On a clear, sunny day — the same day not long ago that his fourth novel came out and he turned 30 — Christopher Rice, the writer and magazine columnist, takes a long walk through the small, gun-shaped city he loves. But the neighborhood seems to be changing.
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“I’m fine with straight people moving into West Hollywood,” he says, “but they have to behave themselves. This is our town, and they have the rest of the world.”
Rice wasn’t angry or defensive. He was just telling it as he, a gay man, saw it.
“I’ve had people tell me I shouldn’t do this thing or that thing,” says Rice, an engaging and boyishly handsome blond, who strides along Santa Monica Boulevard in a pair of Diesel jeans, a blue-and-orange-striped Polo shirt and dark aviator sunglasses. “People told me I shouldn’t be a columnist for The Advocate, for example, because it might hurt my book sales. But I’ve rarely listened to those people, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really tried to do things I want to do.”
It seems to be working. All of his novels have been New York Times best-sellers.
“We found out the mainstream could handle it,” says Rice, who unabashedly uses a well-known familial connection — his mother is novelist Anne Rice — to pique the interest of readers.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a famous last name behind me. It’s a publicity angle that’s there to be worked.”
And Rice hasn’t been shy to speak his mind in his Advocate column. “I knew I had to shoot from the hip,” he explains, as he walks to the “big gay Starbucks” on Santa Monica Boulevard. “It’s scary sometimes, because it isn’t like fiction. You can’t hide.”
His targets, though, are usually trends happening within rather than outside the gay community. Like the time he came out against open relationships, which he didn’t think were healthy for those in a long-term commitment. The column generated one of the heaviest loads of letters to the editor the magazine had seen in some time.
“I’m always for looking at our own behavior before pointing the finger at our enemies,” Rice says. “I don’t support victim ideology.”
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As his stroll through Boys Town winds down, Rice begins to mentally prepare for an upcoming book tour, set to begin that night at Borders Books on La Cienega Boulevard.
“You just have to go with the flow,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ll get some good press along the way.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon