Neece ‘comes out’ with compelling story of love, life
November 15, 2012
Some stories have significance far beyond the pages on which they are written. “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow”, a memoir written by Lake Tahoe resident Randall Neece, is one of those. Not only is it rich with compelling content it is delivered masterfully in a riveting narrative that cuts to the core with honesty as its key ingredient. Neece does not gloss over the events of his life but instead focuses on telling his story in a way that opens hearts and minds. He discusses family, friends, self-discovery and coming of age but he also introduces topics rarely spoken of with such candor. He shares with us his “coming out” experience within the parameters of a religious family, his long, loving and committed marriage to husband Joe Timko, a union that saved him during his darkest days and facing death and dying. “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow” brilliantly showcases the resilience of the human spirit. It is a beating the odds story everyone can appreciate.Sex was not a subject of discussion in the home where Neece grew up. He lived a stereotypical “Leave It To Beaver” lifestyle in a Whittier, Calif., neighborhood back in the 1950s. Raised in the Quaker faith by devout parents, the church played a central role in his family life. But Neece determined, based on a sexuality scale developed by sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, that on a scale of 1 to 6, with six being the most gay, he was a six. Would he be accepted for who he was? There were no gay people that he knew, no role models to emulate. As a way to excel in something he loved, Neece embraced his natural talents. Using his innate ability to delight audiences and his God given gift for singing, he broke into the world of entertainment and became part of the singing group, “The Young Americans.” He traveled the world and made spotlight television appearances while still in high school. Hollywood continued to be part of his legacy in later years. He went on to direct, produce and pilot television game shows. Although his career offered great promise his personal life was a confusing roller coaster ride until he met and fell in love with Joe, the love of his life. But heartache laid in wait. Not long after AIDS made its debut and just as he and Joe planned to marry, Neece learned he was HIV positive. His illness bloomed into full-blown AIDS and he suffered the depths of hell battling one infection after another. Neece watched friends die one by one, which increased his fear and exacerbated his sorrow and shame. His fate was sealed and he knew it. He quietly prepared to die. But “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow” is deeper than just a story about AIDS. It’s a love story. Joe Timko and Randall Neece went on to get married in the face of it all, and at a time when marriage equality was extremely rare. It is what saved him. “If it were not for Joe’s love, encouragement and commitment my story would have a different ending,” Neece said. Almost 30 years later they are still together. They appreciate each day of the full and wonderful life they resurrected after the darkness lifted. Neece’s self-deprecating writing style inserts humor, adding yet another dimension to this amazing tale. “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow” is an inspiration to everyone who faces challenges and will offer hope and promise for a better tomorrow. You can order your copy through Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. The publisher is Author House. Kindle and Nook versions are available.
Randall Neece and Joe Timko own and operate Canyon View Ranch, a dog-boarding facility in Topanga Canyon, Calif. Their celebrity clients describe it as the “Garden of Eden” for dogs. When not there they escape to a much loved, slower paced lifestyle in Lake Tahoe where they’ve owned a home since 2006. “Tahoe is where our heart is,” Neece said. “We call it home. When we first arrived we didn’t know anybody and nobody knew us. Now we have a large group of friends we see regularly. Prior to meeting us, many of them never knew a gay couple. In Los Angeles it’s no big deal but in a smaller town, it’s different. Viewpoints have changed and we’re proud of that. When people begin to realize that they know gay couples and have gay friends HIV and AIDS becomes more personal. It’s also what will turn around the issue of marriage equality. No longer will it be about them and us. It is really about all of us.”Q: What was your life like as a young boy growing up in Whittier Calif.? Neece: Back in the ’50s, it was a different time. It was like “Leave it to Beaver.” All the neighbors knew each other and there was a feeling of unity. It was a predominantly white, conservative community with no diversity. There were no gay people. Q: You became part of the singing group the Young Americans. What was that like and was it difficult to become grounded once it ended? Neece: I had never traveled before. I flew around the world and was making television appearances at age 16. Most of the kids were older than me, around 21 or 22. I had to grow up fast. It was a fantastic learning experience and taught me self-discipline. When it ended, I was emotionally and sexually off balance. It took me about five years to get back on track.Q: When did you feel well enough both physically and mentally to write a memoir? What inspired you? Neece: I hung on just long enough to receive “the cocktail.” My health turned around quickly. It took about two years to recover emotionally and physically. I was offered a chance to direct two game shows. It was an enormous gift to go back to work. “The Canyon View Ranch” idea came three years later. Life rushed back quickly. Once I had a chance to step back and take a breath, about six