Still the Best: A Grown-Up Andrew Tobias Talks about Money, Men, and Moguls 25 Years after Coming out as 'The Best Little Boy in the World'
Flippen, Alan, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
A grown-up Andrew Tobias talks about money, men, and moguls 25 years after coming out as The Best Little Boy in the World
Since 1973 The Best Little Boy in the World has been helping other good, and not-so-good, little boys to come out of the closet. A classic coming-out book, it tells the story of John Reid, an upper-middle-class, straight-arrow Yale graduate and IBM employee who frankly and humorously comes to terms not only with his own homosexuality but also with his fears and hang-ups about sex and gay society.
But aside from a cryptic afterword to a paperback edition released in the early 1990s, Reid hasn't been heard from in 25 years. Meanwhile, Andrew Tobias, an upper-middle-class, straight-arrow Harvard graduate who has never worked for IBM, has been entertaining and informing millions as a personal-finance columnist, piling up what he half humorously calls a "vast fortune" and appearing as the anonymous focus of last year's New York magazine cover story on gay moguls and the "trophy boys" who chase them.
Now Tobias--using his own name this time--has published a sequel, The Best Little Boy in the World Grows Up. In it he tells not only what happened to Chris, Golden Boy, and the other characters from the original book but also what has happened on the next leg of his own journey to self-acceptance and emotional and sexual happiness. The Advocate sat down with him recently to discuss his life, loves, and hopes for the future.
Did you ever consider keeping the John Reid name, or at least the character, while writing the sequel?
The John Reid character? There is no John Reid character. It was just a pen name. Some things in the first book were disguised, but that wasn't a novel. I mean, [I] changed Harvard to Yale and changed some names...but I'm not a novelist, and everything was basically all true. The second book explains what was and what wasn't--more or less. I really was a sophomore in college when I accidentally discovered how to romance my self, so to speak. I do find these things a little easier to talk about under the John Reid name and a little bit awkward to talk about under mine.
Easier to write about than talk about?
Easier to write about than talk about and easier, in some ways, to write about under a pen name. But it's 1998, and that's no longer appropriate. It sends all the wrong signals.
Were any of the details in the second book changed?
Not really. There's one name that isn't exactly a real name because it might hurt somebody's feelings. But otherwise it's true.
Why now? Why not five years ago or five years hence?
My first thought was to write The Best Little Boy in the World Turns 40. And that first chapter, I think, was written about 10 years ago. But so many things happened, and I just have so many projects that I want to do. And then Random House was quite keen on specifically tying it to the 25th anniversary, and they basically provided a certain amount of discipline. The good news of its taking an extra ten years is that there's a lot more to tell. Ten years ago, had I written it when I turned 40, there wouldn't have been nearly so much to report, not nearly as much change. It's just gotten more and more dramatic.
You wrote that you chose a writing career after finishing Harvard Business School in 1972 because you didn't feel comfortable as a gay man going into management consulting, the other job you were offered. If you hadn't been gay, would you have done it differently? …