New Memoir Provides Unflinching Look at the Gay Lifestyle and One Man's Evolution
“My peers hated me for no other reason than the fact that they thought I was gay. I was only thirteen and often wondered how they knew who I was before I did.” - Michael Caputo
CHAMELEON: A Memoir is a collection of my intimate stories and encounters growing up in a homophobic society. I wasn’t your stereotypical Brooklyn boy who loved watching sports on television or enjoyed playing touch football in the streets. I was raised Catholic and attended three different parochial schools in the sixties and seventies. All that made it difficult to come into my own identity and purpose. It was almost impossible to even think gay. I went from being an innocent altar boy to an older gay man caught up in the middle of the John Travolta sex scandal that put me on the front page of the Daily News and written up in People magazine and the National Enquirer.
Although I lived a straight life in my teens and had a girlfriend whom I was in love with, I was still bullied and bombarded with gay slurs. The constant struggle of trying to fit in left me feeling anxious and depressed for most of my adolescent years. Instinctively, I lived my life like a chameleon to survive and protect myself.
I learned how to play the game once I entered my twenties, but I still had one foot in the closet unless I was out dancing in the gay clubs in Manhattan. I struggled to find my identity, but I was also afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted or loved by my mother, family, or peers anymore if I revealed who I really was.
I held on to my secret for years and, at times, felt imprisoned. I learned about the down-low lifestyle from all those so-called straight guys I hooked up with in Brooklyn. I thought that could be another option for me, and maybe I could have the best of both worlds, too. But deep inside, I knew I couldn’t pull that off. I never lost my desire to have sex with men on the DL but refused to live a double life and use a woman as a beard.
Once I let go of all that guilt that I grew up with and embraced my true self instead of hiding it, I started to live and enjoy my life. This is my journey from being an ashamed and insecure teenager to becoming a proud gay man with a voice that will not be silenced and feelings that will no longer be ignored.
“And let me tell you something. I don’t have to be your father, you’re not that thrilling! You’re not that thrilling, and I don’t want to be your father!” - Pat Cooper
Dear Pat Cooper, what happened to my father Pasquale Caputo, is a story about my loving family and my absent father. In his absence, I heard memorable stories from my paternal grandmother about that man I relentlessly searched for but would never find. Instead, she taught me how to turn my anger towards my father into love and forgiveness. This book is my last attempt to get my father’s attention, and to finally share with him the beautiful and lasting memories he missed out on by not being around. And lastly, make him realize and know the impact his mother had on my life, how she picked up his slack, and the lessons she bestowed upon me.
I had always wanted to write a book about my father and me as far back as I can remember. At first, I wanted to write about how much I hated him for not caring about my sister and me, but deep down, all I wanted was an opportunity to tell him how much I loved him and missed him being in my life. I tried my best to tell my father that, but he never heard me. Instead, every time we met, he found fault with my clothes, my manners, and always the rest of the family. These attacks became part of his persona and a way of not getting too close to me or anyone else in our family. He hated us with every fiber of his being, and I could never understand why.
What did any of us do to make my father keep away from the whole family and go find himself a new one? It never failed; no matter how many times I tried to connect with my father, Pasquale Caputo, all I ever got from him was Pat Cooper, the angry comedian.
My journey hasn’t been an easy one, and the pain never goes away. However, my main purpose for writing this memoir is to help others who have gone through a similar heartache. If my story can help at least one person or child who has had an ego-driven, emotionally unavailable parent, then my purpose has been achieved.