Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Realty Sets in Reichen & Chip: Presented as a Married Couple on CBS's the Amazing Race, They Won the $1 Million Prize. Now Anxious to Use Their Success to Talk about Gay Marriage and Military Rights, Chip and Reichen First Have to Face Their Biggest Challenge Yet: Breaking Up

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Realty Sets in Reichen & Chip: Presented as a Married Couple on CBS's the Amazing Race, They Won the $1 Million Prize. Now Anxious to Use Their Success to Talk about Gay Marriage and Military Rights, Chip and Reichen First Have to Face Their Biggest Challenge Yet: Breaking Up

Article excerpt

Any real fan of reality TV knows that some of the best stuff happens after the cameras are turned off, after the show has wrapped, and after rite contestants, houseguests, tribe members, and bachelors go home and go back to reality. Chip Arndt and Reichen Lehmkuhl are testaments to this idea. In a summer saturated with queer eyes and boys meeting boys, this "roamed" couple stole the show, won more than a few hearts, and took home the million-dollar prize on CBS's The Amazing Race. And they did it all while looking so hot that even the straight guys on the show were flirting with them.

But the real story came after the show and the other times their teamwork had been put to the test. Barely a month after CBS handed the couple their prize money--$620,000 after taxes--Arndt's and Lehmkuhl's lives have taken an amazing turn.

After Arndt had helped Lehmkuhl, a former Air Force captain, through the difficult years of the "don't ask, don't tell" closet; after Lehmkuhl supported Arndt when his online entertainment company was swept away hi the flood of dot-com failures; and after the couple beat 11 other teams in a race around the world, they decided to break up.

Arndt, a 37-year-old financial consultant, is living in Miami, and Lehmkuhl, a 29-year-old Air Force Academy graduate and founder of the charter service Tribe Airways, is staying in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He recently appeared on an episode of Frasier and will appear in late October on three episodes of The Young and the Restless.

But just like all good reality shows, this one has to start with a bit of a back story.

How did you two meet?

Lehmkuhl: It was actually at an after-party to a birthday party at a club in Los Angeles in January 1999. I saw Chip across this crowded room and came up and talked to him. He claims no one had ever hit on him before, but I did. We connected right away.

Arndt: I was smitten from the beginning, and I acted a little aloof. He actually offered me a drink, and I said no. I think sometimes there's a defense mechanism of What do I do? What do I say? But yeah, it was love at first sight.

Lehmkuhl: I was in the Air Force, and I was moonlighting: The only reason I was at this high-end party was because I was the Bacardi boy. I remember distinctly being really bitter [when Chip turned down the drink], thinking that all these high-powered people were looking down at me. I said, "I know what kind of person you think you are."

It sounds like you were giving each other mixed signals.

Lehmkuhl: I know. But I pulled Chip into a stairwell and kissed him. He said, "Who the luck are you?" And that's how we met.

How did "don't ask, don't tell" play into your relationship?

Lehmkuhl: When Chip E-mailed me, he never signed his name. And I would get upset if he put anything remotely romantic in an E-mail. I was so afraid of getting kicked out of the Air Force and losing everything for being gay. We had to hide it.

Could you tell people that you were dating Reichen?

Arndt: I told my family and certain people whom I knew who were far away and wouldn't say anything. But a lot of people in L.A. didn't know. It was hard [in that way] because you really love the person and respect what they're doing and going through, and you want to make sure that you don't screw anything up.

Did you have to tell Chip what he could and couldn't do?

Lehmkuhl: When people aren't totally familiar with the military, there's a lot you have to educate them about. It's mostly fun stuff. You fill them in on what the rank system is, what the bars on your shoulders mean, why you have to salute, and why other people salute you. The great thing for straight people is that you're actually bringing your mate into this really cool world, and it's really a great big family. Or so they say--unless you're gay. Then it's not a family. …

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