There are three (3) different worlds in the television coming-of-age dramedy My Life in 3 Easy Payments (MLI3EP)
World 1: The young teen who dresses up as his favorite singing group (The Supremes) with his buddies.
World 2: The ambitious television shopping host-seeking fame in a world of fake diamonds.
World 3: The drag performer seeking love despite the toxic masculinity of gay men who don't want to be seen in public relationships with drag queens.
But at the heart of MLI3EP, created by Dale Guy Madison and co-written by Darryl LeMont and Breeze Vincinz, is more involved than shopping, sex, and sequins. We see the complex relationships of three best friends, all dealing with their sexuality in different ways. It is a coming-of-age story about acceptance.
The main character is loosely based on Dale himself, who grew up in Tidewater, Virginia, and moved to Baltimore in 1975 as a teen after his mother and father divorced. The middle child between an older brother and a younger sister, he chose to live with his strict naval officer father basically because he longed to meet other gay people in a big city. Dale's father eventually threw him out of his house during his senior year of high school after discovering he was gay, squashing his dreams of going to NYU to study acting.
The real Dale would go through many relationships with friends, lovers, and even a wife before leaving in 1991 to be a host on the QVC shopping channel in West Chester, Pennsylvania. After leaving the channel in 1995, he discovered drag art, created the character FREEda Slave, and moved to Los Angeles in 2000 to showcase the character in an award-winning play. His dream of going to college finally came true at 50 years old with a master's in education in 2009. It was also the year he published his memoirs, Dreamboy: My Life as a QVC Host and other Greatest Hits.
"I wrote my book to inspire LGBTQI youth to never give up on their dreams. My degree would afford me the legitimacy to speak at conferences across the country and teach workshops. After a 10-city tour, I decided to take some of the stories from the book and turn it into a performance piece combining clips of me selling products and reflecting over the choices I made in my life, including drag." The one-man show became My Life in 3 Easy Payments.
Madison performed the show at different venues over the course of seven years. "Our debut performance at Highways in Santa Monica closed with a drag performance of 'You are My Friend' by Sylvester. When we were in New York City, we closed with 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough.' It was a lifetime dream come true to be off-Broadway if only for one night in a festival of solo plays." Dale celebrated a successful 3-night run at The Davidson/Valentini Theatre as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2017 co-produced by the LA LGBT Center.
Now his show is being turned into a television pilot.
In the television show, the fictional Dale would grow up in Baltimore to divorced parents, find local fame at a Baltimore shopping network while performing drag on the side. He navigates life with his two best friends, who are a combination of several of the real Dale's lifelong friends.
"During Covid, I was inspired by shows like Bonding and I May Destroy You that are based on the real lives of LGBTQ people. Dale tells The DALEy GAYzette, "I was inspired to adapt all of my experiences into My Life in 3 Easy Payments (the television show) after I saw the amazing Michaela Coel tell her story in such a brilliant way.
Then I attended a zoom event held by Black casting directors on the topic of equity in entertainment. A casting director said, 'If you aren't out here buying books and properties for yourself during this time to create and produce your own work, you are missing out on an important opportunity.' The same night I discovered Bonding. I have this thing about the number three. I got three signs that now is the time for my show to happen. I was born in the 3rd month of the year. I am one of three children of my mother. I was 33 when I started at QVC. I turn 63 this year, and my soul tells me that this is the year I will pitch My Life in 3 Easy Payments to the networks".
"At 63, it is not my intention to play myself in the series. I see this show as a bit of 'This Is Us' and 'Everybody Hates Chris'. I want to narrate the story like Chris Rock. Both of these shows deal with family dynamics, and both shows explore the relationships of 3 siblings. It is a period piece set in the '90s but uses flashbacks to the '70s. I truly love the music and fashions during those time periods."
"My dream casting would be D.J. Pierce. "Dale beams as he proudly shares his dreams with The DALEy GAYzette. "He worked on a short film I did years ago called The Panty Man. He played the younger version of me in that project. Ironically it would be a few years before he found fame and success as Shangela on RuPaul's Drag Race. He actually wore one of my old drag dresses. He is aware of the project but is obviously swamped with several television projects right now as a result of A Star is Born. I think it would be exciting to do a nation-wide search to provide a launchpad for new up-and-coming LGBTQI talent."
Dale told The DALEy GAYzette that he hopes the show helps celebrate the chosen family many gay people create for themselves. It also furthers his educational mission, and that is to inspire kids to dream. As a young black gay kid who grew up in the 60's watching The Supremes on Ed Sullivan, success was being on television. His memoir is inspired by the late Supremes Mary Wilson's famous memoir, Dreamgirl, My Life as a Supreme.
"To your family and friends, you are always the greatest thing since sliced bread. My family and friends have always made me feel special, talented, and important. They applaud my accomplishments and are always impressed with every role I step into, no matter how big or small. There have been times along the way when I felt like giving up, but they were always there to tell me I was good. They told me that what I was writing was important and that the story I had inside of me was one that people needed to hear. I've always lived my life like an open book, and now I see my life as television series that the world can tune into and binge."
Dale's co-writer Breeze Vincinz met him in 2000, shortly after moving to Los Angeles when he first saw him in FREEda Slave: Mask of a Diva. "I knew we would be friends. I was actually his first fanboy!" Breeze beams loudly. "I designed his webpages and created the graphic design for many of his projects. We produced a monthly night of poetry for two years. Creatively we have always been intertwined."
Dale and Darryl LeMont Wharton go back many years. They met in 1990 on the set of David Mamet's Homicide. Darryl was a production assistant fresh out of college, and Dale was a background extra. The friendship developed into a lifelong business partnership. Darryl wrote and directed Dale in his first one-man show about being a drag queen. "My gay friends thought I was crazy letting this straight guy direct me in the show," Dale confesses, "but he believed in my story and believed he could find the humanity in the character. When we had our Los Angeles run, the biggest audience were straight women. He dated several of those ladies. I think they were impressed that he wrote something so sensitive. He definitely used that to his advantage!"
Dale Madison dared to dream and survived. A true renaissance man (an actor, author, nude model, exotic dancer, fashion designer, doll artist, television show host, and film producer)