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Race car legend Hurley Haywood on coming out, getting married and Patrick Dempsey / Queerty

Race car legend Hurley Haywood on coming out, getting married and Patrick Dempsey / Queerty
Hurley Haywood

Hurley Haywood may need been a mannequin. Graced with a trim body, blond hair and Paul Newman-blue eyes, Haywood acquired the status of probably the most eligible bachelor on the earth of racecar driving. Famous for his talent at driving endurance races (that’s, races unfold out over a period of 12-24 hours), Haywood took residence the gold medal on the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour Race 3 times, and is tied as probably the most successful driver in Daytona history, having gained the 24 Hour Daytona race a whopping five occasions.

By means of all of it, Haywood maintained his privacy, a lot to the confoundment of his fans and the legions of girls (and males) who swooned

Now 70, Haywood’s blue eyes nonetheless shine and his good smile captivates. Introverted by nature, he made an unusually public announcement final yr by coming out as a homosexual man and marrying his longtime boyfriend, Steve Hill. His career and announcement have now turn out to be the subject of the documentary Hurley. Produced by Haywood’s longtime racing protegee Patrick Dempsey (yes, from Grey’s Anatomy), the film involves streaming providers March 26.

Just earlier than the Los Angeles premiere of the movie, Haywood took a few minutes to talk with Queerty.

Whenever you’re interviewed in the film you’re nervous about coming out. What has the response been from these inside and outdoors the racing world?

It’s been very constructive, which, in a means, stunned me just a little bit. You understand, I’ve been racing for over 40 years. I retired in 2012. I started in 1969. So, the racing group has kind of recognized my sexuality. It’s never been an issue, it’s by no means been a problem, nevertheless it’s by no means been one thing that’s been publicly discussed before. So, the rationale why I made a decision to return out at this late stage of my life was that I granted an interview to a younger man that was in highschool. He requested this interview to do a time period paper on the business of racing. About midway via the interview, he stopped chilly in his tracks and checked out me. He stated, “I’m gay. I’ve been bullied my whole life. I wake up every morning and I want to commit suicide. I just don’t see a path that I can take that’s going to be successful. And my friend told me you would be a good person to talk to.” So, I stated “you’ve got to remember a few things. It’s not what you are, it’s who you are that matters.” It’s the who part that folks keep in mind. What you’re doesn’t actually mean anything in the great scheme of things. I stated, “everybody has barriers they need to knock down. If you allow a barrier to block your flow of progress, you’re not going to go anywhere. So you’ve got to be willing to commit to do what you want to do, and don’t let any barrier stand in the way of your objective.”

Good advice.

And we talked about a couple of locations the place he might go to get some help. He left with a very good angle, and I never heard a word from him. Two years later I obtained a call from his mom. I had this sinking feeling that she was calling to tell me he had dedicated suicide. And she or he stated, “I just want you to know what you told my son saved his life.” That coming from a mother is fairly heavy stuff. And I assumed if my voice is robust sufficient to save lots of one kid, perhaps we will save two, or ten. Every 40 seconds an American commits suicide. Take into consideration that a minute.

Wow.

You recognize, the young, homosexual youngsters are having a hard time. In the present day’s youngsters—the strain on them is gigantic, peer strain. A variety of youngsters can’t deal with that, especially a homosexual child who perhaps has some effeminate traits or acts in a different way than everyone else. They’re a goal for bullies. It’s arduous for teenagers to deal with that. So I figured if I might give a constructive image to someone, that’s nice.

Have you ever heard more from that child or his household?

No, which I take nearly as good. He’s the type of kid that I figured I wouldn’t hear something from. He’s actually personal, and it was arduous for him to debate. But I feel he’s on the suitable path. Perhaps in the future he’ll say “hey, look what I’ve done.”

Associated: TV star comes out… by introducing the world to his boyfriend
Haywood with husband Steve Hill

It’s a strong factor, coming out. It’s still really surprising the effect it could possibly have. Had you thought-about coming out earlier? 

No. There was no real want for it. It was not something–as you stated, I was type of uncomfortable speaking about it at first. But the buddies that I had, each teammates, group house owners and associates, knew I was homosexual. It was not something we essentially mentioned rather a lot, however they knew it and I didn’t have to cover it from them. I wasn’t fearful about so much the racing group a lot as the fans accepting it, and realizing I’ve idolized this guy and he’s gay!? I didn’t know if they’d be capable of handle it. I used to be acutely aware of not eager to upset my followers with it. However the outcome—the e-book and the movie—has been really supportive. I’ve not gotten really one destructive comment from anyone, and I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of replies. I simply have individuals come as much as me and say “I always thought you were a great racing driver, and now I realize you’re also a great person.” That’s the most important praise I can ever get.

