Andy and David Williams

From: THE ADVOCATE, July 26 1994
reprinted without permission

Thanks to Rich for the article!


By Steve Greenberg

"I'm not at all surprised that David says I was shocked," says Andrew Williams about his twin brother's coming out. "It definitely made me question my own sexuality. But it seems so natural now that I guess I've blocked out some of my stupid behavior then."

For the Williams Brothers, an acoustic-music duo who recently returned to Los Angeles from a tour of England and Ireland just in time to see a single from their latest album, Harmony Hotel, hit the charts, such therapeutic conversation is nothing outside the norm.

The 35-year-old brothers began their musical careers at age six with their first appearance on their uncle's television series The Andy Williams Show. They had "the perfect American childhood" until their parents divorced when they were 13.

"A lot of what we went through just wasn't talked about until much later, after David and I had gone through therapy," says Andrew. Both brothers attribute past troubles between them to being twins. "The fight for independence was the main problem, "Andrew adds. "As a twin you're always looked at as part of a pair, and that was something neither of us felt comfortable with."

The twins exerted their individuality starting with hair. "When mine was long, his was short," explains David. "We never discussed it, but somehow we knew not to have the same haircut at the same time.

"In terms of other differences, I've always been more into poetry and painting. Andrew's always been into machines and truck." David breaks into a smile. "Andrew's more butch. He's into those straight things."

While both brothers say they enjoyed the seven years they spent in front of a nation of TV viewers, they clearly prefer to dwell on the present rather than the past. David still hasn't spoken to his uncle about his sexuality. "I don't feel comfortable talking about my family in interviews," he says.

"Yeah, we'd rather write songs about them," laughs Andrew.

A major period of musical and personal reassessment occurred after the twins' 1987 album Two Stories was poorly received. "We wound up being more involved in the business of trying to make a hit than in the music itself," recalls Andrew. "I think we were insecure. When you have a failure, you just naturally question everything."

In the end the brothers lost their band and were left with only their two guitars. Now they look back at that time as their musical beginning. "We started to realize what was special about us,"Andrew says. "It was very simple: the two of us with acoustic guitars singing about things that meant something to us."

One thing that means a lot to the Williams Brothers is AIDS. After watching many friends die of the disease, the brothers wrote "Don't Cry Now," a poignant tribute to friends who are gone and a stinging indictment of those who shunned them.

"I think it is infuriating for people with heart to see discrimination against any segment of society," says Andrew, who lavishes praise on the late Kurt Cobain and the Lemon Heads' Evan Dando for their pro-gay lyrics. "I think that the more heterosexuals stand up with the gay movement, the stronger the fight against those who would oppress the gay community will be."

David realized he was gay at 19, but only now, with the support of his brother and father, has he decided to speak out. "I'm doing this not just for my own good but also for other people," he says. "I've read about the suicide rates among gay teens. It's really sad and sobering. I think it has to do with the lack of role models for them. They're stuck in a world where their only option is to hide who they are, and they wind up hating themselves. Then when people who are living positive, productive lives come out, these kids realize that society has been lying to them about being gay."

"David's homosexuality had never been a secret or an issue in our lives," says Val Kilmer, star of the 1991 film The Doors who has been a close friend of the Williams Brothers since kindergarten. "Unfortunately, we face a world of prejudice and ignorance. I know it took a lot of courage for David to come out."

Since theirs is most certainly a brother act, where does all this talk leave the hetero Andrew? "It's not bothering me yet,"he grins. "We do address the issues of sexuality and AIDS in several of our songs, so it's in the music. But this is also a subject between David and me, and our music is an extension of who we are. It's definitely not far out in left field for us to be asked about David's sexuality."

"It's always made our lives easier that I was gay and he was straight," says David. "We always fought for our own individuality, and this has actually been a kind of blessing. I think had we both been gay or both been straight, there might have been some competition and tension where our romantic partners were concerned."

David has been involved in a romantic relationship for the past three years. His boyfriend, an artist and video music producer, is out to his friends and family but hasn't come out yet professionally. "My public coming-out should certainly help him along," grins David.

And how will David's coming-out affect his own music career? For Peter Asher, the Williams Brothers' manager for the past eight years, David's decision "shouldn't mean anything one way or the other. One wonders if it will put some people off or if it may even open up an additional market. There are some musicians who've allegedly developed quite a following based on their sexual orientations."

David understands the risks involved in his new openness. "We haven't experienced any negativity from it yet," he says, "but I've just come out. I understand why a lot of people in the industry remain closeted. But I'd rather have fans like me for who I am than for who I'm not."

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