Pride Parade’s Honorary Grand Marshal.
by Marene Gustin • Photos by Dalton DeHart
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Blogger Mike McGuff once referred to KPRC-TV Channel 2’s chief meteorologist as the Anderson Cooper of local television. Some viewers may have known he was gay, but most probably didn’t—and didn’t care.
But it may have surprised a few of Frank Billingsley’s viewers when local media reported his wedding to longtime partner Kevin Gilliard last December. “We never hid our relationship,” says Billingsley. “We had people over to the house as part of auction items at fundraisers, and as far back as the ’90s he was always my date at station Christmas parties.”
Still, it surprised some when news of his wedding last December 12 was reported. He and Gilliard and about seventy friends and family, including Gilliard’s twenty-five-year-old son, gathered at the Eventi Hotel in New York City for the wedding.
“Morgan came into my life when he was seven,” Billingsley says of the young man. “He’s a lucky boy to have three dads.”
Billingsley and Gilliard met at JR’s on August 12, 1995, and as Billingsley says, “Since then we’ve maybe been apart for ten nights.”
Raised in Alabama, the charismatic, blue-eyed Billingsley studied communications and journalism at Washington and Lee University and received his Broadcast Meteorology Certification from Mississippi State University. He says he leaned toward forecasting the weather because the weathermen had more personality on air than the anchormen. “Plus,” he adds, “the Weather Channel had just started with twenty-four-hour weather, and it just seemed very exciting.”
He started out in Roanoke, Virginia, forecasting the weather for four years before moving to a Biloxi station and then to Texas. He came to Houston in 1989 as the weekend meteorologist for KTRK-TV Channel 13 and then jumped ship in 1995 to become KPRC’s chief meteorologist. “Houston is just a great market for meteorologists,” Billingsley says. “We get snow here, we get hurricanes, we get heat waves. It’s a very big challenge to forecast the weather here. It’s a lot easier to forecast weather in L.A. “Plus, we’re a very outdoor city. People go to Memorial Park, they go to baseball games, and even outdoor weddings! So they are always interested in what the weather will be like.”
And, in case you’re wondering about this season’s gloom-and-doom hurricane forecast, don’t worry. “We’ve had nineteen named storms almost every season,” he says. “It’s not about the numbers, it’s about whether or not it hits you. Make a plan, have an emergency kit, and watch me!”
Billingsley’s TV schedule doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for newlywed togetherness. “Kevin is in human resources. He works days and I work nights, so we aren’t exactly social butterflies,” he says. “We have a house in Galveston that we’re always working on, and, like every other gay couple, we love to travel and cook!”
And his favorite dish is coconut cream pie. “Kevin makes it from scratch because he knows I love it, but he hates coconut so he won’t even take a bite of it,” he says. Now that’s love.
The pair also has two schnauzers named River and Ocean. (“Because Phoenix would have been too obvious,” he says, although two previous schnauzers were named Rock and Hudson. So go figure.) They’ve always had dogs, except for a brief foray into goldfish that didn’t end well. “They just ate each other,” Billingsley says.
With such a cozy, longtime relationship, why did they decide to make it legal now? “We decided to get married legally because if you don’t play the game you can’t complain,” Billingsley says. “And it’s like that last week of college. You pretty much know everything, but you still want to walk down that aisle and get that diploma.” Or walk down the aisle and get that marriage license.
There are now twelve states—the number seems to increase almost daily now—that recognize same-sex marriages. But Texas isn’t one of them. To which Billingsley replies: “If it’s good enough for the Boy Scouts, it should be good enough for the state of Texas. I thought that was a very brave vote they made. Things are changing. Eventually Texas will recognize our marriage.”
What makes him most angry isn’t that the state doesn’t recognize his marriage but that it means that people still think being gay is a choice. “It’s no more a choice than your eye color is,” he says. “It bothers me that people just don’t get that. Being gay is a fact of life, not a choice. It’s just who we are, and the fact that some people can’t recognize that and be okay with it and allow us to marry who we want discriminates against us.”
As for Houston Pride Week, Billingsley is very excited about being named Honorary Grand Marshal. “I’ve never ridden in the parade before,” he says. “We’ve watched it before and they have even asked me to be in it, but the parade always fell on June 22, which is my birthday and my mother’s, so there were always too many conflicts.”
This year, the festival and parade down Westheimer Road is June 29, making it a perfect post-birthday celebration for one of Houston’s favorite weather guys.
Marene Gustin also writes about Dixie Longate in this issue of OutSmart.