years after the cocktail, I saw the gifts of a new beginning. I wrote to “The Advocate,” a gay and lesbian news magazine to tell my story. The response was great. I thought, “Could there a book in this?” It took me five years to write it. Q: It must have required a serious emotional investment. How difficult was it to relate and relive your experiences?Neece: It was very difficult but also cathartic. At first, I didn’t have a focus. Then, eventually I realized, this is not a story about AIDS, it’s a love story. I originally released “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow” in 2007. Today it has greater significance. I want to dispel the myth that it’s no longer a big deal to be HIV positive: “Just pop some pills and you’ll be just fine.” That’s not the case. My life is forever changed. Let’s make sure we learn lessons from the history of the AIDS epidemic. I also want people to know that although our story might be more dramatic, what Joe and I went through is really not that different than what other marriages face. We all have challenges. Q: As a young man of 35 what was it like to face death and dying?Neece: It was like having the rug pulled out from under me. HIV was a death sentence. In 1988 the people I knew who were HIV positive were dropping like flies. There was no logical reason to think I would be an exception. Once I got through my own personal hurdles my focus turned to Joe. How would he be taken care? When I became consistently sick I just wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to put my loved ones through it. I wanted them to be able to get on with their lives. Q: At one point you preferred death to prolonged suffering and wanted to give up then that the “cocktail” came along. How did you and Joe deal with your renewed health? You were joyous of course but there must have been some challenges. Neece: I didn’t think I would survive and had no plans for it. You play mind games with yourself. You tell yourself, “The next life is going to be great!” Then all of a sudden that trip has been canceled. Now what? Having to start my life all over again was daunting. Re-starting my career was mind-boggling. When the opportunity to direct again came along it was like a dream. I thought I would wake up and it wouldn’t be true.Q: In today’s world most marriages fail but the marriage between you and Joe has been successful for almost 30 years, even under extreme circumstances. To what do you attribute your success?Neece: After facing these struggles we’ve learned what’s important. Our perspectives have changed. It’s given us strength to handle things. Hard times can bring you together or tear you apart. For us, we stayed together. Joe and I had good parents. They were role models and taught us how to be good people. They demonstrated how to make a marriage work. Joe’s parents have been married for 65 years. Q: How have your experiences changed who you are today? Neece: I used to live a regimented life. I always had a plan and needed one. I’m a control freak, most directors are. I’m willing to take risks now. I’ve eliminated the “what ifs” and believe anything is possible. The Canyon View Ranch is a perfect example of this. It was an enormous risk, financially and otherwise. The old Randy would never have given it a chance.Q: Why should we read, “Gone Today, Here Tomorrow?” Is there a message? Neece: The message is “never say never.” When you think things are at their worst, don’t give up. Instead say, “The best is yet to be!” It’s not only an inspirational love story. It’s for anyone who faces challenges, whatever they may be. Q: What is your life like today? How have you been impacted by the side effects of taking so many drugs?Neece: The quantity of medications I’ve taken could fill a cargo container. It’s bound to have an effect on your body. We live in Tahoe and ski a lot. Some friends like to do first tram. I have to pass. In that way it’s been tough. There is a laundry list of side effects. Multiply that by six or seven highly toxic drugs and everything changes. The other reality is I never know how long they’re going to continue to work. This of course has an emotional effect. Am I living on borrowed time? My way of handling it is to just get out of bed in the morning and keep going. Q: Why do you think you survived? Do you experience survivor’s guilt and if so how do you handle it? Neece: What I feel is a profound sense of responsibility to pass on lessons. As a tribute and honor to my friends who didn’t make it, I need to carry the message. “Play it safe and protect yourself or this is what happens.” I also want to tell them to come out of the closet, the sooner the better. Promiscuity is a byproduct of staying in the closet too long. Being promiscuous and not protecting yourself is lethal. Young people need to know that practicing safe sex is not just hype. I always search for reasons for my survival and would never want to miss one. If I can write a book and get out a message, then I’ll do it. Q: What advice would the older and wiser Randy of today give to the young Randy of yesterday? Neece: I would tell him that it’s possible to find the right person in your life. I would like to be a role model for that. Don’t be discouraged or lose hope. Also I would tell him to be prepared when coming out to your parents. Be ready for the conversation in order to avoid a bad scenario. Know what you’re going to say. … Know how you’re going to respond. Pick the right time. Be in a good place and don’t do it when your stressed or upset.Q: Do you feel people have evolved in their thinking about the subject of AIDS and also about the hot topic of marriage equality? Neece: All of the polling is pointing to a new horizon and positive changes. But those who are opposed are extremely vocal. Opposition is fierce. AIDS education has come a long way and that’s good.