Despite the abundance of reality television programming that currently saturates airwaves, instances of healthy, loving same-sex relationships are few and far between. Amidst the drama-fueled flings and catty, half-scripted altercations we’re fed by TV execs, Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell—the Fabulous Beekman Boys, as they are known—remain a shining example of that tarnished coin’s flipside. Through two seasons of their own reality show and a grand prize-winning stint on The Amazing Race, Brent and Josh have lived and loved in front of the camera, showing America that two gay men are capable of anything they set out to accomplish.
Meet the Beekman Boys
Josh and Brent became the Beekman Boys in 2007, when the couple purchased a 19th century farm—Beekman Mansion—they discovered while apple-picking in upstate New York. Prior to becoming “accidental goat farmers,” Brent, a physician, worked for Martha Stewart Omnimedia as the company’s Vice President for Healthy Living. Josh is a writer who worked in advertising in Manhattan, where the guys lived full-time before shedding those big city amenities. Today, Brent and Josh run Beekman 1802, a green lifestyle brand that sells products derived from the farm, including goat milk soaps and cheeses. Josh is responsible for two New York Times bestselling novels, I Am Not Myself These Days and The Bucolic Plague, and the couple co-authored The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook in 2011. Signs of the guys slowing down anytime soon seem nonexistent.
Oh, and did I mention that cameras were on this entire time? The Fabulous Beekman Boys aired for two seasons on the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green and is currently in the works for a third season to be aired on the Cooking Channel. Originally touted as the gay version of Green Acres with its ‘city slicker to mud slinger’ storyline, the series quickly overcame the clichés you might expect, documenting the couple’s difficulties with managing the farm, creating a brand and maintaining a loving relationship through it all.
When I caught up with Brent and Josh, home on the farm in Sharon Springs, the guys were in the middle of shooting their second cookbook, Heirloom Desserts. On shelves in September, the guys’ latest “focuses on all the dreamy desserts you want your mom to make when you come home to visit,” Brent tells me. “You’re like, ‘Mom, please make me your buttermilk pie.’ They’re all delicious desserts.” Over the next half-hour, the guys regale me with stories about their relationship, running a business together and the exhausting experience of shooting—and winning—The Amazing Race.
Thirteen Years and Counting
Like so many couples of the 21st century, the Beekman Boys met online—in an AOL chat room, to be exact. “We chatted for hours and hours, though Brent had never dated a guy before,” Josh tells me. “During the course of our conversation, I was able to figure out which neighborhood he lived in, and before we logged off, I told him I’d be at the fountain near his house that night at 8 o’clock, and he was either going to be there or he wasn’t. And he was.”
Sure, it’s something you might expect from a sappy rom-com, but the way Josh tells the story, it’s simply sweet. With nearly 14 years under their collective belt, listening to Brent and Josh speak about each other is heartwarming. It leaves you thinking these two were always meant to find each other—it was merely a matter of when.
A little more than a year ago, the Beekman Boys went from being longtime boyfriends to fiancés at a surprise engagement fête. Thrown by Real Housewives of New York cast member Sonja Morgan, the event was intended as a preview party for the guys’ new skin product line, but things eventually took a turn when Brent popped the question to a surprised Josh. Before getting down on one knee, Brent presented a ring. “I designed this ring for you,” he said. “It’s imperfect on all sides, like both of us are. It’s hand-forged from steel, like our 13-year relationship. And it’s also lined with silver, because we always find the silver lining.” Naturally, in true Beekman Boys fashion, cameras were there to capture every second of the special moment.
I can’t help but think that living life on-camera must take its toll on one’s sanity, let alone on one’s relationship, though Brent and Josh seem to have weathered that storm just fine. “I think at the beginning it was interesting,” Brent confessed. “It’s kinda like going to therapy. You’ve got the whole web world commenting on your relationship in the comment section. It actually kind of helped our relationship in a way. I think anytime you’re in a long-term relationship, you become lax with one another and with your words. If anybody has a mirror or a camera reflecting back everything they said to their significant other in the course of a year, they would probably be surprised at how harmful the things they say can be. It certainly makes you realize, ‘Hey, maybe I should think before I speak.’”
