“Who is that?” That’s the first thing I thought when I first encountered Brad Lamm during a highly-contentious ACT-UP meeting in 1990 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York.
The gay community at the time was ravaged psychologically and physically, torn by debate over the mounting frustrations of many community members who some perceived to be arguing for the right to unsafe-sex, brother be damned. “If someone chooses to have unsafe sex, it’s their choice,” said one. “I will not be judged by any of you,” said another. Some in the room were aghast and it was electric. “We come into this room every to figure out how we can save lives, not destroy them,” said a senior member of the group.
It was the height of acrimony at a time when it seemed the AIDS crisis would kill all of us. And on top of it, a crisis had broken out that would only serve as gasoline; methamphetamine, in particular and other general addictions like GHB and alcohol consumption were destroying even more lives and adding to the numbers of HIV-positive people. “Are we really debating your right to do Tina,” yelled an angry young lesbian. “Is that liberty or death?”
Then, piercing the outrage and silencing the room, Brad Lamm, then a doorman for some of NYC’s hottest nightclubs, went to the heart of all the madness: “Why can’t we love one another? Why can’t we recognize what love is and what self-love is? What is wrong with us?” It was a brave and overly simple assertion to most. But silence did not equal death in this case, because the room calmed down and people came together with mindfulness of why we were gathered in the first place, saving our own lives.
Brad went on to face the demons of his own addiction, soon finding himself unable to continue a fledgling yet successful TV journalism career he had wanted all his life. He worked hard to become sober after a friend asked him if he thought he needed help, and from that simple encounter he realized his mission was to help people save themselves and regain the strength of their own dignity.
Brad’s getting help to begin his recovery journey began 16 years ago this week.
Since then he has helped thousands and thousands, first through appearances on the “Today Show”, the early years of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and his Oprah produced docu-series, “Addicted to Food.”
Brad gently helps people identify obstacles to change in their lives and what is holding them back from addressing their eating disorders, drug or alcohol addictions and the role they may play in their loved ones hurt or healing. “There’s never just one addiction,” he says. “You can help get people on the road to recovery without an angry confrontation or surprise. Change most often comes with getting a handle on emotions, quelling fears and anxieties, building a support network, and most importantly how the word NO can be a conversation starter rather than a dead end,” he told the Los Angeles Blade.
In 2014 Brad started Breathe Life Healing Center, a Laurel Canyon, trauma-awareness based addiction treatment center that has helped save more lives.
“Without the help Brad directed me to I am pretty sure I would have died,” said one client who spent three month healing in the Hollywood Hills. “Change is a powerful word and for Brad, it’s a life’s mission.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
When we moved to Eugene, Oregon as a boy, I ran to the fence and kissed my boy neighbor Barry Smith. I always knew.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
In 1984, I read FAGGOTS in a Modern Fiction class at UCLA. I wrote an author critique to Larry, and when I landed in NYC in 1989, his arms gave me a hug and his voice delivered a call to action to ACT UP.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Hollywood Bowl, no doubt. The angels smiled with that sweet spot.
Describe your dream wedding.
I had it. Ten years ago during the PROP 8 window, I married my sweetheart Scott. My pop and mother in law where there, as well as my two brothers Scott + Gregg. Was heaven in a day.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I feel the tug, and pull of the universe to to help survivors of complex trauma recover useful lives they love.
What historical outcome would you change?
I would reduce suffering and make the human male able only to make two offspring. Both seem most useful, and tied for first in this moment.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Watching THE COLOR PURPLE piece of art, move from Pulitzer Prize winning book to powerful film, and on to the musical my husband dreamt up and made come to life over the past 20 years. I worked at Warner Bros while I was at UCLA and worked on the film. It has been a beautiful story of joy, suffering, resilience and forgiveness in my life over all these years.
On what do you insist?
A hoodie. I am frequently chilly.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Keep hope for just one more reason. Time’s been my teacher so please give me one more try.” – from the song ONE MORE TIME, by Kristine W
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Since I’ve written six of them, I’ll chose one: HOW TO HELP SOMEONE YOU LOVE. Each one of us has tremendous power to help those surrounding us.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Though I would never choose to be anything other than a gay human.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Unclear again. It is a great mystery. I believe in the power of connectedness and love. I embrace the notion of spirit and how everything is connected.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Let the kids in the room where it happens.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Ice cream and pizza.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we are all something or other. We represent the fabric of creation. I dig that.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Paris is Burning” remains my fave. Real. Raw. Human. Heartbreaking. A celebration of life!
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My mom’s approval. Will never have it. She hates gays.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That what my folks or church thought do not matter. That trauma could be treated. And that we were NOT all going to die.
Why Los Angeles?
It’s where the universe landed my feet for this moment.