Physically, only a few hundred miles separates the Oakland Bay area of California from Hollywood—one small step for a man. But the cultural divide? To leave one for the other is one giant leap for mankind. Which direction constitutes progress depends on what makes you happy.
“Growing up in my area—not many gay guys there,” says 23-year-old Hayward-born Marco Dapper. “It was known as San Francisco is where all the gays hang out.”
So how did this blue-collar straight boy working in a UPS warehouse wind up wearing no collar at all in the year’s most subversively funny gay movie? He got there by making a giant leap away from home, toward accomplishing a lifelong dream, away from going with the flow. You don’t have to be gay to be a smalltown boy, to understand that the answers you seek will never be found at home. Sometimes it’s easier to change your destiny by changing the scenery. You might also change your own mind along the way.
Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds (Ariztical Entertainment), directed by Phillip J. Bartell and opening Friday, November 24th, in New York and L.A. and December 8th nationwide, is about a gay guy (out American Idol Jim Verraros) who’s just broken up with his “outta my league” boyfriend (Brett Chukerman) and is pursuing sexy, sexually confused artist’s model Troy (Marco) by pretending to be an ex-gay. Rounding out the cast are Rebekah Kochan as unapologetic slut Tiffani (who can taste how long it’s been since a guy last came), Emily Brooke Hands as gay-male obsessed Gwen and former teen heartthrob Scott Vickaryous as ex-gay activist (more like passivist) Jacob. It’s a film I’ve already given a KY-lubed thumbs-up to, mainly because it manages to be political and witty along with sexy and laugh-out-loud outrageous. The excellent script, co-written by Bartell and by Q. Allan Brocka (director of the first in the series and of Boy Culture), forces its actors to sink or swim—it’s not enough to be eye candy.
Eating Out 2 is Marco’s first movie. Before this, his claim to fame was on a two-part NBC reality show called Meet The Folks that aired in 2003, in which five bimbos curried favor with his scarily young mom and dad to compete for the honor of traveling to Greece with him. Sounds pathetic until you see what Marco looks like, whereupon it becomes fairly easy to think of hundreds of ways to butter up his parents, each increasingly undignified and none that you couldn’t see yourself doing if it meant winning.
Marco is eye candy. He looks to the whole world as good as Matt Dillon looks to Bruce Weber’s camera. He’s topped 247Gay.com’s Top 10 list of studs...and the movie hasn’t even been released there yet. But great-looking men are common in Hollywood, and talent is as likely to be found serving you hamburgers there as treading the boards. Everyone who wants to be someone needs a big break, eye candy or not.
Eating Out 2 is Marco’s big break in that he has a huge part in it (in more ways than one) that allows him to show off his easy charm on screen. It also represents his personal big break because making the film exposed him to so many gay people that he seems to have shrugged off his built-in preconceptions about what “gay” is all about. He’s hopeful that audiences—and the industry—will be similarly open-minded about his acting ability.
“I guess you could call me a homophobe back then,” Marco remembers of the time not so long ago when he arrived in L.A. “I was the kinda guy who if a gay guy came and talked to me I’d be like, ‘What is he doing? Is he hitting on me?’ It was fear of the unknown. This movie was like a whole 180. I just realized, ‘Not all of them are hitting on me.’”
Well, maybe the lesson should have been that it doesn’t matter so much if gay men hit on him, so long as they also take him seriously. Because unlike with homophobes who think all gay men want to get them into bed, all gay men do want to get Marco into bed.
He understands the difference betweens admirers and harassers. “Most of them only go so far and don’t go past that line. I can do a little flirting—ha-ha-ha—I can take that.” Still, dealing with gay men queer, there and everywhere while shooting Eating Out 2 was a positive thing for Marco. “Now my whole perspective is just totally changed. I’m more easy-going now. It’s the kind of thing where I think most guys like me need to go through something like that where there’s a bunch of people, a crew, and you can talk to them and hear stories and you realize...we’re not really that different. It’s an experience every guy, especially if you don’t have any homosexual friends, should go through.”
How straight is Marco? He posts pictures of himself and his buddies "wasted" on his MySpace page. That straight.
He laughs a little self-consciously, probably wondering if he’s saying the wrong thing, not suspecting that he’s saying exactly the right thing. “I don’t know how to explain it! It’s like, ‘Grow up,’ right? It’s like...it’s life.”
Grow up, yes. But it’s hard not to think of porn when you think of Marco. First, there is the too-perfect name—yes, Marco Dominic Dapper is the one he was born with. He’s also got the ridiculously handsome looks of a Sean Cody model, you know, one of those guys you simultaneously can’t believe has resorted to Internet sex to turn a buck and to whom you are exceedingly grateful for doing so. And then there is the penis. Just to get that out of the way, the rumors are true—Marco reveals all in Eating Out 2 (as do I...see below), and though he claims to have christened himself “El Burro” because he’s a Johnny Knoxville-esque jackass, the nickname is apt all the way around.
But don’t think of porn when you think of Marco. He’s not interested in being purely a sex symbol because he’s figured out that would be too easy.
“I actually booked a role for Skinemax,” he says proudly. “When I first moved [to L.A.], I worked for a man who’s a manager for a lot of Playgirl models and I was his assistant. I went in one day for a Cinemax audition, a softcore. I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t want the role, but I’m gonna go in there and see if I can get it.’” Unsurprisingly, he got the lead. “And I denied it. I just wanted to prove to myself, ‘Can I at least do this if worst comes to worst?’ I told them I was gonna be out of town for half a year. I don’t wanna take it away from anyone, but I don’t wanna get in that corny cliché of work.”
