," Barbara said.
Brandon smiled at the memory of the day he met Joanna. "We both were seniors at Longview High School when we met. The way we met was that we literally ran into each other with our cars." Brandon smiled big at the memory. "Since there was no major damage done to either vehicle, we just simply exchanged insurance information. I wound up calling her later the next day and asked her out. We went out that night to dinner at a local restaurant and later went to a movie."
"This was in August of 1995?" Barbara asked.
"Yes, it was. We dating our entire senior year then we moved into our first apartment about two weeks after graduation from high school in June of 1996," Brandon said. "We were together for seven years when she passed away. We got married in August of 1996."
"So how does Chip compare to Joanna?" she asked.
Brandon looked over to Chip, who had his arm around Brandon's shoulders. "There's no comparison, Barbara. They are two totally different people. Joanna was a good and kind woman, but she is in my past now. Chip is my present and my future."
"Now, let's get a little more personal, shall we?" Barbara asked
"Sure," Brandon replied.
"Where did Chip fit in with this?"
"When the kids and I moved in with Chip, I was a mess emotionally for a while and couldn't even think of being with someone else. I kept thinking that if I completely opened up to Chip that I would forget about Joanna."
"And did you?"
"No, I didn't," Brandon said. "Chip told me, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't want, nor did he intend, to replace Joanna. He was there because he loved me, and wanted to be with me."
"It sounds like you were in for the long haul, Chip?"
"I was, and I still am," Chip replied. "I love Brandon and the kids with all my heart and soul."
"How do your children accept Chip?" Barbara asked.
"They fully accept him as their second parent. After we had our commitment ceremony, I took on Chip's last name, and he surprised me by adopting the kids as his own and giving them his last name as well."
"So you and your children carry the last name 'Dodds' then?" Barbara asked.
"That's right," Brandon said, leaning into Chip, snuggling up against the older man. "We are truly a family." Brandon continued.
"Are your children here with you tonight, guys?" Barbara asked.
"Just Kenny is here with us tonight," Chip replied. "The twins are with my parents because Jennifer has a major cold."
"What do you say he joins you on camera?" Barbara asks.
"Sure thing," Chip said.
Kenny then joined his parents on the couch, sitting between then. Both Chip and Brandon hugged their son before he turned his attention to the camera and Barbara. "Hello, Ms. Walters," he said.
"Hello, Kenny, and welcome. You can call me Barbara, okay?"
"Now Kenny," she asked. "what do you think about everything that has been said about your parents over the last few months, especially about your Pop?"
"Well," Kenny said in a tone that neither Chip or Brandon recognized. "This is what I think about it. I think that those people that are talking about Pop are just plain mean. If I didn't think that Pop wasn't good for Daddy, then I wouldn't have did what I did to help them get married." When Kenny said that, all three adults laughed.
Chip and Brandon both embraced their son. Chip then spoke up. "Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom."
Barbara then added, "Well, that's a very adult way of putting things, Kenny. Do you always know what's best for your parents?"
"Yup. Without me, they'd be lost," Kenny replied with a huge grin on his face, causing the adults laugh out loud again.
"Okay, Kenny," Barbara said. "I do want to thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here tonight. Do you have any final thoughts or comments?"
Chip tenderly clutched Brandon's hand and smiled. "I just want to let everyone know that there's always hope. You can find love, sometimes when you least expect it. I know that I found it when I least expected it. If you've found that love, don't ever let it go. With love, anything and everything is possible."
"Brandon?" Barbara asked.
Brandon faced the camera, holding onto Chip's hand. "Love is a special emotion. It binds two people together. It binds a family together. I've known love before, but now I have a pure, true love. That type of love is hard to find. When you do find it, hold on to it, and never let go."
Barbara then turned to Kenny. "What about you, young man?"
Kenny faced the camera. "Love is love. It doesn't matter if its between a boy and a girl, two boys, or two girls. All I know it that my Daddy and Pop love each other and that is all that matters to me. People need to stop saying mean things about other people, and we all need to get along with each other."
"Well said, Kenny," Barbara said. She then spoke to the camera. "Now, I know the public has their own views on the entire issue of homosexuality. And, right or wrong, people are entitled to their own opinions. My one wish is that after viewing this interview, some people will rethink their views."
"These two men have done nothing wrong, have not physically injured anyone. They simply want to share their lives with one another, and with their son, and to find happiness. How can a love that strong, pure, and true possibly be wrong? Thank you for watching and good night."