Reality television has been known to follow everyone from burgeoning Hollywood ingenues to Real Housewives, but turning the lens on the LGBTQ community, and gay men specifically has always been controversial. The brand new Crackle show Men of West Hollywood could very well change all that, with the first season following six WeHo friends drops on January 20th. Following these friends through their business, personal lives, and drama shines a light on a portion of the community that many of us are familiar with, but showcasing them in a very real way. I sat down with the ‘Den Mother’ of the show, WeHo’s own Murray Swanby. This nightlife promoter turned philanthropist (Swanby’s Influence The World charity’s mission is to improve the quality of life for those in need globally) chatted with me about his latest reality tv show venture, what reality shows he may be a fan of, and what it is like being one of the tastemakers and people who sets the tone in West Hollywood.
— Murray Swanby (@MurraySwanby) February 13, 2021
Michael Cook: Men of West Hollywood is very Real Housewives meets Vanderpump Rules; how did you end up involved in this project?
Murray Swanby: Oh it is very that (laughs)! I actually did not know that they were casting for the show when they first started. They said that my name had been coming up in a bunch of interviews and they reached out to me directly. They basically said that my name kept coming up in interviews and that “we need to meet you and know who you are”. It was pretty cool.
MC: Reality shows that are geared towards the LGBTQ community are notoriously filled with drama and controversy; what do you say to those that are overly critical about the show and what is being displayed on the show?
MS: Honestly, it just follows our lifestyles and unfortunately, drama, arguments and fighting is just part of everyday live. It might not represent every gay angle of the LGBTQ community, but it does represent a big part of it, because it just represents our normal lives. It shows the dating scene, my relationship; it is really is a representation of our community, because it really does show what a lot of us go through.
MC:You openly discuss your relationship with your ex-boyfriend Nick and how the two of you are in very different places when it comes to your relationship. Was it hard to decide to discuss your relationship so openly on-screen?
MS: No, I really didn’t mind it too much. In my normal life, I try to be honest with people and as honest with my self as possible. I hope that that is conveyed, just me being my authentic self. Those conversations are just real conversations, and the cameras just happened to ne there.
MC: Reality television has followed you before, on shows like What Happens At The Abbey. Are you a fan of reality television yourself?
MS: It is actually funny that I have been on reality shows, because I am not a big reality tv fan. There are no shows that I really follow on a weekly basis. I have seen quite a few episodes of the Real Housewives, I have seen the Kardashians, which I. think is just fun. RuPaul’s Drag Race is the only one that I really follow, but that is on another level (laughs)!
MC: How did you navigate yourself into event production yourself?
MS: I applied to be a bartender at The Abbey, that was really my goal. They did not have any openings for about six months and a friend of mine who was the VIP manager was leaving his position. He said “you are such a social butterfly, this would be such a good job for you”. He knew I was waiting for a bartending job, but it was a networking thing and he wanted to put my name in as his replacement. I went in for an interview and wasn’t really sure what it was, and they hired me on the spot. I figured it was meant to be; throughout the years, it just expanded into events. The Abbey had a very slow Thursday night and I told them that if they gave me the opportunity, I would make it such a better Thursday night. On my first Thursday night, I made fifteen thousand dollars more than the previous week. immediately they said “you have a gig, you can do Thursday from now on” and then I got into promoting!
MC: What is your favorite part about setting the tone for the night when basically doing so is solely your responsibility?
MS: It is my responsibility, but honestly if you just handle it with the mindset that you are out promoting good energy and good vibes, everyone just kind of resonates with that really well. Everyone just hugs, says hi and gives kisses on the cheek. Shots, drinks, dancing on tables whatever it takes.
MC: Your cast is diverse and eclectic; if you were to see a second season of the show, how would you want the cast to evolve?
MS: I get along with everybody on the cast, which is pretty rare. Although let’s see what happens when the show premieres (laughs). I ended on really good terms with everybody so I would be really excited if everyone was asked to do Season 2, I think it would be great. If they ended up cutting people and switching a couple characters up, I think that would be fun too. It is always good to change things up, it always causes more drama or causes more friendships.
MC: The past couple of years has been challenging for those in nightlife and in the arts. What lesson have you taken from the past couple of years that you think you can utilize coming forward?
MS: The pandemic was very tough, I am used to seeing large groups of my friends out all the time. When it first happened, I went through some depression, not seeing people, being locked in the house and feeling trapped, and I think some of my other friends in nightlife went through the same thing. I think now starting to come out on the other side of it and seeing everyone come back, so happy to be in the bars again and happy to see each other. Also, many in the gay community don’t have a lot of family to rely on so they do relay on their chosen family. Being able to bring everyone back too gather, I have seen the energy and the happiness in people really come back. It reminds me that people go out to the bars to escape from their everyday struggles and lives and people really do need that.
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