He’s cool with nudity, as long as it has a purpose. “I’ve never really been shy about being naked,” he says nonchalantly, his accent making it sound like neggid. “We are who we are, that’s all we have—that’s it—so you can laugh at me, whatever you want, but that’s me. I can’t really change it. I accept that.” He was asked by the director if he felt comfortable doing a nude scene, but it wasn’t until he posed for photos that were used to create charcoal sketches that appear in the movie that the director realized, “We have a winner.” Marco takes his physical impact for granted. He even forgot about his nude scene until it came up as he and his girlfriend watched it among a crowd of awed queers at Outfest this summer. “When that came up, I was just like, ‘Oh, yeah, there I am.’”
Feel free to ogle Marco, to surf for "MARCO DAPPER NUDE," to enjoy him as eye candy. But while you’re busy doing that he is busy working hard to advance in the business. Thinking forward is what got him Eating Out 2, not merely looking good. This particular fantasy man is all about reality.
To hear Marco tell it, he always wanted to act, but never let himself get too caught up in it precisely because he feared it was simple fantasy.
“I didn’t really get into acting until high school. I graduated high school and I was working part-time at a UPS warehouse and I was also going to a junior college there in my hometown and I was doing theatre there, some plays. That’s what I always wanted to do, I just never took it seriously, ’cuz it’s a pipe dream. My family are all laborers, so I thought it just wasn’t in the cards for me.”
He didn’t have an easy time choosing between acting and acting out. “To become a better actor you’ve got to act with better people. It’s like life—you hang out with the right people, you become a better person yourself. If you’re with hoodlums and people who aren’t good for ya, you become that person, you become the hood also.”
He knows what he’s talking about.
“When I was in Oakland, I was a big klepto,” he admits. “I was stealing stuff, getting into trouble and the people I hung around with...You get out of the environment and meet people like you who have the same dreams and drives and you notice that you’re going farther and farther. Everyone is upping each other. It’s like, ‘I did this today.’ ‘Oh, really? I should do that, too.’ And you go do it. You up the ante.”
After being discovered by scouts for NBC and appearing on Meet My Folks, the ante was upped for Marco. “A couple agents actually saw the show, and I had people saying, ‘Hey, I wanna meet you, I wanna meet you.’” Seeing how taking a risk with reality TV had paid off, Marco decided, “Screw it. I’m gonna come down here, give it a shot.” Even then, he approached acting as a job, not as a dream—he signed with an agent and studied the craft for a year before even going out on auditions. Soon after, he first encountered casting director Patrick Baca, who would later work on Eating Out 2. Marco came close on some projects before Eating Out 2—but he almost missed being our boy Troy because his agent rejected the part before running it past him.
“The casting director said, ‘You should talk to Marco first, see what he says—you guys don’t wanna do it, but talk to him.’ So we talked it over, the pros and cons, and I said, ‘You know what? I wanna meet the director first. I wanna see how he is.’”
Marco’s decision to meet director Phillip J. Bartell put him at ease. “For me, it’s—no offense—most gay movies honestly are y’know, ehhh, you know what I mean? Some are very cheesy, very...I was kinda worried,” Marco says, “I met Phillip and I immediately knew that this guy had his head on straight, he had a vision, he wasn’t trying to figure out what he wanted—he knew what he wanted. I talked to Patrick Baca and he said he thought I should do it, it’s a good role. So I thought, ‘Why not? No one else is taking a chance on me. Let’s do it. Let’s run with it.’”
The filming presented some major challenges, the least of which was his big nude scene (for a taste of which, check out OhLaLaParis). “I was the new guy on the set and everyone was like, ‘Welcome,’ with open arms to me. Everyone had good spirits, especially Phillip.” Then there were the realities of making an indie film. “The director had a small budget, a timeline of 10 days and he wasn’t at all anal about anything—he was just very free-spirited and it was amazing to watch him ’cuz I would have been flipping out, giving orders like a Nazi”
As a recovering homophobe, was Marco ever worried about taking a role that required him to make out with a couple of guys? Let another man suck his nipple? Pretend to give head?
His bottom line? “I’ve grown not to care as much what other people think. This is my career, this is what I wanna do, this is the way I’m gonna do it.”
Marco and co-star Brett Chukerman were shot by Rick Castro; the images appear in Out Magazine and in a feature in HX.
Being gay for (low) pay has had its fringe benefits. At a gay bar in Fresno after a recent film-fest screening, Marco played with his image—and some chick’s tit. “This girl said, ‘You’re gay, right?’ and I said, ‘You know what? I am,’ and I grabbed her boob, like, ‘Look at that.’ She was like, ‘Right, you’re gay—a straight guy wouldn’t do that.’ I keep grabbing it and squeezing it and the gay guy I’m with is laughing and he’s like, ‘Hon—you know he’s straight, right?' She got all pissed.”
Enjoy seeing Marco’s stint on our team—it’s not likely to happen again anytime soon. “Honestly, I’ve been getting a lot of offers right now for other gay movies—and I probably won’t do ’em. The fact is they’re not gonna get it if I keep doing the same thing. staying in one genre.”
I for one won’t hold it against Marco if he turns down other gay roles. He’s done one very gay role, which is more than a lot of closeted gay actors can say. And striving to challenge himself is a worthy ambition—in fact, it’s what got him this movie in the first place and what opened his mind to the diversity of who gay people really are.
And let’s face it—there is no sense in settling for your own sloppy seconds.
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Marco poses for a gay chat ad.
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