Then there’s the fact that, on top of everything else, Brent and Josh work together. What has been the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’ for so many relationships has not seemed to phase these two. Josh tells me why:
“I think we were always meant to be together, and we were meant to work together, too. Just as we complement each other in our personal lives, we really complement each other in our professional lives as well. I think it was meant to be.”
Josh adds, “I think the definition of a couple is a partnership. I think any couple should be able to work together, play together, live together. I know a lot of people say never to go into business with your partner, but I think you just need to learn how to go into business with your partner. The reason you work together is because you’re better together than you are apart.”
Josh and Brent have made tentative plans to marry on the farm sometime this summer.
The Race to $1 Million
The Beekman Boys weren’t the first gay couple to win race-around-the-world competition show The Amazing Race, and Brent tells me that watching then-couple Reichen Lehmkuhl and Chip Arndt win the show’s fourth season in 2003 was inspirational. “To see two gay men in a relationship on national TV—it really spoke to me,” he says. Interestingly, whereas CBS failed to air the celebratory kiss between Reichen and Chip upon winning the competition, the network did in fact air the same-sex kiss that Brent and Josh shared—proof of how far we’ve come, no doubt.
As the rest of us can only imagine, shooting The Amazing Race is a draining, exhausting experience. “The whole race is run in about three and a half weeks,” Josh tells me. “So if you can just imagine how tired you are after flying to Europe, then imagine doing that nine times in a row, back-to-back, while running and doing all these obstacles and not eating or drinking or sleeping. It really is a mental and physical endurance race.”
Those three and a half weeks on The Amazing Race were anything but ‘in the bag’ for the Beekman Boys, as the guys trailed the other teams for much of the season’s run. “I think our biggest strength was our perspective on things,” says Josh. “We were older than the other teams. We knew we weren’t as strong or as fast as some of the young teams, and we kinda had a string of bad luck right in the middle where we got behind, but we had a perspective about things, which was, ‘We’re going to work as hard as we can.’ That got us through the game.”
As with any race, it’s the last leg that counts, and Brent and Josh pleasantly surprised viewers everywhere when they brought home the $1 million grand prize. While it was a classic story of love and teamwork to those watching the race on their televisions, to fans of these fabulous Beekman Boys it was yet another example of the guys’ capabilities for great things.
It was also an experience that fortified the guys’ relationship ten-fold. “It definitely made our relationship stronger,” Brent tells me. “I think anytime your relationship is stressed and tested and you come through it on the other side, it makes you stronger. Then your relationship can weather pretty much anything.”
No Rest for the Weary
The Beekman Boys have been pretty vocal about plans for their grand prize winnings, the most important of which finally allows the guys to live together full-time on the farm. Paying off the Beekman Farm’s mortgage allowed Josh to leave his job in Manhattan and spend all of his time with Brent, the goats and their llama PolkaSpot. The guys have already purchased a historic building on Main Street in Sharon Springs, which they plan to turn into the world headquarters of Beekman 1802. And last, Brent and Josh are starting a new line of food products whereby 25 percent of the profits will help American farmers pay off their mortgages.
As for what comes next for Brent and Josh, the cameras aren’t turning off anytime soon. A third season of The Fabulous Beekman Boys is still in the works, and in the meantime, Brent has been itching for yet another kind of competition-based reality show.
“I’ve always wanted to do Dancing with the Stars,” Brent says, “but only because I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance, and there are so few times in your life when you’ll have the opportunity to learn every single dance. That just seems like fun to me.”
As for Josh, he’s fine being relegated to the sidelines this time, should the opportunity present itself. “It doesn’t seem like fun to me to learn how to dance in front of that many people,” he quickly interjects into the conversation.
One thing is certain—after traversing eight countries and logging 25,000 miles on The Amazing Race, the guys currently have no plans for international travel and jet-setting, even with that cool extra million in the bank.
“Yeah, I think we’ll stay put for a while,” Brent says, laughing.
And really, who can blame them?
Beekman1802.com is the hub of all things Beekman. Go there to find great recipes, gardening articles and décor ideas, and shop for all the Beekman products.