Have been there others? Different drivers within the closet?

No. Again, it’s…you’re in a sport that has a sure picture to it.

Positive.

I feel that lively professional racing drivers have to worry about—not a lot their own group, however to their fans and sponsors. Their sponsors won’t like someone that’s gay representing their company. It’s nonetheless one thing that’s delicate but is getting better. I didn’t know anybody personally, however I’m positive there are others. I met a man down in Sebring, who stated “I read your book, I saw your film. That really gave me the inspiration to keep going.” And the kid was in his early 20s, so I don’t assume he was on the professional aspect of it, however he was in newbie racing. And that was good. I advised him, “Keep going.”

I keep in mind when Dale Earnhardt died and flags have been at half mast. I wasn’t positive how individuals would react once I discovered you have been coming out. That provides me hope for the longer term.

You already know, I did an interview with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Daytona this yr. I keep in mind sitting in a trailer with Dale Sr., the yr he was killed. He was asking me about what do I have to look out for, to take heed to. And this is from a seven-time NASCAR champion. He was asking me what to do behind a race car. [Coming out] was one thing. I feel the racing fraternity is a really open group. We’re very supportive of each other. When occasions get dangerous, the whole group involves assistance from that individual. So long as you’re a great individual, I don’t assume it makes a distinction when you’re homosexual or straight or pink or blue. However as I stated, the followers are a special story.

Right.

As long as I might hold them pleased, I was completely satisfied.
Haywood with Peter Gregg (right)

The middle of this film is, surprisingly, your friendship with [legendary racer] Peter Gregg. Obviously, he had an enormous effect on your career, and his loss has stayed with you. Have been you out to him?

He knew that I used to be gay. I feel he was a very highly educated individual. I feel he was just fascinated about studying as a lot as he might of what being homosexual was about. He and I never really discussed it, and there was by no means anything that was sexual between us, however there was a really robust relationship. He was like my older brother. He was a mentor. He was the guy who taught me the whole lot I find out about racing. So, by dropping him—and particularly dropping him to suicide—was very troublesome. All of us knew there was one thing fallacious, that there was a problem he was coping with. He had massive temper modifications, and it was actually troublesome to type of grasp what was going on. And he might throw you out of his workplace or out of the race monitor, then ten minutes later, say, “You want to go to lunch?”

That may match with bipolar disorder.

He was up and down, and it was that extreme. So it was difficult to understand why this demon on his again was capable of be so influential that he took his life. I feel had he simply opened up and talked about it, identical to somebody admitting that they’re homosexual, something that’s troublesome to talk about. It’s one thing you could be ashamed of, identical to there’s a stigma round mental health. [There’s the feeling that] when you admit you’ve acquired a mental health drawback, you’re admitting that you simply’re not robust. That’s not the case. It’s something that’s wired a bit in a different way, and you get these traits, and there’s drugs you possibly can take that may control the will and impulse to commit suicide. But you need to speak about it, and it’s a must to let individuals find out about it. He wasn’t prepared to try this. He thought he was too sensible to let drugs dictate his life.

Talking of mentoring, you’re passing your torch to Patrick Dempsey. How did you get attached with him?

I’ve recognized Patrick for years since he’s been racing. First, he was racing with Mazda. Then we obtained him over to Porsche. That’s once we turned buddies and I kind of mentored him. He truly drove for our workforce in a couple of races. So our friendship grew, and then Derek Dodge—Patrick employed Derek to do a movie on Patrick’s street to Le Mans. Derek then got here to Patrick and stated: “Doing this story on Hurley would be a great story.” Patrick totally agreed and provided to help it. So, all of it got here collectively. Derek truly got here right down to Jacksonville and we spent a weekend talking about it and what we needed to perform. And he simply began filming—actually. He’s acquired a lot movie it’s ridiculous. With digital film, you possibly can simply hold the digital camera rolling for 24 hours. It took virtually 4 years for him to place this entire thing together. His husband, Will, is the editor. And it actually got here out quite properly.
Haywood with Patrick Dempsey

So now you could have a film, a guide, a profession, a legend. What are you doing with your self today?

[Laughter]

Nicely, I mean, I’m busier now than I’ve ever been, even once I was racing full time. Everyone needs me to do stuff. I work for Porsche of their press division. I’m their ambassador worldwide. In order that keeps me busy. I’m nonetheless concerned with a dealership. The Area Group bought us three years in the past, and they asked me to remain on. I’ve no ownership anymore, no real duties, however they favored the association of me being there. So I advised them OK, and they pay me. So it’s arduous to say no.

Nice dwelling if you will get it.

Hurley comes to VOD March 26.