Fun Is What It's All About

Life in Italics

The platinum blonde half-Asian sprite with the thick granny glasses is flouncing his way down Mount Auburn Street, smoking cloves, chattering about the city of Boston (totally uptight) and his one-piece Calvin Klein underwear (just wonderful) and his new boyfriend Paulo (the most magnificent man in the entire world). He's doing it in italics, which is the way Thomas M. Lauderdale does everything. Thomas--everyone calls him Thomas--is wearing hiked-up khakis (so comfortable), a cream-colored print tie decorated with nuclear radiation symbols (too cool) and a woman's fire-engine red felt jacked (isn't it marvelous?) Little Lord Fauntleroy meets Little Red Riding Hood. His accessories for the day include a plastic Jetsons wristwatch, a pink fluorescent pen and, of course, his sleek mud-brown cigarettes. "It's all about accessories," Thomas insists. Definitely put that in your article."

Thomas sashays along, giggling impishly, working the mid-afternoon crowd like a town mayor on acid. When he sees a friend--which is often--he breaks off his monologue for an ecstatic hug and a shriek: "Hiiii!" "You look wonderful!" "I love your hair!"

A croaky voice from the sidewalk interrupts his assessment of the ultraconservative campus magazine Peninsula (a bunch of big fags). It's a homeless woman, panhandling from her usual perch in front of UHS. But she doesn't ask Thomas for money. She says hi and starts telling him all about her new brand of cigarettes. Thomas squats down listening intently, politely, hand cupped to his ear.

"Can I try one?" She hands him a cigarette,which he sniffs deeply. "Mmmmmmm. That smellswonderfull. Thank you very much."Thomas tucks the gift behind his ear-another day, another accessory--and flutters off to meet Paulo at The Coffee Connection.

After coffee, Thomas is jabbering about his family (the best family in the entire world) when he passes the homeless woman again. Once again. he stops to chat. Before leaving, he gives her a fistful of change.

THOMAS WAS born in an Oakland navel hospital in 1970. For what he's heard, his mother was a 15-year-old prostitute. His father was Filipino, or Chinese, or something, possibly amilitary man of some sort. Thomas doesn't lose alot of sleep over his natural parents. His adoptive family is interesting enough.


Thomas' father Kerby (a former minister for the Church of the Brethren who quit to become a gardener) and mother Linda (a hospital unit secretary who grew up on an Ohio pig farm) are white. His brother and sister are Black. His other brother is Iranian. And in 1980--about the same time Mount St. Helens erupted, Thomas says with a grin--Kerby ran away with a gay lover. Today, Kerby and Linda are best friends, living a few blocks apart in Portland, Ore. Every now and then, they tell their story on a TV talk show.

"We're not a typical American family, but we're an honest family, a fabulous family," Thomas says. "We're multicultural, multiethnic, me and my dad are big fags--we're Phyllis Schlafly's worst nightmare. My parents are absolute heroes--honest, open, caring supportive. They made it easy for me to be myself."

Thomas has become a Harvard celebrity, a campus icon synonymous with unrestrained flamboyance, with an effusive, unapologetic sense of self, of gay identity. But for most of his years in Portland, Thomas was a serious closet case. He was a model student, a piano prodigy, a typical overachiever--but he kept his secret to himself. He was afraid of being hated, afraid that his friends would turn their backs on him. He compensated by pounding at the piano for hours on end, obeying the driving beat of his metronome. He also cried a lot.

He finally came out during his senior year of high school, but he returned to the closet during his freshman year at Harvard. "I had vague political dreams. I lost my cool, I lost my sense of myself," he recalls. Finally, in April, he posed for a Time magazine photograph of gay Harvard students opposed to ROTC. Thomas was out for good. He felt relieved. Guiltless. Free.

And let's face it--he really hadn't been fooling anyone, anyway.

SOMEHOW, when he wasn't producing elaborate Mainstage productions like The Duchess of Malfi and Dreamgirls, when he wasn't swamped with responsibilities as Adams House Committee chair, when he wasn't throwing the most outrageous parties at Harvard, when he wasn't playing the piano at Boston's Club Cafe or Adams House's Club Mardi, when he wasn't club-hopping with his army of close friends, when he wasn't cavorting through the Harvard Yard snow wearing a pink fur coat and nothing underneath, when he wasn't chewing 20 sticks of Cinnaburst at once to win a bet, when he wasn't bumming cigarettes off homeless people, Thomas has managed to fulfill his academic requirements.

He passed his courses, passed History and Literature generals, wrote a thesis on Pakistani author Hanif Kureshi (he's totally full of shit, but Thomas can relate to that). So today Harvard's hostess with the mostest will receive his diploma, and the campus social scene will never be the same.

"I'm stunned, honored and stupefied thatI'm a getting a degree from this place, because I've done everything here but study," Thomas giggles "For me, Harvard has been all aboutfun."

Before the official cruise director for theclass of '92 graduates, it seems only fitting to indulge in a little Thomas-party nostalgia.

The First Fete: Thomas threw his first Harvard party when he was living in Mass Hall. it was a tremendous bash--400 invitees, strawberry daiquiris, Thomas resplendent in a lovely cocktail dress. Only problem was, Thomas wasn't supposed to be living in Mass Hall. And he definitely wasn't supposed to be living with three women. After the party, a dean told Thomas that it might be a good idea to spend a bit more time at his assigned quarters in Matthews.